Monday Morning Draft – Week 8

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 Shizer for Kizer:

Cleveland Browns
Cleveland maintained its draft status with a loss to the Jets. Once again, the Browns played well in the first half before letting the game get away in the second half. New York came back to drop the Browns to 0-8 on the season. They are the only winless team in the NFL. Obviously, Cleveland has a huge rebuilding process, and it all starts with finding a future franchise quarterback. Perhaps the Browns won’t blow it like they did last spring when they passed on Carson Wentz, but with a baseball general manager running the Browns, you can’t have any confidence that the franchise has the people in place to get it right.

San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers had their bye in Week 8. Last week. San Francisco scored the first 14 points, but after that, it was all Tampa Bay as the Bucs rolled on the road. The 49ers are 1-6 and look like they could be the worst team in the league as the Browns play closer games on a weekly basis. San Francisco is in for a long year with a roster that lacks talent thanks to the poor decisions made by general manager Trent Baalke. For example, it is an unacceptable failure to go into a season with Blaine Gabbert as the starting quarterback. The 49ers’ Week 1 win was a fluke, and they could easily go 1-15 this season. If they land the No. 1-overall pick, getting a franchise quarterback is the priority.

Chicago Bears
The Bears play tonight against the Vikings. and that game could get ugly versus a talented Minnesota team. Last week. Chicago lost on Thursday night to the Packers. The Bears kept the game close heading into the fourth quarter before Green Bay pulled away. There doesn’t seem to be much hope for Chicago to turn it around as the roster is lacking talent at a number of positions. The Bears (1-6) should remain in contention for the No. 1 pick throughout the season. If they land the No. 1-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, it would be time to release or trade Jay Cutler while starting the rebuilding process with DeShone Kizer.

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.

Kansas City Chiefs: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
The Chiefs cruised over the hapless Colts. The defense kept Andrew Luck in check, completely shut down the Indianapolis rushing offense, and scored offensively despite the Colts limiting Spencer Ware. Kansas City was once again led in tackles by Derrick Johnson, but the great veteran can’t play forever. Adding a young talent to play with Johnson for a year or two and then take over the Chiefs’ defense would make sense.

In the middle to late portion of the first round, the Chiefs could find a great fit in Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham. He is an instinctive linebacker who is a very good tackler and tremendous at getting off blocks. This season, Cunningham has 85 tackles with 13.5 for a loss, one forced fumble and one pass broken up. He is also effective in pass coverage. Cunningham would be a wise long-term selection for Kansas City in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Oakland Raiders: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
All year, the Raiders have been weak at middle linebacker and finding an upgrade for that position is critical for the offseason. Oakland needs a run defender who also has the speed and athleticism to contribute in pass coverage. The Raiders are on pace to be picking late in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, so a player like Foster could be a good fit for them.

One of the steadily rising players this season has been Foster. Sources say that Foster has lost weight, and that has really paid off as he has impressed NFL evaluators with speed and athleticism. In 2016, Foster has 53 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, and two passes broken up.

Foster doesn’t have the instincts of other linebacker prospects like Denzel Perryman or former teammate Reggie Ragland, but Foster has more of a skill set than those players. Teams also think that Foster is a better prospect than Stephone Anthony, who was a late first-round pick to the Saints. Thus, Foster could end up being a late first-round pick in speaking with multiple NFL sources.

New England Patriots: Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson
LeGarrette Blount has been an unsung hero of New England’s fantastic start to the 2016 season. Blount has run hard all year, but the Patriots’ offense is better when they have a speedy back to platoon with him. On Sunday, Buffalo contained Blount and the Patriots didn’t have a speed back to turn to. An injury has kept Dion Lewis from being that player thus far, but in the long term, the Patriots could use a more reliable back to help Blount.

Gallman (6-0, 210) isn’t undersized, but he is a quick, slashing back who uses speed to hurt defenses. In 2016, Gallman has averaged 5.2 yards per carry for 571 yards with seven touchdowns. As a sophomore and freshman, he showed some receiving skills with 45 receptions in those two years. Gallman could be a nice value pick for New England on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Carolina Panthers: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Once again, the Panthers saw Cam Newton take a beating. The NFL league office has to do something to correct the horrible officiating and allowing a single player to get hit so much without fair late-hit or roughing-the-passer calls that other quarterbacks get. However, Carolina also has to do its part at improving the protection for its franchise quarterback. The Panthers’ starting offensive tackles are terrible and need to be upgraded.

McGlinchey could be the only prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft who is close to being a true franchise left tackle. Alabama’s Cam Robinson would be an upgrade as well, but McGlinchey is a better pass protector who projects to being a better pro. He is quick, athletic, and has some natural bending skills. If the Panthers could get McGlinchey in the first round, that would be an immediate upgrade to their protection for Newton.

New Orleans Saints: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
The Saints held on to a tight victory over the Seahawks in an impressive win for New Orleans. This season, the Saints’ pass rush took a big hit before the games even began when Hau’oli Kikaha went out for the season and rookie Sheldon Rankins landed on injured reserve. New Orleans could use more edge rush for its defense, and that would help the team’s vulnerable secondary.

Barnett continues to show that he is a natural pass-rusher who has the ability to cause a lot of problems in the backfield. He has 36 tackles with 14.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, two passes batted, one interception and two forced fumbles so far during a fantastic junior season. Barnett is one sack away from his third straight double-digit sack season at Tennessee. While Barnett isn’t threatening to supplant Myles Garrett as the No. 1 edge rusher for the 2017 NFL Draft, Barnett is putting a strangle hold on the No. 2 spot, and that could land him in the top-10 picks. He would be a great addition for the Saints if they’re picking high enough to land him.

Houston Texans: Marcus Maye, S, Florida
All year, the safety position has been a weakness for the Texans, and that was seen again on Sunday as Eric Ebron (7-79) dominated backup safety Corey Moore. Houston has been without starter Quintin Demps because of an injury, but he really should be the organization’s third safety. This offseason, the Texans could look to acquire two new starting safeties to bolster the back end of their defense.

Maye would be a good fit for Houston because of his pass-coverage skills. Maye is a talented free safety who covers a lot of ground and is able to play some man coverage on tight ends or wide receivers. He also flashes good open-field tackling and would help Houston’s run defense. In 2016, Maye has 38 tackles with five passes broken up and one interception. It would make sense for the Texans to target Maye late in the first round or perhaps trade up in the second round.

Tennessee Titans: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The Titans got to .500 on Thursday night as they rolled the Jacksonville Jaguars behind their tough rushing attack and improving young quarterback Marcus Mariota. Tennessee did allow Blake Bortles to throw for over 200 yards in the final two quarters though. This season, the Titans’ secondary has vulnerable through the air, and adding more talent in the backend is necessary this offseason.

Adams is a physical force as a safety who is a superb run defender, yet also has the ability to contribute to pass coverage. A week ago, he helped limit Ole Miss dynamic receiving tight end Evan Engram to three catches for 15 yards. Adams has 50 tackles with three pass breakups and a forced fumble on the season. He is also is a weapon on special teams coverage units.

Adams should be a starter quickly in the NFL. The Titans could have two selections in the middle of the first round with their selection and the Rams’ first-round pick. Adams would make a lot of sense for one of those choices.

Team Draft Report:

In this section, we take a deeper look at specific teams and where they stand in regards to the 2017 NFL Draft.

Indianapolis Colts:
In speaking with league coaches recently, the Colts were singled out for having one of the worst rosters in the NFL. Indianapolis and New Orleans were mentioned as teams that have some of the worst talent in the NFL, but are bailed out because they have great quarterbacks. Clearly, the Colts have holes throughout their roster as general manager Ryan Grigson has done a terrible job of drafting since being the lucky GM who happened to have the No. 1-overall pick the year Andrew Luck was in the draft. The mistakes of taking Bjoern Werner in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft and trading a first-round pick for Trent Richardson are hurting the Colts tremendously. Additionally, there hasn’t been enough impact from the second-day and mid-round picks under Grigson.

I believe in the philosophy that one draft mistake begets another. For example, the Colts took Werner over DeAndre Hopkins while using a first- and third-round pick on wide receivers in the following two drafts. Imagine if Luck had a combination of Hopkins and T.Y. Hilton to throw to. Werner was a bust, but Hopkins is one of the best wideouts in the NFL. Then later, the Colts took receivers in Donte Moncrief and first-rounder Philip Dorsett when they badly needed edge rushers. With the pick given away for Richardson, the Colts could have had an edge rusher like Dee Ford, a cornerback like Darqueze Dennard, or a cornerback like Bradley Roby. Dorsett was taken over Preston Smith, who is a good young edge rusher for the Redskins. So, you can see that draft mistakes lead to others.

Therefore, the best thing for the Colts’ future would be to fire Grigson. They should hire Packers executive Alonzo Highsmith as their general manager as Highsmith has helped Green Bay maintain a talented roster despite picking late in each round every year over the past decade. In that time, Green Bay has won a Super Bowl and been a contender for more championships each season as a perennial playoff team.

Whoever is the Colts general manager next year, they could operate under the strategy of taking the best defensive player available at any of their picks. The top two needs to target are a cornerback and a pass-rusher.

High in the first round, there should be some excellent cornerback options, including USC’s Adoree’ Jackson, Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, Florida’s Jalen Tabor and Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore. Any of them would be an upgrade over the corners around Vontae Davis. If Indianapolis targets an edge rusher in the first round, the players who would make sense include Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, Missouri’s Charles Harris or Alabama’s Tim Williams. Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen would be a great pick, but the Colts probably won’t be picking high enough to land him.

Other needs for the Indianapolis to address on Day 2 and the mid-rounds include inside linebacker, safety, offensive tackle, guard, and running back. Frank Gore is winding down his great career in Indianapolis, but the needs are so bad on the defensive side of the ball that the Colts will probably have to wait on finding a new running back.

The one, and only, thing the Colts have going for them right now is a young franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck. A good general manager and coaching staff could win multiple Super Bowls with Luck. That would quickly change if Highsmith is brought in to replace Grigson.

New York Jets:
The Jets were hoping to make a playoff push this year, but things fell apart on them in the first half of the season thanks to poor quarterback play and some problems in the secondary. They kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a win in Cleveland, but the Jets don’t look good enough to win a wild card this season. New York has some talent on the roster, but the organization has a number of holes to plug before the team can legitimately challenge New England for the AFC East.

The biggest question mark for New York is the quarterback position. Obviously, Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the quarterback of the future, and Geno Smith could be done with the Jets. New York might be better off benching Fitzpatrick to play Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg. Perhaps the team can get some answers from those young signal-callers if they are the opportunity to play. It would be understandable if Hackenberg isn’t ready to play considering how things went in his collegiate career and the fact that he is a rookie. But the Jets have developed Petty for a year and half, so giving him the chance to show what he can do makes sense. Perhaps New York will look to bring in a veteran like Jay Cutler in the offseason while continuing to develop its young signal-callers.

Assuming quarterback isn’t a high priority, the Jets have plenty of other areas to address. All year, they have had coverage problems. Darrelle Revis has been in decline for years, and Dee Milliner was a bust. Revis has played better in recent weeks after a terrible start, but he still will never be the player he was. New York is fortunate that the 2017 NFL Draft looks very strong at cornerback. High in the first round, there should be some excellent options, including USC’s Adoree’ Jackson, Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, Florida’s Jalen Tabor and Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore. Any of them would be an upgrade over the corners around Revis and could quickly supplant Revis as New York’s No. 1 corner. The organization could even think of doubling up on cornerback on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft to give the roster a young tandem.

Another prime need on the Jets’ roster is a young running back. Matt Forte was a nice signing for New York, but he isn’t a long-term starter. This is a talented running back class, so the Jets could target some players on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft. If Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, or Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara slip to the second round, they would all be great values. Other second-day picks to consider include Clemson’s Wayne Gallman, Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd or Oregon’s Royce Freeman.

New York could also use a young edge rusher to help put heat on the quarterback off the edge. A great fit for Todd Bowles’ defense would be Alabama outside linebacker Ryan Anderson. He would make sense in Round 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft. Other second-day players to consider would be Florida State’s Demarcus Walker, Auburn’s Carl Lawson or Louisville’s Devonte Fields. If the Jets wanted to get an edge rusher in the first round, the top candidates to consider would be Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, Missouri’s Charles Harris or Alabama’s Tim Williams.

On offense, there are some other lesser needs to address, including offensive line depth and competition. New York could also think of a young understudy for Brandon Marshall. Marshall is aging and is always a risk to have in the locker room.

If the Jets have the quarterback of the future on their roster with Petty or Hackenberg, they should be in good position for general manager Mike Maccagnan to build a winner. The question mark of the quarterback position, however, really freezes everything until a solution is found there.

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