AFC West: 2012 NFL draft

The Oakland Raiders have signed small-school standout, receiver Derrick Carrier.

His agent, Ron Slavin, said Saturday night that the Beloit College receiver has agreed to terms with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent. Carrier visited the Raiders and they considered drafting him.

Carrier has terrific measurables.

He is 6-foot-3, 240 pounds and ran a 4.49 40-yard dash. He has a 40-inch vertical jump and did a three-cone run in 6.69 seconds, which is off the charts.

Most important, Carrier has shown he can produce. He had 75 catches and 12 touchdowns last season. The only knock on this specimen is the level of competition he has faced.

He is probably a candidate for the practice squad. The Raiders are crowded at receiver and just picked Arizona receiver Juron Criner, who has a strong chance to make the team. He was the No. 168 pick.

AFC West draft thoughts

April, 28, 2012
4/28/12
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The Kansas City Chiefs are obviously happy with Matt Cassel as their quarterback. They inspected several of the top quarterbacks, but in the end, Kansas City did not add one in the draft.

Instead, like they did in free agency, the Chiefs built around Cassel. Thus, Cassel has at least one more year in Kansas City to prove he can be a difference-maker.

With the 250th pick, the Chargers stole Michigan State running back Edwin Baker. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper thought Baker was the eighth best running back in the draft. He has some fumbling issues, but he has real ability and he can grow into a good player.

San Diego got a potential future starter in Michigan center David Molk. He is very strong and he is battler. He could be Nick Hardwick’s eventual successor. The Chiefs got nice value in Michigan receiver Junior Hemingway. He was the Sugar Bowl MVP and he is a strong possession receiver. He was way under-valued.

Chiefs’ fourth-round pick, Fresno State receiver Devon Wylie, has often drawn comparisons to New England’s Wes Welker. The man who picked Wylie, Scott Pioli, of course, was in New England with Welker.

Wylie and Oakland fourth-round pick, San Diego State linebacker Miles Burris went to high school together in Granite Bay, California, near Sacramento.

Denver could use their fourth-round pick, center Philip Blake, at guard as well.

I wonder if the Chargers will still look for a veteran running back with Baker on board. The Chargers, and perhaps Oakland, are looking for a veteran free agent running back since they didn’t add one in the draft. There are some solid veterans available who can fill a backup role. Among the veterans available are Ryan Grant, Cedric Benson, Joseph Addai and Tim Hightower.

The Raiders did not draft any cornerbacks despite studying several extensively. The Raiders’ two starting cornerbacks are Ronald Barrtell and Shawntae Spencer. They are both 30 and are both signed to one-year deals.

Denver sixth-round pick, Kentucky linebacker, Danny Trevathan, compiled 287 tackles in the past two seasons. Watch him make an impact on special teams as a rookie.

New Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler worked out with Tim Tebow earlier this offseason when Tebow was still a Bronco.

Denver third-round pick, running back Ronnie Hillman, won’t turn 21 until September.

Oakland seventh-round pick, linebacker Nathan Stupar, is the nephew of former Oakland quarterback Jeff Hostetler.
The Kansas City Chiefs continue to add depth on offense.

A month after signing running back Peyton Hillis to a one-year deal to work with Jamaal Charles, who is coming off a torn ACL, the Chiefs added solid value at the position late in the draft.

In the sixth round, Kansas City drafted Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray. The Chiefs had been closely watching Gray.

Gray may not be ready to make an impact in the NFL, but there is a lot to like about him. He has game-breaking speed and he seems to understand the game. I think he can become a very good player and he is an excellent value.

I’m telling you, folks, this is becoming one of the deepest offenses in the NFL. The Chiefs have a lot of talent at every layer of the unit and Gray fits right in.
The Oakland Raiders have one of the most interesting receiver situations in the NFL.

They have several talented players but none who have completely proven themselves. Yet, the unit looked solid enough where they can let some players separate themselves. Still, the Raiders added an intriguing player to the mix when they drafted Arizona’s Juron Criner with the No. 168 pick in the fifth round.

I like this pick a lot.

Criner likely would have never been drafted by the Raiders in the past. He is not a speed demon. Al Davis would have seen that 4.7 speed and thrown Criner’s game tape in the garbage.

But he is a solid football player. He is 6-3, 220 pounds and he’s pretty polished. He has a chance to develop into a good NFL player. He is not a sure thing, but he has good ball skills and he always gives a full effort.

I think the new Oakland régime will throw him in the mix with the likes of Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy and let these young players develop.

Yes, it’s a bit of a luxury pick. At the very least, Criner could be a helpful bottom-of-the rotation possession guy, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he offers more value than that.
The Kansas City Chiefs were interested in Alabama safety Mark Barron, who went four picks before they made their choice in the first round.

In the end, though, the Chiefs may have still gotten a safety from Alabama. The Chiefs took DeQuan Menzie in the fifth round.

He played cornerback at Alabama and did a nice job. But he doesn’t have great speed and may project to safety. He is a smart player who knows how to make plays. I think this could be a player to watch develop in the next couple of years and it is another SEC pickup by Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli, who craves players from that conference.

In other AFC West news:
  • The Raiders picked up an extra seventh-round pick when they traded a fifth-round pick (148th overall) to Detroit for the 158th and 230th overall picks. The Lions took small-school cornerback Chris Greenwood at No. 148. Oakland was studying him. Yet, it seems the Raiders want another late pick to add to the bottom of the roster.
  • For all new season tickets purchased and paid for in full from May 1 to June 30, the Raiders will donate ten percent of the gross ticket purchase price to the Oakland Unified School District.
  • At No. 158, the Raiders drafted Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford. He projects to be a rotational pass-rusher. He fits into both the 4-3 and 3-4 so he will fit the Raiders’ versatile group of front seven players.
The Oakland Raiders first two draft picks are similar players.

They are not sexy players but they are solid, players with strong college credentials and great character and both should be able to compete to start in a year or two. What’s wrong with that?

After Oakland took Utah tackle (he’ll be a guard in the NFL) Tony Bergstrom at No. 95, the Raiders took San Diego State linebacker Miles Burris at No. 129 in the fourth round.

Burris was a tackle machine in college and he was a team captain. He is very reliable. He has a chance to be a hard-hat starter in the NFL. He is also versatile and he can play in both a 4-3 and 3-4 defenses. The Raiders are expected to stay a 4-3 base, but they will use multiple sets.

Burris has a chance to play in those sets. I expect him to be a special team’s contributor this season. Again, neither pick is a headline stealer, but that’s nearly impossible to do this late in the draft. Oakland is sticking to its board and getting good prospects at need areas. That’s all a team can really be asked to do when it has such a small draft class.
The Broncos’ compensation in the Tim Tebow trade is a gift for Tebow’s replacement, Peyton Manning.

Denver took Baylor center Philip Blake with the No. 108 pick, in the fourth round. That was the primary pick the Jets gave up in the Tebow trade.

Interestingly, Blake will backup/compete with J.D. Walton, a former Baylor teammate. Denver took Walton two years ago and he has been the team’s starter. Manning has been working closely with Walton since Manning signed in Denver last month. Blake likely won’t compete with Walton right away.

The Broncos made an interesting pick early in the fourth round in the in the form of Arizona State cornerback Omar Bolden. He missed all of last season with an ACL injury. He has excellent cover skills and, if healthy, he likely would have been a second-round pick last year.

Bolden is now healthy. It’s a worthwhile pick for Denver since they are looking for young cornerbacks who don’t have to start right away. This pick has a chance to be a steal.

The Chiefs love small, return types. They drafted Devon Wylie of Fresno State in the fourth round. Wylie is dynamic player. He is fast and NFL-ready, yet he is just 5-foot-9, 188 pounds. He can also kelp in the return game, where the Chiefs have several options. Wylie is similar to 2010 second-round pick Dexter McCluster.

He and McCluster can be on the field together with McCluster being in the backfield. With big receiver Dwayne Bowe and Jon Baldwin, the Chiefs continue to give themselves matchup options.

The Chargers began to start thinking about a post-Antonio Gates world by taking Louisiana-Lafayette tight end Ladarius Green in the fourth round. Like the Chargers’ first three picks, Green was expected to go earlier in the draft. He is an interesting prospect for down the road.

Countdown Live: 2012 NFL draft

April, 28, 2012
4/28/12
11:11
AM ET
It's finally here. Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they break down the 2012 NFL draft, round-by-round. We'll have input from blog nation, Scouts Inc., Stats & Information and fantasy perspectives.

Thursday night we'll kick off Round 1 at 7 p.m. ET. For Friday night's Rounds 2 and 3, we'll be here at 6:30 p.m. ET. And we'll be back Saturday morning at noon ET to finish things off.

Contribute your thoughts and questions on all things NFL draft below. We'll see you there.

Random AFC West draft thoughts

April, 28, 2012
4/28/12
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Friday was a good draft for the AFC West. The Chargers were stars, the Broncos had a terrific Day Two after bailing out of Day One and the Chiefs have quietly added big beef so far.
  • I give credit to Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie for being patient. Most first-time GMs would get antsy and trade up if they had to wait until the No. 95 pick. But with only the fifth- and sixth-round picks to trade (Oakland’s three compensatory picks cannot be traded), McKenzie likely would have had to dip into future years to move up. He wants to stop the Oakland trend of trading future picks and I don’t blame him. McKenzie is going to get what he can from this draft and move on. Smart move.
  • I wonder if the Chargers will try to move up and get Miami running back Lamar Miller. If not, they might have to sign a free agent.
  • Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins is still out there. He’d be a real nice value for Kansas City in the fourth round.
  • As the ESPN telecast ended, Jon Gruden lauded the AFC West. The former Oakland coach said he believes this is becoming a potent division.
  • Denver coach John Fox said the Broncos' third-round pick, running back Ronnie Hillman, will get a chance to be a returner.
After a strong second round in the AFC West, I thought there were some interesting developments in the third round in the division as well.

Let’s take a look:

Denver will worry about getting a bigger back later, but it was clearly interested in getting a faster, smaller running back in the third round. The Broncos traded up 20 spots (it gave up one its three fourth rounders as well as No. 87) to take San Diego State's explosive Ronnie Hillman.

He has been compared to Darren Sproles and he should have a place in Peyton Manning's offense. Denver’s trade was made shortly after San Francisco took Oregon’s speedster LaMichael James, so I think the Broncos wanted either James or Hillman and decided to pounce on Hillman after James was taken.

Willis McGahee will remain the starter, but Hillman should be dangerous. I wonder where this leaves 2009 top pick Knowshon Moreno. He will either be a 5-8 carry option behind McGahee or he could be on the outside looking in.

Moreno blew out his knee last year and he has since gotten a DUI. Hillman is clearly more in Denver’s plans than Moreno. Again, Denver will need to find a young power back sometime, but Hillman has an immediate place in this offense.

While Denver traded up for Hillman, San Diego moved up to take LSU safety Brandon Taylor.

Folks, San Diego is killing this draft. It is just slaying it. A trio of pass-rusher Melvin Ingram (No. 18), defensive lineman Kendall Reyes (No. 49) and Taylor (No. 73) is a wicked group to bring into one defense. All three players were taken later than projected and could all make immediate impacts. Major kudos to San Diego for having a strong plan.

Kansas City took its second offensive lineman of the day at No. 74 in the form of Oklahoma tackle Donald Stephenson. He is a one-year starter who has a lot of potential. I think he is a developmental player who gives the Chiefs options if they don’t want to re-sign left tackle Branden Albert after next season.

This draft may give a hint into what the Chiefs think of Albert, the No. 15 overall pick in 2008. In the second round, the Chiefs took guard Jeff Allen. If Albert doesn’t have a good year or if he does prices himself out of the Chiefs’ plans, Kansas City has options.

Oakland made its 2012 draft debut with the final pick of the day when it took Utah tackle/guard Tony Bergstrom.

I know some Oakland fans were disappointed that the choice was a developmental lineman while there were some sexier names available. But the truth is, picking at the spot is difficult and the new Oakland regime has a plan. Bergstrom is a good player, who is tough. He is a fine zone-blocking player. He deepens the line and he could vie for a starting spot in a year or two.

Unless the Raiders get extremely lucky, getting solid developmental players in this draft has to be the goal.
OsweilerMatt Kartozian/US PresswireBrock Osweiler will have the luxury of learning behind Broncos QB Peyton Manning.

Any questions about how much Broncos executive VP John Elway values classic strong-armed quarterbacks?

In a yet another statement of his anti-Tim Tebow approach to the position, Elway made his second big quarterback splash in a month by taking intriguing Arizona State prospect Brock Osweiler with the No. 57 overall pick.

Bypassing more pressing needs, Elway made this pick with the most important position on the field in mind -- beginning roughly in the 2015 season. It’s clear Elway wants to go to bed at night without having to worry about who his quarterback is going to be for the next dozen years and he clearly wants to distance himself from the option days of Tebow, which Elway tolerated only until he found a special solution.

Of course, the immediate future at quarterback is Peyton Manning. After electing to continue his career with the Broncos, Manning signed a five-year deal with Denver four days before his 36th birthday last month. By all indications, Manning is healthy and he should be able to give Denver at least three good years.

The 6-foot-7 Osweiler is now in line to be Manning’s successor. The Broncos see something special in Osweiler. They didn’t need to take a quarterback this year or next year. But they see a raw specimen in Osweiler.

The knock on him is he is a bit green. So what better team for him to end up with than the Broncos? ESPN analyst Todd McShay has said on multiple occasions that Denver is the perfect spot for Osweiler.

He can watch and learn from Manning without any pressure. Osweiler -- who said one of his closest friends is Elway’s son, Jack, a former Arizona State player -- realizes the great opportunity he is getting.

“I could not be any more excited to be going to Denver to learn from Peyton Manning,” Osweiler told reporters Friday night. “A lot of quarterbacks might be upset about having to sit behind somebody, whereas I look at it as a tremendous opportunity to learn from one of the best, if not the best, quarterback to ever play the game.”

If Osweiler can’t parlay his time with two of the greatest all-time quarterbacks into NFL success, then that’s his fault. And if Osweiler is a flop, the Broncos will know it before he needs to take over for Manning from extensive practice and preseason play. Thus, the Broncos will have the opportunity to find another replacement for Manning if necessary.

Sure, this is a luxury pick and Denver could have benefited from a receiver or a running back at the No. 57 spot. (They traded up to take San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman in the third round.) But if this is a guy the Broncos think can be special, why not take him?

[+] EnlargeJohn Elway
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireJohn Elway has completely turned over the quarterback position in Denver this offseason.
Like all 2012 quarterback prospects not named Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, Osweiler was deeply dissected and opinions varied on him. Some scouts thought he deserved to be a first-round pick, while others thought he should be taken in the fourth round.

The Broncos long have followed Osweiler. Their pursuit of him heightened after Manning signed. I think he moved up Denver’s draft board based on the combination of Osweiler being a similar type of quarterback as Manning and the fact that he can be groomed for years.

Had Manning not signed, I don’t think Osweiler would have been the pick. Had Manning gone elsewhere, I am convinced Denver would have traded up from No. 25 to take Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden and make him an instant starter. Weeden went to Cleveland at No. 22 and he is expected to start.

Osweiler, like Weeden, can drop jaws with the long pass. In fact, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen wrote that many scouts think Osweiler can make every throw. While McShay and others are high on the former basketball player, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. worries about Osweiler’s accuracy and Kiper doesn’t think Osweiler plays with the command of a player his size. However, fellow ESPN analyst Jon Gruden likes Osweiler and likes the fit in Denver.

“He can cut it loose … he is a pocket passer and he moves around better than people think,” Gruden said. “It’s a good pick by Elway.”

There is no doubt that this was an Elway pick. After enduring a forced relationship with Tebow, Elway has made sure he is now equipped with his type of passers for the present and the future.

Elway tabs Brock Osweiler

April, 27, 2012
4/27/12
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John Elway loves prototypical quarterbacks.

A month after signing Peyton Manning, Elway hopes he has added his eventual replacement by drafting Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler with the No. 57 pick.

At 6-foot-7 Osweiler has a rocket arm and he has ability. But he is raw.

This is a total pick for the future. I will have more on this later as well as a wrap up of the third round among other things.
The San Diego Chargers are letting the draft board come to them and in return for their patience, their defense is getting better.

Reyes
Reyes
The Chargers followed up the fabulous choice of South Carolina pass-rusher Melvin Ingram at No. 18 on Thursday by taking Connecticut defensive lineman Kendall Reyes at No. 49 on Friday.

These two players will enhance San Diego’s front seven. Reyes has a chance to be an impact player; Denver was considering him at No. 36.

Reyes is flexible and can play both defensive tackle and end in the 3-4. He gives San Diego another young defensive lineman. Reyes, Corey Liuget (the Chargers' top pick last year), Cam Thomas and Vaughn Martin have a chance to grow up together, all the while watching Ingram create havoc on the perimeter.

Things are looking up on San Diego’s defense.
After addressing their greatest need by taking nose tackle Dontari Poe at No. 11, the Kansas City Chiefs added offensive beef at pick No. 44 by taking Illinois’ Jeff Allen.

Allen
Allen
He played both tackle spots in college, but he projects as a guard in college. He will push Ryan Lilja. Allen is set to team with former college teammate Jon Asamoah, a starting guard for the Chiefs who was a third-round pick two years ago.

The Chiefs are going to be very young in the interior of the offensive line. Rodney Hudson, a second-round pick last season, is expected to take over at center.

Allen is a tough, big, gritty player who appears NFL ready. This pick helps solidify Kansas City’s offense.

Once again, the Chiefs chose to enhance quarterback Matt Cassel instead of replace him. Allen was taken over several players, including Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins. He could still end up with the Chiefs later in the draft, but the Allen pick shows the Chiefs are bent on giving Cassel the best possible offense he can have. Allen is known as an outstanding pass protector.
Derek Wolfe might not have been the sexist name among available defensive tackles, but he might have been the safest pick at No. 36.

Wolfe
Wolfe
The Denver Broncos frustrated some fans Thursday night when they twice traded down, going from No. 25 to No. 31, then No. 36.

After the first round, Denver czar John Elway basically said the team's top targets at defensive tackle were not available, so the Broncos went down to a spot where they thought they could good value for a player they wanted.

Bypassing the better-known Jerel Worthy of Michigan State and Kendall Reyes of Connecticut, Denver went with Wolfe out of Cincinnati.

I think the pick works. Defensive tackle was Denver’s greatest need and he should step right into the rotation.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper has been beating the drum for Wolfe to Denver for weeks; Friday he said he thought Wolfe is one of the more underrated players in the draft. He is a high-motor player who has outstanding pass-rushing skills as an interior player. He can also stop the run. Kiper called him the most productive defensive tackle in the draft.

He will be well coached in Denver by John Fox and Jack Del Rio; I expect him to be a nice player. The Broncos have another pick in the second round and a pick in the third. They have three picks in the fourth round and I could see them trying to get another third-rounder.

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