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.
New York Giants:
The Giants had a bye this week. They lost their previous two games in six days, but also were able to play competitively against those opponents. Heading into Week 9, the Giants hold the No. 1 pick of the 2019 NFL Draft.
If the Giants do have the first-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, they could use it on Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. Eli Manning is aging and declining, and the franchise needs a quarterback of the future. However, New York general manager Dave Gettleman chose to pass on taking a potential franchise quarterback for star running back Saquon Barkley last April. Thus, it would not shock me if Gettleman takes one of the rare defensive line prospects and then targets a quarterback on Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Raiders were blown out by the 49ers on Thursday Night Football. While that was painful loss for Oakland, it could be a blessing in disguise, as San Francisco was picking ahead of Oakland. Now, the Raiders move up to the second pick the 2019 NFL Draft, behind only the Giants. If the Raiders lose out and the Giants gets another win, Oakland will have the No. 1-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Derek Carr had an excellent game against the Colts in Week 8, but the terrible play of the Oakland defense once again led to another loss. 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 in Week 4, the Raiders notched a comeback win over Cleveland.
Oakland is in rebuilding mode, and that was made clear with the Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades. 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.
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 Orleans Saints: Jamel Dean, CB, Auburn
The Saints dealt the Rams their first loss of the season by dropping 45 points on Wade Phillips' defense. Los Angeles made some big plays through the air, but once again Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas were able to overcome the opposition. New Orleans will be without a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft because of the Marcus Davenport trade, but in the second round, the Saints could add more to their defense with a player like Dean.
Dean has 20 tackles, an interception and five passes batted in 2018 while playing with a cast on one of his hands. Despite dealing with the injury, Dean has been a good cover corner for Auburn this year. The 6-foot-2, 208-pounder has excellent size to help the Saints match up against the big receivers of their division like Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devin Funchess and Michael Thomas. Dean could form a strong tandem with Marshon Lattimore.
Los Angeles Chargers: Montez Sweat, DE/OLB, Mississippi State
The Chargers' defense has missed Joey Bosa this season, and fortunately for them, they should be getting him back soon. Bosa has had some durability issues during his pro career, so Los Angeles should consider adding a third edge rusher to go with Bosa and Melvin Ingram. That would allow the team to rotate the three, keeping them fresh and reduing the injury risk of the veterans. If Ingram or Bosa were to get hurt, the Chargers would also have good depth to fall back on.
Over the past couple of seasons, Sweat has been the most consistent sack producer in the SEC. This year, he is up to totals of 36 tackles, 12 for a loss and 9.5 sacks halfway through. The 6-foot-6, 240-pounder has speed and length off the edge with natural feel as a pass-rusher. He has turned in some superb games this year. Sweat could stand to get stronger and fill out his frame, but he is an adept quarterback hunter who would be a great fit in Washington's 3-4 defense.
Minnesota Vikings: Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama
The Vikings welcomed back the return of Dalvin Cook in Week 9, and once again, the former Florida State Seminole showed his special ability to move the ball on NFL defenses. For once, Adam Thielen was contained by a defense, yet the Vikings got enough out of the passing attack despite being without Stefon Diggs. Minnesota could use more weapons for Kirk Cousins, and a mismatch receiving tight end could make the offense more dynamic. Kyle Rudolph will be in the last year of his contract next season, but even if he is kept, adding a receiving target would diversify the Vikings' passing attack while also helping to run double-tight end sets.
This season, Smith has been a dynamic receiver who has been a nightmare in coverage for defenses. The 6-foot-4, 241-pounder is a good route runner with quickness and functional size to cause mismatches. In 2018, Smith has 26 catches for 448 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers are held down by Alabama pulling its starters midway through the game in eight of its contests thus far. Smith could be nice selection for Minnesota in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Miami Dolphins: Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
The Dolphins played like garbage against the Texans on Thursday Night Football, but their defense bounced back against the Jets with four interceptions off rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. Miami only mustered 13 points though, which is a terrible total considering that amount of turnovers. Frank Gore totaled 53 yards on 20 carries, and is clearly not the long-term answer at running back. The Dolphins could use more explosive play-makers in their offense.
The speedster Love has been banged up in 2018, plus defenses have been selling out to stop him. As a result, his numbers are down year over year, and he is averaging 4.4 yards per carry in 2018 for 490 yards with four touchdowns. In 2017, he averaged 8.1 yards per carry for 2,118 yards with 19 touchdowns. Love has game-breaking speed and is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. He would be a great pick for the Dolphins with their second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Kansas City Chiefs: Jachai Polite, DE/OLB, Florida
The Chiefs cruised over the Browns on Sunday, but Kansas City could use more pass-rushing talent from the offseason. Dee Ford had one tackle versus Cleveland and is entering free agency. Tamba Hali is gone, and Justin Houston is aging and dealing with injuries. Here's a 3-4 edge rusher who could be a good fit for Kansas City late in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Polite has been a force on the edge for Florida in 2018. On the year, he has seven sacks with four forced fumbles, 32 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss and three passes batted. In 2017, he totaled 22 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss, and two sacks.
The junior has an odd body type, but he could be a good rotational edge rusher in a 4-3 and would fit well as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Polite has natural feel as a pass-rusher with speed, athleticism and moves. The 6-foot-2, 260-pounder is a bit of tweener in that he has the height of a tackle, but the weight of a defensive end. Polite has good speed and athleticism at the point of attack.
Carolina Panthers: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
The Panthers improved to 6-2 after lighting up the Bucs' defense and making enough plays defensively to keep Tampa Bay from pulling off a comeback. Carolina general manager Marty Hurney made a great pick taking Donte Jackson in the second round last year. Jackson got his fourth interception of the year versus Tampa Bay, while James Bradberry played well against Mike Evans. The Panthers could use a third corner to go with Jackson and Bradberry, and Diggs would be a great fit in a division that has Carolina playing Evans, Michael Thomas, and Julio Jones in six games per year.
Diggs took his game to another level this season before going down with a broken foot that has him out indefinitely. He flashed in 2017, but still was developing at cornerback after starting his career playing both offense and defense. Diggs was able to focus on corner in 2017, and now this year, his play took a huge jump. He had 20 tackles with six passes broken up and one interception before the broken foot. Diggs (6-2, 199) was showing major cover-corner talent and a great skill set. He would be a great fit in the Carolina defense.
San Francisco 49ers: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
The 49ers dominated in San Francisco on Thursday Night Football, turning in a tremendous offensive performance to rip up a weak Oakland defense. Last year, San Francisco general manager John Lynch knew the 49ers needed another pass-rusher, and they had hopes that Solomon Thomas could develop into being the player the 49ers thought they were getting when they took him with the third-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. This season, Thomas has been a solid run defender, but he is ineffective in the pass rush and is benched for Cassius Marsh in passing situations. Thomas is misfit in the 49ers' defense as a 4-3 end; he should be a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. In the 2019 NFL Draft, the 49ers could land a good edge rusher for their defense.
Ferrell was Clemson's best defensive lineman over the past two seasons and is off to a great start in 2018. He has seven sacks with 28 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, two passes batted and two forced fumbles this year. Ferrell is a fast edge rusher with length and athleticism, but this year, he has also been more stout as a run defender, so his decision to return to Clemson has helped improve his development for the NFL. Ferrell would be a great fit as a base end in the 49ers' defense.
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 winning the Super Bowl in 2015, the Broncos have had to do a gradual rebuild of their roster. Core players like Peyton Manning, Demarcus Ware, Danny Trevathan, D.J. Ward, Malik Jackson and Aqib Talib have all moved on. Denver general manager John Elway has a good eye for talent, but he has a number of holes to plug to get his team back in Super Bowl contention.
There are a lot needs on the offensive side of the ball. The first one is a quarterback of the future, where Case Keenum is just a placeholder. Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert won't make it to Denver's first-round pick, and Herbert might return to school next year anyway. On the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft, Denver could consider N.C. State's Ryan Finley, Missouri's Drew Lock or Northwestern's Clayton Thorson. Any of those three could be developmental options behind Keenum. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft, I have the Broncos taking Lock in Round 2, as the big-armed and athletic quarterback could appeal to Elway. Lock also might not be available and go in Round 1.
There are other needs on the offensive side of the ball as well. Denver's offensive line needs a lot of help. In the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Broncos could consider Ole Miss left tackle Greg Little, but he has bust potential and could be a reach depending on how high they are picking. On the second day, they could target offensive line help in the form of guards like Boston College's Chris Lindstrom or Wisconsin's Michael Deiter. Some center options would be Mississippi State's Elgton Jenkins or Texas A&M's Erik McCoy. All of those four players could be second-round pick options for Denver.
Right tackle is another weak spot that the Broncos could look to upgrade. Some options include Wisconsin's David Edwards and Alabama's Jonah Williams. Williams is the safer of the two, as Edwards has issues with speed rushers and gets pushed around when he plays too high. Edwards could be a bust like Ty Sambrailo was a few years ago. Some third-round targets to play right tackle could include Kansas State's Dalton Risner and Washington's Kaleb McGary.
In the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the value is not there for Denver to go with any of their offensive needs. Thus, they could add more talent to their defense. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft I have the Broncos taking Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs. Other corners to target include Georgia's DeAndre Baker or LSU's Greedy Williams. Any of those three would be good replacements for Aqib Talib.
The Broncos also could think of LSU linebacker Devin White, as they have missed Trevathan ever since he left for Chicago. White would be an instant upgrade to their run defense.
The Broncos have a lot of options they could go in the early rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft. Elway is coming off a strong draft class with impressive play from rookies Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton, Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay. A few more draft classes like that will have Denver back in the postseason.
The Falcons were one of my picks to be a playoff team in 2018, because I thought their loaded offense could carry them to the postseason. Once again, Atlanta's offense has played well this year, but the defense has let the offense down. Injuries have ravaged the Falcons, as Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen and Deion Jones have been missed, but the underperformance of some front seven defenders have really hurt them this year. Atlanta could make it into the playoffs, but with the state of the defense, it is hard to see Atlanta beating the elite teams in the conference like the Saints, Rams and Panthers to make it back to the Super Bowl. Fortunately for the Falcons, the 2019 NFL Draft is so loaded with defensive line talent that they could possibly land a top-10-caliber player despite picking in the teens next April.
In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft, I have the Falcons taking Boston College defensive end Zach Allen. Takk McKinley has played well this year for Atlanta, but Vic Beasley has been a massive disappointment. The Falcons could use a do-it-all end like Allen. He is a tough run defender and a skilled pass-rusher, and would provide a combination of size and strength to Atlanta's undersized front seven. Allen would be a great first-round pick for the Falcons. Other defensive ends they could consider would include Clemson's Clelin Ferrell and Michigan's Rashan Gary.
Elsewhere on the defense, the Falcons also need help on the inside of their line at defensive tackle. Atlanta probably won't be picking high enough to land the elite prospects like Alabama's Quinnen Williams or Auburn's Derrick Brown, but there are plenty of other great options who are worthy of going in the top 20. That group includes Houston's Ed Oliver, Alabama's Raekwon Davis, Clemson's Dexter Lawrence, Clemson's Christian Wilkins, Ohio State's Dre'Mont Jones and Notre Dame's Jerry Tillery. Anyone from that group would be an upgrade for Atlanta. However, taking one with some size would fill more of a need, so Oliver and Jones may not be as good of fits. Davis, Lawrence or Wilkins could be great fits for the Falcons.
The Falcons could also consider help on the offensive line. In the first round, Oklahoma guard Cody Ford could be an option for the Falcons if they were to trade down. He would give them a big road-grader to pave the way. However, the value would be better for Atlanta to address the defensive line on the opening night of the 2019 NFL Draft. On Day 2, the organization could look at guards like Boston College's Chris Lindstrom or Wisconsin's Michael Deiter as upgrades with plug-and-play starter potential.
The Falcons could easily bounce back next year and make a run deep into the postseason again. They have a ton of talent on their roster thanks to the astute moves of Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli. A good draft class could have Atlanta back in Super Bowl contention in short order.