Monday Morning Draft – Week 13

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 13 action.

Houston Texans:
The Texans’ funk continued with a loss to the Patriots at home. Houston had a lead before New England came back to add on another loss to the miserable season for the Texans. Houston is now 2-10.

The Texans could consider a pass-rusher like Clowney or Anthony Barr in the first round, but the organization wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a franchise quarterback. If Houston is able to land Teddy Bridgewater, it wouldn’t be surprising for the franchise to have an immediate turnaround to being a playoff contender again. Bridgewater in as a Texan could prompt a quick playoff push like the Colts or Redskins.

If Houston stays on track and lands the No. 1 overall pick, then Bridgewater is a no-brainer.

Atlanta Falcons:
The Falcons improve to 3-9 after an overtime win against the Bills. Last week, Atlanta played New Orleans tough at home, but the Falcons are too undermanned to match up 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.

Jacksonville Jaguars:
The Jaguars are in the process of blowing their draft position after a 32-38 win over the Browns. With its third win in four games, Jacksonville is now projected to lose out on the No. 1 pick next May. The Jaguars also have another game against the Texans.

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 were destined for a losing 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 has to hope that the redshirt sophomore quarterbacks enter the draft. However with Joeckel on the blind side, general manager David Caldwell might draft another Texas A&M right tackle with a high first-round pick for the second straight year. Hello, Jake Matthews!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Bucs won three straight, but the Panthers showed how far Tampa Bay is from being a team that can contend with the elite of the NFC South.

If the Bucs land a top-five pick, the direction they go will depend on who is making the pick. Tampa Bay could have a new regime that doesn’t have any loyalty to Mike Glennon. Head coach Greg Schiano is 10-18 overall while general manager Mark Dominik is 27-49 running the team. Either Schiano or Dominik, or both, could be fired if they don’t finish the season strong. If the 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.

Minnesota Vikings:
The Vikings came close to their second-straight tie before pulling out a win over the Bears in overtime. Last week, Minnesota tied Green Bay on the road after the Vikings blew a fourth-quarter lead. Minnesota is now 3-8-1 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.

Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Miami took care of the Jets, but once again the Dolphins let defenders get to the quarterback. Miami is going to need multiple offensive line additions in the offseason. The team needs long-term starters at left tackle, right tackle and guard. A versatile lineman like Martin should be able to fill one of those needs. He also is a nice fit for the Dolphins’ zone-blocking scheme.

The 6-foot-4, 308-pounder has had a strong senior season. His performance against Stanford defensive end Trent Murphy will strengthen Martin’s argument to teams that he can stay at left tackle in the NFL. Martin has been reliable in pass protection and in run blocking. There are a lot of similarities between him and Justin Pugh, the Syracuse left tackle who went in the first round to the Giants. Martin should be a starter at guard or right tackle if he doesn’t stay on the blind side.

San Francisco 49ers: Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech
The 49ers’ defense did a nice job of shutting down the Rams’ offense on Sunday. San Francisco picked up three sacks, but they came from Ray McDonald and the middle linebackers. With Aldon Smith’s issues and the 49ers’ plethora of draft picks, it would make sense for San Francisco to add some edge-rushing depth.

Attaochu would be a great fit on the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft. In 2013, he has 12 sacks, 15.5 tackles for a loss, 40 tackles, one forced fumble and two passes broken up. The 6-foot-3, 242-pound Attaochu looks like a perfect fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He has blazing speed off the edge and is elusive for offensive tackles to get a hold. The 49ers could use Attaochu as a situational pass-rusher while they develop him into an every-down player.

New England Patriots: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The Patriots’ defense struggled to stop Ben Tate on Sunday, and New England has missed Vince Wilfork since its big tackle went out with an Achilles injury. Wilfork isn’t getting any younger and coming off a serious injury, he may not be the same player in recent years. Adding some talented youth for the inside of the defensive line makes a lot of sense for the Patriots.

In 2013, Hageman has 34 tackles with 11 tackles for a loss, two sacks, eight passes batted and an interception. The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder has been a load this season for the Golden Gophers. He has the ability to overpower offensive linemen, but also has a burst off the snap with some speed. The strong and explosive Hageman has a rare skill set. If New England could land him in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, he would be a nice value for the Patriots.

Minnesota Vikings: Dion Bailey, S, USC
The Vikings were torched by Alshon Jeffery on Sunday, and their secondary has had some rough Sundays this season. Minnesota could use a safety to go with Harrison Smith. A safety like Bailey would be a good fit as both he and Smith have the ability to play strong or free safety. That flexibility allows defensive coordinators to be more unpredictable for offenses.

Bailey has five interceptions, 58 tackles and six passes broken up in 2013. He is a fast, instinctive defender who could be a good center fielder. Bailey has serious ball skills and was a play-maker as an undersized linebacker earlier in his career for Monte Kiffin. If the Vikings keep Leslie Frazier, Bailey would be a great scheme fit.

Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The Ravens have two good speed receivers in Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, but the team could use a possession receiver with size and reliable hands to make tough catches in the short to intermediate part of the field. Joe Flacco has missed Anquan Boldin this season and getting a receiver like Matthews on the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft could fill that void for Baltimore.

Over the past few seasons, Matthews has been the most consistent receiver in the SEC. He has 107 receptions for 1,334 yards with five touchdowns this year. Sources have stated that they don’t believe Matthews will run well before the Combine, which could push him into the second day. That happened to Cowboys receiver Terrance Williams last year.

Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The Panthers got receiving touchdowns from Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn, but Cam Newton still lacks a true No. 1 receiver. Carolina has a declining Steve Smith, but with Newton entering his prime, the organization has to think of getting a receiver who can make big plays for him. The Panthers may not be drafting high enough to land Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans, so Carolina could look to get Benjamin in the first or second round.

Benjamin has 45 receptions for 838 yards with 12 touchdowns this year. On Saturday, he burned Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy for multiple long completions down the field. Benjamin (6-5, 234) has a rare combination of size and speed. He has the potential to be an impactful play-maker in the NFL.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
The Jaguars won their third game of the season, but had no answer for Cleveland wide receiver Josh Gordon. He racked up 261 yards and two touchdowns against the vulnerable Jacksonville secondary. The Jaguars have to add some cornerbacks during the offseason.

Ekpre-Olomu has the movement skills, speed and agility to prevent a small, speedy receiver from gaining separation. He also has fared well against bigger receivers. Not only has Ekpre-Olomu shown man-coverage ability, he has ball skills and is physical in run defense. In 2013, Ekpre-Olomu has 78 tackles, six passes broken up, three interceptions and one forced fumble. If the Jaguars could land him in the second round, he would be a great value for Jacksonville.

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.

Green Bay Packers:
The NFL is a passing-driven, quarterback-led league, and there is no greater example than Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. With Rodgers, Green Bay is a Super Bowl contender capable of beating any team in the league on any given Sunday. Without him, the Packers could end up picking in the top half of the first round. While that is a big drop off, at least it isn’t like the Colts who lost Peyton Manning in 2011 and ended up getting the No. 1 pick. Green Bay has other talent on its roster, but the Packers need to build up a better roster around Rodgers.

Offensively, Green Bay could move on from Jermichael Finley this offseason. The team also could use a reliable receiving threat at tight end. Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro and North Carolina’s Eric Ebron are dangerous receivers with speed and athleticism. Either one would be a good fit. The Packers could consider trading down and targeting one of them if the franchise is picking in the middle of the first round.

On defense, Green Bay could use a safety to help shore up the back end of the defense. Alabama’s HaHa Clinton-Dix will have to get some consideration. On Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft, a good fit would be USC’s Dion Bailey. He has ball skills, instincts and versatility. Bailey could play the role that Charles Woodson played in Dom Capers’ defense.

The Packers could use an inside linebacker, too. They let Desmond Bishop go and A.J. Hawk is declining. A linebacker like Shayne Skov would be a great fit as a pick on the second day of the draft. He has led the Stanford defense in run defense, has good instincts and can rush the passer. Skov would be a weapon for Capers.

Green Bay needs depth at a number of positions. On offense, the Packers need to get a better backup quarterback. This is a deep quarterback draft, so they might be able to land a good one on Day 3. Green Bay could consider adding offensive line help as soon as the second day. Depth at pass-rushing outside linebacker would make a lot of sense to protect the organization from injuries to Clay Matthews and Nick Perry.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson doesn’t spend in free agency as he prefers to re-sign his own players. Thompson needs to continue to draft well for Green Bay to take advantage of the Super Bowl window that Rodgers provides.

Oakland Raiders:
The Raiders are one of the most storied franchises in the NFL, but has endured a decade of losing after losing the Super Bowl to the Buccaneers in 2002. With the passing of the baton in the Davis family, a new regime seems to be getting Oakland turned in the right direction. General manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen have the Raiders playing better football in their second year of guiding the franchise. A lot of that can be attributed to the outstanding job done by offensive coordinator Greg Olson.

Olson had done an amazing job of getting Oakland’s offense to produce some points and yards with Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin at quarterback. The Raiders have lost some close games and easily could be contending for a wild card. Getting competitive play while starting an undrafted rookie in McGloin is extremely impressive. However, both Pryor (mental) and McGloin (physical) have limitations that make them look more like backups in the NFL.

If the Raiders have a shot at franchise quarterback in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, they have to grab the signal-caller. UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Fresno State’s Derek Carr and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd could all fit Olson’s offense. Any of those players would make sense as a first-round pick.

If a good quarterback isn’t available. Oakland could consider a stud receiver to lead its offense. Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans would make sense in Round 1; especially Evans as the Raiders already have some speed receivers and could use some size.

Oakland also needs a lot of help on defense. The team has a good defensive lineman in Lamarr Houston, but could use better pass-rushers at defensive end and tackle. Some good prospects for the Raiders to target include Pittburgh’s Aaron Donald (tackle), Arizona State’s Will Sutton (tackle), Oregon State’s Scott Crichton (end) and North Carolina’s Kareem Martin (end). Elsewhere on defense, Oakland could consider help at cornerback if a good player is available.

In the mid-rounds, the Raiders could use a running back. Darren McFadden is entering free agency and the oft-injured back isn’t worth a big contract. Oakland could target a running back on Day 2 – at the earliest.

McKenzie has a lot of work to do to rebuild the Raiders’ offense. The coaching job that Allen and Olson have done with this weak roster is phenomenal. Fortunately, Oakland will have a ton of money to spend in free agency and a full set of draft picks for the first time in forever. If the Raiders can keep Olson and get him a talented franchise quarterback, those could be huge steps in bringing back some glory days to the Silver and Black.

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