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:
Jacksonville had an amazing Sunday that could change the course of franchise and NFL history. With the Jets beating the Rams after the Jaguars were blown out by the Ravens, the Jaguars are now on track to land the No. 1-overallpick in the 2021 NFL Draft, which is essentially the right to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. All the Jaguars have to do is lose their final two games to the Bears and Colts. If they do that, they can secure Lawrence as their franchise quarterback.
The Jaguars would never be among the elite teams in the AFC as long as Dave Caldwell was their general manager, and he was fired after their loss to the Browns. 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 were both out of the NFL at one point this year - Bortles pops up as a backup from time to time.
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
. Jacksonville was wise to fire Caldwell and should have done it months ago. Now at least the Jaguars have a shot to get their choice of general manager, but they will have move quickly with the Texans, Falcons and Lions having varying degrees of a head start on the process.
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 good picks. Other good general manager candidates include:
Buffalo Bills director of player personnel Dan Morgan
Buffalo Bills director of college scouting Terrance Gray
Buffalo Bills assistant college scouting director Lake Dawson
Indianapolis Colts director of college scouting Morocco Brown
Las Vegas Raiders senior executive DuJuan Daniels
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
New York Jets:
The future of the franchise struck for disaster when Sam Darnold and Quinnen Williams led the Jets to their first win of the season over the Rams. At 1-13, New York now falls behind the Jaguars for the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. If the Jaguars lose their final two games to the Bears and Colts, they clinch the No. 1-overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.
With the second-overall pick, the Jets will have a much tougher decision to make. They could look to trade down and build around Sam Darnold, or they could replace him with a quarterback prospect like Ohio State's Justin Fields, North Dakota State's Trey Lance or BYU's Zach Wilson. All of those quarterback prospects have flaws, as does Darnold, so it will be a more difficult path to chose after losing out on a slam-dunk decision like drafting Trevor Lawrence. The Jets have to pray that somehow Jacksonville beats the Bears or Colts in Weeks 16 or 17.
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.
Buffalo Bills: Rashad Weaver, DE, Pittsburgh
The Bills rolled the Broncos on Saturday, with Josh Allen dominating the Denver defense, and Buffalo's defense is rounding into form at the right time. The Bills have not been as productive rushing the passer this season as expected, and linebacker A.J. Klein leads the team with five sacks. Jerry Hughes is aging, while Mario Addison is not a long-term starter. Thus, the Bills could use a long-term edge rusher to get after the quarterback.
Buffalo may not have a lot of good options late in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, but Weaver could received some consideration. This year, he showed his pre-injury form and showing the ability to get after the quarterback. He totaled 34 tackles with 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two passes defended 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. He could be a nice complement next to Ed Oliver.
Green Bay Packers: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
Aaron Jones carried Green Bay past Carolina, ripping off 145 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown. Once again though, Green Bay's lack of a secondary receiver was glaring, as the team managed only 143 yards passing on a weak Panthers secondary. Aside from Davante Adams, no other receiver had six receptions or more than 56 yards through the air. Green Bay has to get a more consistent No. 2 receiver for Rodgers for 2021.
Marshall recorded 48 receptions for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2020 before opting out of LSU's final two games - against Alabama and Florida. Team sources have been impressed with Marshall, who showed off his size, speed, and big-play ability in 2020. He flashed in 2019, recording 46 receptions for 671 yards and three touchdowns. Marshall clearly was capable of producing more that season, but LSU featured Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson.
Marshall (6-3, 200) looks like a first- or second-round talent for the 2021 NFL Draft given his size, speed, route-running and versatility. He would be a great fit for the Packers at the end of the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
New York Jets: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Jets got their first win of the season in Week 15, which will probably cost them Trevor Lawrence. New York could decide to trade down in the first round and build around Sam Darnold bceause the other quarterback prospects are not on Lawrence's level. If the Jets do trade down to build around Darnold, they could use an elite receiver to help him in 2021. Chase would be a plug-and-play upgrade and the No. 1 receiver the team badly needs.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Chase was the best receiver in college football in 2019, dominating the SEC in prolific fashion. As a sophomore, he averaged 21.2 yards per reception with 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. Chase showed off game-breaking speed with quality route-running and yards-after-the-catch ability. Team sources have told me that Chase could be a better version of Amari Cooper in the NFL. If the Jets don't take a quarterback with their first-round choice, a weapon like Chase would be a great addition to help Sam Darnold.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
The Bucs were shut out in the first half in Atlanta before ripping off 31 points in the second half to notch the comeback win over the Falcons. Tampa Bay was playing without Ronald Jones, but even with a talented back in Leonard Fournette, the offense struggled to run the ball. Fournette scored two touchdowns, but he totaled only 49 yards over 14 carries. The Buccaneers could use more power on the inside of their line to help create more movement. Adding offensive line talent would make sense to help Tom Brady in pass protection as well.
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Davis is a road-grading run blocker who Jones would love to run behind. Davis packs a punch at the point of attack with the ability to knock defenders off the ball. As a pro, Davis is going to need to improve his pass protection and ability to handle speed rushers, but he has the skill set to be well-rounded with the quickness and agility to block on the inside. The issues in pass protection might cause Davis to be a second-round pick, but he could be a nice value in the opening frame of Friday night for Tampa Bay.
Indianapolis Colts: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
The Colts got a home win versus Houston even though Deshaun Watson put up a lot of yardage through the air. Really, a Keke Coutee fumble late in the fourth quarter saved Indianapolis from potentially going to overtime. It could have been worse for Indianapolis had Will Fuller not been suspended and, of course, if Bill O'Brien hadn't been foolish enough to trade away DeAndre Hopkins. The Colts could use more cornerback talent to go with their tough front seven. Their front seven is very good, but they could use more coverage talent on the back end.
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Farley has an excellent skill set with size, speed and athleticism. After starting out at wide receiver for the Hokies, Farley missed the 2017 season with a torn ACL. He had a bad year 2018, but was excellent in 2019, recording four interceptions with 12 passes broken up and 20 tackles. It was impressive that Farley played that well considering he had a serious back injury for a lot of the season. Farley decided to sit out the 2020 season because of the pandemic, so he will enter the 2021 NFL Draft having been a 1-year wonder and flagged with durability issues. His physical tools, however, could be enough to lead to him being selected during the opening night of the 2021 NFL Draft. He has a lot of upside and could blossom under the astute Colts coaching staff.
Seattle Seahawks: Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State
The Seahawks jumped out to a lead and held on, although the Redskins came close to pulling off a comeback. Seattle's defense held strong, but the team's offense had issues getting into a groove. D.K. Metcalf (5-43) led the Seahawks in receiving, and Russell Wilson only threw for 121 yards against Washington. This offseason, Seattle could stand to add more weapons for Wilson, and adding a receiving tight end would makes sense on the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Kolar put together a very good 2020 season despite inconsistent play from quarterback Brock Purdy. Kolar has 39 receptions this year for 538 yards and six touchdowns. He totaled 51 catches for 697 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019.
Kolar runs good routes and has solid hands and an NFL build. He also has some yards-after-the-catch ability and enough athleticism to be effective. Kolar is not liability as a blocker either. He could start out his career as a backup and develop into a starter. In the 2021 NFL Draft, Kolar could be worthy of being a third-round pick.
Miami Dolphins: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Dolphins missed the injured DeVante Parker in their tight win over the Patriots. Tight end Durham Smythe (5-40) was Miami's leading receiver, and in the 2021 NFL Draft, it would make sense for the team to add more receiving weapons for Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins are in excellent position to land a potentially elite talent with their high first-round pick from the Houston Texans. Between LSU's Ja'Marr Chase or Alabama's DeVonta Smith, the Dolphins could land a premier playmaker to help their young franchise quarterback.
Smith has 80 catches for 1,305 yards with 15 touchdowns this season, dominating the SEC on a weekly basis. For the NFL, Smith is dynamic receiver who could be a deadly weapon and has No. 1 potential. He has the speed to get vertical, is superb after the catch with moves in the open field, runs fabulous routes to create separation, is very sudden in and out of his breaks, high points the ball well, and has excellent hands. If Smith were not so thinly built, he would be a top-10 pick, but even with his lean frame, he looks like a first-round pick for the 2021 NFL Draft and could get top-20 consideration. Smith would be an intriguing first-round pick for the Dolphins with the pick they have from the Texans and could form a lethal tandem with Parker while reuniting Tagovailoa with one his best college weapons.
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.
Entering the 2020 season, the Ravens were my prediction to win the AFC and go to the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay. The strength and depth of Baltimore roster was apparent, and Lamar Jackson has the potential to beat good teams on his own with his rare and dynamic skill set. The Ravens have stayed in the playoff race, but they have not been as good as I expected. Baltimore still has one of the better rosters in the NFL and solid coaching, so another good draft from Eric DeCosta could have the team back as a top Super Bowl contender in 2021.
In my latest mock 2021 NFL Draft
I have the Ravens taking Syracuse safety Andre Cisco, and he would be an excellent fit for Baltimore. Cisco is a dynamic ball-hawking safety with excellent instincts and versatility to play strong or free safety. The interception threat that Cisco creates could remind Ravens fans of Ed Reed, and Cisco could really upgrade their secondary as a replacement for Earl Thomas. Other safeties to consider could be Pittsburgh's Paris Ford, Oregon's Jevon Holland, and TCU's Trevon Moehrig. Georgia's Richard LeCounte could be a candidate for Baltimore on Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The other area on the defense that could use help is edge rush. Both Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue are slated to be free agents in March. It looks very unlikely that Baltimore will be able to afford to sign both, so one could be brought back and the team could consider a long-term complement with its first-round pick. That would make sense from a salary cap standpoint, as the Ravens would have a well-paid veteran paired with a talented young player on a cheap rookie contract. Some mid- to late first-round options for Baltimore to consider would include Tulsa's Zaven Collins, Pittsburgh's Rashad Weaver and Vanderbilt's Dayo Odeyingbo. Of those three, Collins would be the best scheme fit because of his versatility to play inside or outside linebacker, rush the passer, drop into coverage, and defend the run.
Offensively, Baltimore needs more help at wide receiver. Dez Bryant is a stop-gap addition, and the team could use more playmakers for Lamar Jackson. In the first round, the Ravens could consider Alabama's DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle, but those two may not get to the their pick. They could consider LSU's Terrace Marshall Jr., but the 2021 NFL Draft is deep at wide receiver, so it might make more sense to address the defense in the first round and target receiver help on Day 2. Some good second-day receivers to target could include Florida's Kadarius Toney, Minnesota's Rashad Bateman, Purdue's Rondale Moore, Oklahoma State's Tylan Wallace, Houston's Marquez Stevenson, Florida State's Tamorrion Terry and Texas Tech's T.J. Vasher.
If I were running the organization's draft, I think my ideal combination could be an edge linebacker like Collins in the first round, a safety like Holland or LeCounte in the second round, and a receiver like Terry in the Round 3. That being said, DeCosta is an excellent general manager with a keen scouting eye, so his plan will be more astute than mine. Ozzie Newsome was one of the best general managers in NFL history, and the Ravens were very blessed to have him guiding their franchise. He gave Baltimore a great parting gift by grooming DeCosta to be an excellent general manager. It would not surprise me if DeCosta, John Harbaugh and Lamar Jackson lead the Ravens to another championship in the near future.
Los Angeles Chargers :
I really believe the Chargers could be a breakout team of 2021 and become a serious contender in the AFC as soon as next season. General manager Tom Telesco has done a great job of putting together a young and talented roster that has the potential to be among the elite groups of talent in the NFL. Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert has been phenomenal and has the upside to be one of the best signal-caller in the NFL. One more good draft with a top-10 pick could put Los Angeles over the top to returning to the postseason.
In my latest mock 2021 NFL Draft
, I have the Chargers taking Miami defensive end Gregory Rousseau. Melvin Ingram could be nearing the end of his time with the Chargers, and with all the money, they paid Joey Bosa, they could use a talented, but cheaper, option on the other side from him. Rousseau would be a great fit across from Bosa.
Rousseau is big, fast, athletic, and showed serious edge-rush ability in 2019. His size also gives him the ability to slide to the inside and rush from defensive tackle in the sub package. Aside from Rousseau, other good options to consider at defensive end would include Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye and Wake Forest's Carlos Basham. All three of those players would provide a larger end who could help the Chargers defend the run and get after the quarterback.
If the Chargers were to trade down in the first round, some defensive ends they could consider in the mid- to late portion of Round 1 could include Pittsburgh's Rashad Weaver, Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson and Vanderbilt's Dayo Odeyingbo.
Aside from the defensive line, the Chargers could use more talent in the secondary, including some help at cornerback to go with Chris Harris and Casey Hayward. The AFC West is a particularly passing-driven division with the Chiefs' lethal passing attack, the Raiders' aerial offense, and the young talent at receiver in Denver, so it would definitely makes sense for Los Angeles to consider cornerback help in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Depending on where the Chargers end up picking, Alabama's Patrick Surtain II could be a nice fit as a first-round pick. Other potential first-round corners to consider include South Carolina's Jaycee Horn and Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley. On the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft some good cornerbacks to target could include Georgia's Tyson Campbell, Georgia's Eric Stokes, Alabama's Josh Jobe, Clemson's Derion Kendrick and Stanford's Paulson Adebo.
The Chargers also need help on the other side of the bal, particularly on the offensive line. They traded away left tackle Russell Okung and have guard Forrest Lamp and center Dan Feeney entering free agency. Feeney has played center because of injuries to Mike Pouncey, and a decision on Pouncey's future is at hand as well. The Chargers won't be picking high enough in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft for Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell, but there could be other worthy first-round tackles available to them like Texas' Sam Cosmi, USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker, Alabama's Alex Leatherwood, Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw and and Northwestern's Rashawn Slater. There is a wide variety in grades for these players, as some teams have Leatherwood, Darrisaw and Slater graded on Day 2 but other teams have them in the first round. Notre Dame's Liam Eichenberg could get late first-round or early second-round consideration as we;;, so a nice strategy could be to target a tackle in the second round due to some of that group potentially sliding into the second round. If the Chargers can trade down and take a long-term left tackle to protect Justin Herbert, they would be putting together a really nice draft.
Perhaps the best route for the organization to take would be to sign some veteran cornerbacks like the Patriots' J.C. Jackson, draft a defensive lineman like Rousseau in the first round, and use a second-round pick on an offensive tackle like Eichenberg. Maybe Telesco could repeat his history by making a trade back into the first round for an offensive tackle. In the mid-rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Chargers could build up their depth, and it wouldn't hurt to add some high-upside backups along the inside of the lines, at wide receiver and in the secondary.
If the Chargers stay patient and allow Telesco to keep loading up their roster, they could win big in the years to come. Telesco has nailed draft picks, like tremendous young franchise quarterback Justin Herbert, who is only going to get better. Other picks like Bosa and Derwin James have shown the potential to be among the elite players at their positions in the NFL. A couple more drafts by Telesco could put the Chargers over the top and have them as one of the best teams in the AFC.
NFL Picks - Sept. 19
2022 NFL Mock Draft - Sept. 15
NFL Power Rankings - Sept. 14
Fantasy Football Rankings - Sept. 8