Monday Morning Draft – Week 12

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 12 action.

Jacksonville Jaguars:
The Jaguars are on verge of blowing their draft position. With its second win in three games, Jacksonville is in serious danger of losing out on the No. 1 pick next May. The Jaguars beat the Texans 13-6 and still have a game in Jacksonville against them.

Two weeks ago, the Jaguars pulled off a 29-27 upset win at the Titans. These two wins should 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 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!

Houston Texans:
The Texans’ funk continued with a loss to the Jaguars. Houston was held to only six points by Jacksonville. This was another rough disheartening loss in a miserable season for the Texans. It looks like this 2-9 team has checked out.

Houston could look to get a pass-rusher like Clowney or Anthony Barr in the first round, but right now, a franchise quarterback looks like the top target for the organization. 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.

Atlanta Falcons:
The Falcons fell to 2-9 after being dropped by the Saints. Atlanta played New Orleans tough at home, but the Falcons are too undermanned to matchup with a team like the Saints. 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 priorities.

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 he should be a Plan C. Atlanta needs a defensive game-changer.

Minnesota Vikings:
Minnesota tied Green Bay on the road after the Vikings blew a fourth-quarter lead. Minnesota is now 2-8-1 on the season. A few weeks 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 Minnesota isn’t picking in the top two, 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.

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.

St. Louis Rams: HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Rams had an impressive home win against the Bears as St. Louis’ defense stepped up with some big plays. Still, the safety position continued to be a weakness as Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett both had good games. If the Rams improve their safeties, that could finish off a talented defense.

Clinton-Dix is very fast and covers a lot of ground in the deep part of the field. He has the coverage skills to match up on tight ends and has been groomed well for the NFL by Nick Saban. Clinton-Dix has 44 tackles with four passes broken up and two interceptions this year. He would be a nice fit in St. Louis’ defense.

San Diego Chargers: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The Chargers got a great game with a last-minute comeback win by Philip Rivers. San Diego ended a three-game losing streak, but Kansas City put up 38 points on the Chargers’ defense. Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles (14-115) both had good games. San Diego could use a linebacker to help defend the run and rush the passer.

Mack is having a tremendous 2013 season with 82 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, six passes batted and three interceptions. In his last game, he had three sacks and three forced fumbles. The 6-foot-3, 248-pound Mack has speed, power, instincts and explosion. He would be a nice first-round pick for San Diego.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Steelers’ cornerbacks were torched again. This time Josh Gordon burned them with 14 receptions for 237 yards and a score. Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks have been a real weakness and letting Keenan Lewis leave in free agency has been painful.

Gilbert has been one of the top cornerbacks in the nation in 2013. He is a gritty corner who can matchup in man coverage. Gilbert has six interceptions, five passes broken up and 35 tackles. Pittsburgh has targeted cornerbacks on the second day of the draft, but with the organization’s problems in coverage, it could be time to address corner in the first round.

Dallas Cowboys: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Cowboys’ defense struggled to stop the Giants’ running game as Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs ran for over 200 yards. Dallas has had issues at defensive tackle throughout the season, and the team clearly needs a three-technique for Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 system. Jernigan would be a perfect fit.

In 2013, Jernigan has 43 tackles with 10.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. Scouts have told that Jernigan looks like a first-round pick. The 6-foot-2, 292-pounder is very quick off the snap and has the speed to close the pocket in a hurry. It would make a lot of sense for Dallas to select him in the first round.

Baltimore Ravens: Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
The Ravens have really missed Matt Birk this season and that continued against the Jets. Baltimore allowed Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson to record sacks, while, once again, the Ravens were inept at running the ball. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce combined for 60 yards on 27 carries. Baltimore could use a center to improve the team’s run blocking and settle its pass protection.

Swanson could be a good fit for the Ravens on the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft. He has a reliable blocker for the Razorbacks throughout his career. The 6-foot-5, 315-pounder has the strength to move blockers at the point of attack and is good at neutralizing pass-rushers.

Arizona Cardinals: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
The Cardinals’ defense has really stepped up to be one of the better defenses in the NFL this season. When Daryl Washington came back from suspension, Arizona really hit its stride. One thing that the Cardinals could use is a speedy edge-rusher. Beasley would be a perfect fit as an outside linebacker on the other side from Calais Campbell.

Beasley has been one of the top edge-rushers in college football in 2013. He has 10 sacks to go with 17 tackles for a loss, 31 tackles, six passes batted and three forced fumbles. Beasley has an elite first step and burst off the edge. Clemson has played him at defensive end, but he isn’t big enough to play end in the NFL. Beasley will have to move to outside linebacker and would be better off in a 3-4 defense.

Oakland Raiders: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The job that Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson has done in Oakland is tremendous. The wins and points he’s generated through Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor are astounding. Not only have the Raiders managed to win some games with weak signal-callers, the organization’s receivers are nothing special. Oakland has won enough where the team, may not be in position to land a first-round quarterback. A good plan “B” would be an elite receiver to lead the Raiders’ offense.

Oakland has some speed receivers, but could use a big target who can move the chains. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Evans routinely makes long receptions over defensive backs from his mismatch size. In 2013, he has 61 receptions for 1,314 yards with 12 touchdowns. Evans has enough speed to stretch the field as he’s averaged 22 yards per reception. The Raiders could upgrade their offense with Evans.

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.

New Orleans Saints:
The NFL needs to add an assistant coach of the year award for both sides of the ball to go with the coach of the year. If the league did add that, one of the top candidates for the defensive side would be Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. New Orleans had one of the worst defenses in NFL history in 2012, but Ryan has turned that unit around. His improved stop unit also should help the Saints in the offseason as the team doesn’t need to address a bunch of needs on what was thought to be a very vulnerable defense.

New Orleans could go a number of directions early in the 2014 NFL Draft. One avenue the organization could consider would be adding a right tackle. Drew Brees has taken a lot of heat from the right side. Tackle Zach Strief has beaten in a number of games and the Saints could use an upgrade. In the first round, New Orleans could consider Tennessee’s Antonio Richardson or Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio. Either one could play left tackle and the Saints could move Charles Brown to the right side if they wanted.

If a good pass-rusher is available, that could be a nice addition. Cam Jordan is turning into one of the top defensive ends in the NFL, but adding an edge-rusher on the other side would make sense. A rush linebacker like Clemson’s Vic Beasley, Buffalo’s Khalil Mack or BYU’s Kyle Van Noy would be players worth considering.

Elsewhere on defense, New Orleans could use some help at cornerback. Pat Robinson has been a bust and it would be good to add some depth behind Jabari Greer and Keenan Lewis.

The Saints have to re-sign Jimmy Graham. If they don’t, that would be a huge need for them to fill and would completely change their draft strategy. It would be massive shock if Graham isn’t re-signed or slapped with the franchise tag.

If New Orleans fills some of its needs in free agency, the organization could build up its roster by taking the best player available. Doing so would continue to upgrade the overall talent on the team’s roster and provide depth. Quarterback Drew Brees believes he has five more years left in him, and if that is the case with Brees maintaining a high level of play, the Saints could end up getting another Lombardi in the Big Easy.

Detroit Lions:
Even with a pathetic loss to Tampa Bay, Detroit is in the driver’s seat to win its first division title in over 20 years. If the Lions finish the job, general manager Martin Mayhew will have produced his second playoff team since taking over in 2009 after the team went winless in the prior season. Mayhew has done a good job of building up a talented roster that has some of the elite players at their position in the NFL. With talents like Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh entering their prime, the Lions have a championship window there for the taking.

Detroit has a few needs to address this offseason. The most critical is the wide receiver position. The Lions don’t have any receivers to take the pressure off Johnson. When he is sidelined with an injury, Detroit struggles to pass the ball. Mayhew needs to get more receivers for Stafford. After all the blown picks on receivers by Matt Millen, Mayhew has had some tough luck. Ryan Broyles has been stricken by a string of knee tears while Titus Young had a mental breakdown.

If a good receiver is available in the first round, picking one up would make a lot of sense for Detroit. The organization may not be picking high enough to land Clemson’s Sammy Watkins or Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. Trading up hasn’t been Mayhwew’s M.O., although he did explore moving up for a left tackle last April. USC’s Marqise Lee or Penn State’s Allen Robinson could be good fits for the Lions in the back half of the first round. Either one would be a good complement to Johnson.

Detroit could also consider tight end. The team could find an upgrade over Brandon Pettigrew. Joseph Fauria is a great red-zone weapon, but he is just a situational tight end in the NFL. If a good receiver isn’t available in the first round, the Lions could also consider a tight end like Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro, North Carolina’s Eric Ebron or Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

On defense, Detroit could really use a shutdown corner, but one may not be available for the team in the first round. Plus, the Lions have already invested high picks and money into the corners they already have. Detroit could consider a defensive end to go on the other side from Ezekiel Ansah. An end or pass-rushing linebacker could be a nice addition to the front seven.

If the Lions have a good draft next year, they could be in position to make some runs in January if their coaching staff is up to the job. Detroit may have topped out under the current staff, and it could be time for a new coaching staff to get the team over the hump and to stop choking games away.

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