Monday Morning Draft – Week 8

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 0-8 on the season as they were rolled in London by the Minnesota Vikings. Two weeks ago, 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 on the road at Philadelphia. 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 0-8 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.

New Orleans Saints: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
The Saints had a couple of sacks against the Bears on Sunday, and improving the pass rush is one of the points of emphasis for New Orleans this offseason. Trey Hendrickson could be a nice rotational end with Cam Jordan, but the Saints could use a real speedy hunter off the edge.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Ferrell has superb speed with athleticism and the ability bend around the corner. On the season, he has 36 tackles with 7.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, one pass batted and one forced fumble. Fellow defensive end Austin Bryant is playing himself into an early-rounder this year, but Bryant has done well cleaning up a lot of scrambling quarterbacks running away from Ferrell. Ferrell looks like a future first-round pick in the 2018 or 2019 draft.

Cincinnati Bengals: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Bengals were able to beat the Colts thanks in large part to a pick-six from defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Cincinnati’s offensive line continued its season-long struggles, giving up three sacks and being unable to establish the rushing attack, totaling only 58 yards on the ground on 21 carries. Clearly, the Bengals need to upgrade their offensive line this offseason.

The offensive tackles have been a weakness for Cincinnati with Andrew Whitworth leaving for the Rams. This is not a strong offensive tackle draft, but McGlinchey would still be an upgrade for Cincinnati. He is a steady pass protector who has enough athleticism, technique, and an ability to sustain blocks on the edge. McGlinchey has been very good as a run blocker this year, as Notre Dame has fielded a superb ground attack that rolls over teams on a weekly basis. Many left tackles are finesse athletes on the edge, but McGlinchey is a rare left tackle who can move defenders as a run blocker. Taking McGlinchey in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft would make a lot of sense for Cincinnati.

Carolina Panthers: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
The Panthers had three sacks against Tampa Bay on Sunday, with 1.5 coming from Mario Addison. The Buccaneers’ edge protection has struggled this year, so that isn’t a huge total versus the Bucs. Carolina got a half sack from Julius Peppers, and clearly Peppers isn’t a long-term answer given his age. After moving on from Kony Ealy, Carolina is going to need to find some starters of the future at defensive end.

Right now, Carolina is on track to get back into the postseason and will likely be picking late in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Landry could be a nice fit for the Panthers as a fast edge rusher to chase down the passing threats of the NFC South. He had a strong junior season with 16.5 sacks and 22 tackles for a loss. In 2017, the senior has done well as a pass-rusher, though he has had some struggles in run defense. His lack of size and ability to hold up in the ground game is what keeps him being a high or mid-first-rounder. Landry has 38 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and two passes broken up on the year. The Panthers have good run defenders with their linebackers, so they can afford to sacrifice some run defense at defensive end for a dynamic pass-rusher.

Philadelphia Eagles: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
The Eagles were able to cruise to a 33-10 win over the rebuilding 49ers. Philadelphia has the best record in the NFL, led by Carson Wentz, who has been superb in his second season. Considering Philadelphia lacks play-makers in the backfield and at wide receiver, what Wentz is doing is even more impressive. On Sunday, the Eagles got the win despite not having a single receiver notch five catches or even surpass 65 yards receiving. They also didn’t have a running back reach 55 yards, totaling 112 yards on 31 carries. Whether it is a tailback or a pass catcher, the Eagles have to give Wentz some support next April.

Chubb is averaging 6.4 yards per carry in 2017 for 765 yards with nine touchdowns. He also has one reception for 11 yards. Chubb looks back to his old form with explosion, power and decisiveness. The 5-foot-10, 220-pounder is akin to a human bowling ball, rolling over tacklers and and being a physical force in the SEC. He is a powerful runner who also has the quickness to rip off yards in chunks. Chubb has a real burst to the hole and acceleration to the second-level defense. He uses that speed to consistently break runs into sizable gains. His body lean and ability to run behind his pads are excellent. Those qualities make it very difficult for defenders to get a hold of Chubb and get him to the ground. He has shown quality ball security as well. Picking late in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Chubb would make a lot of sense for Philadelphia.

New England Patriots: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
The Patriots were able to take care of business over the Chargers despite digging themselves an early hole by letting Melvin Gordon get loose for an 87-yard touchdown run. This year, New England’s linebackers haven’t been as good as they were in recent years, and having Don’ta Hightower go out with injury has been painful for the defense. The Patriots will get Hightower back next year, but they could use more talent around him.

Jefferson has a first-round skill set and could be a nice value pick on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft. He has 76 tackles with four sacks on the year. Jefferson plays hard and possesses a good combination of size and speed. Over his three seasons as a starter, he has six pass breakups and zero interceptions, though he doesn’t have any breakups yet this year. Because Jefferson needs development in pass defense, he could easily slip to the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft. Jefferson would be a good value pick for New England.

Buffalo Bills: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
The Bills were able to cruise to a win thanks to LeSean McCoy running over the Raiders. Tyrod Taylor has continued his efficient play despite a lack of talent at wide receiver. Zay Jones should improve as he gains experience, but Buffalo could use a target who could be a true No. 1 receiver. Right now, the Bills are on pace to have two late first-round picks, and getting a mismatch wideout is one of their top needs.

At 6-foot-4, 216 pounds, Sutton is a huge receiver who is a dangerous red-zone target. He has leaping ability, hands, and body control to really hurt defenses on the sideline. Thus far in 2017, Sutton has 43 catches for 706 yards with nine touchdowns. The Bills would definitely improve their weapons for Taylor if they are able to land Sutton in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The Ravens blew out the Dolphins on Thursday night with a 40-0 thumping in Baltimore. It was surprising that the Ravens put up that kind of point total when you see that no receiver had five receptions or even 55 yards through the air. It has been painfully obvious this season that Baltimore is in dire need of more receiving talent for Joe Flacco. Ozzie Newsome loves Alabama players, so Ridley seems like a perfect fit.

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 Ravens’ first-round pick in 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.

Atlanta Falcons:
The Falcons had a fast start to the season before a three-game losing streak put them in third place in the NFC South. The Jets have been better than expected, so the reigning NFC champs got a quality road win to end their losing streak while playing in some rough conditions for a dome team. Even if the Falcons take a step back this season, they have a Super Bowl window with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in the prime of their careers. A strong 2018 NFL Draft could have Atlanta reloaded and ready to be one of the top teams in the NFC in 2018 if the Falcons don’t get hot in the second half of this season.

Atlanta has a good front office and scouting staff that have done a nice job of revamping the team’s roster. The Falcons bottomed out with picks in the top 10 in 2014 and 2015. Bringing in Scott Pioli was a brilliant move as Pioli and Thomas Dimitroff were able to quickly get Atlanta back in the elite of the NFC. With the talent that Pioli drafted in New England, Kansas City and Atlanta, he deserves another general manager job.

To help get the Falcons over the top, improving the defense is the top priority. Atlanta has invested recent first-round picks in edge rushers, with second-day picks building up their linebacking corps. After moving on from Jonathan Babineaux, Atlanta could use more help on the interior of its defensive line with a pass-rusher to replace Babineaux. Dontari Poe was only signed on a 1-year contract so Atlanta could be in the market for a nose tackle as well.

As one can see in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft, there is a lot of defensive line talent in the 2018 NFL Draft. Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins would be a great fit for the Falcons. He is so versatile that he can play end on run downs as well as serving as a disruptive interior pass-rusher. Wilkins would make a ton of sense for the Falcons’ first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Aside from Wilkins, other good options for interior pass rushers to consider in the early rounds would include Florida’s Taven Bryan and Georgia’s Trenton Thompson. Both of them are fast and explosive at the point of attack.

Having an elite nose tackle could provide a big impact for Atlanta. A heavy defender to eat up blockers could free up the team’s fast, although undersized, linebackers. The Falcons probably won’t be picking high enough to land Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne, but they could get Washington’s Vita Vea late in the first round or possibly Round 2.

Another position to consider would be a free safety upgrade to pair with Keanu Neal. Having a coverage safety on the back end would improve Atlanta’s defense. Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds or Texas’ DeShon Elliott would be good candidates for the Falcons on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft.

If the Falcons can continue to improve their defense, they easily could be winning a Super Bowl in the next couple of seasons. Atlanta has an elite quarterback and one of the best wide receivers to play in the NFL this decade. A tough defense would put the organization over the top.

Dallas Cowboys:
The Cowboys’ 4-3 start to the season has them behind the Eagles in the NFC East, but the Cowboys are a favorite to at least be a wild-card team. Even if they make the playoffs, they may not be ready to make a run at Lombardi Trophy this year. Dallas’ defense could use more difference-makers to help support the team’s talented young offense. The Cowboys drafted two cornerbacks and a defensive end in the first three rounds last year, so obviously they are cognizant of building up their defense. Dallas could use a few more upgrades to improve its ability to limit opponents.

Starting up front, the Cowboys could use help at defensive tackle. They lost Terrell McClain last offseason, and he was an underrated contributor. Rod Marinelli’s defense is at its best when it has a disruptive three-technique interior pass-rusher. In the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Dallas could consider a three-technique like Clemson’s Christian Wilkins. He is a fast and athletic interior defender. Aside from Wilkins, other good options for interior pass-rushers to consider in the early rounds would include Florida’s Taven Bryan and Georgia’s Trenton Thompson. Michigan’s explosive defensive lineman Maurice Hurst would be a great fit as a three-technique for Marinelli, and Dallas could target him on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Even though Dallas drafted two cornerbacks last spring, the organizationwas pursuing Joe Haden before the season started after he was cut by the Browns. Rookie Jourdan Lewis could be a really nice nickel corner for the Cowboys for years to come. They took Chidobe Awuzie in the second round, but he has limitations, and Dallas could use a true No. 1 corner. Some candidates to consider in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft would include Ole Miss’ Ken Webster, Ohio State’s Denzel Ward or Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden. Maryland’s J.C. Jackson is a very talented player with No. 1 corner potential, but he has huge off-the-field concerns. Jackson might be a second-day pick for the Cowboys as they have been willing to take players with character concerns, especially on Day 2 of drafts.

Dallas also could use more talent at safety, but won’t be picking high enough to get Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick or Florida State’s Derwin James. The team could be in position to consider Alabama strong safety Ronnie Harrison. However a free safety is a bigger need for Dallas. Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds or Texas’ DeShon Elliott would be good candidates on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft.

If the Cowboys can improve their defense over the next year or two, they could easily add another Lombardi to their storied history as they have a Super Bowl offense with talented players entering the prime of their careers. Improving the defensive line and secondary should be Dallas’ priorities in the 2018 NFL Draft.

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