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:
WINNER!!! If you can call it that. The Cardinals lost to the Seahawks on Sunday and secured the No. 1-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Arizona had the worst record in the NFL at 3-13.
Since the Cardinals took Josh Rosen to be their 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 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 the best prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Robert Nkemdiche has been a massive disappointment, and Arizona needs a difference-maker at the point of attack after letting Calais Campbell leave in free agency. The Cardinals should look to replace general manager Steve Keim as his selections have led to Arizona having the worst record 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.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
The Jaguars came so close to the Super Bowl last year, and this year having a mediocre quarterback led to Jacksonville being back in the top 10 of the draft. General manager Dave Caldwell blew three straight top five picks in 2013-2015 on the likes of Luke Joeckel (No.2), Blake Bortles (No.3) and Dante Fowler (No.3). Shockingly, Caldwell still is the general manager working under Tom Coughlin. The Jaguars have to be aggressive to get a franchise quarterback as they need a difference-maker who can keep them competitive when they play Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson.
Haskins (6-3, 220) flashes the ability to be a NFL quarterback, but he needs to become more consistent. In 2018, he has completed 70 percent of his passes for 4,580 yards with 47 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Haskins has a strong arm with the potential to be a pocket passer who hurts defenses. He has talent, but there are stretches during which everything is just a little bit off with him. His decision-making is not consistent, and he makes some bad plays in terms of ball security. Haskins' field vision needs to improve, and he has to get faster at working through his progressions. His footwork also needs improvement, and his ball placement can be off. Haskins should return to Ohio State for 2019 to improve his overall play before going to the NFL. As a first-year starter, that is understandable, and he has upside to grow.
Cincinnati Bengals: Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
The Bengals could use some help in the middle of their defense. Cincinnati needs help at linebacker and safety to help defend the rushing attacks of division rivals like Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards, Nick Chubb, and the young Steelers running backs are going to be challenging for many years to come. If the Bengals don't land LSU linebacker Devin White in the first round, it would make sense for them to get better at safety with the top safety in 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 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.
Arizona Cardinals: N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
The Cardinals have a lot of needs to fill on their roster. They have a terrible offensive line, a leaky secondary, a defensive line in need of help, and a dearth of receiving targets for Josh Rosen. There is not a wide receiver worthy of going in the top 10 in the 2019 NFL Draft, so Arizona could plug one of those other needs in the first round and look to address receiver on Day 2. Last year, Arizona took a promising young wide receiver in local product Christian Kirk. This year, the Cardinals could grab a big wideout to pair with Kirk by staying in state and grabbing a Sun Devil.
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 they were 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 third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Harry could be a consideration as a complementary receiver for Rosen.
Atlanta Falcons: Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama
The Falcons used their prolific combination of Matt Ryan-to-Julio Jones to get a comeback win in Tampa Bay and finish the year at 7-9. With a few fixes to their defense, the Falcons could easily be right back in the postseason next year. Getting bigger and more physical at the point of attack would be just what the doctor ordered. Davis would be a great fit to stuff the run and help free up Grady Jarrett to get after the quarterback.
Davis has 53 tackles with 5.5 for a loss and 1.5 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.
New York Giants: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
The Giants took a great player in Saquon Barkley last April, but they passed on some franchise quarterback prospects and are now in a tough spot of being desperate at the position. In the 2019 NFL Draft, general manager Dave Gettleman may have to be aggressive to trade up for a quarterback. The Giants may pass on a signal-caller and go with Eli Manning again in 2019, but the aging and declining Manning is clearly not a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback any more. New York won't be a real threat in January until it acquires an upgraded signal-caller.
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 probably won't with Gettleman. Lock would be a good scheme fit for New York, but it will be interesting to see if he has the makeup to handle the media and pressure of playing in the Big Apple.
Buffalo Bills: A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
The Bills took care of business at home and dropped the Dolphins. Buffalo fielded a competitive team this year and enjoyed some positive games from rookie quarterback Josh Allen. Allen has a great skill set and needs to improve his accuracy. The Bills have a serious lack of talent at receiver, so they must get Allen some play-makers this offseason.
Brown would be a great wide receiver for Allen, as Brown is a big possessional receiver who can get open in the short to intermediate part of the field. He would provide Allen 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. Considering Buffalo's lack of talent at wide out, he could make a lot of sense for the Bills first-round pick.
Detroit Lions: Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky
With a shutout in Green Bay, the Lions flashed that they could be a tough team to beat around Matthew Stafford, if they can build a team around him. Adding to their defense would make a lot of sense high in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft when the best players available will be defensive tackles or edge defenders. The Lions could use a versatile edge defender to help them pressure the quarterback. Allen would give Matt Patricia a chess piece who Patricia could use at linebacker or defensive end, and play different spots in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. Allen might be a dream draft pick for Detroit.
In 2018, Allen has 85 tackles with 18.5 tackles for a loss, 14 sacks, five forced fumbles and four passes batted. He is a fast edge rusher with excellent instincts and a nose for the football. Allen played well as a junior also totaling seven sacks along with 65 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and three passes batted on the year. Allen could be an outside linebacker and rotational defensive end in a 4-3. In a 3-4 defense, he would be a great fit as an outside linebacker edge rusher who also can move to inside linebacker at times. Allen would be a great pick for the Lions.
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.
The wheels came off the season for the Panthers in the second half of the year, but they could be a team that has a big bounceback next year. That has been the M.O. under Ron Rivera, as Carolina has followed up some losing seasons with big years in, including that Super Bowl appearance a few years ago. If the Panthers have a strong offseason, they could easily get back to the level of play where they went 6-2 to open this season and were in the playoffs frequently since Rivera and Cam Newton came to the franchise. Carolina has a strong scouting and coaching staff that could put the team in position to be a Super Bowl contender again next year.
The Panthers have a few needs on both sides of the ball, and perhaps the important is getting an edge rusher. They have to consider replacing future Hall of Fame defensive end Julius Peppers. Peppers can't play forever, and Carolina could draw on the 2019 NFL Draft's exceptional defensive line class to find an understudy. Some options who could be in play for Carolina in the first round include Michigan's Rashan Gary, Florida's Jachai Polite, or Clemson's Clelin Ferrell. Ferrell or Mississippi State's Montez Sweat could be trade-down targets. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Panthers taking Polite.
If there isn't a good value available for Carolina at edge rusher, the team could consider addressing safety and taking the top safety in the draft in Mississippi State's Johnathan Abram. He would be a plug-and-play starter who would upgrade the Panthers' pass coverage in the middle of the field. Some good second-day safeties to consider would be Virginia's Juan Thornhill and Delaware's Nasir Adderley.
If the Panthers addressed the offense in the first round, it would be on the offensive line. Carolina has played virtually the entire season without starting offensive tackles Matt Kalil and Daryl Williams, who have been injured. That really hurt the pass protection for Cam Newton this year. The team could use an upgrade over Kalil, so taking a tackle like Florida's Jawaan Taylor or Ole Miss' Greg Little could make sense.
Carolina could also use some help on the inside of the line. Ryan Kalil is retiring, and the team could also use a guard to pair with Trae Turner. Boston College's Chris Lindstrom would be a great fit on the inside for the Panthers. Other options to consider are Wisconsin guard Michael Deiter, Texas A&M center Erik McCoy, Mississippi State center Elgton Jenkins and N.C. State center Garrett Bradberry.
A dream draft for the Panthers could look something like this:
Round 1: Florida edge rusher Jachai Polite
Round 2: Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom
Round 3: Delaware safety Nasir Adderley
It was a rough second half of the year, but the Panthers still have a lot of good players on their defense with an excellent young core on offense. Norv Turner has done a great job with Newton, Christian McCaffrey, Ian Thomas, Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore. With Moore and superb rookie cornerback Donte Jackson, general manager Marty Hurney made some great picks last year. Letting Hurney do his thing and produce another draft like that could have the Panthers back in the postseason next year.
The national media have been falling all over themselves to criticize Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, but they fail to realize that Oakland spent 2018 in rebuilding mode. Oakland blew a lot of picks in the 2015-2017 drafts that led the team to have a terrible defense with no depth. The Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades allow the Raiders to rebuild with five first-round picks over the next two drafts and lots of money to sign free agents. The only NFL team to win a Super Bowl after signing a defender to a $100 million dollar contract was Philadelphia, which had a Carson Wentz on a cheap rookie contract. If the Raiders execute the rebuild well with nailing their first-round picks and using the money wisely, they should be in great position to be one of the top teams in the AFC just after getting settled into their new digs in Las Vegas.
The Raiders have one of the worst defenses in the NFL thanks in large part to busted picks like Obi Melifonwu, Jihad Ward and Mario Edwards, plus a first-rounder who is just a backup quality player in Karl Joseph. Fortunately for the Raiders, the early returns are looking good on their 2018 class. Arden Key is showing Pro Bowl potential, and Nick Nelson, P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst all look like they will be solid pros. Still, Oakland needs a lot more help on that side of the ball.
The defensive front seven needs some difference-makers. Oakland could draw on a great class of defensive linemen with help at tackle or end. High in the first round, there are two linemen at each position who could be worthy of a top-five pick in Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown. The top two defensive ends for the Raiders to consider would be Ohio State's Nick Bosa and Michigan's Rashan Gary. Williams and Bosa could be off the board, but Gary would be a great fit as a big base end in the Oakland's defense with pass-rush ability. In my latest mock 2019 NFL Draft
, I have the Raiders taking Gary, and he could form an excellent combo with Arden Key.
Aside from a difference-maker up front, the Raiders need more talent at linebacker and safety. Johnathan Abram from Mississippi State would be an excellent first-round pick with either the selection from the Bears or Cowboys. He can cover and defend the run. Abram is the best safety in the draft, so he would be a nice value in the 20s. On Day 2, Oakland could target some linebacker help with prospects like N.C. State's Germaine Pratt, Florida's Vosean Joseph or Georgia's D'Andre Walker.
Offensively, the Raiders need some help at the skill positions. The offensive line looks in good shape, and rookie first-round pick Kolton Miller looks like he could be one of the top left tackles in the NFL before long. Miller has stud potential, and that was a great first-round pick by this run of the Gruden regime. Oakland needs more talent around Derek Carr, and the Raiders have one of the best quarterback coaches and offensive coordinators in the NFL with Greg Olson, so getting more receiver talent for Olson to groom for Carr would make a lot of sense. At the end of the first round and early in the second round, Oakland could consider some receivers like Ole Miss' A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf, Texas' Collin Johnson and South Carolina's Deebo Samuel.
Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin aren't long-term starters at running back. Lynch is old, while Martin is too unreliable. Late in the first round or on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Raiders could consider some talented backs to upgrade their offense. Some fits include Alabama's Damien Harris, Stanford's Bryce Love, Michigan State's L.J. Scott, Ohio State's Mike Weber or Alabama's Josh Jacobs. Jon Gruden likes big backs who have some receiving ability, so Harris, Jacobs or Scott could be the players who fit that criteria.
A dream draft for the Raiders could look something like this:
Round 1: Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary
Round 1: Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram
Round 1: Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown
Round 2: Alabama running back Josh Jacobs
Round 3: N.C. State linebacker Germaine Pratt
Needless to say, this is a critical draft for Jon Gruden. He has to nail his first-round picks to build a foundation around Derek Carr. The team needs help on both side of the ball, but the defense should be the focus and would provide better values as the defensive prospects are more talented than the offensive players this year. It might make sense to have the free agency money spent on offense and the picks used on the defense considering Gruden's inclination to play veterans. If Gruden can duplicate the quality of picks from last year's draft, the Raiders will be set up with a lot of good talent for years to come.
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