Monday Morning Draft – Week 5

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:
After getting blown out in the U.K., the Raiders fired head coach Dennis Allen during their bye week. No coach was going to win in the awful situation that Allen inherited, yet he’s the scapegoat for a plethora of front office mistakes under the current and past regimes.

Oakland could 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 likely with this pick.

Jacksonville Jaguars:
The Steelers kept the Jaguars winless with an eight point win in Jacksonville. Before San Diego cruised to a win over them, 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-5 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 Blake 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.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Dante Fowler, OLB, Florida
The Steelers have to upgrade their pass rush in the offseason. Jason Worilds had a sack against the Jaguars, but he doesn’t get enough rush on the quarterback, and Pittsburgh can’t be sure that Jarvis Jones is going to pan out. The Steelers could consider drafting another pass-rusher in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Fowler has been excellent for Florida this season while making a living in opponents’ backfields. This season, he has 19 tackles with 1.5 sacks, one pass broken up and a forced fumble. Fowler has real speed off the edge and is strong enough with the ability to shed blocks.

New Orleans Saints: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
The Saints’ offense and Drew Brees haven’t been as efficient as they have been in past seasons. Granted, New Orlean’s receivers haven’t been as strong as they were in year’s past. Brandin Cooks looks like he’ll be a good player, but the Saints could use a big receiver to replace Marques Colston. A target like Strong would help Brees as he ages.

In five games this season, Strong has 41 receptions for 614 yards with five touchdowns. In three of those contests, he totaled more than 140 yards receiving; two were huge performances against UCLA and USC. Strong (6-3, 212) isn’t a burner, but he has quickness to go along with his great size.

Buffalo Bills: Marcus Mariota, QB, Michigan State
It is a sad situation for a franchise when journeyman Kyle Orton is an upgrade at quarterback, but that is the case for the Bills. Buffalo’s defense played a great game against Detroit, and Orton made enough plays to lead the Bills to a comeback win despite throwing a pick-six. Buffalo has to find its franchise quarterback as E.J. Manuel has predictably gone bust and Orton isn’t a long-term answer.

Mariota has led Oregon’s powerful offense the past three seasons as he’s produced a lot of points with his arm and legs. In 2014, Mariota has completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,411 yards with 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also has three rushing touchdowns. Mariota’s big arm and explosiveness would make him a nice quarterback to pair with Sammy Watkins.

Dallas Cowboys: Erik Kendricks, OLB, UCLA
The Cowboys really struggled to stop Arian Foster (23-157-2) even though they knew the Texans wanted to run the ball. It always is a bad sign when your team is led in tackles by a cornerback and a safety as Dallas was on Sunday. The Cowboys have to improve their defensive front seven and get some linebackers who fit Rod Marinelli’s defense.

Kendricks would be a perfect fit as a Will (weakside) linebacker playing the Derrick Brooks role in Marinelli’s version of the Tampa 2. With his speed and athleticism, Kendricks can cover runs from sideline-to-sideline while also functioning well in pass coverage. He has totaled 58 tackles with three tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, one pass broken up and one sack so far in 2014. Adding Kendricks would be an immediate upgrade for Dallas.

Philadelphia Eagles: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The Eagles almost blew a big lead to the Rams as they allowed St. Louis backup quarterback Austin Davis to throw for 375 yards and three touchdowns. Philadelphia’s secondary looked weak entering the season, and nothing has dispelled that during the first five games. The Eagles could use upgrades at corner and safety. In the early rounds of the draft, teams generally get better values at corner.

Waynes had two interceptions against Nebraska last Saturday night while showing the skills to be a physical press-man corner. He has good speed and loose hips to turn and run with receivers going down the field. In 2014, Waynes has three passes broken up, two interceptions and 16 tackles. He could be a nice value for the Eagles first-round pick of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Cleveland Browns: Cody Prewitt, S, Ole Miss
Cleveland has had safety issues this season, which was apparent again against Tennessee. The Browns were fortunate that Jake Locker left the game, but they still had problems defending Justin Hunter, Kendall Wright, Nate Washington and Delanie Walker as the Titans built a big lead before the Browns came storming back. A safety upgrade would help Cleveland defend receiving tight ends and wideouts downfield.

Prewitt has been a solid player for Ole Miss over the past few years, and that has been the case in 2014, too. He had a good performance against Alabama and started the year strongly versus Boise State. Prewitt has 17 tackles with an interception and a pass broken up for the season. He could be a quality value for the Browns in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

San Francisco 49ers: Markus Golden, DE, Missouri
The 49ers’ defense held up against the Chiefs, but one issue that was apparent was a lack of pass rush. Without Aldon Smith, San Francisco has a hard time putting heat on the quarterback. It would make sense for the 49ers to add another edge rusher next year.

Golden is a fast edge rusher who is very disruptive behind the line of scrimmage. He has a lightning first-step with nice pass-rushing moves. Golden has been banged up in 2013, but he still has 25 tackles with four sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. Golden plays defensive end for Missouri, but in the NFL, his best fit could come as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He would be a good addition for San Francisco.

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.

Carolina Panthers:
The Panthers are an interesting team as they have a lot of areas on the roster that need to be rebuilt, but at the same time, Carolina was one of the best teams in the NFC last year and has enough talent to compete with anybody. The reason for that is the Panthers have a talented franchise quarterback in Cam Newton and one of the best defensive players in the NFL in middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. If Carolina can fix a few problem areas, the organization could open up a Super Bowl window.

The first area to fix is the offensive line. Without Newton, Carolina would struggle to be competitive. The Panthers lost long-time left tackle Jordan Gross to retirement last offseason and tried to replace him with right tackle Byron Bell. Bell is clearly suited for the right side, and Carolina needs a legitimate left tackle to protect Newton. Using the franchise’s first-round pick of the 2015 NFL Draft on a player such as LSU’s La’el Collins, Iowa’s Brandon Scherff, Stanford’s Andrus Peat or Texas A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi would be ideal.

Defensively, Carolina needs to upgrade its cornerbacks. The team still hasn’t replaced Chris Gamble after losing him a couple of years ago. The Panthers could consider a cornerback in the first round if they don’t land an offensive tackle, but it would be ideal to take a tackle first and add corners on the second day. LSU’s Jalen Collins or Stanford’s Alex Carter would be nice fits in the Carolina defense.

Also on the defense, the Panthers may need to add another edge rusher if they don’t bring back Greg Hardy. With Hardy focused on his rap career during his deactivation, Carolina’s defense hasn’t been the same. The team could use an end to pair with Charles Johnson. It wouldn’t hurt to upgrade the outside linebackers next to Kuechly; Thomas Davis is nearing the end of his career. Safety upgrades could also be considered, too.

Offensively, Carolina should consider a running back at some point. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are always banged up. They’re on the decline at this stage of their careers.

If the Panthers improve their offensive line and secondary, this could be the team to beat in the NFC South for many years to come as Newton plays in his prime.

New York Jets:
Since losing in the playoffs in the 2010 season, the Jets have basically been in rebuilding mode. Rex Ryan is a good defensive coach, but he and two general managers have bungled the quarterback position, and that is why New York isn’t any better than mediocre.

Mark Sanchez was abysmal for a few seasons, and Ryan was too stubborn to give Tim Tebow a chance. New York pinned its hopes on Geno Smith despite other teams passing on the flawed prospect. Smith is awful in Year 2. The Jets can’t turn to Michael Vick because he’s clearly checked out and is just happy to not play while cashing checks as a declining backup. New York gains nothing by playing Vick. If Smith continues to play poorly, he could land the franchise a high first-round pick that gets the team a legitimate quarterback.

New York has to target another quarterback early in the 2015 NFL Draft. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Michigan State’s Connor Cook could be first-round options. If unable to land one of them, the Jets could target second-day prospects like UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion. New York has to keep going after quarterbacks until it finds a solution.

The Jets threw big money at Eric Decker, but still needs more receiving help. If the Jets miss out on a first-round quarterback, taking Alabama star wide receiver Amari Cooper would be a nice consolation prize. Cooper would be an immediate upgrade across from Decker and put the veteran in his natural role as a No. 2 receiver. With tight end Jace Amaro, New York could be on its way to a nice trio of passing targets with Cooper.

New York has a quality running back in Chris Ivory, but Chris Johnson is clearly on the decline and not worthy of a roster spot. The Jets could consider a second-day running back like Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, South Carolina’s Mike Davis, or USC’s Buck Allen. Adding another runner would help the team’s new quarterback.

On the defense, New York has two clear needs: a cornerback and an edge rusher. New York’s corners have had a lot of issues this season, and the team could use a corner to pair with Dee Milliner. As for on the edge, the Jets need to complement their interior stars, Muhammed Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. The offense is the bigger issue for New York, so taking a defender at one of those need positions only makes sense if there aren’t good players available at their needs on offense.

The Jets being stuck as an average or below-average team could cost Ryan and general manager John Idzik their jobs after the season. Considering their handling of the quarterback position, it would be understandable. However, getting the right coach and quarterback is paramount to New York’s rebuilding process.

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