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 Shizer for Kizer:
Cleveland maintained its draft status with a loss to the Giants. New York dropped the Browns to 0-12 on the season, and 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 were competitive on the road, but couldn’t end the Dolphins’ win streak. The 49ers are now 1-10. San Francisco lacks talent thanks to the poor decisions made by general manager Trent Baalke, so going on a run to ruin the team’s draft positioning isn’t going to happen. As one of the examples of Baalke’s bad decisions, 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.
Other Teams In Contention
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.
Tennessee Titans: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The Tennessee secondary has been a weakness this season with the cornerback play consistently indicating that the team could use an upgrade. On Sunday, the Titans allowed backup journeyman Matt Barkley to throw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. Bears wideout Marquess Wilson had eight receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown as well. Landing a true No. 1 cornerback would make sense for Tennessee.
Humphrey is a big cornerback who has the speed and athleticism to run with receivers. He has size to match up against big wideouts and is fast enough to run with speed receivers. He is a tough tackler in the ground game as well. In 2016, Humphrey has totaled 33 tackles with two tackles for a loss, two interceptions and four pass breakups. If Humphrey enters the 2017 NFL Draft, he could be the top cornerback prospect and would make sense for Tennessee’s first-round pick from the Rams.
New Orleans Saints: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
The Saints’ defense has been bad for years, and this season, they have made struggling quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick and Jared Goff look good. New Orleans needs better cornerback play and could use upgrades to pair with Delvin Breaux. Taking a cornerback in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft would make a lot of sense for New Orleans.
The 6-foot-1, 213-pound Wilson could end up being one of the top cornerback prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft. In 2016, he has 28 tackles with six passes broken up and three interceptions. Sources say that Wilson has above-average speed. He is a longer press-man corner for the NFL with ball skills. Wilson does grab receivers a lot and could get called for a lot of pass interference penalties, so he will have to work on his hand usage in the NFL. He has above-average feel and awareness as well. Wilson has upside to develop.
New York Giants: D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
Throughout the 2016 season, the Giants have struggled to run the ball. Rashad Jennings is just a backup quality player while Paul Perkins is also a rotational backup. The lack of a rushing attack has made it harder for the Giants to pass as effectively as their talent suggests, so adding a difference-maker in the backfield would make sense to bring more balance to their offense.
The 6-foot-1, 249-pounder Foreman had a tremendous season and is one of the most productive runners in the nation. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry for 2,028 yards with 15 touchdowns. Foreman isn’t much of a receiver with seven receptions for 75 yards, but he is a load as a runner who can run over the opposition. Foreman will be an early round pick if he enters the 2017 NFL Draft.
Atlanta Falcons: Fish Smithson, S, Kansas
The Falcons were able to get a much-needed win over the Cardinals, but David Johnson exposed that Atlanta could use a coverage free safety. Johnson caught eight passes for 103 yards and a touchdown, on top of running for 58 yards on 13 carries. Atlanta could use a coverage safety to pair with Keanu Neal. Considering this is a deep safety draft, Atlanta can wait until the second day to land a good addition at the position.
Smithson has flown under the radar because he played for a bad team at Kansas, but he is a versatile safety who can cover in the deep part of the field and tackle in the ground game. In 2016, he collected 93 tackles, four interceptions, seven passes broken up and two forced fumbles. The Falcons could target Smithson on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Miami Dolphins: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
Miami’s winning streak continued over the hapless 49ers, but the game was closer than it should have been. One of the reasons for that was the 49ers ran for 193 yards on 25 carries with Colin Kaepernick (10-113) hurting Miami on the ground. It has become clear during this season that the Dolphins could use an upgrade at linebacker. They have a good defensive line, but upgrades at linebacker and cornerback would really help the defense.
In 2016, Cunningham has 109 tackles with 16.5 for a loss, two passes batted and one forced fumble. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder is a quick, instinctive linebacker who is a reliable tackler. He is a versatile player with the skill set to be a three-down starter in the NFL. Cunningham is very good at taking on and shedding blocks before making tackles. He has the length, quickness, and athleticism to be effective in pass coverage. Cunningham would make sense for the Dolphins’ first-round pick.
San Diego Chargers: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
The Chargers’ offensive line did a nice job in pass protection early in their win against Houston, but eventually they allowed more heat on Philip Rivers. The Texans’ run defense has been better of late, but the Chargers couldn’t open holes for Melvin Gordon. Last year, San Diego passed on upgrading King Dunlap, but this offseason, the team could consider adding a tackle upgrade.
Robinson benefits from a weak class of offensive tackles. He has some kinks to work out in pass protection, but he has the athleticism and feet to be a starting left tackle while also being a plus run blocker. Robinson doesn’t blast guys off the line of scrimmage, but he controls his defenders to turn them away and latchs on to them well. Consistently, he helps open holes in the ground game. Robinson looks like a lock as a top-20 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Detroit Lions: Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
The Vikings’ offensive line has been a real weakness this season, but the Lions were unable to record a sack on Thanksgiving – although a sack-fumble was lost to a penalty. Detroit could use another edge rusher to go with Ziggy Ansah. Kerry Hyder has put some pressure on the quarterback from the interior this year, but a second edge rusher who can generate consistent heat on the quarterback would upgrade the Lions’ defense.
In 2016, Harris totaled 61 tackles with 12 tackle for a loss, nine sacks, two forced fumbles, and two passes batted. The redshirt junior has a fast first step with he agility to dip under tackles and get pointed to the quarterback. Aside from his speed, he has some functional strength to shed blocks and can catch tackles by surprise with a bull rush. For the NFL, Harris will need to improve his run defense, but he is a fast, athletic pass-rusher that who Thursday night potential.
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.
The Bucs put a halt to Seattle’s building momentum as they held the Seahawks’ offense to only three points on Sunday. Still in the NFC, the Seahawks and the Cowboys appear to be the teams best positioned for the top two seeds in the NFC. With the talent on Seattle’s roster, the Super Bowl window should be open for many years to come. A strong offseason could have the Seahawks in even better position next year.
The biggest weakness on the Seahawks’ roster is the offensive line. On Sunday, th at unit was dominated by the Buccaneers’ defensive line. Seattle has to get more talent on its offensive front to protect Russell Wilson and open holes for its stable of running backs. In the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Seahawks won’t be picking high enough to land Alabama’s Cam Robinson or Notre Dame’s Mike McGinchey, but they could have a shot at Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. Sources say Nelson could be a 10-year starter, one of the better guards in the NFL, and a Pro Bowler. If he falls to Seattle’s first-round pick, that would be ideal.
If the Seahawks wait until the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft, they have some options to help their offensive line. If they want a center, they could target LSU’s Ethan Pocic. If they land him, they could move Justin Britt back to guard. For tackle help and competition, Florida State’s Roderick Johnson, Bucknell’s Julie’n Davenport, Arkansas’ Dan Skipper or UCLA’s Conor McDermott could all get consideration. A good guard to consider would include Temple’s Dion Dawkins. He probably won’t get out of Round 2.
If Seattle wants to go with a defensive player in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Florida’s Caleb Brantley would be a great addition as an interior pass-rusher and disruptor. Brantley might not get to the franchise’s Thursday night selection, however. On the second day of the 20117 NFL Draft, some candidates to consider include Iowa’s Jaleel Johnson, LSU’s Davon Godchaux, Auburn’s Montravius Adams and Notre Dame’s Jarron Jones.
Improving the offensive line is priority No. 1 this offseason, but with another good draft and perhaps some good signings in free agency, the Seahawks should continue to push for another championship.
New England Patriots:
Thus far in 2016 season, the Patriots have been the most consistent team in the AFC, and they are the heavy favorite to be representing their conference in the Super Bowl. Quarterback Tom Brady appears to be immune to age, and head coach Bill Belichick continues to out game plan the competition on a weekly basis. As New England knows all to well, anything can happen in January and in the Super Bowl. Even if Brady and Belichick come up short in their quest for their sixth championship ring this year, New England is in position to compete for a Super Bowl in 2017.
There are a few needs on the Patriots’ roster to consider addressing in the offseason. Starting on the defensive side of the ball, they could address their edge rush. Chris Long has been a good signing by New England, but he was only inked to a 1-year contract. Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones were traded away in the past year, so adding more edge-rushing talent would make sense. In the early rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, New England could target players like Illinois’ Dawuane Smoot, Missouri’s Charles Harris, Illinois’ Carroll Phillips, Auburn’s Carl Lawson or Florida State’s Demarcus Walker. All of them could fit as 4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers.
Another route New England could go would be a bigger defensive lineman. Michigan’s Chris Wormley is a Patriots style player with physicality and grit. The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder is versatile to play end or tackle in a 4-3 and also could serve as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Wormley would make sense as the Patriots’ first-round pick, but he might not get there.
Linebacker is another position to consider after dealing Collins with Dont’a Hightower entering free agency after this season. Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham or Alabama’s Reuben Foster would be good fits for New England.
Offensively, the Patriots could use offensive line help. That group failed them last year against Denver during the postseason and could be in trouble this year with some of the defenses the Patriots are poised to take on in January. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of offensive line prospects worthy of the Patriots’ first-round pick. Offensive tackles Cam Robinson (Alabama) and Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame) will be long gone if they enter the 2017 NFL Draft. The Patriots could target a guard in Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson, but even he might not get past some offensive line-needy teams like the Browns, with their second first-round selection, the Seahawks and the Texans.
On the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft, New England could target offensive line depth and competition with the likes of Florida State’s Roderick Johnson, Bucknell’s Julie’n Davenport, Arkansas’ Dan Skipper or UCLA’s Conor McDermott. Drafting a right tackle could be a necessity if Sebastian Vollmer is allowed to leave in free agency.
New England also could consider some wide receiver help if a player intrigues the organization. It never hurts to give Brady more weapons. The team has a lot of receivers that work the underneath part of the field on slants, crosses and digs, but it wouldn’t hurt to add a bigger option and a vertical receiver to work the deep sideline. Players like Clemson’s Mike Williams or SMU’s Courtland Sutton could be first-round options.
If they don’t re-sign Martellus Bennett, the Patriots could target tight end help. This is a great tight end draft. If they wanted an elite receiving tight end, an Aaron Hernandez- or Jordan Reed-type weapon would be Ole Miss’ Evan Engram. He could be devastating in the Patriots’ offense. Some mid-round options include Michigan’s Jake Butt, Florida International’s Jonnu Smith or Virginia Tech’s Bucky Hodges. If the Patriots wanted more balanced run-blocking and receiving tight ends, they could consider Clemson’s Jordan Leggett or Arkansas’ Jeremy Sprinkle.
There is no doubt that the Patriots are ready to win another Super Bowl. If they don’t do it this year, another strong draft could have them in position to win it all in 2017.
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