Monday Morning Draft – Week 4

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.

Play like a Carcass For Marcus:

Oakland Raiders:
A week ago, the Raiders were surprisingly competitive in a 16-9 loss at New England. Oakland almost tied that game late in the fourth quarter. However, the Raiders had an ugly outing against a struggling Miami team that handled them 38-14.

Oakland could continue to improve during the season as Derek Carr gains experience, but the team has a ridiculously hard schedule and is in a division that featured three playoff teams last year. The Raiders should be in the hunt for the No. 1 pick of the 2015 NFL Draft all season. If they land it, a new regime is likely, and that staff will have no ties to Carr. Thus, a new quarterback is highly likely.

Jacksonville Jaguars:
Jacksonville weren’t blown out as badly as the last two games, but they still were handled by San Diego on Sunday to remain winless on the season. A week ago, the Colts destroyed the Jaguars 44-17. It was an ugly, lop-sided butt kicking for Jacksonville, just like the week before when the Jaguars were blown out by the Redskins 41-10. It looks like Jacksonville is destined for another top-10 pick.

If the Jaguars land the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, they would probably look to get an RG3-like trade package in a move down with hopes of landing a boatload of picks to build up the roster around Bortles. With the lack of progress from 2013 to 2014, Jacksonville may not have the leadership in place in the front office and coaching staff to make the team competitive.

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 York Giants: Erik Kendricks, OLB, UCLA
The Giants have had linebacker issues for years, and that could be seen again against the Redskins. New York could use a sideline-to-sideline run-defending linebacker who is also capable of playing in pass coverage. Kendricks would be a great fit as he has the athleticism to defend tight ends with the speed to cover a lot of ground.

This season, Kendricks has been excellent for UCLA. He has 47 tackles, three tackles for a loss, one interception, one pass broken and one forced fumble so far in 2014. Kendricks was all over the field against Arizona State and made two huge plays to produce 14 points in a close win over Virginia. He is superb in pass coverage with his ability to cover ground all over the field. Kendricks would be a big upgrade for the Giants.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
The Buccaneers grabbed their first win of the season as Pittsburgh choked the game away, but Tampa Bay really couldn’t contain Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. The Bucs need to improve their secondary and add some cornerbacks who can function in Leslie Frazier’s defense.

Peters is a great fit with his ability to play zone or man coverage. Against Stanford’s Ty Montgomery, Peters showed the skills to defend a receiver with size and speed. He had tight coverage on Montgomery and grabbed an interception. In 2014, Peters has three interceptions, three passes broken up and 11 tackles. He would be a nice value selection for Tampa Bay in the second round.

Indianapolis Colts: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
The Colts won their second-straight game as Andrew Luck remained in dominant form. Once again, Trent Richardson (20-47) was a terrible disappointment, so Indianapolis could use a legitimate running threat. A fast and shifty back would be a nice fit as an outlet receiver for Luck along with being a back who can take advantage of teams playing their safeties deep to combat Luck.

Abdullah is a slashing runner who is tough for his size and has excellent vision, fast feet, balance and third-down abilities. The 5-foot-9, 195-pounder has averaged 7.3 yards per carry for 833 yards and eight touchdowns this year. Even though he only has five receptions, Abdullah has shown enough where evaluators feel he’ll be a good contributor in the passing offense. From those five catches, Abdullah has 108 yards and two touchdowns. He would be a nice weapon to pair with Luck.

Baltimore Ravens: Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
The Ravens have gotten some huge plays out of Steve Smith the past two weeks, and, of course, the veteran was out for revenge against his former team. Still, Smith is 35, and Baltimore needs some long-term receivers for Joe Flacco to work with.

Diggs is similar to Steve Smith or Torrey Smith in that they are receivers that lack size, but have the speed to get downfield and take advantage of a quarterback’s big arm. Diggs has 29 receptions for 398 yards with two touchdowns in 2014. He also is a dangerous returner on punts and kickoffs. Baltimore could look to land the local product on the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Miami Dolphins: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State
The Dolphins have gotten a good season out of Ben Grimes, but the 31-year old veteran won’t be around for the long term. Perhaps Walt Aikens will develop into a starter, but getting a cornerback who can play in man coverage would be a good addition to Miami’s defense.

This season, Williams has played well for Florida State. He has 13 tackles with four passes broken up. Williams has a nice combination of size, speed, and athleticism. He’s shown the ability to run with receivers and not allow separation. Williams could be worthy of consideration early for Miami in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Houston Texans: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
There is a good chance that the 3-1 Texans will win enough games where they won’t be in position to land a top quarterback prospect. If that’s the case, the organization should look for the top offensive weapons available, prioritizing wide receiver first and running back second. Arian Foster is playing well this year, but Houston could use a bell-cow back to go with Foster (28) and keep him effective in the later portion of his career. The Texans beat the Bills on Sunday, but Foster managed only six yards on eight carries.

Gurley would be phenomenal in Bill O’Brian’s offense and bring an explosive element and a physicality to the Texans. In 2014, Gurley has averaged 8.8 yards for 610 yards with six touchdowns. He has been a star since his freshman season and has been unstoppable this year. With Houston’s talented young defense, Gurley could be enough to help push the team back into January games.

Green Bay Packers: Shaq Thompson, OLB, Washington
The Packers wanted to improve their inside linebackers over the offseason, but were unable to find an an upgrade, so the position remains a weakness. Even though Green Bay lit up Chicago, the Packers’ defense was killed by Matt Forte (23-122) and Martellus Bennett (9-134). Green Bay needs an inside linebacker who can chase down running backs and run with tight ends. An athletic and speedy option makes sense for the Packers.

This season, Thompson has 35 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, two passes broken up, one interception and three forced fumbles. He has been a turnover-creating machine for the Huskies during past two weeks. In Week 4, Thompson had a huge game against Illinois with a pick-six and fumble return for a touchdown. He kept it going against Stanford with two forced fumbles – one of which he returned for a touchdown. There is no doubt that Thompson would upgrade the speed and athleticism of the Packers’ linebacking corps over A.J. Hawk and Brad Smith.

Team Draft Report:

In this section, we take a deeper look at specific teams and where they stand in regards to the 2015 NFL Draft.

Jacksonville Jaguars:
The Jaguars finally stopped wasting their time by starting Chad Henne, but the results were the same under Blake Bortles as Jacksonville was dispatched with little trouble by San Diego. In his first NFL start, Bortles made some nice plays and some bad plays, but he also flashed the potential to be a quality starter. However, the Jaguars are clearly talent-deficient throughout their roster. Considering new general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley have had two offseasons to remake the roster with a plethora of salary-cap space and draft picks, the roster shouldn’t be as bad as it is.

Jacksonville has drafted some young wide receivers to help Bortles, and it is too early to determine if those players will pan out, but that is the only part of the offense that the Jaguars don’t need to upgrade. Jacksonville drafted Luke Joeckel with the second-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, but he’s underwhelming on the field and a downgrade from former left tackle Eugene Monroe. Considering it is too late to reverse the mistake of giving Monroe away, the Jaguars should use some free agent dollars to find a tackle upgrade, and if that player is a left tackle, then Joeckel could move to the right side. Jacksonville also could upgrade the inside of its line as there isn’t anything special there.

The running back position is manned by Toby Gerhart, which was a bad free agent decision. Georgia’s Todd Gurley would be an immediate upgrade, and putting him on the Jaguars’ offense could transform the unit overnight.

Defensively, Jacksonville doesn’t have any difference-makers. Jacksonville badly needs a franchise player on that side of the ball as there aren’t any players who cause problems in the front seven, plus the cornerbacks are inept. Safety Jonathan Cyprien is the only competent player on the back end. Nebraska’s Randy Gregory would be a great fit as the Jaguars’ LEO linebacker and edge pass-rusher. To go another direction, USC’s Leonard Williams would be an immediate upgrade for Jacksonville’s defensive line as a player who can cause some disruption. The Jaguars don’t have any difference-makers on their defense, and that has to change.

With so many roster needs, one can’t expect Jacksonville to make a quick turnaround, but at the same time, the team should be more competitive than how it has looked the past three weeks. This coming offseason will be a critical year for the Caldwell-Bradley regime, and it is absolutely essential that they narrow the talent gap.

Washington Redskins:
The Redskins’ rough 2013 season and their start to 2014 can be attributed to two factors. The first being the ridiculous robbery by the NFL on Washington’s salary-cap space from signing players during the uncapped period. The second reason for the Redskins’ rough patch is all the picks they had to give up for Robert Griffin III. Those two factors combined to hamstring the roster, and Washington hasn’t been able to address some weaknesses with a premium pick or quality free agent.

The first issue for the Redskins to address is their defensive backs. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall is out for the year and has been on the decline anyway. Safety Brandon Meriweather is a solid veteran, but he’s not a long-term answer. Neither is Ryan Clark. Washington badly needs another safety. In the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Alabama’s Landon Collins has to be a top candidate for the Redskins’ selection. Aside from Collins, they could land a good safety on the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft with candidates like Ole Miss’ Cody Prewitt, LSU’s Jalen Mills, Michigan State’s Kurtis Drummond and TCU’s Sam Carter.

Along with safety, Washington could use help at cornerback. Hall should be replaced sooner rather than later. If David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland pan out, the Redskins could have one solid starter and a nickel, but they will need another player to go with them. A nice fit would be Stanford’s Alex Carter. He’s a big, physical corner who fits what Raheem Morris and Jim Haslett like. If the organization could land him in the second round, that would be a good value.

Also on the defense, an inside linebacker is worth considering. However quality, cheap veterans can be found in the free agent marketplace at that spot. Aside from those needs, the Redskins could consider another pass-rusher if Brian Orakpo doesn’t stick around for the long term. However that is more of mid-round consideration for depth as they have Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy.

Offensively, Washington has to get Robert Griffin III straightened out, and I think that will happen if he can stay healthy long enough to learn from Jay Gruden. One way to make that a reality is to improve the offensive line. The Redskins could have right tackle solved in time with Morgan Moses, but adding some help to the inside of the line would make sense. There should be some quality guards to chose from on Day 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft, including Duke’s Laken Tomlinson, Alabama’s Arie Kouandjio, South Carolina’s A.J. Cann, and the Florida State duo of Tre Jackson and Josue Matias. Washington has a talented set of receivers, tight ends and running backs. Once the team can get consistently solid play out of its quarterbacks and offensive line, those offensive weapons should be able to score good point totals.

The Redskins could have some up-and-down games until the performances of the offensive line and at quarterback get more consistent and the secondary is fixed. If Washington can get those issues resolved, the Redskins could be ready to make some noise in the NFC.

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