Monday Morning Draft – Wild Card Weekend

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.
Send Charlie an e-mail here: [email protected]
Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell for updates.

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.

Cincinnati Bengals: Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
It is clear that Andy Dalton isn’t good enough on his own to carry Cincinnati to a win against good defenses. He really struggled against Houston, and the Bengals won’t be able to advance in the postseason until they improve the supporting cast around him.

Cincinnati needs a stud running back to carry the offense. That would open up the play-action passing game and make Dalton’s job a lot easier. Of all the running backs available, Bernard would be the best bet to help Dalton become a better quarterback.

Bernard averaged 6.7 yards per carry in 2012 on his way to 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also caught 47 passes for 490 yards with five touchdowns. Bernard was second in the nation in punt returns with 16.4 yards per carry with two touchdowns as well. It was the second straight year that he dominated the ACC.

Bernard is the best running back in the draft class and would be a real upgrade for the Bengals offense. Bernard would fit Jay Gruden’s offense well and would be a good receiver for Dalton. Cincinnati would be fortunate to land Bernard.

Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen, WR, California
The Vikings have to get some play-makers at wide receiver. There are obvious openings on the field with defenses so focused on stopping Adrian Peterson. Christian Ponder needs a true No. 1 wide out to work with, but Minnesota hasn’t done a good job of giving him receiving talent to throw to. Percy Harvin could be on his way out of town, so landing some receivers is a critical offseason priority for the Vikings.

Even though Allen didn’t have big production this season, the consensus opinion has the junior as the top wide receiver available in the 2013 NFL Draft. Allen had 61 receptions for 737 yards and six touchdowns while missing the final three games with a knee injury. He had 98 receptions for 1,343 yards with six touchdowns as sophomore.

Allen (6-3, 210) has good size and real quickness. He has dealt with bad quarterback play and is better than his numbers indicate. Allen has the size to operate in the short to intermediate part of the field with the speed to challenge defenses downfield. He would be a nice addition for Minnesota.

Indianapolis Colts: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
The Colts have to upgrade the offensive line in front of Andrew Luck. Indianapolis asked Luck to do too much in his rookie season, and the team needs to improve its pass protection and run blocking. Fisher would help the Colts in both aspects.

If Indianapolis could land the 6-foot-8, 305-pounder, he would give the team long-term book end tackles to keep the edges clear for Luck. Anthony Castonzo could move to the right side, or Fisher could stay at right tackle as he gets used to the NFL. In time, the Colts could flip their tackles if Fisher proves to be the better pass-protector. Indianapolis needs help on its defense, but protecting Luck has to be priority No. 1.

Washington Redskins: Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
The Redskins have to improve the talent of their defensive backs. Marshawn Lynch ran well against Washington and got big yards downfield. The Redskins need a safety who can patrol the deep part of the field and help out in run support. Jefferson would be an ideal addition in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Jefferson led Oklahoma with 119 tackles this year. The junior also had two interceptions and three passes broken up.

Jefferson is a reliable tackler who is very fast. He quickly fires up to the line of scrimmage to limit runs to short gains. Jefferson would make a big difference in the Washington’s ability to stop the run and defend the pass.

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.

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 the Bears blocking, Chicago 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 San Diego.

Cleveland Browns: Bruce Arians
The Browns could use an offensive coach with a lot of critical players to develop on that side of the ball. Arians would be a good selection to try and get something out of Brandon Weeden. He knows the division well from his years with the Steelers and his experience with Pittsburgh’s ground game from years past would mesh well with Trent Richardson. Cleveland would not land big star power with Arians, but he could be the right man for the job.

Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Zimmer
The Eagles haven’t been connected with Zimmer as one of their top candidates, but they should be. Philadelphia is a team that needs discipline and the hard-nosed Zimmer would be perfect to change the culture in Philadelphia.

The Eagles have a lot of money and draft picks invested on the defensive side of the ball. Zimmer is one of the league’s best defensive coordinators and his aggressive 4-3 scheme would be perfect for the talent in place in Philadelphia. The veteran coach is well-respected throughout the NFL and shouldn’t have a problem landing a good offensive coordinator. Zimmer isn’t a huge name, but the Eagles need a no nonsense coach like him.

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. Bradley 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.

Cincinnati Bengals:
The Bengals could become the dominant team in the AFC North if they draft well over the next couple of years. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are aging teams that have the tough task of replacing some excellent talents who have been franchise cornerstones. Cincinnati may have lost in the postseason for the second straight year, but the young team is headed in the right direction.

The Bengals have to improve the talent around Andy Dalton. He probably will never be an elite quarterback capable of carrying his team to wins. However with a good defense and running game, Dalton might be good enough to advance in January.

Landing an elite running back has to be a top priority this offseason. There isn’t one worthy of Cinciannati’s first-round pick, but the team could potentially land the best running back in the 2013 NFL Draft with its early second-round pick from Oakland.

Defensively, the Bengals should re-sign Michael Johnson, but he won’t come cheap. They also could use an upgrade on the other side from him. Using their first-round pick on a defensive end to pair with Johnson and Carlos Dunlap makes a lot of sense. Other needs to address include safety and linebacker.

Cincinnati has a good base of talent and is a few pieces away from being the top team in the AFC North.

Minnesota Vikings:
The Vikings have some clear needs heading into the offseason. Wide receiver is issue No. 1. First, Minnesota has to decide whether to move on from Percy Harvin. Keeping him makes sense because he is signed for next year and would leave a big void, but if his off-the-field issues make him a locker room liability, the team may not have a choice but to trade him away.

Clearly, the Vikings needs a No. 1 receiver for Christian Ponder. The struggling second-year signal-caller has been under equipped the past two seasons. While there are definitely reasons to doubt Ponder as the long-term starter, it isn’t fair to him to consistently make him play with receivers short of talent. Finding a stud receiver has to be a top priority.

Minnesota also needs young talent at defensive tackle. Kevin Williams is aging, and the Vikings need a better complement for him. If there isn’t a receiver worth its first-round pick, Minnesota could target a strong class of defensive tackles.

After those needs, the Vikings could look to address linebacker, the secondary and the offensive line in the mid-rounds. Adrian Peterson can’t do it all – as the Packers proved on Saturday night. Building talent around Ponder is absolutely essential to Minnesota’s hopes of building on its impressive 2012 season.

Indianapolis Colts:
The Colts earned a playoff spot in the weak AFC, but Indianapolis general manager Ryan Grigson has a lot of work to do on building the talent of the roster. The team still needs some good core players to get back to being a Super Bowl contender. The Colts have a franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck, but have to get him some help immediately.

Indianapolis’ offensive line is horrible, and Luck was running for his life all season. The Colts need a major overhaul of their offensive line with new talent on the inside and at tackle. If the Indianapolis continues to play this offensive line, Luck is going to be taking a pounding and will be in real danger of sustaining a serious injury. Via draft picks and free agents, the Colts need to make some significant additions on their line.

Indianapolis has a lot of needs defensively, too. The defensive line could use a game-changer to cause havoc at the line of scrimmage. The Colts also need help in the secondary. Vontae Davis was a nice addition and could be a lock-down corner, but they need to find a corner for the other side of the field. Indianapolis also needs better safeties.

This offseason should see the Colts focus on the offensive line and the back end of their defense. Upgrading their ability to pass block and stop the pass could help the young team make more strides in the second year under head coach Chuck Pagano.

Washington Redskins:
The Redskins had some bad luck in the playoff loss to the Seahawks, but the team has to be excited for its future. Washington has great young talents in Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Trent Williams, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. A few more pieces and the Redskins could become the favorite of the NFC East on an annual basis.

The first area that general manager Bruce Allen should address is the secondary. The roster features some weak safeties and aging cornerbacks. If Washington has any free agent dollars, the team will make a hard run at free agent Aqib Talib. Allen and Washington defensive backs coach Raheem Morris drafted Talib in 2008 with the Buccaneers, and both have a great relationship with the loquacious cover corner. If the Redskins sign Talib, they should be set at corner.

The safety position has been a bigger weakness, but fortunately for Washington this is a good safety draft class, and the team should be able to land a starter in the second round.

Other areas the Redskins could address in the mid-rounds include the offensive line and some pass-rushing depth. They need to have good depth on the offensive line to help keep Griffin healthy. Washington missed Orakpo in 2012 and could use some quality backups to get after the quarterback.

Allen has the Redskins in store for a bright future and only a few pieces away from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

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