Monday Morning Draft is a column that delves into the past weekend's action from a 2013 NFL Draft perspective. As the season goes on, the draft picture and slotting will become more clear, but every Sunday will provide a few hints for next April.
There will be a lot of turnover as the season progresses in the positioning of which team will land the No. 1-overall pick to have the first shot at USC quarterback Matt Barkley or West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Here are the top contenders following the Week 12 action.
Kansas City Chiefs:
The Chiefs put up a fight, but the Broncos topped them 17-9. Kansas City is now 1-10 on the season. The Chiefs played the Steelers tough on Monday night a couple of weeks earlier. Prior to that performance, Kansas City hadn't played competitive football in weeks. Quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel have been ineffective this season, so the prospects of the Chiefs getting on a roll in the final five games are zero.
Kansas City could easily lose out the rest of the season. The Chiefs are playing the worst football of any team in the league and need to clean house after the season. They have a commanding lead on landing the No. 1 overall-pick.
Jacksonville won its second game of the year, over the Titans. The Jaguars almost shocked the Texans a week ago, but Houston pulled out a 43-37 win in overtime. Chad Henne and Justin Blackmon had monster games after Blaine Gabbert went out with an injury.
Henne has played well for Jacksonville, and this team looks massively improved with Gabbert out of the lineup. The team's other win came when it stole a game from Indianapolis with a last-minute 80-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert to Cecil Shorts in busted coverage. Jacksonville is 2-9 on the season.
Even if Henne helps the Jaguars win a couple more games, they just don't have the talent on the roster to avoid a top-10 pick.
Carolina plays Philadelphia on Monday night. Last week, the Panthers fell to 2-8 after blowing an 11-point lead late in the fourth quarter to the Bucs. Cam Newton left points on the field, and Carolina's secondary choked in crunch time.
The Panthers had a rough start to the season, but seemed to be headed in the right direction with a road win over Washington. Carolina was up 19-7 in the fourth quarter a few weeks earlier, but Chicago came storming back to win 23-22.
The Panthers still have winnable games against the Eagles, Chiefs and the Raiders on their schedule. Carolina could be headed to a 4-12 season with a new front office and coaching staff come January.
Oakland fell to 3-8 after getting blown out on the road at Cincinnati. Two of the Raiders wins came against the Chiefs and Jaguars, so that is nothing to brag about. More impressive than those wins was when Oakland played Atlanta tough on the road and tied the game at 20 with 40 seconds remaining. The Falcons' Matt Bryant made a 55-yard field goal with only seconds left to beat the Raiders. That game was an anomaly as Oakland is short of talent to compete on a weekly basis.
The previous regime traded for Carson Palmer and drafted Terrelle Pryor. New general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen won't hesitate to start their rebuilding process with a franchise quarterback if there is one available that they like.
The Browns improved play continued with Cleveland topping Pittsburgh 20-14. The Browns' defense was a turnover machine versus the Steelers, and Trent Richardson played well. Last week, Cleveland had a lead on Dallas, but the Cowboys came back to pull out a 23-20 win over the Browns. Cleveland is now 3-8 on the season, and the young squad seem to be improving as the season progresses.
The Browns previously played close games in other contests, but couldn't get wins over the Eagles, Bengals or Bills. Cleveland is now a long shot to land the No. 1 pick.
Let's Play Matchmaker:
This section will look at some of the top talent in college football and match those prospects up with teams that have a dire need at the position.
Minnesota Vikings: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
The Vikings wide receivers were pathetic against Chicago without Percy Harvin. Minnesota's leading receiver was rookie Jarius Wright (7-49), and no other wide out even caught three passes. The Vikings badly need to get some help for Christian Ponder in another receiver who can make plays for their young quarterback.
Williams has had a monster senior season with 89 receptions for 1,693 yards and 12 touchdowns. He leads the nation in receiving yards with two games remaining.
Williams has good size to work the short to intermediate part of the field with enough speed to produce big plays downfield. Baylor has had a ton of big plays down the field with Williams running go routes. He's averaged 19 yards per catch on the season. Minnesota could target Williams with its first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Oakland Raiders: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Once again, the Raiders' defense was terrible. It made BenJarvus Green-Ellis look like a Pro Bowl back as he ripped off 129 yards on 19 carries. The lack of a pass rush has hurt Oakland all season, so a defender like Moore, who is great against the run and at rushing the passer, is exactly what the team needs.
Moore is the most consistent pass-rusher of all the draft eligible players in college football in 2012. The junior has been dominant as a defensive end this season. Moore has 12.5 sacks with 80 tackles and 20 tackles for a loss. He has recorded at least one sack in 9-of-12 games this year with registered hurries of the quarterback in the other three games.
Moore had 8.5 sacks and 72 tackles as an outside linebacker in 2011. The junior could use more weight for the NFL, but he is a young player with a ton of upside. Moore already has a nice repertoire of moves and a great motor. He would be an immediate upgrade over the Raiders' current defensive ends.
Tennessee Titans: DeMarcus Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Titans' weak secondary was unable to contain the Jaguars and quarterback Chad Henne. Cecil Shorts (4-105), Justin Blackmon (5-62) and Marcedes Lewis (4-56) all made plays against Tennessee. The Titans have some young talent in their front seven, but they need some upgrades in their secondary.
Milliner looks like the top draft-eligible cornerback. He has had a strong junior season as the best player on Alabama's defense. Milliner has totaled two interceptions, 16 passes batted away, 47 tackles, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one blocked kick in 2012. He has the size and speed to play man coverage on any receiver. Tennessee could target Milliner with its first-round pick.
Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
The Chiefs were incapable of putting up points on the Broncos despite Jamaal Charles (23-107) having a good game. Kansas City's quarterback situation has been a crushing weakness all year. Smith is the top quarterback who is draft eligible, and the Chiefs must find a franchise signal-caller who can get the ball into the end zone.
Putting up points has been no problem for Smith this season. He's completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,597 yards with 37 touchdowns and five interceptions. Smith does a great job of getting the ball to his play-making receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Smith is not the quarterback prospect that Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III is, but Smith is still an instant upgrade for Kansas City.
New Orleans Saints: Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
The Saints had second-year defensive end Cam Jordan flash against the 49ers, but other than a few plays, New Orleans couldn't pressure Colin Kaepernick. The lack of a pass rush has killed the Saints in 2012. The No. 1 priority for their offseason has to be to improve their pass defense. Landing a player who can get after the quarterback has to be the highest priority.
Montgomery has had a strong junior season with 32 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and seven sacks. He had a forced fumble and two passes broken up, too. Montgomery totaled 49 tackles and nine sacks last year, but he had an extra game. He is a good pass-rusher who would fit New Orleans' defense well. The team could potentially land Montgomery with its first-round pick.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State
The Steelers can't compete without Ben Roethlisberger. The veteran quarterback is becoming more injury prone as he ages, and Pittsburgh has allowed Big Ben to take way too many hits over the years. The Steelers have sacrificed some pass protection in their offensive linemen to have power run-blockers. In order to remain competitive for the postseason, the team would be smart to get some talent at backup quarterback.
Glennon would be a good fit in Pittsburgh's offense. He has completed 58 percent of his passes this season for 3,648 yards, 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Glennon has had a weak supporting cast at N.C. State, and he has played better than his stats illustrate. The big-armed pocket-passer would fit the Steelers' offense well, and he could get the ball downfield to their speed receivers. Pittsburgh could target Glennon in the third or fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Atlanta Falcons: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Falcons gave Josh Freeman way too much time as he had all day to throw the ball on the majority of his pass attempts. Atlanta has a talented secondary, but the team has to find someone who can put heat on the quarterback. If the Falcons want to land Werner, they are going to have to trade up in the first round to land him. Atlanta will be picking somewhere in the final 10 picks of the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
With one more game to go before the Bowls start up, Werner is tied with South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney as the nation's leader in sacks. Werner has 13 sacks, 39 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, seven passes batted and a forced fumble in 2012. He's had dominant games with an elite combination of explosiveness and physicality.
FSU has lined up Werner as a standup edge-rusher as well as a traditional 4-3 defensive end. That versatility would fit Mike Nolan's system well, and Werner could be a stud for Atlanta.
Team Draft Report:
In this section, we take a deeper look at specific teams and where they stand in regards to the 2013 NFL Draft.
San Francisco 49ers:
Even though San Francisco has one of the best defenses in the NFL, the team's 2013 NFL Draft should be focused on that side of the ball. The 49ers devoted picks to adding some building blocks for the future of their offense last year with wide receiver A.J. Jenkins and running back LaMichael James. San Francisco has a defense that is largely comprised of veterans, so adding some young apprentices would be a good idea.
The first place to start is the secondary. Veterans Carlos Rogers, Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner have had some occasional coverage lapses with other games of superb play. Adding some young talent at safety and cornerback would be a good idea.
The 49ers could consider Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, LSU safety Eric Reid, North Carolina State cornerback David Amerson or Oregon State cornerback Jordan Poyer in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. All of them would fit San Francisco's defense and provide some young talent to develop as backups until the veterans need to be replaced.
Justin Smith is a beast on the defensive line, but he won't play forever and is already 33. Adding a young understudy would be a good idea. A perfect fit would be SMU's Margus Hunt. The 6-foot-8, 280-pounder is a physical freak who could develop into a nasty pass-rusher. A team like the 49ers could develop Hunt slowly because they have a great veteran in Smith. That would be a perfect situation to get the most out of Hunt's raw potential.
On the offensive side of the ball, the 49ers could use a young center as Jonathan Goodwin is nearing the end. A long-term center would be a good addition to give Colin Kaepernick some stability and continuity over his career. Some other offensive line depth would be helpful as well.
San Francisco is in a great position to develop a talented roster over the long run. The team can draft the top talent available and mold those selections behind good veterans. If the 49ers draft wisely, they should have many more years ahead of them as a Super Bowl contender.
Dallas is a poorly run football team that has the talent to be a January competitor, but consistently shoot itself in the foot and self-destructs. The Cowboys has showed they have the fight to come back from big deficits this season, but they don't have the killer instinct to pull out wins. Dallas may need a new coaching staff in order to instill that presence in the locker room.
The team has one glaring weakness that must be addressed in the 2013 NFL Draft: the weak interior of the offensive line. The Cowboys could use an upgrade at guard and center. The inside of their line has been exploited all season. Dallas could consider using a top-20 pick on Alabama guard Chance Warmack, but the team also could look to move down slightly and still land Warmack.
Even if the Cowboys can land Warmack, they really should make a move to acquire Alabama center Barrett Jones. He's the top center in the draft and would be an immediate upgrade. Jones can play any position on the offensive line, so he could offer them more flexibility to get their best five blockers on the field together.
Dallas could target Jones on the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft. He is an underrated player. I think Jones will be a 10-year starter in the NFL and a future Pro Bowler.
The primary need for the Cowboys to consider on the defensive side of the ball is a big run-stuffer. Thus, Georgia's John Jenkins would be a player for them to consider with an early-rounder, if he's a better value than any available interior offensive lineman.
Other positions to address are safety and running back. Dallas could use a young safety to pair with Morris Claiborne. Veteran Felix Jones is a free agent, so the team should look for some depth behind DeMarco Murray.
If the Cowboys makes a few good acquisitions, they could be playoff contenders next season.