Monday Morning Draft – Week 9

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:
The Browns had a bye this week. Currently, Cleveland is in line for the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Last week, the Browns were dropped to 0-8 on the season as they were rolled in London by the Minnesota Vikings. Earlier, 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 against Arizona. The 49ers are in the running for the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, but considering how close some of their games have been, I don’t think the 49ers will 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 0-9 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 traded their high second-round pick for Jimmy Garoppolo, so he will be their quarterback of the future that they build around. Thus, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley would make the most sense for San Francisco’s first-round pick as he is the top prospect in 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.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Dante Pettis, WR, Washington
The Jaguars took care of business at home against the Bengals, as once again tough defense led Jacksonville to victory. While Blake Bortles has limitations, his receivers have been less than dynamic this season, and the team doesn’t have a reliable target aside from Marqise Lee. Lee is entering free agency along with injured wideout Allen Robinson. Jacksonville could help its offense by adding more receiving talent this offseason.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Pettis is enjoying a good season for Washington, using his quickness to produce some big plays for the Huskies. He has 49 receptions for 571 yards and seven touchdowns on the year. On top of being a receiving threat, Pettis is one of the greatest punt returners in college football history. He just returned his ninth punt return for a touchdown during his collegiate career. Pettis could be a nice pick for Jacksonville on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Tennessee Titans: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
The Titans have struggled to rush the quarterback off the edge this season, and that was visible against Baltimore as their edge defenders had only .5 sacks combined. Tennessee isn’t getting enough from Brian Orakpo or Derrick Morgan.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Ferrell has superb speed with athleticism and the ability bend around the corner. On the season, he has 48 tackles with 12.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 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. He would be a great fit as a standup outside linebacker in the Titans’ 3-4 defense.

Los Angeles Rams: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
The Rams had two sacks against the Giants’ weak offensive line, with one coming from Connor Barwin and the other from Aaron Donald. New York has really struggled to protect Eli Manning this year, so it was surprising that more sacks weren’t produced by the Rams. The Los Angeles defense could use more edge-rushing talent to help close out victories.

Landry could be a nice fit for the Rams as a fast edge rusher to chase down the quarterback across from Robert Quinn. Landry 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 inability to hold up in the ground game are what keep 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. Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has run 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, and Landry offers flexibility to play on the edge in either scheme. He could make sense for the Rams’ first-round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Arizona Cardinals: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin had some success against the Cardinals’ secondary, blowing by Tyrann Mathieu for a long play. Luckily for the Cardinals, they were playing San Francisco, so they weren’t in danger of losing. This offseason, Arizona could look to improve its pass coverage across from star cornerback Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals could use a quick corner who can matchup against speed receivers considering the team has competitors like Doug Baldwin, Paul Richardson, Sammy Watkins and Goodwin in its division.

Ward has 23 tackles with 11 passes broken up and an interception in 2017. The 5-foot-10, 191-pounder has good speed, athleticism, ball skills, and quick feet to run the route to prevent separation. Some sources believe he could end up being a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. If Ward slips to the second round, he would be a great fit for Arizona.

Seattle Seahawks: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
The Seahawks were fortunate to beat the Texans last week and had issues scoring points against Washington’s defense this week. Russell Wilson’s passing carried Seattle versus Houston, and the Seahawks were incapable of rushing the ball. Adding Duane Brown to the offensive line will help, but Seattle could use a smash-mouth interior blocker who can move defenders at the line of scrimmage.

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 Seahawks continue on their path and make the postseason, taking a guard like Nelson in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft could make sense for thems.

Washington Redskins: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
The Redskins got a huge clutch catch from Josh Doctson to help them pull off a road upset of the Seahawks. Washington was able to do that despite not having a single wideout total four receptions for 60 yards against a secondary that was torched by DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller last week. If the Redskins miss out on a quarterback in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, they could consider another receiver to pair with Doctson. Terrelle Pryor only sign a 1-year contract and hasn’t produced much. Washington needs more receiving talent across from Doctson.

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 48 catches for 752 yards with nine touchdowns. The Redskins would definitely improve their weapons if they were able to land Sutton in the 2018 NFL Draft.

New York Jets: Damien Harris, RB, Alabama
The Jets took care of business on Thursday night by controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Veteran running back Matt Forte ran for two touchdowns, as the Jets were able to take it Buffalo with almost 200 yards rushing. Forte has had a great career, but the Jets can’t count on the aging veteran for the long haul. On the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft, New York could use a running back of the future. Taking Harris in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft could give the Jets a three-down starter who could be the engine of their rushing attack.

Harris has been a tough runner for Alabama this year. He has shown the power to run through tackles to get yards after contact along with the speed to break off long runs. In 2017, Harris is averaging 8.1 yards per carry for 730 yards with 10 touchdowns. He has receiving and blocking ability as well. General manager Mike Maccagnan has an excellent eye for talent and will build the Jets into a winner if he’s given time to put the team together. If the Jets take a quarterback in the first round and a running back like Harris in Round 2, that would give the organization a strong foundation for its offense for many years to come.

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.

San Francisco 49ers:
Last week, the 49ers made a move that is going to define their franchise for years to come: trading their second-round pick to the New England Patriots for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. By committing a pick that is likely to be in the No. 33-35 range, San Francisco general manager John Lynch was almost giving up a first-round pick for Garoppolo. The 49ers have gone all-in on Garoppolo, and now they have to build up the talent around him.

What I like best about the Garoppolo trade is it puts the 49ers in position to draft Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, as you can see in my latest mock 2018 NFL Draft. Barkley has been the best player in college football this season, and in my opinion is the best draft prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft class. Barkley is an elite running back with tremendous speed, athleticism, elusiveness, balance, cutting ability, and patience. Not only is Barkley a devastating runner, he is a phenomenal receiver out of the backfield. Barkley is a good blitz protector as well. Kyle Shanahan’s West Coast offense calls for a shifty back who can contribute as a receiver, and Barkley is a perfect fit for that. With Carlos Hyde entering free agency, if Barkley is on the board, he is a no-brainer selection for San Francisco.

Assuming the 49ers take Barkley, they could use more talent at wide receiver on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft. San Francisco lacks a true No. 1 wideout or any long-term weapons for Garoppolo. On the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft some wide receivers who could be in play for the 49ers’ second-round pick – originally the Saints’ second-round pick – would include Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown, Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, Indiana’s Simmie Cobbs and Washington’s Dante Pettis.

The 49ers also need a lot of help on defense. They could use a cornerback to go with Akhello Witherspoon, a safety to replace impending free agent Eric Reid, and an edge rusher to replace veteran Elvis Dumervil. San Francisco has a lot of directions it can go on the second day and in the mid-rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. With the lack of talent on the 49ers’ roster, they really should draft the best player available, almost regardless of position. The only positions to avoid are defensive lineman who play the same position as their last three first-round picks; a quarterback, since they committed to Garoppolo; or a running back, if they take Barkley.

The 49ers have a long way to go to get being a championship-caliber team again, but Garoppolo could be the building block to get them started if he turns into a franchise quarterback. It isn’t clear if Lynch and Kyle Shanahan were good hires, but the 49ers were struggling to find a general manager who wanted to work for Jed York. The organization settled for a novice in Lynch, who had zero scouting or front office experience. That inexperience could be seen in the 2017 NFL Draft selections, as the majority of teams in the NFL had Solomon Thomas graded as a mid- to late first-rounder, and some playoff teams even had him graded in Round 2. Other teams flunked Reuben Foster medically to go along with serious off-the-field concerns. It was a high-risk/high-reward draft class from Lynch that jury is still out on. Thomas hasn’t impressed yet, while Foster has been injured a lot. Perhaps hiring Lynch will be a brilliant outside-the-box move, but that question remains to be answered. The 49ers appear to have a plan they are executing, but it isn’t clear if Lynch and Shanahan know what they are doing.

Indianapolis Colts:
The Colts effectively waved a white flag on the 2017 season when they put Andrew Luck on injured reserve last week. While this is a lost year, Indianapolis made the right decision as it probably would not have made the playoffs even if Luck returned for the second half of the season. The roster just isn’t playoff caliber yet. For the long-term plan of going for a Super Bowl during Luck’s career, it makes more sense to shut him down and not risk his health while also improving the draft slot in the 2018 NFL Draft to get better talent around Luck.

Starting up front, the Colts have to continue to improve the offensive line in front of Andrew Luck. Indianapolis is likely to end up picking in the top 12 of the 2018 NFL Draft, and the only offensive lineman who will probably go in that range is Notre Dame left tackle Mike McGlinchey. Fighting Irish guard Quenton Nelson could be a better a player, but because he is a guard, he is probably a late-first-round pick. The Colts could look to upgrade their defense in the first round and add offensive line talent on Day 2. Guard Jack Mewhort is entering free agency, plus Indianapolis could use other upgrades. Some good second-day linemen to consider include Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn, Auburn’s Braden Smith and Southeastern Louisana’s Maea Teuhema.

In the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Colts should target a defensive franchise player to build their defense around. Malik Hooker could be that for their secondary, but they need one badly in their front seven. Two good candidates would be LSU edge rusher Arden Key and Alabama nose tackle Da’Ron Payne. Indianapolis already has a pretty good nose tackle Johnathan Hankins, so Key would make more sense. He could be the team’s lead pass-rusher and has the potential to be a double-digit sacker on an annual basis. Key could form a nice trio with Jabaal Sheard and John Simon.

The Colts also need help at cornerback. Vontae Davis may not be brought back next year, and that was given further proof when they didn’t bring him to Houston for their game against the Texans. Indianapolis could use a lead No. 1 corner to go with 2017 second-round pick Quincy Wilson. In the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the top corners could be Ole Miss’ Ken Webster, Ohio State’s Denzel Ward and Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden.

Offensively, Indianapolis needs a running back of the future as well. Frank Gore is nearing the end of his great career, while Marlon Mack would probably be better off as a No. 2 back. The Colts probably won’t be picking high enough to land Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, but they could land a good back on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft. Some candidates to consider include Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Alabama’s Damien Harris, Oregon’s Royce Freeman, Iowa’s Akrum Wadley, Georgia’s Sony Michel and Michigan State’s L.J. Scott.

The terrible drafting, trading, and free agency moves by former general manager Ryan Grigson dug the Colts a big hole with a real deficit of talent on their roster. The Colts are paying the price for consecutive blown first-round picks in 2013-2015 on the likes of Bjoern Werner, Trent Richardson and Phillip Dorsett.

New general manager Chris Ballard needs to nail a few good draft classes or the Colts will be at risk of squandering the prime years of Luck’s career. Ballard has a tough task ahead of him, but his first draft class has shown potential and he helped build Kansas City’s talented team. Indianapolis has a lot of needs to address in order to get its roster in championship form. With a high pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, it is vital that Ballard hits a home run in his first full year guiding the Colts.

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