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.
Arizona dropped the 49ers on the road, as San Francisco is reeling without Jimmy Garoppolo. The Cardinals still figure to lose a lot this year because some bad drafts by general manager Steve Keim have forced them into rebuilding mode. In Week 1, the Redskins dominated Arizona, and in Week 2, the Rams rolled over the Cardinals. It looks like it could be a long year in the desert, but on the bright side, Arizona could get a valuable piece to help Josh Rosen for years to come.
The Raiders have played better than many realize because the national media is jumping all over themselves to bash Jon Gruden. In Week 1, the Raiders played a good Rams team close until late in the fourth quarter. In Week 2 on the road in a tough place to visit, Oakland outplayed the Broncos for the majority of the game, but Denver squeaked out a one-point win with a last-second field goal. In Week 3, Oakland led in Miami until the fourth quarter. Finally last week, the Raiders notched a comeback win over Cleveland. The only definitive loss was this week against the Chargers, who dropped Oakland to 1-4 on the season.
Oakland is in rebuilding mode, and that was made clear with the Khalil Mack trade. If the Raiders get their picks right and use their money wisely, they could be really good in a couple of years, just in time for them to kick off in Las Vegas. In my mock 2019 NFL Draft, I have the Raiders stocking their defense with some good young talent to build around.
The Colts should be 1-3-1, but head coach Frank Reich blew a tie against Houston. On Thursday Night Football, the Patriots dropped Indianapolis 1-4. The Colts have played better than their record this year. They lost by four at Philadelphia, were close to the Bengals in Week 1 before a Jack Doyle fumble, won in Washington, and should have had a tie with the Texans after being down by 18 in the second half. The Colts are one of the youngest teams in the NFL, so it wouldn't surprise me if they show a big improvement in the second half of 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.
Kansas City Chiefs: DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia
The Chiefs continued their hot start to the 2018 season by dropping the Jaguars, but the Kansas City defense, once again, had issues keeping teams from moving the ball. Jacksonville put up 430 yards through the air, but the Chiefs made up for it intercepting Blake Bortles four times. Next offseason, the Chiefs have to improve their cornerback talent due to not having adequately replaced Marcus Peters.
Baker is a gritty cover corner who really battles and competes with receivers. He has enough quickness to run with them, alongside quick feet and the instincts to get in position to make plays. Last year, he was instrumental in getting Georgia into the National Championship game as he was extremely reliable to run the route and prevent separation. Baker already has six passes broken up, two interceptions and 21 tackles in 2018. Late in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Baker could be a good fit for Kansas City.
New York Jets: Kelvin Harmon, WR, N.C. State
The Jets rolled Denver in New York as Isaiah Crowell (15-219-1) and Robby Anderson (3-123-2) had big games to lead the Jets offense. However, Sam Darnold completed less than 50 percent of his passes and no Jet other than Anderson had even three receptions. Clearly, New York has to get more receiving weapons for Darnold in the offseason. Anderson is speedy X receiver, but the Jets could use a big Z - flanker - receiver who can be a possessional player to move the chains in the short to intermediate part of the field.
Harmon has 33 receptions for 534 yards and two touchdowns so far in 2018. Last year, he hauled in 69 catches for 1,017 yards and four scores. The 6-foot-3, 214-pound Harmon is a physical wideout who is dangerous after the catch. He can run through tackles, uses his size to box out defenders, and has strong hands. Drafting Harmon in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft would be a good value for the Jets and could provide them with a nice receiver for Darnold to work with for many years to come.
Cleveland Browns: Lil'Jordan Humphrey, WR, Texas
The Browns beat the Ravens 12-9 in overtime as their defense played an excellent game while Baker Mayfield did just enough to get Cleveland a late win. It would help the Cleveland offense to add a big outside receiver who also can serve as a red-zone weapon. The new Browns regime has targeted players who are intense competitors, and Humphrey fits that description.
Humphrey has 35 receptions for 535 yards with four touchdowns so far in 2018 and just had an excellent game in helping Texas to knock off Oklahoma. For the NFL, Humphrey (6-4, 225) has the potential to be a good pro. He has excellent size, good run-after-the-catch skills, strong hands and a real competitive fire that helps him outfight defenders. However, Humphrey comes with some off-the-field issues that will hurt him with some teams, but he could be an excellent value as a second-day pick who ends up being a good pro receiver.
Detroit Lions: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
The Lions survived a late surge by Aaron Rodgers to get a much-needed win over the Packers in Detroit. This season, the Lions have been very inconsistent from week-to-week, looking great in some games and terrible in others. The team clearly needs more interior defensive line talent, and this would be a great fit for Matt Patricia's defense.
Last week in the Hot Press, we wrote about how multiple team sources see Williams as a high first-round talent for the 2019 NFL Draft. Williams has been a breakout player for Alabama this year. Raekwon Davis and Isaiah Buggs received more preseason hype, but Williams has been the most consistent play-maker and disruptor on the Crimson Tide's defensive line. In 2018, Williams has 22 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss, .5 sacks and one pass batted. He has caused more disruption than the numbers indicate as well. Williams is very fast at the point of attack with the ability to fire a gap and cause havoc in the backfield. The redshirt sophomore is listed at 6-foot-4, 289 pounds. If those measurements are legit, he could be a good fit as a three-technique in a 4-3 defense or as a five-technique in a 3-4.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
Pittsburgh got a much-needed win over Atlanta at home, and that helps the Steelers stay in the AFC North race as they are tied with Cleveland and trail both Baltimore and Cincinnati. Atlanta had some success using tight end Austin Hooper, and Pittsburgh has clearly missed Ryan Shazier ever since he went down with his injury. The Steelers could use a linebacker who can help in pass coverage, and Wilson would be a good choice as that is where he thrives.
Wilson may not get the hype of other recent Alabama linebackers like Rashaan Evans, Reuben Foster or C.J. Mosley, but Wilson is an excellent pro prospect in his own right. What really gets NFL evaluators excited about Wilson are his tremendous pass-coverage skills. They love his instincts in coverage, and that is a very hard trait to find for pro linebacker prospects. In 2018, Wilson has 21 tackles with three passes broken up and an interception, but has also only played one half in most of Alabama's games, which have turned into blowouts. Wilson stands a good shot at being a second-round pick next April in the 2019 NFL Draft and would look great in the Steelers' defense.
Buffalo Bills: A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
The Bills notched a surprising home win over the Titans despite rookie quarterback Josh Allen completing only 10 passes and totaling less than 100 yards passing. Buffalo's defense played a superb game with turnovers that set up short fields, and the offense got enough from LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory to turn into 13 points for a win. Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones have been underwhelming, but Allen has really struggled to pass the ball. Buffalo has to improve the weapons at Allen's disposal.
Brown has the skill set to be a No. 1 receiver for an NFL offense. The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder is a physical wideout who combines surprising speed with good route-running and strong hands. He is a dangerous run-after-the-catch receiver. Brown has 44 receptions for 586 yards and four scores on the year. Last season, he totaled 75 receptions for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns. Brown could be a legit No. 1 receiver for Allen.
New England Patriots: Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky
The Patriots cruised over Indianapolis on Thursday night, but they really struggled to defend Colts tight end Eric Ebron, who caught nine passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. New England's defense has been led by Dont'a Hightower, but the unit could use more talent in the middle of defense to handle weapons like Ebron.
Allen has been on a tear to open 2018. Prior to dominating South Carolina, he was phenomenal in leading Kentucky to upsets over Florida and Mississippi State. In 2018, Allen has 37 tackles with 10.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks, two forced fumbles and three passes batted. Allen has the ability to cover tight ends in the pass game, as he showed excellent pass coverage skills in the win over the Gators. Over the past two years, he also has been a steady pass-rusher with speed and athleticism off the edge. Allen would be a great fit for the Patriots as a linebacker who can defend the run, cover tight ends, and rush the passer. New England would be very fortunate if Allen got to the organization's first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
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.
After beating the Redskins on the road in Week 2, the Colts looked like they were a vastly improved team. They had a close loss to the Bengals in Week 1 while losing by only four points to the Eagles in Week 3. In Week 4, Indianapolis mounted a furious comeback to push the Texans to overtime in what should have been a tie, but a horrendous coaching blunder by Frank Reich gave Houston the win. While the Colts are improved, they still find themselves at 1-4 with one of the worst records in the league. The years of terrible drafts by former general manager Ryan Grigson are going to take time to undo and build up the talent on the roster. Fortunately for the Colts, the 2019 NFL Draft could provide them with a defensive franchise player to build around.
Next April, a legendary defensive line class will enter the NFL Draft, and there could be as many as 10 interior defensive linemen who grade out as first-rounders. Alabama's Quinnen Williams, Auburn's Derrick Brown, Mississippi State's Jeff Simmons, Michigan's Rashan Gary and Houston's Ed Oliver would all be nice fits as three-technique penetrators in the Indianapolis defense. If the Colts wanted a big nose tackle to plug the run, they would have options with Alabama's Raekwon Davis and Clemson's Dexter Lawrence.
In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft, I have the Colts taking Williams, who has been phenomenal for Alabama this year. As we disclosed in the Hot Press last Friday, sources project Williams to be a high first-rounder and some feel that he is a better prospect than Auburn's Derrick Brown or Houston's Ed Oliver. The Colts new coaching staff switched their defensive scheme and could use a fast defensive tackle to cause havoc in the backfield and provide an interior pass rush.
Indianapolis could also consider a first-round edge rusher, but the team is getting good play out of Jabaal Sheard and Margus Hunt this year after drafting Kemoko Turay in the second round last April. Thus, it would make more sense to find upgrades over Denico Autry, Al Woods and Hassan Ridgeway at defensive tackle.
On the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft, Indianapolis should target more help at cornerback and wide receiver. Quincy Wilson could be a long-term starter, but the Colts need better coverage talent as evidenced by the last two games against Tom Brady and Deshaun Watson. On Day 2, some good corners to consider would include Ohio State's Kendall Sheffield, Auburn's Jamel Dean, Washington's Jordan Miller, Notre Dame's Julian Love and Troy's Blace Brown.
Offensively, the Colts have to find more talent at wide receiver. T.Y. Hilton is the only quality receiver they have on their roster. Dropped passes hurt Indianapolis against the Patriots, and a dropped pass in overtime versus the Texans forced Indianapolis to settle for a field goal rather than converting a first down to help set up the Colts in the red zone versus Houston's reeling defense, which had blown an 18-point lead. Aside from that dropped pass some of Indianapolis' pedestrian receivers looked surprisingly good going against the Texans' awful secondary last week, but this week against a quality defense, they were ineffective. On the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft, some good receiver prospects to consider include South Carolina's Deebo Samuel, Ohio State's Parris Campbell, Texas' Collin Johnson, Texas' Lil'Jordan Humphrey and N.C. State's Kelvin Harmon.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard has done a nice job of upgrading the roster after taking over for Grigson. Grigson did such a terrible job that Ballard has a big hole to climb out of, but Indianapolis is improving and appears headed in the right direction. If the Colts have a good 2019 NFL Draft, they could be closing in on being playoff contenders again.
Los Angeles Rams:
In the first month of the NFL season, the Rams looked unbeatable. They cruised over most of their opponents, including outshooting the Vikings while ripping up the Minnesota pass defense. The Rams' offseason trading and spending spree to acquire Brandin Cooks, Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Ndamukong Suh has the team loaded for a run this year. The Rams also locked up franchise building blocks in Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks. While Los Angeles is riding high right now, often the best teams in the beginning of the year that start the season fast on winning streaks end up not being the best teams at the end. Thus, the Rams are going to have the challenge of maintaining this high level of play once teams start adjusting to what they are doing. Even if the Rams don't win the Super Bowl this year, they should be a championship contender for the potentially the next decade with Donald, Gurley and Jared Goff being good enough at quarterback.
Like any team, Los Angeles will have some needs to address in the offseason, and finding some long-term answers to their high priced defensive acquisitions could be necessary. Considering all the money the organization spent on Donald, Cooks and Gurley, along with a $100 million extension looming for Goff, the team may not be able to re-sign Peters, Talib and Suh. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft, I have the Rams taking Ohio State defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones to replace Suh, and beyond Jones, there could be 14 first-round caliber defensive line prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft. Other tackle options who could be good fits late in the first round include Notre Dame's Jerry Tillery, Clemson's Dexter Lawrence and Clemson's Christian Wilkins.
Replacement candidates for replacing Talib and Peters include Alabama's Trevon Diggs, Penn State's Amani Oruwariye, Clemson's Trayvon Mullen and Georgia's DeAndre Baker. If the Rams took one of them, they would have the luxury of developing that player for a year as a third or fourth corner before moving them up as a starter if Talib and/or Peters leaves in free agency.
Offensively, the Rams are well built for many years to come with the exception of one glaring hole. Andrew Whitworth was an excellent signing at left tackle prior to the 2017 season, but Whitworth turns 37 in December and is nearing the end of his career. This was an avoidable need because general manager Les Snead blew the second-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on Greg Robinson. Snead passed on Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan for Robinson, and that is a massive mistake that will hurt the Rams for a decade or more since both Lewan and Matthews have turned into good pros, with Lewan being special. The Rams also passed on Khalil Mack, Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr. with that pick. If Snead had taken one of those players, the Rams might have had dynasty potential.
Still, the Rams have a talented young core and the best young head coach in the NFL in Sean McVay. That combination, along with another strong draft or two, could put the Rams over the top and bring a Lombardi Trophy to Los Angeles.