Monday Morning Draft – Week 8

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:
Oakland lost on the road at Cleveland, and the Raiders are in serious danger of going 0-16. Remaining on the Raiders’ schedule are games at Seattle, Denver (twice), San Diego, San Francisco, Kansas City (twice) and Buffalo at home.

Oakland is very likely to land the first pick. If the Raiders want to stick with Derek Carr, they could look to move down and get a boatload of picks to jump start their rebuilding process. After moving down, Oakland could land any top player who would be a big improvement. Candidates for the organization include USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams, Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory, Stanford left tackle Andrus Peat, Georgia running back Todd Gurley and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper. The Raiders have needs at all of those positions, so moving down to get more picks while landing a top talent like one of those players would be a good plan.

A few weeks ago, Oakland played San Diego tough with a 31-28 loss in Tony Sparano’s first game as the Raiders’ interim head coach. They showed some real fight as they gave one of the top teams in the AFC all it could handle. 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 previous regimes.

Within Striking Distance:
Jacksonville Jaguars 1-7
New York Jets 1-7
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-6

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.

Houston Texans: Garrett Grayson, QB, Colorado State
The Texans could be one of the elite teams in the AFC if they had a difference-maker at quarterback. Houston is 4-4 with two games remaining against the Jaguars, the Titans again, and the Browns. That schedule means the Texans are likely to pile up enough wins to miss out on the top quarterback prospects. Houston could target a signal-caller on Day 2.

In 2014, Grayson has completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,456 yards with 21 touchdowns and five interceptions. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has a strong arm and can make all the throws for the NFL. He has mobility to go with pocket-passing potential. On the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft, Grayson could be a nice value for Houston.

Minnesota Vikings: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
The Vikings could use more receiving weapons for Teddy Bridgewater. Cordarrelle Patterson is already a good receiver, but Greg Jennings is declining and Minnesota doesn’t have much else. Taking a wide receiver in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft would make a lot of sense for Minnesota.

White has been a tremendous play-maker this season for West Virginia. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder had seven straight 100-yard games to open the season and has been one of the best receiving threats in college football. The senior has caught 72 receptions for 1,047 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014. White looks like a first-round pick for the 2015 NFL Draft.

Cincinnati Bengals: La’el Collins, OT, LSU
The Bengals picked up a much-needed and hard-fought win over Baltimore on Sunday, but one area that Cincinnati could stand to improve is its offensive line. The Bengals allowed sacks while their running backs combined for only 70 yards on 26 carries. Cincinnati lost Anthony Collins in free agency and will need a long-term answer at left tackle to eventually replace Andrew Whitworth.

Collins could be a perfect pick for Cincinnati to address the offensive line. He could improve the Bengals’ run blocking and pass protection by starting out his career at guard. If Collins continues to improve, he could be the long-term starter at left tackle. Collins would be a nice addition in the back half of the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Kansas City Chiefs: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
The Chiefs shutdown the Rams at home, but once again, the Kansas City passing offense was underwhelming. Dwayne Bowe (6-64) led the Chiefs in receiving, and it has been clear throughout the 2014 season that Alex Smith doesn’t have enough weapons. In order for Smith to be a winner, he needs a great supporting case, and Kansas City is clearly lacking in wideouts department.

If the Chiefs miss out on the playoffs, they probably won’t be picking high enough to land Cooper (6-1, 210), but Kansas City general manager John Dorsey should strongly consider moving up for Cooper. He is a dynamic, explosive play-maker with the speed to turn any reception into a scoring play. Cooper has 71 receptions for 1,132 yards with nine touchdowns in 2014. He could be a huge upgrade for Kansas City.

Seattle Seahawks: Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
The Seahawks moved on from Percy Harvin, and that opens a hole at wide receiver. Seattle could use more receiving weapons for Russell Wilson. Against a weak Panthers secondary, Seattle was led by Doug Baldwin with only six receptions for 61 yards. It would be helpful to get a wideout with size as Wilson has a number of smaller, speed receivers already.

Strong would definitely bring a size mismatch to the Seattle receiving corps. The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder uses his strength and length to shield defenders from the ball and move the chains. As a junior without his starting quarterback for a lot of the season, Strong has 52 receptions for 744 yards and seven touchdowns. He had impressive games against USC, UCLA and Stanford. Strong is a real red-zone weapon for whomever his quarterback is. He could be a good pick for Seattle in the back half of the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Detroit Lions: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Detroit entered this week with one of the worst rushing offenses in the NFL, which was a trend that continued against Atlanta. Joique Bell (14-39) led the Lions on the ground as they had to rely on Matthew Stafford once again to move the ball. Detroit can move on from Reggie Bush in the offseason and find a true No. 1 running back to produce for its offense.

Gordon is utterly dominant for Wisconsin. He could be the fastest running back to enter the NFL since Chris Johnson. In 2014, Gordon has averaged 7.6 yards per carry for 1,168 yards with 16 touchdowns. He also has eight receptions for 39 yards and a score. Gordon would be an immediate upgrade for Detroit and bring the missing dimension of an explosive ground game to the Lions’ offense.

Denver Broncos: Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami
The Broncos have had issues at middle linebacker this season. On Thursday night, tight end Antonio Gates caught two touchdowns against Denver, and Jace Amaro among others gave the team some issues in recent weeks. Finding a three-down linebacker who can defend tight ends and stuff the run would be an upgrade for the Broncos’ defense.

Perryman is that kind of player as he is a physical force in the tackle box, yet has also shown the quickness and instincts to function in pass coverage. The tough senior could help cover tight ends in the NFL with his three-down ability. He put that on display as he blanketed tight ends from Virginia Tech last Thursday night. In 2014, Perryman has 62 tackles, two forced fumbles, three passes broken up, one interception and a sack. He could bring a physical element to Denver’s defense.

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.

Cleveland Browns:
The Browns have shown improvement under their new coaching staff, and perhaps fans of the moribund franchise have reason to start hoping that Cleveland can become competitive in the AFC playoff race. Cleveland doesn’t know yet if Johnny Manziel will pan out or become the latest of busted quarterbacks, but in order to help Manziel become the player the Browns want him to be, they should build up their talent around him.

The first position to address would be wide receiver. Josh Gordon is a true No. 1, but Cleveland can’t rely on him to avoid suspensions. Using one of the organization’s first-round picks in the 2015 NFL Draft on a wide receiver has to be a top priority. Landing a player like Alabama’s Amari Cooper, West Virginia’s Kevin White, or Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong would make a lot of sense. Any of those three wide outs could be a No. 1 if Gordon doesn’t stay on the field. Other receivers to consider early in the 2015 NFL Draft would be Stanford’s Ty Montgomery, USC’s Nelson Agholar and Florida State’s Rashad Greene. Those three would be good complementary wide outs to Gordon.

Elsewhere on offense, it wouldn’t hurt Cleveland to add some depth behind Terrance West at running back and Jordan Cameron at tight end. Ben Tate isn’t a long-term option, so a mid-round back could make sense. Another tight end makes sense for Kyle Shannahan’s offense to run two-tight end sets.

Defensively, the Browns could look to add an some linebacker help. Karlos Dansby isn’t a long-term starter at this point, so an inside backer would make sense. On the outside, Cleveland could find a young pass-rusher to replace Paul Kruger, plus Jabaal Sheard is entering free agency. A safety to eventually replace Donte Whitner could also be worth consideration.

Cleveland isn’t that far away from being a playoff competitor, but the quarterback position is the real question on how close the Browns actually are.

Pittsburgh Steelers:
In order for the Steelers to get back into the Super Bowl mix before Big Ben is too old, Pittsburgh has to rebuild its defense in a hurry. The biggest needs for the Steelers lie on that side of the ball. They have to hope that recent draft picks like Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt form building blocks, but clearly the Pittsburgh defense is nowhere near as talented as it used to be. The organization rarely spends on free agent additions, so nailing the draft is vital.

The pass defense is the big problem in Pittsburgh. The team has to find some difference-makers at cornerback and in the pass rush. Jason Worldis isn’t worth keeping around for the long term, and just when Jones was starting to show promise, he was injured. In the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Steelers could upgrade their pass rush by selecting a player like Florida’s Dante Fowler, Jr. He plays 3-4 outside linebacker for the Gators and is very disruptive. Fpwler is a fast and physical defender with an edge to him. He would bring some pass rush and size to the Steelers’ perimeter.

Another pass-rusher to consider would be Clemson’s Vic Beasley. He’s undersized at 6-foot-2 and weighing in the 230s, but he is strong for his size. Beasley is a natural pass-rusher who is extremely consistent when it comes to getting pressure on the quarterback and producing sacks. Other pass-rushers to consider include Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun and the Missouri tandem of Shane Ray and Markus Golden. The Steelers should be able to find a pass-rusher via the 2015 NFL Draft.

Pittsburgh also could land a cornerback upgrade. Ike Taylor and William Gay are declining, while Cortez Allen hasn’t developed as planned. Letting Keenan Lewis leave in free agency was a real mistake. If the Steelers take a corner in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Michigan State’s Trae Waynes would be a great fit in Dick Lebeau’s defense. Other options to consider in the early rounds would be Stanford’s Alex Carter, LSU’s Jalen Collins, Washington’s Marcus Peters, and the Florida State duo of P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby.

Other needs the Steelers could consider would be a wide receiver to push or replace Markus Wheaton. The team also might want some more offensive line depth and competition.

However, drafting a pass-rusher and two cornerbacks with the franchise’s first three picks would make sense. If Pittsburgh’s recent draft picks come around with some more talented rookies, the Steelers could have the makings of defensive core that could become good enough before Ben Roethlisberger hangs it up.

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