Tuesday, April 26, 2011

AFC West Draft Preview

As the clock ticks closer to the NFL Draft on April 28-30, we'll be doing our best to preview the team needs of all 32 teams to give you all an outlook on what to expect come draft day. Of course, there are no guarantees with things like mock drafts (even though they are fun to do) so we did our best to get some insight from bloggers/fans of other teams. Today we take a look at the AFC West. Our friend Brandon from BroncosBlog.com was cool enough to help us out with some inside perspective on their team needs.

For reference, we compiled the draft picks each team currently has. Compensatory picks are listed in parentheses.

2010 Record: 10-6
AFC West Champion, Lost to Baltimore in Wild Card Round

Draft Picks: 21, 55, 86, 118, 135, 140, (199), 223

Kansas City posted the best turnaround in the league last year, going from finishing last in the AFC West to winning the division and making the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The Chiefs won based on a strong running game with Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. Rookie Dexter McCluster provided a spark in the return game and their young secondary played well above their years. Dwayne Bowe had a second half of the year that vaulted him from "draft bust" category to some considering him one of the top receivers in the league. The Chiefs still need help in the receiving department and on the defensive front. One of the "hot" names for the Chiefs has been Phil Taylor (NT-Baylor) as the potential anchor for their 3-4 defense. Adding depth to the linebacking corps is another need for the Chiefs as they look to defend their AFC West crown.

2010 Record: 9-7

Draft Picks: 18, 50, 61, 82, 89, 183, (201), (234)

The Chargers 2010 season seemed to defy all statistical analysis by any normal methods of determining the caliber of a team. They finished in the top 5 in the league in passing offense, passing defense, sacks, and rushing defense. Nevertheless, a horrendous Special Teams and untimely defensive breakdowns led to a disappointing season where they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005. Even without Vincent Jackson, they still posted one of the best passing attacks in the league. Jackson's future with the team is still up in the air so it wouldn't be surprising to see the Chargers target a receiver early in the draft. Rookie running back Ryan Matthews wasn't the breakout star that other rookie backs have been in the past, but he has the skill set to develop into a capable back. On defense, the Chargers need to restock their outside linebackers after Shawne "Roid-Rage" Merriman was cut last year. 

2010 Record: 8-8

Draft Picks: 48, 81, 113, 148, 181, 219, (214)

Oakland became the first team in NFL history to post an undefeated record in their division and not make the playoffs. The Raiders swept through the AFC West on the backs of a strong running game anchored by Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. Quarterback Jason Campbell wasn't fantastic, but he proved to be a better quarterback than anyone the Raiders had fielded since Rich Gannon. On defense, star corner Nnamdi Asomugha's contract clause enabling him to become a free agent was triggered this year and he can hit the open market once the lockout ends. The Raiders also need help along the offensive line and without a first round draft pick (traded to New England for Richard Seymour) it will be tough for Al Davis and company to-wait, did I just write a paragraph assuming that Al Davis would do something sane during the draft? Yeah, that's not happening. 

2010 Record: 4-12

Draft Picks: 2. 36. 46. 67. 186, 189, (247)

Just like that, the Josh McDaniels experiment is over. John Elway takes over the GM position and John Fox was brought in from Carolina as the new head coach of the orange and blue. McDaniels decimated this roster and left a ton of holes. Fox figures to switch the defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3 but will need to pick up multiple pieces through the draft in order to do so. A defensive end to pair with Elvis Dumervil seems to be the prime need, but they also need depth in the secondary, a run-stuffing defensive tackle to anchor the inside, and a running back to complement the oft-injured Knowshon Moreno.

Our buddy Brandon from BroncosBlog.com and one of the architects behind the twitter mock drafts known as Mock One, Mock Two, and Mock Three gives us a report from the wreckage of the McDaniels dynasty. If you have any draft-related questions at all, Broncos or not, he's a great guy to ask on Twitter: @Empulse

1. What are the biggest needs Denver has entering the draft?

Denver's needs are almost exclusively on the defensive side of the ball.  Cutting 2 of our starting defensive tackles at the start of the offseason puts DT at the very top of our need list.  We also have some severe questions at Defensive End.  Dumervil was a sack master his last healthy year, leading the league in sacks, but he played as a stand-up line back in a 3/4 Defense.  His more natural postion is at DE with his hand on the ground, but will he be able to slide back to the DE postion after having to learn OLB?  The problem at Right DE is similar.  Robert Ayers played DE in college and was quite successful. He was drafted to play standing up, and never really figured things out.  The jury is out on his ability to play DE in the NFL, as he hasn't played a snap from that position up to this point.  Lots of question marks there.  The other big question mark is Inside LB.  This is a huge hole, and at the moment we have Joe Mays penciled in at MLB. The real problem with that is Joe Mays was tossed out of Philly last year like a day old diaper.  Is he really good enough to start at MLB for the Broncos? Again, the jury is out, but the prosecution suspects the answer is a big fat negatory.

2. Do you think Denver will address those needs in the draft or wait for free agency?

I would be shocked if 5 of our 7 picks aren't on the defensive side of the ball.  And I wouldn't even be surprised if we select 2 DT's in the first 48 picks.  The need is that big. . . So glaring that it very well may happen.  The talent at DT this year is tremendously deep.  It wouldn't be a reach if a DT is selected at #2 and then at #48.  I suspect they won't rely on FA to fill needs. . . Because the truth of the matter is noone has a clue if/when FA happens.  I think they may be inclined to try to get their TE and RB via FA if they decide not to fill that position through the draft.

3. What players would you like to see the Broncos target in the draft?

I'm particularly interested in Marcel Dareus and Nick Fairley in the first round.  Both are unbelievable talents, and will instantly sore up our weakest postion. I really feel like Dareus is a can't miss, and if he is there at #2 I am about 98% sure that the Broncos pull the trigger and put him in the Orange and Blue.

My other first round interest carries much more risk. Fairley may be one of the best athletes in the draft (considering size, etc)...However, There are three huge questions with Fairley:
1> can he keep his attitude in line?  I'm putting my money on probably not, but who knows.
2> His production is really limited to a single year. Is he a one year wonder, or will he continue to produce like he did in '10?
3> Can he keep his weight down?  He has had some issues with this in the past, and its a huge concern how a player will respond and react to life in the NFL.

In the second round I'm enamored with the athleticism that Martez Wilson brings to the table.  Martez was one of the most athletic MLB's at the combine.  His measurables were off the charts, and he truly impressed people with his agility and quickness.  Martez  (Tez) is a bit of a project in that he has relied almost exclusively on his athleticism to get him by at the College level.  He was bigger, stronger and faster than most in his conference, and dominated for that reason. This won't be the case in the NFL.  He will need to study much more. He will need to watch film regularly and really become a student of the game.  Then, and only then, will he have a chance to be a legitimate option at Middle Line Backer in the NFL.

The last player I'll mention Johnny White.  This kid is amazing.  He is a bit of a tweener, playing both WR and RB.  He kind of reminds me of Percy Harvin.  Watching him on tape, I have no idea why he is predicted to be a late 5th-7th round pick, but he is.  Do yourself a favor and watch some tape on this kid.  He runs like his hair is on fire!  He has a respectable 1 cut style to him, and when he sees a hole he really knows how to hit it.  I think he would be a value at the end of the 4th, but if things continue the way they are projected he will be an absolute bargain at the start of the 5th round.  Don't be sleeping on Johnny White.  This kid is one of my favorite sleepers this year!

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