AFC West primed for the draft

The 2013 NFL draft is going to be important in the AFC West.

The 1-10 Kansas City Chiefs are on pace to get the No. 1 pick and the 3-8 Oakland Raiders and 4-7 Chargers are not far behind. As of now, Oakland is on pace for the No. 4 pick and the Chargers are on pace for the No. 7 pick.

So, it’s time to think ahead.

That is exactly what Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have done for this week’s Hot Read. Let’s highlight some of parts of the project that are of interest in the AFC West.

Kiper lists the five players he thinks could go with the No. 1 pick. Note he does not have a quarterback on the list and that is, by far, the Chiefs' greatest need. Here’s the list:

• Jarvis Jones, a brilliant, relentless pass-rusher out of Georgia;

• Manti Te'o, the prototype middle linebacker out of Notre Dame (a very high standing for an interior linebacker, I admit);

• Star Lotulelei, the best defensive tackle in the class, who plays at Utah;

• Luke Joeckel, the best left tackle in the class, of Texas A&M; and

• Damontre Moore, also of Texas A&M, and a rival to Jones as the best current pass-rusher on my board.

The players don’t address huge needs for the Chiefs. Based on fit, I’d say Te’o or Lotulelei could be the picks.

Oakland could be in real good shape with this list. All four defensive players on the list would fit. A fly in the ointment? Oakland has very winnable home games against Cleveland and Kansas City in the next three weeks. Of course, the team will want to win, but victories could take the Raiders out of the mix for an impact defensive player. Don’t get me wrong -- I’m not suggesting Oakland should tank games, just pointing there can be negative aspects of a losing team winning games late in the season.

Here’s McShay’s take on the weak quarterback class:

It's early in the process and there's still a lot of tape that needs to be watched. A year ago at this time, I didn't think much of Ryan Tannehill. Come April 1, I really liked him as a top-10 pick.

There's no one right now who I'd sit at a table and fight for, but I still haven't done all the tape.

McShay says defensive line is the deepest position in the 2013 class. That is good news for Oakland, which could use help there, and everywhere on defense. Here are McShay’s thoughts:

Defensive line is the deepest group in 2013. You could split hairs over defensive ends or defensive tackles, but if you're a team looking for a defensive lineman, you should be fired up over this group right now. As I count now, nine of the top 15 and 17 of the top 40 players in this draft are on the defensive line.

Kiper thinks the Chiefs can be one of the top newsmakers in the draft even if they wait until the second round to take a quarterback. Here are his thoughts:

Kansas City is also in line to deliver a huge splash. The Chiefs could draft No. 1 overall, and quarterback is a huge need. Right now, I don't have a QB rated among my top 20 overall players, but when that position is a major need, sometimes the value equation changes. That said, what if the Chiefs were to take Te'o with their first pick, and then target value at quarterback early in Round 2, landing them (Geno) Smith, (Matt) Barkley, Tyler Wilson, a talent like Mike Glennon or a high-ceiling project like Logan Thomas? It's so early that the QB evaluations will change a great deal (think of where RG3 was last year before the combine and workout process) and K.C. will have time to figure out the value at that early pick. But for splash, they're an early candidate.

Again, we will be focusing on the draft very soon in the division and this is a nice primer to get you thinking about it.