Monday Morning Draft – Week 17

Houston Texans:
Houston was blown out by the Jaguars. The Texans got their second win of the season with a road win over the Titans. Earlier in the year, Houston got its first win when its defense had its way with Trevor Lawrence. With the Week 1 tie against the Colts, Houston would need to win its final game over the Colts to lose the No. 1 pick while the Bears would also need to lose. That seems unlikely, but possible.

Houston clearly needs a true franchise quarterback to replace Deshaun Watson. It would make sense for the Texans to target Alabama’s Bryce Young or Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Chicago Bears:
Chicago got blown out by the Lions and still have a remote shot at landing the No. 1 pick of the 2023 NFL Draft. If the Bears lose to Minnesota in Week 18 and the Texans beat Indianapolis, Chicago will have the top selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. Bears second-year quarterback Justin Fields needs more help, including receiving talent and an offensive line. Chicago also has a huge lack of talent in its defensive front seven. In possession a top-two choice, the Bears could look to trade down with a quarterback-needy team to load up on draft picks to add a lot of talent to the roster. Or if the new regime in Chicago doesn’t believe in Fields, the organization could select Alabama’s Bryce Young or Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and trade away Fields.

Top General Manager Candidates:

  • Detroit Lions director of scouting development Mike Martin
  • Atlanta Falcons vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith
  • Indianapolis Colts chief personnel executive Morocco Brown
  • Buffalo Bills director of player personnel Terrance Gray
  • Tennessee Titans director of pro scouting Brian Gardner
  • San Francisco 49ers director of pro personnel Ran Carthon
  • Philadelphia Eagles director of scouting Brandon Hunt
  • Miami Dolphins assistant general manager Marvin Allen
  • Washington Commanders director of pro scouting Eric Stokes
  • Miami Hurricanes general manager Alonzo Highsmith

  • Top Head Coach Candidates:

  • Los Angeles Rams offensive assistant Greg Olson
  • Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris
  • San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans
  • Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy
  • Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn
  • Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich
  • Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph
  • Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley
  • Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia
  • USC head coach Lincoln Riley

  • 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 York Giants: Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee
    The Giants clinched a playoff spot with a win over the Colts. Daniel Jones did some damage on the ground, but New York’s defense played extremely well, holding Indianapolis to 10 points. Obviously, the Giants need receiver help, and that was visible against the Colts once again. New York won’t be picking high enough for top receivers like TCU’s Quentin Johnston or Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, but the franchise could still land a quality wideout late in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

    In 2022, Tillman has 37 receptions for 417 yards and three touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder was a tough receiver in 2021 for the Volunteers, showing good size and playmaking ability. During his breakout season, Tillman caught 64 passes for 1,081 yards with 12 touchdowns. With his mismatch size and run-after-the-catch ability, Tillman would be a great fit for the Giants. He could be a nice addition late in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

    New England Patriots: Jaelyn Duncan, OT, Maryland
    With the Dolphins missing their starting quarterback, the Patriots held on for a narrow win, and it could have easily been a different outcome if Tua Tagovailoa were healthy. New England’s offense has struggled all year, and the team could use more talent at wide receiver and on the offensive line. The Dolphins collected three sacks of Mac Jones, and Isaiah Wynn could leave in free agency after this season. His departure would open up a big hole at left tackle for the Patriots.

    Duncan (6-5, 315) has been solid for Maryland in 2022, and he received a quality grade from NFL advance scouts. Duncan has good quickness and athleticism to be an edge blocker at the pro level. He is a team leader and captain who possesses good size and has some strength. Duncan broke into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2019 and has been a mainstay at left tackle for the Terrapins.

    Duncan has a really good skill set but needs some development. Hence, team sources project Duncan as more of a late first-rounder. If the Patriots refine Duncan well, he could be a steal as their first-round pick from the 2023 NFL Draft.

    Kansas City Chiefs: Jared Verse, DE, Florida State
    The Chiefs were almost upset by the Broncos, who looked much better without fired head coach Nathanial Hackett. Kansas City could use help in the pass rush, such as a defensive end to go across from George Karlaftis. At the trade deadline, the Chiefs made a run at Panthers edge rusher Brian Burns, and adding more pass rush would make sense to help Kansas City protect leads. Late in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, Verse could be a nice value for the Chiefs.

    Verse had a great start to open 2022, showing pass-rush ability and speed around the corner in a dominant performance versus LSU while recording three sacks and seven tackles. In 2022, Verse has recorded 47 tackles and nine sacks. He has displayed functional strength, athleticism, and a steady motor. In 2021 playing for Albany, Verse recorded 10 tackles for a loss, four sacks and 22 tackles. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder has a good motor and a lot of upside.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers: O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida
    The Bucs clinched their division title with a home win over the Panthers. Tampa Bay’s offense finally came alive with a huge day from Mike Evans, which has been missing all year. In the offseason, the Buccaneers really need to improve their rushing offense, and adding a guard like Torrence could be instant offensive line competition.

    Torrence blocked well for the Gators in 2022 and especially was a beast in the ground game. The 6-foot-5, 335-pounder is a load who generates movement as run blocker with surprising athleticism and quickness in pass protection. Torrence was a 3-year starter at La.-Lafayette, but after the 2021, he transferred to Florida to continue his playing career under the same head coach, Billy Napier. Torrence could be a solid second-round pick for Tampa Bay who would be an asset to blast open holes for the ground game while providing interior protection.

    Atlanta Falcons: Mike Morris, DE, Michigan
    The Falcons need to address the quarterback position with their first-round pick during the 2023 NFL Draft. However, Atlanta also needs to upgrade its defensive line talent. David Blough threw for 222 yards against the Falcons, and he should have had a bigger game given that he missed a number of open receivers downfield. Adding more defensive line help on Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft is a necessity for the Falcons.

    Morris has had a strong senior year for the Wolverines, showing improved pass-rush ability. After recording only .5 sacks in 2021 and 2020 combined, Morris recorded seven sacks, 23 tackles, a forced fumble and two passes batted in 2022 while missing some time with an injury. Morris has good height and length that could let him play as an inside/outside defensive lineman as a pro. Team sources say they think he could go in the second or third round next April during the 2023 NFL Draft. Morris has upside and could be a good addition for Atlanta.

    Detroit Lions: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
    The Lions blew out the Bears, racking up over 500 yards. The Detroit defense was led by the team’s amazing rookie class, with Josh Paschal picking up two sacks, James Houston notching three sacks and a forced fumble, and Aidan Hutchinson collecting .5 sacks, an interception and a number of pressures. The one issue the Lions had was Justin Fields, who ran for over 100 yards in the first quarter before they clamped down on him. Detroit needs more linebacker talent to improve their defense in 2023.

    Team sources like Campbell and think he will go in the first three rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft. They call him a taller version of Chad Muma. The 6-foot-5, 243-pound Campbell has good size, strength, and enough athleticism to be a three-down starter. In 2022, he collected 125 tackles, one pass batted, one sack, one forced fumble and two interceptions. One of those picks was a superb grab of C.J. Stroud. In 2021, Campbell amassed 140 tackles, a sack, forced fumble, two interceptions and five passes defended. Campbell would be an excellent pick with one of Detroit’s second-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft and could form a tough tandem with Malcolm Rodriguez.

    Dallas Cowboys: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
    The Cowboys grabbed some momentum heading into the playoffs by dropping the Titans on Thursday Night Football. Dallas took advantage of the Titans being without Ryan Tannehill, but the Cowboys could use more cornerback talent to handle the elite of the NFC. Adding a corner to go with Trevon Diggs could be a top consideration for them in the 2023 NFL Draft.

    So far in 2022, Witherspoon has 42 tackles, two interceptions and 14 passes defended. The 5-foot-11, 183-pounder impressed preseason evaluators thanks to having serious speed to go along with adequate size. Advance scouts noted his cover ability, saying he is fast and athletic to run the route to prevent separation.

    Witherspoon had zero interceptions in 2021 after recording two in 2020 and zero in 2019. He also recorded 52 tackles and nine passes defended in 2021. He notched 33 tackles in each of the prior two seasons and two passes broken up over that time. Witherspoon’s ball skills were improved in 2022, and he could be a riser for the 2023 NFL Draft who would be a good value for the Cowboys late in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

    Team Draft Report:

    In this section, we take a deeper look at specific teams and where they stand in regards to the 2023 NFL Draft.

    Indianaplis Colts:
    Ever since Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement, the Colts have been stuck in quarterback purgatory, which has been weighing down the franchise. Indianapolis has a good defense, a tough offensive line, and skill position players. If the Colts acquired a good quarterback, they could vault into the elite of the AFC.

    A year ago, the Colts traded for Matt Ryan, but that was a regrettable decision because Ryan is washed up. Indianapolis could move on from Ryan this offseason, but the organization would have to eat $18 million in dead cap space with saving $17 million by letting him go. If the Colts designate him a post-June 1st cut, they can spread that $18 million over two offseasons. Replacing Ryan is the highest priority of the 2023 offseason.

    In my latest mock 2023 NFL Draft, I have the Colts taking Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud. Stroud has good size, a powerful arm, accuracy, and real pocket passing ability. The knocks on Stroud are a lack of willingness to run and not making on plays off script. While running quarterbacks have been en vogue in the NFL, Colts general manager Chris Ballard has been comfortable with pocket passers, acquiring the likes of Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Ryan. Stroud could be a great fit in behind the team’s offensive line and with the skill-position talent on hand.

    If the Colts miss out on Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young, they could consider a quarterback like Kentucky’s Will Levis or Florida’s Anthony Richardson. Levis has problems holding onto the ball too long and making bad decisions with interceptions. Richardson has a great skill set, but is horribly inaccurate and really struggles to pass the ball consistently. Both are very flawed choices, so the Colts should give serious consideration to trading up for Stroud or Young if they are picking too low to have one drop to them.

    On Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Colts could consider adding talent at offensive tackle/guard, cornerback or defensive end. If Indianapolis believes Bernhard Raimann can be the left tackle of the future, that would allow the team to look more for a mid-round guard. The Colts could use a cornerback to replace aging veteran Stephon Gilmore and might need end help if Yannick Ngakoue is not brought back. However, those second-day selections could be required to help move up for a quarterback.

    The Colts could be a team that has a big bounceback in 2023 if they can get the quarterback position settled. Indianapolis could look the veteran route to options like Derek Carr or Geno Smith, but the organization could use a more long-term fix and stability with a true franchise quarterback like Stroud or Young. The 2023 NFL Draft is going to be a critical draft for the future of the Colts.

    Chicago Bears:
    If Justin Fields doesn’t pan out and turn into a good starting quarterback, the Ryan Pace-era in Chicago will go down as a horrible missed opportunity for the franchise. Pace made one of the worst quarterback evaluations in league history by trading up and taking Mitch Trubisky and passing on Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Taking Trubisky also led to the Bears passing on Lamar Jackson a year later. The Trubisky pick, among other poor decisions, led to Pace getting fired and another rebuild being started for the once-proud Bears franchise. However if Fields turns into a solid starter, Pace deserves credit for getting that right before he was let go. Over his second season, Fields has shown big-time ability, including a very impressive stretch in the mid portion of the year. New general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus have a very difficult rebuild on their hands because Chicago has one of the worst rosters in the NFL, lacking elite talent on either side of the ball. With Fields showing positive signs, the Bears have to build around him.

    On the defensive side of the ball, Chicago has Robert Quinn aging after trading Khalil Mack and needs a lead dog difference maker in the front seven. In my latest mock 2023 NFL Draft, I have the Bears taking Alabama’s Will Anderson. He would be a great addition to give them a pass rusher capable of putting up sack totals in the mid-teens on a regular basis.

    The Bears also could use a difference maker on the inside of their defensive line, so Georgia tackle Jalen Carter could interest them. However, Chicago has so many needs that the organization should look to trade down in the first round and stockpile picks to add a lot of talent to the roster. Anderson and Carter are good prospects, but the Bears need so much help, they need the quantity of new solid starters that a trade downward could bring.

    If the Bears move down, they could target pass rushers. Other than Anderson, pass rushers to consider in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft could include Clemson’s Myles Murphy, Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson, Florida State’s Jared Verse and Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey.

    Offensively, the Bears need help at receiver, so they could target a true No. 1 receiver for Fields. Fields excelled at throwing the deep ball at Ohio State, so getting him some receivers who can get open vertically would make Chicago’s offense much more explosive. TCU’s Quentin Johnston or Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba would be a great pick up after a trade down.

    Chicago also needs to upgrade its blocking for Fields. In the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, a good option would be to stay local and grab Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski. He could be a long-term blind-side protector, or play right tackle or guard if his arms are too short for left tackle in the NFL. Other offensive linemen for Chicago to consider in the early rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft include Alabama’s Tyler Steen, Ohio State’s Paris Johnson and Maryland’s Jaelyn Duncan.

    The Bears have to upgrade the talent base all over their roster, so they should take the best player available at wide receiver, edge rusher, or offensive tackle. It might make the most sense to upgrade the receivers and offensive line in the 2023 NFL Draft and then target the defense in the 2024 NFL Draft. Chicago desperately needs Fields to pan out, so giving him an awful supporting cast for the third straight season does not make sense. It will take a few years, but if Poles drafts well around Fields, the Bears could finally start to be legitimate postseason contender again.

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