Monday Morning Draft – Week 11

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:
The Raiders lost a close game at San Diego and are in serious danger of going 0-16. Remaining on Oakland’s schedule are games with Denver, San Francisco, Kansas City (twice) and Buffalo at home. That is a tough slate for the Raiders to find a win, as all of those teams are playoff contenders.

Oakland is very likely to land the first pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. If the Raiders want to stick with Derek Carr, they could look to move down and get a boatload of picks to jump start the 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 1-9

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.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
The Bucs have seen Mike Evans emerge in recent weeks as a big-time play-maker. That is proving to be an astute pick by Lovie Smith and Jason Licht. Evans could be a special player, but Tampa Bay needs a difference-maker at quarterback. The organization hasn’t had a true franchise quarterback since Doug Williams in the late 70s and early 80s. Tampa Bay may have to trade up to land him, but Winston could be the answer for the Bucs.

Lovie Smith would be the perfect coach to mentor Winston and clean up his act off the field. Plus, the organization has Florida State trustee and Buccaneers Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks in place to help Winston become a professional. In 2014, Winston has completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,844 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He’s carried the Seminoles to victories they shouldn’t have won, and Winston has a knack for the late comeback. The Bucs’ glory years from 1997-2002 were led by a lot of Florida State, Miami, and Florida products. It could be time to get back to that winning formula.

St. Louis Rams: Garrett Grayson, QB, Colorado State
St. Louis has beaten both teams that played in the Super Bowl last year, and if the Rams had a good quarterback, they could be one of the top teams in the NFC. Perhaps St. Louis should go all out to land one of the top quarterback prospects, but realistically the Rams won’t be picking high enough to make a trade like the one they got from Washington. If St. Louis was picking in the top 10, it would be feasible, but the team will probably be picking in the teens. Thus, taking a quarterback on Day 2 seems the most likely avenue to address the position.

In 2014, Grayson has completed 66 percent of his passes for 3,024 yards with 26 touchdowns and five interceptions. Grayson (6-2, 220) has a strong arm and athleticism. He can function as a pocket passer and make all the throws the NFL requires. Perhaps he could be the Rams version of Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick as a second-day quarterback who ends up being the long-term starter.

Cincinnati Bengals: Dante Fowler, DE, Florida
The Bengals got a huge win at New Orleans, yet did it without registering a single sack of Saints quarterback Drew Brees, despite the signal-caller making over 40 attempts. Clearly, Cincinnati could use another end to pair with Carlos Dunlap as Margus Hunt hasn’t proven to be that player yet.

Cincinnati did well with taking Dunlap out of Florida, and adding the next good Gators pass-rushing prospect could form a good duo for the Bengals. In 2014, Fowler has 49 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He’s produced more pass rush than the numbers indicate. Fowler is a fast and physical defender who would be a good value for the Bengals in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Chicago Bears: Nate Orchard, DE, Utah
The Bears got a sack out of Jared Allen against his former team, but clearly Chicago needs some difference-makers for its pass rush. Adding a dangerous edge rusher will only help the team’s young defensive tackles of Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton to pan out.

In 2014, Orchard has 73 tackles with 19 tackles for a loss, 16.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two passes batted. He has been a beast at getting after the quarterback with huge games against UCLA and Stanford. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound Orchard is fast and intelligent team leader who has developed a repertoire of moves. If he measures in at those numbers, he could add a little more weight and remain a 4-3 defensive end. Orchard could be a great pick for Chicago on the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Miami Dolphins: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The Dolphins need a feature player on offense to make Ryan Tannehill’s job easier. Lamar Miller is a quality back, but Miami could use a difference-maker who paces the team’s scoring attack. Gordon would be a great fit in Joe Philbin’s offense with the ability to add some explosiveness from the backfield.

In 2014, Gordon has averaged 8.6 yards per carry for 1,909 yards with 23 touchdowns. He has eight receptions for 83 yards as well. Gordon set the the NCAA single-game record with 408 yards on 25 carries with four touchdowns against Nebraska in only three quarters of playing time. He could have run for 500 yards if the Badgers wanted. Gordon has great acceleration, vision, and underrated toughness to pick up yards after contact and run through arm tackles. He could provide big impact for Tannehill if Gordon is Miami’s first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Atlanta Falcons: Dante Fowler Jr, OLB, Florida
Surprisingly, the Falcons are in first place in the NFC South, and that if they win the division, they will be picking in the 20s. Throughout the 2014 season, the lack of pass rush has been apparent for the Falcons. Atlanta needs a true edge rusher. The Falcons haven’t found a true replacement for John Abraham, which has been a serious weakness the past two seasons.

The Falcons have switched to a 3-4 defense, and Beasley could be a good fit in that scheme. Atlanta could move him around from inside to outside linebacker as Beasley is a versatile athlete to be a chess piece in the NFL. Over the past three seasons, he’s been the most consistent pass-rusher in college football in terms of sack production. Beasley has eight sacks in 2014, but has been slowed by injuries in recent weeks. He has 23 tackles with 14 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble, too. Late in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Beasley could be a nice fit for Atlanta.

Houston Texans: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
The Texans are 5-5 and could easily finish around 8-8. Their defense should only get better as Jadeveon Clowney gains experience and contributes on a weekly basis. Offensively, Houston needs more play-makers at the receiver position. Andre Johnson is a future Hall of Famer, but he appears to be declining, while DeAndre Hopkins is more of a No. 2 receiver. Houston could use a long-term No. 1 for its offense.

White would definitely fit that description. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder can make plays deep downfield as well as serving as a possession receiver. In 2014, he has 91 receptions for 1,207 yards and eight touchdowns. The Texans would be fortunate to land him in the middle of the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

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.

Buffalo Bills:
The Bills have shown that they have the defense to be a potential playoff contender when they can get support from their offense. Buffalo improved after benching E.J. Manuel and it looks like the 2013 first-rounder is a bust. I felt pessimistic that Manuel would pan out, and while the Bills are saying he’s improving in practice, it looks more likely that the organization will be seeking a long-term starting quarterback because obviously Kyle Orton is just a journeyman.

The Bills are at a disadvantage for finding a franchise quarterback as they’re without their first-round pick due to the Sammy Watkins trade. Watkins is going to be a stud receiver if Buffalo can get competent quarterback play. On the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Bills should target a signal-caller and hope they land the next Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick. Candidates to be that player in the 2015 draft class include UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson, and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion. Of that trio, Grayson could be a nice fit with his ability to make all the throws and use some mobility. Hundley is too similar to Manuel. Mannion could be a fit with his big arm and Watkins’ speed, but Mannion is a statue who requires his offensive line to play perfectly. A veteran would be a nice option, but Buffalo can’t count on that falling into its lap.

After quarterback, the Bills could use some help at the tight end position. Scott Chandler should be a secondary and blocking tight end. Buffalo needs a true receiving threat at the position. If the Bills don’t take a quarterback with their second-round pick, landing Minnesota’s Maxx Williams would be great, but few redshirt sophomores declare, so the Bills could hope to land Florida State’s Nick O’Leary or Michigan’s Devin Funchess.

Other needs on offense include a left guard and running back. C.J. Spiller is a free agent and may not be back, while Fred Jackson turns 34 after the season. Taking a running back on Day 2 could provide a nice value to the Bills. Candidates who could be steals include Miami’s Duke Johnson, South Carolina’s Mike Davis, Boise State’s Jay Ajayi, Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and USC’s Buck Allen.

Defensively, Buffalo has a strong front seven that will only be better next year with the return of Kiko Alonso. The Bills could use some depth at cornerback and a safety to pair with DaNorris Searcy. Aaron Williams has been a drop off from Jairus Byrd.

Buffalo some good young talent on defense, but before the organization can hope to make a move in the AFC East by landing a quarterback. It may not happen in the 2015 NFL Draft, but the Bills should keep drafting signal-callers until they land a good one.

San Francisco 49ers:
It sounds like the 49ers will have a new head coach next season, and that coach will be walking into a good roster that has talent and depth on both sides of the ball. That talent carried the 49ers to three straight NFC Championship Games and one conference championship, but there are still some spots that the 49ers could find upgrades to help their new coach maintain the winning tradition in San Francisco.

The 49ers have a deep group of receivers, but lack a true No. 1 for Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick’s production has been somewhat underwhelming this season and landing a play-maker for him could help elevate his game to another level. In the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, San Francisco won’t be picking high enough to land Alabama’s Amari Cooper. However, the 49ers could have a shot at West Virginia’s Kevin White if they miss out on the playoffs. If White is also off the board, a real possibility, other players to consider would be Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong or Louisville’s DeVante Parker. Taking a receiver in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft could make the most sense for the 49ers.

On the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft, San Francisco will probably need to address the guard position. It sounds as if the 49ers could lose either Alex Boone or Mike Iupati in free agency. It would be very expensive to retain both of them. If one of those veterans does leave, taking Florida State’s Josue Matias or Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio in the second round would make a lot of sense as a player who could come in and compete immediately.

Defensively, the 49ers could consider a pass-rusher as Aldon Smith hasn’t proven to be reliable enough to stay on the field. Florida’s Dante Fowler, Jr would be a great fit in the San Francisco defense. It also wouldn’t hurt to add depth on the defensive line considering the age of Justin Smith, plus competition at cornerback is worth addressing.

The 49ers could address a few needs in free agency, and if they do that they can do more drafting of the best player available. With a few wise moves, San Francisco could be back in the Super Bowl quickly.

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