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:
Oakland knocked off the Cardinals to notch its second win of the season. While the national media has fallen all over themselves criticizing Jon Gruden, he Raiders actually making a lot of astute moves. If they would have re-signed Khalil Mack, they would have been cap-strapped for years to come, and the Eagles are the only team with a $100 million defender that has won a Super Bowl. The other teams have not had that kind of success after putting so many resources into one non-quarterback.
Jon Gruden has improved Derek Carr from how Carr was playing in 2017, and the team is doing that without wide receiver talent. While Amari Cooper has a good skill set, he was inconsistent and an underachiever. Getting a first-round pick for him rather than paying him a big contract was another wise decision by Gruden. Over the next couple of offseasons, the Raiders need to improve their edge rush, linebackers, secondary, wide receivers, and running backs. The organization will have five first-round picks and plenty of free agent dollars to try to get that done.
Oakland is in rebuilding mode, and that was made clear with the Mack and 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 their three first-round picks, as they should be in position to land some good young talent to build around.
San Francisco 49ers:
The 49ers are tied for the worst record in the NFL with two wins. 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 in late September 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 disappointment. While he is solid run defender, Thomas is completely ineffective as a pass-rusher. Bosa could form a nice pass-rush tandem with DeForest Buckner.
The Cardinals could end up with the first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, as they are tied for the worst record in the NFL with two wins. Since Arizona took Josh Rosen to be the new franchise quarterback last year, the organization should look to trade down and get a package of picks to jump start the rebuild. If the team is stuck at No. 1 overall, it would make sense to take Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. WalterFootball.com was first to report that Williams was being projected as a high first-round pick by NFL teams
and he is in the running to be the best prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft with Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa. Robert Nkemdiche has been a massive disappointment, and Arizona needs a difference-maker at the point of attack. The Cardinals should look to replace general manager Steve Keim, too, as his selections have led to Arizona having one of the worst rosters in the NFL.
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.
Seattle Seahawks: Jamel Dean, CB, Auburn
The Seahawks dropped Green Bay on Thursday Night Football, and that win keeps Seattle's slim playoff hopes alive. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks' rushing attack led them to victory, although they were fortunate they didn't need to score more points as the Seahawks' defense had no answer for Davante Adams. Clearly, Seattle is missing a No. 1 corner after cutting Richard Sherman last offseason.
The Seahawks are without a second-round pick thanks to the Duane Brown trade, so it would make sense for them to trade down in the first round and get a cornerback while picking up a second-day selection. Dean has 23 tackles, two interceptions and five passes batted in 2018 while playing with a cast on one of his hands. Despite dealing with the injury, he has been a good cover corner for Auburn this year. The 6-foot-2, 208-pounder has excellent size and would fit well as a press-man corner playing the same technique that Sherman did so well during the Legion of Boom years.
Baltimore Ravens: A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
The Ravens enjoyed a comeback win over Cincinnati in Lamar Jackson's first NFL start. Jackson ran for 117 yards, but was only 13-of-19 for 150 yards and an interception as a passer. Clearly, Baltimore needs to give Jackson more weapons to work with.
Brown would be a great wide receiver for Jackson, as Brown is a big possessional receiver who can get open in the short to intermediate part of the field. He would provide Jackson with some safe throws, plus is a dangerous run-after-the-catch receiver. In 2018, Brown has 81 receptions for 1,259 yards and six scores. If he gets to the Ravens' first-round pick, he would make a lot of sense for them.
New York Giants: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
After opening up a big lead on Tampa Bay, the Giants had to win a shootout against Jameis Winston, who almost led the Bucs to a comeback win in New York. The Giants moved on from Eli Apple and could use a big cornerback to take his place across from Janoris Jenkins. If the Giants could land Diggs high in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, that could be a steal for them and help them to protect leads.
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.
Dallas Cowboys: Collin Johnson, WR, Texas
The Cowboys got a road win in Atlanta to remain in the wild-card race, but Dallas' weak receivers once again held the team back. Ezekiel Elliott was the Cowboys' leading runner and receiver, while none of thei wideout had even six receptions for 52 yards receiving. There is a reason why Amari Cooper (3-36) was dumped by Oakland, and Dallas needs to get more receiving weapons for Dak Prescott. Here's a wide receiver the Cowboys could target in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Johnson is a mismatch weapon with the size and ability to provide a big target to his quarterback. The junior has 53 receptions for 730 yards with five scores in 2018. If Johnson were faster, he would be a clear-cut first-round pick. He also does not play up to his size and is not as physical with receivers as he should be, but those are things that could be coached up in the NFL. On the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft, Johnson would be a good pick for Dallas.
New Orleans Saints: K'Neal Harry, WR, Arizona State
The Saints took care of business by routing the Eagles at home in the dome, and that win gave New Orleans a strangle-hold on the NFC South given the Carolina Panthers' loss at Detroit. While New Orleans is firing on all cylinders, Saints head coach Sean Payton has wanted more receiving talent to support Michael Thomas. That's why the Saints signed Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall. In the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Payton could grab a long-term No. 2 wide receiver to go with Thomas.
Some draft analysts have Harry projected as a top-10 pick, but I've spoken with some scouts who have graded him for the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. They say that the big wideout does not have the speed or movement skills to be projected that high. They say that Harry is similar to the Panther's Devin Funchess, who was a second-day pick. Harry has 69 receptions for 1,033 yards with nine touchdowns this season. He would be a nice red-zone weapon to complement Michael Thomas for the Saints.
Oakland Raiders: Devin White, LB, LSU
The Raiders came back to notch a win in Arizona, as Derek Carr led a fourth-quarter comeback and the inept Cardinals were unable to close out a game that they should have won. While Oakland got the win, David Johnson ran for 137 yards on 25 carries, but the middle of the Raiders' defense has been a crushing weakness all year. With their second or third selection in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Devin White could be a dream pick for the Raiders as an immediate upgrade to their run defense and pass coverage in the middle of the field.
The 6-foot-1, 255-pound White is a big inside linebacker who possesses excellent instincts. He has good athleticism with the ability to cover in the passing game while also being a stout run defender. He is a tough tackler who is always around the ball and brings leadership skills to his team.
White has 98 tackles with eight for a loss, five passes broken up, two sacks and one forced fumble this season. In 2017, he totaled 133 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, three passes broken up and one interception. Team sources say that if he had been eligible for the 2018 NFL Draft, he would have graded out similarly to Virginia Tech's Tremaine Edmunds or Georgia's Roquan Smith. White would be a great addition to the Raiders.
Denver Broncos: Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
The Broncos pulled off a last-second win over a good Chargers team on the road, and if the Broncos had not missed a field goal against Houston, they would be in the playoff race in the AFC. One of the weaknesses of the Broncos' defense this season has been at linebacker, hampering their run defense and their ability to defend the pass in the middle of the field. Denver's defense has not been the same since Danny Trevathan left, and taking a linebacker like Wilson early in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft could be a great addition for the team.
Wilson has 52 tackles with four passes broken up and two interceptions 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.
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.
Green Bay Packers:
Early in Brett Favre's Hall of Fame career, he won a Super Bowl and became a Green Bay legend. Favre was back for a repeat a year later, but the Packers lost to John Elway in the penultimate year of his Hall of Fame career. At the end of the game, Elway told the young Favre to hang in there and that Favre would be back in the Super Bowl again. Unfortunately for Favre and Green Bay, that never happened; Favre came close, but never made it back to the Super Bowl. The current direction of the Packers with future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers could produce a similar story, because Rodgers has not been back to the Super Bowl since winning it in his third year as a starter. The 2019 NFL Draft is a huge and critical draft for Green Bay to put a team together to take advantage of Rodgers before the end of his career as he turns 35 this December.
With two first-round picks, the Packers have excellent ammunition to upgrade their roster and add some difference-makers. The biggest need on the Green Bay roster could be for an edge rusher. Nick Perry has been inconsistent in his career, while Clay Matthews is nearing free agency. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Packers taking Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen. He would be an ideal, dream-come-true pick for the Packers. Allen is a dangerous quarterback hunter who has a knack for notching both sacks and forced fumbles. He is a quality pursuit run defender while also showing the ability to drop in coverage. He would be a perfect fit in the Packers' 3-4 defense. Some other edge defenders they could consider with their first selection could include Clemson's Clelin Ferrell or Michigan's Rashan Gary.
The Packers could also consider doubling up at edge defender and fixing their pass rush in one stroke by taking a second outside linebacker. Late in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Green Bay could target players like Mississippi State's Montez Sweat or Florida's Jachai Polite. Either would be nice fit as 3-4 outside linebackers.
While that idea is intriguing, it make more sense for the Packers to address the defensive line. Muhammed Wilkerson was only signed to a 1-year contract and quickly he went out for year with an injury. Green Bay could consider a long-term five-technique, and the 2019 NFL Draft is very strong on the defensive line. Some good five-technique and nose prospects to consider would include Alabama's Raekwon Davis, Clemson's Dexter Lawrence, Clemson's Christian Wilkins and Notre Dame's Jerry Tillery. Some members of that group will be off the board, but others could be in play late in the first round for Green Bay's second selection on the opening night of the 2019 NFL Draft.
A dream draft class for the Packers' picks on the first two days of the 2019 NFL Draft could look something like this:
Round 1: Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen
Round 1: Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins
Round 2: Oregon outside linebacker Jalen Jelks
Round 3: Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard
This is a huge draft for the Packers to get back to the Super Bowl while they still have Aaron Rodgers playing at a high level. New general manager Brian Gutekunst has to fix the defense in short order, and the pressure is on for the new Packers decision-maker.
A few years ago the Lions fired Martin Mayhew and replaced him with former Patriot executive Bob Quinn, but that decision is looking questionable, as Detroit has fallen to being the worst team in the NFC North. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is not an elite quarterback, but he could be good enough to challenge for a championship if a talented team is built up around him. Stafford could be a Joe Flacco- or Eli Manning-caliber Super Bowl quarterback. The challenge for Quinn and the Lions is building up the roster around Stafford. With the supporting cast that Quinn has put together, it looks like Lions are very far from being a Super Bowl contender. Instead, they look like they are going in the wrong direction.
Quinn has used two premium picks on the offensive line, yet the Lions are still struggling upfront, so that leads to serious doubt about Quinn as a talent evaluator. He has taken some solid players, but has yet to find an elite player for Detroit. Perhaps Kerryon Johnson or Jarrad Davis changes that, but even right now, they look like they may end being very good, but not elite. While Quinn has tried to build up the offensive line using two of his three first-round picks on the blocking unit, the defensive line has been neglected and is the biggest problem area to fix.
Fortunately for Detroit, next April could produce a legendary defensive line class, and the 2019 NFL Draft could have as many as 10 interior defensive linemen who grade out as first-rounders. WalterFootball.com was the first to report that NFL teams were grading Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams
as a high first-round pick, and he could be among the two best players in the 2019 NFL Draft, alongside Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa.
Aside from Williams, there are some excellent defensive tackle prospects. Auburn's Derrick Brown, Mississippi State's Jeff Simmons and Houston's Ed Oliver could all go high in the first round. Simmons and Oliver could be nice fits as three-technique penetrators in Detroit's defense. Brown has a lot of versatility to serve as a three-technique, nose tackle, or five-technique in a 3-4. If the Lions wanted a big nose tackle to plug the run, they would have options with Alabama's Raekwon Davis and Clemson's Dexter Lawrence. Given that Lions are likely to be picking late in the first 10 or in the early teens, they probably won't have a shot at landing Williams or Brown. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Lions taking Houston's Ed Oliver with the seventh-overall pick, and he would give them an interior pass-rusher.
Another direction the Lions could go would be to take a defensive end with their first pick and look to get a defensive tackle in Round 2. There might be better value at tackle than end in the second round, so looking at the picks as a pair, Detroit could get a more talented combination by taking an end first and then a tackle. In the first round, the Lions could have a shot at some good edge pass-rushers. Ohio State's Nick Bosa won't get to Detroit's pick, but there could be some other good ends available like Boston College's Zach Allen, Michigan's Rashan Gary and Clemson's Clelin Ferrell. Allen or Gary would be great fits because they have the versatility to function as 4-3 edge rushers while also having the length and weight to be 3-4 defensive ends.
Offensively, the Lions need more receiving weapons for Stafford after dealing Golden Tate. They could use a third wideout to go with Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay. Damarkus Lodge is a big wide receiver who provides a size mismatch. Some other wide receivers to consider would be a speedy wideout like Missouri's Emanuel Hall or other big targets like West Virginia's David Sills or Texas' Lil'Jordan Humphrey.
An excellent return for the Lions' picks on the first two days of the 2019 NFL Draft could look something like this:
Round 1: Boston College defensive end Zach Allen
Round 2: Miami defensive tackle Gerald Willis
Round 3: Ole Miss wide receiver Damarkus Lodge
This is a critical draft class for Detroit. Quinn has to start putting a very talented team around Stafford if the Lions are going to contend for a championship during Stafford's career. If Quinn does not step up with a good draft this year, Detroit will have to start thinking of finding a new general manager to do the drafting in the next decade.
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