Monday Morning Draft – Week 11

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 11 action.

Jacksonville Jaguars:
The Jaguars got back to their losing ways against the Cardinals, and just as important Jacksonville got help with Tampa Bay beating Atlanta. That puts the Jaguars as the only team in the NFL with only one win. If they lose out, they will have the No. 1 pick next May.

A week ago, Jacksonville pulled off a 29-27 upset win at Tennessee. The Jaguars avoided going 0-16, which could be enough to give Gus Bradley and his staff another year.

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 was shocked that Gabbert still sucked. 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!

Minnesota Vikings:
Minnesota was rolled at Seattle and dropped to 2-8 on the season. A week ago, the Vikings came back to beat the Redskins by six on Thursday night football for Minnesota’s second win of the season. The Vikings’ season got off to an 0-3 start before beating the Steelers “at home” – in London – in Week 4. With weak quarterback play, Minnesota looks poised to be picking in the top five of the 2014 NFL Draft.

The Vikings could go after Jadeveon Clowney as a replacement for impending free agent Jared Allen, but a quarterback would be the target if a good one is available. If the Minnesota isn’t picking first, the organization won’t land Teddy Bridgewater. Therefore, the Vikings have to hope that the talented redshirt sophomores of Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and UCLA’s Brett Hundley enter the 2014 NFL Draft.

Houston Texans:
The Texans’ funk continued with a home loss to the Raiders. Rookie quarterback Matt McGloin made his first start and threw three touchdowns, while Rashad Jennings ran over the Houston defense. This was another rough disheartening loss in a miserable season for the Texans.

Houston could look to get a pass-rusher like Clowney or Anthony Barr, but right now a franchise quarterback looks like the top target for the team. General manger Rick Smith doesn’t reach, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the Texans take a top talent available with their first pick and target a quarterback in Round 2.

Houston also could consider a wide receiver if a special talent is available; Andre Johnson won’t play forever.

Atlanta Falcons:
The Falcons fell to 2-8 after getting dominated in Tampa Bay. 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 to send the Falcons into a rebuilding season. The team’s offensive line is horrendous and its pass rush is pathetic. Building up both units will be the offseason priority.

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 makes 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. Jake Matthews could get consideration as well, but Atlanta needs a defensive game-changer.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Bucs won two games in six days to improve to 2-8. Tampa Bay could play itself out of the top five with potential wins against the Bills, Rams and Saints (in Week 17, New Orleans could be resting starters).

If the Bucs land a top-five pick, they could easily draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Tampa Bay could have a new regime that doesn’t have any loyalty to Mike Glennon. Head coach Greg Schiano is 3-13 in his last 16 games and is 9-17 overall. General manager Mark Dominik is 26-48 running the team. Either Schiano or Dominik, or both, could be fired if they don’t finish the season strongly. If the current regime survives, a pass-rusher is the most likely target for the Bucs pick as Da’Quan Bowers is a bust and Adrian Clayborn is just a role player.

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.

Buffalo Bills: Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
The Bills took care of business against the Jets, but struggled to run the ball. Throughout the 2013 season, Buffalo has missed Andy Levitre, and the organization needs to upgrade its left guard position. Taking Jackson in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft would make a lot of sense as he could open up a lot of holes for Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.

The 6-foot-4, 340-pound Jackson is a road-grader as a run-blocker. He has the power to move defensive linemen at the point of attack and is a great blocker to go behind in short-yardage situations. Against some good rushers in the SEC, Jackson has been a good pass-protector. The senior has been superb this year. He looks ready to step in and start immediately in the NFL.

Arizona Cardinals: Michael Sam, OLB, Missouri
The Cardinals got two sacks against the Jaguars via John Abraham and Calais Campbell. Arizona’s defense has played well this season, but one thing the team could use is an edge-rusher. Abraham is a declining veteran who won’t play forever.

Sam has been one of the top pass-rushers in college football in 2013. He has 10 sacks with 34 tackles and 16 tackles for a loss. For the NFL, Sam would fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker. The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder doesn’t have the size to remain at defensive end in the pros. Arizona taking Sam on the second day of the draft makes a lot of sense.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
As Calvin Johnson illustrated, the Steelers need some young talent in their secondary. Ike Taylor is aging and Pittsburgh could use a replacement. After losing Keenan Lewis in free agency, the Steelers’ defense will need to continue the infusion talented youth this offseason.

Roberson has some natural man-coverage skills. His ability to prevent receivers from getting separation is one of the reasons why teams rarely throw his direction. The 2013 season hasn’t gone as planned as a sprained knee caused Roberson to miss three games. He was suspended last week, too. The junior has 11 tackles with three passes broken up this year. In 2012. Roberson played really well with 23 tackles, two interceptions and 12 passes broken up. The 6-foot-0, 190-pounder would be a good fit in the Steelers’ defense.

Oakland Raiders: Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
The Raiders could use another pass rusher on the other side from Lamarr Houston. That’s been an issue for Oakland this season and would help the Raiders the secondary if they could get a more consistent pass rush. Oakland could also use an interior pass rusher.

This season Martin is finally starting to produce up to his immense skill set. He has 66 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, three forced fumbles and three passes broken up. Martin has speed around the edge and the power to bull rush. Martin (6-6, 265) could serve as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end, although he would probably be a better fit in the latter.

New Orleans Saints: James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
The Saints almost lost the game against the 49ers on a sack-fumble from Ahmad Brooks. A penalty saved New Orleans, but right tackle has been a weak link on the team’s offensive line this season. The Saints need to protect Drew Brees as he ages and he has taken too many hits from the right side this season.

Hurst (6-7, 305) isn’t the strongest or the best athlete, but he is a solid pass-protector. He showed that early in the season against Jadeveon Clowney and has been a reliable protector for his quarterback for years. Hurst does a good job on speed-rushers and has the size to handle strong ends. The Saints could hope to land Hurst in the second round.

Cincinnati Bengals: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
The Bengals got three touchdowns out of Andy Dalton, but he completed less than half of his passes (13/27) for only 93 yards against Cleveland while throwing a few picks. The Cincinnati defense stepped up with a lot of splash plays, but over the past few weeks, Dalton has held back his team’s offense. If Dalton doesn’t finish the season strongly, it may be time for the Bengals to think of a new quarterback. They have the defense and a strong supporting cast on offense that is ready to win now.

The strong-armed and mobile Boyd would be a good fit in Jay Gruden’s offense. He has a powerful arm and would be able to stretch defenses vertically. Boyd would be a good quarterback to pair with A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Boyd also would work well with Gio Bernard.

In 2013, Boyd has completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,960 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Sources have said the senior could go as high as the middle of the first round or fall to early in the second round. If Dalton doesn’t get it together, the Bengals should consider targeting Boyd with their first-round pick.

Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Eagles almost blew a 24-point lead in the fourth quarter to the Redskins. It was somewhat similar to the first meeting back in Week 1. Philadelphia’s cornerbacks also got away with a number of holds and pass interference penalties that could have easily been called. Any of those fouls could have changed the outcome of the final minutes. This offseason it would make sense for the Eagles to add a cornerback to go with Brandon Boykin and Cary Williams.

Gilbert has had an excellent senior year. He has shown the ability to thrive playing press-man coverage, off-man coverage and zone. With a two-interception performance against Texas, Gilbert showed he can step up in big games. This season, he has six interceptions, 35 tackles, five passes broken up and one kick returned for a touchdown. Gilbert had a good year in 2011 before having an up-and-down season as a junior. Gilbert (6-0, 200) is a gritty corner who has showed an improved game as a senior. The Eagles could look to land Gilbert in the first or second round.

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.

Indianapolis Colts:
The Colts can be a tough team to figure out. One week, they look capable of beating any team in the NFL ,and a week later, they look completely lost. Indianapolis went from the No. 1 overall pick in 2012 to the playoffs last year because the franchise has one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, Andrew Luck. The Colts should be a playoff and championship contender for the next decade if they can add the right pieces around Luck.

Last year, first-year general manager Ryan Grigson made a lot of astute moves, but in Year 2, he made some questionable decisions in free agency. Indianapolis overpaid for Eric Walden, Gosder Cherilus and LaRon Landry. However, the most questionable move was Grigson trading a first-round pick for running back Trent Richardson. I freely admit I thought it was a good move at the time, but Richardson has looked slow and has continued his NFL struggles after a change to a better offense.

If Indianapolis can add more receiving talent to its passing attack, that could help Richardson to pan out. The Colts have really missed Reggie Wayne after he was lost for the season. Wayne isn’t getting younger, so adding more receivers would be a good idea. On the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft, Indianapolis could hope to land LSU’s Odell Beckham, Jr. He would be a nice downfield threat. The organization also could consider Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, Rutgers’ Brandon Coleman, Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis, Oregon’s Josh Huff or LSU’s Jarvis Landry. Adding some young receivers for Luck is going to be a growing need until it is resolved.

Defensively, the Colts could consider a few upgrades. They could use a cornerback to go with Vontae Davis. Texas A&M’s Deshazor Everett or Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller would make a lot of sense for Chuck Pagano’s defense.

Elsewhere on defense, if a good defensive lineman is available, one would make sense. Cory Redding and Aubrayo Franklin are seasoned veterans. Indianapolis has some young backups, but if a big disruptor is available in the mid-rounds, that would be a move worth considering. Tennessee’s Daniel McCullers or Cal’s DeAndre Coleman would make sense.

The Colts have a great equalizer in Luck. He makes everybody better, but getting him some receiving help may be the best route for Indianapolis to pursue. At least with Luck on the roster, the team has a Super Bowl window open for the next decade or more.

Atlanta Falcons:
The Falcons have been one of the most surprising teams in the NFL in 2013, but unfortunately for Atlanta, it has been in a negative fashion. The Falcons came within a few yards of the Super Bowl last year, but this year, they have had a mega collapse and find themselves in the race for the No. 1 pick. Atlanta has had some critical injuries, namely to stud wide receiver Julio Jones and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, but the team also lost too much from its defense.

In their sixth season running Atlanta, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith haven’t had a losing season until this year. Considering how terrible the Falcons were when they took over, that is extremely impressive. The moves made by Dimitroff and Smith also have the organization positioned for what could be a quick turnaround and find the team back in playoff contention next year with a healthy Jones and improved play on the lines.

If the Falcons land a top-five pick, there are three options who make sense. Atlanta could use a defensive franchise player at the point of attack who can be the difference-maker for the defense. Osi Umenyiora wasn’t signed long term and isn’t the answer. In the top five, the Falcons would have to consider South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney or UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr. Either one would be a great addition to the organization’s defense. Those have to be plan A and plan B.

However if Atlanta misses out on those two, Texas A&M left tackle Jake Matthews would be a quality third option. Matt Ryan needs a franchise left tackle to improve his pass protection. If the Falcons draft Matthews in the first round, they could move Sam Baker inside to guard and replace Garrett Reynolds, or put Baker in a competition with Lamar Holmes at right tackle. Matthews on the left side would make a huge difference to solidifying a weak offensive line that has gotten Ryan hammered in 2013. If the Falcons take Clowney or Barr in the first round, they could target a tackle like North Carolina’s James Hurst in Round 2.

Elsewhere on defense, Atlanta could use improved play from its defensive tackles. Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald or Arizona State’s Will Sutton would make sense on the second day as interior pass-rushers.

Offensively, the Falcons are also going to need to a tight end to replace Tony Gonzalez. They could use another receiver to work with Jones since Roddy White is aging and declining. Atlanta will have to look to free agency to fill one of those holes. If the team could land North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro or Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins at the top of the second round or in a trade up that could be huge for the franchise.

This is a painful year for Falcons fans, but in the long run it could be valuable. If Atlanta lands another superstar difference-maker on defense like Clowney or Barr, it could be huge for the organization’s hopes of winning a Lombardi during the prime of Ryan and Jones. Dimitroff and Smith hit a home run when they made Ryan their first pick and traded up for Jones. Now is time for the front office to blast another one out of the park.

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