AFC West: 2012 NFL hidden treasure

AFC hidden treasures: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:

Last year, the Chiefs’ tight end position was fairly weak after second-year player Tony Moeaki went out with a torn ACL in the final preseason game.

Now, I think this unit can be one of the better groups in the NFL in 2012.

Moeaki is expected to be healthy. He was outstanding in nearly every facet as a rookie. He has great hands and can stretch the field. But the Chiefs’ success at tight end won’t end with Moeaki. Adopting the two-tight end philosophy of his former team -- New England -- Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli signed former Giants and Raiders tight end Kevin Boss. I love this pickup.

Boss is an underrated player who will be a perfect complement to Moeaki. I think these two tight ends will create matchup issues and give Kansas City’s offense an added dimension.
AFC hidden treasures: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:

The San Diego defensive line has been kind of flat in recent years.

It lost a lot of talent and it hasn’t been a difference-making unit in the Chargers’ 3-4 set.

I think that is changing. There are some interesting young players on this unit that will help improve this group.

It starts with 2011 first-round pick Corey Liuget. The end has progressed and the Chargers are expected to unleash him. Young nose tackle Cam Thomas is an underrated player who is solid. Fellow young player Vaughn Martin is coming into his own and he is a strong rotational player.

Add players like veterans Antonio Garay, Luis Castillo, Jacques Cesaire and rookie Kendall Reyes (who has big-time potential) and this unit has plenty of talent to be a difference-maker right now.
AFC hidden treasures: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:

The Oakland offensive line has been a negative influence on the team in recent years. I don’t see it being a problem anymore.

I think this unit is still a work in progress and it is still far from elite, but it’s not a problem.

I really like young center Stefen Wisniewski and left tackle Jared Veldheer. The Raiders added solid guard Mike Brisiel from Houston. He is excellent in the zone-blocking scheme the Raiders are going back to, and he is a tough player. These are three strong pieces to the line. They are all athletic and tough. They will battle all day long.

Guard Cooper Carlisle is also adept in the zone-blocking scheme. At right tackle, Khalif Barnes will try to hold off second-year player Joe Barksdale.

Again, this isn’t a great unit, but there are some solid pieces and I don’t think the Raiders are overly worried about this being a problem area.
AFC hidden treasures: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:

Last year, the Denver Broncos’ receiver crew was considered young, green and a detriment to the team.

Even though Tim Tebow didn’t pass much, many league observers thought his receivers weren’t up to par anyway. I don’t think that will be the case with Peyton Manning throwing the ball to the receivers this season. I think they will be looked at as a plus-group.

I expect third-year players Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to emerge as stars playing with Manning. I also like veterans Andre Caldwell and Brandon Stokley for this system. Stokley is a crafty vet who has experience playing with Manning.

I’m not saying this will be an elite group, but Manning will have no problem getting production out of his wideouts.

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