Friday, March 25, 2011
Draft rush is on in AFC West
By Bill Williamson ESPN.com
The three AFC West teams with a first-round pick are in luck.
There could be 12-14 pass-rushers taken in the first round of the April draft. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has said this is the biggest and best group of defensive lineman he has seen in years. San Diego general manager A.J. Smith said he thinks the defensive end and linebacker group is particularly strong.
Denver (which has the No. 2 pick), San Diego (No. 18) and Kansas City (No. 21) all need pass-rushers. It’s arguably each team’s top need. It looks more likely each day that the draft will occur before free agency because of the lockout. There will probably be urgency for each of the three teams (Oakland doesn’t pick until No. 48 and doesn’t have a pressing need at pass-rusher) to address its pass-rushing needs in the draft.
The following is a look at some of the top pass-rushers who have a chance to end up in the AFC West. We are not including defensive tackles even though both Alabama’s Marcell Dareus and Auburn’s Nick Fairley have strong pass-rushing skills. Both could end up in Denver. We’re looking just at ends and linebackers. We’re going in the order of the range that they could be drafted:
Da'Quan Bowers led the NCAA's FBS with 15.5 sacks last season.
Why he is a candidate: He is considered one of the best all-around talents in the draft. He led college football's FBS with 15.5 sacks last year.
Warning sign: He had only one great year of college play and had knee surgery in January. He will need to prove to teams during his April 1 pro day that he is healthy.
Chances of ending up in AFC West: Denver has a workout set up with him. He could be the No. 2 pick. But he could also fall to the Nos. 5-7 range. I could see Denver potentially trading down to take him.
Why he is a candidate: He has been one of the most impressive draft prospects of the entire class this offseason. He has blazing 4.49 speed.
Warning sign: There has been some concern that his great testing may not translate to great NFL play a la Jets’ bust Vernon Gholston.
Chances of ending up in AFC West: Denver has worked out Miller. He is a candidate for the Broncos at No. 2. If he falls to the No. 5 to 7 range (I don’t see him falling further than that), I could see either Denver trading down to take him or San Diego considering moving up to get him.
Why he is a candidate: Like Watt, Wilkerson is zooming up draft boards. He is big and strong and he can play at end and tackle. He is disruptive.
Warning sign: He played at a small school and there is always a concern about the move up in competition.
Chances of ending up in AFC West: He’s another name the Chargers will consider. San Diego could move down to get him. The Chiefs are also a serious candidate for Wilkerson. The Chiefs are working him out.
Why he is a candidate: He looks like a perfect 3-4 outside linebacker. He appears ready for the NFL game.
Warning sign: He didn’t have a great combine and may fall behind some of the other top prospects.
Chances of ending up in AFC West: I could see the Chiefs taking him if they traded down to the No. 25 to 28 range. He could also be a fit for the Chargers if they traded down or traded back into the end of the first round by using their extra picks as ammunition.