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Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
On the eve of the NFL draft, here is an AFC West primer as we prepare for a busy weekend:
Will Kansas City trade down? The Chiefs have the No. 3 overall pick. The team would likely be interested in trading down for cost reasons. Many teams would probably want to move down but not many want to move up into the top five. If the Chiefs don't move down, they will likely take Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry. But that's the safe pick. New Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli likes to make splashes. So, his first draft move in Kansas City may not be by the book.
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|Will former USC QB Mark Sanchez fall to Denver at No. 12?|
When will Denver take its quarterback? Denver will surely take a quarterback to begin the post-Jay Cutler era, but the question is when. The Broncos' workout with USC's Mark Sanchez this week was intriguing. If Sanchez is available at No. 12, Denver may be tempted to jump on him. Still, it is new Denver coach Josh McDaniels' tendency to take a quarterback in the late rounds because that's the way New England does it. McDaniels had success with late-round quarterbacks Tom Brady and Matt Cassel. McDaniels was enamored with quarterback Kevin O'Connell last year and New England took him in the third round. If Sanchez is not the guy in Denver, perhaps lower-round prospects such as Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, Texas A&M's Stephen McGee, Louisville's Hunter Cantwell or Michigan State's Brian Hoyer will be McDaniels' next project.
With Tony Gonzalez traded to Atlanta, will the Chiefs continue to trade veterans? If Kansas City is going to part with Brian Waters, Larry Johnson or Glenn Dorsey, it will likely be this weekend. I think Waters may be the most likely to go. Here's a deal I think would work: Waters to Buffalo for receiver/returner Roscoe Parrish. Buffalo has shopped Parrish. He'd fit in with the Chiefs, as would Waters in Buffalo.
Will the Chargers pick up a second-round choice? It will not be a surprise if the Chargers move down from the No. 16 pick. The idea would be to choose lower in the first round and pick up a second-rounder in the process. The Chargers don't currently have a second-round pick. If the Chargers manage to get a second-rounder, I could see them getting a defensive player in the first round and hoping a running back such as Connecticut's Donald Brown is available in the second round. He could be a bargain pickup and a future successor to LaDainian Tomlinson.
Will these names end up in the AFC West? Look for these names in the first round: Michael Crabtree, B.J. Raji, Rey Maualuga and Tyson Jackson. I'm predicting at least one of these four players will end up in the AFC West. All four players are being looked at by multiple teams in the division. Crabtree, a receiver from Texas Tech, could end up in Kansas City or Oakland. Raji, a defensive tackle from Boston College, could end up in any of the four AFC West cities (although it would be a shock if he fell to San Diego). Maualuga could be drafted by Denver or San Diego. Jackson could be taken by Kansas City (he'd be a huge reach at No. 3, though), Denver or San Diego.
Will the Raiders break their unlucky 7 streak? The Raiders have the No. 7 pick for the third time since 2005. The number hasn't been kind to Oakland. In 2005, Oakland traded the pick for Randy Moss, who was sent to New England two years later for a fourth-rounder. The next year, Oakland bypassed Cutler (despite a need for a quarterback) and took Michael Huff. Huff has moved from cornerback to safety in the NFL and has yet to make an impact.
Will the 3-4 defense rule the draft? With Denver and Kansas City transitioning to the scheme and San Diego already using it, expect this to be a trend this weekend. Players who fit the 3-4 scheme aren't easy to find, but it will be a goal of both Denver and Kansas City to try to find the correct pieces this weekend. Denver could benefit from Aaron Maybin and Brian Orakpo falling down the draft board if Raji and Jackson rise up it. All four players will fit the 3-4.
Does Oakland like Crabtree or Maclin? I believe the Raiders want to take a receiver with their top pick. If Crabtree and Missouri's Jeremy Maclin are both on the board, it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Some people think Crabtree will be the choice, while others think Maclin will be the guy. Crabtree is considered to be a more complete player, but Maclin is a speedster. Crabtree has been compared to Larry Fitzgerald, whom the Raiders bypassed five years ago in favor of offensive lineman Robert Gallery with the No. 2 pick. Maclin has been compared to Cliff Branch, who was a star for the Raiders in the 1970s and 1980s.
Will San Diego take a standout defender? While the Chargers could use a running back and an offensive lineman, their greatest needs are on defense. Here are some names to keep an eye on: Maualuga, Jackson, Ohio State cornerback (he'd be a safety in San Diego) Malcolm Jenkins and Maybin. If Maybin, who could be a top-10 pick, is available, he would be a great fit in San Diego. With linebacker Shawne Merriman returning from a knee injury and Ron Rivera in control of the defense from the start of the season, the Chargers may be a top defender away from fielding an elite defense.
Could Chris "Beanie" Wells be headed to the AFC West? While it may be a mild surprise, it wouldn't be a shock if either San Diego or Denver (at No. 18) takes the Ohio State running back. It would be a luxury addition in both cities, but adding Wells could shake up the division offensively.