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AFC West draft primer

4/22/2011

With the NFL draft starting in six days, there are many interesting storylines involving the AFC West. Let’s take a look:

Will any AFC West teams draft a quarterback? Denver, Kansas City and Oakland have all been studying several of the top quarterbacks. There is a chance Denver and Oakland could use a second-round pick on a quarterback. Kansas City will probably wait until the mid-rounds before it addresses the position. I wouldn’t be shocked if we see a quarterback enter the division Friday. San Diego could take a quarterback in the late rounds because backup Billy Volek is a free agent.

Will a top pass-rusher land in the division? Denver, San Diego and Kansas City have all looked at pass-rushers very closely. I could see San Diego, which has the No. 18 pick, and Kansas City, which has the No. 21 pick, drafting a pass-rusher in the first round. The run on pass-rushers will probably start at No. 15. Guys like Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt, Cal’s Cameron Jordan, Missouri’s Aldon Smith Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan, UCLA’s Akeem Ayers and Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson could all be in play for these two teams.

Will Denver trade out of the No. 2 pick? I know Denver is open to trading out of the No. 2 pick. It would ideally like to go down to the No. 5-to-8 range and still grab a top-flight defensive player while adding picks. Denver’s best bets may be Arizona (No. 5) and Tennessee (No. 8). One of those two teams may believe it is necessary to move up to take a quarterback. Still, it won’t be easy. The No. 2 pick hasn’t been traded since 2000.

Will the Chiefs take a receiver high? The Chiefs need a No. 2 receiver and may take one early rather than waiting for free agency. They could pounce on a receiver like Leonard Hankerson of Miami, although it might be risky waiting for him to drop to No. 51.

Will Da'Quan Bowers end up in the AFC West? Before all the alarm about his surgically repaired knee, the Clemson pass-rusher was considered a possibility for Denver at No. 2. His injury will probably cause him to fall. It wouldn’t be a total shock if Bowers fell all the way to San Diego. There has been speculation that Bowers won’t fall past Minnesota at No. 12, but if he did slide to San Diego, he’d be a great value at No. 18.

Will the Chiefs’ infatuation with the SEC continue? The Chiefs have drafted a player from the SEC in the past four years, and Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli has a long history of taking players from that conference. I’ve been told the Chiefs have been scouting the entire South hard this spring. It will be interesting to see how that affects their draft class.

Will the Chiefs draft some beef? The Chiefs could add a nose tackle and an offensive tackle early. Don’t be surprised if the Chiefs try to make a trade and take Baylor’s massive nose tackle Phil Taylor if he drops some in the second round.

Will Casey Matthews be AFC West-bound? Denver, Kansas City and San Diego all have been connected to the Oregon linebacker, the younger brother of Green Bay star Clay Matthews. A lot of teams are excited about Matthews, and it would be interesting to see him end up in the division.

Will A.J. Smith be a mad trader? San Diego general manager A.J. Smith is known as an active draft trader. He has five of the first 89 picks, and he has tremendous trading power. Smith could trade up or down. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Chargers ended up with two first-round picks.

Will Denver take a running back high? Despite Denver’s greatest needs on defense, there has been speculation it could take a running back to pair with 2009 No. 12 overall pick Knowshon Moreno. New Denver coach John Fox believes in running the ball first, so help is needed. One player Denver has been targeting is Illinois’ Mikel Leshoure. He could be a target with one of Denver’s two second-round picks.

Will Oakland trade up into the first round? The Raiders are the only team in the league without a first-round pick. They don’t pick until No. 48. Oakland probably can pair that pick with the No. 81 pick to get into the end of the first round if it focuses on a particular player.

Will Wiz II come to the AFC West? Penn State center/guard Stefen Wisniewski has been connected to Denver, Kansas City and Oakland. The Raiders are obviously being connected to Wisniewski because he is the nephew of former Raiders’ offensive lineman and current assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski. Wisniewski would fill a big need in Oakland. He might be a second or third-round pick.

Will Jimmy Smith fall to Oakland? Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith is considered a top-15 talent, but he could fall because of character questions. Oakland probably would jump on him if he fell to No. 48 as a potential replacement for free-agent Nnamdi Asomugha. Still, Philadelphia or Baltimore could take him in the first round.

Will Oakland combat defensive moves by adding to the offensive line? The offensive line is Oakland’s greatest need. The other three teams in the division could add front-seven help on defense. Thus, Oakland may feel more pressure to add to the offensive line.

Will the Chargers add to the secondary? The Chargers have been looking hard at safeties because Eric Weddle is a potential free agent. This isn’t a strong class for safeties, but expect the Chargers to look for a gem in the late rounds.

Will AFC West move to Taiwan? One of the hottest names in recent weeks is Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones. Denver, Kansas City and Oakland have been connected to Jones. He also could fill a need in San Diego if the Chargers move away from free agent Darren Sproles. Jones runs a blazing 4.3 40-yard dash. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has said Jones could potentially be a third-round pick.