Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Under the radar needs.
I could see Denver drafting a safety in the fourth round. Starters Brian Dawkins (36) and Renaldo Hill (31) will not be around forever. Denver did take Darcel McBath in the second round last year and he made some decent strides before getting hurt. It would hurt Denver to try to find another young safety to develop. I could also see Denver looking for a big running back late in the draft. The team needs a pounder. The Broncos struggled in short-yardage situations. The Broncos also need a punter.
The Chiefs have done a nice job in free agency, but they still have plenty of needs heading into the draft. Many of Kansas City’s needs are on the defensive side of the ball. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kansas City added multiple linebackers, perhaps starting in the second round. Since the Chiefs use a 3-4 defense, they need several linebackers on an aging crew. Linebacker might be the top need after safety, offensive line and receiver. The Chiefs are young on the defensive front, but it wouldn’t hurt to get more talent in the later rounds at nose tackle. Even though tight end is not a glamour position in Todd Haley’s offense, the Chiefs do need some talent there.
After the offensive line, linebacker and quarterback, the Raiders need some defensive line help, especially at tackle. Watch for Oakland to use a mid-round pick on this position. I could also see Oakland trying to find a running back in the third-to-fifth rounds. It cut Justin Fargas and needs some help behind Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. Oakland was set to visit with former Kansas City star Larry Johnson before he signed with Washington. Cornerback and safety are other areas Oakland might address add late in the draft. Oakland also needs some help at receiver. Ideally, it would be in the form of a veteran (Terrell Owens, anyone?) because Oakland is so green at the position.
This is an important draft for the Chargers. The team has has lost several players this offseason. San Diego is still the class of the AFC West and it has pretty nice depth. But reinforcements are needed at several positions. The Chargers’ biggest needs are running back and nose tackle. But San Diego will be busy after filling those two early needs. San Diego could use some youth at defensive end and inside linebacker. Also, watch for the team to look for a cornerback in the post-Antonio Cromartie era. Offensively, San Diego needs a blocking tight end to replace Brandon Manumaleuna, who signed with Chicago. That position could be addressed in the middle rounds. San Diego also could use a young right tackle to groom. I could also see a young receiver taken in the late rounds.