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 15 action.
Kansas City Chiefs:
Kansas City continued its losing ways against a beatable opponent. The Chiefs were shut out on the road by Oakland. Kansas City is now 2-12 on the season.
A couple weeks ago, despite the Jovan Belcher tragedy that rocked the organization, the Chiefs overcame the adversity to get their second win of the season. Kansas City 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, and the Chiefs have to sell out for a franchise quarterback this offseason.
Kansas City is still in the lead to land the No. 1-overall pick.
Jacksonville had no chance as the Dolphins cruised to a 24-3 victory in Miami. The Jaguars reached a new low a week ago with a loss to the pathetic Mark Sanchez.
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.
Jacksonville'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. The Jaguars are 2-12 on the season.
This team is locked into a top-five pick.
Oakland improved to 4-10 after winning at home against Kansas City. The Raiders couldn't manage a touchdown, but they shut out the Chiefs - 15-0. Two of Oakland's wins have come against the Chiefs and Jaguars, so that is nothing to brag about. The Raiders are short of the 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 Lions continued their massively disappointing year by losing by four touchdowns to a terrible Arizona team. Detroit fell to 4-10 and continued to finish the season on a sour note. The Lions' roster has a lot of holes in it with a weak running game, a shaky offensive line and terrible secondary. Detroit still has some great young talent, but the team needs to become a more consistent and disciplined.
The good feelings from the Eagles comeback win over Tampa Bay were quickly erased by a 21-point loss to Cincinnati. Nick Foles struggled and Bryce Brown was completely shut down. Philadelphia plays the Redskins and Giants in the final two weeks of the season. Both of those opponents are fighting for the playoffs, so the Eagles look poised to finish 4-12 on the season.
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.
New York Giants: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The Giants' offense was shut out by Atlanta, and the Falcons' defense had not been playing dominant football prior to this game. Eli Manning and David Wilson never got going. The offensive line needs some young talent and a difference-maker on the front who can blast open running lanes while providing a sound pocket.
The 6-foot-3, 320-pounder would be an awesome addition to the Giants' ground game. Wilson's speed to get to the second level coming behind Warmack could be deadly for New York. Warmack's power blocking and skilled pass protection would be a real asset for New York. He could be a 10-year fix in front of Manning.
Baltimore Ravens: Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
The Ravens' defense has missed Ray Lewis even though the great veteran is declining. Baltimore was run over by Knowshon Moreno (22-118) and the team's defense needs the presence of a play-maker in the middle.
Ogletree has been an impact player for Georgia on the inside of its 3-4 defense. He would have an easy crossover into the Ravens 3-4 in the NFL. The junior has totaled 98 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, five passes broken up and an interception this sseason. Ogletree is fast and physical. He would be a quick upgrade for Baltimore - if the team could land him with its first-round pick.
Indianapolis Colts: Brennan Williams, OT, North Carolina
J.J. Watt had three sacks on Sunday, and the Colts have to improve their tackles or he is going to batter Andrew Luck for years to come. A right tackle like Williams would be a nice addition for Indianapolis.
Williams was an excellent run-blocker for Giovani Bernard over the past two seasons. Going behind Williams and the right side of the line provided Bernard with good running lanes. Williams has had a lot of success as a pass protector, too. The 6-foot-7, 315-pounder is strong and athletic. His season ended early with a torn labrum, but that injury may help the Colts to get a shot at Williams with their third-round pick.
Chicago Bears: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Once again, the Bears' pass protection was terrible for Jay Cutler going against Green Bay. The Packers recorded four sacks while also shutting down Chicago's ground game. The Bears have to upgrade their offensive line next offseason.
Chicago may have to trade up in the first round to land Lewan, but he would be a real upgrade. The 6-foot-8, 300-pounder has the physical skill set to be an excellent left tackle. He has great length to help negate speed-rushers with the quickness to block the perimeter. Lewan also is a skilled run-blocker who the Bears could run behind. Chicago foolishly passed on Riley Reiff in the 2012 NFL, and the front office can't make that mistake again.
Cleveland Browns: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Browns allowed a rookie backup quarterback, Kirk Cousins, to throw for 329 yards on Sunday. Cleveland clearly needs another pass-rusher on the other side from Jabaal Sheard. Werner would be an immediate upgrade for the Browns and could be a real weapon playing next to Phil Taylor.
Werner has been one of the best pass-rushers in college football this year. He collected 13 sacks and 18 tackles for a loss in the regular season. His pass-rushing skills helped Tank Carradine to a breakout season. Werner (6-4, 255) is fast and physical with surprising instincts. He looks like a safe pick in the first round.
San Diego Chargers: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
The Chargers were dominated by the Panthers. Quarterback Cam Newton and running back DeAngelo Williams both had their way with the San Diego defense and it was an embarrassing blowout for the Chargers. San Diego badly needs to change the culture of the defense and the team.
Of all the players available in the 2013 NFL Draft, Te'o may have the best shot at changing the tone for the Chargers. The leader and play-maker would help the Chargers' run defense and pass coverage. The senior has 103 tackles and seven interceptions on the way to leading his team to the National Championship this year. Te'o has been a clutch player, and San Diego needs someone like him to shake things up on the defense.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
The Steelers had zero running game on the Cowboys and asked way too much from Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh is at its best when the team has a good ground game and that has been missing. The Steelers need to find a consistent runner in 2012 who can carry the load for their offense.
Taylor would be perfect for Pittsburgh. He is a one-cut downhill runner who would work well in the team's system. The senior has averaged 4.7 yards per carry this year on his way to 1,442 yards 12 touchdowns. He also is tremendous in the passing game with 38 receptions for 270 yards and two scores.
Taylor is powerful and quick. Plus, he is excellent in blitz protection, and the Steelers could use a back who is capable of helping their 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 Bengals are in the playoff chase, but they are still a work in progress. Cincinnati has some good young talent and is an ascending team in the AFC, but the Bengals still need a couple more good drafts to be able to pass the Ravens and Steelers as the class of the AFC North. After the Carson Palmer trade, Cincinnati enters the draft with the Raiders' second-round pick, so the team should have three selections in the top 60 and four in the top 100.
The first issue for the Bengals is re-signing defensive end Michael Johnson. The Georgia Tech product has turned into a good pass-rusher and a nice complement to stud defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Cincinnati is notoriously cheap, but the front office should open up its wallet to reward Johnson for his development. Entering the final two games, he has nine sacks, and the 6-foot-7, 270-pounder should continue to get better in the years to come.
If the Bengals don't re-sign Johnson, they will have to take an end early in the 2013 NFL Draft. LSU's Sam Montgomery, Texas' Alex Okafor and BYU's Ezekiel Ansah would all be options for the team's first-round pick. Cincinnati could also consider trading up for an elite end like Texas A&M's Damontre Moore or Florida State's Bjoern Werner.
Once the Bengals figure out defensive end, the other prime need is running back. Cincinnati has a quality veteran in BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but the team need a difference-maker to take the pressure off of Andy Dalton.
A runner who could control games would allow Dalton to have more success in play-action passes to A.J. Green. Some good running backs for the Bengals would be North Carolina's Giovani Bernard, Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle or Alabama's Eddie Lacy. Cincinnati could land one of those quality runners with one of its second-round picks.
Another area of need is safety. The Bengals could use a safety to pair with Reggie Nelson. LSU's Eric Reid would be a nice fit. Linebacker help would be good as well. Cincinnati could seek an upgrade over middle linebacker Rey Mauluga.
If the Bengals have a couple more good draft classes, they could easily turn into the top team in the AFC North over the aging Steelers and Ravens.
The Vikings have been one of the most improved teams in the NFL from 2011, and Minnesota has reasons for optimism going forward. However, a lot of the franchise's best players are veterans: defensive end Jared Allen and running back Adrian Peterson. Thus, the Vikings need to continue to bring in more talent to help to continue to improve as their elite talent ages.
One of the most pressing needs is the wide receiver position. Percy Harvin is a good weapon, but Minnesota needs a reliable No. 1 receiver for Christian Ponder. A receiver with size who can make tough catches and move the chains is sorely needed for the offense.
The Vikings have to consider a first-round receiver like Tennessee's Justin Hunter, Cal's Keenan Allen or Baylor's Terrance Williams. A play-maker like one of those receivers would be a big aid in developing Ponder.
On defense, Minnesota should target a defensive tackle. Kevin Williams can't play forever so adding a young difference-maker on the inside is necessary. The quarterbacks in the NFC North are dangerous, but the Vikings can help neutralize those passing attacks with interior pressure. A tackle can get to the signal-caller faster than any other defender, so a pass-rusher on the inside would make an impact for Minnesota.
Purdue's Kawann Short or Missouri's Sheldon Richardson would be nice scheme fits, and the Vikings could target them in the first round if the team doesn't go with a receiver. If Minnesota wants a big run-stuffer, the front office could consider Georgia's John Jenkins. North Carolina's Sylvester Williams would be another pass-rusher to consider in the first or second round.
Aside from those big needs, the Vikings could also consider some help on the inside of their offensive line. Minnesota also may want to get some depth in the back seven of the defense.
The Vikings had a great draft a year ago with big seasons coming from rookie left tackle Matt Kalil and safety Harrison Smith. A few more good drafts with improvement from Ponder could put the team back in the postseason.