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 Bridgewater/Lay Down for the Clown:
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 Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater or South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Here are the top contenders following the Week 4 action.
The Jaguars aren’t a competitive football team and have a real shot at going 0-16. This week, the Colts blew out Jacksonville 37-3. The question is if the new Jaguars regime will survive if the team goes winless this season.
Jacksonville general manager David Caldwell gave the Jaguars’ fan base reason to doubt him when he stuck with Blaine Gabbert as his quarterback, saying Gabbert needed better coaching and always thought he was a 3-year developmental project. Nobody else is shocked that Gabbert still sucks. Apparently, the analytics from Shad Khan’s son were crap. Caldwell didn’t bring in another quarterback option and Jacksonville looks destined for a miserable season.
The Jaguars have to move on from Gabbert and would definitely take Bridgewater if they land the first pick. However, left tackle Eugene Monroe could leave in free agency. That would cause Luke Joeckel moving to the blind side, so general manager David Caldwell might draft another Texas A&M right tackle with a top-two pick for the second straight year. Hello, Jake Matthews!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Tampa Bay lost 13-10 to the Cardinals in another ugly day of offensive football. The Buccaneers fall to 0-4 and I don’t think Mike Glennon will propel the team to a lot of wins this season. Tampa Bay look poised to land a high pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
If Glennon doesn’t play well, the Buccaneers could draft a quarterback in the first round with Josh Freeman on his way out of town. Tampa Bay could also have a new regime that doesn’t have any loyalty to Glennon. Head coach Greg Schiano is 1-9 in his last ten games and general manager Mark Dominik has a 24-44 record running the team.
The Bucs seem to be settled in a culture of losing as they are on track to finish in last place for the fourth time in the five years since firing Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen. If Tampa Bay ends up picking this high, a quarterback is the most likely target.
New York Giants:
The New York Giants were dropped to 0-4, and their terrible start to the season is no fluke. The Chiefs beat New York by 24 as the Giants’ offensive woes continued.
Last week, New York was absolutely destroyed by the Panthers on the road 38-0. The Giants’ offensive line was completely pathetic. It allowed seven sacks from five different Carolina defenders. Eli Manning is in a serious funk, while his defense isn’t as tenacious as it used to be.
If the Giants end up with a pick at the top of the first round, they would go with Clowney or maybe an offensive tackle like Matthews.
The Steelers were dropped to 0-4 by the Vikings led by backup quarterback Matt Cassel. Pittsburgh’s defense was torched by Cassel and veteran Greg Jennings. What the Steelers have become has to be embarrassing for Mike Tomlin.
Previously, Pittsburgh has been beaten by good opponents, but the team clearly isn’t the caliber it has been in past seasons. The Steelers’ offensive line, rushing attack and defense have lost a lot of their effectiveness. While it will be painful for its fans to acknowledge, Pittsburgh is in rebuilding mode.
If the Steelers bottom out and land a high first-round pick, they would definitely go with Clowney over a quarterback, but I don’t think Pittsburgh will be bad enough to have a shot at Clowney.
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.
San Francisco 49ers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The 49ers have a tough physical defense with few weaknesses, but one long-term issue for them to address is cornerback. Against the Rams, San Francisco’s defense had a great game, but the cornerbacks got away with a lot of holding and pass interference penalties. The 49ers should consider getting their replacement for Carlos Rogers. They could develop the corner for a year or two before Rogers finishes up his solid career.
Fuller has been excellent for Virginia Tech this season. He had a great game against Alabama to open 2013 with an interception, some passes broken up and some tough tackles. Fuller has followed that up in the weeks to come, including last Thursday night when he was all over the field against the Yellow Jackets. Fuller had a forced fumble, tackles for a loss and made his presence felt all night. He has 13 tackles with an interception this year. The gritty Fuller would be a perfect fit in San Francisco’s defense.
Seattle Seahawks: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
The Seahawks’ offensive line was in shambles without three starters against a talented Houston Texans front, but Seattle has had some offensive line issues on the right side even when healthy. It would greatly help Russell Wilson and improve the Seahawks’ run blocking if the organization can land a difference-maker on the right side.
Richardson is a quality left tackle, and as a right tackle, he could have the potential to be one of the top ones in the league. Last year, Richardson did well against Jadeveon Clowney and the elite pass-rushers of the SEC. This season, Richardson has played well with the exception of one half of play against Florida. He wouldn’t be a sexy first-round pick for the Seahawks, but he could provide a lot of balance for their offense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
The Buccaneers’ offense has been without an effective third receiver coming out of the slot and a pass -receiving tight end to work the middle of the field. Tampa Bay needs to give pocket passer Mike Glennon more options in the passing game when Vincent Jackson draws the No. 1 corner and teams bracket Mike Williams. The Bucs also have consistently changed out their returners in recent years, so Abbrederis could fix a few issues.
The gritty Abbrederis is Greg Schiano’s type of player with his toughness and reliability. Against Bradley Roby and Ohio State, Abbrederis totaled 207 yards on 10 receptions with a touchdown. The senior has 33 receptions for 572 yards with four touchdowns through five games this season. Abbrederis would get more receptions on most teams, but the Badgers are known for their running offense. Still, he has been unselfish and is a good blocker. Abbrederis has the speed to beat defenses downfield and could be a nice second-round pick for Tampa Bay.
Detroit Lions: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Lions have been searching for a complementary receiver for Calvin Johnson for years, and they may have to use a premium pick in order to find that missing element for their offense. Reggie Bush has been a great addition for Detroit. However with his age and durability, the team shouldn’t put itself in a position to be completely dependent on Bush staying in the lineup in order to take advantage of defenses being focused on Johnson.
Lee has 30 receptions for 385 yards and a touchdown this season. He injured his knee on a punt return against Arizona State recenetly, and it is unclear how long he will be out. The injury is said to be a severe knee sprain. With a down season and potential injury, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that Lee falls in the 2014 NFL Draft. The junior also isn’t the largest of receivers. That combination sent teammate Robert Woods to the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft after entering the 2012 season as a potential high first-rounder. With Detroit possibly picking in the back half of Round 1, Lee could become a weapon for Matthew Stafford.
Buffalo Bills: Tre Boston, S, North Carolina
The Bills took down the defending champs with a patchwork secondary, but Buffalo still produced five Joe Flacco interceptions. The Ravens put up a lot of yards through the air with a massive game from Torrey Smith and contributions from Deonte Thompson, Tandon Doss, Marlon Brown and Dallas Clark. The Bils could use some secondary depth, and Boston is perfect because he can play both cornerback and safety.
Boston has 21 tackles with two interceptions thus far this year. The senior had an excellent game against East Carolina on Saturday. He is a rangy free safety with the ability to cover slot receivers and tight ends. That would come in handy for defending the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski and providing some deep double-team help against the Dolphins’ Mike Wallace. Buffalo can address other needs in the first round and target Boston on Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Washington Redskins: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The Redskins got their first win of the season, and with the Cowboys losing, Washington is surprisingly only one game out of first place. I would expect general manager Bruce Allen to devote some serious free agency dollars to upgrade the secondary next offseason. If the Redskins do that, they can continue to build up the receiving corps for Robert Griffin III in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Beckham has been a play-maker for LSU this year. The 6-foot, 187-pounder has some elite speed to make plays downfield. He has averaged 19.5 yards per catch with 26 receptions for 507 yards with four touchdowns. The explosive Beckham could contribute on kick and punt returns as well. He would provide Griffin with another deep threat opposite Pierre Garcon. The Redskins could target Beckham if he makes it to their pick in Round 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Cleveland Browns: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Browns’ defense has played well in three out of four games this season, and the defense led Cleveland to a 17-6 win over the Vikings. The Browns have a tough front seven, but the one thing the defense could use is a cornerback to pair with Joe Haden. Cleveland should use its first three picks to upgrade the offense, so landing a corner will have to come in the third round.
The physical Gilbert has the ability to play some man and zone coverage. He had a breakout sophomore season with 59 tackles, 10 passes broken up and five interceptions. Last year, Gilbert had 63 tackles with nine passes broken up. The senior has stood out so far in 2012, although sometimes he can get too physical. Gilbert has nine tackles with two interceptions this season. He could be a nice value pick for the Browns in Round 3 of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Team Draft Report:
In this section, we take a deeper look at specific teams and where they stand in regards to the 2014 NFL Draft.
St. Louis Rams:
On Thursday Night Football, the Rams didn’t look like the team that many felt would challenge for a wild-card spot in 2013. St. Louis’ offense struggled to produce points against San Francisco, and the Rams have a lot of improvements to make to be on a par with the 49ers. Next offseason, St. Louis should continue to stockpile draft picks in order to build up the roster.
Rams general manager Les Snead has been adept at moving down in the first round and getting an extra second-day pick. He’s done that in both of his drafts, and it would make sense for St. Louis to do that again with one of its two first-round picks in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Perhaps the biggest need on the Rams’ roster is a running back who can energize their ground game. Sam Bradford needs a rushing attack to take the pressure off of him. Having safeties in the tackle box would help to open the deep part of the field for 2013 first-round pick Tavon Austin. The best draft-eligible back in college football for the St. Louis is Baylor’s Lache Seatrunk. He has breakaway speed with the size and power to pick up yards after contact. Seastrunk would instantly transform the Rams’ offense.
To help the ground game get going, St. Louis has to do something about the guard position. The Rams were going to draft Larry Warford in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft if linebacker Alec Ogletree didn’t fall to their second selection. Guard has continued to be a weakness as left guard Chris Williams has no business starting in the NFL. The 49ers abused him on Thursday night. St. Louis should target a player like Baylor’s Cyril Richardson in the second round next May.
The Rams could take a back like Seastrunk with their second first-round pick. They have a few options to consider with their first pick. A defensive tackle to pair with Michael Brockers would finish off the team’s defensive line. Notre Dame’s Louis Nix is the top candidate to consider. St. Louis also could use help at safety, and Alabama’s HaHa Clinton-Dix would strengthen the back end.
Even though Jake Long was signed to fix the Rams’ left tackle position, the team could draft another tackle to go on the other side. Long has struggled with injuries, and as he ages, St. Louis might be better off having him at right tackle. With their first pick, the Rams could maybe land a stud left tackle. Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, Michigan’s Taylor Lewan and Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio would make sense if St. Louis ends up with a top-10 pick.
Lastly, the Rams should consider using a second-day pick to push Sam Bradford; the 2010 No. 1 overall pick could stand to be pushed. St. Louis could consider LSU’s Zack Mettenberger, Fresno State’s Derek Carr, Georgia’s Aaron Murray or San Jose State’s David Fales on the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft. Given the depth of the quarterback class, the Rams may end up getting lucky with a quality quarterback falling to them.
In speaking with league sources at other teams, they feel the Rams have a talented front office that will get the team in winning form if they’re given time to build up the roster. The playoff predictions seem to be a year early, but St. Louis could make big strides with another strong draft class.
Even though they went 1-1 on their swing into the Southeast, the Cardinals only totaled 20 points in two games against the Saints and Buccaneers. The Arizona offense was completely incapable of producing points despite its weapons at wide receiver. The Cardinals clearly have a lot of work to do before they can compete with the elite teams in the NFC West. With Seattle and San Francisco looking good for years to come, Arizona needs to find a franchise signal-caller in order to have any hopes of the postseason.
The Cardinals got Carson Palmer for virtually nothing, and he is an upgrade over the Kevin Kolb and John Skelton combination of the past. Still, Palmer is old and his arm strength is declining. Even with some good receivers, he has struggled to produce points. Arizona general manager Steve Keim has to pull out all the stops to get a franchise quarterback or the Cardinals are going to waste the prime years of Larry Fitzgerald.
With Jacksonville in dominantly bad form, Arizona probably won’t be bad enough to land Teddy Bridgewater. Thus, the Cardinals have to hope that UCLA’s Brett Hundley continues to prove he is worth a high pick and enters the 2014 NFL Draft. Aside from Hundley, Arizona could target Clemson’s Tajh Boyd or Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. If the Cardinals miss out on the first-round quarterbacks, the organization should consider LSU’s Zack Mettenberger or Fresno State’s Derek Carr on Day 2.
Along with the quarterback position, Arizona needs more help on the offensive line. Losing Jonathan Cooper for the year was crushing, but the tackles aren’t up to par anyway. If the Cardinals don’t have a good quarterback option in the first round, they should consider a left tackle like Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews or Michigan’s Taylor Lewan.
Defensively, Arizona could use an edge-rusher. In the first round, UCLA’s Anthony Barr would be a great scheme fit in the Cardinals 3-4 defense. If the Cardinals draft offense in the first round, they should think of USC’s Morgan Breslin on the second day.
Arizona is going to be looking up at the Seahawks and 49ers until the Cardinals get a good quarterback. That is job No. 1 next offseason for Keim and head coach Bruce Arians as they head into their second season leading Arizona.
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