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:
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.
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. This week, Oakland led in Miami until the fourth quarter, when the Dolphins came back to get to 3-0 with the Raiders falling to 0-3.
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 kick off in Las Vegas. In my mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Raiders stocking their defense with some good young talent to build around.
The Texans are in last place in the AFC South and have been poorly coached in each of their first three games of the year. The Giants led from their first possession and outplayed Houston on both sides of the ball. Free agent addition Aaron Colvin was targeted and exploited by Eli Manning. Offensively, Deshaun Watson has regressed from his rookie year, and that goes back to the bad coaching.
In Week 2, the Texans 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. But the team's biggest liability is the coaching of Bill O'Brien. The Texans have been consistently outschemed in their nine-game losing streak, and the players aren't responding or playing for O'Brien.
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.
Chicago Bears: Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida
The Bears were down 14-0 before making a comeback to get a 16-14 win at Arizona. Chicago's defense bailed the team out, forcing Sam Bradford into numerous turnovers to set up the offense in good position to pick up some easy points. One of the problems the Bears' offense had was the pressure on Mitch Trubisky. Chandler Jones and Robert Nkemdiche made big plays, and Trubisky saw a good amount of pressure. The Bears are without a first-round pick from the Khalil Mack trade, but in the second round, they could look for a right tackle upgrade over Bobby Massie.
In the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Taylor would be a good value for the Bears, because he could be an upgrade over Massie quickly in his NFL career. Taylor (6-5, 340) played right tackle for the Gators in 2017 and has impressed some team evaluators. "Taylor at Florida is very talented with size, movement skills, and strength," said one scout. "His stock could boom with a strong season. He needs to be more consistent though." In 2018, Taylor is off to a solid start. While he has not dominated, he has been respectable and has played well for the Gators overall. He has a lot of upside to develop.
Philadelphia Eagles: Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
The Eagles welcomed back Carson Wentz to the field and enjoyed a narrow home win over Indianapolis. Unfortunately, the Eagles once again put too much on Wentz's shoulders as they struggled to run the ball. Jay Ajayi is entering free agency, and a weapon like Love could be amazing in the Philadelphia offense. Taking Love late in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft could provide big bang for General Manager Howie Roseman's buck.
Love has averaged 4.3 yards per carry in 2018 for 254 yards with two touchdowns. He has four receptions for 27 yards as well. Team sources say that Love is better than other smaller backs who have gone in the first round, like David Wilson or Jahvid Best. They think that Love is more on a par with Chris Johnson coming out of East Carolina, except Love isn't as straight-line fast as Johnson, but possesses more elusiveness and moves in the open field.
While Love is extremely fast, he is a tougher running back than one would think given his size. He has excellent balance and is able to pick up yards after contact. Scouts have told me that they rate Love higher than Christian McCaffrey for the ability to run between the tackles in the NFL. Love has great vision that, combined with his speed, makes him deadly. One college director told me, "If the other nine guys do their job for a few seconds, this guy is gone." In 2017, Love averaged a staggering 8.1 yards per carry for 2,118 yards with 19 touchdowns. He also caught six passes for 33 yards. Sources say Love has more receiving potential for the NFL than the numbers illustrate.
New Orleans Saints: Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
The Saints won a shootout with the Falcons in which Drew Brees continued to rewrite the record book. One issue that has hurt the New Orleans offense this season and has caused complaints from Sean Payton is the lack of production from the wide receivers not named Michael Thomas. That issue was seen against Atlanta, as no receiver other than Thomas had even 30 yards receiving. The Saints are without their first-round pick from the Marcus Davenport trade, but in the second round, they could find a No. 2 wideout to go with Thomas.
Samuel has 20 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown so far in 2018. The 6-foot, 205-pounder is a speedy receiver who also has solid size to him. Samuel has shown soft hands and great athleticism to make difficult catches as well as turn routine receptions into big plays. Samuel was incredible to start the 2017 season. He had 15 receptions for 250 yards with three receiving touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and two kick-return touchdowns before a leg fracture sidelined him in the third game of the year. He totaled 59 receptions for 783 yards and a touchdown in 2016.
Buffalo Bills: A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
The Bills had a shocking road win in Minnesota, as Buffalo scored 27 points in the first half to take down the Vikings 27-6. Veteran running back Chris Ivory was the Bills' leading rusher (20-56) and receiver (3-70) in Josh Allen's debut as the Buffalo starting quarterback. Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones are proving to be just pedestrian receivers. Buffalo needs to get more long-term weapons for Allen.
Brown has the skill set to be a No. 1 receiver for an NFL offense. The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder is a physical wideout who combines surprising speed with good route-running and strong hands. He is a dangerous run-after-the-catch receiver. Brown has 26 receptions for 381 yards and three scores on the year. Last season, he totaled 75 receptions for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns. Brown could be a good No. 1 receiver for Allen.
Carolina Panthers: Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
The Panthers have not invested a lot of money or draft capital in their safeties, as it is not a critical position in their defensive scheme. However, having pedestrian safeties is hurting them this year. Last week, Matt Ryan hurt Carolina through the air, and this week, Andy Dalton was able to keep Cincinnati in the game by finding Tyler Boyd, A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert for critical plays. Having a coverage safety could make a good Carolina defense even nastier.
Recently in the Hot Press
, we discussed how multiple team sources were saying there was a first-round buzz building around Thompson. Through four games this season, Thompson has 20 tackles with two interceptions and four passes broken up. He has good size, length, speed and athleticism. He would be a great fit behind Luke Kuechly.
New York Giants: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
The Giants got their first win of the season in Houston as the their offense dominated the Texans' defense in the first half. After halftime, New York's offense struggled until a late game-clinching drive, but J.J. Watt put Houston back in the game with three sacks, four tackles for a loss and a forced fumble. New York subbed Chad Wheeler in at right tackle, but he really struggled with Watt as once could expect. In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Giants should look for a bookend to go with Nate Solder.
Williams (6-4, 297) was a freshman starter at right tackle for Alabama in 2016 and did a nice job of opening holes in the ground game. He took over as the starting left tackle with Cam Robinson moving on to the NFL, and Williams played well on the blind side in 2017. He is an intelligent blocker who has the versatility to be effective in the run game and in pass protection. He has size, flexibility and mobility. One AFC scout for National said he had Williams graded on the second day entering the 2018 season. They thought he may have to play at right tackle or guard in the NFL, but they said that Williams is very smart and reliable. With a good 2018, he could be a late first-round candidate given the need at the position across the league. If he slips to Day 2 in the 2019 NFL Draft, he shouldn't get out of the second round.
Cleveland Browns: Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
The Browns' winless streak came to an end, only 635 days since their last victory. Cleveland is now 1-1-1 on the season, but the team easily could be 3-0. John Dorsey has done a good job making over the organization. His strong hires in the front office, like Alonzo Highsmith and Eliott Wolf, have paid off with a much more talented roster this season. New offensive coordinator Todd Haley has been a huge upgrade to the coaching staff, and the Browns are a team that can compete with anyone. For Cleveland to take the next step, one need the team could stand to address is finding a replacement for Joe Thomas. The Jets were able to put some heat on the quarterback, and adding a blind-side blocker to protect Baker Mayfield makes sense considering the massive investment the Browns have made in him.
Little has the skill set of a top-10 pick, but he has not played up to it as a sophomore and in the early going of his junior year. He has length, quickness, and athleticism to negate speed rushers on the edge. If he gets stronger and develops more of a mean streak, he could be a quality run blocker because he has the size and length to give defenders problems. Little could be a mid- to late first-round pick, although slipping to Day 2 is possible as well. He could be a good project for the Browns and might develop into a franchise left tackle.
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.
The national media has been falling all over themselves to criticize Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, but they fail to realize that Oakland is in rebuilding mode. The Raiders blew a lot of picks in the 2015-2017 NFL Drafts that led them to have a terrible defense with no depth on the team. The Khalil Mack trade allows the Raiders to rebuild with four first-round picks over the next two drafts and lots of money to sign free agents. The only NFL team to win a Super Bowl after signing a defender to a $100 million dollar contract was Philadelphia, which has Carson Wentz on a cheap rookie contract. If the Raiders execute the rebuild well while nailing their first-round picks and using their money wisely, they should be in great position to be one of the top teams in the AFC.
Oakland has one of the worst defenses in the NFL thanks in large part to busted picks like Obi Melifonwu, Jihad Ward, Mario Edwards, and a first-rounder who is just a backup quality player in Karl Joseph. Fortunately for the Raiders, the early returns are looking good on their 2018 class with Arden Key showing Pro Bowl potential. Nick Nelson, P.J. Hall, and Maurice Hurst all look like they will be solid pros as well. Still, the team needs a lot more help on that side of the ball.
The defensive front seven needs some difference-makers. Oakland could draw on the 2019 NFL Draft's great class of defensive linemen with help at tackle or end. The defensive tackle class is loaded with players like Houston's Ed Oliver, Auburn's Derrick Brown, Mississippi State's Jeff Simmons, Alabama's Raekwon Davis, Michigan's Rashan Gary, Clemson's Dexter Lawrence, Clemson's Christian Wilkins, Ohio State's Dre'Mont Jones and Notre Dame's Jerry Tillery. In the first round, the organization could take a tackle to give the roster a three-man rotation with Hall and Hurst. Then, the Raiders could take an end like Clemson's Clelin Ferrell or Boston College's Zach Allen to book end with Key.
If the Bears first-round pick is lower and the top defensive line prospects are gone, the Raiders could consider adding a difference-maker at linebacker with LSU's Devin White, or a long-term safety with Alabama's Deionte Thompson. Derrick Johnson is not a long-term starter at middle linebacker, while Reggie Nelson, Dominiue Rodgers-Cromartie and Marcus Gilchrist are not long-term players at safety. Adding talent at these positions on Day 2 is also in play for Oakland.
Offensively, the Raiders need some help at the skill positions. The offensive line looks in good shape, with rookie first-round pick Kolton Miller looking like he could be one of the top left tackles in the NFL before long. Miller has stud potential, and that was a great first-round pick by this run of the Gruden regime. The Raiders need more talent around Derek Carr, specifically upgrades at their second and third receiver. Players like Missouri's Emmanuel Hall, South Carolina's Deebo Samuel or Oklahoma's Marquise Brown could be good options in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The Raiders have one of the best quarterback coaches and offensive coordinators in the NFL with Greg Olson, so getting more receiver talent for Olson to groom for Carr would make a lot of sense.
The Raiders also need some new blood in the backfield. Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin aren't long-term starters at running back. Lynch is old, while Martin is too unreliable. On the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Raiders could consider some talented backs like Stanford's Bryce Love, Michigan State's L.J. Scott or Alabama's Damien Harris. Jon Gruden likes big backs who have some receiving ability, so Harris or Scott could be the players who fit that criteria.
It definitely hurt Oakland in the short term to trade away Khalil Mack. However, if the team executes the rebuild well, then it will have been a genius trade. If the Raiders had re-signed Mack, they would have little money to spend on free agents for years with the big contracts of Mack and Carr. If Raiders fans are patient, Gruden and his excellent coaching staff could definitely have the Silver and Black back among the elite in the AFC in a few years.
New York Jets:
The Jets had an electric start to the season when they dominated Detroit on Monday Night Football, but since then, they have come down to earth by dropping games to the Dolphins and Browns. While Sam Darnold and the young Jets haven't played as well since Week 1, this is still a young rebuilding team that is going to need time to develop. General manager Mike Maccagnan has done a nice job of drafting young talent to build around, and a few more good drafts could have New York back in the playoff mix in the AFC.
Defensively, the Jets could use more help next to Leonard Williams on the defensive line. For an edge rusher, there are some talented pass-rushers led by Ohio State's Nick Bosa, who could be the best prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft. Clemson's Clelin Ferrell, Boston College's Zach Allen and Mississippi State's Montez Sweat could all be nice options in the top 20.
If the organization decides to go on the inside of the defensive line, there are excellent first-round prospects with the likes of Houston's Ed Oliver, Auburn's Derrick Brown, Mississippi State's Jeff Simmons, Alabama's Raekwon Davis, Michigan's Rashan Gary, Clemson's Dexter Lawrence, Clemson's Christian Wilkins, Ohio State's Dre'Mont Jones and Notre Dame's Jerry Tillery. All nine of those players could be first-rounders, and any of them could be a nice addition for New York. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Jets taking Michigan defensive tackle Rashan Gary. Gary is a crazy athlete with size, speed and athleticism. He has the flexibility and versatility to also play defensive end via his dynamic skill set.
The value would be the best for New York to go with a defensive lineman in the first round and address the offense on Day 2. There could be some good receivers who slip to the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft because of all the defensive linemen who go in the first round. South Carolina's Deebo Samuel, Oklahoma's Marquise Brown and Ohio State's Parris Campbell all have the potential to score on any catch. Any of them would be a nice weapon to give Sam Darnold. The organization also could consider adding more offensive line talent to help protect Darnold.
The Jets have some young talent to build around on both sides of the ball. Luckily for them, they have strong leadership in their front office with Maccagnan. He has made some excellent draft picks in Darnold, Leonard Williams and Jamal Adams. Other picks like Darron Lee and Marcus Maye are promising as well. If the Jets stay patient, Maccagnan could have them in playoff form in the near future.
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