AFC West: Bryan Bulaga

Weekend mail call:

Jonathan Coleman from Smithville, Mo., wants to know if I think the Chiefs could trade left tackle Branden Albert to Green Bay because of the season-ending injury to Bryan Bulaga.

Bill Williamson: I think that ship has sailed. The Chiefs are happy with Albert and now that training camp is in full swing, the Chiefs are totally intent on keeping Albert, for this year, at least. Plus, rookie Eric Fisher is focused on playing right tackle. It would be counterproductive to move him with the season so close.

Hunter from San Diego wants to know what I think Philip Rivers' job security is like with the Chargers.

BW: I think we will have our answer after this season. The new brass wants to see him improve and it thinks he can. If Rivers, 31, has takes another step back, I think the Chargers will start to think about the future. I think he will be the quarterback in San Diego in 2014 regardless, but San Diego is not going to wait too long for Rivers to get it together.

Mike MacPherson from Ottawa, Canada, wants to know if I think Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor has improved this summer.

BW: Yes, Pryor has shown some improvement as a passer at times. But he also has some moments that frustrate the Oakland coaching staff. He remains a total work in progress as a quarterback.
After taking three questionable skill-position players with a top-10 pick the past three years, the Oakland Raiders may have gotten it right.

Good for them.

[+] EnlargeRolando McClain
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesRolando McClain (25), who led the Alabama defense to a national title, is heading to the Raiders.
Rolando McClain is a safe pick. The middle linebacker from Alabama is a winner, he’s smart, he’s athletic. He’ll be a star in the NFL. If the Raiders turned around as a franchise, the start of the rebirth could be with this pick.

JaMarcus Russell. Darren McFadden. Darrius Heyward-Bey. All look closer to being busts than stars.

Don’t worry about McClain. He’ll step in and make a difference for Oakland. There will be not be a bust here.

Here’s a bonus for Oakland: The pick probably broke the hearts of the Denver Broncos. That’s always a nice little side bar for an AFC West team. McClain was high on Denver’s list. The Broncos began a series of wild trades after McClain was snapped up by the Raiders

Now, Denver will have to watch him wear the Silver and Black for the next several years.

There’s a downside here for Oakland. It still has a glaring need at tackle. The Raiders bypassed offensive linemen Bryan Bulaga, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati. The Raiders have been ignoring the left tackle position for years. The offense will never play at its full potential until the Raiders fix this problem.

But the Raiders have a lot of problems. Linebacker was one of them. Not anymore.

The selection of McClain doesn’t bode well for Kirk Morrison. The Raiders have not been high on him, even though he has led the team in tackles the past five years,

This move could also signal the Raiders are moving to a 3-4 defense. McClain is considered a great fit for the 3-4.The Raiders have added 3-4 linebackers Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves in trades this offseason. They are both best suited for the 3-4. Defensive lineman Richard Seymour, acquired last season, is also best suited for the 3-4. It makes you wonder.

Whatever the scheme is, Oakland will be better on defense because of this pick. McClain was a good call. We haven’t been able to say that in recent years.


Oakland Raiders mock draft

April, 22, 2010
In the third of our four-team mock draft, here’s a look at the Oakland Raiders:

The massive Thomas fills a big need on the defensive line and the Raiders may have to hope Gilyard falls to them in the third round. Kafka is a player the Raiders have been quietly targeting.

Draft Watch: AFC West

April, 21, 2010
NFC dream/Plan B: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Dream scenario/Plan B.

Denver: The Broncos will hope that both Alabama middle linebacker Rolando McClain and Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant are on the board when it makes its first pick at No. 11. Denver has needs at both positions and has investigated both players closely. If both players are on the board, Denver may have a tough decision to make. However, because of the Brandon Marshall trade to Miami, Denver may lean toward Bryant. If both McClain and Bryant are off the board (that may be unlikely,) Denver will likely attempt to trade down. The Broncos need a center and they could take Florida center Maurkice Pouncey in the mid-to-late part of the first round.

Kansas City: The Chiefs would love for Washington to bypass Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung. However, that may be wishful thinking. The Redskins may take him. However, Washington could also consider Oklahoma left tackle Trent Williams. The Chiefs like both Okung and Tennessee safety Eric Berry a lot. They would love for both players to be on the board. If so, Okung may be the choice. If Washington does take him, the Chiefs could easily nab Berry to anchor their defense. In the unlikely event both Okung and Berry are gone, that would likely mean either Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy would fall to No. 5. The Chiefs would likely entertain trade possibilities if that were the case. There have been some recent thoughts the Chiefs could take Texas safety Earl Thomas over Berry. If that’s the case, the Chiefs could look to trade down a few slots. Here is one thought that the Chiefs could shock the draft and take McClain at No. 5.

Oakland: The Raiders are in a pretty good position. They have several needs and they should be available to satisfy a need at No. 8. The Raiders need an offensive tackle and they should have several options. Williams, Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga, Anthony Davis of Rutgers and Bruce Campbell of Maryland could all be available for Oakland. Oakland could also look at McClain or Florida cornerback Joe Haden. Talk about Idaho guard Mike Iupati is picking up. I think the Raiders will have at least three players to choose from on the board when they pick. The Raiders should be very pleased with their choices at No. 8. Because Oakland is flexible, it could also trade down some slots to add more picks.

San Diego: The Chargers have a lot of options as well. They have the 28th and 40th overall picks. They also have some pressing needs, most notably at running back and nose tackle. If Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews falls to No. 28, the Chargers will be temped to take him. If Mathews falls past Houston at No. 20, he could be available at No. 28. San Diego will also look at defensive tackles at No. 28 because the running back class is so deep and a good player could be available at No. 40. Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody will be considered. But keep an eye on UCLA’s Brian Price, too. There has been late talk that the Chargers are looking to him fairly intently. The Chargers will likely also look to trade up and down the draft from the 25-40 range.
Here is my reasoning for my choices in our mock draft, which posted earlier Monday:

Kansas City, No. 5: Eric Berry, Safety, Tennessee

Why: Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung was off the board at No. 4 to Washington. Berry is the next best option. He can help change Kansas City’s defense. A tackle could be found in the second round.

Oakland, No. 8: Bryan Bulaga, tackle, Iowa

Why: Oakland needs a tackle. Bulaga is highly rated. With Okung and Trent Williams off the board, Bulaga is the next best tackle available. Oakland could look to other positions, but it needs to find a tackle, and Bulaga is a fine prospect.

Denver, No. 11: Dez Bryant wide receiver, Oklahoma

Why: With Jacksonville taking Alabama middle linebacker Rolando McClain at No. 10, this was an easy pick. Denver could trade down, but that doesn’t fly in this mock. I had to take somebody and the Broncos like Bryant. They also have a big need for a large receiver because of the Brandon Marshall trade to Miami.

San Diego, No 28: Terence Cody, defensive tackle, Alabama

Why: Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews was off the board. Nose tackle may be the call here. Cody is a big player who is a perfect fit for the Chargers’ 3-4 defense. However, I think San Diego could consider UCLA defensive lineman Brian Price as well.
Eric BerryAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesThe draft could take a turn toward the unexpected at No. 5, where the Chiefs may take Eric Berry.
There are several juicy AFC West story lines to watch for as the draft unfolds April 22-24. Let’s examine some of the more intriguing questions:

Will the draft change at No. 5? There are expectations that the drama of the draft will begin when Kansas City picks at No. 5. With Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and Russell Okung expected to be the first four picks; the Chiefs represent the first question mark. Kansas City could take safety Eric Berry or a tackle such as Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams or Anthony Davis. A trade down is also possible assuming Okung is off the board. No matter what the choice is, it will be fun when Kansas City is on the clock.

What will the Chargers do? There will be almost as much drama when the Chargers’ turn arrives. I expect them to be big draft-day players. They have the No. 28 and No. 40 picks. San Diego has big needs at nose tackle and running back. There are several solid running backs available and the Chargers will likely make one of them their new primary tailback. It will be interesting to see if the Chargers take a nose tackle or a running back first. They could also trade up (San Diego has two third-round picks in 2011 to use as bait) in the first round and get a premier player at either position. No matter what happens, expect San Diego general manager A.J. Smith to be in wheeling-and-dealing mode.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Clausen
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesCould new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and quarterback Jimmy Clausen be reunited in Kansas City?
Will the Chiefs look at a Golden Domer? Kansas City has hired former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis to be the offensive coordinator. Could he talk the Chiefs into taking quarterback Jimmy Clausen at No. 5 or receiver Golden Tate with one of the team’s second-round picks? The Clausen selection would be stunning, considering Kansas City paid Matt Cassel so much money last summer. However, if Tate is available at No. 36, Kansas City may jump on him. He would fill a big need and he would have advantage because he knows the offense so well.

Will Bryant replace Marshall in Denver? The Broncos visited with Oklahoma State standout receiver Dez Bryant this week. Now that Brandon Marshall has been traded, Bryant could be the team’s choice at No. 11. Bryant is very talented, but the Broncos would be adding a new set off off-field issues after trading Marshall. This would be a big story if he ends up in Denver. The Broncos could trade down from No. 11 and still get Bryant, who could tumble because of his issues.

Will Mt. Cody rise in the AFC West? The Broncos, Chargers and the Chiefs have all shown interest in Terrence Cody, the huge nose tackle from Alabama. He is considered a prototype 3-4 nose tackle, and all three of those teams use that scheme. San Diego has the most pressing need for a nose tackle of the three. It wouldn’t be a shock if the Chargers used the No. 28 pick on Cody. The Chiefs could potentially look at him in the second round, and -- if he lasts -- so could Denver. Fellow defensive tackles Brian Price and Dan Williams could attract interest from AFC West teams. However, Williams may be taken in the first 15 picks.

Will the Raiders address their quarterback needs? The Raiders are clearly looking to upgrade their quarterback situation this offseason. It could happen in the draft. Clausen has been linked to Oakland with the No. 8 pick. But he does not have the huge arm coveted by Oakland owner Al Davis. Tim Tebow has talked to the Raiders. He’d likely require a second-round pick. Oakland has worked out Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka, a likely mid-round pick. It would not be a surprise at all if Oakland drafts a quarterback to develop.

Will there be veteran trades? The Marshall trade may not stop the veteran action in the division, Denver is also shopping tight end Tony Scheffler. He could be had for a mid-round pick. There is also the possibility Oakland could pursue Washington quarterback Jason Campbell on draft day. Campbell could likely be acquired for a mid-round pick and Oakland has reportedly shown interest. Baltimore tackle Jared Gaither is reportedly on the block. Both Oakland and Kansas City could add a tackle. Gaither would likely cost a second-round pick. There is also the possibility of San Diego acquiring a veteran running back such as Marshawn Lynch or Marion Barber if they become available. Still, the odds are San Diego looks to the rookie class for its new tailback.

[+] EnlargeRolando McClain
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireThe Raiders may have their eyes on Alabama's Rolando McClain.
Will the Raiders go defense first? The Raiders’ greatest need is at left tackle. But it wouldn’t be a stunner if the Raiders used the No. 8 pick on a defensive player. The Raiders are said to have been snooping around Alabama middle linebacker Rolando McClain (who Denver could take at No. 11). Florida cornerback Joe Haden said he has received a lot of interest from Oakland. A Haden-Nnamdi Asomugha cornerback combination would be intriguing for the next few years.

Will the Tebow project continue in the AFC West? Tebow visited with Denver this week. The Broncos have two picks in the second round and could pull the trigger on the project then. Tebow has met with Oakland officials. It would be wild to see the pristine Tebow in the Silver and Black. He wouldn’t be ready to contribute right away, but he could be an interesting project. While I don’t think the Chargers would address a quarterback before the third round, Tebow could be a possibility if he fell. The Chargers need to develop a young quarterback and Norv Turner can do wonders with quarterback prospects. It would be an interesting pairing.

Will the Raiders add a receiver? The Raiders have studied the likes of Bryant, Tate and Mardy Gilyard. It’s not out of the question that the Raiders will look at receivers early in the draft. It would be intriguing. The Raiders have a lot of young, promising players at the position. What they need is a veteran presence. If a top receiver is taken in Oakland, what does it mean for the development of existing youngsters Chaz Schilens, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy?

Will Toby Gerhart pound his way through the AFC West? The rough-and-tumble Stanford tailback is on the radar in San Diego and in Denver. The Chargers make more sense because they have more of a pressing need. However, the Broncos also like the Heisman Trophy runner-up. The Broncos need a big back. I could see Gerhart, who is rising up draft boards, ending up in this division.

Will the Broncos find their new center? If the season started today, the Broncos would not have a starting center. They are looking for one in the draft. The Broncos love Florida’s Maurkice Pouncey. But taking him at No. 11 may be too high. The Broncos may have to move -- possibly up, perhaps down -- to get Pouncey. He is on their wish list, though. Boston College’s Mark Tennant and Baylor’s J.D. Walton are other possibilities.
NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Chiefs will have a tough decision to make with the fifth pick in the first round. Will they take a left tackle or standout Tennessee safety Eric Berry?

[+] EnlargeEric Berry
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesEric Berry could be the defensive playmaker the Chiefs desperately need.
The intrigue of the draft next week may start when Kansas City picks at No. 5.

It looks as if St. Louis will take quarterback Sam Bradford, Detroit and Tampa Bay will take defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy and Washington will likely take left tackle Russell Okung.

Then, it could get complicated. The Chiefs will have a tough decision because there is no clear-cut pick. If Okung somehow slips past Washington, he will be in the mix. If not, Berry could be the choice.

Left tackles Trent Williams of Oklahoma, Bryan Bulaga of Iowa and Anthony Davis of Rutgers are considered top-level tackles. Yet, taking them at No. 5 may be a bit of a reach.

So, the Chiefs may have to decide whether to take a left tackle (Branden Albert would then move to right tackle) or Berry, who is considered the best defensive back available in the draft.

Some believe taking a safety at No. 5 is too high. But Berry, who visited with the Chiefs this spring, is considered a game-changing player.

I believe if Okung is off the board and the Chiefs don’t have a great offer to trade down, Berry will be the choice. The Chiefs have a big need at safety and Berry would be a great addition to a team that has a dire need for an impact player on defense.
The latest version of Mel Kiper and Todd McShay’s mock drafts are available for Insiders Insider. Let’s look at their picks for the AFC West teams:

Kansas City, No. 5

Kiper’s pick: Eric Berry, Tennessee, safety

McShay’s pick: Bryan Bulaga, Iowa, tackle

My thoughts: I think I’d go with Berry here. Both experts have Oklahoma State tackle Russell Okung going to Washington at No. 4. If that’s the case, I’d take Berry and address the tackle position with one of the Chiefs’ two second-round picks.

Oakland, No. 8

Kiper’s pick: Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame, quarterback

McShay’s pick: Trent Williams, Oklahoma, tackle

My thoughts: The Clausen choice certainly jumps out. If this happens it would be the story of the draft in the division. It’s possible. Clausen should be available at No. 8 and the Raiders have been sniffing around quarterbacks.

Denver, No. 11

Kiper’s pick: Earl Thomas, Texas, safety

McShay’s pick: Rolando McClain, linebacker, Alabama

My thoughts: The Thomas pick is interesting. He is moving up draft boards. I think Denver would be served well with either pick. But I’d lean toward McClain because he appears to be a safe pick at a position of need.

San Diego, No.28

Kiper’s pick: Ryan Mathews, Fresno State, running back

McShay’s pick: Terrence Cody, Alabama, defensive tackle

My thoughts: This is the Chargers’ great dilemma: A running back or a nose tackle in the first round? Mathews would be tough to bypass if he fell to No. 28. Cody is intriguing because he’s a perfect fit.