Monday Morning Draft – Week 1

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.

Race for the No. 1 Pick:

San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers play later tonight, but entering the season, they look like the worst team in the NFL. San Francisco has some defensive talent, but the offense looks dreadful. It is inexplicable that the 49ers are starting megabust Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. It looks like it will be a long year for the 49ers, but if they land a franchise quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft, it could be worth it.

Cleveland Browns
Cleveland may not have many winnable games on its schedule, but Philadelphia looked like a possible victory considering Carson Wentz was making his first start and barely played in the preseason. Wentz showed the Browns they could have made a big mistake in passing on him as he led the Eagles to an impressive 29-10 victory over Cleveland. Robert Griffin III was only 12-of-26 for 190 yards and an interception. Obviously, the Browns have a huge rebuilding process, and it all starts with finding a future franchise quarterback.

Tennessee Titans
The Titans have a couple of avenues to land the No. 1-overall pick. I think the more likely scenario would be the Rams having the worst record in the league. Tennessee has Los Angeles’ first-rounder from the Jared Goff trade, and the Rams could be in for a long season. The Titans are a young team that should get better as the year progresses. They played tough against a good team in Minnesota before some fluky mistakes helped push the Vikings to the win. The Titans had a 10-6 lead late into the third quarter.

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.

Philadelphia Eagles: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
The Eagles enjoyed an impressive debut from Carson Wentz, and the young quarterback has a ton of upside to develop in the years to come. One area where Philadelphia will need to help Wentz is with the running game. Ryan Mathews didn’t run all that well against Cleveland and has faced major durability issues in his career. Getting a more potent running game would help Wentz’s development.

Chubb is a human bowling ball with the strength and speed to be a devastating runner in the NFL. In 2016, Chubb has averaged 5.8 yards per carry for 302 yards with three touchdowns. He also has one reception for 12 yards. Chubb dominated the SEC as a freshman and continued his strong play as a sophomore before a knee injury ended his 2015 season early. Chubb is rounding back into form and could be a good fit for the first-round pick that the Eagles have acquired from Minnesota.

Detroit Lions: Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama
The Lions’ defense was fortunate that Matthew Stafford bailed them out as he had the ball last to get the better of Andrew Luck and the Colts. While Detroit won the game, the team’s defense played poorly after the first quarter as Luck ripped the ball up and down the field. The Lions need to find more defensive line talent to get after the quarterback.

Allen would be a perfect fit as an interior rusher to go next to Ziggy Ansah. After two games this year, Allen has seven tackles, three for a loss, three sacks and two passes batted. He is very fast with the ability to use strength to shed blocks. As a junior, Allen recorded 12 sacks with 36 tackles, 14.5 for a loss, two forced fumbles and four passes batted. He was Alabama’s most consistent defensive lineman and rusher in a very talented group during 2015. If the Lions could land Allen with their first-round pick, that would be a huge acquisition for them.

Green Bay Packers: Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida
The Packers held on to a narrow road win at Jacksonville to open the season, and the Jaguars were very close to pulling off the upset. Green Bay made enough plays to win, but one area the team could stand to improve was its pass rush. Having more edge-rushing talent to rotate into the game would help the Packers’ secondary.

Anzalone is an inside and outside linebacker who is a tremendous blitzer and has started toward a breakout junior season. Two games into the year, he has 2.5 sacks with 12 tackles. Physically, Anzalone resembles Clay Matthews and could be a steal for Green Bay. Anzalone could play on the inside and rush off the edge. He would be a good scheme fit for the Packers.

New York Giants: Demarcus Walker, DE, Florida State
It can be hard to register sacks against a mobile quarterback like Dak Prescott with a tremendous offensive line in front of him, but New York still needs to get more out of its pass rush as the Dallas’ line and Prescott will be together for many years to come. The Giants were at their best when they sent rushers in waves, so adding another pass-rusher would make sense. A rusher like Walker or Olivier Vernon could kick inside in passing situations, and they could form a nice trio with Jason Pierre-Paul.

Walker started off his senior season with a tremendous four sack game against Ole Miss. He had 10.5 in 2015, but looks even better as a senior. Walker has the ability to beat right tackles or guards with speed and functional strength to shed blocks. He would be a nice fit for New York.

Baltimore Ravens: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Baltimore turned back the clock with a low-scoring victory led by an excellent defensive effort. The Ravens have more talent at receiver this year, but they could use a feature running back to lead their offense. A difference-maker like Cook could really transform Baltimore’s scoring attack and make it much more potent.

Cook would be a great fit in Marc Trestman’s offense as he is a dynamic runner and receiver. In 2016, Cook has averaged 5.1 yards per carry for 174 yards and two touchdowns. He has eight receptions for 110 yards as well. The 5-foot-11, 213-pounder has excellent speed to rip off long gains and the strength to get yards after contact. He would be a great fit in Baltimore.

Kansas City Chiefs: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
The Chiefs put together an epic comeback on Sunday, but some offensive limitations can still be seen. Running back Spencer Ware and tight end Travis Kelce were the teams’ two leading receivers, and clearly Kansas City needs more talent around Jeremy Maclin. Adding a big receiver like Sutton would make a lot of sense as a complement to the Chiefs’ passing game.

In 2016, Sutton has caught 10 passes for 274 yards with four touchdowns. He is an imposing wideout who can make big plays in all levels of the field and averaged 18 yards per catch in 2015. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder is a tremendous weapon in the red zone and could be a dangerous receiver on the other side from Jeremy Maclin. Sutton would make a ton of sense as the Chiefs’ first-round pick.

Denver Broncos: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
The Broncos’ defense allowed the Panthers to move the ball through the air in the first half before halftime adjustments saw Denver close up holes in the secondary. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Broncos are in the cornerback market after this season. They have spoken with teams about trading Aqib Talib, who has a big contract and off-the-field issues. If Denver moves on from Talib, adding a third cornerback to pair with Chris Harris and Bradley Roby will be necessary.

The 5-foot-11, 191-pound White is a cover corner who showed well in his matchup against Amari Cooper in 2014, and if the Broncos draft White, that experience would be helpful in Denver’s two games per season taking on Cooper. In this season’s opener, White played really well with four tackles and an interception returned 21 yards for a touchdown. He returned a punt for a touchdown in Week 2.

White is a cover corner who is very adept at running the route and preventing separation. He would be a great fit in Wade Phillips’ 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.

Dallas Cowboys:
The Cowboys entered this season with super-high expectations, but before the Week 1 game those took a serious hit. Starting quarterback Tony Romo was hurt in the preseason and will miss multiple games once again. Linebacker Rolando McClain, defensive end Randy Gregory and defensive end Demarcus Lawrence were all slapped with multi-game suspensions to open the season as well. Between those positions and the secondary, Dallas already has some clear needs to address in the 2017 offseason.

The defensive end position is a huge need that Dallas will have to address. Lawrence and Gregory have shown that the Cowboys can’t rely on them to avoid suspension. Thus, adding another edge rusher would make a lot of sense. In the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Dallas could target a player like Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, Missouri’s Charles Harris or Michigan State’s Malik McDowell. Another early round talent who would be a good fit for Rod Marinelli is Florida State’s Demarcus Walker.

If Jaylon Smith can make a full recovery from his devastating knee injury, Dallas will already have a potential replacement for McClain or Sean Lee, so the Cowboys can probably wait until Day 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft to find some linebacker depth.

Dallas passed on Jalen Ramsey for Ezekiel Elliott in the 2016 NFL Draft, and defensive back will continue to be a problem as Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard illustrated in Week 1. Thus, Dallas will have to consider a cornerback in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and this could be a very strong draft for cornerback talent. Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, Florida’s Jalen Tabor, USC’s Adoree’ Jackson, Clemson’s Cordrea Tankersley and LSU’s Tre’Davious White are all potential first-round picks. Taking a cornerback in Round 1 could be a necessity for the Cowboys.

Offensively, Dallas is set with a great running game for many years to come with its offensive line and talent in the backfield. However, the Cowboys could use more receiving talent to help Dez Bryant. Terrance Williams has been underwhelming and is in the last year of his contract. Getting receiver help on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft would be wise for them. Some players to consider would be Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, LSU’s Travin Dural or LSU’s Malachi Dupre. Any of those three could be an upgrade as a complement for Bryant.

Even though the Cowboys have some defensive needs, if Prescott is the answer to their quarterback question, then the organization will be set up for a tremendous offense for many years to come. That would open up another Super Bowl window for Dallas.

Houston Texans:
The Texans are knocking on the door of being one of the best teams in the AFC. They have an elite defense with superstar talent. Offensively, Houston has become a dangerous team with big-play threats at the skill positions. Even though the Texans could make a push deep into the postseason this year, they still have a few needs to help them make a run at a championship in 2017 and beyond.

Houston had a superb 2016 offseason to land huge improvements at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and on the offensive line. Good drafting led the team to landing a Pro Bowl left tackle like Duane Brown as a late first-round pick, but Brown is aging and has had injuries. Finding some tackle help could be the biggest need for the Texans’ offense. They probably won’t be picking high enough to land Alabama’s Cam Robinson or Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, but Bucknell left tackle Julie’n Davenport could be a steal for them late in the first or in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

The other offensive need for Houston could be tight end. If rookie Stephen Anderson doesn’t provide the receiving element that the Texans need out of the position, taking a tight end in the early rounds could make sense. This could be a great year to target tight ends as Michigan’s Jake Butt, Alabama’s O.J. Howard and Ole Miss’ Even Engram look like instant contributors. There other good tight end prospects for Day 2 and the mid-rounds.

Defensively, the Texans have a few needs. Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis would be a perfect replacement and upgrade over Brian Cushing, but Davis may not make it to Houston’s first-round pick. Still, finding Cushing’s replacement is necessary. Houston also needs to upgrade the safety position. Florida free safety Marcus Maye would be a good fit in Romeo Crennel’s defense. On the defensive line, Christian Covington and Devon Still could be adequate as replacements for Jared Crick, but if they don’t perform well this season, landing a five-technique to start opposite J.J. Watt will be necessary.

If Brock Osweiler plays well and continues to develop under Bill O’Brien, the Texans have a Super Bowl window open over the next few seasons. A few minor tweaks to the roster could push Houston over the top.

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