Monday Morning Draft – Week 2

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:

New York Jets:
New York lost to the Raiders to start 0-2 on the season. Unless Christian Hackenberg sees the field and plays well, the Jets will be targeting a franchise quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft. USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and UCLA’s Josh Rosen are all potential targets.

Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan has made a lot of shrewd moves to clear out cap space with veterans who aren’t part of the long-term plan. Moving on from Brandon Marshall, David Harris, Nick Mangold, Ryan Clady and Darrelle Revis will help the franchise to have the resources to build for the future. Maccagnan has also drafted well for New York in his three years along with helping to build the Texans playoff roster prior to that. If Jets ownership is patient enough to give him time to build it the right way, Maccagnan will turn the Jets into a talented team and have them back in the playoff mix.

San Francisco 49ers:
The 49ers almost pulled off an upset at Seattle, but the Seahawks were able to prevail 12-9. San Francisco is 0-2 to start the season, but has been more competitive than one would have thought. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan were afforded plenty of time in the form of 6-year contracts, so ownership is expected to be patient with this regime after being on its fourth head coach in four years. The 49ers are in dire need for a franchise quarterback to build around. USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and UCLA’s Josh Rosen could be fits for the 49ers’ first-round pick.

Buffalo Bills:
Buffalo lost a field goal battle with the Panthers 9-3 in North Carolina. Even though the Bills are 1-1, they appear to be headed to a season with a lot of losses as they are clearly in rebuilding mode. Through trades, Buffalo has added the Chiefs’ first-round pick, the Rams’ second-round pick and the Eagles’ third-round pick. The Bills are loaded with picks to have the ammo to move up for a quarterback, but they could easily be in position to get one with their own first-round pick. USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and UCLA’s Josh Rosen are all top targets for Buffalo.

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.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
The Steelers are still in search of a real replacement for Heath Miller. Jesse James belongs as a second or third tight end, and the Pittsburgh offense could use a true receiving threat at the tight end position. Taking Hurst in the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft would provide an instant impact for a Steelers team that is trying to win another Super Bowl while they still have Ben Roethlisberger.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Hurst would be a great fit in Todd Haley’s offense. Hurst is a tough run blocker at the point of attack with an excellent combination of size, speed and athleticism. He is a great athlete who could be a mismatch receiver in the NFL. This season, Hurst has eight catches for 106 yards and a touchdown as a receiver to go along with a rushing touchdown. In 2016, he totaled 48 catches for 616 yards. Hurst could be a dynamite addition and immediate upgrade for the Steelers offense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest
The Bucs got their season started off well as they ripped the Bears in Tampa Bay. After the Buccaneers had firm control of the game, Chicago quarterback Mike Glennon was able to pass the ball and rack up some yardage in the second half. Noah Spence was the only Bucs defender to record a sack, and Tampa Bay could use a rusher to on the other side from Spence. Having more edge-rushing talent would allow the Bucs to take advantage even more of the disruption caused by Gerald McCoy.

Ejiofor would be a great fit in Mike Smith’s defense as a left defensive end. The 6-foot-4, 275-pounder is a thick end who would complement the undersized speed of Spence at right end. Ejiofor had 10.5 sacks last season, and this year, he is off to a good start with two sacks and eight tackles. Adding more pass-rushing talent to help put teams away would make a lot of sense as a plan for the Buccaneers in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Washington Redskins: Armani Watts, S, Texas A&M
The Redskins took care of business on the road against the Rams. One of Washington’s needs to address next offseason is safety. D.J. Swearinger was only signed to a short contract, while Su’a Cravens’ future is in doubt. The safety issue for the Redskins was illustrated with Rams rookie tight end Gerald Everett (3-95) ripping off a 69-yard reception to help put Los Angeles back into a game that the Redskins were controlling. Todd Gurley (88 yards rushing, 48 yards receiving) also hurt the Washington defense. Adding more safety talent is a secondary need for the Redskins, and they could target Watts in the second or third round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Watts is an instinctive defender who is a good open-field tackler. He covers a lot of ground as a free safety and has a knack for making big plays in crunch time. In 2017, Watts has 26 tackles with two interceptions and two passes broken up. He is a well-rounded player who would be a good fit in the Redskins’ defense.

Arizona Cardinals: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The Cardinals barely beat a Colts team that is playing without Andrew Luck and was absolutely destroyed by the Rams last week. Indianapolis’ weak defense gave up 46 points to the Rams, but the Colts were able to hold Arizona to 16 points, including overtime. Carson Palmer doesn’t have much football left in him, and the Cardinals have to find their future franchise quarterback. That is the biggest priority for the organization.

Allen would be a great fit for Bruce Arians considering how the success that Arians had with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. The 6-foot-5, 233-pound Allen is similar to Roethlisberger with a powerful arm, big size, and athletic ability to make plays with his feet. Allen needs to improve his accuracy and decision-making, but he would be a good project for Arians and would make a lot of sense for the Cardinals in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Tennessee Titans: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, OLB, Oklahoma
The Titans and Jaguars were playing a close game until Tennessee pulled away in the second half. Blake Bortles and the Jaguars’ offensive line wilted under the pressure as the Titans got some big sacks out of Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. Tennessee’s veteran edge rushers are playing well, but they are aging, and the team could use a third rusher to rotate with them. That would help the Titans to put teams away in the fourth quarter.

The fast and athletic Okoronkwo is a great fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He could be a dangerous edge-rushing threat with his speed providing a mismatch against offensive tackles. In the early going of 2017, Okoronkwo has 3.5 sacks with 19 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss and one forced fumble. Okoronkwo would be fun to watch in Dick LeBeau’s defense.

New England Patriots: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
The Patriots cruised to a win over the Saints, but that was because Tom Brady absolutely destroyed New Orleans’ defense. New England’s pass defense gave up some big plays downfield to Michael Thomas, Brandon Coleman and Alvin Kamara. With Malcolm Butler entering free agency, New England probably will need to draft a corner as the franchise seems unlikely to give Butler a huge contract considering what the team paid Stephon Gilmore.

The 6-foot-1, 203-pound Davis is a big cornerback wgo has good coverage skills. He has started since his freshman season, showing an ability to battle receivers with size or speed. In 2017, Davis has 13 tackles and three passes broken up. He could make sense for the Patriots in the first or second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Houston Texans: Braden Smith, G, Auburn
The Texans’ offensive line has allowed an insane amount of sacks to open the 2017 season as they have badly missed holdout left tackle Duane Brown. The organization is without its first- and second-round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, so Houston can’t count on finding a long-term replacement for Brown. The Texans also could use help at guard. Jeff Allen has been a disappointment since being signed from Kansas City, while left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo is entering free agency and may not be worth bringing back. The Texans might be able to land a guard in the third round that could come in and compete right away.

One player who could fit that bill as an instant contributor is Auburn’s Smith. The 6-foot-6, 303-pounder is well balanced as a run blocker and pass protector. He had a tough matchup in Week 2 against Clemson’s Christian Wilkins, a future first-round pick, and had a solid performance. Wilkins had some wins, but Smith had a lot of wins as well. Smith is an athletic blocker who could use more strength, but he could add that in a pro strength and conditioning program. Smith could be a solid third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft for Houston.

Team Draft Report:

In this section, we take a deeper look at specific teams and where they stand in regards to the 2018 NFL Draft.

Los Angeles Chargers:
For years now, it seems like the Chargers have one of the more talented rosters on paper, but awful luck with injuries consistently derails seasons. Los Angeles doesn’t have many years left with aging franchise quarterback Philip Rivers, so the organization have to be aggressive to upgrade the team’s defense in order to have a shot at Rivers getting a Super Bowl ring before his career is done.

The top area to address this offseason is the secondary. I think the Chargers made a big mistake in the 2017 NFL Draft to take Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams over some defensive prospects like safety Malik Hooker or defensive lineman Jonathan Allen. Safety and the defensive line remain weaknesses for the Chargers. Eric Weddle left in free agency, while Corey Liuget has had his sack total decline for four straight seasons. Gus Bradley’s defense has Tampa 2 roots, and a disruptive interior defensive lineman is critical to the scheme. Safety play is also vital for Los Angeles with players like Travis Kelce, Amari Cooper and Demaryius Thomas in the division.

Luckily for the Chargers, this could be an excellent year to find interior defensive line talent. Georgia’s Trenton Thompson, Clemson’s Christian Wilkins, Ohio State’s DreMont Jones and Virginia’s Andrew Brown are all fast defenders at the point of attack who could fit as three-technique rushers for Bradley. One of those prospects could make a lot of sense for Los Angeles in the first round.

If the Chargers decide to go with a safety, this could be a strong draft for first-round talent at that position as well. Los Angeles probably won’t be picking high enough for Florida State’s Derwin James. Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick would be a great fit as the free safety for Bradley. Fitzpatrick’s Crimson Tide teammate Ronnie Harrison has a first-round skill set as well and could be an option if he plays up to his immense physical talent. On the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft, some options to consider would include Texas A&M’s Armani Watts and Pittsburgh’s Jordan Whitehead.

Elsewhere defensively, the Chargers could consider cornerback help after cutting Brandon Flowers. Los Angeles has a good cover corner in Jason Verrett, but he has size limitations. Taking a big corner in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, like USC’s Iman Marshall, LSU’s Kevin Toliver or Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden, could be one option for Los Angeles to consider.

Offensively, the Chargers could use some depth at running back behind Melvin Gordon. That could be a position to target in the mid-rounds. The Chargers always seem to get hit hard on the offensive line with injuries, so adding line depth would make sense in the mid-rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Chargers are running out of time with a great quarterback. The organization will have to think of taking a quarterback in the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft if one the franchise likes gets to any of its picks. If the Chargers fill a few holes, they could be a really dangerous team in the AFC.

Cincinnati Bengals:
The Bengals have been one of the better drafting teams in the NFL over the past decade. Cincinnati has a unique scouting system that doesn’t employ as large a scouting staff as most teams, but Cincinnati’s way of doing things has worked as the organization has fielded a talented roster that has produced a lot of playoff teams this decade. To get back to the playoffs and make a run in January, the objective is clear that the Bengals need to upgrade their offensive line this offseason.

The Bengals lost long-time left tackle Andrew Whitworth in free agency over the offseason, and he has been missed in the early going of 2017. Considering Whitworth’s age and how much the Rams offered him, it is somewhat understandable Cincinnati didn’t want to pay top dollar to retain Whitworth. The Bengals drafted offensive tackles in the first and second round in the 2015 NFL Draft with Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, but those two haven’t proven to be the answer yet. The team also lost Pro Bowl guard Kevin Zeitler in free agency without a clear answer for his replacement. Given how Cincinnati’s offensive line has played thus far, the Bengals should address the offensive line to upgrade their rushing attack and pass protection for Andy Dalton.

Cincinnati could target a left tackle in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft with Washington’s Trey Adams, Texas’ Connor Williams or Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey. The Bengals probably won’t be picking high enough for Adams. If they miss out on those three prospects, they also could consider a guard like Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson, who could be a quick replacement for Zeitler. Other offensive linemen to consider would include Ohio State’s Billy Price at guard, Clemson’s Mitch Hyatt at tackle or guard, Oklahoma right tackle Orlando Brown and Auburn guard Braden Smith.

Defensively, the Bengals don’t have a lot of needs as they have loaded up on edge rushers and cornerbacks. They also have one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL with Geno Atkins. Cincinnati could consider a linebacker as Kevin Minter was only signed to a 1-year contract while Vontaze Burfict has had injuries and suspensions. A great fit for Cincinnati in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft would be Georgia’s Roquan Smith. Smith is fast, instinctive and physical. He is a great fit for Cincinnati’s defense next to Burfict.

Aside from linebacker, the Bengals could consider a defensive tackle as they also lost Domata Peko in free agency. Perhaps a young player like Andrew Billings will prove that this isn’t a need to deal with in the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, but if he doesn’t, there could be some nice values in this draft class, which looks strong on the interior of the defensive line. For the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, there are players like Georgia’s Trenton Thompson, Clemson’s Christian Wilkins or Ohio State’s Dre’Mont Jones. Auburns’ Dontavious Russell and Washington’s Vita Vea are other quality prospects to consider.

Every year in the NFL, some weird results happen in the early weeks that prove to be freak games later on in the year. Perhaps Cincinnati’s offensive line will improve during the season and the offensive tackles will develop with more playing time. Right now, it appears that improving the offensive front is the priority to help Cincinnati return to being a dangerous team in January.

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