Monday Morning Draft – Wild Card

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:
The Bucs have the No.1 pick and must use it to land a franchise quarterback. The only question will be whether to take Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston. If Winston decides to return to Florida State, and that sounds like a serious possibility, the choice will be easy for Tampa Bay as the team can’t turn down a franchise quarterback.

Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith have to get the pick right. 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 of Kansas State, but those were ignored. Freeman went bust, and as a result, the Bucs have gone 30-66 since firing Jon Gruden and drafting Freeman in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. The pressure is on for Licht and Smith.

Tennessee Titans:
If both quarterbacks enter the 2015 NFL Draft, Tennessee is more likely to draft a quarterback than to try to trade the pick away. Zach Mettenberger wasn’t good enough to convince the franchise to pass on Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston. 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. The Titans also have the potential for a nice nucleus on offense around Mariota or Winston.

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: Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State
The Cardinals; anemic offense was historically bad against Carolina, and who knows what could have happened for Arizona if Carson Palmer had avoided injury. The team will undoubtably stick with Palmer in 2015 as he just signed a new contract, plus really isn’t a better option with the veterans available in free agency and where the Cardinals are drafting. Thus, Arizona needs to beef up its offensive line to protect the fragile veteran. The Panthers recorded four sacks in the wild-icard loss, so improving the line would make a lot of sense.

A blocker like Erving would be a great fit for the Cardinals as he could play right tackle, guard or center. The 6-foot-6, 305-pounder has versatile size with the athletic ability to block inside or on the edge. The senior proved that this year when he moved from left tackle to center in midseason. That move really improved the Seminoles’ offensive line in the final stretch. Taking Erving in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft could turn out to be a great value pick for Arizona.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Markus Golden, DE/OLB, Missouri
The Steelers lacked a pass rush all season, and that reared it’s head again in their loss to the Ravens. Jarvis Jones still has to prove he’s part of the answer, but even if he pans out, Pittsburgh needs another rusher to pair with him; Jason Worilds is an average player and the Steelers have to replace the aging James Harrison. Taking a pass-rusher in the first or second round of the 2015 NFL Draft makes a lot of sense.

Golden was superb to open the 2014 season, and in the early going, he was more impressive than Shane Ray. The attention paid to Golden opened things up for Ray to put together a huge season. Golden was slowed for essentially five games with an injury during the year, but he finished the season strongly. Golden totaled 10 sacks with 78 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, two passes batted, and three forced fumbles in 2014. A nice plan for Pittsburgh’s draft would be to move down and acquire Golden. Adding more picks would allow the Steelers to pick up some talents for the secondary and lines.

Cincinnati Bengals: Dante Fowler Jr., DE/OLB, Florida
It was obvious all season that the Bengals were missing an edge rusher to go on the other side from Carlos Dunlap. Cincinnati has youngsters in Margus Hunt and Will Clarke, but those two are developmental players. The Bengals have to find an upgrade to pair with Dunlap. If the team is fortunate enough to land Fowler with Dunlap, the former Gator duo could be a tremendous combination for Marvin Lewis.

Fowler ripped off three sacks against East Carolina and was embarrassing the opposing offensive linemen as he beat them with power and speed. The junior has strength as a pass-rusher, excellent quickness and athleticism. He recorded 8.5 sacks, with 15 tackles for a loss, 60 tackles, two forced fumbles and one pass batted in 2014. Fowler fits as a 3-4 outside linebacker, his college position, or as a defensive end in a 4-3. Fowler would be a good value for Cincinnati if he falls to the franchise’s pick.

Detroit Lions: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
The Lions’ defense is at a crossroads of sorts this offseason with the expiring contracts of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. It looks like at least one will leave in free agency, and Detroit could lose both defenders. If that’s the case, improving the secondary would help make up for decreased talent on the defensive line. Plus, Rashean Mathis turns 35 later this year and Detroit could use a young corner to pair with Darius Slay.

Waynes could be within range of the Lions’ first-round pick, but they may have to move up a few spots to land him as Waynes is a favorite to be the first cornerback selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. In 2014, Waynes collected 46 tackles with eight passes broken up and three interceptions. He has the size and length to be a press-man corner, and also functions well in zone coverage. Waynes is a physical and gritty defender.

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