Monday Morning Draft – Week 5

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:

Cleveland Browns:
Currently, Cleveland is in line for the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Browns were dropped to 0-5 on the season as they lost a close game to the rebuilding Jets. The past three weeks were winnable games for Cleveland against teams that have struggled or are rebuilding. The Browns don’t look as improved as the preseason hype suggested.

If the Browns end up getting the 2018 NFL Draft’s No. 1 pick, the current front office M.O. would be to trade down to a quarterback-needy team for a boatload of draft picks. After taking DeShone Kizer in the second round last year, Cleveland may decide to pass on taking another young quarterback. While the Browns have added a lot of young talent, those trades led to them passing on young franchise quarterbacks in Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson.

San Francisco 49ers:
For the second straight week, the 49ers lost in overtime on the road. The 49ers are in the running 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 were leading in Arizona in overtime before Larry Fitzgerald stole a win for the Cardinals. This week, the 49ers tied the game late in Indianapolis before the Colts pulled off the victory. San Francisco is 0-5 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.

New York Giants:
The Giants are now 0-5 on the season, falling to the Chargers at home. Things seem to be snowballing for the Giants, and this could be a year where they end up with a huge loss total. New York’s offensive line is dreadful, Eli Manning is declining, and the receivers have been ravaged by injury. The Giants simply have too much talent to be picking that high, but if they end up picking high in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, they will have to consider taking the heir apparent to Eli Manning.

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.

Green Bay Packers: Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky
With Aaron Rodgers bailing out his defense, the Packers got a hard-fought road win in Dallas. Green Bay’s defense allowed Dak Prescott to throw for three touchdowns in the first half to build up a big lead before the Packers came back. Prescott ran in a touchdown to give Dallas the lead with under two minutes remaining, but the brilliance of Rodgers led to the Packers winning in the final seconds of the game. Green Bay also allowed Ezekiel Elliott to break out of a bit of a slump. The Packers had only one sack while Elliott ran for 116 yards, so they could use more linebacker talent to rush the passer and to stop the run.

As I reported in the Hot Press last week, sources from multiple teams say that Kentucky’s Josh Allen could end up being a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder has been one of the leading defenders in terms of sacks in the early going of the 2017 season with 6.5. Allen also has two forced fumbles, 35 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and one pass batted. One national scout compared Allen to Leonard Floyd coming out of Georgia with Allen’s ability to rush off the edge. Allen also can play inside linebacker. An AFC director of college scouting told me that as an inside linebacker, Allen has similarities to current Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham in terms of his height, speed, length, and athleticism in the middle. Allen would help the Packers to rush the quarterback, defend against running quarterbacks, and stuff the ground attack. Allen would make a lot of sense for the Packers’ first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Seattle Seahawks: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
The Seahawks got lucky to win in Los Angeles as Cooper Kupp dropped the game-winning touchdown with only seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. While the Seahawks won 16-10, they really struggled to run the ball as their offensive line was incapable of opening holes against the Rams, putting up only 61 yards rushing on 25 carries. Averaging less than 3.0 yards per carry is another sign of the Seahawks’ offensive line being a liability. If Seattle could get Nelson in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, he would make a big difference for reestablishing their smash mouth rushing offense.

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. If Seattle can land him in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Nelson could be an excellent addition.

Miami Dolphins: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
The Dolphins’ defense carried them to a win over the Titans by recording six sacks against Tennessee’s vaunted offensive line. Miami was able to win despite only scoring one touchdown offensively, and the outcome easily could have been different if the Titans were able to play starting quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Dolphins need to continue to build up their offensive play-makers to help them produce more points.

One of the most difficult things to stop for NFL defenses are athletic pass-receiving tight ends. They create dynamic mismatches and are tough to get to the ground in space with smaller defensive backs trying to tackle them. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Hurst has real speed and athleticism to go with his big frame. This season, he has 19 receptions for 297 yards with two touchdowns. He made two catches for 76 yards and a score last week. Sources from multiple teams say Hurst is a first-round talent, but he could slip to the second round because he will be an older rookie after playing pro baseball for a few years.

Indianapolis Colts: Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson
The Colts got an overtime win over the 49ers despite allowing Brian Hoyer to have a big game with Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and George Kittle. Hoyer threw for 353 yards, while the members of that trio all had over 80 yards receiving. The Colts were fortunate to land a stud safety in Malik Hooker in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and Jabaal Sheard was a good signing by Indianapolis. However, the Colts could use a rusher on the other side as they are too dependent on Sheard to produce their pass rush and sacks.

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 29 tackles with 11 tackles for a loss, five sacks, a forced fumble and an interception on the season. He is currently playing himself into the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
This might be a surprise matchmaker for the Jaguars considering wide receiver wasn’t a perceived need entering the season. In Week 1, however, Allen Robinson went out for the season with a torn ACL, and he will be a free agent after this season. Considering his frustrations with Blake Bortles, he may not re-sign. Marqise Lee is another impending free agent, so the Jaguars could be in the market for wideout help after the season.

Kirk is a deep receiver threat who would go perfectly with Leonard Fournette. If defenses load up the box with their safeties, Kirk can burn them downfield. 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. He carried the Aggies to a win over Arkansas earlier this year. Kirk has 27 catches for 316 yards and five touchdowns thus far in 2017. Landing him in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft would be an interesting pick for Jacksonville. Tom Coughlin was with the Giants when they drafted Beckham, so taking Kirk could be in Coughlin’s wheelhouse.

Los Angeles Chargers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
The Chargers were able to get their first win on the road as they took care of business in New York. Los Angeles was fortunate to get the win as Eli Manning missed some receivers running wide open deep down the field and he also connected with Odell Beckham Jr for a long touchdown. This season the safety play has continued to be a weakness for Los Angeles and passing on Malik Hooker last April looks extremely questionable. Fortunately for the Chargers, they could find a good safety in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Fitzpatrick is a prototype safety for the current NFL with his ideal size and speed. His defense can use him as the deep center fielder, play him in man coverage on the slot receiver or tight end, or just help his cornerbacks over the top. Fitzpatrick is also a good run defender who can function as the eighth man in the box. He has tremendous instincts and is always around the ball. Fitzpatrick consistently makes clutch tackles and pass breakups to save other defenders. Last Saturday, he made an interception late in the game close to the end zone to help prevent a Texas A&M comeback. He has 28 tackles, one interception, four passes broken up and a forced fumble in 2017. If the Chargers are making a top-10 pick for the third straight year, Fitzpatrick would make for an excellent pick.

New England Patriots: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Patriots were able to get a much-needed win on Thursday night in Tampa Bay as the New England defense had a bounce-back performance on the road. The Patriots entered Week 5 having allowed the second-most points in the NFL this year. One of the weaknesses of the defense has been the linebacker play, as Dont’a Hightower is the only Patriots linebacker who has been an asset this season. New England has been missing Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones since they were traded away. Here’s an impact linebacker.

Smith has been one of the best linebackers in college football this season. He is a heat-seeking missile flying around the field dishing out hard hits and making clutch tackles. While Smith is a sideline-to-sideline run defender, he also is good in pass coverage. In 2017, Smith has 45 tackles with two passes broken up. Some team sources think he is worthy of being a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he could be a great addition for New England.

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.

New York Giants:
Entering Week 5 in the NFL, one of the surprising winless teams was the Giants. A playoff team just last year, nobody thought New York would be winless with a good defense and receiving play-makers like superstar Odell Beckham Jr. to lead their offense. The Giants lost five games all season last year, and this year, they’ve lost five after five contests. The team is clearly heading to a rebuilding season.

The biggest need on the Giants’ roster is offensive line help as their blocking front has really struggled this year. If they draft a left tackle, then Ereck Flowers could be moved to the right side. Washington’s Trey Adams, Texas’ Connor Williams, Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey and Mississsippi State’s Martinas Rankin all have to be under consideration for the Giants. The interior of the offensive line might also need help on Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft if center Weston Richburg and guard Justin Pugh aren’t re-signed.

Another position for New York to consider would be wide receiver. Brandon Marshall is declining and not a true No. 2 receiver to exploit defenses focus on Odell Beckham. However after taking Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard early the past two years, a secondary wide receiver should be more of a mid-round target because the Giants have too many other screaming needs that have to be addressed. The Giants hope that Wayne Gallman is their running back of the future, but if he struggles as a rookie, they can’t rule out taking more backfield talent at some point in the early to mid-rounds.

Defensively, the Giants have had issues at linebacker for years, and New York has declined to take a linebacker early in the draft under general manager Jerry Reese. Many around the league think Reese is on the hot seat and may not be making the picks for the Giants next April. If they do have a new general manager, that could make linebacker an option for them in the first or second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. A great prospect to consider who would be an instant upgrade would be Georgia’s Roquan Smith. If the Giants end up with a high first-round pick, an interesting plan would be to take offensive line help and then trade back into the first round for Smith.

The Giants could consider a free safety to pair with Landon Collins on Day 2. Collins has limitations in pass coverage, and New York has really struggled to cover tight ends this season. Thus, taking a safety like Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds would make a lot of sense in Round 2. Another safety to consider on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft would be Texas A&M’s Armani Watts or Pittsburgh’s Jordan Whitehead.

The need that could trump all of the others though is quarterback. The Giants drafted Davis Webb in the third round last year, but if they are picking high in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, they will have to strongly consider taking a signal-caller to be the heir apparent to Eli Manning, who is aging and declining. If New York can get its next franchise quarterback, he can’t be passed on. USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson are all worthy of heavy consideration for New York.

This is going to be a fascinating offseason for the Giants as they have a lot of options to consider in how to build their franchise going forward.

Baltimore Ravens:
After winning the Super Bowl earlier this decade, Baltimore had the tough task of rebuilding its defense. The Ravens’ defense led them to a championship in Ray Lewis’ final season with quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice guiding the offense. Over the past few years, Baltimore has rebuilt its defense, which has a good amount of young talent for years to come, but the team has to build up its offense in order to try to get another championship during Flacco’s career.

Offensively, the Ravens used their 2016 first-round pick on left tackle Ronnie Stanley after taking wide receiver Breshad Perriman in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Perriman was injured his rookie year and hasn’t produced a lot since seeing the field. Stanley isn’t dominant, but he should have a good pro career. After signing Jeremy Maclin to help their receivers, the Ravens could use more help at running back and the offensive line. Baltimore has really missed injured guard Marshall Yanda and free agent loss right tackle Ricky Wagner this season. In the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Ravens could consider offensive tackles like Washington’s Trey Adams, Texas’ Connor Williams, Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey or Mississsippi State’s Martinas Rankin. Getting a bookend to help protect Flacco and open holes in the ground game could really help Baltimore’s offense perform more consistently.

The Ravens also could consider Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. He’s the top guard for the 2018 NFL Draft and had received first-round grades a year ago before deciding to return to South Bend. Some scouts have compared Nelson to being a Logan Mankins-type guard, and that could be worth the Ravens using a first-round pick on him depending on how high they are drafting. If they look to get guard help on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft, they could consider players like Ohio State’s Billy Price, UTEP’s Will Hernandez and Auburn’s Braden Smith.

Another position for Baltimore to infuse some talent at is tailback. It doesn’t look like Buck Allen is going to break out this season, and Baltimore can’t count on the injured Kenneth Dixon being its feature back. Perhaps Alex Collins will take the job, but if the Ravens are picking high in the first round 2018 NFL Draft and they have a shot at Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, that would be a no-brainer. Barkley would transform their offense as he is an elite running back prospect similar to Todd Gurley and Leonard Fournette, and better than Ezekiel Elliott. If the Ravens miss out on Barkley, they should target other talented second-day backs like Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Georgia’s Sony Michel, Michigan State’s L.J. Scott, Iowa’s Akrum Wadley or Oregon’s Royce Freeman. Baltimore’s offense hasn’t been the same since Rice declined and then ruined his career with domestic abuse. Getting a feature back is a necessity for the Ravens.

Baltimore has receivers in Perriman, Maclin and Mike Wallace, but if the best player available at the team’s first-round pick is a wideout, the organization will have to give strong consideration to that play-maker. This could be a talented class of receivers with depth, so it is possible that will happen. First-round receivers to consider would include Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, SMU’s Courtland Sutton, Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown, Ohio State’s Parris Campbell and Indiana’s Simmie Cobbs.

The Ravens have some good young talent on the defensive side of the ball, including a talented secondary. Baltimore’s 2018 draft class should be completely focused on offense. Adding a couple offensive linemen, some running back talent, and maybe a receiver could go along ways to getting the Ravens back into the postseason with a shot at their third Super Bowl championship.

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