Monday Morning Draft – Conference Championships

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:

Houston Texans:
The Texans have the luxury of 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 on Day 2. Also, the Texans could go the Chiefs’ route and look to acquire a veteran quarterback like Kirk Cousins.

Even though Bridgewater isn’t the same caliber of athlete as Clowney, Houston will have four months for Bill O’Brien to fall in love with a quarterback prospect and want him with the first pick. The Texans also could consider trading up from the second round to get another quarterback prospect like Central Florida’s Blake Bortles or UCLA’s Brett Hundley.

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 in 2014.

St. Louis Rams:
The Rams pick second thanks to having the Redskins’ first-round pick. Once again, St. Louis will auction off the pick.

General manager Les Snead has traded down 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 or perhaps Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. 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.

New England Patriots: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Throughout 2013, New England’s offense was missing the receiving element the team had in previous seasons at tight end. Rob Gronkowski was out early in the year before coming back for seven games and ending the season on injured reserve with a torn ACL and MCL. Aaron Hernandez was missed all year, as the Patriots didn’t have a real replacement for the ‘swiss army knife’ role that Hernandez played. Against Denver, New England didn’t get much out of its tight ends as Michael Hoomanawanui had two receptions for 33 yards. This offseason the Patriots have to get more weapons for Tom Brady.

This is a strong tight end draft class, so New England should be able to find a good replacement for Hernandez and a weapon to help offset the injury-plagued Gronkowski coming off a serious knee injury. The Patriots could target a player like Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro or Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins at the end of the first round, but to land a special weapon like the Gronkowski or Hernandez, New England should trade up for Ebron.

Ebron (6-4, 245) has an intriguing skill set with size, speed and strength. He is a tremendous athlete who can line up all over the field to create mismatches; similar to what the Patriots had in Hernandez. In 2013, Ebron hauled in 62 passes for 973 yards and three touchdowns despite losing his starting quarterback to injury for multiple games. Ebron is so versatile, he played some defensive end as a sophomore in 2012 while still starting at tight end.

The Patriots would have to trade up for Ebron, but he could be worth it considering what he would bring to their offense.

San Francisco 49ers: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
San Francisco had issues at wide receiver all season. A.J. Jenkins was a busted pick, and that mistake came back to bite to the 49ers as they didn’t have a true speed receiver who could stretch the field vertically. Colin Kaepernick has the arm to go vertical, but San Francisco doesn’t have receivers who can challenge defensive backs over the top. Having that kind of receiver would also help open up running lanes for the 49ers’ ground attack.

Beckham (6-0, 187) is very fast and looks like a future play-maker in the NFL. He caught 59 passes for 1,152 yards with eight touchdowns in 2013 as the deep threat for Zach Mettenberger. Beckham also can be a dangerous weapon as a punt returner. has spoken with scouts who are very high on Beckham and feel that his speed will transition to the NFL.

San Francisco could take Beckham at the end of the first round, or the organization could maybe package some of its extra second-day selections to move up in the second round and get Beckham if he falls to Friday night. Beckham would be a nice fit for the 49ers.

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