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 had a huge Sunday that left them currently in the lead for for the No. 1-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft after the 49ers beat the Seahawks. Arizona protected its draft standing by default; Josh Rosen was horrible in a blowout loss to the reeling Falcons. The Cardinals clearly have a lot of needs to help put a talented team around Rosen.
Since the Cardinals took Rosen to be the new franchise quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft, they should look to trade down and get a package of picks to jump start the rebuild, if they somehow land the top pick. 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.
The Raiders lost on the road to Cincinnati, where their vulnerable defense couldn't stop Joe Mixon and the Bengals' offense. In Week 14, the Raiders played really well and showed no quit under Jon Gruden, beating the first-place Pittsburgh Steelers with a late fourth-quarter victory. Oakland and Arizona are tied at three wins a piece, but the Cardinals currently hold the first choice in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Having a top-two choice would be great for the Raiders, as that would assure them of one of the elite defensive line prospects in either Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams or Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa. WalterFootball.com was first to report that Williams was being projected as a high first-round pick by NFL teams
, and he would be a great addition for Oakland. Bosa would be a different type of good thing, giving the Raiders a bookend edge rusher to go with Arden Key.
While the national media has fallen all over themselves criticizing Jon Gruden, the Raiders are 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 over the next two drafts 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 took down the rival Seahawks to get their fourth win of the season. It was a win that felt good for them and a bright spot in a rough season, but currently drops them from the No. 1-overall pick to the third spot behind the Cardinals and Raiders. The 49ers will need both Oakland and Arizona to get wins in their final two games to give the No. 1 pick back to San Francisco.
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 massive 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.
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.
Baltimore Ravens: Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State
The Ravens need more weapons for Lamar Jackson and some players with big-play potential. Baltimore's receivers did not do much against a vulnerable Tampa Bay secondary, and it was the running game that led the Ravens to score enough for a home win. Campbell could be a consideration for the Ravens' first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Campbell has played well for Ohio State in 2018, coming up with some clutch plays and scores to lead the Buckeyes. The senior has 79 receptions for 992 yards with 11 touchdowns on the year. In his career, he has averaged 12 yards per rush for 288 yards with three touchdowns. Sources from multiple teams told me over a year ago that Campbell possessed big-time ability and that they thought he would break out in 2017 if Ohio State would commit to getting him the ball. The passing limitations of J.T. Barrett held back Campbell and Ohio State's other wideouts prior to 2018. Those sources also think Campbell has serious receiver talent for the NFL. The 6-foot, 205-pounder is well put together with the explosive speed to take any catch the distance. Teams' preseason data had Campbell running the 40 in 4.35 seconds. He would be a nice fit in the Ravens' offense.
Atlanta Falcons: Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama
Atlanta lit up Arizona while using and abusing rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. It was a glimpse of what the Falcons are capable of and what they did to teams two years ago on their run to the Super Bowl. Atlanta shut down David Johnson, and that made a big difference for the Falcons. They could use more size and strength on the inside of their defensive line, where Davis could form an excellent tandem with Grady Jarrett.
Davis has 52 tackles with 4.5 for a loss and .5 sacks on the season. For the NFL, he projects as a nose tackle in a 3-4 or 4-3, or he could also play five-technique end in a 3-4 defense. His lateral anchor is rare and truly phenomenal. Teams just can't move him at all in the ground game. Davis' lower and upper body strength gives him a rare ability to handle bump blocks and double teams without giving up any movement in the ground game. Davis hasn't produced the big sack total that he did in 2017, but team sources say they still feel that Davis is worthy of going as a top-20 selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-7, 306-pounder turned in an excellent 2017 season for the Crimson Tide. He totaled 69 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks and an interception for his breakout sophomore campaign.
Cincinnati Bengals: Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
The Bengals allowed the aging and declining Jordy Nelson to total 88 yards on six receptions, and they have had issues in the secondary all season. Cincinnati has used a lot of first-round picks on cornerbacks, but could use more talent at safety to help out the corners. The Bengals could targets safety like Abram on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Abram has 93 tackles with two interceptions, five passes broken up, 2.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss so far in 2018. He totaled 71 tackles with five passes broken up and two forced fumbles last season. In speaking with multiple area scouts who cover the Southeast, Abram received some praise for helping himself in 2017. He was a physical defender and around the ball consistently for the Bulldogs. Team evaluators feel that Abram is a solid player with starting potential. They like his physical style of play and the presence he provides on the back end. Abram is a violent enforcer in the middle of the field.
Minnesota Vikings: Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma
The Vikings got back on track thanks to Dalvin Cook running all over the Miami defense. Minnesota's offense is dependent on the running game, as Kirk Cousins has shown that he is overrated and overpaid this season. Perhaps Cousins can lead the Vikings deep into the postseason, but they need to build up an elite talent around him. In order to help Cousins and Cook, the Vikings should do more to improve their offensive line. Ford is the best interior offensive lineman in the 2019 NFL Draft and could make sense for the Vikings' first-round pick.
While Ford starts at right tackle for the Sooners, he projects to guard in the NFL. Ford has been phenomenal in 2018 and has created a buzz with scouts going through Norman. The 6-foot-4, 338-pounder is strong at the point of attack with good athleticism for his size. Ford broke into the starting lineup in 2016 before a broken leg ended his year early. In 2017, he was banged up, yet played in every game, making some starts. Ford has taken his game to another level as a senior and is dominating on the field. He is worthy of going late in the first round.
Washington Redskins: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
In the battle of backup quarterbacks versus good defenses, Josh Johnson was able to outplay Cody Kessler to get the Redskins a road win. This offseason, Washington could be forced into finding its quarterback of the future. Alex Smith's career is in doubt, but regardless, he is a limited player. Lock is strong-armed, smart and nerdy, but those traits should make him a good fit the Redskins and Jay Gruden.
Lock has completed 63 percent of his passes in 2018 for 3,125 yards with 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He set an SEC record with 44 touchdown passes as a junior while completing 58 percent of his passes for 3,964 yards and 13 touchdowns. There is no doubt that Lock (6-4, 225) has a powerful arm and can pick apart a defense. He wisely returned to school for the 2018 season because he needed to improve his accuracy and footwork before going pro. Sources have told me that Lock has a quiet personality similar to Eli Manning and is not a vocal team leader. That could hurt him with some pro evaluators.
Los Angeles Chargers: Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
The Chargers had issues defending Chiefs running back Damien Williams, who scored two touchdowns and totaled 123 combined yards against them. That would have been a lot worse if Kareem Hunt had been logging those touches, so Los Angeles caught a break there. In the offseason, the Chargers could use another linebacker to go with Denzel Perryman. They also could use a linebacker who can contribute in pass coverage on tight ends. Mack Wilson would help address both issues.
Wilson has 63 tackles with five passes broken up, two interceptions and 4.5 tackles for a loss 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 there will be plenty of NFL teams hoping to land him.
Houston Texans: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
The Texans could easily be one and done in the playoffs for two reasons: their cornerbacks and their offensive line. The Jets do not have a good pass rush, yet they totaled six sacks on Saturday. Houston's cornerbacks have been getting torched all season, and in the playoffs, they will really struggle against teams like the Chiefs, Chargers, Steelers, Patriots and Colts - if Indianapolis gets in. General manager Brian Gaine made some bad signings on the offensive line, but Houston will probably have to live with it next year because the 2019 class is not good on the offensive line, so the value would be better to take a cornerback even though this is not a good year at corner either. In the 20s, Williams could be a fit for Houston.
On the season, Williams has two interceptions, 32 tackles and nine passes broken up. He had some problems against Alabama and Georgia that illustrate his lack of elite speed, which means he is more of a mid- to late first-round pick. Williams broke out in 2017 with six interceptions, 11 passes broken up and 38 tackles. He showed good instincts, an ability to break on the ball, and impressive ball skills. In the 2019 NFL Draft, Williams could be a nice player for Houston.
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.
Relevant football has returned to Chicago thanks to some smart drafting and money well spent in free agency. The Bears are a playoff contender again thanks to a strong defense and an opportunistic offense, and their general manager, Ryan Pace, has been aggressive in making many trades, including the deals to land their defensive franchise player in Khalil Mack and quarterback of the future in Mitch Trubisky. All of Pace's trades, however, have the Bears entering the 2019 NFL Draft without first- or second-round picks, so the organization should seek to land a complementary piece in the 2019 NFL Draft; the Bears are picking too low to expect to land an elite difference-maker. But even late in the third round, Chicago could add a nice player who contributes to the team winning its first Lombardi Trophy since the storied '85 Bears last brought a Super Bowl championship to Chicago.
In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Bears getting some depth for their superb young defense in the form of USC edge rusher Porter Gustin. Defensively, the Bears could consider adding depth in the form of an edge rusher or cornerback. Leonard Floyd was awesome against the Packers on Sunday, but he has dealt with some injuries, so it would make sense for Chicago to have some depth behind him. Veteran backup Aaron Lynch is entering free agency and will probably want to go to a team on which he will see more playing time. Another edge rusher could rotate into the game to keep Mack and Floyd fresh as well. Some options to consider along with Gustin include the likes of Old Dominion's Oshane Ximenes, Florida's Jabari Zuniga and TCU's Ben Banogu.
Another position that could use some depth is cornerback, where Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara have had seasons hampered by injuries during their careers. In the third round, some options to consider would include Troy's Blace Brown, Ohio State's Kendall Sheffield, and the overrated Trayvon Mullen
Wide receiver could also make senese for Chicago. It wouldn't hurt to give Mitch Trubisky more weapons to go with Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. A home run hitter like Oklahoma's Marquise Brown
would be a great addition, but he could easily be off the board by the time the Bears pick. Some other receivers to consider would include West Virginia's David Sills, Notre Dame's Chase Claypool, Texas' Lil'Jordan Humphrey and Arizona State's N'Keal Harry. Recently in the Hot Press
, one source told us how they were dropping Harry's grade from the second to the third round. Thus, Harry could be a wide receiver for Chicago to consider.
The Bears are on the verge of being back as a serious Super Bowl contender. They have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, and since all of their key players are signed to long-term deals, continuity is another asset they have for years to come. Another strong offseason could help put Chicago over the top to winning a Lombardi.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
With the loss to the Ravens, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have clinched their eighth season with a losing record since the misguided firing of head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen. The Bucs have the longest streak in the NFC of missing the playoffs, and only the Cleveland Browns have gone longer since making the postseason. There have been a plethora of bad draft picks, free agent signings, and failures on the players part to take their careers seriously. Despite the bad moves, however, the common denominator for the failures in Tampa Bay is the team's ownership. The Glazers are not football people, and their terrible decision-making has led to the franchise returning to being the "Yuccaneers."
Five years ago when Jason Licht became the general manager, the Bucs were the worst team in the NFC South, and that status has not changed five years later. Not only are they incapable of getting to the playoffs, the Buccaneers have struggled to not be in last place. Thus, once again, they need to clean house and get a better general manager and head coach to guide the franchise. The problem is the Glazers are utterly incompetent from a football perspective. They are brilliant businessmen who made genius purchases of the Buccaneers and Manchester United to go along with other astute moves. They do not know football well though, and that lack of knowledge has led to them making a series of bad hires for head coaches and general managers while letting talented coaches leave the team.
The Glazers are so removed from the staff that they did not realize they had a young coaching star in Sean McVay when they fired him. Todd Wash has become one of the best defensive coordinators in the league, both were victims of Mark Dominik pushing them out. I could produce a long list of all the mistakes under the Glazers' watch that were made by Dominik and Licht. Those errors have led to Tampa Bay going on this streak of ineptitude, but this article would turn into a novel that rivals War and Peace
. But all the proof that is really necessary is the results on the field. The losing has taken a toll on the fans and the community. The Bucs used to own the Tampa Bay area, but now the Lightning and Rays garner far more excitement around town, which is shocking when you consider Florida is a football state and the Buccaneers once had a season-ticket waiting list less of over 100,000. Now, they struggle to have Raymond James Stadium half full even when they give away free tickets.
I've spoken with the Glazers a few times over the years at One Buc Place and at the owners meetings. From those conversations, I can tell you beyond any shadow of a doubt that they aren't football people. The Glazers hate to be embarrassed publicly, and that has led to them hiring general managers who sound good rather than than who are astute football evaluators. That trend has to change in the next general manager hire. I've surveyed sources from teams around the league. Here is a list of upgrades at general manager of scouts who are pure football and have excellent eyes for talent.
- Los Angeles Rams director of college scouting Brad Holmes is from Tampa and has done a great job of helping build the Rams into a juggernaut.
- Cleveland Browns senior executive Alonzo Highsmith had a great run at Green Bay and was one of the John Dorsey's first hires to help get Cleveland turned around. Highsmith is a Miami Hurricane legend who grew up in Florida.
- Doug Williams had the Redskins on track to winning the NFC East before losing the starting quarterback, backup quarterback, and offensive line to injury. A Buccaneers Ring of Honor quarterback, Doug Williams could be the Bucs version of Ozzie Newsome. Williams was another great talent who the Glazers allowed to be removed from the team.
All three of these candidates have a great eye for talent and an understanding of what it is like to play in the Florida heat, plus know the Tampa community well. None of these three sound like politicians, so they may have a blunder or two in a press conference from time to time, but all three are great football minds and know how to build winning teams. It will be interesting to see if the Glazers want to win on the field, or if they want to have another general manager who is a better fit for cable news.
If the Glazers are smart enough to hire one of those evaluators to be their new general manager, he will have plenty of holes to fill in the 2019 NFL Draft. The biggest needs for the Bucs are on the offensive line and in the secondary. I know staffers at other teams who have laughed at Tampa Bay fielding Donovan Smith at left tackle. The lazy blind-side protector is entering free agency, and the Buccaneers need an upgrade over him. Licht screwed up massively by passing on Laremy Tunsil for Vernon Hargreaves in the 2016 NFL Draft, and that mistake has hurt the Bucs repeatedly. In the 2019 NFL Draft, Tampa Bay should hope to land Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor. He would be an immediate upgrade as an edge blocker. The Bucs could use two tackles even, as right tackle Demar Dotson is aging and nearing the end of an excellent career from the former small-school offensive tackle. Taking a tackle like Washington State's Andre Dillard would be a great pick on Day 2. Dillard and Taylor could bookend the line for years to come.
Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker would be another good candidate for Tampa Bay's first-round pick, but he's probably only in play if Jason Licht is fired. Licht probably would not want to take another cornerback after using a first-round pick on Hargreaves and two second-round picks on cornerbacks last year. Licht made a big mistake last year taking Vita Vea over Florida State stud safety Derwin James, and the problems at safety have persisted this season. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Bucs taking Mississippi State's Johnathan Abram. He would bring a physical presence to the middle of Tampa Bay's defense and could form a nice tandem with Justin Evans.
A dream draft class for the Bucs' picks on the first two days of the 2019 NFL Draft could look something like this:
Round 1: Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor
Round 2: Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram
Round 3: Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard
As for the quarterback decision, I would not dump Jameis Winston. He has played well at times and still is a young player with upside. There also aren't better options available. Tampa Bay should give him another year.
This is an important draft class for the Buccaneers, but the most important objective for the franchise this offseason is finding a competent general manager. The time is now for the Glazers to finally make a good hire. If they blow another general manager hire, the right thing to do for the Tampa Bay fanbase would be to sell the Bucs to someone who knows football. There are plenty of luxury suites available for the Glazers to stay in attendance at Raymond James Stadium, watch the team win in luxury, and enjoy seeing someone else make Tampa Bay great again.
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