Monday Morning Draft – Week 16

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
An 0-16 season looked very likely, but then Cleveland pulled off a shocking upset of the Chargers. Fortunately for the Browns, they maintained the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft because San Francisco also won in Week 16. The Browns still hold the worst record in the NFL at 1-14, so they are in position to land the No. 1 pick heading into Week 17.

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. After all, the organization and coaching staff preferred blooming bust Jared Goff to the impressive Wentz.

San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers had a shot at getting the No. 1-overall pick after the Browns won their first game of the season, but San Francisco pulled off a comeback win over the terrible Rams. The 49ers are now 2-13. If they lose next week and the Browns win, the 49ers could still get the No. 1-overall pick.

San Francisco lacks talent thanks to the poor decisions made by general manager Trent Baalke, so winning two in a row seems unlikely. 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. Regardless of San Francisco landing the No. 1-overall pick, getting a franchise quarterback is the priority.

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.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
The Jaguars’ biggest need for their roster is to improve their offensive line. Luke Joeckel was a bust as the No. 2-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Jacksonville also saw left tackle Kelvin Beachum and right tackle Jeremy Parnell have decent, but underwhelming, 2016 seasons. If the Jaguars draft a left tackle like Robinson, they could kick Beachum inside to left guard and improve their line at two spots.

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 latches 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.

Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The Eagles badly need to get some receiving weapons for Carson Wentz. Nelson Agholor has been a huge disappointment this season. Jordan Matthews is a quality pro receiver, but he is more of a No. 2 or 3 receiver on a good team. Getting Wentz a receiver with size who can make plays in the red zone would be a nice addition to the Philadelphia offense. Having a young No. 1 receiver to grow with Wentz should be a top priority for the 2017 offseason for the Eagles.

On the year, Williams is up to 84 receptions for 1,171 yards and 10 touchdowns entering the college football playoff. He is a big wide receiver who is excellent at winning 50-50 passes and is a dangerous threat in the red zone. He has some run-after-the-catch skills, but needs to improve his hands to cut down on the drops. In the middle portion of the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Williams looks like a good fit for Philadelphia.

Cleveland Browns: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The Browns were able to get their first win of the season thanks in large part to a missed field goal on the final play of the game. Philip Rivers still threw for 322 yards with two scores and an interception against them. This year, whatever cornerback is playing across from Joe Haden has been picked on, and Haden will be having an offseason of rehabbing after surgery. Given that Justin Gilbert was a bust, a cornerback to pair with Haden is necessary for Cleveland to improve in 2017.

Humphrey is a big, physical cornerback with the speed and athleticism to run with receivers. He is good at preventing separation and keeping receivers from getting open. In 2016, he’s totaled 33 tackles with two tackles for a loss, two interceptions and four pass breakups entering the playoff game against Washington. If Humphrey can limit John Ross, that could give NFL teams further evidence about his No. 1 corner potential. Taking Humphrey with their second first-round pick would be a good fit for the Browns.

Washington Redskins: Fish Smithson, S, Kansas
Washington’s cornerbacks turned in a huge performance to help their team drop the Bears; both Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland recorded two interceptions. Still, the Redskins allowed Cameron Meredith (9-135) and Alshon Jeffery (5-92) to do some damage through the air. Washington could use some safety upgrades to shore up the team’s pass coverage.

One of the sleepers who is a potential steal in the 2017 NFL Draft is Kansas safety Fish Smithson. He was superb over the last two years playing for a struggling program. In 2016, Smithson totaled 93 tackles with seven passes broken up, four interceptions and two forced fumbles. He played really well in pass coverage and run defense. In 2015 on an 0-12 team, Smithson led the nation with 7.9 solo tackles per game on 87 solo tackles. He totaled 111 stops with two interceptions, five passes broken up and one forced fumble on the year. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder is versatile and could be an upgrade for the Redskins.

Green Bay Packers: Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
The Packers’ defense allowed Sam Bradford to complete 34-of-50 passes for 382 yards and three touchdowns in Week 16. Nick Perry registered two sacks, but he is entering free agency after the season. Even if Perry is re-signed, Green Bay could use more edge-rushing talent considering Julius Peppers is nearing the end of his great career. Landing Harris in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft would be a very good value for the Packers and help them to protect leads in the second half of games.

In 2016, Harris recorded 61 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, two passes batted and two forced fumbles. He is a fast edge rusher who has some functional strength and athleticism. Harris would be a great fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense like the Packers. With Clay Matthews drawing attention, Harris could contribute quickly and help Green Bay limit opposing quarterbacks.

San Francisco 49ers: Damore’ea Stringefellow, WR, Ole Miss
The 49ers pulled off a comeback in Los Angeles to get their second win of the season. San Francisco was able to move the ball late despite its receivers lacking talent as a group. Assuming the 49ers grab a quarterback with their first pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, they are going to need some wide receiver talent for that new signal-caller. Targeting some wideouts with big upside on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draftraft would be wise to help the new quarterback in San Francisco.

Stringefellow (6-2, 219) took over for Laquon Treadwell for 2016 and had a quality season for the Rebels. It could have been better if Chad Kelly hadn’t gone down with an injury during the season. Stringefellow totaled 46 receptions for 716 yards with six touchdowns in 2016. As a sophomore (36-503-5) and freshman (20-259-1), Stringefellow contributed behind Treadwell and Evan Engram.

Stringefellow has a nice combination of size and speed. He might have benefitted from returning for his senior year to produce more as the No. 1 target before going pro, but his decision to enter the 2017 NFL Draft instead could make him a good value on the second day.

Atlanta Falcons: Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
The Falcons could be poised to go on a run in January as they have an offense that is a point machine and capable of scoring on any defense. If Atlanta comes up short, the offense is still young with plenty of fire power to lead the team back in 2017. The Falcons could look to continue to build up their defensive talent, and adding a young interior disruptor to replace the aging Jonathan Babineaux would help them to collapse the pocket with Vic Beasley coming off the edge.

If Brantley makes it to the Falcons’ first-round pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, he would be a great value that late. Brantley is a top-20 talent who could slide because a lot of teams don’t need a 4-3 three-technique defensive tackle. Entering the Outback Bowl versus Iowa, Brantley has 28 tackles with 8.5 for a loss, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble this season. The numbers don’t indicate how impressive he has been for the Gators. Brantley could be an interior force for the Falcons if they are able to land him in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

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.

Carolina Panthers:
A year ago, the Panthers were the No. 1 seed in the NFC and on their way to Super Bowl, but the past week illustrated that Carolina is in need of some improvements to get back into playoff contention next year. The Panthers still have a lot of assets on their roster for a quick rebound, but making improvements on both sides of the ball are necessary for the organization.

The biggest goal for the offseason has to be improving the edge protection for Cam Newton. The weak offensive tackle tandem of Michael Oher and Mike Remmers both cost the Panthers the Super Bowl and allowed Newton to take another beating during the 2016 season. With their first-round pick, the Panthers should have a shot at an offensive tackle. Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson or Notre Dame left tackle Mike McGlinchey would be upgrades. Robinson is expected to enter the 2017 NFL Draft, while McGlinchey has suggested he might return to Notre Dame. Contacts in South Bend, however, think McGlinchey will flip his decision to leaving school like former teammate Will Fuller did last year. Another tackle prospect to consider would be Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk, but he would be more of a trade-down target. Taking a left tackle with its first-round pick should be the priority for Carolina.

The other need on the offensive side of the ball is for a feature running back. Jonathan Stewart is nearing the 30-year-old mark and is injury prone. Getting a more consistent rushing attack would be another way to reduce the number of hits that are inflicted on Newton. On the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Panthers could target running backs like Texas’ D’Onta Foreman, Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara, Clemson’s Wayne Gallman or Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine.

Defensively, the Panthers missed Josh Norman this season, and their young defensive backs need time to develop. James Bradberry was terrible on Sunday against Atlanta. Carolina could use a safety upgrade next to Kurt Coleman, and this is a deep safety draft – both for free (FS) and strong (SS) safeties. On the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft, some good candidates for the Panthers to select include Florida’s Marcus Maye, Texas A&M’s Justin Evans (SS), Texas A&M’s Armani Watts (FS), Kansas’ Fish Smithson (SS/FS), BYU’s Kai Nacua (SS) and Alabama’s Eddie Jackson (FS).

Another need to consider would be some edge-rushing help. Mario Addison has been a good find, but Kony Ealy and Charles Johnson haven’t do much this season. Illinois’ Carroll Phillips, Stanford’s Solomon Thomas, Auburn’s Carl Lawson or Florida State’s Demarcus Walker could be players to consider in Round 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft if Carolina’s decision-makers decide to select for the defensive line.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the Panthers are back in the playoffs next season. They still have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball with a franchise quarterback and a good coaching staff that has proven they can win. Upgrading the offensive line and rushing attack could make a night-and-day difference for Carolina in 2017.

Pittsburgh Steelers:
Prior to the 2016 season, the Steelers were my pick to win the AFC, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they still end up in the Super Bowl this year. The Steelers have elite offensive talent who can carry them deep into the playoffs. The team’s offensive play-makers aren’t going anywhere, so Pittsburgh should have a championship window for the next couple of years. Building up the defense is the top priority to get another Lombardi Trophy for one of the great franchises in the NFL.

The Steelers have recently used a lot of picks on the defensive front seven with some special players to build around in Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Ryan Shazier. The team’s edge rushers, on the other hand, have been a weakness even after drafting Jarvis Jones (2013) and Bud Dupree (2015) in the first round. Jones is a bust, while Dupree has yet to break out. This draft analyst was completely wrong about Jones, just like the Steelers organization itself. With the way Jones dominated at Georgia for two years, I thought he would become an excellent pro, so I was wrong on that evaluation. Pittsburgh is in need of some long-term edge rushers, and the team could be in position to land a good one early in the 2017 NFL Draft. Some edge rushers to consider in the early rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft include Alabama’s Tim Williams, Illinois’ Dawuane Smoot, Illinois’ Carroll Phillips, Auburn’s Carl Lawson, UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley and Florida State’s Demarcus Walker. Any of them would be good picks, although Williams and Phillips have serious off-the-field issues that could hurt them with the Steelers.

Another position for Pittsburgh to continue to address is cornerback. Last year, the team took Artie Burns in Round 1 of the 2016 NFL Draft, and the year before, they took Senquez Golson, who has been injured throughout his time in the NFL, in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Even if both Golson and Burns pan out, all good defenses have three talented cornerbacks as teams use their nickel defenses for roughly 70 percent of their defensive snaps. In the early rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, there should be some good cornerback options for the Steelers. Some candidates to consider include Washington’s Sidney Jones, Florida’s Jalen Tabor, Ohio State’s Gareon Conley, LSU’s Tre’Davious White and Iowa’s Desmond King. Taking a pass-rusher and a cornerback with their first two picks would make a lot of sense for the Steelers.

Offensively, Pittsburgh is in good shape; however, this could be the year to target a long-term tight end. This is a great draft for tight end talent. Ladarius Green has been injured for a lot of his debut season with Pittsburgh, while Jesse James is just backup quality. If the Steelers waited until the mid-rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, they could still have a shot at a receiving weapon. Tight prospects of Evan Engram, Jonnu Smith and Gerald Everett would all add a Jordan Reed-type receiving weapon to Pittsburgh’s offense. With Antonio Brown drawing coverage on the outside, that could be a tremendous mismatch play-maker for the Steelers.

Ben Roethlisberger is still playing at a high level, so the Steelers have a shot at getting him a third Super Bowl ring. Building up the defense is the key to making that happen in 2017 or 2018. Todd Haley has done a great job leading the Steelers to an offense that can score points on any team in the league, but now they just need a few more defensive pieces to put them over the top.

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