Monday Morning Draft – Week 15

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:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Tampa Bay maintains it’s hold of the No. 1 pick after flirting with victory, but losing, at Carolina. The Bucs have to land a franchise quarterback. Tampa Bay is a perfect example of how drafting a bust quarterback sets a franchise back for five or more years. Josh Freeman had flaws coming out, but those were ignored. Freeman went bust, and as a result, the Bucs have gone 30-64 since drafting him in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. If the Buccaneers land the No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, the only question will be whether to take Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

Tennessee Titans:
The Titans almost blew their high draft slot by beating the Jets, but instead it was New York that came away with a meaningless win. Tennessee is more likely to draft a quarterback than try to trade the pick away. Zach Mettenberger hasn’t been good enough to convince the franchise to pass on Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston. If Mettenberger does beat out the rookie, the team could have a tradable commodity in one of the quarterbacks. knows from sources that Mariota has already impressed the Titans organization, and he could remind Tennessee fans of the glory days when the team had Steve McNair.

Oakland Raiders:
Oakland returned to their losing ways with a loss at Kansas City.

The Raiders will stick with Derek Carr; if they land the first-overall pick, they will look to move down and get a boatload of picks to jumpstart the rebuilding process. After moving down, Oakland could land any top player and still significantly improve. Candidates for the team to target 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.

Jacksonville Jaguars:
The Jags stayed in the race for the top pick with a loss at Baltimore. Like Oakland, the Jaguars would want to trade down if they land the No. 1-overall pick. Jacksonville would aim to get more picks to build around Blake Bortles. The Jaguars could use defensive players like Leonard Williams and Randy Gregory. The team’s offensive line is awful, and Luke Joeckel has struggles. Taking a franchise left tackle and moving Joeckel to the right side could be a good plan for keeping Bortles from becoming David Carr 2.0.

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.

Arizona Cardinals: Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
The Cardinals could make the postseason despite a rash of injuries at the quarterback position. Given the age and brittleness of Carson Palmer, Arizona should add another young quarterback this offseason. The Cardinals have a good roster, so they can afford to use a pick on a passer. Similar to Palmer when he was young, Mannion is a big-armed pocket passer.

Oregon State struggled around Mannion in 2014 and gave him no support. The senior completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,164 yards with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. As a junior, Mannion had a competent offensive line and better receivers. That season he completed 66 percent for 4,662 yards with 37 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Mannion could rise if he plays well at the Senior Bowl.

New York Jets: Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
The Jets had a meaningless win over the Titans that probably cost New York any shot of landing Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. Still, the Jets will be in position to get a good talent to upgrade their roster. The team could definitely use a No. 1 receiver. Eric Decker is really a No. 2, while Percy Harvin may not be back with the team. Harvin didn’t even record a reception against Tennessee. Landing Cooper would be a nice consolation price for New York.

Cooper has been one of the best players in college football this season. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder has been a big-play machine with speed to make big plays down the field. He also has displayed great route-running and run-after-the-catch ability. Cooper hauled in 115 passes for 1,656 yards with 14 touchdowns during the 2014 regular season. There is no doubt that Cooper will be a top-10 pick, and he could be the No. 1 receiver the Jets need. At least that issue could be resolved before the franchise finds its quarterback of the future.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
The Steelers have had a weakness at cornerback for some time, and that was illustrated by Harry Douglas as he racked up 131 yards on 10 receptions against them. Pittsburgh was lucky that Julio Jones was out with an injury because he could have destroyed the franchise’s weak secondary. The Steelers broke a pattern when they drafted Jarvis Jones in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, and perhaps they should do that in 2015 with a first-round cornerback.

Darby is a good cover corner who runs with receivers and prevents separation. He has 37 tackles with four passes broken up this year. Darby has man-coverage skills, with enough size and athleticism to defend big receivers. Pittsburgh could target Darby in the first or second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Kansas City Chiefs: DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Kansas City got some revenge after the Chiefs were embarrassed by the Raiders on a Thursday night earlier this season, but once again, Kansas City’s wide receives were underwhelming. Running back Knile Davis led the team with 70 yards on one reception. None of the Chiefs’ wideouts had four receptions or 70 yards against a weak Oakland secondary. Kansas City has to do something about its receiving corps in the offseason.

After missing seven games with a broken foot suffered in training camp, Parker was superb for Louisville and didn’t have a drop off in production after losing Teddy Bridgewater to the NFL. Parker has 35 receptions for 735 yards and five touchdowns entering his bowl game. The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder is proving to be worthy of a top-25 pick. He could be a potential No. 1 receiver for the next level.

New York Giants: Buck Allen, RB, USC
The Giants enjoyed another great game from Odell Beckham Jr., and New York has played much better the past couple of weeks. The organization could use more from its running game as Andre Williams had only 44 yards on 18 carries. Rashad Jennings has flashed, but he has never been a consistent lead back in the NFL. Adding another mid-round runner would make sense for New York.

A sleeper back who could end up being a steal is Allen. He has averaged 5.3 yards per carry in 2014 for 1,337 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. As a receiver, the redshirt junior has 40 receptions for 442 yards and another score. Allen (6-1, 220) has a nice combination of size, strength, and quickness. The Giants could target some offensive and defensive linemen early with hopes of adding another running back upgrade in the mid-rounds.

Buffalo Bills: Garrett Grayson, QB, Colorado State
The Bills pulled off the upset of the day by knocking off the Packers, but Buffalo’s offense only gained 253 yards. No Bill had even 41 yards receiving, and Fred Jackson led the team on the ground (20-71) with Kyle Orton struggling. Buffalo could be a real playoff contender with a good quarterback. Since the Bills won’t have their first-round pick because of Sammy Watkins, they’ll have to hope they can find an answer on Day 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Grayson has a good arm with some mobility and pocket presence. He could be the target for Buffalo in the second or third round. Grayson has completed 65 percent of his passes in 2014 for 3,779 yards with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions. The senior had similar production as a junior. Grayson (6-2, 220) is sleeper prospect who could be this year’s Jimmy Garoppolo and the best the Bills can hope to land.

Cincinnati Bengals: Alvin Dupree, DE, Kentucky
The Bengals were able to take care of business in impressive fashion by shutting out the Browns. Cincinnati has lacked a pass rush this season aside from Carlos Dunlap. While the Bengals recorded three sacks versus Cleveland, none came from an end who wasn’t Dunlap, so the need for another pass-rusher is still evident.

Dupree could be a nice fit for Cincinnati. The 6-foot-4, 264-pounder is strong and quick. In 2014, the senior recorded 74 tackles with 11.5 tackles for a loss, one pass batted, one interception, two forced fumbles and 7.5 sacks. Dupree could be a good choice for the Bengals’ first- or second-round pick.

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 England Patriots:
The Patriots are cruising to another division title in the chronically weak AFC East, but the question remains whether New England has the team to bring home a Lombardi before Tom Brady’s Hall of Fame career comes to an end. New England has a talented roster, but a few areas to upgrade would help Brady’s quest to get one more ring.

The running game is one area in which the Patriots have lacked consistency. They’ve had backs like LeGarrette Blount and Steven Ridley flash, but the team could use a lead back who makes Brady’s job easier. Taking a first-round runner like Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon would make a lot of sense if he gets to the Patriots’ pick. If they can’t land Gordon, they should take another back like Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, Miami’s Duke Johnson, or South Carolina’s Mark Davis. Taking a runner in the first or second round would definitely help Brady.

Another area to improve on the offense is wide receiver. The Patriots are able to get by with a below-average group of wideouts. Danny Amendola has been a disappointment, while Brandon LaFell is at most a No. 2 receiver. Taking a receiver in the first round has to be on the table. Louisville’s DeVante Parker, Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong or West Virginia’s Kevin White would all be worth considering if any of them gets to New England’s pick.

If the Patriots want to draft another defensive player in the first round, they could start preparing for losing veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. Two players to consider would be Washington’s Danny Shelton or Florida State’s Eddie Goldman. Both of them are heavy defenders with quickness. Shelton would be a perfect fit, but New England would probably have to trade up for him. On the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft, Florida State’s Mario Edwards Jr. or Texas’ Malcom Brown are worth thinking about.

The Patriots also would have to think of a cornerback if they don’t intend to keep Darrelle Revis around for the long term. Revis is under contract for next year, but New England may not be willing to pay Revis for a long-term deal beyond that as he always has huge money demands.

New England should look to the Broncos teams of almost 20 years ago with their Super Bowl wins around an aging quarterback. Denver supplied John Elway with a great running game and a talented group of receivers. Perhaps doing that will supply Brady with the supporting cast to get him a fourth ring.

Indianapolis Colts:
The Colts won the AFC South for the second-straight year and will make their third straight playoff appearance since drafting Andrew Luck. You have to feel sorry for the other teams in the South facing basically a 30-year stretch of the Colts featuring an elite quarterback with Luck coming after Peyton Manning. Indianapolis has a long Super Bowl window with Luck, but the tea, needs a few additions to make a championship happen. The Colts have a number of needs, and the greatness of Luck covers up some them, including the lack of a running game.

The biggest needs are on the defensive side of the ball though. The Colts have missed Robert Mathis this year as Erik Walden has led them in sacks, which is disappointing because Walden is just a pedestrian player. Bjoern Werner has improved, but Indianapolis needs a true replacement for Mathis and Dwight Freeney. A pass-rusher late in the first round would make a lot of sense. The Colts should have a number of good options to consider in Kentucky’s Alvin Dupree, Virginia’s Eli Harold, and Missouri’s Markus Golden. Two other early-round options to consider are Utah’s Nate Orchard and Washington’s Hau’Oli Kikaha. Any of those players would upgrade the Colts’ pass rush.

Elsewhere on defense, it would make sense for Indianapolis to add a cornerback to pair with Vontae Davis. LSU’s Jalen Collins, Stanford’s Alex Carter and Florida State’s Ronald Darby could deserve first-round consideration. Adding a corner or pass-rusher in the first round could upgrade the team’s pass defense significantly.

The Colts have a few needs offensively as well. First of all, Indianapolis could use a running back. Ahmad Bradshaw was very good before going out for the season, and Boom Herron has played well, but looks like a rotational player. The Colts should just admit that Trent Richardson is a sunk cost and cut him. This is a strong running back draft, so the franchise could land a good one on Day 2. Prospects to consider include Miami’s Duke Johnson, Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Boise State’s Jay Ajayi.

The other area to address on the offense is the line. Luck has faced way too much pressure and taken too many hits. It would make sense for the Colts to add a versatile offensive lineman who could challenge at guard or tackle. Two players who would be good fits include LSU’s La’el Collins or Florida State’s Cameron Erving. If either falls to the Colts’ second-round pick, one of them would make a lot of sense as a player who could improve the team’s line on the inside or outside.

If the Colts can upgrade their pass rush, second cornerback, running back and offensive line, Indianapolis could be poised to make a run for a Lombardi in 2015 and beyond.

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