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.
Send Charlie an e-mail here: [email protected]
Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell for updates.
Race for the No. 1 Pick:
New York Jets:
The Jets had a bye this week. Jacksonville is the only serious threat to snatch the No. 1 pick from Gang Green at this point in the season.
The Jets are 0-8 and have looked like the worst team in the NFL. It appears the locker room is quitting on head coach Adam Gase, and that could lead to New York having an abysmal season that earns the franchise the No. 1-overall pick. If the Jets land the top pick, they should take Trevor Lawrence and look to trade Sam Darnold for draft picks to help build around Lawrence.
Jacksonville flirted with an upset in Green Bay but ultimately fell to the Packers. The Jaguars remain on the heels of the Jets for the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Jacksonville will never be among the elite teams of the AFC as long as Dave Caldwell is their general manager. Thanks to Caldwell’s terrible drafting, the Jaguars are in rebuilding mode. Caldwell blew top-five picks on Luke Joeckel (2013), Blake Bortles (2014), and Dante Fowler (2015). Joeckel and Bortles were so bad, they are out of the NFL already.
Jacksonville is paying the price for those blown picks right now, and to make matters worse, the Jaguars passed on Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson because they made the mistake of drafting Bortles and sticking with him. Caldwell’s terrible drafting gave proof how he is one of the worst general managers in the NFL and how one draft mistake leads to another. After the 2020 season, the Jaguars should find a new regime and a new franchise quarterback to build around.
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:
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 Orleans Saints: Paris Ford, S, Pittsburgh
The Saints brought back Malcolm Jenkins this year, but the veteran has gotten picked on this season and is clearly a declining player. Brandon Aiyuk gave New Orleans some issues on Sunday, and the team could use a tough defender in the deep middle of the field to replace Jenkins. Late in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Ford would be a great fit for the Saints.
Ford is a smart, fast,and physical defender who was all over the field for Pittsburgh. He totaled 41 tackles, three passes broken up and three interceptions in 2020 before opting out for the remainder of the season. As a redshirt sophomore, Ford broke out for the Panthers, leading them in tackles with 97 while also showing impressive ball production in the form of three interceptions and 11 passes broken up. He also provided three forced fumbles. Ford (6-0, 190) was all over the field in both phases, and team sources said he really jumped out to them when scouting other players. It would help him to gain some weight for the NFL. With Ford’s aggressive mentality and infectious passion, he would be a great fit for the Saints.
Los Angeles Rams: Sam Cosmi, OT, Texas
The Rams were able to notch a huge win over Seattle on Sunday, but it was costly one, as left tackle Andrew Whitworth was carted off the field. Whitworth is one of the older players in the NFL, so this being a career-ending injury or what causes him to choose to retire is a real possibility. Before too long, the Rams will have to consider the future and find a new left tackle to protect Jared Goff. They might have a shot at Cosmi in the back half of the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and he would be a nice fit in Sean McVay’s offense.
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 seen the senior this year say it looks like he added some good weight since the end of 2019. As a redshirt freshman, Cosmi earned a starting spot at right tackle for the Longhorns and had an impressive debut. He did a good job in pass protection, showing some length and athleticism on the edge.
Las Vegas Raiders: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
The Las Vegas defense had its best game of the season on Sunday, intercepting Drew Lock three times, forcing fumbles, and limiting Denver to only 12 points. The Raiders run the ball well, and if they can play consistent defense, they could be a really tough team to beat late in the season. Even though they harassed Lock on Sunday, their pass rush has been inconsistent this season. Adding another edge rusher via the 2021 NFL Draft would make Las Vegas even better.
Paye has 12 tackles and two sacks so far this season. The 6-foot-4, 277-pounder had an impressive junior year as a well-balanced defender at the point of attack. He notched 50 tackles with 6.5 sacks on the year.
With his developed strength, Paye can set the edge and hold his ground. He also shows some pass-rush ability and the upside to be better as he gains experience. Last year was only his first season as a starter, so Paye has lots of upside. He could be a good rusher to rotate with Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell.
New York Giants: Joseph Ossai, OLB, Texas
The Giants won their second straight game – their third of the season – as their defense limited Carson Wentz and the Eagles to 17 points despite not producing much edge rush on Wentz. New York got sacks out of Dexter Lawrence and Jabrill Peppers, while the secondary limiting Philadelphia’s receivers in impressive fashion. None of the Eagles recorded six catches or over 60 passing yards. The Giants need to get receiving weapons for Daniel Jones, but adding a pass rusher on the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft would be a good plan.
The 6-foot-4, 243-pound Ossai has good speed, athleticism, and the functional size to be an edge defender in the NFL. Multiple team sources call him a fit for a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker, and that makes sense because he would be a tweener end/linebacker in a 4-3. The junior seems to be breaking out in the middle of this season, showing improved recognition skills. On the year, he has 45 tackles with four sacks, three forced fumbles, and two passes defended. In 2019, he had 90 tackles with give sacks, two interceptions, and one forced fumbles in his first year of serious playing time.
Ossai has an excellent motor and gives relentless effort. He would be a good value for the Giants on Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Detroit Lions: Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami
The Lions were without Kenny Golladay again, but Matthew Stafford leaned on Marvin Jones and D’Andre Swift to pull off a three-point win over Washington. Alex Smith threw for almost 400 yards on Detroit, distributing the ball to a variety of weapons. Next offseason, the Lions need to improve their edge rush with a quarterback hunter to go across from Trey Flowers.
Rousseau (6-6, 260) was one of the best edge defenders in college football during his redshirt freshman season. For his breakout 2019, he notched 15.5 sacks with two forced fumbles and 54 tackles. Rousseau has an excellent skill set with upside to improve, but his development could be slowed down by his decision to opt out of the 2020 season. There is no substitute for experience and a year of refining pass-rushing moves, getting off blocks, and improving technique. Thus, Rousseau will enter the NFL as a 1-year wonder who could require more developmental time. He might still be a top-10 pick, but he will be more raw and underdeveloped compared to other recent high first-round defensive ends like Jadeveon Clowney, Myles Garret, Bradley Chubb and the Bosa brothers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Rashad Weaver, DE, Pittsburgh
After getting humiliated by the Saints on Sunday Night Football, Tampa Bay got a much-needed win by cruising over the rebuilding Panthers in Charlotte. The Bucs’ defense struggled in the early going before shutting down Teddy Bridgewater and knocking him out of the game. Jason Pierre-Paul put together a good game, and the Buccaneers could use more young edge talent to rotate with the aging veteran. Weaver could be a good rotational rusher and edge defender to go with Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett in the short term and eventually replace Pierre-Paul as a three-down starter. Weaver could be there when the Bucs get to choose late in Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Weaver is flashing his pre-injury form this year and showing the ability to get after the quarterback. He has 26 tackles with 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two passes defended thus far in 2020. Weaver had a strong 2018 season to get on the radar for NFL advance scouts, but his redshirt junior year – 2019 – ended before it started with a season-ending injury suffered in training camp. In 2018, he had 47 tackles with 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and four passes broken up. The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder has good size to go with speed and athleticism.
Indianapolis Colts: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The Colts got a huge win in Tennessee on Thursday Night Football and moved into first place in the AFC South. Indianapolis could look to bring back Philip Rivers after this season, but Rivers is aging and eventually will need to be replaced. The Colts could consider signing Rivers for 2021, using their first-round pick to help Rivers, and then drafting a quarterback in the second round to prepare a potential starter of the future. If the franchise does that, Mac Jones could be a candidate for Indianapolis.
Jones has enjoyed a massive 2020 season, utilizing all of his great weapons to light up the scoreboard on a weekly basis. The 6-foot-3, 214-pounder has adequate arm strength, anticipates well, sees the field well, and is a good game manager. In 2020, Jones has completed 79 percent of his passes for 2,196 yards with 16 touchdowns and two interceptions. Jones could be a good understudy for Rivers and could be available for the Colts in second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
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.
Pittsburgh had the potential to be one of the top teams in the AFC in 2019,but an injury to Ben Roethlisberger led to a lost year in the Steel City. With Roethlisberger on the field and guiding the offense this season, Pittsburgh has been one of the best teams in the NFL and is firmly in contention to win the Super Bowl. In the 2021 NFL Draft, Pittsburgh could look to add more talent to try to win now, or could consider the long-term future with Roethlisberger aging and being prone to injury.
Given Roethlisberger’s status, the Steelers have to give deep consideration to drafting their quarterback of the future. Pittsburgh blew mid-round picks on Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs, so the starter of the future is clearly on the mind of the front office. The Steelers won’t be picking high enough for the top three signal-callers, but they could have late first-round or second-round options available in BYU’s Zach Wilson, Florida’s Kyle Trask, Alabama’s Mac Jones or Georgia’s Jamie Newman. If the Steelers don’t fall in love with one of those prospects, it does not make sense to force the issue unless Roethlisberger retires after this season. Roethlisberger, 38, is in the final year of his contract in 2021, and Pittsburgh could consider signing him to short-term extensions like the Saints have with Drew Brees. If the Steelers go that route, they could use their first-round pick to help them win now.
In my latest mock 2021 NFL Draft I have the Steelers taking Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell, and he would make sense for Pittsburgh to continue to build up its secondary. Joe Haden is aging, and prepping a young talent behind him would make sense to give the team needed depth in the immediate future and a future starter in a year or two. Other cornerback options to consider would include South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn, Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II, Ohio State’s Shaun Wade and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley.
I had the Steelers taking Campbell because entering this past weekend they were projected to have pick No. 32, which would be glorious for Pittsburgh because that would mean another Lombardi Trophy. If the Steelers were picking higher, I would probably have them taking an edge rusher over one of those cornerbacks, but all of the worthy quarterback hunters were gone by the final pick of Round 1. Bud Dupree is entering free agency, and it could be difficult for the Steelers to sign Dupree and T.J. Watt to long-term extensions. Of those two, it seems clear they would sign Watt and look to an NFL draft to replace Dupree. Some edge rushers to consider in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft would include Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan’s Kwity Paye and Pittsburgh’s Rashad Weaver. Hutchinson would fit as a five-technique in a 3-4, but he could be a good rusher across from Watt. Paye and Weaver would be nice replacement options for Dupree.
Offensively, Pittsburgh could use a running back if James Conner is allowed to leave in free agency. Alabama’s Najee Harris would be a great fit in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The Steelers also could consider some offensive line youth as well given the age of center Maurkice Pouncey. Georgia center/guard Trey Hill could start out at guard and then replace Pouncey. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva is also entering free agency after this season, and if he is not brought back, his spot will be a huge hole to fill. In the first round, Texas’ Sam Cosmi could be a candidate if he slides. Otherwise, Pittsburgh might have to consider second-round talents like Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg.
It would not be a surprise to anyone if the Steelers end up winning the Super Bowl this year or next year. Finding their starting quarterback of the future has to be a consideration, but if they don’t fall in love with a prospect, they could continue to build up their roster to make a run at another Lombardi in 2021.
Cleveland has the worst owners in the NFL with the Haslam family, who have done a terrible job of guiding the franchise. The lack of continuity with general managers and head coaches is directly the fault of ownership. Current general manager Andrew Berry and chief strategy officer Paul Depodesta were part of the front office under Sashi Brown that did an awful job of evaluating the quarterback position. The organization passed on Carson Wentz, Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson over two drafts. Two of them have already won a Super Bowl, and Watson has been an excellent pro. Thus, it is difficult to have any confidence that the Haslams, Berry and Depodesta will lead the Browns to being a Super Bowl contender.
The Browns have been competitive in 2020 and are starting to see the fruits of some of the moves made by former general manager John Dorsey. Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Denzel Ward, Kareem Hunt and Odell Beckham Jr. – before he was injured – all played critical roles in getting wins for Cleveland this year. There is no doubt that the Browns have some talent to build around with that group and Myles Garrett. However, Cleveland needs to nail a few more drafts before it will be ready to truly challenge Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the AFC North.
In my latest mock 2021 NFL Draft, I have the Browns taking Pittsburgh safety Paris Ford, as he would make sense in terms of improving their pass coverage. Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo are basically journeyman-caliber players. Grant Delpit went out for the year in the preseason, but Delpit faces tackling and coverage weaknesses for the NFL. Delpit is more effective playing closer to the line of scrimmage, so he would be better off gaining weight to be a strong safety as long as the Browns can improve his weak tackling. Regardless of if Delpit pans out, they need more safety talent, and Ford could be an excellent addition. He is an instinctive defender with cover skills and is a hard hitter. Other good early-round safety options include Syracuse’s Andre Cisco, Oregon’s Jevon Holland and Georgia’s Richard LeCounte.
The Browns also have needs on the defensive line. Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon are solid pros, but they are nearing the ends of their contracts. Vernon will be a free agent after this season, and Richardson could be a cap casualty next spring. If Richardson isn’t given up to make space, he will be in the final year of his contract in 2021. Therefore adding defensive line talent will be a necessity in the near future for Cleveland. The organization is going to need to add edge rushers to go across from Myles Garrett. In the first round, Cleveland could consider Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham, Pittsburgh’s Rashad Weaver, Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Michigan’s Kwity Paye – depending on where the franchise is picking. For a defensive tackle, some options to consider would include Alabama’s Christian Barmore or USC’s Jay Tufele. It might make the most sense to bring back Richardson and draft an end to go across from Garrett in the first or second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Browns have invested a lot of picks and dollars in their offense, so building up their defense over the next couple of drafts will be critical. The question will be if they have the right people in place with Berry and Depodesta. Those two do not have a good track record guiding the franchise, but they are getting the opportunity to change that.
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