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 Lions blew a big lead to Mitch Trubisky in an embarrassing performance in Week 1 of the 2020 season. Entering this season, head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn were on the hot seat with the mandate to compete for the playoffs. Detroit has not drafted elite talent under Quinn and could definitely use an upgrade to improve the talent of the roster.
There are some excellent general manager candidates available, including former Texans general manager Rick Smith. Smith had a 10-year stretch in which he did not have a first-round pick go bust while landing J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, Deshaun Watson, Duane Brown, Brian Cushing, Whitney Mercilus, and more. Other good general manager candidates include:
Buffalo Bills director of player personnel Dan Morgan
Buffalo Bills director of college scouting Terrance Gray
Indianapolis Colts director of college scouting Morocco Brown
Buffalo Bills assistant college scouting director Lake Dawson
Tennessee Titans director of pro scouting Brian Gardner
San Francisco 49ers director of pro personnel Ran Carthon
Pittsburgh Steelers pro scouting coordinator Brandon Hunt
Miami Dolphins assistant general manager Marvin Allen
Washington director of pro scouting Eric Stokes
Seattle Seahawks executive Alonzo Highsmith
If the Lions were to land the No. 1-overall pick, it would make sense to take Trevor Lawrence and trade Matthew Stafford to start a rebuilding process in Detroit.
The Browns were embarrassed in the season opener, with the Ravens beating them by 31. Cleveland has perhaps the worst owners in the NFL with the Haslams, and the lack of continuity continues to hurt the organization's roster, scheme, and talent development. When the Haslams decided to fire John Dorsey, they went back to the regime and philosophy that produced their 1-31 stretch in 2016-2017. It would not surprise anybody in the NFL if the Browns are one of the worst teams in the NFL once again. If the Browns land the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, it would make sense to take Trevor Lawrence and look to trade away Baker Mayfield.
The Panthers lost at home to the Raiders, as the Las Vegas offense overwhelmed the young Carolina defense. Carolina has excellent skill position players on offense; Teddy Bridgewater is an efficient quarterback; and the team's young defense should improve over the course of the season. Thus, I think the Panthers could easily win enough games where they miss out on the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. If they do land the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, it would make sense for them to take Trevor Lawrence as their long-term franchise quarterback.
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: Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Cam Newton was dynamic on the ground for New England, but the Patriots struggled to pass the ball consistently in Newton's debut. Regardless of if Newton is their quarterback in 2021, the Patriots have to add more receiving weapons to their offense. The lack of receiving weapons was a problem the past few years, and versus the Dolphins, New England did not get much out of Julian Edelman (5-57) and N'Keal Harry (5-39).
Smith had a tremendous junior season for Alabama, recording 68 receptions for 1,256 yards with 14 touchdowns. He showed off excellent hands, route-running, and the ability to pick up yards after the catch. Smith put together 42 catches for 693 yards and six scores in 2018. The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder should take on a bigger role in 2020 with Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs having moved on to the NFL.
Chicago Bears: Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
Mitch Trubisky and the Bears were down by 17 before Trubisky fired off three touchdown passes to lead Chicago to a surprising 27-23 road win to open the 2020 season. The Bears did get lucky though, as Lions rookie running back D'Andre Swift dropped a touchdown with only a few seconds remaining in the game. Future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson (14-93) had an excellent debut for Detroit. The Chicago defense, meanwhile, has missed Adrian Amos since he left in free agency and could use an upgrade to help defend tough running backs like Peterson and receiving threats out of the backfield like Swift.
Over his first two seasons in college football, Cisco (6-0, 203) was a pure ball hawk for Syracuse. In 2019, he recorded 65 tackles with five interceptions and five passes broken up. Cisco had a huge 2018 season with seven interceptions, 18 passes broken up, one forced fumble and 60 tackles. The instinctive safety covers a lot of ground and is a solid run defender while being a dangers weapon in coverage. He had another interception - 13th career pick - to start out his junior year. Cisco could be a good fit in the Bears' defense.
Las Vegas Raiders: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Raiders' defense really struggled at Carolina, as Teddy Bridgewater and Christian McCaffrey moved the ball at will against them. Linebacker has been a problem for years for Las Vegas, and it continued to be a weakness to start out the 2020 season. This draft analyst thinks Mike Mayock made a mistake passing on LSU's Patrick Queen or Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray in favor of Damon Arnette and that linebacker is going to be a weakness for another season for the Raiders.
Parsons collected 109 tackles with five sacks, four forced fumbles and five passes defended in 2019. He was always around the ball and produced some splash plays for Penn State. Parsons broke into the starting lineup as a true freshman in 2018 and showed that he has lot of upside to develop into an intriguing player. On the year, he totaled 83 tackles with five for a loss, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Parsons (6-3, 245) has good size, speed and quality instincts. Prior to the Big Ten foolishly canceling their season, Parsons decided not to play in 2020.
Los Angeles Chargers: Sam Cosmi, OT, Texas
The Chargers made fewer critical mistakes than the Bengals, and that led to Los Angeles getting a road win to open the 2020 season. The Los Angeles defense came up with some key stops on their side of the field and two critical fourth-quarter turnovers to help out their struggling offense. The Chargers' offensive line could stand to improve to help protect Justin Herbert in the future.
Team sources like Cosmi and think he is a better prospect than Connor Williams was at Texas. They feel Cosmi is raw and needs development, but athletically, he is an interesting prospect. Cosmi (6-6, 295) needs to play more and get stronger for the NFL. Team sources felt he should go back to school if he wanted to be a secure first-round pick in his draft class, and Cosmi wisely decided to return to Austin for 2020. Sources who have been to Texas this fall said that Cosmi looks like he has added some good weight.
Over his career, Cosmi has done a good job in pass protection, showing some length, quickness, and athleticism on the edge. He could be a good blind-side protector for Justin Herbert.
Washington Redskins: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Redskins looked like they were about to get blown out before a furious comeback to pull off a shocking 27-17 upset of the Eagles. Washington's defense came alive to shut down Carson Wentz and lead their team to a win despite the offense struggling. For the Redskins to become a true playoff contender under Ron Rivera, they need to improve their offense, and it starts up front, where they could use a franchise left tackle to replace Trent Williams.
Sewell (6-6, 325) had a dominant 2019 season as the blind-side protector for Justin Herbert. With his good size, length, quickness and athleticism, Sewell has a nice skill set that could end up making him one of the top prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft. For his excellent sophomore season, Sewell won the Outland Trophy and was the Pac-12 co-offensive player of the year. Sewell was a shutdown pass protector as a freshman in 2018, not allowing a sack in over 926 snaps. He only was credited with allowing seven pressures and two hits that season. The Pac-12 foolishly canceling the 2020 season should not harm Sewell's draft stock because he already has produced two good seasons of tape for the NFL to examine.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Thanks to some clutch passes from Gardner Minshew, the Jacksonville offense produced enough to pull off a surprising upset of the Colts in Week 1. The Jaguars did miss Leonard Fournette in the season opener, with their ground attack not as effective as in the past. In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jaguars should get a replacement for Fournette to give Minshew more support on the ground.
In 2019, Harris averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 1,224 yards with 13 touchdowns. He had 27 receptions for 304 yards and seen scores as a receiver. Harris flashed at times, but some scouts don't feel Harris is the same caliber as other recent Alabama running backs like Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris or Derrick Henry.
Harris (6-2, 230) is a big back who has some quickness and athleticism for the NFL. Over the past few seasons, he didn't generally run to his size and looked to bounce too many carries to the outside rather than use his power to run behind his pads in a physical manner. In the latter half of 2019, especially against LSU and Mississippi State, Harris aggressively ran downhill with decisiveness. His tape from the back half of the 2019 season will help his draft grade and definitely makes him look like a better pro prospect compared to how he performed at the beginning of the season.
Kansas City Chiefs: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
The Chiefs allowed a few touchdowns late to make the score appear closer, but they cruised over the Texans and illustrated why they are the defending champions, while Houston is a team on the decline.
Adebo (6-1, 190) is a big corner who has cover skills and a tremendous ability to play the ball. He also has good instincts, but is an aggressive corner and will have to learn to play with more discipline. In 2018, Adebo recorded 64 tackles with 20 passes broken up and four interceptions. Against Northwestern in the 2019 season opener, he picked up where he left off in 2018, recording five tackles with two passes batted and an interception. However, he had an ugly game against Central Florida, getting roasted on some double moves. Adebo totaled 33 tackles with four interceptions and 10 passes broken up in 2019. Speed questions could cause him to slide to late in the first round, but the Chiefs could coach him up and have an excellent addition to their pass coverage with Adebo.
Team Draft Report:
In this section, we take a deeper look at specific teams and where they stand in regards to the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Carolina Panthers were injected into rebuilding mode when owner David Tepper fired Ron Rivera, hired Matt Rhule, and cut quarterback Cam Newton. The Panthers still have one of the best general managers in the NFL with Marty Hurney, who has led Carolina to draft the most All-Pros of any team in the NFL this century.
If given time, Hurney will build a talented roster for Rhule and his coaching staff. While Carolina could have a rough 2020 season, it might end up leading to them being the top team in the NFC South if they land an elite quarterback, as the other quarterbacks in the division are all aging or at the end of their careers - (Tom Brady (43), Drew Brees (41), Matt Ryan (35). For the future of the franchise, the quarterback position needs to be the Panthers' priority for the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Carolina coaching staff wanted to move on from Cam Newton and brought in Teddy Bridgewater given his familiarity with offensive coordinator Joe Brady's system. Bridgewater is a competent NFL starter, but he has a ceiling similar to Kirk Cousins'. They are playoff-caliber, but not elite championship-caliber quarterbacks.
In my latest mock 2021 NFL Draft
, I have the Panthers taking Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Landing Clemson's Trevor Lawrence would be ideal, but with young studs like Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Brian Burns and Derrick Brown, I think the Panthers have too much talent to lose enough to land Lawrence. Thus, Fields could be more of an option.
Fields has a great skill set with a strong arm, accurate passing, running ability, and good size. He is, however, a 1-year starter, assuming he doesn't play again before the 2021 NFL Draft, so he will need patience and grooming. If the Panthers land Fields, they could keep Bridgewater for one more year until Fields is ready to play and then they could get out of the rest of Bridgewater's contract.
Aside from quarterback, the Panthers are going to need help along the offensive line. Russell Okung is not a long-term answer at left tackle, plus they need more talent at guard. On the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft, Carolina could look at a tackle like Notre Dame's Liam Eichenberg. Other tackle prospects could emerge as well, and Carolina also could consider interior offensive line help with options like Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis, Georgia center Trey Hill, Alabama guard Deonte Brown and Tennessee guard Trey Smith.
Defensively, cornerback is the top need unless Eli Apple and Troy Pride prove to be the solutions to go with Donte Jackson. Some second-round corners to consider include Stanford's Paulson Adebo, South Carolina's Jaycee Horn, Georgia's Tyson Campbell and South Carolina's Israel Mukuamau.
While this could be a rough year for Carolina, it could be a blessing in disguise. With the old quarterbacks in the division nearing the end of their great careers, the Panthers could be poised to take over. Hurney has drafted an excellent young defensive line for Carolina and the team has very good skill position talent on offense, so the building blocks are there if the organization can land its quarterback of the future and make some other tweaks to the roster. It will be interesting to see if Tepper and Rhule are wise enough to have Hurney stay on to execute their rebuild.
The Texans had one of the best scouting departments in the NFL under former general manager Rick Smith. They were the only team in the NFL over a 10-year span not to have a first-round pick go bust, plus also found some good players on Day 2 - Bernardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham - and perhaps the two best undrafted free agents over the last decade in Arian Foster and A.J. Bouye.
Smith and his scouting staff drafted a Hall of Famer in J.J. Watt outside of the top 10. They landed a franchise left tackle in Duane Brown and perhaps the best receiver in the NFL in DeAndre Hopkins late in the first round. In their final draft, they acquired Deshaun Watson to give the Texans a Super Bowl window for many years to come.
Sources with the Texans told me that Bill O'Brien did not want to draft Deshaun Watson. O'Brien wanted Pat Mahomes and if he didn't get Mahomes, he wanted to draft Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson in the first round and go with Tom Savage as their starting quarterback in 2017. The draft room was dead silent when Smith announced he was making the deal with Cleveland to trade up for Watson. It turned out to be genius, and the Texans are very fortunate that Smith was in control at the time and not Bill O'Brien.
O'Brien won a power struggle after the 2017 season, ousting Smith and all of the Texans' best scouts. The result has been that O'Brien is on a power trip, managing to put the Texans in a bad hole for the next few years to come. Houston is in win-now mode with a young franchise quarterback, but O'Brien's moves are going to lead to the Texans being in a poor position to rebuild a competent defense and find a No. 1 receiver after giving away Hopkins. The best thing for Houston would be to fire O'Brien immediately.
The Texans traded their next two first-round picks for left tackle Laremy Tunsil, and that was a huge price to pay in terms of resources to rebuilding their defense. Jadeveon Clowney was a long-term piece who should have been held onto, but he was traded away. J.J. Watt, meanwhile, is aging and prone to injury, ending up on injured reserve to miss more than half the season for the third time in four years. Whitney Mercilus is also aging and declining. Given how rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran all over Houston in his first NFL game, the absence of tough nose tackle D.J. Reader was really felt. Houston did not the money to sign him after O'Brien signed other players. With the damage that O'Brien has done to the Texans roster, the team is going to be in a tough spot for a few years to put good talent around Watson.
To make matters worse for the rebuild, the Texans do not have a first- or second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Perhaps they will make trades to get picks, but as it stands right now, they do not pick until the third round. Both picks belong to the Dolphins for the Laremy Tunsil trade.
The 2021 NFL Draft looks like it will be loaded at the wide receiver position, and Houston needs help there after the idiotic Hopkins trade. The Texans could use a big receiver to replace Hopkins, but might they need a speed receiver if Will Fuller leaves in free agency. They will have to hope that an early-round pick like Texas Tech's T.J. Vasher, Florida State's Tamorrion Terry, Auburn's Seth Williams, Texas A&M's Jhamon Ausbon, LSU's Terrace Marshall Jr. or Minnesota's Rashod Bateman falls to the third round. Of that group, Vasher and Terry look too talented to get there. Bateman might slide because he does not have great speed, drops lots of passes, and won't have a season of tape from 2020 to help him. Ausbon has a shot to make it to the third round, and he would be a nice pick for the Texans.
With picks that low, the Texans won't have elite defensive prospects get to them, but they could potentially find some solid defenders similar to their pick of Jon Greenard in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
The best thing that could happen for the Texans during or after this season would be for owner Cal McNair to fire Bill O'Brien. Houston should bring back Rick Smith, hire Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy as head coach, and rehire the excellent scouting staff that O'Brien forced out for yes men. The Texans are going to continue to decline if O'Brien remains as the head coach and general manager. Their inability to compete with a Super Bowl team like the Chiefs is painfully obvious after the last two embarrassing games in Kansas City.
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