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 13 action.
Kansas City Chiefs:
Despite the tragedy that rocked the organization, Kansas City overcame the adversity to get its second win of the season. The Chiefs beat a weak Carolina team, but that win is a tremendous accomplishment considering what the team is going through.
Kansas City is now 2-10 on the season. Quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel have been ineffective this season, so the prospects of the Chiefs getting on a roll in the final four games are small.
Kansas City is still in the lead to land the No. 1 overall-pick.
Jacksonville wass steamrolled by Buffalo. The Jaguars should've been more competitive given how they had played the previous two weeks. Last Sunday, Jacksonville won its second game of the year, over the Titans. The Jaguars almost shocked the Texans a couple of weeks 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.
Jacksonville still looks massively improved with Gabbert out of the lineup even though Henne struggled against the Bills. The Jaguars 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 2-10 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.
The Panthers lost on the road in Kansas City six days after winning in Philadelphia. Carolina is now 3-9.
The Panthers have a winnable game against 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 3-9 after losing at home against Cleveland. Two of the Raiders wins came against the Chiefs and Jaguars, so that is nothing to brag about. 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 Oakland. Last week, the Browns' defense was a turnover machine in a win over the Steelers. Cleveland is now 4-8 on the season, and the young squad is improving as the season progresses.
The Browns previously played close games in other contests, but couldn't get wins over the Cowboys, Eagles, Bengals or Bills. Cleveland won't 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.
Arizona Cardinals: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Arizona lost to the Jets even with Mark Sanchez throwing three picks. Larry Fitzgerald had one catch for 23 yards. The Cardinals are going to have a hard time competing until they can land a quality quarterback. Even though Barkley has had a rough senior season, he still is a polished signal-caller who could be the safest pick for a team that can't afford to blow another decision on a quarterback.
The senior has completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,273 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He has struggled against numerous opponents, but Barkley has been dealing with a terrible offensive line. He is very experienced and has mastered a West Coast offense. The offensive line is an issue at Arizona as well, so if the team drafts Barkley, it will have to upgrade the offensive line as well.
Carolina Panthers: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Panthers' weak defensive line was moved at the point of attack by the Chiefs. Jamaal Charles ripped off 127 yards on 27 carries against Carolina's weak defense. Clearly, the Panthers need a run-stuffer in the middle of their defensive line.
Lotulelei is a better run defender than his numbers indicate. He requires double-teams in order to keep him from destroying the line of scrimmage on every play. Lotulelei totaled 42 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, five sacks, four passes batted and three forced fumbles as a senior. He would make a huge difference for Carolina up front.
Chicago Bears: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
The Bears had a huge performance from Brandon Marshall in a losing effort to Seattle, but aside from him, their receivers were a real weakness. No other player could total four receptions or 31 yards for Chicago. Since Marshal generally commands double coverage, a tight end to work underneath him would be a good weapon for the Bears. Ertz would be perfect.
Ertz was Stanford's leading receiver in 2012 and has had a superb season. He has caught 66 receptions for 837 yards and six touchdowns. Ertz came up huge in the Cardinal's upset win over Oregon. Not only is he a good receiver, Ertz is a quality blocker for the ground game. He would be a real upgrade for Chicago's offense.
Miami Dolphins: Dallas Thomas, G, Tennessee
The Dolphins really struggled with blocking Vince Wilfork. Miami guards John Jerry and Richie Incognito were really struggling to keep him out of the backfield as he caused a lot of disruption. In the offseason, the Dolphins should look for an upgrade at guard and a better fit for their zone-blocking scheme.
Thomas would be a nice addition for Miami. He is very athletic and is a skilled pass-protector. Thomas would provide a safe pocket for Ryan Tannehill. Thomas' quickness and mobility would allow him to move well in the team's ground attack. The Dolphins could target Thomas with one of their second-round picks.
New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The Saints made Falcons running back Michael Turner look good on Thursday night, so New Orleans needs to improve the inside of its defensive line as well as its pass rush off the edge. Richardson would be a perfect fit to contribute in both phases.
Richardson was second in tackles on Missouri this season with 75 tackles. He has one of the best motors in the 2013 NFL Draft and pursues all over the field to make tackles. Richardson also had 10.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, three passes batted and three forced fumbles.
The 6-foot-4, 295-pounder is extremely versatile; he can play defensive end and defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. Richardson is a good pass-rusher from either spot. too. He could be a difference-maker for the Saints.
Detroit Lions: Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia
Andrew Luck threw for almost 400 yards with four touchdowns in the Colts' comeback win. The Lions' safety play has been an issue all season. Louis Delmas is a good player who has issues staying healthy, and the team needs a safety to pair with him or pick up the slack when he's out of the lineup. Rambo would be a good fit in Detroit's defense and is an instinctive center fielder.
The senior has had a good season despite being suspended for four games. He has 67 tackles, three interceptions, one sack, two passes broken up and three forced fumbles. Rambo had eight interceptions in 2011. He is a play-maker who could be a steal on the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
The Jaguars' offensive line has been a liability all year. The team could only muster 50 yards rushing against Buffalo and allowed four sacks. Jacksonville needs improved quarterback play, but it also has to get better blocking for whoever is the signal-caller next year.
Warford is a good sleeper prospect. He is a powerful load who can blast open holes in the ground game. The 6-foot-3, 340-pounder is surprisingly athletic and a very good pass-protector. Against the elite defensive tackles of the SEC, Warford was excellent in keeping them from getting sacks. He would be a great fit for Jacksonville at the top of the third round.
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.
Green Bay Packers:
The Packers used a lot of 2012 NFL Draft picks last April to bring in some young talent for the defense. Rookie cornerback Casey Hayward has been a nice addition, while first-rounder Nick Perry finiahed the season on injured reserve. Green Bay probably needs to spend the offseason focused on helping Aaron Rodgers to take advantage of the team's Super Bowl window with one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
The Packers have to improve their running back situation. In the backfield, James Starks and Alex Green haven't proven to be the ball-carriers who can take advantage of good running fronts. Green Bay has to find an effective running back who can ease pressure on Rodgers. A good ground game would help protect Rodgers from injury.
In the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Packers could consider North Carolina's Giovani Bernard. If they wait until the second day, Stanford's Stepfan Taylor or Florida's Mike Gillislee would be good fits in their offense.
Green Bay's offensive line has been decimate with injury this season, and the lack of depth has bit the team. The Packers could use a mid-round pick or free agent depth-signing at offensive tackle. The inside could warrant a high draft pick. Jeff Saturday is a stop-gap player, and the franchise needs a long-term center for Rodgers to work with. Alabama's Barrett Jones could be worth Green Bay's first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Another position the Packers may want to consider is tight end. Jermichael Finley could be let go after this season, so a receiving tight end would be worth looking at. Wide receiver depth could be a consideration as Greg Jennings may not be re-signed. If there is a good safety available, the team could go that route as Charles Woodson won't play forever.
Even though Green Bay's offense is the strength of the team, the Packers need to help fortify it next April.
The Steelers are similar to Green Bay in that they need to fortify a strength of the team. Pittsburgh has used a lot of premium picks on its offensive line with some talent at wide receiver for Ben Roethlisberger over the last few drafts. The Steelers' stop unit, on the other hand. has gotten old. and the front office needs to find some young play-makers.
The first area that Pittsburgh could address is outside linebacker. James Harrison has been injury prone and is old. The team needs a young passs-rusher to whom Harrison can pass off the torch. Oregon's Dion Jordan would be a great fit as a first-round pick.
Another player who the Steelers could possibly target in a trade up would be LSU's Barkevious Mingo. He would be a perfect scheme fit as an outside linebacker. If they wait to the second day of the draft, Stanford's Chase Thomas would make a lot of sense.
Aside from an edge-rusher, Pittsburgh could use a safety. Troy Polamalu has been injury prone, and when he isn't on the field. the defense isn't the same. Some good scheme fits would include Florida's Matt Elam, Texas' Kenny Vaccaro and Georgia's Bacarri Rambo. All three of them are instinctive play-makers who play with attitude.
If the Steelers aren't sold on their young cornerbacks, Cortez Allen and Keenan Lewis, the tea, could target more help there since depth at corner is always necessary in the NFL. Pittsburgh could use help at nose tackle with a replacement for Casey Hampton. Alameda Ta'amu is on the practice squad, and he hasn't convinced his coaches that he's the long-term answer.
The only position on offense for the Steelers to consider early in the 2013 NFL Draft would be running back. Rashard Mendenhall will be a free agent, and they need a franchise back to take the pressure of Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh has an offensive line built to run the ball, so the team needs a bell cow in the backfield.
The Steelers have had some good drafts in recent years, but they need some more to build up their defense to get another Lombardi with Roethlisberger.