There are several juicy AFC West story lines to watch for as the draft unfolds April 22-24. Let’s examine some of the more intriguing questions:
Will the draft change at No. 5? There are expectations that the drama of the draft will begin when Kansas City picks at No. 5. With Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and Russell Okung expected to be the first four picks; the Chiefs represent the first question mark. Kansas City could take safety Eric Berry or a tackle such as Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams or Anthony Davis. A trade down is also possible assuming Okung is off the board. No matter what the choice is, it will be fun when Kansas City is on the clock.
What will the Chargers do? There will be almost as much drama when the Chargers’ turn arrives. I expect them to be big draft-day players. They have the No. 28 and No. 40 picks. San Diego has big needs at nose tackle and running back. There are several solid running backs available and the Chargers will likely make one of them their new primary tailback. It will be interesting to see if the Chargers take a nose tackle or a running back first. They could also trade up (San Diego has two third-round picks in 2011 to use as bait) in the first round and get a premier player at either position. No matter what happens, expect San Diego general manager A.J. Smith to be in wheeling-and-dealing mode.
Will the Chiefs look at a Golden Domer? Kansas City has hired former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis to be the offensive coordinator. Could he talk the Chiefs into taking quarterback Jimmy Clausen at No. 5 or receiver Golden Tate with one of the team’s second-round picks? The Clausen selection would be stunning, considering Kansas City paid Matt Cassel so much money last summer. However, if Tate is available at No. 36, Kansas City may jump on him. He would fill a big need and he would have advantage because he knows the offense so well.
Will Bryant replace Marshall in Denver? The Broncos visited with Oklahoma State standout receiver Dez Bryant this week. Now that Brandon Marshall has been traded, Bryant could be the team’s choice at No. 11. Bryant is very talented, but the Broncos would be adding a new set off off-field issues after trading Marshall. This would be a big story if he ends up in Denver. The Broncos could trade down from No. 11 and still get Bryant, who could tumble because of his issues.
Will Mt. Cody rise in the AFC West? The Broncos, Chargers and the Chiefs have all shown interest in Terrence Cody, the huge nose tackle from Alabama. He is considered a prototype 3-4 nose tackle, and all three of those teams use that scheme. San Diego has the most pressing need for a nose tackle of the three. It wouldn’t be a shock if the Chargers used the No. 28 pick on Cody. The Chiefs could potentially look at him in the second round, and -- if he lasts -- so could Denver. Fellow defensive tackles Brian Price and Dan Williams could attract interest from AFC West teams. However, Williams may be taken in the first 15 picks.
Will the Raiders address their quarterback needs? The Raiders are clearly looking to upgrade their quarterback situation this offseason. It could happen in the draft. Clausen has been linked to Oakland with the No. 8 pick. But he does not have the huge arm coveted by Oakland owner Al Davis. Tim Tebow has talked to the Raiders. He’d likely require a second-round pick. Oakland has worked out Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka, a likely mid-round pick. It would not be a surprise at all if Oakland drafts a quarterback to develop.
Will there be veteran trades? The Marshall trade may not stop the veteran action in the division, Denver is also shopping tight end Tony Scheffler. He could be had for a mid-round pick. There is also the possibility Oakland could pursue Washington quarterback Jason Campbell on draft day. Campbell could likely be acquired for a mid-round pick and Oakland has reportedly shown interest. Baltimore tackle Jared Gaither is reportedly on the block. Both Oakland and Kansas City could add a tackle. Gaither would likely cost a second-round pick. There is also the possibility of San Diego acquiring a veteran running back such as Marshawn Lynch or Marion Barber if they become available. Still, the odds are San Diego looks to the rookie class for its new tailback.
Will the Raiders go defense first? The Raiders’ greatest need is at left tackle. But it wouldn’t be a stunner if the Raiders used the No. 8 pick on a defensive player. The Raiders are said to have been snooping around Alabama middle linebacker Rolando McClain (who Denver could take at No. 11). Florida cornerback Joe Haden said he has received a lot of interest from Oakland. A Haden-Nnamdi Asomugha cornerback combination would be intriguing for the next few years.
Will the Tebow project continue in the AFC West? Tebow visited with Denver this week. The Broncos have two picks in the second round and could pull the trigger on the project then. Tebow has met with Oakland officials. It would be wild to see the pristine Tebow in the Silver and Black. He wouldn’t be ready to contribute right away, but he could be an interesting project. While I don’t think the Chargers would address a quarterback before the third round, Tebow could be a possibility if he fell. The Chargers need to develop a young quarterback and Norv Turner can do wonders with quarterback prospects. It would be an interesting pairing.
Will the Raiders add a receiver? The Raiders have studied the likes of Bryant, Tate and Mardy Gilyard. It’s not out of the question that the Raiders will look at receivers early in the draft. It would be intriguing. The Raiders have a lot of young, promising players at the position. What they need is a veteran presence. If a top receiver is taken in Oakland, what does it mean for the development of existing youngsters Chaz Schilens, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy?
Will Toby Gerhart pound his way through the AFC West? The rough-and-tumble Stanford tailback is on the radar in San Diego and in Denver. The Chargers make more sense because they have more of a pressing need. However, the Broncos also like the Heisman Trophy runner-up. The Broncos need a big back. I could see Gerhart, who is rising up draft boards, ending up in this division.
Will the Broncos find their new center? If the season started today, the Broncos would not have a starting center. They are looking for one in the draft. The Broncos love Florida’s Maurkice Pouncey. But taking him at No. 11 may be too high. The Broncos may have to move -- possibly up, perhaps down -- to get Pouncey. He is on their wish list, though. Boston College’s Mark Tennant and Baylor’s J.D. Walton are other possibilities.