Monday Morning Draft is back! This is a column that delves into the past weekend's action from an 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.
Buffalo got blown out by the Ravens in the season opener. The Bills are clearly rebuilding after tearing apart their playoff roster from last year. I've had them picking first in my mock 2019 NFL Draft for months, and they look like serious candidates to land the top pick.
The Colts welcomed back Andrew Luck, but the results were the same as they lost at home to Cincinnati. Indianapolis has a bad defense and lacks weapons for Andrew Luck to work with. This could be a long year for the Colts.
New York Jets:
The Jets play tonight against Detroit. New York is rebuilding around Sam Darnold. There is some good talent on the defense, but the Jets need to get Darnold more weapons to work with. I don't think they will be the worst team in the league, but I think they are likely to be picking in the top 10 next April during the 2019 NFL Draft.
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.
Cleveland Browns: Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
The Browns ended their losing streak with a tie to open the season, but they easily could have beaten the Steelers. Cleveland missed left tackle Joe Thomas, as quarterback Tyrod Taylor was under a lot of pressure from the edges. Pittsburgh was able to harass Taylor, and that hurt the Browns' ability to sustain some drives. Finding a long-term replacement for Thomas is a must next offseason.
Dillard is a skilled pass protector who is used to playing on an island. He is a good athlete on the edge and possesses quick feet to handle speed rushers. Playing at Washington State has Dillard under the radar in the media, but I know scouts who really like him. The 6-foot-5, 305-pounder is natural edge blocker. He could be a great value for the Browns in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
New England Patriots: Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
The Patriots beat Houston at home by a touchdown, but New England outplayed the Texans for four quarters and some fluky plays kept Houston in the game. The Texans' vulnerable secondary struggled to deal with Tom Brady, and if the Patriots had a true No. 1 receiver, they could have had a more comfortable win. Next offseason, adding some receiving weapons for Brady would be a good idea.
New England has some good possessional receivers to move the chains, but a deep threat like Brown could really add a new dimension to the offense. It would force teams to respect the deep pass, and that could provide more space underneath. So far in 2018, Brown has 10 receptions for 221 yards and two scores. He has world-class speed and could be a dynamic weapon in the NFL.
Washington Redskins: Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State
The Redskins cruised over Arizona, and it wasn't even close as Washington controlled the game from start to finish. The Redskins are a very underrated team around the country and are going under the radar, but they have good talent on their roster. Doug Williams and Bruce Allen have built a deep, hard-nosed roster of blue-collar football players. Alex Smith and Adrian Peterson were impressive in their debuts as Redskins, and those veterans could make some noise this year. Washington could consider adding to its pass rush this offseason, however, because Preston Smith is entering free agency and Ryan Kerrigan is aging.
Sweat broke out in the SEC last year with a double-digit sack campaign, and he is off to a great start this year. He has nine tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks so far in 2018. Sweat has length, speed, and athleticism on the edge along with natural feel as a rusher. He could be a great fit for the Redskins across from Kerrigan. Taking Sweat in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft would be a great value for Washington.
Cincinnati Bengals: Devin White, LB, LSU
The Bengals were able to out-score the Colts in Indianapolis to get their season started with a road win. Cincinnati's defense struggled to contain the Colts' tight ends, however, as Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron combined for 111 yards on 11 catches and a touchdown. Preston Brown was a nice short-term signing, but Cincinnati could use a linebacker who can contribute in coverage on tight ends. White would be a great scheme fit with the Bengals.
White is a beast of a linebacker who is phenomenal against the run. He is a fast missile who is very physical in taking on blocks and is a hard tackler. In the pass game, White just makes plays; he is a dangerous blitzer who has also showed some ability to play zone and man coverage. He could be a linebacker prospect of the same caliber as Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds, who were top-25 picks last April.
Denver Broncos: Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
The Broncos notched a tough home win against the Seahawks, but Russell Wilson was almost good enough to put the Seahawks on his back and beat Denver. The Broncos saw Wilson throw for three touchdowns and nearly 300 yards despite sacking him six times while having their way with Seattle's offensive line. After trading away Aqib Talib this offseason, the Broncos could use another starting cornerback and a potential No. 1.
Last week in the Hot Press, we surveyed team scouts on who had impressed them during fall training camp, and Oruwariye was one of players mentioned. Oruwariye has taken that strong practice performance to the field so far in 2018, recording interceptions in back-to-back games. To go along with the picks, Oruwariye has broken up two passes and notched 10 tackles. The 6-foot-1, 203-pounder also has excellent size for the NFL. With his hot start to the season, Oruwariye could end up being one of the top corner prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft. He would be a great fit in the Denver defense and give the organization a ballhawk to go with its dangerous pass rush.
Baltimore Ravens: A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
The Ravens blew out the Bills to open 2018, as Joe Flacco threw three touchdown passes and Baltimore added three rushing touchdowns from three different running backs. Even though the Ravens lit up the scoreboard, they did not have a single player even get 50 yards through the air. Breshad Perriman was a bust, and Baltimore badly needs to get some long-term weapons at receiver for Lamar Jackson. Brown would be a great addition.
Brown is off to a great start in 2018 with 15 receptions for 251 yards and three touchdowns through two games. He has surprising speed in a strong put together frame. Brown could be the top receiver prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft, and the Ravens would be fortunate to land him.
Atlanta Falcons: Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri
The Falcons moved the ball well between the 20s against Philadelphia, but a horrible night in the red zone cost Atlanta a win in the season opener. Austin Hooper is a solid tight end, but the Falcons could use a second tight end who is a red-zone threat to pair with him. A tough double-tight end package is very valuable near the end zone, as those can contribute to blocking in short yardage while also providing receivers who can be mismatches in the passing game. Okwuegbunam could form a tough tandem with Hooper to help solve the Atlanta's red-zone woes.
Okwuegbunam was a dangerous red-zone weapon in 2017, hauling in 11 touchdowns from Drew Lock. Missouri opened up its offense with Lock in the back half of the 2017 season, using Okwuegbunam as one of is steady receiving threats. The redshirt freshman hauled in 29 receptions for 415 yards on the year. The 6-foot-5, 260-pounder can move well with speed and athleticism. He would be a great fit in the Falcons' offense as a receiving tight end to hurt defenses in the middle of the field between Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.
Team Draft Report:
In this section, we take a deeper look at specific teams and where they stand in regards to the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Panthers did not get a lot preseason hype as being a Super Bowl contender, but I think they could be dark horse to win the NFC. Carolina has an underrated offense with a versatile set of play-makers to go with a dynamic quarterback. The defensive line and front seven are among the best in the NFL, so the Panthers are going to be tough at the point of attack all year. General manager Marty Hurney had a strong draft in 2018 in his return to the general manager job, and the Panthers have a good core of their team acquired by Hurney: Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Greg Olsen, Thomas Davis, D.J. Moore and Donte Jackson. Hurney could build on their talented roster in the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Panthers do not have a lot of needs on their roster, but one important player they have to consider replacing is future Hall of Fame defensive end Julius Peppers. Peppers can't play forever, and Carolina could draw on an exceptional defensive line class to find an understudy. Some options who could be in play for Carolina in the middle to back portion of the first round during the 2019 NFL Draft include Boston College's Zach Allen, Mississippi State's Montez Sweat, Oregon's Jalen Jelks and Miam's Joe Jackson.
If the value is not there at defensive end, the Panthers could consider more cornerback help. Donte Jackson and James Bradberry could be good starters for many years to come, but Carolina could consider targeting a potential No. 1 corner who has the size and speed to defend the divisional No. 1s of Julio Jones, Michael Thomas and Mike Evans. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft, I have the Panthers taking Rutgers cornerback Blessuan Austin. Austin, Penn State's Amani Oruwariye and Clemson's Trayvon Mullen would all fit as potential options.
Offensively, the Panthers could consider a new left tackle to protect Cam Newton. Matt Kalil has been somewhat serviceable since being signed by Dave Gettleman, but Gettleman overpaid Kalil and he is not an elite left tackle. Two prospects to keep an eye on who could be starting left tackles for Carolina are Ole Miss' Greg Little and Washington State's Andre Dillard.
A strong 2019 NFL Draft could help Carolina to get over the top for next season. The Panthers could be in the Super Bowl mix this year already as they are an underrated team in the NFC. They also have a strong coaching and scouting staff to help keep them in championship contention for many years to come.
The Eagles had a slow start to their 2018 season, but they hunkered down and figured out a way to win against a good team while playing with their backup quarterback. The defense came up with some clutch stops in the red zone, and that was the difference in helping Philadelphia get the season started with a victory. With Carson Wentz entering the prime of his career, the Eagles have a Super Bowl window for the next decade or more, with the potential to form a dynasty. The 2019 NFL Draft could help Philadelphia continue to build up the talent around Wentz to get the team back in the Super Bowl, as currently the organization has three picks in the first two rounds with two second-round selections.
Jay Ajayi ran for the winning score against the Falcons, but the Eagles lead back is entering free agency after this season. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft, I have the Eagles taking Stanford speedster Bryce Love, and he would be a great fit in their offense with his running and receiving skills. Love would bring some explosiveness to the backfield with his ability to take any carry the distance. Picking late in the first round, Love could be a nice value. If the Eagles wait to the second day, they could consider some other really good running back prospects in Oklahoma's Rodney Anderson, Michigan State's L.J. Scott, Kentucky's Bennie Snell or Alabama's Damien Harris.
The need that could trump running back and push it to one of the Eagles second-round picks is offensive tackle. Jason Peters has had an excellent career, but he is old and nearing the end of the line. Peters turns 37 in early 2019, so obviously Philadelphia has to prepare for replacing him. The luxury that the Eagles have is they do not have to get a left tackle because they can move veteran Lane Johnson to the left side and draft a new right tackle. Some late first-round and second-round potential prospects include Ole Miss' Greg Little, Alabama's Jonah Williams, Washington State's Andre Dillard, Florida's Jawaan Taylor, Ohio State's Isaiah Prince and West Virginia's Yodney Cajuste.
Defensively, the Eagles could consider taking a cornerback early. Veteran Ronald Darby is entering free agency and could command more money than Philadelphia is willing to pay. There could be some good cornerback options for the Eagles in the first or second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Rutger's Blessaun Austin, Penn State's Amani Oruwariye, Georgia's DeAndre Baker, Ohio State's Kendall Sheffield and Clemson's Trayvon Mullen are potential targets in the first and second round for Philadelphia.
The Eagles are in great position to win another Super Bowl during the prime years of Carson Wentz's career. Another strong draft in 2019 will serve as a another building block to support Wentz and get Philadelphia another Lombardi Trophy.