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 lost two games in six days, but also were able to play competitively against the Falcons and Redskins. Heading into Week 9, the Giants hold the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
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:
The 49ers lost on the road in Arizona and fell to 1-7. The loss to the Cardinals was actually a good thing for San Francisco. The 49ers aren't going anywhere this year so losing to pick ahead of a divisional rival is a positive step.
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 last month 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.
Derek Carr had an excellent game against the Colts, but the terrible play of the Oakland defense once again led to another loss. 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 has had only two definitive losses against the Seahawks and Chargers, but is to 1-6 on the season.
Oakland is in rebuilding mode, and that was made clear with the Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades. 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.
Arizona Cardinals: A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
The Cardinals pulled out a late fourth-quarter win over a bad 49ers team playing with their backup quarterback. Clearly, Arizona needs a lot of help in order to become a true contender in the NFC West, as the Rams look like a dominant team for many years to come. Larry Fitzgerald was a hero with a touchdown, critical yards on the game-winning possession, and a two-point conversion to help push the Cardinals. Fitzgerald is nearing the end of his career, so the Cardinals should target a receiver for Josh Rosen to go with Christian Kirk.
Brown has the skill set to be a No. 1 wide receiver for an NFL offense. The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder is a physical player who combines surprising speed with good route-running and strong hands. He is a dangerous run-after-the-catch wideout. Brown has 60 receptions for 805 yards and five scores on the year. Last season, he totaled 75 receptions for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns. Brown could be a legit No. 1 receiver for Rosen.
Oakland Raiders: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
The Raiders drafted two quality young defensive tackles in P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst, but they could use an elite defensive lineman to build around. Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa would be an ideal pick for Oakland, but he could easily be gone before the franchise's first selection. After Bosa, the next highest elite defensive linemen for the 2019 NFL Draft is Quinnen Williams. Having Williams, Hall and Hurst could give the Raiders an elite trio of defensive tackles to rotate and dominate on the inside of the line.
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 Raiders can't get Nick Bosa in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Williams would be a great addition for them.
Seattle Seahawks: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
The Seahawks improved to 4-3 with a road win at Detroit and remain in the NFC wild-card race. Seattle struggled to defend against Marvin Jones, who caught two touchdowns to go with seven receptions for 117 yards. After cutting Richard Sherman, the Seahawks could use a young No. 1 cornerback to match up on big receivers, and it will be hard for Seattle to stop the Rams without improving the talent at cornerback. Taking Diggs in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft would make a lot of sense for Seattle.
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 and a great skill set.
Chicago Bears: Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
The Bears are without their first- and second-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, but if they can land Dillard in Round 3, he would be a great value. Chicago could use some tackle help, and Dillard could develop into an upgrade over Charles Leno at left tackle. That would allow Chicago to move Leno to the right side and improve the offensive line at two spots. This season, the edge blocking for Chicago has not been up to par, and the team could use more talent to go with its strong interior offensive line.
On the edge, Dillard is a good athlete with quick feet to get depth in his drop. He is adept at heading off speed rushers and keeping them from getting turned to the quarterback. Dillard plays with good leverage, as he is a knee bender and does not bend at the waist. There have been a few plays on which Dillard has allowed rushers to use speed to get upfield, but he has also demonstrated nice recoverability to push the rushers deep and around the pocket to protect his tackle. With Dillard's quickness and athleticism, he could be a starting left tackle in the NFL. He probably won't ever be a forceful run blocker, but the NFL is a passing-driven league, so he does not have to be a bull in the ground game to be a valuable starter. On Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft, Dillard could be a good fit for the Bears.
Philadelphia Eagles: Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
The Eagles held on to notch a win over the Jaguars, but Philadelphia's weak running game once again failed to give Carson Wentz much support. Josh Adams had a decent performance, but Wendall Smallwood and Corey Clement are clearly just backup quality backs for the NFL. The Eagles have to give Wentz a better running game in 2019 and provide more support for their young franchise quarterback. This would be a great fit, as Love could be like Jamaal Charles-in-his-prime-type addition to the Philadelphia offense.
The speedster Love has been banged up in 2018 and defenses have been selling out to stop him. As a result, his numbers are down year over year, as he is averaging 4.5 yards per carry in 2018 for 419 yards with three touchdowns. In 2017, Love averaged 8.1 yards per carry for 2,118 yards with 19 touchdowns. He has game-breaking speed and is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. Love would be a great pick for the Eagles with one of their second-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
The Steelers have been rounding into form in recent weeks, but one thing that has been clear is how much Pittsburgh is still missing Ryan Shazier. He did a lot for the Steelers in pass coverage as well as providing sideline-to-sideline speed in run defense. Hopefully, Shazier is able to make a comeback and play again, but even if he does, Pittsburgh could use an upgrade to go with him.
Wilson has 34 tackles with three passes broken up and an interception in 2018, but he has only played one half in most games due to Alabama blowing out so many opponents. In 2017, Wilson collected 40 tackles with 2.5 tackles for a loss, two passes batted and four interceptions. Team sources say that Wilson (6-1, 238) has early-round potential for the 2019 NFL Draft. They love what he does in pass coverage with his rare instincts and ability to defend the pass. Inside linebackers with pass-coverage skills are always in demand, so if Wilson maintains that kind of play in coverage, there will be plenty of NFL teams hoping to land him.
Houston Texans: Cody Ford, G, Oklahoma
The Texans dominated in Houston on Thursday Night Football, turning in a tremendous offensive performance to dominate a weak Miami defense. This offseason, Houston has to continue to improve its weak offensive line. They have run the ball well this year because defenses are so focused on stopping DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Deshaun Watson; so Lamar Miller and the offensive line have had great looks to run the ball. Eventually, the Texans will run into a quality opponent, and that line will get exposed again. If they continue to win and end up taking the AFC South, the Texans probably won't be picking high enough to get a left tackle in the 2019 NFL Draft. They might, however, be able to get the top guard in the 2019 NFL Draft. They need a road grader in the ground game and to improve their interior protection for Deshaun Watson. Ford could accomplish both objectives.
Ford would improve the interior pass protection for Houston 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 projects 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 Texans 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.
Over the past decade, the Dolphins have been running in place as a franchise stuck in mediocrity. Over these years, it has been clear that owner Stephen Ross is clueless on making good hires and managing an NFL franchise. Ross has made terrible hires at general manager including Jeff Ireland, Dennis Hickey and Mike Tannenbaum. As a result, Miami has been incapable of challenging the Patriots and a once great franchise has become a second-tier team in the NFL.
Defensively, Miami was ripped apart by Deshaun Watson, and this year, the Dolphins have only held one opponent under 20 points. They have given up 74 points over the past two games. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Dolphins taking Ohio State defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones. Miami cut Ndamukong Suh over the offseason, and the team's lack of an interior pass rush was evident on Thursday night. If the Dolphins continue to lose, they could end up picking high in the 2019 NFL Draft and having a shot at some of the elite defensive tackles like Alabama's Quinnen Williams, Auburn's Derrick Brown and Mississippi State's Jeff Simmons. WalterFootball.com was the first in the media to report in the Hot Press
that 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 the Dolphins' defense next to their edge rushers. Other tackles to consider include Alabama's Raekwon Davis, Clemson's Christian Wilkins, Clemson's Dexter Lawrence and Notre Dame's Jerry Tillery.
There are a lot of needs on the Dolphins' roster on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the team has problems at almost every position. Ryan Tannehill can't stay healthy and is just an average quarterback. Miami needs a running back to replace the aging Frank Gore. The team also lacks dangerous receivers, with DeVante Parker approaching bust status and Jarvis Landry having been traded away. The offensive line was incapable of blocking the Texans on Thursday night. Center Mike Pouncey was let go, and right tackle Ja'Wuan James is entering free agency. Adam Gase is a good offensive mind, but he clearly does not have good talent to work with.
If the Dolphins takes a defensive tackle in the first round, they could look to upgrade their offense on Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft. Gase could use a quarterback to push Tannehill, and some second-day options to consider include Missouri's Drew Lock, N.C. State's Ryan Finley and Northwestern's Clayton Thorson. Taking one of them in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft could make sense. In the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Miami could target a wide receiver like Arizona State' K'Neal Harry, Texas' Collin Johnson or N.C. State's Kelvin Harmon.
If the Dolphins continue to be stuck in mediocrity the rest of the season, Ross should fire Tannenbaum and find a better talent evaluator to build Miami. There are upgrades at general manager who are available like Cleveland's Alonzo Highsmith, Falcons executive Scott Pioli, Browns executive Eliot Wolf, and former Texans general manager Rick Smith. Until Ross makes a good hire at general manager, it is hard to see Miami ever returning to greatness. Hopefully, this offseason is when Ross makes that hire; he definitely is due for a good one even if it happens by luck.
The Bengals had disappointing seasons in 2017 and 2016, but they are back in playoff contention in 2018. Cincinnati has been one of the better drafting teams over the past decade, and as a result, the roster does not have crushing needs that have to be addressed in the 2019 offseason. The Bengals have issues to fix, but they have a good base of talent on both sides of the ball to build around.
In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Bengals taking Clemson linebacker Tre Lamar. Cincinnati has Vontaze Burfict signed for the long term, but the team could use more talent around him. Additionally, Burfict has had issues with suspensions, and a defender like Lamar would help the defense to hold up while Burfict is out of the line up. Cincinnati signed Preston Brown for this year, but he is a free agent next offseason. Adding some linebacker talent would make sense for the Bengals.
Elsewhere on the defense, the Bengals could consider taking a safety in the early rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft. Cincinnati took Jesse Bates in the second round last year, but the organization could consider adding a partner for him. Veteran Shawn Williams will be in the penultimate year of his contract in 2019, so adding a third safety for rotational purposes could be helpful for two years and then eventually form a tandem with Bates. Alabama's Deionte Thompson could be a consideration in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft for Cincinnati. On the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft, some good targets include Mississippi State's Johnathan Abram or Florida's Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
Offensively, the Bengals could consider help on the offensive line and at tight end. In the first round, Oklahoma guard Cody Ford could be an option for the Bengals, as he would give them a big road-grader to pave the way for former teammate Joe Mixon. If they don't take Ford, they could look at guards like Boston College's Chris Lindstrom or Wisconsin's Michael Deiter as a guard upgrade to go with Billy Price.
The other position that Cincinnati could consider in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft is tight end. Tyler Eifert is a talented player who has had his career ruined by injuries. The Bengals could use a receiving tight end to work the middle of the field between A.J. Green and John Ross. With Mixon also having receiving ability, a receiving tight end would see a lot of great coverage matchups. In the early rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft, the top tight ends to consider would be Iowa's Noah Fant, Missouri's Albert Okwuegbunam and Alabama's Irv Smith Jr. If the Bengals want one of those three tight ends, they may have to use their first-round pick on that one because none of those three is likely to make it to their second-round pick.
The Bengals have a lot of excellent players on both sides of the ball. The questions are if they can get enough talent together to put them over the top and if Andy Dalton is capable of leading Cincinnati to a Super Bowl. Dalton is clearly not the same caliber of quarterback as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, who have all carried their teams to a championship. The Bengals have to hope that if they add more talent around Dalton, he could be good enough to win a Super Bowl around him like Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, or Peyton Manning's championship with the Broncos.
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