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.
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Race for the No. 1 Pick:
Buffalo was dropped to 0-2 as the Chargers came to town and took care of business.
Previously, the Bills were blown out by the Ravens in the season opener. Clearly, Buffalo is rebuilding after tearing apart its playoff roster from last year. I've had the Bills picking first in my mock 2019 NFL Draft
for months, and they look like the heavy favorite to land the top pick.
The Cardinals are in trouble this year because some bad drafts by general manager Steve Keim have forced them into rebuilding mode. In Week, 1 the Redskins dominated Arizona, and in Week 2, the Rams rolled over the Cardinals. It looks like it could be a long year in the desert, but on the bright side, Arizona could get a valuable piece to help Josh Rosen for years to come.
New York Giants:
The Giants were dropped to 0-2 on Sunday night football and could be facing their second straight season with a big total in the loss column. The roster features an excellent set of offensive weapons, but the aging and declining Eli Manning is going to be holding them back all season. Finding the organization's quarterback of the future is a massive problem after general manager Dave Gettleman passed on selecting four quarterbacks in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Texans are in last place in the AFC South and have been poorly coached in both of their first two games of the year. In Week 2, Houston lost to the Blaine Gabbert-led Tennessee Titans, let that sink in. The same Titans that were without four starters - their quarterback, left tackle, right tackle, and top receiver - tight end Delanie Walker. Houston's offensive line and cornerbacks are liabilities who could hold the team back all year.
The Lions fell to 0-2 after losing on the road at San Francisco. Detroit had a ton of penalties, horrible gap integrity on defense, and poor clock management, plus the team's defense was completely outschemed by Kyle Shanahan. Matthew Stafford may not be enough to avoid a high first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Raiders have played better than many realize because the national media is jumping all over themselves to bash Jon Gruden. In Week 1, the Raiders played a good Rams team close until late in the fourth quarter. In Week 2 on the road in a tough place to visit, Oakland outplayed the Broncos for the majority of the game, but Denver squeaked out a one-point win with a last-second field goal. Oakland is in rebuilding mode, and that was made clear with the Khalil Mack trade. If the Raiders get their picks right and use their money wisely, they could be really good in a couple of years, just in time for them to kickoff in Las Vegas.
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.
Tennessee Titans: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida
Despite being without their starting quarterback, left tackle, right tackle and tight end, the Titans got a surprising home win over the poorly coached Texans. Backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert led Tennessee to a win over Deshaun Watson despite Gabbert having some struggles. The Texans should have won the game considering how well DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller played, but a poor game plan and terrible offensive line led to Tennessee getting its first win under new head coach Mike Vrabel.
The Titans' pass coverage struggled with the Texans' dynamic receivers, and the defense could use another safety to pair with Kevin Byard. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson would be a great fit as a coverage safety because he also has experience playing corner. In 2018, Gardner-Johnson has 20 tackles with two sacks. He had five interceptions over his first two seasons. Gardner-Johnson could be an ideal complement to Byard.
Indianapolis Colts: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
The Colts notched a surprising road win in Washington with tremendous performances from their edge rusher Jabaal Sheard and rookie linebacker Darius Leonard. Leonard was all over the field, collecting 15 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble - that clinched the win for the Colts. They are clearly a team on the rise as they have more talent on their roster and do not look like a finesse team any more. On Sunday, Indianapolis won at the point of attack on both sides of the ball. To help the Colts' defense continue their climb, they could use another edge rusher across from Sheard.
Landing Clelin Ferrell in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft would be an ideal scenario for Indianapolis. Ferrell has been Clemson's best defensive lineman over the past two seasons and is off to a great start in 2018. He has five sacks with 12 tackles, two passes batted and a forced fumble so far this season. Ferrell is a fast edge rusher with length and athleticism. He has also been more stout as a run defender this season, so his decision to return to Clemson for 2018 has enhanced his development for the NFL. Ferrell would be a great fit as a base end in Indianapolis' new defense.
Kansas City Chiefs: Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State
The Chiefs won a shootout over Pittsburgh despite young star quarterback Pat Mahomes tossing six touchdown passes on the Steelers. In Week 1, the Chifes won another high-scoring affair over the Chargers, so obviously the Chiefs need to improve their defense in the offseason. Tamba Hali is gone, and Dee Ford is hitting free agency. Here is another pass-rusher to help Kansas City protect leads.
Sweat broke out in the SEC last year with a double-digit sack campaign, and he is off to a great start this year. He has 11 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks so far in 2018. Sweat has length, speed, and athleticism on the edge along with natural feel as a rusher. He could be a great fit for the Chiefs across from Justin Houston. Taking Sweat in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft would be a great value for Kansas City.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
The Buccaneers are a shocking 2-0 after cruising over the defending Super Bowl champs. Ryan "Fitz-magic" was phenomenal for the second week in a row at burning defenses deep downfield. Philadelphia made a valiant attempt at a comeback, but the Bucs had build up too big of a lead. Tampa Bay could use more cornerback help this offseason, however, as Vernon Hargreaves has been inconsistent and Ben Grimes is ancient.
Williams would be a great fit in the Bucs' defense and give them a man corner to help defend Julio Jones and Michael Thomas. Williams has two interceptions after three games this season, and he produced six picks last season as a first-year starter. Williams has good length, quickness, and ball skills. Landing him could be a great value for the Buccaneers in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Atlanta Falcons: Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
The Falcons had everything going for them with extra time to prepare for the Panthers because Carolina's players, coaches, and overall organization were dealing with Hurricane Florence while trying prepare for this game. Cam Newton still almost pulled off an unlikely comeback win in Atlanta. Following Jalen Collins going bust, the Falcons could use more cornerback talent to pair with Desmond Trufant.
Two weeks ago in the Hot Press
, we surveyed team scouts on who impressed them during fall training camp, and Oruwariye was one of players mentioned. Oruwariye has taken that strong practice performance to the field as he had interceptions in back-to-back games to open the 2018 season. To go along with the picks, Oruwariye has broken up four passes and has 12 tackles. The 6-foot-1, 203-pounder has excellent size for the NFL. With his hot start to the season, Oruwariye could end up being one of the top corner prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Miami Dolphins: Jeff Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
The Dolphins are 2-0 after putting a halt to the Jets' hot start to the 2018 season. Miami did a good job of frustrating Sam Darnold, while Ryan Tannehill produced an efficient game to lead the Dolphins. After cutting Ndamukong Suh in the offseason, Miami could use building block on the interior of the defensive line. In the South Florida heat, having another tackle to go with Jordan Phillips and Davon Godchaux is a necessity.
Simmons is one of the best defensive linemen in college football and is a freaky athlete with his rare combination of speed, athleticism, size, and natural strength. Thus far in 2018, he has been very disruptive causing a lot of havoc in the backfield for the opposition. Simmons has totaled 11 tackles and 5.5 tackles for a loss in limited playing time across the first three games of 2018.
Last week in the Hot Press
, we talked about how some team sources said they would fight for Simmons in their pre-draft meetings after researching his background. The Dolphins took a chance on Laremy Tunsil, so a player like Simmons probably won't scare them off.
Cincinnati Bengals: Chris Lindstrom, G, LSU
The Bengals have improved their offensive line after having their blocking unit kill their 2017 season, during which the line struggled all year. While Cincinnati's offensive line looks better through two games, the team still could use more talent to help open holes for Joe Mixon at the point of attack and protect Andy Dalton. Landing an upgrade at right guard could help to improve both phases and give the Bengals a guard to pair with Billy Price in the long term.
Lindstrom goes under the radar, but he is a really good blocker and quickly one can tell that he is a pro-caliber offensive lineman. Lindstrom plays with good leverage and shows some heavy hands to manipulate defenders. While he looks well put together, he shows some quickness to the second level and is more athletic than one would think from the eyeball test. In the pass rush, Lindstrom uses his hands well with good placement and takes advantage of his strength with technique to sustain his block. In the second or third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Lindstrom would be a good fit for Cincinnati.
Team Draft Report:
In this section, we take a deeper look at specific teams and where they stand in regards to the 2019 NFL Draft.
Despite losing to a vastly improved Colts team, the Redskins are a tough team that could surprise this season. Their brain trust of Bruce Allen and Doug Williams have done a good job of bringing in talent to the roster while giving head coach Jay Gruden players who fit the schemes on both side of the ball. Washington is a contender to win the NFC East and compete for a wild card this year. Along with good starting talent, Williams has built up the depth on the Redskins roster, so I believe they are going to be a force to reckon with throughout the season.
One of the things that I love about what Allen and Williams have done is to bring in pure football players. In the past two drafts, they have selected Jonathan Allen, Da'Ron Payne, Montae Nicholson, and Tim Settle to give them a young core to the defense. All of those players, along with other young backups in Ryan Anderson and Fabien Moreau, were not workout-warrior prospects, but rather good football players who are physical and possesses a tenacious style of play. They are strong and hard-nosed competitors who will give Washington an identity as a physical football team.
As with any team, there are areas for the Redskins to address in the offseason. If Preston Smith leaves in free agency and they would prefer keeping Anderson in a backup role, the Redskins could consider adding an edge rusher. Ryan Kerrigan is excellent but is aging, so adding some young talent with a pass-rusher is worth considering. In the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, there could be some excellent 3-4 outside linebacker candidates, including Clemson's Clelin Ferrell, Mississippi State's Montez Sweat, Oregon's Jalen Jelks, Michigan's Chase Winovich and Kentucky's Josh Allen. Those players might be the best value for the Redskins in Round 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Offensively, the Redskins could use a starter at left guard. Boston College's Chris Lindstrom could be a plug-and-play contributor. Ohio State's Michael Jordan and Mississippi State's Elgton Jenkins can play center or guard, so either would bring some versatility.
Of course, the most important position on any NFL team is quarterback. Trading for Alex Smith was a great move to replace Kirk Cousins. Smith is an upgrade in Gruden's offense, and makes the Redskins a more dangerous offense. After this season, however, Smith will turn 35, and Washington could opt out of his contract after 2020. That would give the Redskins a few years to groom a quarterback behind Smith. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Redskins taking Auburn's Jarrett Stidham, who would be great fit in Gruden's offense. Stidham's accurate, precision passing and mobility would make him mesh exceptionally well with the scheme. Learning from Smith would also be great for Stidham.
A strong 2019 NFL Draft could help Washington get closer to being a Super Bowl contender. The way that the roster is being built by Williams and Allen will lead to a lot of success for the Redskins as long as they stay patient. Later this year, I could see the team getting into the playoffs, in part because Williams and Allen are really doing a great job in Washington.
The Ravens are a team in transition; they are trying to win now while also rebuilding for the future. Baltimore has enjoyed a great run under retiring general manager Ozzie Newsome. Newsome has been one of the best drafting general managers in the NFL, helping to build two Super Bowl champions. He deserves to go into the Hall of Fame, but Baltimore has a talented assistant General Manager in Eric DeCosta, who many teams have tried to hire away. It will be the charge of DeCosta to build the Ravens a winning team around 2018 NFL Draft first-round pick Lamar Jackson.
Offensively, Baltimore needs a lot of additions to help Jackson. The primary need is finding Jackson some play-makers at receiver. In the 2019 NFL Draft, there could be some good receivers available to the Ravens. The top wideout is Ole Miss' A.J. Brown, and he could be gone by the time the Ravens pick, depending on how high they are selecting. Other receivers who could provide a threat for splash plays include Oklahoma's Marquise Brown, South Carolina's Deebo Samuel and Missouri's Emmanuel Hall. All of them are threats to take any reception the distance.
Baltimore also could consider more offensive line talent. On Thursday night in Week 2, Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap put a lot of pressure on Joe Flacco. Ronnie Stanley is a solid blocker, but adding more young talent at guard and an upgrade at right tackle would be wise to help protect Lamar Jackson. A nice fit at guard on the second day could be Boston College's Chris Lindstrom. Ohio State's Michael Jordan and Mississippi State's Elgton Jenkins can play center or guard, so either would bring some versatility. Right tackles to consider on Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft include Florida's Jawaan Taylor, West Virginia's Yodny Cajuste and Ohio State's Isaiah Prince.
Defensively, the Ravens have a few needs. Their defensive line is solid, but it lacks an elite player at the point of attack. The Ravens had that on their Super Bowl defenses and have not had that since Haloti Ngata aged before being traded. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have Baltimore taking Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeff Simmons. He is an elite player who could play tackle in a 4-3 or end in a 3-4. Other good defensive linemen to consider include Clemson's Dexter Lawrence, Clemson's Christian Wilkins, Boston College's Zach Allen and Michigan's Rashan Gary.
The Ravens could use a young edge rusher to replace Terrell Suggs. I did not like Kamalei Correa coming out of Boise State, and he turned out to be bust for Baltimore. However, the organization made up for it by getting a steal in Matt Judon. In the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, there could be some excellent 3-4 outside linebacker candidates for the Ravens, including Clemson's Clelin Ferrell, Mississippi State's Montez Sweat, Oregon's Jalen Jelks, Michigan's Chase Winovich and Kentucky's Josh Allen. These prospects and the defensive lineman are of a higher caliber than the wideouts, so it might make more sense for Baltimore to get a defensive building block on the opening night of the 2019 NFL Draftraft while upgrading the offense on Day 2.
The Ravens have some young talent to build around on both side of the ball. Even with some rookie struggles, Jackson is still the future of the franchise. Before long, DeCosta could have Baltimore back among the top teams in the AFC.
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