Monday Morning Draft – Week 7

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 of the 2018 NFL Draft. The Browns were dropped to 0-7 on the season as they lost in overtime 9-6 against Tennessee. Last week, the Browns were dominated by the Texans in Houston. It was an especially painful loss as Deshaun Watson killed the Browns’ defense, teasing Cleveland with what could have been if the organization hadn’t passed on Watson twice in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Prior to the Houston game, the Browns lost some closer contests, including three winnable games 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’s 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. This current regime also passed on Dak Prescott, while the previous regime took Johnny Manziel instead of Derek Carr.

San Francisco 49ers:
San Francisco lost at home as the Cowboys cruised to an easy win. 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. In Indianapolis, the 49ers tied the game late before the Colts pulled off the victory. San Francisco is 0-7 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 of the 2018 NFL Draft.

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.

Dallas Cowboys: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
The Cowboys rolled the 49ers on the road as the San Francisco defense was incapable of keeping Dallas out of the end zone. Prior to the game getting out of hand, the Cowboys had some issues containing Carlos Hyde. Over the past few years, Dallas has addressed its defensive ends, but could use more help at defensive tackle. Here’s a tackle to pair with Maliek Collins.

In 2017, Wilkins has 28 tackles with three tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks. He is big, physical, fast, and athletic at the point of attack. Wilkins is adept at defending the ground game while also having the ability to pressure the quarterback from the inside. In the 2018 NFL Draft, Wilkins would make a lot of sense for the Cowboys’ first-round pick.

Miami Dolphins: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
The Dolphins were able to get a narrow win over the Jets after losing starting quarterback Jay Cutler to injury. This season, running back Jay Ajayi has been held back by the interior of the Miami offensive line in particular. The Dolphins have their offensive tackles set for many years to come, but they could use more talent at guard. Nelson would be an immediate upgrade for Miami as a bulldozer for Ajayi and to improve the interior pass blocking.

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 the Dolphins continue on their path and challenge to make the postseason for a second year in a row, taking a guard like Nelson in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft could make sense in the 20s.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
After losing to Chicago and Jacksonville, the Steelers have gotten straightened out after some wins over the Chiefs and the division-rival Bengals. Pittsburgh enjoyed a great game from Le’Veon Bell against the Bengals, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played efficiently while avoiding interceptions. Given the age, decline, and retirement talk, the Steelers have to start considering a quarterback to replace Roethlisberger. They may not be picking high enough to land Jackson, but perhaps they could trade up for him like how Houston and Kansas City moved up last April.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Jackson has an amazing skill set with a cannon for an arm that can make incredible throws. His arm is so strong that he can make passes off platform without his feet set that many other NFL quarterbacks could never dream of making. Jackson also is a great athlete with superb running ability and speed as a runner. This season, Jackson has completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,478 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. He has also taken 136 carries for 868 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.

Jackson is going to be a dynamic weapon who is going to present major problems for defenses. He could be a great fit for Todd Haley in Pittsburgh.

Tennessee Titans: Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky
The Titans’ pass rush has been lacking this season, but they finally got some production with two sacks combined from Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan against the Browns. Sources with Tennessee told me last year that they felt those veterans play tailed off late last season. Titans general manager Jon Robinson could look to upgrade the Titans’ defense with a defender who could help them defend the mobile quarterbacks in their division, notably Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck.

As I reported in the Hot Press recently, 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 8.5. Allen also has two forced fumbles, 40 tackles, 8.5 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 Titans to rush the quarterback, defend against running quarterbacks, and stuff the ground attack.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
The Jaguars were able to beat the Colts on the road even though they were without Leonard Fournette. Having a dynamic runner like Fournette has made a huge difference for Jacksonville this season. Over this coming offseason, the Jaguars could continue to build up their offensive line with an upgrade over A.J. Cann to help open holes for Fournette.

Wynn (6-2, 302) has impressed scouts this season as he has been an excellent run blocker for Georgia. Wynn blocks with aggression and has a temperament that is hard to find in college blockers. In pass protection, he has been very dependable as well. Because Wynn is shorter and doesn’t have ideal length, some sources think that he could move to guard or center in the NFL. Wynn started at left guard in 2016, but scouts think he is athletic enough to also play center at the next level. Wynn’s size and skill set has drawn comparisons to Kelvin Beachum, who is undersized but has managed to carve out a career at left tackle in the NFL.

Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The Bears were able to beat the Panthers thanks to two defensive touchdowns from rookie safety Eddie Jackson. Chicago beat Carolina 17-3 thanks to the defense’s dominant performance. As good as the Bears played defense, their passing offense was equally ineffective as rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky was 4-of-7 for 107 yards over the game. A team can’t expect to win in the NFL with that caliber of passing offense, so getting Trubisky some receivers is a necessity.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Ridley is a superb route-runner with good hands and excellent quickness. It is very difficult for cornerbacks to run the route with Ridley and prevent separation. In 2017, he has 41 receptions for 523 yards and two touchdowns, but his receiving production is held back by the passing limitations of Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts. Ridley would make a lot of sense for the Bears as a potential difference-maker for Trubisky.

Kansas City Chiefs: Sione Teuhema, LB, Southeast Louisiana
The Raiders pulled off a last-second victory over the Chiefs, and Kansas City had some more defensive issues exposed by Oakland. Tamba Hali is nearing the end of his excellent career, while Justin Houston didn’t play well against the Raiders. A few weeks ago, the Chiefs’ defense was lit up by Houston rookie Deshaun Watson, and Kansas City could use more pass rush to help protect the secondary. The Chiefs don’t have a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, so this would have to be a second-day selection. was the first draft outlet to report on Sione Teuhema being a legit prospect for the NFL, as sources told us about him last summer during the preseason. The Teuhema brothers left LSU, but sources say they are both good guys, and LSU speaks highly of them even though it didn’t workout for them to stay in Baton Rogue. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Sione Teuhema is hunting quarterbacks this season as he already has 55 tackles with 14.5 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, one forced fumble and one pass broken up. Sources say that Teuhema played last season with an ACL injury and still showed explosiveness and athleticism. They think he could be an effective rusher as a Sam – strongside – linebacker in the NFL in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. Teuhema could be another Kansas City mid-round steal.

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.

Buffalo Bills:
Buffalo has the longest playoff drought in the NFL with 1999 being the last time the team was in the postseason. During this decade, the Bills have had a lot of good players on their team, but they have been unable to get over the hump and make the playoffs. Buffalo is in the playoff race after a 4-2 start, but even if the team doesn’t make the playoffs this year, the organization will be power players in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Bills have started another rebuilding project, and they were able to jump start the process with a series of trades that have them loaded with six picks in the first three rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Bills brought back Tyrod Taylor to be their starting quarterback in 2018, but it doesn’t appear that the Bills believe he is the starter for years to come. Thus, landing a quarterback to build around will be a priority in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Bills have two first-round selections this spring, but their pick from the Chiefs will be in the 20s. Buffalo’s own first-round pick seems likely to fall in the No. 5-15 range, so the team could be in position to get a quarterback as I currently have five signal-callers going in the top 20 of my 2018 NFL Mock Draft. That group includes UCLA’s Josh Rosen, USC’s Sam Darnold, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson. Taking one of those quarterbacks could be the foundational piece for new Bills general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott.

Wide receiver is another huge need on the Buffalo roster. Beane was wise to get a second-round pick for Sammy Watkins since Watkins wasn’t going to get a contract extension from the franchise. Late in the first round, the Bills could consider wide receivers like Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, SMU’s Courtland Sutton, Florida State’s Auden Tate and Ohio State’s Parris Campbell. If the Bills wanted until the second-day of the 2018 NFL Draft, they could consider a big wideout like Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown or a speed threats like Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk or Washington’s Dante Pettis. Whoever is the Bills next quarterback is going to need more talent at receiver to help him.

The other big need on the Bills’ roster is cornerback. Buffalo traded away a good young cornerback in Ronald Darby, and while that netted them a third-round pick, it left a hole on the roster. The Bills need more cornerback talent to go with Tre’Davious White. On the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft, some players to consider include Louisville’s Jaire Alexander, LSU’s Kevin Toliver, USC’s Iman Marshall and Maryland’s J.C. Jackson.

The Bills are in the playoff race in the first season of their new regime, and that bodes well for the future. The early returns indicate that Beane and McDermott are smart and know what they are doing. This should be a fascinating draft for the Bills. The 2018 NFL Draft will have a massive impact on if Buffalo can turn another rebuilding project into a postseason appearance. Beane must nail this draft in order to lay the foundational piece to end the Bills’ painful playoff drought.

Oakland Raiders:
The Raiders entered the 2017 season with high expectations. Led by young franchise quarterback Derek Carr, Oakland made the playoffs last year for the first time since the 2002 season, when they won the AFC. There was no doubt that Raiders were one of the top young teams in the NFL, but the 2017 season has gotten off to a rocky start with Carr dealing with a back injury and some players underperforming. Oakland had a potentially season-saving victory over Kansas City on Thursday night, but this season has illustrated that the Raiders could still use more improvements to be among the elite in the AFC.

The biggest issue for the Raiders to fix next offseason was a problem from last year that went mostly unaddressed, and that is the defensive front seven. Last February, sources with Oakland told me that building up the interior of the defense was the most pressing need for the team to address. The Raiders wanted to improve their defensive tackles and linebackers to get stronger up the middle. Surprisingly, general manager Reggie McKenzie didn’t make a major signing for the front seven and waited until the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft to take defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes. McKenzie prioritized the secondary with a cornerback and safety in the first two selections, and the Raiders could use more talent for their front seven this offseason.

In the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Oakland would be fortunate if it could land Alabama nose tackle Da’Ron Payne. He is an amazing athlete with shocking speed and agility for a 6-foot-2, 320-pound nose tackle. Payne uses his great strength to plug the middle on run downs and has the ability to collapse the pocket when he is allowed to pass rush. Payne would be a great first-round pick for the Raiders. Other defensive tackles to consider would include Clemson’s Christian Wilkins, Florida’s Taven Bryan, Georgia’s Trenton Thompson, Ohio State’s Dre’Mont Jones and Washington’s Vita Vea.

The Raiders also could use help at inside linebacker. Georgia’s Roquan Smith would be an immediate upgrade. He is a sideline-to-sideline defender with superb speed and instincts. Not only is Smith a hunter in the ground game, he is very athletic and fluid in space to function in pass coverage. Smith is similar to Buccaneers standout Lavonte David, and bringing that kind of linebacker to the Oakland defense would be an excellent addition. Other linebackers for the Raiders to consider on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft include Ohio State’s Jerome Baker, Clemson’s Kendall Joseph, USC’s Cameron Smith and Alabama’s Rashaan Evans.

Offensively, the Raiders don’t have any screaming needs, but some long-term needs to consider in the mid-rounds. For one, Marshawn Lynch is just a short-term solution at running back. Another is that while left tackle Donald Penn was signed to an extension, he is in his mid-30s. Oakland will have to consider an eventual successor as the blindside protector for Carr. Perhaps the Raiders can hope to land a mid-round steal at those positions. At left tackle, a sleeper to consider is Stony Brook’s Timon Parris. He has a NFL skill set, although but will need work. At running back, some possible mid-round steals include Michigan State’s L.J. Scott, Georgia’s Sony Michel or Oregon’s Royce Freeman.

It is very common across NFL history for teams that have breakout seasons to take a step back the next year before improving and going further in the years to come. That trend seems very possible to continue with the Raiders. With Carr and Khalil Mack, the Raiders have the cornerstones and foundation to build themselves into a perennial playoff contender for the next decade with the potential to win a championship. The Raiders may only need one or two more good offseasons to put them over the top.

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