Monday Morning Draft - Divisional Round
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.
By Charlie Campbell.
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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.
Denver Broncos: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Champ Bailey is a future Hall of Famer, but he had a performance on Saturday which illustrated that the veteran clearly has lost a step or two. Torrey Smith torched him, which forced Denver to provide safety help over the top. As a result, the Broncos struggled to stop Ray Rice in the ground game. Bailey is a critical piece of Denver's defense, so finding a good replacement for him is absolutely necessary.
The Broncos could target Rhodes by trading down in the first round, or trading up in the second round. He would bring some size and physicality to the Denver secondary. Rhodes totaled 37 tackles with seven passes broken up and three interceptions this year, but teams mostly avoided him. He held up well against Clemson and its high-powered passing offense. Rhodes (6-2, 215) would be a good fit in John Fox and Jack Del Rio's defense.
Green Bay Packers: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
The Packers' defense was destroyed by Colin Kaepernick as the team had no answer for the dual-threat quarterback. Green Bay could use an improved presence in its inside linebackers to defend a quarterback with Kaepernick's skill set. A.J. Hawk has been a disappointment and the Packers could do better.
Minter would be a great fit for Green Bay. He is a physical defender who is an excellent tackler. Minter is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker but is also stout in the tackle box. The junior totaled 130 tackles with 15 tackles for a loss, one interception, five passes broken up and a forced fumble in 2012. He was a superb run-defender with the potential to be good in pass coverage.
To land Minter, the Packers could trade down from their first-round pick or move up in the second round. Last year, Green Bay moved up for Jerel Worthy and Casey Hayward, so the team has a track record of moving up for defensive prospects. Minter would be a nice addition to the Packers' young defense.
Seattle Seahawks: William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
The Seahawks missed Chris Clemons against the Falcons, and Seattle would be wise to develop a replacement for the veteran. Bruce Irvin is just a situational pass-rusher and not a good run-defender. The undersized Irvin will probably always be a liability against the run. Adding a player like Gholston would make a lot of sense.
Gholston struggles as a pass-rusher, but he is an excellent run-defender. The junior recorded 59 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks this year. The 6-foot-7, 278-pounder is big and strong at the point of attack. Gholston would be a nice player to platoon with Irvin depending on the situation.
Houston Texans: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The Texans' offense lacked a big-play receiver to stretch the field this year. Houston's offense could've used more splash plays late in the season and some quick-strike ability. A receiver like Austin would fill that void well. The team also could use him on some runs with its zone-blocking system.
Austin (5-9, 176) totaled 114 receptions for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. He also had 72 carries for 643 yards and three touchdowns. Austin was an electric play-maker who was able to consistently produce long scoring plays. He may be the most explosive play-maker available in the 2013 NFL Draft. Austin could break into late in the first round.
Let's Play Coaching Matchmaker:
This section will look at some of the available coaching head coaching positions in the NFL and good candidates to fill those vacancies.
Philadelphia Eagles: Lovie Smith
Smith coaching the Eagles makes a ton of sense. First of all, they have to hire a head coach who can work with a general manager who controls the makeup of the roster. Eagles GM Howie Roseman will be the shot-caller, and that would work fine with Smith. In Chicago, he had a general manager above him and they always worked well together.
There are other reasons why Smith is perfect for Philadelphia. He is a great leader and his players love him, so he should quickly win over a locker room in need of stability. Smith is used to a tough media market and handling the pressure in Philadelphia will be nothing new to him after his many years in the Windy City.
As far as the roster, Smith is a great fit for the talent. The Eagles have a lot of money and draft picks invested on the defensive side of the ball, so Smith would have good talent to coach. The defensive line with Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Eddie Curry are perfect for his version of the Tampa 2. Smith would have good linebackers for his system in DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. Plus, the weak Eagles secondary would really benefit from Smith's simplified system.
On offense, Smith has always wanted a running-based team, and the Eagles have an elite back in LeSean McCoy. A lot of coaches want to work with Smith, so he could bring in a good quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator to develop Nick Foles.
Smith would be a great fit in Philadelphia, but it makes too much sense to happen.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Mel Tucker
The Jaguars should've hired Tucker a year ago to replace Jack Del Rio. The players responded to Tucker when he the was interim coach in 2011. Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Tucker is well-liked and respected in the locker room. He knows the Jaguars' players better, and the team's needs more, than any other coaching candidate.
Jacksonville needs some continuity, which Tucker would bring. The Jaguars' defense played well for him at times, and sources have indicated that he has the mind to lead an elite defense if he gets talent to work with.
Tucker would bring on some new coaches, but also retain some of the other assistants. Obviously, Gene Smith needed to be replaced, but continuity is an essential winning ingredient in the NFL, and Tucker is the only coach that could bring that to Jacksonville.
Chicago Bears: Mike McCoy
The Bears need to find an offensive coach to lead the team in a new direction. The great Chicago defense is aging and the franchise's long-term talent lies on the offensive side of the ball. McCoy would be a perfect fit for the talent already on the Bears' roster.
The last two years have seen McCoy do an excellent job in leading Denver's offense. He found success with two polar opposites in quarterbacks with Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning. McCoy should be a good fit to adapt his offense to Broncos castoffs Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall. If McCoy can get a few offensive linemen to upgrade Chicago's blocking, the team could have one of the better offenses in the NFL.
San Diego Chargers: Jon Gruden or Mike Holmgren
Either one of the superstar coaches would be good fits in San Diego. Philip Rivers needs to be revitalized and either coach would be a good choice to do so. Gruden or Holmgren would put Rivers in a West Coast offense; a system that he is a great fit for. If the Chargers also add some offensive line and wide receiver talent, the team could get back to being one of the top offenses in the NFL.
San Diego needs help on the defense as well. While that isn't the area of emphasis from either Gruden or Holmgren, each knows the best defensive assistants and would be able to bring aboard a good defensive coordinator. Gruden or Holmgren would be perfect for the Chargers.
Arizona Cardinals: Gus Bradley
If the Cardinals steal Bradley away from Seattle, they would hurt a rival while also landing one of the top young coaches in the NFL. He is a great defensive coach and a leader of men. The uber-positive Bradley is beloved by his players and is a talented defensive mind.
Over the last four years, Bradley has led a tough Seahawks' defense that has become one of the best stop units in the NFL. Any coach who takes over Arizona will have to find a quarterback, but Bradley would be a breath of fresh air for a locker room in need of some confidence and a positive tone.
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 Broncos had a great regular season and rolled over the weak AFC West, but finished with a disappointing upset in their first playoff game. Peyton Manning has fallen to 9-11 in the postseason as Denver's defense choked away a late-fourth-quarter lead before losing in double overtime. Heading into the offseason, the team has a number of needs to address to improve its ability to win in January.
Defensively, the Broncos have a few needs. One is improving the interior of the defensive line. Denver could use a tackle who can collapse the pocket and funnel quarterbacks to the teams' edge-rushers. Purdue's Kawann Short or North Carolina's Sylvester Williams would be great fits in either the first or second round.
The Broncos also needs a young middle linebacker. Nate Irvin has been a bust, and Keith Brooking is just about done. Denver could consider using its first-round selection on Georgia's Alec Ogletree or LSU's Kevin Minter. Denver is also going to have to find a cornerback to replace Champ Bailey. That is a going to be a key move for John Elway in building the Broncos.
On the offensive side of the ball, Denver could consider an upgrade on the interior of its line, but the defensive needs will probably require the franchise's early-round picks. Even though the Broncos fell short of the Super Bowl this year, they are still the dominant team in the AFC West and should cruise into the postseason next year.
Green Bay Packers:
The Packers are still a relatively young football team, so their championship window with Aaron Rodgers isn't even close to closing. Green Bay has needs to address this offseason, but if the club's young players improve, it could easily be a better team in 2013.
The Packers's defense has some issues to address in the front seven. An improved inside linebacker presence would upgrade the stop unit. The team also should consider some pass-rushing depth to protect the roster from injuries to Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. A nice fit would be Stanford linebacker Chase Thomas on the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft. He could play inside or outside linebacker in Green Bay's 3-4.
There is some young talent in the secondary for the Packers, but if a special corner or safety falls into their lap, they should strongly consider going that route.
Even though Green Bay's offense is one of the best in the NFL, there are a number of needs to address. The team should improve the interior of its offensive line. Alabama's Barrett Jones or North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper could be options for the Packers' first-round pick. They are also likely to lose Greg Jennings in free agency, so wide receiver could use some depth. Green Bay also may need a new tight end to replace Jermichael Finley.
There are a lot different routes for the Packers to go in the first round, so they should be able to land some good talents that fall to them.
The Seahawks came awfully close to making the NFC Championship Game but the future looks very bright for this talented young team. Seattle general manager John Schneider has done a masterful job of building up his roster with good picks in the early, middle and late rounds. A few more good drafts could have the Seahawks advancing to the Super Bowl.
This offseason, Schneider should target some help for his young standout quarterback Russell Wilson. Seattle has some nice secondary receivers in players like Golden Tate, but the team could use a legitimate No. 1 receiver for Wilson. Baylor's Terrance Williams would be perfect to give some size and big play ability to the offense. The Seahawks could target Williams with their first-round pick.
Seattle could also look to find a right tackle to go on the other side from Russell Okung. James Carpenter, the franchise's 2011 first-rounder, has been moved to guard, so a right tackle to protect Wilson makes sense.
The Seahawks could use more help on their defensive line. Chris Clemons is aging and tore an ACL in their Wild Card win. Adding an end to pair with pass-rushing specialist Bruce Irvin would make sense for a second-day pick or mid-rounder.
Seattle has built up a talented roster, so the front office could just go with the best player available who isn't a quarterback or running back. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Seahawks make another surprise pick with some outside-the-box thinking.
Midway through the 2012 season, the Texans looked like the best team in the AFC and the favorite to make it to the Super Bowl. However, they gradually faded over the second half of the year before being taken apart by the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round. The Texans are a few pieces away, and if they reload well, they could make it into the Super Bowl next season.
Houston should probably emphasize its defense in the offseason. The team gave up a lot of points and yards late this season, including in both of the contests against New England. The Texans could go a number of routes with their early-round draft picks. The team could upgrade the secondary if a good corner or safety falls is available. Houston also could use another rush linebacker to pair with Whitney Mercilus in the long term.
The Texans need inside linebacker help after trading away DeMeco Ryans. A linebacker like LSU's Kevin Minter or Georgia's Alec Ogletree would be a good fit in the franchise's defensive scheme.
Offensively, Houston needs a receiver to eventually replace Andre Johnson. If the team can land a future No. 1 receiver late in the first round that would be ideal, but there may not be that type of wide out. The Texans need to add some explosive play-makers. Houston struggled to get big plays down the field from the passing attack, so a receiver like West Virginia's Tavon Austin would be a great addition to the offense.
Sources have revealed that the Texans have the inclination to go with the best player available and not draft for need this year. If the they do that, they could easily draft for defense again given the talent which should be available in the 20s.
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NFL Free Agents
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