Here is the second edition of the Monday Morning Draft - 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.
As the season progresses, there will be a lot of turnover in the positioning of which team will land the No. 1 overall pick to have the first shot at Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. After the Week 2 action, here are the top contenders at this time.
Kansas City Chiefs:
The Chiefs made a comeback but fell to San Diego 20-17, and are now 0-3 on the season. Kansas City was dominated at home by the Buffalo Bills, laying a 41-7 egg in the first week of the season. In Week 2, the Chiefs were traveling to take on the surging Detroit Lions, and once again Kansas City got blown out. This time 48-3. At least Kansas City was more competitive this week.
Veteran quarterback Matt Cassel will turn 30 just after the 2012 NFL Draft, so it would make sense to groom a young quarterback with a veteran playing into his 30s. Hurting the Chiefs chances of winning games this season is their loss of running back Jamaal Charles to a torn ACL. Still they look destined to be picking at or neat the top of the first round in 2012.
The Colts almost pulled off a big time upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but lost 23-20. A week ago, the Colts played a tight game with the Browns. Right now, there is no certainty when Peyton Manning will return, and he could miss the entire season. Without Manning, the 0-3 Colts could be headed to a season with 1-3 wins and a strong possibility for the No. 1 pick.
Miami was matched up against Cleveland in a playoff game in the Suck for Luck derby. The Dolphins had the game and outplayed Cleveland in many respects, but Miami dropped to 0-3 after blowing a six-point lead late in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins play in a tough division that should produce at least two playoff teams and a playoff contender. The Dolphins find ways to lose, and that matters in the Suck for Luck standings.
The Vikings are 0-3 after blowing another lead for the third week in a row. Minnesota was dropped at home by the Lions, 26-23 in overtime. The Vikings play in a tough division and are clearly the worst team in that division. It wouldn't be surprising if they are swept by their division rivals and their conference matchup against the NFC South. With the Vikings unable to protect a lead in each week thus far, they are quickly making up ground to be in the running as the worst team in the NFC.
The problem for Minnesota is it spent a first-round pick on quarterback Christian Ponder last April. If they have the first pick, they would have a tough decision to make. Luck is good enough that he is worth considering taking even though they just drafted a quarterback. Fortunately for Minnesota, they have Adrian Peterson and some other good players, so they'll pull out a few wins. Considering they've been close to winning all three games this season, there are worse teams in the league than Minnesota.
The good news for Seattle is it wasn't shut out in the first half of the game. The Seahawks were shut out at halftime in each of their first two games of the season. This week against Arizona, the Seahawks managed six points.
Helping Seattle to try and regain the lead in the "Suck for Luck" standings is that their offensive line is one of the youngest fronts in the NFL. The line has first-rounders from the last two drafts in Russell Okung and James Carpenter. They also start Max Unger (third season) and rookie John Moffitt at guard. All of those players need time to develop, which will hold back the Seahawks' offense in 2011.
The quarterback position is a clear weakness. With Seattle starting 1-2 and featuring that line with those quarterbacks, they are likely to stay in the running for Luck.
Let's Play Match-Maker:
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.
Atlanta Falcons: Nate Potter, OT, Boise State
The Falcons made the Buccaneers' defensive line look a dynamic front four. That came after Tampa Bay was one of the worst pass rushing teams in 2009, 2010, and in the first two weeks of this season. Rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn beat left tackle Sam Baker for a sack fumble, and Baker has steadily proven not to be the franchise left tackle to protect Matt Ryan. Atlanta traded away it 2011 first-round pick, so that puts it at a disadvantage in finding a new left tackle. They could go the free agency route, but if they do it in the draft, Potter might be a quality answer in the second round. He has done a good job protecting quarterback Kellen Moore and he could be available after the first round.
Denver Broncos: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Broncos head coach John Fox likes to use a dual-back approach. Even if Denver can get Knowshon Moreno to be a reliable and productive, it could use another runner. Richardson is the top running back in the draft. He can handle a large amount of carries and is able to beat defenses with speed and power. Willis McGahee is not the answer. Against Tennessee, he ran for 52 yards on 22 carries. The Broncos' offense needs a weapon, and Richardson could be that.
St. Louis Rams: Dre Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
In the first quarter, Baltimore Ravens rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith caught touchdown passes of 74, 41 and 18 yards to put Baltimore in a commanding lead over the Rams. St. Louis badly needs cornerback help, and Fitzpatrick is the top draft eligible corner. He is tall and fast, and plays a physically violent brand of football. Fitzpatrick would give a real presence to the Rams secondary. With the Rams vulnerability to the pass, it could be a long season in St. Louis.
San Francisco 49ers: Barrett Jones, LT, Alabama
Quarterback Alex Smith was sacked five times by the Bengals, and the 49ers' pass protection has been a problem throughout the preseason and into the regular season this year. Jones would be a good fit due to his versatility. He could be a potential tackle or guard in the NFL, so having him with the ability to move to different positions would make it easier for San Francisco to put a quality line together.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
As long as Gene Smith is the general manager of the Jacksonville Jaguars, wide receivers like Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon or Notre Dame's Michael Floyd won't be options for the Jags due to their off-the-field issues. Jeffery has been a dynamic playmaker and hasn't complained despite South Carolina having bad quarterback play and featuring the running game instead of him. The Jaguars clearly need a No. 1 receiver for rookie Blaine Gabbert. Mike Thomas led them in receiving with four receptions for 55 yards against Tennessee. Jacksonville definitely needs to get some receiving weapons for Gabbert.
Miami Dolphins: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
The Dolphins gave up a lot of sacks to the Cleveland Browns and were whipped by the Cleveland defensive tackles. Ahtyba Rubin had a big game with 1.5 sacks and one tackle for a loss. Rookie defensive tackle Phil Taylor also had a sack as the Browns exploited the Dolphins offensive line. Guard Richie Incognito was especially bad against Rubin. Incognito was fortunate that Rubin didn't have more sacks with the amount of times Rubin got through his block. Jake Long and center Mike Pouncey are quality players, but they need some help to protect the quarterback. Right now, David DeCastro is the top guard in the draft and he would be a big help for Miami's offensive line. Miami might have a shot at DeCastro in the second round or by trading back into the first round.
This week, we start a new section where we talk with a player currently in the NFL about some former college teammates with a view of their game as NFL draft prospects.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Da'Quan Bowers spoke with WalterFootball.com about his former teammates: defensive tackle Brandon Thompson, defensive end Andre Branch and tight end Dwayne Allen. The questions and comments from Walter Football appear in parenthesis. Bowers' quotes follow.
Talk about Brandon Thompson and Andre Branch and how they played with you.
"Brandon Thompson made my job a whole lot easier. The amount of double teams he took on to get me the chance to rush one-on-one. He is part of the reason why I had 15.5 sacks my junior year.
"Andre is a great guy. He has a lot of athleticism. When he really locks in and sets his mind to something he can really make a guy worry about him."
Thompson looks like he would be a good fit as a nose guard in a 4-3 defense. How do you see him fitting as a pro?
"Yeah he would fit that well. He is going to demand double teams because he is not going to get blocked one-on-one. Any time you can get a guy like that on your team he is going to help the whole line."
Do you think that Branch could fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker?
"Andre is so athletic, he can do anything. He can play 3-4 or put his hand down in the dirt and rush. He is one of those guys that will make plays where ever you put him."
Dwayne Allen has started the season well. Obviously he's a great receiver. How did he do in practice when he would block against you?
"In practice he would always ask me to go extra hard on him so he could work on his blocking. We had a relationship in practice where I would push him and he would push me. He is one of the best tight ends in the nation right now. He has a great work ethic. He does everything in his power to help the team."
He looks like a three-down tight end, and even smaller speed linebackers struggle with him in man coverage.
"He won't be covered in man. Not by a linebacker. You can try and zone him, but he's not going to be covered in man. He's too big and fast. He can block. He can catch. He's just really big and fast."