AFC West: 2013 NFL combine

The Kansas City Chiefs' situation with the No. 1 pick remains one of the most fascinating questions of the NFL offseason.

Thursday, longtime draft guru Gil Brandt tweeted he thought they are five players worthy of being the No. 1 pick by the Chiefs -- left tackles Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher, pass-rushers Barkevious Mingo and Bjoern Werner and cornerback Dee Milliner.

That got me thinking. Out of that group, Milliner may be the most interesting choice for Kansas City. Yes, in our latest AFC West mock draft, I tabbed Joeckel for the Chiefs at No. 1. But that’s because I think that’s where the team would lean.

But I would re-sign free agent Branden Albert, and the Chiefs are set at the pass-rusher position. That leaves Milliner.

I think a combination of standout Brandon Flowers and Milliner could be a great fit. This is a passing division and the Chiefs would be well prepared. Also combining a cornerback tandem of Flowers and Milliner would be both help and benefit from the Chiefs’ strong pass-rushers.

Defense starts with pass-rushers and coverage, and the Chiefs would be in terrific shape. That’s one of the reasons why I suggested a Darrelle Revis trade involving the No. 1 pick.

I realize Milliner -- who ran a blazing 4.37 at the combine -- may not be worthy of the top pick, but you can say that about any of the top prospects.

The Chiefs need to get creative and need to get immediate value. So, taking Milliner could be something the team may consider in a year without any clear-cut answers for the No. 1 pick.

Critical day for top NFL prospects

February, 24, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- I’m not sure if Geno Smith put himself in the conversation to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, but the West Virginia quarterback had a good day Sunday at the NFL combine.

Smith, widely considered the best quarterback prospect in the draft, had the fastest 40-yard dash time of all quarterbacks Sunday. He ran a 4.56. Smith is considered more of a pocket passer than a running quarterback, making the time that much more impressive. He has said he only runs to enhance his game, not to fuel it. But the fact that he can move well means it will open up playbooks.

The Kansas City Chiefs have the No. 1 pick and badly need a quarterback. Smith’s speed will certainly be part of the discussion in Kansas City.

However, another candidate to be the No.1 pick has a medical issue. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting that Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei will not work out at the combine because a medical exam at the combine discovered that he has a heart issue. Mortensen reported Lotulelei’s left ventricle is pumping at 44 percent efficiency, below the normal range of 55 percent to 70 percent. He will undergo more tests in Utah and he plans to work out next month.

This issue clearly could affect Lotulelei’s draft stats. He is a legitimate option for both Kansas City at No.1 and Oakland at No. 3. Oakland could instead look at Florida defensive tackle Sharriff Floyd at No. 3.

Meanwhile, Smith’s strong day will also interest Oakland. If Smith gets past Kansas City and is highly rated, there could be a chance to trade down from the No. 3 pick. Oakland would love to acquire more picks.

In other combine developments Sunday that affect the AFC West:

Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore did just 12 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press. That is a weak total for a defensive end. He has been often connected to Oakland.

Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson had a great day overall Sunday. He is considered the top receiver prospect. He is a dark horse possibility for San Diego at No. 11.

Video: Day 3 NFL combine takeaways

February, 23, 2013

Paul Kuharsky, Kevin Seifert and Bill Williamson deliver the top stories from day 3 of the 2013 NFL combine.
INDIANAPOLIS – One of the bigger stories Saturday at the NFL combine was the health of Georgia star pass-rusher Jarvis Jones.

Jones is considered one of the top prospects in the draft -- and a definite possibility for Oakland, which picks third overall. However, there are long-term health concerns about Jones' neck; he had to leave USC four years ago after being given a diagnosis of spinal stenosis.

Jones met with the media after spending most of Saturday getting “pulled and yanked” by physicians. Jones said initial talks with doctors have eased his mind. Jones points to the fact that he was healthy and productive for three years at Georgia, including a redshirt season, as evidence he will be fine.

Though he wouldn't guess at what NFL teams might make of his injury history, Jones said he is fully confident he will have a long, healthy pro career.

Clearly, the complete medical reports and team physicals will be crucial for Jones in the next couple of months.

I think it is premature to take him off any team’s list, including Oakland’s. To be sure, this is the high season for over-analysis on such matters.

Jones is a fine player with a medical issue. He isn’t the first NFL prospect to fit that description. So, unless there is evidence he is regressing, I’d still consider him a top prospect for the Raiders.

Middle linebackers face scrutiny

February, 23, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- Shortly after Manti Te’o met the biggest NFL combine media crush of all time, fellow embattled but talented middle linebacker Alec Ogletree took to the same podium.

However, the crowd in front of Ogletree -- a fast-rising Georgia product -- was a fraction of the size of the audience for Te’o’s session. Still, like Te’o had to about the hoax involving a fabricated dead girlfriend, Ogletree had to answer tough questions.

Ogletree, who has some character concerns in college, was recently arrested for DUI.

“It was a mistake,” Ogletree said. “I’m a good person at heart."

Ogletree has met with the Chiefs and Eagles. He said both teams asked him about the issue. He said the conversations were private, but he understands the importance of making the teams aware of his issues. Te’o was much more expansive in his media session although his trouble is not a legal issue such as Ogletree's.

Some scouts think Ogletree is a better prospect than Te’o. Both players should be taken in the first round, regardless of their issues.

I wouldn’t put too much into the fact that Kansas City interviewed Ogletree. Teams can talk to 60 prospects at the combine. It would be a shock if Ogletree was a candidate for the No.1 pick, but he’d be a steal at No. 34 if available.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Lane Johnson did nothing Saturday to keep his name out of the mix to be the San Diego Chargers’ selection with the No. 11 overall draft pick.

As expected, the Oklahoma left tackle was blazing fast in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. Johnson, a 6-foot-6, 303-pound former quarterback, ran a 4.72 40-yard dash. It was the second-fastest time for an offensive lineman Saturday behind a 4.71 posting by Terron Armstead of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The previous combine record by an offensive lineman was 4.84.

Johnson is considered a much higher prospect than Armstead. While he is still a bit raw, Johnson is considered a sure first-round pick. He helped his cause with a great Senior Bowl week and Saturday’s performance helped him greatly.

He is probably the third-best left tackle prospect behind Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel and Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher. Joeckel is considered a top-5 pick and Fisher may be a top-10 pick.

Left tackle is the Chargers’ greatest need. If the Chargers don’t address the position in free agency (it’s a strong group), I’d think their top two choices at No. 11 will be either Fisher or Johnson.

So, San Diego had to be pleased with Johnson’s efforts Saturday.

Video: Day 2 NFL combine takeaways

February, 22, 2013

Paul Kuharsky, Kevin Seifert and Bill Williamson deliver the top stories from Day 2 of the 2013 NFL combine.

Dennis Allen talks about his QBs

February, 22, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen once again said there will be competition at the quarterback position in 2013 between Carson Palmer and Terrelle Pryor.

But Friday, Allen made it clear that Pryor will have to unseat the returning starter.

“Carson goes into the offseason as the starter, certainly,” Allen said Friday from the NFL combine. “But we will see what happens.”

Palmer is on the books for more than $13 million in salary cap space. Oakland has salary cap issues so expect Palmer to restructure his contract down.

Pryor impressed the team when he started in Week 17 for an injured Palmer. I think that game gave the team hope that Pryor can develop.

The 33-year-old Palmer will remain the starter in Oakland, but an in-season change could always happen if things start going bad.

John Dorsey looking for best talent

February, 22, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- Here are some notes from the news conference of new Kansas City general manager John Dorsey at the combine Friday:

Dorsey shares the same philosophy as new Kansas City coach Andy Reid when it comes to using the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Chiefs are going for talent.

“It is an ongoing situation, and at the end, we will see what happens, but it will be the best available player,” Dorsey said.

Like Reid said Thursday, Dorsey also said he is open to listening to trade offers for the top pick.

“Well, it’s a very unique situation sitting here in the first spot, but I can say this, if anybody wants to come up, they’re more than welcome,” Dorsey said. “But then again, I’m going to select the first available player, or I’m going to trade. It all depends on the options that are presented to me. That’s why I’m sitting here, because I want to explore every opportunity possible and what’s best for the Kansas City Chiefs.”

Dorsey said the team will meet with between six and eight quarterbacks at the combine. Quarterback is the team’s greatest need.

Dorsey said the team has been in touch with pending free agents receiver Dwayne Bowe and left tackle Branden Albert. He said the talks are ongoing. Dorsey also said the team has been in touch with quarterback Matt Cassel and defensive end Tyson Jackson. Cassel almost certainly will be cut, and Jackson will have to take a major pay cut to avoid being cut.

Dorsey praised the Chiefs’ 2012 first-round pick, defensive tackle Dontari Poe. He said he thinks Poe came on strong last season and he thinks Poe can be a standout.
INDIANAPOLIS – Notes from John Elway’s media session on Friday:
  • Elway said the Denver Broncos could look for another running back but he likes this current group. He said Knowshon Moreno deserves a lot of credit for turning it on after Willis McGahee was hurt. He also said Moreno is a terrific player on third-down as a pass protector.
  • Elway reiterated that the Broncos want to keep left tackle Ryan Clady with a long-term contract, but it will wait until later in the year to pursue it.
  • Elway is hopeful Denver can rebound from home playoff loss to Baltimore the same way Denver did after it lost to Jacksonville in the 1996 playoffs. It was the same situation. The Broncos were the top seed and lost their first playoff game at home in both seasons. Denver went on to win the next two Super Bowls, which were Elway’s final two seasons as an NFL quarterback. He was 37 and 38 in those years. Peyton Manning turns 37. “I don’t want to forget last year,” Elway said. “I want them to realize it was a great year, but also don’t forget that feeling of what happened in the playoff game. Be able to learn from that. Hopefully we can build on it and get better from it, as we did in ’96, ’97 and ’98 were good years for us, so I’m hoping that we can learn like we did back then with this experience. I’m hopeful. We’ve got a good football team, so we think that we’ll continue to build on that and see what happens.”
  • Elway said he thought Manning exceeded his expectations because of how much Manning had to fight back from after having four neck surgeries. “I think he exceeded the expectations," Elway said. Now that I know what he had to go through and the things that he had to overcome with that neck, not so much physically, but mentally, he did a tremendous job in the way he worked at it.”

McKenzie discusses cap situation

February, 22, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- The good news for Reggie McKenzie is this year’s salary-cap situation is not as bad as last year when he took over the Oakland Raiders.

The bad news is the Raiders are still nowhere near where McKenzie wants to be regarding the salary cap.

Last year, the new Oakland regime had to make massive cuts. This year, more salary-cap cuts are likely on the way.

“We have some decisions to make, and there may be some tough decisions,” McKenzie said. “But we have until March 12 [when free agency and the new league year begins] and we will make them by then. Nothing is imminent … This won’t be as bad as last year, but it’s not where we want to be. Hopefully, next year we can start to get out of it a little bit.”

McKenzie wouldn’t discuss any specific player contracts. But players like defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey seems to be prime candidates to be cut if they don’t restructure their deals. Quarterback Carson Palmer also could be cut, because he has a salary-cap number of more than $13 million. Still, at this point, I get the sense that the Raiders would prefer to work something out with Palmer.

While the salary cap is fluid, McKenzie doesn’t expect to have a surplus of cap room once all the decisions have been made.

“We will have some [room], but not a lot,” McKenzie said. “I’m not going to be able to go spending a bunch of money this year … We will be able to go after some middle-tier guys.”

Meanwhile, McKenzie said no decision has been made on the future of middle linebacker Rolando McClain. But it appears McClain, who was suspended by the team late last year, will be jettisoned. Also, McKenzie said the team is interested in trying to keep free-agent punter Shane Lechler.

But, of course, the salary cap will play a role in all moves this year.

Reggie McKenzie craves dominant player

February, 22, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- With no draft picks in the second and fifth rounds, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said he would be open to trading the No. 3 overall pick to compile other choices.

But the idea of being able to add a dominant player with that coveted pick is also tempting.

“A dominant player can change your roster, whether it’s on offense or defense,” McKenzie said Friday. “Look when Reggie White went to Green Bay, other guys suddenly got better. Nothing can help you like a dominant player.”

With his first premier pick as the team's decision-maker -- the Raiders didn’t pick until the end of the third round last year in McKenzie’s first year with Oakland -- McKenzie knows he has a huge opportunity.

He acknowledged that the Raiders will probably first look to address the defense at any position. The top of the draft is stacked with defensive talent.

“We should be in good shape,” McKenzie said. “We think we can find a guy who has a chance to be that dominant guy with that pick.”

Still, McKenzie said he owes it to the team to see if a potential trade could work. The trade market is not expected to be strong this year because of the lack of quarterbacks at the top of the draft.

“It just takes one to make the dominoes fall,” McKenzie said. “We have to be ready for everything.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- Brock Osweiler likely won’t be needed in Denver until at least 2015. But John Elway thinks he has something special in the second-year quarterback.

In fact, Elway thinks his backup quarterback would be the prize at the position had he returned to Arizona State last season instead of declaring for the draft. Denver took Osweiler in the second round with the 57th overall pick to groom under Peyton Manning.

Friday, I asked Elway where he would rank Osweiler in this class of rookie quarterbacks.

“First,” Elway said strongly and without any hesitation.

This is considered a weak quarterback class. Many league observers don’t think there is a quarterback currently worthy of being a first-round pick.

“From what I’ve seen from this class and what I’ve seen from Brock in the past year, I’d put him first,” Elway said. “Would he be a top-10 pick? I’m not sure, but he’d definitely be a first-round pick .... Now, I’m biased. But I really like what I’ve seen from him.

“And he is getting great training playing behind Peyton .... We’re really lucky to have Brock. We’re excited.”

I asked Steve Muench from Scouts Inc. for his opinion on whether Osweiler would be at the top of this rookie draft class. He said it is difficult to tell because it's still early in the draft evaluation process. But Muench said Scouts Inc. does not currently have any rookie quarterbacks ranked in the first round and that they gave Osweiler an early second-round grade last year.

A concern about him was his relative lack of experience. Perhaps another year of playing at Arizona State would have moved him from the second round to the first round this year.

Taiwan Jones expected to move to CB

February, 22, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- Late last season, Oakland running back Taiwan Jones told reporters that he’d consider moving to cornerback to enhance his NFL career.

Now, with some time to think about it, the Raiders’ top decision-maker agrees with him.

“I’m pushing for cornerback,” Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie said Friday from the NFL combine. “I think it fits his skill set. I think we’re going to see how he does there.”

McKenzie acknowledged it will not be easy for Jones to make a position switch, but he thinks the speedy player can do it. McKenzie said he’d be thrilled if Jones could someday develop into a nickel cornerback.

McKenzie said he is most encouraged by Jones’ ability to make the switch because of his outstanding play on special teams. He has shown a strong ability to tackle, to go along with his speed. McKenzie said he had Jones projected as a cornerback when Oakland took him in the fourth round out of Eastern Washington in 2011.

Jones has had a hard time staying healthy and has made little impact. He has 94 career yards on 22 carries.

McKenzie reiterated that the plan remains to move Michael Huff to safety. He played cornerback last season in an emergency.

UPDATE: I asked Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. his thoughts on this proposed move for Jones and he thinks it will be difficult. This is what Williamson had to say: “Clearly, he has speed, but cornerbacks spend a ton of time backpedaling and flipping their hips in transition, as well as reading routes. Sounds like desperation to me.”
Andy Reid has a reputation for being a passing coach who isn’t big on using his running backs.

So, the natural question when Reid was hired in Kansas City in January was what it meant for Jamaal Charles. He is one of the game’s best running backs and he ran for 1,509 yards last season.

It means Charles will continue to do what he does.

“I think you can probably put him in any offense and he’s going to do a heck of a job,” Reid said. “He’s a very good running back, and there are probably a lot of coaches in this league that would like to have him. He’s a heck of a player. I’m not going to change that. I’m going to give him an opportunity to do his thing, and do what he does best. I look forward to working with him.”

Reid also said he thinks Charles is a fine receiver out of the backfield. Reid likes using his running backs in the receiving game, so expect to see Charles get more opportunities in that area. Charles had 35 catches last season, and a career-high 45 catches in 2010.