Monday Morning Draft – Week 17

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
Congratulations to the Cleveland Browns for securing the No. 1-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Browns went to overtime, but lost to the Steelers to finish 1-15 on the season, narrowly edging out the San Francisco 49ers for the first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

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.

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: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
The Eagles were able to get a win over the Cowboys on Sunday with a combined 114 yards rushing on 30 carries. Byron Marshall (10-42) led Philadelphia in rushing, and one of the Eagles’ top priorities for the offseason is finding a feature back. If they could land Cook in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, that would be a huge addition to help Carson Wentz in his second season.

Cook is a devastating runner with tremendous speed that can carve up a defense. He is athletic, shifty, and a tough runner who can handle a big workload. On top of being a great runner, Cook is a superb receiver out of the backfield. The junior averaged six yards per carry in 2016 for 1,765 yards with 19 touchdowns. He also made 33 receptions for 488 yards and a touchdown. Cook is similar to Jamaal Charles, so he would be a great fit for Doug Pederson. The Eagles just have to hope that Cook gets to their first-round pick.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The last wide receiver named Mike Williams didn’t work out for Tampa Bay, but there is no doubt that this Mike Williams would be an instant upgrade for the Buccaneers. He could give Jameis Winston dual No.1 receivers with Mike Evans to help the Bucs’ young franchise quarterback lead the team to the playoffs in the years to come.

On the year, Williams is up to 90 receptions for 1,267 yards and 10 touchdowns entering the championship against Alabama. He is a big wide receiver who is excellent at winning 50-50 passes and is a dangerous threat in the red zone. Williams 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 Tampa Bay.

New York Jets: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The Jets were able to cruise over the Bills, who had EJ Manuel and Cardale Jones playing quarterback, but throughout the 2016 season, the Jets had a lot of problems in pass coverage. Darrelle Revis is declining, but they could help him out by finding another corner to cover the No. 1 receivers some of the time.

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 five pass breakups entering the championship game against Clemson. Humphrey was able to limit Washington’s John Ross, and if Humphrey can do that with Clemson’s Mike Williams, that could give NFL teams further evidence about Humphrey’s No. 1 corner potential. Taking him with their first-round pick of the 2017 NFL Draft could help reduce the Jets’ coverage issues next year.

Minnesota Vikings: D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
The Vikings enjoyed an amazing career from Adrian Peterson, but now is the time for them to start preparing for the day when the veteran won’t be their feature back. Peterson can’t play forever. He is aging and has a lot of wear and tear on his tires. Jerick McKinnon (16-89) had a nice game against the Bears on Sunday, but this season showed that McKinnon is more of a backup quality runner in the NFL.

Foreman (6-1, 249) had a tremendous 2016 season as one of the most productive runners in the nation. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry on the year for 2,028 yards with 15 touchdowns. Foreman isn’t much of a receiver – seven receptions for 75 yards in 2016 -, but he is a load as a runner who can run over the opposition. As a sophomore, Foreman averaged 7.2 yards per carry for 681 yards and five touchdowns. The Vikings could target Foreman in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft and come away with a rejuvenated physical rushing attack.

Indianapolis Colts: Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
The Colts enjoyed the final game of Robert Mathis’ career as he notched one of their two sacks against Jacksonville. Indianapolis has lacked an edge rush for years, and that is a result of the busted pick on Bjoern Werner. In the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, taking an edge rusher like Harris would make a lot of sense.

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 Colts’. Considering their lack of talent on the edge, Harris could contribute immediately for them.

Cincinnati Bengals: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
The ideal 2017 NFL Draft for the Bengals would be to land an edge rusher opposite Carlos Dunlap in Round 1. Michael Johnson is not a consistent pass-rusher, while Margus Hunt is entering free agency after not panning out. Will Clarke give the Bengals a third rotational rusher, but a player like Barnett would be a perfect addition to Cincinnati’s talented defense.

Barnett was a model of consistency in college as he produced double-digit sack seasons in all three of his years at Tennessee. The junior turned in a superb 2016 season with some huge games against good opponents. He totaled 56 tackles with 19 for a loss, 13 sacks, two forced fumbles, five passes broken up and one interception on the year. Barnett on the other side from Dunlap with Geno Atkins on the inside could form a deadly pass rush for Cincinnati.

Tennessee Titans: Damore’ea Stringefellow, WR, Ole Miss
The Titans enjoyed the emergence of Rishard Matthews this season as a reliable receiver. Still, they need more receiving targets to help Marcus Mariota. With their extra picks in the 2017 NFL Draft – an extra first-rounder and an extra third-rounder -, the Titans could come away with a few weapons for their young franchise quarterback. If Tennessee took a speed receiver like John Ross in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, a big wideout like Stringefellow would be a great pick in Round 3.

Stringefellow (6-2, 219) took over for Laquon Treadwell for 2016 and turned in 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 benefited 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.

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.

Cleveland Browns:
Power player is not a description that one would think about for the Cleveland Browns, but in the 2017 NFL Draft, that is what the Browns are going to be. They hold the No. 1-overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft along with a second first-round pick – from the Eagles -, two second-round picks and a third-round pick. With five picks among the top-80 selections, the Browns could do a lot to remake their roster.

The Browns’ decision to pass on Carson Wentz in the 2016 NFL Draft makes one think they might not have the decision-makers in place to lead the turnaround of the franchise. Cleveland could have solved its quarterback quandary with Wentz, but that issue has continued since deciding to trade down with Philadelphia. If the Browns choose to go with a quarterback in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, they probably will have to take him with the first pick because they can’t count on teams like the 49ers and Bears passing on the quarterbacks. It will be a huge decision for Cleveland to go with either North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, or Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer. The Browns could wait until the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft with Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, California’s Davis Webb, Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes II and Miami’s Brad Kaaya being players to consider.

The other huge need on Cleveland’s roster is offensive line help. The blocking was horrible in 2016 as the team really missed Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz. With their other first-round pick, the Browns could target a player like Alabama’s Cam Robinson or Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey. Either one could start out at right tackle and potentially be the eventual replacement for standout left tackle Joe Thomas. There isn’t a lot of offensive line talent from the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft, but Cleveland could target players like Temple’s Dion Dawkins, Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton, Florida State’s Roderick Johnson or Kutztown’s Jordan Morgan.

Defensively, the Browns need help at safety and cornerback. If they took a cornerback in Round 1 during the 2017 NFL Draft, they could target players like Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, Florida’s Quincy Wilson, Washington’s Sidney Jones, USC’s Adoree’ Jackson or Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore. This is a strong safety draft, so the Browns could land a quality safety – either free (FS) or strong (SS) – on the second day. Candidates to consider on Day 2 would be Florida’s Marcus Maye (FS), Texas A&M’s Justin Evans (SS), Auburn’s Johnathan Ford (SS/FS), Kansas’ Fish Smithson (SS/FS), BYU’s Kai Nacua (SS) and Alabama’s Eddie Jackson (FS).

It wouldn’t surprise me if the Browns look to trade down again with their first-round picks. That seems to be the philosophy of their front office to add picks and the amount of young talents coming onto their roster. However, Cleveland needs some elite talents and franchise players to build around. This will be a fascinating offseason for the Browns.

Houston Texans:
Prior to the 2016 season, the Texans were hoping to make a jump with a run deep into the postseason. The hopes of that were made very unlikely when the best player on their team went out after Week 3 with a season-ending injury. It still is pretty amazing that Houston had the No .1 defense in the NFL entering Week 17 without J.J. Watt, the best defensive player in the league. The Texans also lost one of the most talented young cornerbacks in the NFL in Kevin Johnson. Fortunately for them, Jadeveon Clowney turned in a tremendous season and other young players like A.J. Bouye and Bernardrick McKinney emerged as excellent defenders. Still the Texans remain a work in progress in terms of challenging for the Super Bowl because of limitations on the offensive side of the ball.

A year ago, the Texans had a mediocre rushing offense, and they improved on that significantly in 2016 as they entered Week 17 with the sixth-ranked rushing attack despite not having a quarterback who challenged defenses. The front office and coaching staff did a great job of upgrading their rushing attack led by the signing of Lamar Miller. The addition of Brock Osweiler hasn’t worked out, but Houston still won the AFC South for the second straight season without Watt. With Andrew Luck being healthy and the Titans being vastly improved, it is pretty impressive that the Texans were able to win the division. Still, Houston needs to add more talent at quarterback for the 2017 season.

Tom Savage and Brock Osweiler could compete over the offseason. Savage has flashed some arm talent, but Houston will probably look to get more talent. A veteran like Jay Cutler could be worth considering, depending on the cost. More likely the Texans will have to look to the 2017 NFL Draft. They aren’t picking high enough to land first-round prospects like DeShone Kizer or Mitch Trubisky, so the Texans will have to look to the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft. The quarterbacks to consider on Day 2 are Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes II, California’s Davis Webb, and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Webb might fit the mold of what Bill O’Brien is looking for, but Mahomes could be the sleeper who Houston targets.

Offensively, Houston also needs help with a receiving tight end and right tackle. In the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the team could target a receiving weapon at tight end like Alabama’s O.J. Howard or Miami’s David Njoku. If the Texans wait until the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft, they could consider players like South Alabama’s Gerald Everett, Ole Miss’ Evan Engram, Clemson’s Jordan Leggett or Florida International’s Jonnu Smith.

The Texans’ offensive line was weak in 2016 because of a litany of injuries. Starting center Nick Martin went out for the year in the preseason. Right tackle Derek Newton suffered what looks like a career-ending injury in the first half of the year. Guard Jeff Allen was in and out of the lineup with injuries, and left tackle Duane Brown missed the first month of the year. A first-round tackle would make a lot of sense for the Texans, but this isn’t a good tackle draft, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they fill that need in free agency with a developmental talent on Day 3.

Even though the Texans entered Sunday with the No. 1 defense in the NFL, they have needs on that side of the ball. For one, Houston needs a safety upgrade next to Quintin Demps. LSU safety Jamal Adams won’t get to the organization’s pick, and Ohio State’s Malik Hooker wouldn’t either if he enters the 2017 NFL Draft. Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers, meanwhile, isn’t the kind of coverage safety the Texans need. On the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft, some good candidates to consider would be Florida’s Marcus Maye, Kansas’ Fish Smithson, Auburn’s Johnathan Ford and BYU’s Kai Nacua.

The other need on defense is an inside linebacker. Brian Cushing is a team leader, but his play has really tailed off. He is a solid run defender, but is limited in pass coverage and his days of being a play-maker are long gone. In the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Texans could consider Alabama’s Reuben Foster or Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham. They could also think of Florida’s Jarrad Davis during the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft. He would upgrade the speed in the middle of Houston’s defense.

It will be hard for the Texans to fill all of their needs, but getting Watt back next year will be a huge addition for them. Additonally, Jadeveon Clowney is getting better and better from game to game. He could be even more dominant as he enters his prime. The Texans could win a Super Bowl with a Ravens- or Buccaneers-like defensive-led team. They just need to find a Brad Johnson or Trent Dilfer quarterback who is just good enough to manage the game into wins. If the Texans have that with Savage or find the appropriate quarterback this offseason, Watt and Clowney could be holding up a Lombardi Trophy together in the near future.

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