Kansas City has positioned itself, both at the end of the season and in free agency, to be an impact team in 2012. Finishing the season by beating the Packers and Broncos allowed general manager Scott Pioli to retain Romeo Crennel as coach. The Chiefs have addressed several needs in free agency, allowing them to draft whoever their big board says is the best value.
Offensive tackle and a backup quarterback needed to be addressed, so the Chiefs signed Eric Winston and Brady Quinn. In anticipation of losing cornerback Brandon Carr (who was signed to the Cowboys), they signed Stanford Routt. Routt never lived up to the contract the Raiders gave him, so the Chiefs had to overpay only a little bit.
They added tight end Kevin Boss to pair with Tony Moeaki, and in a curious signing they added running back Peyton Hillis. Jamaal Charles, who is coming off an injury, could give the Chiefs a solid 1-2 punch in the running game. Dexter McCluster adds another dimension in the nickel package.
Kansas City would love to see Stanford guard David DeCastro fall to the 11th pick. If he is not there, the Chiefs could reach up and get linebacker Luke Kuechly or Dont’a Hightower. Both positions are needed.
Another option could be LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who can play a number of different positions on the interior line. In the second round, guard Amini Silatolu from Midwestern State could be a good pickup.
San Diego Chargers
Drafting: 18th pick
Head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith are on tight leashes after missing the playoffs for two consecutive seasons. Each offseason move must have an immediate impact on this team.
The resurgence of quarterback Philip Rivers is the No. 1 priority. Everything has to revolve around maintaining the weapons he needs and more importantly protecting him. They lost Vincent Jackson in free agency to Tampa Bay and replaced him with Robert Meachem from the Saints. Make no mistake, though; that was not an even swap.
Larry English, who was the 16th overall pick in 2009, has been a bust, so an edge rusher would be key to the defense. The problem is that unless they trade up in the first round, there’s not a good deal of edge rushers in the draft. San Diego had a good free-agency signing in former Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson. They also are showing age in their secondary and sorely miss running back Darren Sproles.
Unless the Chargers can take offensive tackle Mike Adams from Ohio State, this part of the draft is void of impact offensive lineman and edge rushers. They could find some value in the second round, where running back LaMichael James could fill that need. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard might also be an option along with Zach Brown, who can line up as an outside linebacker and would give the special teams a boost.
Finished: 8-8 Eliminated in the divisional round
Drafting: 25th pick
John Fox did a great job in his first year with Denver. Tim Tebow’s development aside, the improvement on defense was most striking. Von Miller proved he was worthy of being the fourth overall pick. Offensive tackle Orlando Franklin proved to be a solid pick at No. 46 as well. Oh, and did I mention they added Peyton Manning as a free agent?
Still, the Broncos’ needs are substantial. Offensive tackle Zane Beadles struggled, as did the interior of Denver’s offensive line. Cornerback Champ Bailey shows no signs of slowing down, but the Broncos need depth at defensive back; Brian Dawkins was ineffective in his move to safety. Inside linebacker Joe Mays was a bit of a liability, so they may look to shore up the inside. They have signed Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen but could also use a pass-catching tight end.
Defensive back Janoris Jenkins might be a great pickup, provided you know the risks involved. Offensive tackle Cordy Glenn from Georgia is moving up the draft lists and could be a solid pick playing both tackle and guard. Safety Mark Barron from Alabama may not be a sexy pick but would give the Broncos great inside secondary presence.
If the Broncos don’t address their offensive line issues in the first round, guard Kelechi Osemele from Iowa State would be a really good second-round pick. If Missouri tight end Michael Egnew is still on the board into the third round (not likely), he could be the receiving tight end for Manning.
Drafting: No first-round pick
After an 8-8 record in 2010, members of Raider Nation felt like they had turned the corner. Unfortunately, the team followed up with another non-descript .500 season.
With the loss of icon Al Davis, the firing of head coach Hue Jackson and no first- or second-round pick because of the Carson Palmer trade, the Raiders have limited options to get over the .500 hump this year.
First-time general manager Reggie McKenzie and rookie head coach Dennis Allen will have to go with what is on campus to get better.
The Raiders have made a number of second-level free-agent signings. Offensive lineman Mike Brisiel, cornerbacks Ron Bartell, Shawntae Spencer and Patrick Lee, linebacker Philip Wheeler, and defensive end Dave Tollefson have all been added.
Defensively, they will no longer play only the man-coverage concept that was dictated by Davis.
Allen comes from the John Fox mold of multiple-zone packages, but are reportedly going to a 3-4 defensive front, so the team will be looking to find a legitimate nose tackle. McKenzie, who is coming from the Packers’ front office, will likely try to find a number of late-round, outside-linebacker-type bodies to make the conversion.
The Raiders would love to have defensive ends Bruce Irvin or Billy Winn fall to them in the third round. They may consider a guy like Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who has fallen in popularity with NFL teams because of his erratic style of play. He is likely to be available at No. 95 or even No. 129.