Monday Morning Draft – Week 3

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:

San Francisco 49ers:
The 49ers lost a close game at home on Thursday night as the Rams prevailed over San Francisco in a shootout. Currently, the 49ers are the favorite for the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, but considering how close their games have been the 49ers shouldn’t go 0-16 this year.

San Francisco almost pulled off an upset at Seattle in Week 2, but the Seahawks were able to prevail 12-9. The 49ers are 0-3 to start the season, but have 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 of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Cleveland Browns:
The Browns were dropped to 0-3 on the season as they lost on the road to the Colts. This was a winnable game for Cleveland against a team that hasn’t looked good in the early going of 2017 without Andrew Luck. Thus, it was a bad sign for Cleveland’s claiming improvement to lose to the Colts and allow 31 points.

Cincinnati Bengals:
The Bengals fell to 0-3 on the season with Aaron Rodgers leading an overtime comeback win in Green Bay. While Cincinnati could be in for a long season thanks to a weak offensive line, the team has too much talent to end up getting the No. 1-overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. However if the Bengals are picking in the top 10, they will have to decide whether they should look for an upgrade over Andy Dalton.

New York Giants:
The Giants are 0-3 on the season, falling to Philadelphia because of a 61-yard field goal. New York won’t go winless or come away with just one or two wins, which would get them the No. 1-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Giants simply have too much talent to be picking that high.

Los Angeles Chargers:
Similar to the Giants or the Bengals, the Chargers have too much talent to land the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. They dropped to 0-3, but with Philip Rivers and their defensive talent they shouldn’t have so small of a win total that they get the 2018 NFL Draft’s first pick. If the Chargers are picking in the top 10 for the third straight season, they will have to think of getting Rivers’ replacement considering his age.

New York Jets:
The Jets dealt themselves a blow against landing the No. 1-overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft by winning at home over the Dolphins. Still, the Jets are a favorite to be picking first in the 2018 NFL Draft because the 49ers have been competitive this year and shouldn’t go 0-16.

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.

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.

New York Jets: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
The Jets pulled off a surprising upset of Miami in New York on Sunday with Josh McCown having a solid performance. Clearly, the veteran isn’t the long-term starter for the Jets, and getting a new quarterback will be a top priority of the Jets in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Right now, the top signal-caller for the 2018 NFL Draft is Sam Darnold. While UCLA’s Josh Rosen has more arm talent, Darnold has better intangibles to go along with a quality skill set and accuracy as a passer. He has good field vision, anticipation and moxie. In 2017, Darnold has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,225 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. Considering his intangibles to handle the expectations on USC, Darnold seems like a great fit for the pressure of playing in New York. Landing Darnold could make a rebuilding 2017 season worth it for Jets fans.

Indianapolis Colts: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Colts were able to beat the Browns at home after scoring 28 points in the first half and then holding on for a three-point win. Indianapolis will be transformed when Andrew Luck returns from injury, but the team still needs to find more of a ground game for Luck to have in the years to come. Frank Gore is nearing the end of his career, and he racked up just 57 yards on 25 carries against Cleveland. If the Colts could land Barkley in the 2018 NFL Draft, that would be a huge addition for their offense.

On the year, Barkley is averaging 7.8 yards per carry, which makes for 518 yards with four touchdowns. He also has 23 receptions for 335 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver. Barkley has devastating quickness to hit the hole and accelerate downfield. Along with great speed, he has tremendous balance, vision, cutting ability, elusiveness and power. Barkley looks like a better prospect than Ezekiel Elliott, and is proving that he is a prospect of similar caliber to players like Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley.

New Orleans Saints: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Saints gave up on former first-round pick Stephone Anthony and traded him to Miami. Anthony was taken with the pick that New Orleans received from Seattle for Jimmy Graham, but was unable to be the answer in the middle of the Saints’ defense. In their road win at Carolina, the Saints’ defense allowed Christian McCaffrey to rack up 101 receiving yards on nine catches. The Panthers also had 132 yards rushing on 22 carries. Rookie middle linebacker Alex Anzalone has potential, but New Orleans could use a fast Will linebacker to pair with him.

One of the most impressive players in the early going of the 2017 season has been Roquan Smith. He has been a force for the Georgia defense. The ultra-fast Smith flies around the field on the back of his excellent instincts. He is a sideline-to-sideline run defender with the pass-coverage skills to be a three-down starter. This season, Smith has totaled 27 tackles with one sack and a pass broken up. He looks like a better version of recent LSU linebackers Deion Jones and Duke Riley. In a lot of ways, Smith is similar to Tampa Bay standout Lavonte David. He would be a great addition for New Orleans.

Chicago Bears: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
The Bears pulled off a shocking upset over Pittsburgh as Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen combined to give the Steelers’ defense a lot of problems. Surprisingly, no Bears player had even 30 yards receiving as Howard and Cohen were their top two receivers. Chicago needs a long-term No. 1 receiver for Mitch Trubisky.

St. Brown is 6-foot-5, 205-pound mismatch weapon. Not only does St. Brown have huge size, he also has deceptive speed with the ability to challenge defenses downfield. St. Brown has a rare skill set with No. 1 wide receiver potential for the NFL. This season, St. Brown has 11 catches for 160 yards with a touchdown, but he is seeing tons of double teams while playing with a running quarterback who is a terrible passer. St. Brown could be a great fit for Chicago.

Buffalo Bills: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
The Bills managed to knock off the Broncos in Buffalo. Tyrod Taylor had an efficient game, spreading the ball around while throwing passes to eight different teammates. Buffalo didn’t have much of a run game, and no receiver had even 62 yards through the air. One of the needs for the Bills to address this offseason is a No. 1 receiver, and with two first-round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, the organization should be able to land one.

Kirk is a speedy play-maker who is a threat to score on any reception. He can explosively stretch a defense vertically and is a threat to put points on the board on any reception. On top of being a dynamic receiver, Kirk is a tremendous weapon on special teams as a returner. In 2017, Kirk has 19 receptions for 251 yards and four touchdowns. He would a great addition for Buffalo with one of its first-round picks.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
The Jaguars’ defense dominated in London as Joe Flacco had a meltdown performance. Jacksonville got an interception out of A.J. Bouye, but through three games, Bouye hasn’t played up the contract he was signed to. In Week 1, Bouye had three pass interference penalties, and could have received even more. In Week 2, Bouye was torched by rookie wide receiver Taywan Taylor. Teams are going to target Bouye throughout this season, and the Jaguars would be better off if Bouye was their third corner.

The 6-foot-1, 203-pound Davis is a big cornerback who 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 14 tackles and three passes broken up. He could make sense for the Jaguars in the first or second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Los Angeles Rams: Trey Adams, OT, Washington
Los Angeles lit up San Francisco on Thursday night with Jared Goff continuing to show massive improvement. Sean McVay and Greg Olson have worked wonders with Goff this season, but in order to help keep Goff growing in the right direction, it would help him to improve the blocking. Andrew Whitworth is a short-term answer at left tackle. Right tackle Rob Havenstein is a quality run blocker, but he can struggle in pass protection. Taking a tackle in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft could allow the Rams to move Havenstein inside with an eventual replacement for Whitworth.

Adams could be the top-left tackle prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft. He is a tall tackle with good athletic ability on the edge to go with his length. The 6-foot-7, 302-pounder has drawn some comparisons to Taylor Lewan coming out of Michigan. Adams would make sense for the Rams in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

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.

Green Bay Packers:
For years now, Green Bay has been knocking on the door of the Super Bowl but falling short after winning a Lombardi in the 2010 season. The Packers have no problem getting to the playoffs, but they haven’t been able to get over the hump and past the NFC Championship, losing to Seattle and Atlanta in recent years. With Aaron Rodgers turning 34 this season, Green Bay has some time, but not a lot, to get another ring with its future Hall of Fame quarterback.

Offensively, the Packers’ offense hasn’t been as prolific as it was five or six years ago, so it would make sense for the team to find some more talent for the scoring unit. Jordy Nelson is aging, and Randall Cobb doesn’t seem as explosive as he once was. In the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Green Bay could consider looking for a young No. 1 receiver to help Rodgers in the late years of his career. There could be some really good options for the Packers, including Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown, SMU’s Courtland Sutton and Ohio State’s Parris Campbell. St. Brown and Sutton would bring mismatch size, while Campbell and Kirk are lightning-fast receivers who are threats to score any time they get the ball.

Green Bay could also consider some offensive line help to improve the running game and protection of Rodgers. Texas left tackle Connor Williams, Notre Dame left tackle Mike McGlinchey and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson would all be nice additions. It looks like the Packers like their running game with Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams, but this would be a good draft to target a difference-maker at the position.

Defensively, the Packers have spent a ton of picks on their secondary in recent years, so taking more defensive back talent shouldn’t be necessary. Green Bay let Julius Peppers leave this offseason, so adding another rusher to go with Nick Perry and Clay Matthews could be necessary. All good defenses have three edge rushers to rotate and help close out games, plus it provides some protection in case of injury. Late in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, some options for Green Bay would include Boston College’s Harold Landry, Clemson’s Austin Bryant and, maybe, Kansas’ Dorance Armstrong. Any of those three would be a good fit for Green Bay’s 3-4 defense.

The Packers have a few routes they could go to upgrade their offense and defense this offseason. Considering the organization does very little in free agency, Green Bay needs to have some very strong drafts in order to win another Super Bowl with Rodgers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Around Tampa Bay, it is a well-known fact that it has been a decade since the Buccaneers were in the playoffs. Jameis Winston was 13 years old, George W. Bush was president, and the Bucs’ defense was still being led by 2014 Hall of Fame inductee Derrick Brooks. Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen were mistakenly fired after the 2008 season, and that set about a series of bad hires for the organization. In the past decade, the Bucs have had four different head coaches and three general managers. Even though they lost in ugly fashion to the Case Keenum-led Vikings, the Bucs are building themselves back into a serious contender in the NFC.

The Buccaneers won the lottery when they landed the No. 1-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft class that had a tremendous quarterback prospect in Jameis Winston. I took a lot of heat for saying that Winston was a prospect of Andrew Luck’s caliber and saying that Winston’s off-the-field concerns were exaggerated, overblown, and wouldn’t be a problem in the NFL. While he is still young and needing to improve, Winston looks like he is on track to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL while being a tremendous team leader and has had no off-the-field problems. With Winston only 23, Tampa Bay could have a Super Bowl window that may extend 15 or more years, depending on how long Winston plays. Given his love and passion for football, he probably will play as long as his body lets him and they will have to drag him off the field. Now, the Bucs just have to continue to build the talent around Winston to take advantage of a championship-caliber signal-caller when Winston reaches his prime.

Offensively, the Buccaneers have serious receiving talent for the long-haul with a No. 1 receiver in Mike Evans, a potentially dangerous No. 2 in Chris Godwin, and a mismatch receiving tight end in O.J. Howard. At running back, I think Doug Martin is going to have a comeback season this year. Martin has been unreliable during his tenure with the Bucs, so they can’t ignore looking at running back additions in the 2018 NFL Draft. Sources with Tampa Bay told me they would have taken Florida State running back Dalvin Cook if Howard hadn’t made it to their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. If the Buccaneers target a back in the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, they could go for players like LSU’s Derrius Guice, Iowa’s Akrum Wadley, Oregon’s Royce Freeman, or one of the Georgia backs in Nick Chubb or Sony Michel. The Bucs definitely won’t be picking high enough for Penn State’s Saquon Barkley.

Another area that could use more talent is the offensive tackle position. The Buccaneers will end up paying Winston a massive contract and will have to protect that investment. Donovan Smith is up and down as a left tackle, and he could be better off as a right tackle in the NFL. Right tackle Demar Dotson is aging, but is signed to a cheap contract and could be a valuable swing tackle if the Buccaneers add a left tackle. In the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Tampa Bay could consider players like Texas’ Connor Williams or Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey. Sources have told me that the Bucs are high on McGlinchey and Fighting Irish guard Quenton Nelson. McGlinchey would be an upgrade to the protection for Winston.

Defensively, Tampa Bay could use some cornerback help considering Brent Grimes is 34. In the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, some good options to consider would be LSU’s Kevin Toliver, USC’s Iman Marshall or Auburn’s Carlton Davis. Any of those three would give the Buccaneers a bigger corner to pair with Vernon Hargreaves.

Another position for Tampa Bay to consider would be an edge rusher to go across from Noah Spence. There could be some really good options in the early rounds. In the first couple of rounds, there are ends like N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb, Boston College’s Harold Landry, Missouri’s Marcell Frazier and Wake Forest’s Duke Ejiofor. Ejiofor or Chubb would be the best fits because they are heavier base ends whi would give Tampa Bay’s defense some size across from Spence. Having two lighter ends like Spence and Landry could be problematic in run defense.

The Buccaneers look poised to end their playoff drought this year or next year. Tampa Bay was dealt a disadvantage when Hurricane Irma moved its bye to Week 1, but the team could have the talent to overcome it. At some point over in the next decade, I think Jameis Winston is going to be holding up a Lombardi Trophy. It will just take a few more good drafts to put the Bucs over the top.

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