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:
New York Giants:
The Giants play tonight against the Falcons. Heading into Week 6, the Giants held the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and they maintained via a loss to the Eagles on Thursday Night Football. If the Giants do have the first-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, they could use it on Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, because Eli Manning is aging and declining, and the franchise needs a quarterback of the future. However, New York general manager Dave Gettleman chose to pass on taking a potential franchise quarterback for star running back Saquon Barkley last April. Thus, it would not shock me if Gettleman takes one of the rare defensive line prospects and then targets a quarterback on Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft.
San Francisco 49ers:
In the preseason, the 49ers were a trendy prediction to win the NFC West after the winning streak they had to close out the 2017 season. Those high hopes came crashing down a few weeks ago when starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a season-ending injury. If San Francisco lands the first-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, it would make sense for the team to trade down if it can get good value on a package of picks. If the organization sticks at No. 1, Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa would make sense given the roster's need for an edge rusher. Solomon Thomas has been a huge disappointment and is completely ineffective as a pass-rusher. Bosa could form a nice tandem with DeForest Buckner.
The Cardinals were blown out by the Broncos on Thursday Night Football in an embarrassing performance for Arizona. The Cardinals' one win came over a reeling 49ers team playing without starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The Cardinals still figure to lose a lot 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.
Oakland had a bye this week. 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. In Week 3, Oakland led in Miami until the fourth quarter. Finally in Week 4, the Raiders notched a comeback win over Cleveland. Oakland's had two definitive losses against the Seahawks and Chargers, which has dropped the team to 1-5 on the season.
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.
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.
Detroit Lions: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
The Lions notched a much-needed road win in Miami, where the Dolphins were playing without Ryan Tannehill. Detroit took advantage of Brock Osweiler and recorded four sacks against Miami. However, the Lions can't expect that kind of production from Romeo Okwara and Ricky Jean-Francois in the long term. Regardless of whether Ziggy Ansah is brought back, it will be a necessity for Detroit to add more pass-rushing talent in the offseason.
Landing Clelin Ferrell in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft would be an excellent value for Detroit. Ferrell was Clemson's best defensive lineman over 2016 and 2017, and he is off to a great start in 2018 with six sacks, 25 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, two passes batted and a forced fumble. Ferrell is a fast edge rusher with length and athleticism, but this year, he has also been more stout as a run defender, so his decision to return to Clemson has helped improve his development for the NFL. Ferrell would be a great fit as a base end in the Lions' defense.
Indianapolis Colts: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
The Colts blew out the Bills, with Andrew Luck throwing four touchdowns and Buffalo quarterback Derek Anderson throwing three interceptions. The Colts have improved their edge rushers this season, but they could use an interior pass-rusher. Williams would be a perfect fit as a three-technique in Indianapolis' 4-3 defense.
Weeks ago in the Hot Press
, WalterFootball.com was the first outlet to report and project Williams as a high first-round pick. Multiple team sources told me they saw Williams as a high first-round talent for the 2019 NFL Draft. Williams has been a breakout player for Alabama this year. Raekwon Davis and Isaiah Buggs received more preseason hype, but Williams has been the most consistent play-maker and disruptor on the Crimson Tide's defensive line. In 2018, Williams has 33 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and one pass batted. He has caused more disruption than the numbers indicate as well.
Williams is very fast at the point of attack with the ability to fire a gap and cause havoc in the backfield. The redshirt sophomore is listed at 6-foot-4, 289 pounds. If those measurements are legit, he could be a good fit as a three-technique in a 4-3 defense or as a five-technique in a 3-4. If Williams got to the Colts in the first round, that would be a great addition for them.
New England Patriots: Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
The Bears came up a yard short on the final play of the game against New England, and the Patriots fought hard to get a win in Chicago. Tight end Trey Burton (9-126-1) and running back Tarik Cohen (8-69) gave the Patriots' defense a lot of problems. New England has some aging veterans at safety and could use some young talent to help defend against receiving tight ends and backs.
Thompson has been one of the breakout players in the early going of 2018, and multiple team sources are raving about him. They say that a first-round buzz is building around Thompson. In 2018, the senior has two interceptions, five passes broken up, one forced fumble and 47 tackles. Thompson was a backup to Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison as a junior. In limited playing time last season, Thompson totaled 25 tackles, a pass breakup and an interception. The 6-foot-2, 196-pounder has a big-time skill set and could be a fast riser during the 2019 NFL Draft process.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
After firing Mike Smith, the Bucs' defense was improved against the Browns, but Tampa Bay still blew a fourth quarter lead to rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. Tampa Bay has had major problems defending passing attacks this year and clearlys need to improve its cornerback talent in the offseason.
Diggs took his game to another level this season before going down with a broken foot that has him out indefinitely. He flashed in 2017, but still was developing at cornerback after starting his career playing both offense and defense. Diggs was able to focus on corner in 2017, and now this year, his play took a huge jump. He had 20 tackles with six passes broken up and one interception before the broken foot. Diggs (6-2, 199) was showing major cover corner talent with a great skill set.
Los Angeles Rams: Jamel Dean, CB, Auburn
The Rams cruised to a win in San Francisco, and the one player who gave the Los Angeles defense some problems was San Francisco tight end George Kittle. With Aqib Talib out, the Rams have missed a big cornerback. Talib is nearing the end of his contract and is aging. Thus, Los Angeles could look for a big corner to eventually replace Talib.
In 2018, Dean has 13 tackles with one interception and five passes broken up. He had a strong sophomore season in 2017. That season, he totaled 43 tackles with eight passes broken up. Some team sources have said they think Dean has a lot of potential. The 6-foot-2, 208-pounder has excellent size and could be even better as he gains experience.
Carolina Panthers: Jachai Polite, DE/OLB, Florida
The Panthers put together a miraculous comeback in Philadelphia, wiping out a 17-0 deficit to beat the Super Bowl champs 21-17. The Panthers' defense shored up when they had to, but they struggled with Carson Wentz having too much time to throw for a lot of the game. After this season, Carolina should target another pass-rusher and successor to Julius Peppers.
Polite has been a force on the edge for Florida in 2018. The junior has an odd body type, but he could be a good rotational edge rusher in a 4-3 and would fit well as a 3-4. On the year, Polite has seven sacks with four forced fumbles, 26 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss and three passes batted. He has natural feel as a pass-rusher with speed, athleticism and moves. The 6-foot-2, 260-pound Polite is a bit of tweener in that he has the height of a tackle but the weight of a defensive end. He also has good speed and athleticism at the point of attack. In 2017, Polite totaled 22 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks. He would be a nice fit across from Mario Addison.
Denver Broncos: Cody Ford, G, Oklahoma
The Broncos dominated in the desert on Thursday Night Football, turning in a tremendous defensive performance. Denver got enough offense, but its defense outscored the Cardinals' offense via two pick-sixes, plus the Cardinals' offense only mustered 10 points. Perhaps this win will get the Broncos righted toward contending for a wild-card berth in the second half of the season, but in the offseason, adding more talent to the offense would make sense. Denver's offensive line has had issues this year, and a talent like Ford would be a plug-and-play starter at right guard.
Ford would improve the interior pass protection for Denver while also being a great addition to the team's run blocking. The 6-foot-5, 335-pounder is strong at the point of attack with the ability to get movement in the ground game. Scouts who have been through Oklahoma say that Ford is an outstanding athlete for his size. He's playing right tackle now, but as a pro, they think he will project well as a guard. Given Ford's size and athleticism, he should handle pass-rushers well and be reliable to protect the quarterback. If the Broncos could land Ford in the 2019 NFL Draft, he would be a plug-and-play upgrade to their offensive line.
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 almost getting to the Super Bowl last year, Jacksonville has a lot of needs to address on the roster. The Jaguars has a Super Bowl caliber defense, but their limitations on offense could keep them from taking advantage of their great defense to get a Lombardi Trophy. This will be a critical offseason for Jaguars decision maker Tom Coughlin to add some plug-and-play pieces to push the team over the top. Over the last three games, Jacksonville has been out-scored 57-0 in the first half, and one has to wonder if the team is quitting on Doug Marrone.
The biggest issue facing the franchise is the quarterback position. At this point, it is clear that Blake Bortles is just a backup caliber quarterback who is not consistent enough to lead a team to a championship. He was benched yesterday, and the Jaguars' decision not to bring in legit competition for him last offseason is a painful regret. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Jaguars taking Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson in the second round, and he would be a great addition and value for Jacksonville. N.C. State's Ryan Finley and Missouri's Drew Lock are other candidates to consider. Adding one of those three quarterbacks is a necessity, because Jacksonville can't keep wasting time on Bortles.
In the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Jacksonville could consider adding another receiving weapon in Ole Miss' A.J. Brown, but that will depend on how high the organization is picking. On the second day of the draft, the Jaguars could consider more receiving help for their offense. They have nice speed receivers but could use more size after losing Allen Robinson in free agency. Some larger, possessional receivers would include Arizona State's K'Neal Harry, Texas' Collin Johnson, N.C. State's Kelvin Harmon and Texas' Lil'Jordan Humphrey.
Defensively, the Jaguars might find some good values in the first round due to that being the strength of the 2019 NFL Draft. Defensive end Dante Fowler could leave in free agency, but Jacksonville could land potential upgrades in Clemson's Clelin Ferrell, Boston College's Zach Allen, Mississippi State's Montez Sweat, Oregon's Jalen Jelks, or Florida's Jachai Polite. On the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft, some options to consider include Miami defensive end Joe Jackson, Louisiana Tech's Jaylon Ferguson and Old Dominion's Oshane Ximines.
It was interesting to see the Jaguars lack of response to getting blown out last week when they looked lethargic and disinterested. After getting embarrassed in Dallas, they came out flat against the Texans and had no sense of urgency against a division rival, despite first place in the AFC South being on the line. Thus, it is fair to wonder if the team is tuning Marrone out. His and Nate Hackett's offensive game plan was awful on Sunday.
Marrone is known to be one of the biggest jerks in the NFL, and a lot of his players have hated playing for him. Other coaches have disliked working with Marrone as well. Just two years ago, he undermined Gus Bradley to take the head coaching job from him. That was Marrone's plan all along, as he was bitter that the Jets passed on him for their head coaching position after Marrone opted out his job with the Bills. Sources with the Jaguars told me that during the 2015 season, Marrone was so negligent in coaching and preparing the offensive line for game days that the team went to assistant offensive line coach Luke Butkus to do the duties that Marrone should have been doing. Marrone's plan worked though, and he replaced Bradley, but clearly the best coach on the Jacksonville staff is defensive coordinator Todd Wash. Marrone's act could be wearing thin with the team considering the effort level against Houston and Dallas. If the Jaguars continue to falter while giving poor effort, the organization should fire Marrone and replace him with Wash.
The Cardinals got destroyed by Denver on Thursday Night Football, and since Week 1, it has been obvious that this is going to be a long year in the desert. A few years ago, the Cardinals had one of the most talented rosters in the NFL and were well coached by Bruce Arians. A series of bad draft picks by general manager Steve Keim, however, have allowed the roster to degrade, leaving a lot of holes to fill. It could take a few offseasons of good drafts to get Arizona back in playoff contention, but one has to wonder if Keim is capable of doing it after making poor draft decisions on the likes of Robert Nkemdiche, Haason Reddick, D.J. Humphries, and Deone Bucannon. Humphries and Nkemdiche have struggled; the Cardinals are reportedly trying to trade Bucannon; and Reddick is a work in progress who is too early to pull the plug on. It will be interesting to see if Keim survives this season after getting a contract extension but then an embarrassing DUI last offseason. It's clear that Arizona roster needs a lot of upgrades.
The Cardinals have a ton of needs. The offensive line is terrible, and the defensive front also needs help following the departure of Calais Campbell in free agency. The team also needs upgraded cornerbacks and a true No. 1 wide receiver to be the eventual replacement for Larry Fitzgerald, who can't play forever. The cornerback position has been led by Patrick Peterson for years, but there are reports that Arizona is open to trading its All-Pro cover corner. Even if the organization doesn't deal him, the team could use more corner talent around him. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Cardinals taking Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs, who possesses excellent size, speed and athleticism. He could be a great successor as the No. 1 corner for Arizona. If the Cardinals don't take a corner in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, they could consider that need on Day 2 with some quality prospects like Penn State's Amani Oruwariye, Auburn's Jamel Dean, Troy's Blace Brown and Ohio State's Kendall Sheffield.
Next April, a legendary defensive line class will enter the 2019 NFL Draft, and there could be as many as 10 interior defensive linemen who grade out as first-rounders. Alabama's Quinnen Williams, Auburn's Derrick Brown, Mississippi State's Jeff Simmons, Michigan's Rashan Gary and Houston's Ed Oliver would all be nice fits penetrators at the point of attack for the Cardinals. If they wanted a big nose tackle to plug the run, they would have options like Alabama's Raekwon Davis and Clemson's Dexter Lawrence.
If the Cardinals do end up with top-five pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, they could get one of the best of the best. As we disclosed in the Hot Press
recently, Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams has a buzz in the scouting community as a high first-rounder and is generating rave reviews from scouts. He would be a great fit in Steve Wilks defense. Williams could be the three-technique in 4-3 sets and cause disruption like Wilks had with Kawann Short in Carolina. In 3-4 sets, Williams has the ability to set the edge via his strength, yet still get pressure using his speed, athletic ability, and power. High in the first round, Williams would be an excellent choice for Arizona.
The Cardinals also could consider taking Ole Miss left tackle Greg Little to be the blind-side protector for Josh Rosen, or they could choose a No. 1 receiver like Ole Miss' A.J. Brown. However, both Brown and Little are not as good of prospects as the defensive linemen, so Arizona would get better value by adding more offensive talent on Day 2. A good left tackle to consider on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft would be Washington State's Andre Dillard, and some nice receivers to add for Rosen might be Ohio State's Parris Campbell, South Carolina's Deebo Samuel or Texas' Collin Johnson.
Rosen gives the Cardinals their quarterback of the future, but they have to build up the talent around him. Rosen also had durability issues in his time at UCLA, so getting him more protection on the offensive line is critical. Adding some veterans in free agency would make sense as well. Arizona should consider getting a new general manager to build the team, as it is hard to have confidence in Keim after his recent run of draft picks.
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