Monday Morning Draft – Week 9

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

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 9 action.

Jacksonville Jaguars:
Jacksonville was off this week. A week earlier, the Jaguars were just as bad in the United Kingdom as they are in the States. The 49ers blew them out 42-10, and Jacksonville is now halfway to going 0-16. The question is if the new Jaguars regime will survive if the squad goes winless this season.

Jacksonville general manager David Caldwell gave the team’s 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 useless. Caldwell didn’t bring in another quarterback option, and the Jaguars look destined for a miserable season. They traded away Eugene Monroe, so despite drafting Luke Joeckel, they still have a big hole at offensive tackle.

Jacksonville has to move on from Gabbert, and the organization would definitely take a quarterback if it lands the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. However with Joeckel on the blind side, 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 27-24 to the Seahawks in overtime. The Buccaneers are 0-8. I don’t think Mike Glennon and the terrible pass rush will be able to propel the team to a lot of wins in the second half of the year. Tampa Bay could be the only real threat to Jacksonville landing the No. 1 pick.

Glennon hasn’t been bad, but the Buccaneers could easily draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Tampa Bay almost certainly will have a new regime that doesn’t have any loyalty to Glennon. Head coach Greg Schiano is 1-13 in his last 14 games and is 7-17 overall. General manager Mark Dominik is 24-48 running the team and is approaching Matt Millen territory. Either Schiano or Dominik, or both, could be fired at any time, which would be a surprise to no one.

The Bucs seem to be settled into 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. A quarterback is the most likely target for Tampa Bay’s first-round pick.

Minnesota Vikings:
The Vikings were topped by the Cowboys thanks to a late touchdown throw by Tony Romo. Minnesota’s season got off to an 0-3 start before beating the Steelers “at home” – in London – in Week 4. At 1-7 with weak quarterback play, the Vikings look poised to be picking in the top five of the 2014 NFL Draft.

If Josh Freeman or Christian Ponder play well enough to get another shot in 2014, Minnesota could go after Jadeveon Clowney as a replacement for impending free agent Jared Allen. If the quarterbacks don’t play well, the Vikings will have to target a franchise quarterback and hope that the talented redshirt sophomores of Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and UCLA’s Brett Hundley enter the 2014 NFL Draft.

New York Giants:
The Giants had a bye on Sunday. Last week, New York improved to 2-6 after winning its second-straight game. After topping the Vikings, the Giants were able to go to Philadelphia six days later and beat the Eagles 15-7.

If New York ends up with a pick at the top of the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the team would go with Clowney or maybe an offensive tackle like Matthews. It would be a tough decision for general manager Jerry Reese.

Atlanta Falcons:
The Falcons fell to 2-6 after getting handled in Carolina. Atlanta had a lot of change in the offseason, and the team has greatly missed John Abraham this year. The injury to Julio Jones was the final straw.

In the long run, this year could be a positive for the Falcons if they land a franchise defensive player with their first-round pick. Atlanta could use a pass-rusher, and it make a lot of sense for the organization to go after Clowney or UCLA’s Anthony Barr. Either of those players would be a huge acquisition for the Falcons. They need a defensive game-changer.

Pittsburgh Steelers:
Pittsburgh seemed to be circling the wagons after winning two straight, but came up short in an attempted comeback in Oakland a week ago. This week, the Steelers fought tough for a while before New England ultimately pulled away. Pittsburgh has had problems controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball this season.

If the Steelers could get an elite left tackle, it could make a big difference for their offensive line. Mike Adams could compete at right tackle. Jake Matthews or Taylor Lewan would make a lot of sense for Pittsburgh.

Houston Texans:
The Texans were dropped by the Colts on Sunday night. If Case Keenum finishes the season on a strong note, Houston could look to get a pass-rusher to go on the other side from Whitney Mercilus. The Texans also could consider a wide receiver if a special talent is available; Andre Johnson won’t play forever.

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: Yawin Smallwood, ILB, Connecticut
Kansas City remains undefeated this season following a tough win over the Bills. However, Buffalo ran for over 200 yards on the Chiefs’ vaunted defense. Kansas City could use an inside linebacker to pair with Derrick Johnson and Smallwood would be a good choice to chase down running backs.

Smallwood has 79 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and three passes broken up this year. The 6-foot-4, 236-pounder has the speed to run sideline-to-sideline and is a good tackler. Smallwood could help take advantage of the disruption caused by the Chiefs’ outside linebackers.

Tennessee Titans: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Titans got a great game out of Chris Johnson to lead them to a road win over St. Louis. Jake Locker didn’t have a good day, but he didn’t get much help from his receivers. Tennessee could use a receiving tight end to pair with Delanie Walker. Having an effective double-tight end combination with a receiver like Ebron would make Locker’s and Johnson’s jobs much easier.

The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Ebron has been excellent for North Carolina in 2013. He has produced a lot of big games this season and has been a dynamic mismatch. Ebron has 44 receptions for 669 yards and three touchdowns. He has the speed and athleticism to be a top receiving tight end in the NFL.

New York Jets: HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Jets have pulled out a number of surprising wins this season, and that continued with a victory over the Saints. New York was burned by Jimmy Graham, while the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski will be a problem for years to come. The Jets could use a safety who is capable of matching up in coverage on tight ends.

The 6-foot-1, 209-pounder is very good in pass coverage. The junior covers a lot of ground, defends big receivers and has ball skills. Clinton-Dix has 31 tackles, one interception and three passes broken up this year and played well against Texas A&M, Virginia Tech and Ole Miss. He had five interceptions as a sophomore. Clinton-Dix could be an impact first-round pick for New York.

Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Cowboys hoped that Jay Ratliff would be the three-technique for Monte Kiffin’s defense, but Ratliff didn’t pan out. Finding an interior pass-rusher and gap-shooter this offseason is a key component to making Kiffin’s defense run as intended. Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli likes his tackles short, quick and thick. Donald definitely fits the description.

Donald has been on a tear for Pittsburgh this season. He has been one of the best pass-rushers in college football, which is especially impressive for a defensive tackle. Donald has 36 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, a pass batted and three forced fumbles in 2013. The 6-foot, 285-pounder could be a good fit as a three-technique in a 4-3 defense. He could be a good pick for Dallas on the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Seattle Seahawks: Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford
The Seahawks’ run defense was completely abused by Tampa Bay running back Mike James. The rookie looks like a quality back in the NFL, but Seattle made him look like a Pro Bowler. The Seahawks could use another linebacker to defend the inside runs.

Skov was been a steady hard-nosed presence in the middle of Stanford’s defense for years. He was slowed down last season coming off an ACL injury, but has played much better in 2013. He has 63 tackles with seven tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks and two passes broken up this tear. Skov is disruptive in the tackle box and would be a nice fit next to Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. Seattle could potentially land Skov in the second round.

Carolina Panthers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Against Atlanta, the Panthers had a combined effort to support Cam Newton, but Carolina could use a long-term No. 1 receiver. Greg Olsen is a nice receiving tight end and Brandon LaFell is a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver. Landing a play-maker like Watkins would be a perfect fit for Newton’s big arm and as a long-term replacement for Steve Smith.

Watkins has been excellent this season as the lead receiver for Tajh Boyd. Looking like the freshman superstar the took the nation by storm in 2011, Watkins has 66 receptions for 982 yards with seven touchdowns this year. In 2011, he had 82 catches for 1,219 yards with 12 scores. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder has the speed to stretch a defense vertically and is a threat to score on any reception. The junior would be a great choice with the Panthers’ first-round pick if they can get him.

Miami Dolphins: Corey Robinson, OT, South Carolina
The Dolphins’ offensive line has improved with the addition of Bryant McKinnie. Thus, a mammoth offensive tackle like Robinson could make sense as a long-term starter for Miami. The question would be if Robinson has enough athleticism for the zone-blocking scheme that Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman like to run. Robinson could potentially fix the Dolphins’ issues at left tackle and could be a good selection on the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft.

The 6-foot-8, 340-pound Robinson is a massive blocker who can be a mauler in the run game. He has really improved his pass protection this year and has had a number of strong outings for South Carolina. Robinson has quick feet and could use some refinement, but he has a lot of upside with size and athletic ability.

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.

Washington Redskins:
Even though the Redskins’ season got off to a rough start, it looks clear that Washington is very close to being back in playoff form. The team has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and is only a few pieces away from potentially being the class of the NFC East. With Robert Griffin III, the Redskins should be primed to be a playoff contender on an annual basis.

Washington’s issues primarily reside on the defensive side of the ball. It is amazing that the Redskins have been able to still get good play out of DeAngelo Hall, which is a credit to the coaching staff. Elsewhere in the secondary, Washington has a lot of youth that needs time to develop. Safety Philip Thomas is spending 2013 on injured reserve while Bacarri Rambo has shown signs of progress. It would make sense for the Redskins to add another veteran safety in free agency to go with the young players.

Defensively, the organization could use more help at cornerback for the long term. David Amerson was a good pick in the draft last year, but adding another ballhawk makes sense. It would surprise nobody if the Redskins sign free agent cornerback Aqib Talib in the offseason. He was drafted by current Washington general manager Bruce Allen and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris when they were in Tampa Bay in 2008. With Talib, Hall and Amerson, the Redskins should be much improved at cornerback in 2014, and Washington certainly will be willing to pay a big contract to land Talib.

Elsewhere on defense, the Redskins have to think of the future replacement for veteran London Fletcher. The 2014 NFL Draft could be strong at inside linebacker and Washington could land a quality player on the second day. Some options include Florida State’s Christian Jones, Miami’s Denzel Perryman, Stanford’s Shayne Skov and Connecticut’s Yawin Smallwood. Any of those could form a nice duo with Perry Riley.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Redskins could consider some depth for the offensive line in the mid-rounds. Washington also will always be on the lookout for a good receiver for their young franchise quarterback.

While the Redskins may not make the playoffs this year, it wouldn’t be surprising if only a few acquisitions make them a perennial playoff contender in the years to come. Allen has done a good job of rebuilding Washington’s roster after inheriting very little to work with when he came aboard in 2009. If the organization stays patient, Allen will finish the job and get the Redskins in contention for the Super Bowl.

Cincinnati Bengals:
While other teams get more acclaim, the Bengals have quietly been one of the best drafting teams in the NFL. Cincinnati has done a tremendous job of nailing picks after the first round, and thus it is no surprise that the team has developed a deep roster that looks poised to put the Bengals into the postseason for the third straight year. President Mike Brown and director of player personnel Duke Tobin have built one of the best young rosters in the NFL.

An example of Cincinnati’s great drafting can be found up front. The team has one of the best defensive lines in the NFL and the drafting is a reason for that. Geno Atkins (fourth round), Carlos Dunlap (second round), Michael Johnson (third round) and Domata Peko (fourth round) were all great picks by the Bengals. Also, they have good depth in Brandon Thompson (third round), Devon Still (second round) and Margus Hunt (second round). This is the kind of drafting that can serve as a textbook example for how to build a defensive line.

Cincinnati’s strong drafting has them set up with few needs for next year. Defensively, the Bengals signed James Harrison in the offseason, but the team could use more long-term linebacker talent. Rey Maualuga signed a 2-year contract before this season, so he will only be certain to return for 2014. It would make sense for Cincinnati to go after a play-making, pass-rushing outside linebacker. Johnson could leave in free agency, so a linebacker with edge-rush ability makes sense. In the first round, the Bengals could target a play-maker like BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, Buffalo’s Khalil Mack or Clemson’s Vic Beasley.

Cincinnati has gotten good mileage out of veteran cornerbacks Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones and Terrance Newman. Considering their age and Leon Hall coming off his second Achilles injury, it would make sense for the Bengals to add another young corner to go with Dre Kirkpatrick. A good fit for the team on the second day could be Texas A&M’s Deshazor Everett. He is long, physical and gritty like the other defensive backs. Cincinnati also might want to consider adding a defensive end or safety if a good one falls to the organization’s picks.

Offensively, it wouldn’t hurt the Bengals to add some interior line talent. They also make a head-scratching decision on a weekly basis to give more carries to BenJarvus Green-Ellis instead of Giovani Bernard. Cincinnati could find an upgrade over Green-Ellis in the mid-rounds. If the Bengals want a power back, Baylor’s Glasco Martin or Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde could be a good value early on the third day.

Cincinnati also could consider drafting the best player available regardless of position. With the strength of the Bengals’ roster, they are in a good situation to continue to build up their overall talent as they make a push to contend for a Lombardi Trophy.

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