Monday Morning Draft – Week 17

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 17 action.

Houston Texans:
The Titans topped the Texans to drop them to 2-14. That locked up the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft for Houston.

The Texans could consider a pass-rusher like Jadeveon Clowney in the first round if there isn’t a quarterback worth taking over Clowney. Teddy Bridgewater may not grade out ahead of Clowney, and Houston general manager Rick Smith may decide to target a quarterback like Clemson’s Tajh Boyd at the top of the second round. Also, the Texans could go the Chiefs’ route and look to acquire a veteran quarterback like Jay Cutler or Kirk Cousins.

If Houston is able to land an elite quarterback prospect or Clowney, it wouldn’t be surprising for the franchise to have an immediate turnaround to being a playoff contender again.

St. Louis Rams:
This is the Rams’ pick that they are getting from the Redskins. Washington was dropped by the Giants and the Redskins finished in disarray at 3-13. Bruce Allen has done a nice job as Washington’s general manager, but the team needs to start fresh with a new head coach.

Picking second, St. Louis will probably look to trade down. Les Snead has done that in each of his drafts for the franchise. If the Rams are stuck here, Snead would have to decide if his organization is ready to move on from Sam Bradford or try to build around him. If it is the former, St. Louis could target Teddy Bridgewater. In the latter route, the Rams could consider Texas A&M left tackle Jake Matthews. With Chris Long and Robert Quinn, St. Louis doesn’t have a need to draft 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.

Minnesota Vikings: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
A year ago, the Vikings were a surprise playoff team, but now they’re picking in the top 10 for the second time in the past three years. Minnesota has some talent, but the organization’s lack of play-making ability at the quarterback position has held the Vikings back since Brett Favre retired.

Manziel has completed 69 percent of his passes in 2013 for 3,732 yards with 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The redshirt sophomore has run for 846 yards (686 net) with eight scores, too. Manziel has improved his passing ability, and his mobility makes him very tough to defend. Manziel’s instincts and ability to improvise are extremely rare. The Vikings taking him in the first round makes a lot of sense.

Tennessee Titans: Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
The Titans are faced with some tough decisions this offseason. Jake Locker was playing well early in the year before he went out with a season-ending injury. Tennessee will have to decide whether to stick with Locker or attempt to land a new quarterback. One route the Titans could go would be to take a signal-caller in the second round.

Mettenberger (6-5, 230) has big size, a strong arm and some athletic ability. He massively improved his game under the direction of LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Mettenberger’s accuracy, decision-making, field vision and fundamentals were exceptionally better this year. The senior completed 65 percent of his passes this season for 3,082 yards with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Mettenberger will be coming off an ACL injury, but he’s a pocket passer, and mobility isn’t part of his skill set.

New Orleans Saints: Scott Crichton, OLB, Oregon State
A week ago, the Bucs’ offensive line was dominated by the Rams. The Saints got some heat on Mike Glennon to close out the regular season, but New Orleans could stand to improve its defense with an edge-rusher on the other side from Cam Jordan. The quick and physical Crichton would be a good fit in Rob Ryan’s defense.

In three seasons in college football, Crichton has illustrated he has some natural pass-rush ability. In 2013, he recorded 47 tackles with 19 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Crichton was been more disruptive than the numbers indicate. He had nine sacks in 2012 and six sacks as freshman. The 6-foot-3, 263-pounder is a good fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Steelers need to continue to improve the youth and play-making ability of their defense. Pittsburgh could use a tone setter in the middle of its defensive line. Ziggy Hood could leave in free agency, and if the Steelers draft Nix, they could move Steve McLendon to replace Hood at end.

Nix (6-3, 340) was a stud disruptor for the Fighting Irish during the past few seasons. In 2013, the senior recorded 27 tackles with two tackles for a loss. The havoc Nix caused in 2012 helped Stephon Tuitt and Manti Te’o to make plays that year. Nix totaled 50 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, five passes batted and one forced fumble that season. Nix could be a 10-year solution to nose tackle for Pittsburgh.

New York Giants: Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State
The Giants have to upgrade their offensive line in the offseason to help get Eli Manning back on track. If New York drafts a left tackle, that would set off some movement that could improve the team’s line at a few spots. William Beatty would move to right tackle and Justin Pugh could slide inside to guard. That should really improve the Giants’ pass protection for Manning with two other players who were once left tackles starting on the line.

Erving has played excellently for the Seminoles in 2013. He did a great job against Clemson’s Vic Beasley and has been superb at protecting Jameis Winston. In the ground game, Erving has also opened up a lot of holes. The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder has a lot of athletic ability and started out his college career at defensive tackle. This is Erving’s second straight good season at left tackle for the Seminoles.

Seattle Seahawks: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
The Rams were able to get some pass rush on Russell Wilson, and in the offseason, the Seahawks need to find a way to improve their offensive line. The right side of the line has been a weakness in 2013, so landing a right tackle could make a big difference for Seattle.

The 6-foot-6, 332-pound Richardson has size to go with some athleticism. He is a good run-blocker and a strong pass-protector. Richardson played well this year. In a rematch against Jadeveon Clowney, Richardson was too jacked up early on and Clowney beat him for some plays in run defense. Richardson settled down and kept Clowney from recording a sack. By the fourth quarter, South Carolina was moving Clowney around to go against other linemen. Richardson also had a strong performance against Missouri’s edge-rushers. He would make a lot of sense for Seattle at the end of the first round.

Green Bay Packers: Marcus Smith, OLB, Louisville
The Packers needed to get more from Nick Perry against the Bears. He has flashed at times, but he hasn’t yet become the steady edge-rusher on the other side from Clay Matthews. Green Bay could use a second-day or mid-round pick to bolster the organization’s edge rush. Smith would be a good selection to give the Packers a situational edge-rusher.

Smith finished the 2013 season with 14.5 sacks for Louisville. He also recorded 42 tackles with 18.5 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles and three passes broken up. The 6-foot-3, 252-pounder fits best as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL who can rush from a variety of spots. If Smith performs well at the Senior Bowl, he could have a steady climb up draft boards in the months to come.

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.

Kansas City Chiefs:
Kansas City general manager John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid walked into a roster that was ready to make a postseason run if the quarterback position could be upgraded. They were able to do that with Alex Smith, so the Chiefs are back in the postseason.

Former general manager Scott Pioli drafted well and left Kansas City a defense that was ready to be one of the top units in the league. The Chiefs were undefeated halfway through the year, but ended up as a wild card behind Denver. The Chiefs have young talent, so they shouldn’t drop off in 2014 and could be even better if they get a few upgrades.

The new Kansas City regime decided to re-sign Dwayne Bowe, but he was a big disappointment this season. The team could also use upgrades over Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins. Drafting a wide receiver in the first round makes sense. The Chiefs could consider Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin. He could give a size-speed mismatch problem. If they don’t take a wide receiver in the first round, they will have options on the second day including LSU’s Jarvis Landry, Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis or Oregon’s Josh Huff.

If Kansas City drafts for the defensive side of the ball early, the organization could target a five-technique defensive end to go next to nose tackle Dontari Poe. Two perfect fits could be Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman or Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt. Each one has great size to hold the edge with enough power and speed to pressure the quarterback.

Even though the Chiefs drafted Travis Kelce last April, they could consider another receiving tight end for Smith. This should be a great tight end draft, and Kansas City could have a shot at one from a special group of prospects. North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro could all be worthy of the Chiefs’ first-round pick. One of those players might be the best player available.

The overall strength and depth on the Kansas City roster will allow the franchise to choose the best player available in the mid- and late rounds. Peyton Manning won’t play forever, so Dorsey and Reid have the opportunity to make the Chiefs the top team in the AFC West.

Cleveland Browns:
The Browns just recorded another double-digit-loss season and are making another coaching change. It remains to be seen if Mike Lombardi is the right guy to lead the front office going forward, and that will be put to the test as Lombardi has needs to fix.

The biggest issue for the Browns is the quarterback position. Brandon Weeden is a bust; Brian Hoyer played well before his season ending injury, but he should be brought back as a backup. With two first-round picks, Cleveland should be able to land one of the top signal-callers in the 2014 NFL Draft. The organization could have shots at Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Derek Carr and Brett Hundley – if he enters the draft. The Browns could possibly trade up to land the top-rated quarterback, but there may not be a big difference between the top-rated player and one who they could get later on.

Cleveland could help its new quarterback with some help at wide receiver. Josh Gordon became one of the top receivers in the NFL this season, but he’s going to see crazy attention in the future. The Browns will need a complementary wide out. Another receiver to play off of him with their second first-rounder makes sense. Texas A&M’s Mike Evans or USC’s Marqise Lee would be nice fits if Cleveland misses out on Sammy Watkins.

The Trent Richardson trade turned out to be an astute move by Lombardi, and I was wrong for being critical of that one. Still, the Browns could use a running back to help their new signal-caller. Cleveland could land Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey in the second round or take Washington’s Bishop Sankey in the third round.

Defensively, the Browns have a nice front seven, although the team could use an inside linebacker with some pass-coverage ability. Cleveland could also use another corner to pair with Joe Haden. Haden was excellent this season and should be one of the best corners in the NFL for years to come. A corner to compete with Buster Skrine and Leon McFadden would make sense with one of the Browns’ third-round picks.

I think Cleveland is a year or two away – with some good drafts – from making a jump in the AFC North if the organization can put the right coaching staff in place. Lombardi has to make a series of great moves to get the Browns back to the postseason.

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