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Wednesday, May 13, 2009
AFC West problem positions

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Our Football Outsiders compiled a list of the top 10 unfilled starting spots in the NFL recently.
Using that as inspiration, I am going to name the most unsettled starting spot for each team in the AFC West.

DENVER

Nose tackle: The Broncos could roll out Ronnie Fields as their nose tackle. He was a role player in San Francisco. The Denver defensive line is undermanned as it transitions to a three-man front. The Broncos were expected to draft a nose tackle but they didn't. The team has to hope that third-year pro Marcus Thomas develops into a quality nose tackle in the 3-4 scheme.

KANSAS CITY

Tight end: Second-year pro Brad Cottam will likely be the primary tight end in wake of the Tony Gonzalez trade. But there are question marks about the Tennessee product. Is he ready to be a starter? Can he catch the ball on a consistent basis? He is known for being a blocker. Cottam may turn into a quality player but unless he comes along fast, the Chiefs are going to miss the production of Gonzalez who caught nearly 200 passes over the past two seasons.

OAKLAND

Receiver: The Raiders badly need a No. 1 receiver. I am not sure if they have one. They have some interesting youngsters in No. 1 pick Darrius Heyward-Bey and Johnnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens. But Oakland needs instant dividends. Projects, even projects as intriguing as Heyward-Bey, may not help right away.

SAN DIEGO

Safety: The Football Outsiders believe the Chargers have a big problem at right tackle in the form of  young Jeromey Clary. But the Chargers like Clary and they were never really interested in replacing him this offseason. The team feels its biggest need is at safety alongside Eric Weddle. Veteran Clinton Hart needs to bounce back after a disappointing 2008 season. The team drafted Kevin Ellison out of USC in the sixth round. The Chargers are high on him. It may be a lot to ask for Ellison to make an impact as a rookie but it may be needed.