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.
By Charlie Campbell.
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Blow For Barkley:
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. Here are the top contenders following the Week 1 action.
The Browns’ defense played a great game in holding down the Eagles’ offense, but Cleveland’s pathetic offense was unable to take advantage. The defense intercepted Michael Vick four times, but Browns rookie starter Brandon Weeden gave the ball back with four interceptions of his own. Weeden was overwhelmed and struggled to complete passes.
Cleveland’s offense was so inept it could only produce 210 yards against Philadelphia. The Browns look like they could be the least competitive team in the NFL.
Miami couldn’t score an offensive touchdown against Houston as its offense was dominated by the Texans’ defense. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill wasn’t horrible, but he was clearly overmatched. The Dolphins’ offensive line allowed pressure and their wide receivers are terrible.
Miami is going to struggle to score points this year and the defense isn’t good enough to pick up the slack. The Dolphins destined to be picking in the top 10.
The Jaguars looked improved over last season, but they still lost to another bad team as the Vikings dropped them in overtime. Second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert showed massive improvement compared to 2011. A 39-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert to Cecil Shorts was almost enough to get Jacksonville a road win.
The Jaguars just doesn’t have enough talent around Gabbert, and their offensive line and receiving corps are overmatched. Jacksonville has a terrible secondary on the other side of the ball that wasn’t exploited as much as it could’ve been by Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder. The Jaguars are better, but are still not competitive.
St. Louis Rams:
The Rams almost pulled off a road upset in Week 1. They really did an excellent job of battling Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. it wasn’t enough in the end to pull off an upset as Stafford threw the game-winning score with only 10 seconds remaining. Still, St. Louis had three interceptions off the Pro Bowl quarterback and kept wide receiver Calvin Johnson out of the end zone.
The Rams don’t look like they have the talent on offense around quarterback Sam Bradford to be seriously competitive. Their offensive line and wide receivers are still a work in progress. St. Louis is headed in the right direction, but needs more time.
Minnesota barely beat Jacksonville at home, so the team can’t get too excited over its Week 1 win. The Vikings play in the best division in football, so it is going to be difficult for them to produce a sizable win total. If Minnesota had an easy schedule, it might be a team that surprises, but life is going to get a lot harder than the Jaguars.
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.
Miami Dolphins: Robert Woods, WR, USC
The Dolphins had nothing for quarterback Ryan Tannehill to work with against the Texans. Miami’s receivers struggled to get separation from Houston’s defensive backs and provide Tannehill with uncontested throws. Obviously, the Dolphins were desperate at receiver when they signed Chad Johnson after trading away Brandon Marshall.
Woods would be a perfect receiver for Miami. He comes from a West Coast offense under head coach Lane Kiffin, and there should be a good amount of concepts that overlap with the current Dolphins system of offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and head coach Joe Philbin.
Woods was a devastating playmaker this week against Syracuse. He caught 10 passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns. The junior also had a carry for 76 yards and a 31-yard punt return. Woods totaled 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns on 111 receptions last season. Miami desperately needs a playmaker like Woods.
Buffalo Bills: Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had a rough performance in the season opener to help the Jets blow out the Bills. He threw for three touchdowns, but had three interceptions that helped New York build its big lead. Fitzpatrick isn’t a long-term starter for Buffalo and isn’t talented enough to get his team past New England. The Bills have to do something about the quarterback position next offseason.
Wilson is day-to-day after his head injury in Arkansas’ shocking upset loss to Louisiana-Monroe. He is 30-of-47 for 563 yards with five touchdowns and one interception thus far in 2012. Wilson completed 63 percent of his passes last year for 3,638 yards with 24 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for four touchdowns.
Wilson is a smart, accurate quarterback who is NFL ready. His injury bears watching, but Buffalo would do well to land the second-rated quarterback.
Carolina Panthers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Carolina really struggled up front against Tampa Bay. Guard Jeff Hangartner was dominated by Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Carolina needs long-term tackle help as well. If the Panthers take a tackle in the 2013 NFL Draft, they can move Byron Bell from right tackle to right guard and that would be a big upgrade over Hangartner.
Carolina had -1 yards rushing at halftime and finished with only 10 yards on the ground. The penetration into the backfield was disrupting the team’s runs, and Hangartner was consistently getting beat. Matthews is a dominant run-blocker for the Aggies. Having him in front of the Panthers stable of running backs would help fortify their ground game. He would also provide good protection for Cam Newton.
Washington Redskins: T.J. McDonald, S, USC
The Redskins lost Tanard Jackson to an indefinite suspension and Brandon Meriweather was injured for the season opener. He’s a journeyman at this point of his career. It is a testament to secondary coach Raheem Morris for getting the backups Reed Doughty and Dashon Gomes ready to play. They each had late interceptions for Washington to help upset the Saints.
The Redskins have a talented young front seven in the long term, but need more playmakers in their secondary. A safety like McDonald would be perfect. He has the size to help defend the run in the box. McDonald would provide a physical presence in the back end and has the speed to cover a lot of ground. Given the emphasis on dangerous receiving tight ends across the NFL, a safety like McDonald is a nice asset to combat those play-makers.
New York Giants: D.J. Fluker, T, Alabama
The Giants have to get some help on their offensive line for Eli Manning. He bailed out his line regularly in 2011, but the Cowboys put too much pressure on him along with three sacks in this year’s season opener.
New York could use some young talent at guard and tackle. Fluker would be able to fill one of the two spots. He is a tough run-blocker who has the ability to blast open holes. Fluker needs more development as a pass-blocker, but he has the potential to stay at right tackle. If Fluked moves inside, his issues with speed rushers will be disguised. The Giants like to draft players who are good athletes, and the 6-foot-6, 335-pounder is that even being a massive lineman.
New Orleans Saints: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
The Saints’ defense was abused by Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III through the air, and the team’s rushing attack. New Orleans allowed Washington to run for 153 yards while Griffin threw for 320 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Saints didn’t do a good job of pressuring the rookie signal-caller, and the lack of pass rush was already a problem for them in 2011.
Adding Werner would help New Orleans’ run defense and would be a huge boost to its pass rush. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder is physical and plays with a nasty demeanor. He also has a great burst off the snap to beat offensive tackles. Werner has a unique combination of power and speed. He has been on fire so far this season with five sacks in two games. The junior would be a perfect long-term replacement for Will Smith.
Indianapolis Colts: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Colts’ defense needs a difference-maker on the defensive line. The Bears racked up over 400 yards of offense with 41 points in the season opener. Indianapolis had no answer for Chicago’s passing attack or ground game. A defensive lineman who can disrupt runs and pressure the quarterback would be a great asset to sure up the Colts’ run defense and help out their secondary.
Lotulelei would be a great fit in Chuck Pagano’s defense. He needs a Haloti Ngata-type defender to help win at the point of attack. Lotulelei has that kind of potential. He is extremely strong and powerful with the ability to beat double-teams.
Lotulelei also has a burst and closing speed to put pressure on the quarterback. The 6-foot-4, 320-pounder has the versatility to play nose tackle in a 3-4, defensive end in a 3-4 or tackle in a 4-3. He would be a huge upgrade for the Colts.
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.
Power-player is not a term that will be used to describe the Dolphins during the 2012 NFL season, but come next April, that is exactly what Miami is going to be. The Dolphins currently have their first-round pick and four selections on the second day. The team has two second-rounders and two third-rounders after trading away cornerback Vontae Davis and wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
Miami figures to be in the running for the first-overall pick, and is highly likely to be picking in the top 10. The team has a number of needs on both sides of the ball it could address with those five picks. Defensively, the Dolphins could use help at defensive tackle and safety. Defensive end and linebacker are two other positions that could be worth considering depending on how the season plays out.
Miami needs to surround Tannehill with weapons and better blocking. Rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin was beat by J.J. Watt for a sack, but otherwise, the rookie held his own against Houston. The Dolphins could look for an upgrade over guard Richie Incognito. Landing a guard like Tennessee’s Dallas Thomas or North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper would be a nice upgrade.
As stated in the matchmaking section, Miami needs a No. 1 receiver more than anything else. Plus, the team could use other supporting receivers, so taking a receiver in the first round and another on the second day would be a good idea. The Dolphins have a lot they need to address, but at least they have the picks to do it.
Kansas City Chiefs:
Kansas City has to sell out for a quarterback next April. The NFL has seen rookie quarterbacks come in and make a big difference for their teams. It happened last year with the Bengals’ Andy Dalton and Panthers’ Cam Newton. It looks like it could happen again this season with Robert Griffin III and the Redskins. The Chiefs have a talented roster, but they need a quarterback that can push them over the top.
It was somewhat understandable for Kansas City to lose to Atlanta in Week 1. The Chiefs’ defense was down four starters with two other starters playing hurt. Every player is expected to be back healthy. However, Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel blew any chance for his team with two interceptions and a fumble in the second half. He should be a backup quarterback, and if the Chiefs win the AFC West, it will be in spite of their signal-caller and not because of him.
Not only does Kansas City have a solid set of starters, it has good depth on the roster. Thus, I think the Chiefs should be aggressive and be willing to deal some second-day picks in order to move up for a quarterback. Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas would all be candidates for the team to consider. If Kansas City can find an upgrade at quarterback, the team has the pieces in place around the signal-caller to make a run in January.
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