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 lost to the Rams on Sunday, as Los Angeles was able to cruise, even without Todd Gurley. A week ago, Josh Rosen was horrible in a blowout loss to the reeling Falcons, and while he played better he still struggled against the Rams, 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 play the Broncos tonight. 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 have 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.
New York Jets:
The Jets have played tough football against a lot of teams tough this year, but they have come up short a lot. A week ago, the Texans had a last second win over New York, and yesterday, the Packers topped the Jets in overtime. It is a long-shot for the Jets to get the first-overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, as they will need wins from both the Cardinals and Raiders for that to happen. Even then, the tie-breaker could favor Oakland or Arizona. If somehow the Jets did get the No. 1 pick, one could bet that they would want to trade down badly. They are without a second-round pick from the Sam Darnold trade last year, and there are a lot of areas for improvement on the roster.
San Francisco 49ers:
The 49ers threatened to beat the Bears but were unable to get their fifth win of the season. In Week 17, San Francisco will need to lose while the Raiders, Cardinals, and the Jets win in order to get the No. 1 pick.
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.
New England Patriots: Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State
The Patriots need more weapons for Tom Brady and some players with big-play potential. New England's receivers did not do much against Buffalo, and clearly the Josh Gordon gamble has gone bust. Late in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Patriots could grab a play-maker for Brady.
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 Patriots' offense.
Dallas Cowboys: N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
The Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper earlier this season, but Cooper was very inconsistent for the Raiders over the past two years, and that pattern is flashing in Dallas. Tampa Bay has a terrible secondary, yet held Cooper to 20 yards on four receptions. Cooper is a feast-or-famine receiver, and Dallas could use more weapons for Dak Prescott for the games when Cooper checks out. Here is a big wide receiver who the Cowboys could target in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Some in the media have Harry as a top-10 pick, but I've spoken with teams that have given him second-day grades. Last month in the Hot Press
one scout told us how he was dropping Harry's grade from the second to the third round. The 6-foot-4, 213-pound Harry is a big receiver with mismatch size, but he does not have the speed or fluid movement skills of a first-round pick. In the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Harry could be a consideration as a No. 2 receiver to be paired with Cooper to give Dak Prescott a young receiving corps to grow with.
Green Bay Packers: Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
The Packers won in overtime as Aaron Rodgers outdueled Sam Darnold, but Green Bay allowed the Jets rookie to throw for 341 yards and three touchdowns. HaHa Clinton-Dix was traded away, and the Packers need more safety talent to go with their young cornerbacks. With one of their first-round picks, Abram could be a good fit.
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 in 2017. In speaking with multiple area scouts who cover the Southeast, Abram received some praise for helping himself that season. 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.
Cleveland Browns: Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama
If it weren't for some missed field goals earlier this season, Cleveland would be in line to make the postseason. The young Browns are improving on a weekly basis and offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens has done a phenomenal job with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. Cleveland's defense has been the weaker unit this year, and the team could use more talent on the inside of the defensive line. In the first-round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Browns could find an upgrade, and Davis would be a good fit in a division that has tough ground offenses to defend in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati.
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.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
Obviously, the Jaguars blew the third-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on Blake Bortles. Somehow, Dave Caldwell still is the general manager after taking bust Luke Joeckel at No. 2 the year before, then Bortles, and then Dante Fowler with the third-overall pick in 2015. The Jaguars have to get a new quarterback this offseason.
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, but it shouldn't with Tom Coughlin calling the shots for Jacksonville.
Baltimore Ravens: A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
The Ravens got a huge road win in Los Angeles, where their defense shut down the Chargers' potent offense. Baltimore got the win despite Lamar Jackson completing only 12-of-22 passes and none of his teammates even recording three receptions. Clearly, Jackson needs more receiving weapons to work with, and adding a possessional receiver to move the chains could be a good start.
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 safer throws, plus is a dangerous run-after-the-catch receiver. In 2018, Brown totaled 85 receptions for 1,320 yards and seven scores. If he gets to the Ravens' first-round pick, he would make a lot of sense for them.
Philadelphia Eagles: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Deshaun Watson almost led a fourth-quarter comeback over the defending Super Bowl champions, but the Eagles' offense was able to get a field goal on the final play of the game to drop Houston. The Eagles have had issues in pass coverage all year, and veteran corner Ronald Darby is entering free agency. Philadelphia won't be picking high enough to land Georgia's DeAndre Baker, but Williams could be available when the Eagles are on the clock.
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 plug-and-play contributor for Philadelphia.
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.
Last week, the Steelers got their season back on track with a huge win over New England. For a lot of this season, Pittsburgh has looked like a team that is more of a playoff contender rather than a Super Bowl contender, but anything can happen once a team gets into the postseason, and the hot team is the best team come January regardless of regular-season records. Every year, the Super Bowl window for Pittsburgh is closing as Ben Roethlisberger is ages, and he has flirted with retirement. Thus, every draft is critical for the Steelers if they hope to win another Lombardi before Roethlisberger is done.
In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Steelers taking Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson to help fix the issues they have in the middle of their defense. Pittsburgh needed a linebacker upgrade to Ryan Shazier prior to his horrific injury. Even if Shazier makes a miraculous comeback, they could use more talent to go next to him. Wilson would be a great fit, as he is an excellent pass-coverage linebacker while also being a tough run defender. He could be a dream choice for Pittsburgh. If the organization misses out on him, some second-day linebackers to consider could include Florida's Vosean Joseph, N.C. State's Germaine Pratt and Clemson's Tre Lamar.
Another direction the Steelers could go would be to grab an edge rusher to go across from T.J. Watt. Clemson's Clelin Ferrell, Florida's Jachai Polite, or Mississippi State's Montez Sweat would all be first-round options. Some second-day players to consider would include Florida State's Brian Burns, Oregon's Jalen Jelks, Louisiana Tech's Jaylon Ferguson, Old Dominion's Oshane Ximines or Michigan's Chase Winovich, and Winovich has Steeler written all over him.
It would also make sense for Pittsburgh to add some running back talent. James Conner could be the long-term starter to replace Le'Veon Bell, but the Steelers need some more depth options to go with Jaylen Samuels. On the second day of the 2019 Draft, some good running backs to consider would include Stanford's Bryce Love, Oklahoma State's Justice Hill, Ohio State's Mike Weber or Michigan State's L.J. Scott.
A dream draft for the Steelers could look something like this:
Round 1: Alabama inside linebacker Mack Wilson
Round 2: Michigan edge rusher Chase Winovich
Round 2: Michigan State running back L.J. Scott
The Steelers have had a good roster for years, but they have consistently come up short since winning the Super Bowl a decade ago. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning had long stretches between Championships, so Pittsburgh still has a shot. But time is definitely running out and the Steelers need to nail their 2019 draft class.
The excellent drafts by the Texans are paying off extremely well in 2018. Under former general manager Rick Smith and an all-star team of scouts, Houston was the only team to have a 10-year stretch without a first-round pick going bust. That run saw the Texans also identify diamonds in the rough like Arian Foster and A.J. Bouye, two of the best undrafted free agents in the past 20 years. Prior to Bill O'Brien being named the head coach, Smith and his team also drafted some elite players outside of the top 10, including a future Hall of Famer in J.J. Watt, one of the best wideouts in the NFL in DeAndre Hopkins, and a franchise left tackle in Duane Brown. Houston also wisely took good starters in Brian Cushing, Kareem Jackson and Whitney Mercilus.
In speaking to sources with the Texans, the decision to draft Deshaun Watson was all Rick Smith. The war room was stone silent when Smith announced the team was moving up for Watson. It was his decision to make, and he was the one who executed the trade. Sources with the team say Bill O'Brien did not want the Texans to draft Watson. O'Brien wanted Pat Mahomes, and if Mahomes did not make it to them, then O'Brien wanted to draft Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson and have Tom Savage be the starting quarterback for the 2017 season. O'Brien is known to be a poor college evaluator, but fortunately for the Texans, the organization did not listen to him when it came to passing on Deshaun Watson.
Aside from taking Watson, the Texans scouting staff pushed for the team to draft other second-day gems like Benardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham, Brandon Brooks, Glover Quin and many more, including fifth-round stud nose tackle D.J. Reader. It will be interesting to see if the new scouting department under O'Brien yes-man Brian Gaine can draft as well as the previous regime that loaded the roster with elite players like Watt, Hopkins, Clowney, Watson, and the injured Will Fuller.
This is a critical offseason for the Texans, as the Super Bowl window is wide open on offense thanks to Hopkins and Watson, but the defense is in decline. Watt turns 30 before next season, and with how hard he has pushed his body, Houston has to be prepared. Jadeveon Clowney is entering free agency after the season, and the Texans have not attempted to sign him to an extension. Around the league, there was talk that Houston had discussions about trading Clowney, and sources currently with the team did not deny that when I asked. They also did not deny that Houston would have jumped at a trade of Clowney for a package like the Raiders got for Khalil Mack.
If Clowney leaves in free agency, that is going to leave a massive hole in the Houston defense. He carried the defense to the No. 1 ranking in the NFL in 2016 when Watt was out for the year after the third game, but the Texans may not be able to spend what it would take to retain Clowney. Due to some mismanagement last offseason by Gains and O'Brien, none of the team's big needs of the offensive line, secondary, or running back were resolved.
Houston made a big play for left tackle Nate Solder last offseason, but Solder chose not to play for O'Brien again after spending his rookie season with O'Brien in New England. Solder took a contract from New York even though the taxes are much better in Texas than New York, and there are world class children's hospitals just down the street from the Texans facility that would be available for the Solder family. The Texans gave big money to Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemete, but both of them are just backup-caliber players. Seantrell Henderson went out for the year in Week 1 and is a free agent.
After five years in Houston, offensive-minded head coach Bill O'Brien has not developed a single quality offensive lineman. Thus, the Texans have a lot of holes to fill up front at guard and tackle. In the first round, they could consider Alabama's Jonah Williams, who could play guard or tackle in the NFL, depending on who you ask. They also could consider some offensive linemen on Day 2 like Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom, Wisconsin guard Michael Deiter, South Carolina left tackle Dennis Daley and Washington State left tackle Andre Dillard.
Aside from rookie safety Justin Reid, the secondary is terrible. Johnathan Joseph can't run anymore; Tyrann Mathieu is an overrated player largely living off a reputation; Kareem Jackson can't play corner anymore and is only a safety; and Aaron Colvin was given big contract last March but has been a bust free agent signing. Gaine and O'Brien could have saved money and gotten younger by moving on from Joseph and Jackson last offseason. In the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Texans could consider a cornerback like LSU's Greedy Williams.
Safety has been a weakness for Houston for years, and it would not have been that way if it weren't for Bill O'Brien's ego running D.J. Swearinger out of town. With the Redskins, Swearinger has turned into one of the better safeties in the NFL. Additionally, the Texans overpaid when they signed Tyrann Mathieu to a 1-year contract, and Mathieu is not the player he once was. Kareem Jackson is also aging and in the last year of his contract. Thus, Alabama's Deionte Thompson or Mississippi State's Johnathan Abram could interest Houston in the early rounds. Florida's Chauncey Garner-Johnson and Delaware's Nasir Adderley could be options on Day 2.
Prior to the 2015 NFL Draft, long-time Texans scout Ed Lambert raved to me about David Johnson and how he wanted the Texans to land him. Bill O'Brien, however, demanded the Texans take Jaelen Strong instead of Johnson in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. As a result of O'Brien's mistake, the Texans still need a long-term running back. The red-zone offense has struggled because of the backfield issues. Lamar Miller is slowing down, and O'Brien could be on his way to running D'Onta Foreman out of town. Imagine if O'Brien had listened to his scouts and Houston had David Johnson to go with Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Texans taking Alabama running back Damien Harris, and he could be a good addition for Houston.
A dream draft for the Texans could look something like this:
Round 1: Alabama running back Damien Harris
Round 2: Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom
Round 2: Penn State cornerback Amani Oruwariye
Round 3: Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard
This is a key draft for the Texans to get in position to win a Super Bowl. They don't know how much longer they will have J.J. Watt playing at a high level; Whitney Mercilus is declining; Clowney may leave this offseason; the secondary has to be rebuilt; and the offensive line is terrible. The team obviously has some critical issues to correct. It will be interesting to see if Gaine and O'Brien can draft as well as the previous regime.
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