With the NFL Draft just eight days away, it’s time to take a look at the various needs that each team will be hoping to address during the three part event.
It’s been a busy offseason thus far for each of the teams in the AFC West, but each has work left to accomplish in the draft and roster gaps to fill.
What areas might each target starting next Thursday?
Let’s take a look.
Denver Broncos: RB, C, Backup QB, DT, ILB, CB, S
Analysis: The Broncos landed the top prize of the 2012 offseason in quarterback Peyton Manning, but assembling a roster around the All Pro quarterback is equally important to the team’s success in 2012.
That involves multiple pieces, starting with adding a young running back that Manning can hand the ball off to. Willis McGahee had a productive 2011, but the Broncos will need to find a player who can effectively handle the stretch zone runs that Manning and Indianapolis lived off of during his time with the Colts. They also need a running back who can catch and block, much like Joseph Addai and Edgerrin James did previously behind Manning.
Defensively, the Broncos are desperate for help up the middle, particularly at defensive tackle. They were a below average run defense in 2011 and lost Broderick Bunkley this offseason to New Orleans. They also just cut Ryan McBean, setting up the possibility that they will target one of the many available interior defensive linemen at pick 25.
Beyond those primary needs, the Broncos could stand to add more help in the secondary, a center to compete against JD Walton, a back-up for Manning, and an inside linebacker to start in place of DJ Williams, who has been suspended for six games to start 2012.
Kansas City Chiefs: NT, ILB, OL Depth, Secondary Depth, QB?
Analysis: The Chiefs have had an exceptional offseason, adding important pieces to the puzzle that include star right tackle Eric Winston, tight end Kevin Boss, and running back Peyton Hillis. With those pieces in place, it’s fair to assert that the Chiefs have no glaring weaknesses, although there are certainly positions that they could stand to address.
Chief amongst them is nose tackle, and the Chiefs may be in the market for Memphis’ Dontari Poe, who has many of the physical skills needed to be a 3-4 anchor. Beyond that, Kansas City may look to upgrade at inside linebacker, where Jovan Belcher is a hold-the-fort starter next to Derrick Johnson.
Quarterback is the position that may or not be in play for KC, as mixed signals have arisen about the team’s interest in Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill. My take? Matt Cassel is the best option that the team has for 2012, so investing in a quarterback in the first round is unwise.
Oakland Raiders: OL, RB, TE, CB, OLB, DL
Analysis: To be fair, new Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie has made the most of a tough situation so far in Oakland, retaining as many depth-level pieces as he can and trimming the fat of a roster loaded with it.
Now he has to find a way to fill a glut of holes without a draft pick until the compensatory portion of the NFL draft. Yikes.
Offensively, the Raiders need a tight end terribly, could use a back-up running back for Darren McFadden, have room for depth along the offensive line, and may explore a developmental quarterback project to succeed Carson Palmer.
On defense, the Raiders must find a way to fill the loss of their starting cornerbacks Chris Johnson and Stanford Routt, each of which was cut loose earlier this offseason. They also need to find a pass rusher, as Kamerion Wimbley was unloaded and now will play for Tennessee. Beyond that, the Raiders could stand to add depth in the linebacking core and across the defensive line.
Bottom line: the Raiders have room for improvement across the roster.
San Diego Chargers: OLB, DE, CB, Backup RB, TE, OL
Analysis: The Chargers consistently rank amongst the most talented teams in football, but an aging defense is in need of an infusion of talent. That starts with finding a pass rusher to step up in the role that Larry English hasn’t yet, as Shaun Phillips ranks as the Chargers’ lone potent edge rusher. San Diego also needs to start seeking a replacement for Quentin Jammer, who isn’t getting any younger and is starting to slip slightly in his coverage abilities.
On offense, the Charger should be very good again in 2012, but gone is Mike Tolbert to serve as part of a one-two punch with Ryan Matthews. That opens the door for drafting another power back, or perhaps finding a scat back close to the mold of Darren Sproles, whom San Diego dearly missed in 2011. And although he continues to produce when healthy, the Chargers should seriously consider a long-term replacment for Antonio Gates. He’s battled foot injuries in recent seasons, and finding another receiving target from the tight end position would mean a lot to an offense that loves to push the seams with one.