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 14 action.
Kansas City Chiefs:
Kansas City got back to its losing ways against a beatable opponent. The Chiefs were rolled on the road by Cleveland. Kansas City is now 2-11 on the season.
Last week, despite the Jovan Belcher tragedy that rocked the organization, Kansas City overcame the adversity to get its second win of the season. The Chiefs beat a weak Carolina squad, but that win was a tremendous accomplishment considering what the team was going through.
Quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel have been ineffective this season, so the prospects of the Chiefs getting on a roll in the final three games are small.
Kansas City is still in the lead to land the No. 1-overall pick.
It is hard for the Jaguars to reach a new low, but they managed that with a loss to the pathetic Mark Sanchez. The visiting Jets dropped the Jaguars 17-10.
Jacksonville won its second game of the year a few weeks ago, over the Titans. Prior to that the Jaguars almost shocked the Texans, 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.
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 2-11 on the season.
The Jaguars are virtually locked into a top-five pick.
Oakland fell to 3-10 after losing at home against Denver on Thursday night. 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 Panthers won at home against Atlanta in a game that didn't mean anything to the Falcons. Carolina is now 4-9 on the season.
The Panthers have another winnable game against the Raiders on their schedule. Carolina could be headed to a 5-11 season with a new front office and coaching staff come January. At least Cam Newton has improved of late. so Carolina can target the best defensive player available or a left tackle to protect Newton.
The Cardinals were absolutely destroyed by Seattle in a 58-0 loss on the road. Arizona is now 4-9 on the season. All year, the Cardinals have been plagued by a garbage offensive line and quarterback play.
Arizona needs to sell out this offseason to land both a franchise quarterback and a suitable left tackle. Until the Cardinals fix those problems, they are wasting a Hall of Fame receiver in Larry Fitzgerald.
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.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Matt Elam, S, Florida
The Steelers secondary struggled with Danario Alexander and to a lesser extent Micheal Spurlock. Pittsburgh needs to add a difference-maker next to the injury-prone Troy Polamalu.
The Steelers' defense would land a great fit for its system with Elam. He is a hard hitter who has ball skills. Elam's instincts are phenomenal, and they put him in position to make a lot of game-changing plays. For Florida, Elam has displayed the ability to be equally effective as a strong safety in the tackle box and a deep free safety playing center field.
The junior has 55 tackles, four interceptions, 10 tackles for a loss, one sack and a forced fumble this year. Pittsburgh would probably have use its first-rounder or trade up in the second round in order to land Elam.
Washington Redskins: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
The Redskins clearly need a makeover in their defensive backfield, and Washington should draft the best cornerback or safety available with its second-rounder. The Redskins allowed Joe Flacco to throw three touchdown passes on Sunday and were fortunate the offense bailed them out yet again.
Poyer has some man-coverage ability and ball skills. Washington has Dez Bryant, Hakeem Nicks and DeSean Jackson in its division, so the Redskins need a corner with speed and athleticism to cover wide outs like those in the deep part of the field. Poyer is one of the few options available after the first round who could have that potential.
Poyer has seven interceptions, seven passes broken up and 46 tackles this year. Washington defensive backs coach Raheem Morris could improve Poyer's game by getting him to play with more discipline.
Miami Dolphins: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
The Dolphins don't have the play-makers at wide receiver to overcome tough opponents. Once again, rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill played well but the lack of talent at wide out held him back. Miami should not have traded away Brandon Marshall, and now has the tough task of finding an elite receiver to help its promising signal-caller.
Even though Hunter was still gradually regaining his speed and explosiveness, he still managed to produce in 2012 with 73 receptions for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns. Hunter looked more like his old self late in the season by showing his explosive play-making ability.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder could have the highest ceiling of any receiver projected to go in the 2013 NFL Draft. Hunter also has experience in a West Coast offense under Jim Chaney and that would help him transition over to the Dolphins' system.
Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
The Eagles' offensive line made the Buccaneers' defensive line duo of Gerald McCoy and Michael Bennett look like the second coming of Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice. McCoy and Bennett are good players, but not at the Hall of Fame level of those Bucs greats. The Eagles offensive line was terrible and constantly bailed out by Nick Foles.
In order to help Foles develop, Philadelphia is going to need to improve its offensive line over the offseason. The Eagles would be smart to use their first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft to select Joeckel. He is one of the top talents overall and a future franchise left tackle. If Jason Peters returns healthy next year, Philadelphia would have two good bookend tackles to protect Foles.
Kansas City Chiefs: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
I could copy and paste this matchmaker on a weekly basis because the Chiefs quarterbacks have been awful all season. Against the Browns, Brady Quinn could complete only 10-of-21 passes for 159 yards and an interception. He had a good running game from Jamaal Charles (18-165), but Quinn was ineffective despite good passing looks.
Smith is the top-rated quarterback in the 2013 NFL Draft class, and Kansas City can't pass on a franchise signal-caller. The veteran retread route hasn't worked for the Chiefs, while rookie quarterbacks over the past few seasons are showing that they can have an immediate impact.
Smith completed 71 percent of his passes for 4,004 yards with 40 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. The senior also was a good running threat with two scores on the ground. He would be an immediate upgrade for Kansas City.
Buffalo Bills: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
The Bills' offense couldn't muster 16 points against the Rams, and Buffalo was all but eliminated from the postseason with the last minute loss to St. Louis. The Bills' offense needs a difference-maker at quarterback, but the tean also needs some more play-makers at wide receiver.
The junior Hopkins has been one of the best receivers in college football in 2012. He overtook the talented Sammy Watkins as Clemson's No. 1 receiver for quarterback Tajh Boyd. Hopkins has caught 69 passes for 1,214 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has been a big-play threat capable of scoring on any reception. Buffalo would gain some explosiveness if it can land Hopkins.
Atlanta Falcons: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
The washed up Michael Turner could averaged only two yards per carry against Carolina, despite the Panthers featuring perhaps the worst interior defensive line in the NFL. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is being asked to do too much and is much better when he can throw off of play-action. Currently, the Falcons running game isn't a threat, so Ryan is not seeing as many mismatches in the secondary. Atlanta has to fix its running back situation this offseason.
Taylor would be perfect for the Falcons. He is a one-cut downhill runner who would work well in their zone-blocking system. The senior has averaged 4.7 yards per carry on his way to 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. He also is tremendous in the passing game with 38 receptions for 270 yards and two scores.
Taylor is powerful and quick. He is excellent in blitz protection, too, and Atlanta's offense could use a back who is capable of helping its offensive line. Taylor ran for 1,330 yards in 2011 and 1,137 yards in 2010. He is a safe pick to be a productive back on the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft.
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.
The Browns have been playing vastly improved football from the first half of the season. Cleveland blew out the Chiefs after topping Oakland and Pittsburgh previously. The Browns are 5-8 on the season. They previously played close games in other contests, but couldn't get wins over the Cowboys, Eagles, Bengals or Bills. With Cleveland's late-season improvement, the decision on whether to fire head coach Pat Shurmur is getting more difficult.
There are a few areas for the Browns to address in order to continue their improved play in 2013. The team is without its second-round pick after selecting Josh Gordon in the 2012 Supplemental NFL Draft, so trading down to recoup a second-day pick makes a lot of sense.
Defensively, Cleveland could use another pass-rusher on the other side from Jabaal Sheard. If the Browns look to free agency, a nice signing would be to steal Michael Johnson away from Cincinnati. In the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Cleveland could consider an end like LSU's Sam Montgomery or Florida State's Bjoern Werner. Either would be nice scheme fit.
Another position to consider would be cornerback. The Browns could use an upgrade on the other side from Joe Haden, but that isn't as large of a need as other spots. Linebacker is another position that could use an injection of talented youth.
Cleveland should definitely look to find an upgrade at guard. The team needs a road grader for Trent Richardson and better interior pass protection for Brandon Weeden. A move that would makes sense for the Browns is to trade down and select Alabama guard Chance Warmack. He and Richardson were lethal together in college. Cleveland should try to reunite them in the NFL.
The Browns could also continue to upgrade the receivers for Weeden. Neither Greg Little nor Josh Gordon has proven to be a legitimate No. 1 receiver yet.
Mike Holmgren hasn't left the cupboard bare for Cleveland, and a couple more good drafts could turn the Browns into a playoff contender if Weeden continues to develop.
In the first half of the season, the Bears were one of the best teams in the NFL, but they've really struggled over the past month. Chicago has a veteran team, but it has a lot of needs to address this offseason.
The first order of business is the offensive line. The Bears have to find a left tackle to protect Jay Cutler, and they need upgrades on the inside of the offensive line. Chicago could look to free agency to sign a tackle like Jake Long or a guard like Andy Levitre. If the Bears use a first-round pick on the offensive line, they could target Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher or Alabama center/guard Barrett Jones.
Elsewhere on the offense, the team needs to upgrade its weapons for Cutler. A tight end is needed to help exploit defenses focusing on Brandon Marshall. Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert or Stanford's Zach Ertz would be potential first-rounders. If Chicago waits for Day 2, UCLA's Joseph Fauria could be a nice receiving weapon the team.
The Bears are old defensively. Brian Urlacher is a free agent and is slowing down on the field. He's getting injured often and his skills are seriously declining. Chicago's highly regarded defense was destroyed by Adrian Peterson on Sunday. The team's version of the Tampa 2 requires a real difference-maker at linebacker.
The Bears won't be able to land Manti Te'o, but they could look to land Georgia's Alec Ogletree or LSU's Kevin Minter if either enters the 2013 NFL Draft. Either one would be a great fit in Chicago's defense. The team also could use some developmental youth at cornerback and along the defensive line.
It looks like the Super Bowl window for the Bears could be rapidly closing, and they need some quick upgrades in the 2013 NFL Draft.