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]
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Play like a Carcass For Marcus:
The Raiders’ winning ways were short lived as Oakland was blown out by the Rams 52-0. A week ago, the Raiders avoided the 0-16 season with a surprising win over the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football. Oakland has a tough schedule, so it looks unlikely that the team will win another game, but at least the Raiders avoided the notorious history of a winless season.
With Jacksonville winning, Oakland is back in control of 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 jumpstart 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 2-10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-10
Tennessee Titans 2-10
New York Jets 2-9
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.
Detroit Lions: Arie Kouandjio, G, Alabama
The Lions were without Larry Warford and had some issues at guard against Chicago. Detroit has one of the top young guards in the NFL in Warford at right guard, but the team could use a left guard to pair with him. Taking a guard on the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft would make sense for the Lions. Warford was a huge steal in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft, and perhaps Martin Mayhew can duplicate that accomplishment to finish off the inside of Detroit’s line.
Kouandjio is one of the top guard prospects for the 2015 NFL Draft. He has been a reliable run-blocker for Alabama over the past few seasons. Kouandjio has the strength to get movement at the point of attack and the athleticism to pull. He has improved his pass protection as well. The Lions could have a tough interior to their offensive line for many years to come with Kouandjio playing left guard next to Travis Swanson at center and Warford at right guard.
Houston Texans: Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
The Texans blew out the Titans, but Kendall Wright had a good game against Houston. The Texans may not need to draft a corner early if Kareem Jackson is re-signed, but the position could use some help given the age of Jonathan Joseph. Taking a cornerback on the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft could be necessary for Houston.
Darby’s man-coverage skills would be a good fit in Romeo Crennel’s defense. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound corner Darby is very good at running with receivers and preventing separation. In 2014, Darby has 35 tackles with four passes broken up. He could be a nice value late in the first round or early on the second day.
San Diego Chargers: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
The Chargers had a comeback to beat the Ravens, but San Diego didn’t register a sack against Baltimore and have lacked a pass rush this season. Dwight Freeney looks to be at the end of his great career. Melvin Ingram has only three sacks over the past three seasons and has dealt with injuries. Perhaps Jeremiah Attaochu will become a good player, but San Diego won’t have that answer heading into the offseason. Adding another pass-rusher has to be a top priority.
In 2014, Beasley has 11 sacks, 21.5 tackles for a loss, 34 tackles, three forced fumbles and two passes defended. He has over 30 sacks across his career and is a natural edge rusher. Beasley is very fast with lightning first-step and agility off the edge. The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder will have to move to outside linebacker in the NFL, but could be a good fit in a 3-4 defense.
Buffalo Bills: Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
The Bills remained in the playoff race with a win over the Browns. Buffalo has been led by a tough defense and Kyle Orton managing the game on the offense. Orton isn’t a long-term starter, and the Bills have seen that E.J. Manuel can’t be viewed as the answer. Even if Buffalo had its first-round pick, there wouldn’t be a signal-caller available worth selecting at that spot. As the pick of Manuel has proven, reaching on a quarterback is a mistake. Buffalo should target a trigger man on Day 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft.
On the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Bills have a few options. UCLA’s Brett Hundley would basically be like drafting Manuel over again. Thus, Buffalo could go after Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson or Oregon State’s Sean Mannion. Both are strong-armed pocket passers. In 2014, Mannion completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,164 yards with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He played a lot better as a junior when he had a decent offensive line and good receivers. Mannion could have that in Buffalo and end up being a good fit for the Bills.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Daryl Williams, OT, Oklahoma
The Jaguars’ offensive line has been dreadful this season, and even though the team put together a comeback win against the Giants, Blake Bortles was sacked seven times. That wouldn’t have been truly terrible a number of years ago, but New York has struggled to rush the passer this season. Luke Joeckel hasn’t been all that impressive, while right tackle Austin Pastzor has been a serious liability. The franchise has a ton riding on Bortles panning out. Thus, Jacksonville must get a better blocking front or Bortles will turn into David Carr 2.0.
Williams has been a tough right tackle for Oklahoma. He is athletic for his size with the strength to move defenders in the ground game. The 6-foot-6, 329-pounder will enter the NFL after starting for three seasons. He or teammate left tackle Tyrus Thompson would make a lot of sense for the Jaguars to sekect at the top of the second round in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Minnesota Vikings: Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana
The Vikings were led on the ground by Matt Asiata, but he only produced 52 yards on 14 carries for Minnesota. Clearly, the Vikings need a lead back to replace Adrian Peterson. The 2015 NFL Draft could be loaded at the running back position, so perhaps Minnesota can land its lead back in the second round.
In 2014, Coleman was a breakout star. Indiana didn’t qualify for a bowl game, so his season is over, but he showed an impressive combination of size and speed. Coleman averaged 7.5 yards per carry for 2,036 yards with 15 touchdowns. He also caught 25 passes for 141 yards. Coleman (6-1, 210) has the skill-set to be a lead back in the NFL.
Atlanta Falcons: Hau’Oli Kikaha, OLB, Washington
The Falcons got a big win over the Cardinals to remain in first place in the weak NFC South, but once again Atlanta struggled to rush the passer. The Falcons were once again unable to sack the quarterback and have no player who causes problems on the edge. Atlanta needs a true replacement for John Abraham.
With the huge need for a pass-rusher, it would make sense for the Falcons to take the player who has produced the most sacks in college football. Kikaha is having a huge 2014 season and leads the nation with 18 sacks. He also has 67 tackles, 24 tackles for a loss, two passes broken up and two forced fumbles. Kikaha is a natural pass-rusher, and he would be a perfect fit in Atlanta’s 3-4 defense. The Falcons could maybe trade down out of the first round and land Kikaha early in Day 2. That would be a good plan to help Atlanta address other needs while landing a difference-maker on the edge.
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.
New York Giants:
The Giants lost their seventh-straight game after blowing a 21-point lead to the Jaguars and will miss the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six years. It wasn’t that long ago that New York won the Super Bowl, but the current model of the team doesn’t come close to resembling the version that won it all just three years ago. The Giants were formerly a very physical football team at the point of attack, but that is no longer the case.
New York’s biggest issue in 2014 has been the offensive line. It has allowed Eli Manning to take a beating the past few years, and that has definitely been the case again this fall. The Giants have drafted some players in recent years, but need more up front. Taking a tackle in the first round like Stanford’s Andrus Peat, Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley or Miami’s Ereck Flowers could upgrade New York’s offensive line quickly. The Giants have to hope that Will Beatty, Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg can turn into good pros.
Until going against the Jaguars’ weak offensive line, New York’s pass rush had been underwhelming this season. Jason Pierre-Paul hasn’t played up to expectations, but adding an edge rusher on the other side could help. On the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft, players like Utah’s Nate Orchard or Washington’s Hau’Oli Kikaha would add a natural edge rusher to help get after the quarterback.
The Giants could also use help at outside linebacker and safety. However, making the pass blocking and pass rush more potent has to be the priority for the offseason.
A big decision for the franchise is at quarterback. Eli Manning turns 34 in January, and New York could decide to trade the veteran to help the rebuilding process. Manning still has draft value in the quarterback-needy NFL, but moving him will depend on whether the Giants feel that backup Ryan Nassib is a future starter or if there is draft prospect they want to build around. If New York feels it can make a quick turnaround, keeping Manning would make sense, but that is a huge question mark.
Building the lines on offense and defense seems like the best strategy along with finding out what teams are willing to give for Manning.
As evidence by their 9-3 record, the Cardinals have a well-balanced team with a talented roster. Arizona is in an advantageous position where it can quickly look to draft the best player available. It wouldn’t hurt for the organization to address a few positions where depth and competition could help.
The first thing to address is quarterback. The Cardinals signed Carson Palmer to an extension, but the veteran is injury-prone and aging. He is a game-manager at this point in his career, but he could drop off quickly. It would make sense for Arizona to draft a quarterback if a good one falls to its selection. Perhaps the team feels that Logan Thomas can develop into a starter, but considering how brittle Palmer is, it wouldn’t hurt Arizona to have another option to go with Thomas. On the second-day of the 2015 NFL Draft, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion or UCLA’s Brett Hundley could be of interest.
The Cardinals have some depth at receiver, but there has been some talk that Larry Fitzgerald may not be in the desert for long as he is aging and very expensive. If the organization decides to move on from Fitzgerald, then adding another receiver will become a necessity. It also wouldn’t hurt to add some depth and competition to the offensive line.
Defensively, the biggest need on the roster could be an edge rusher. Alex Okafor has turned into a quality rusher, but the Cardinals will have to replace John Abraham on the other side. Taking a rusher like Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun, Missouri’s Markus Golden, or Virginia’s Eli Harold would make sense for Arizona in the first round.
Another position the Cardinals could address is an inside linebacker to go with Kevin Minter. Daryl Washington is superb when he plays, but the Cardinals can’t count on him to avoid suspensions. Picking late in the first round would mean the best player available could easily be an inside linebacker like Miami’s Denzel Perryman, Mississippi State’s Bernardrick McKinney, UCLA’s Erik Kendricks or Washington’s Shaq Thompson. Considering the hard-nosed rushing attacks of division rivals in Seattle and San Francisco, being strong at middle linebacker makes sense.
The other depth addition the Cardinals could make is cornerback. Antonio Cromartie has formed a dynamic duo with Patrick Peterson, but Cromartie turns 31 in the offseason. Adding a young corner to develop behind the veterans would make sense.
Arizona has drafted well under Steve Keim, who has done a good job of building a talented roster. If the Cardinals can get good play out of their quarterback, a Lombardi Trophy going to the desert is a real possibility.
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