Monday Morning Draft – Week 4

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 in overtime on the road. 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 0-4 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 0-4 on the season as they handled by the Bengals. The past two weeks were winnable games for Cleveland against teams that have struggled this season. The Browns don’t look as improved as the preseason hype suggested.

New York Giants:
The Giants are 0-4 on the season, falling to Tampa Bay on the road. The Giants 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, but if they end up picking high in the first round, they will have to consider taking the heir apparent to Eli Manning.

Los Angeles Chargers:
Similar to the Giants, the Chargers have too much talent to land the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. The Chargers dropped to 0-4, 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.

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.

Houston Texans: Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech
If it weren’t for a dropped interception by Corey Moore last week, the Texans would be 3-1 with a road win at New England, having embarrassed the Titans with a 57-14 blowout in Houston in Week 4. The Texans’ offense has suddenly become a dangerous unit with rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson slicing up the Patriots and Titans in back-to-back games. Houston’s defense is strong in the front seven, but it needs more talent in the secondary with a strong safety to replace Moore, plus cornerback talent.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Edmunds would be a perfect strong safety for the Texans. Edmunds has the speed and athleticism to function in pass coverage with good size to tackle NFL backs. He also has some man-coverage potential. In 2017, Edmunds has 30 tackles with an interception and three passes broken up. He had four interceptions in 2016. The Texans will probably have two third-round picks with a compensatory pick being added their selections. Edmunds would be a great fit for Houston with one of those choices.

Cincinnati Bengals: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
The Bengals got their first win of the season, beating up on the downtrodden Browns. Cincinnati won by 24 points, but the offensive line issues that have plagued the Bengals this season were seen again. They allowed three sacks and didn’t have a single one of their talented running backs even total 30 yards rushing. The Bengals have missed guard Kevin Zeitler this season, and adding a road-grader like Nelson would help Cincinnati to get Joe Mixon rolling in 2018.

The 6-foot-5, 325-pound Nelson is a powerful blocker at the point of attack. He has the ability to blast defensive linemen out of their gaps and open holes to the second level. Nelson also is rock solid in pass protection. Some team sources have compared him to Logan Mankins. Depending on where the Bengals are picking in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Nelson could be an excellent addition.

Detroit Lions: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
A week after the Lions were screwed against Atlanta, Detroit showed some resilience with a tough road win against a division rival. The Vikings held Detroit to one offensive touchdown while none of the Lions’ receivers were able to record even 45 yards receiving. The Lions have some receiver depth, but they have lacked a true No. 1 since Calvin Johnson retired. Taking a No. 1 wide out in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft has to be under consideration for Detroit.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Ridley is being held back this season as Alabama has a running quarterback and leans on its talented backfield. Ridley still is a first-round talent with good speed, route-running, and play-making skills. In 2017, he has 24 catches for 322 yards and two scores. Ridley had good production as a sophomore (72-769-7) and freshman (89-1,045-7). He could be a fit for Detroit in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Carolina Panthers: Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson
Julius Peppers turned back the clock with a multi-sack game and reminded fans of the Peppers who spent his prime in Carolina. The Panthers traded away Kony Ealy in the offseason, and Charles Johnson is also aging. Clearly, Carolina needs to get more youth at defensive end for its defense in the years to come. Taking a defensive end in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft would make a lot of sense the Panthers.

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Bryant is a dangerous speed rusher who is having an excellent 2017 season. He had four sacks against Auburn and has continued to live in the backfield in the following weeks. Bryant has totaled 22 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and an interception on the season. He is currently playing himself into the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Philadelphia Eagles: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
The Eagles were able to pull out a close win over the Chargers despite not getting much production from their wide receivers. Nelson Agholor (3-58), Alshon Jeffery (3-29-1) and Torrey Smith (1-9) underwhelmed against a team that does not have an elite secondary. Philadelphia put a bandaid on the wide receiver position last offseason, but clearly this is an ailment that requires more treatment. The Eagles have to get Carson Wentz some play-makers next offseason.

I’m not sure the Eagles will be picking high enough to land Christian Kirk as he could be the top receiver prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft. Scouts have told me their nickname for Kirk is Baby Beckham because his play reminds them of Odell Beckham Jr. Kirk is an explosive speedster who is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. Kirk carried the Aggies team to a win over Arkansas earlier this year. He has 23 catches for 264 yards and four touchdowns thus far. Landing Kirk in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft would be a great value for Philadelphia.

New York Jets: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The Jets have won two in a row after getting an overtime field goal to top Jacksonville. The Jaguars were fortunate to have made it to overtime, as the Jets easily could have won the game in regulation. With the Jets already at two wins this season, they could easily end up picking too low for the top quarterback prospect, like USC’s Sam Darnold. The Jets may have to target the second- or third-rated signal-caller in the 2018 NFL Draft, which could end up being Rosen.

Rosen has great arm talent. He has a cannon with a tight spiral and the ability to make game changing throws. With his pocket passing skills, Rosen is able use his arm to beat good coverage with the power and location of his throws. Rosen also works under center and has experience playing in a big market with high expectations. On the year, Rosen has completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,135 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. Rosen has the best arm talent of any quarterback prospect, but he could slip behind others because of suspect intangibles. He could be the best option available for New York in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Green Bay Packers: Simmie Cobbs Jr., WR, Indiana
The Packers rolled Chicago on Thursday night, and it wasn’t competitive between these arch-rivals. Veteran wide receiver Jordy Nelson led Green Bay’s passing attack as the Bears didn’t have anyone who could cover Nelson. Nelson has had a great career, but Green Bay could consider adding more receiving weapons for the twilight years of Aaron Rodgers’ career. Taking a wideout in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft could give the Packers a future No. 1 and a player to turn to when Nelson eventually declines.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Cobbs has played really well for the Hoosiers in 2017. He has 23 receptions for 272 yards and three touchdowns on the year. Not only does Cobbs present a size mismatch, he also has enough quickness to get downfield. Cobbs is a tough assignment on the sideline with his ability to win 50-50 passes and beat defenders with back-shoulder throws. Green Bay would get a nice value in Cobbs in the early rounds 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.

Arizona Cardinals:
The Cardinals are a team in transition after knocking on the door of the Super Bowl a few years ago. Arizona was one of the best teams in the NFC, but age and free agency have taken their toll on the organization’s roster – along with some draft picks underachieving. Very soon, the Cardinals are going to have to start a rebuilding project.

After the 2016 season, general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians stated that the franchise had to start the process of replacing aging quarterback Carson Palmer. The Cardinals were unable to get a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft as the Chiefs and Texans traded up ahead of them to take Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Carson Palmer turns 38 later this season, and even though he has played well overall during his run with the Cardinals, he has durability issues and is prone to meltdowns in big games. Thus, Arizona can’t plan on Palmer playing well into his 40s like Tom Brady is doing with the Patriots. Finding the starter of the future is the No. 1 priority for the Cardinals in the 2018 offseason.

The 2018 NFL Draft could be strong at quarterback. There are a number of first-round candidates to consider in USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson. Allen would be an interesting pick for Arians, as Allen has a similar skill set to Ben Roethlisberger. Arians was excellent with Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, so perhaps Arians could groom the raw Allen into a competent pocket passer.

Another position that Arizona will have to rebuild for the future is wide receiver. Larry Fitzgerald will go to the Hall of Fame, but he turns 35 next season and won’t play forever. If the Cardinals take a quarterback in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, they could target receiving help on Day 2. Some good options to consider would include Clemson’s Deon Cain, South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel, Washington’s Dante Pettis and USC’s Deontay Burnett. If the Cardinals miss out on the first-round quarterbacks, there could be some great future No. 1 receiving options available like Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown, Alabama’s Calvin Ridley and SMU’s Courtland Sutton.

Elsewhere on offense, the Cardinals need help on the offensive line as the blocking unit as been underwhelming this season. Former first-round pick D.J. Humphries has been a disappointment, while 2013 first-rounder Jonathan Cooper ended up being a bust because of an injury that ruined his career. Assuming the Cardinals go with offensive line help on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft, some players to consider would include Auburn’s Braden Smith, Stony Brooks’ Timon Parris, Florida’s Martez Ivey, Ohio State’s Billy Price and Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown.

Arizona’s defense could use some help in the secondary and on the defensive line, but the Cardinals have drafted players in recent years that they need to step up at those positions. Upgrading the offense and building an offense of the future around David Johnson is the priority. Arizona has to land some building blocks at quarterback, wide receiver, and on offensive line in the next draft to get the rebuilding process underway.

Tennessee Titans:
Throughout the offseason and preseason, the Titans have been one of the en vogue teams for commentators to pick as a future playoff team. Many had predicted Tennessee to win the AFC South this season, and the Titans have gotten their season off to a 2-2 start despite the embarrassing blowout at Houston. Even with that loss, Tennessee is building in the right direction with a talented young quarterback and some solid talent around him.

Defensively, the Titans are getting good play out of Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan this season. That was the case a year ago as well, but both of those veterans tailed off late in the season. Sources with Tennessee told me they were frustrated with how those veterans played late in the year. Considering they aren’t old but are no longer young, it wouldn’t hurt to add a young pass-rusher. The Titans could have the young player serve as the third rusher to rotate with the veterans. That could help keep Orakpo and Morgan fresh while preparing for their eventual departure. On Sunday, Deshaun Watson had too much time to rip the ball through the Tennessee secondary. Some good pass-rushing options to consider in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft would be Clemson’s Austin Bryant, Kansas’ Dorance Armstrong and Boston College’s Harold Landry.

Another position for Tennessee to consider would be cornerback. The team’s weakness there was exposed by the Texans on Sunday. I had the Titans taking Adoree’ Jackson in my 2017 mock, as sources told me that Tennessee loved him. Jackson should turn into a good corner for the Titans, but they could use a third corner to pair with him and Logan Ryan. All good NFL defenses are at least three deep at corner. Adding one with size like USC’s Iman Marshall, LSU’s Kevin Toliver or Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden would make sense for Tennessee.

Offensively, the Titans have added a lot of young talent at wide receiver. They could consider taking a tight end to eventually replace Delanie Walker. Jonnu Smith has looked good as a rookie, but he is a Charles Clay-type rotational receiving tight end who is too undersized as a blocker to be a three-down starter. Sources with the Titans told me prior to the 2017 NFL Draft that they loved Alabama’s O.J. Howard and he was in the running for their first-round picks. Adding a top tight end talent was under serious consideration last year and probably will be again in 2018. In the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, some candidates to consider are South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews. Hurst is a great athlete who also would help the Titans’ potent rushing attack.

Another position for Tennessee to consider would be center, because Ben Jones is a weak link on the team’s blocking front. Ohio State’s Billy Price could be an excellent addition and upgrade for the interior of the Titans’ offensive line. Price also has the flexibility to play guard.

With Marcus Mariota, the Titans could become Super Bowl contenders very soon as they already are postseason contenders. My sources with Tennessee tipped me about Mariota being their pick months in advance, as the Titans’ front office led by former general manager Ruston Webster loved Mariota. General manager Jon Robinson was fortunate to walk into a team that already had a talented young franchise quarterback. Mariota should provide Tennessee with roughly a 15-year Super Bowl window. If Robinson continues to draft well and build around Mariota, the Titans could be holding up a Lombardi during Mariota’s career.

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