AFC West: Da"Quan Bowers

Looking ahead

April, 29, 2011
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Here are some of the top players available in the second round:

Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, Texas cornerback Aaron Williams, Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea, UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers, Georgia defensive end Justin Houston, Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson, UCLA safety Rahim Moore, Arizona pass-rusher Brooks Reed, North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin and quarterbacks Ryan Mallett, Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick.

Denver has the No. 36 and No. 46 picks. Denver coach John Fox said he could see Denver having options to moving up or down from No. 36. Among the players Denver could look at are Paea, Austin and Moore if they keep the No 36 pick.

Bowers is a wild-card. He was considered a potential pick for Denver at No. 2 before he suffered a potentially debilitating knee injury. Bowers, who led the NCAA with 15.5 sacks last season, is talented, but he is a health risk. After taking the pass-rushing Von Miller in the first round, Denver could look elsewhere at No. 36 if Bowers is there. But it could be a worthwhile risk, because of his ability.
It was a good night for the Kansas City Chiefs. First, they added a third-round pick by moving down six spots.

Then, the Chiefs benefited when the Baltimore Ravens made a rare pass and the Chiefs were able to move ahead of the Ravens at No. 26. Once the Chiefs moved ahead of the Ravens, they made a bit of a surprise by taking Pittsburgh receiver Jonathan Baldwin.

It is a surprise in the sense because there have been questions about Baldwin's desire. Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli usually stays away from players with question marks. Also, there were some pass-rushing options (Muhammad Wilkerson and Da'Quan Bowers) and tackle Gabe Carimi available.

But with those points made, I see why the Chiefs made the choice.

Baldwin has tremendous upside. He is huge at 6-foot-4, 229 pounds. He is a very polished receiver and he is known for making spectacular catches.

Somewhere, Matt Cassel is very happy. He now has all kinds of weapons to complement the NFL’s best rushing offense.

The presence of No. 1 receiver Dwayne Bowe should give Baldwin the opportunity to make a lot of plays right away. One of the biggest things the Chiefs were missing when they made their improbable playoff run last season was a strong No. 2 receiving option. But because of the great running game, they survived it. Consider that the Chiefs have a great receiving tight end in second-year player Tony Moeaki and this offense should be dangerous under the guidance of free-wheeling offensive coach Todd Haley.

And it all points to Baldwin being able to ease into the No. 2 job. He won’t have to be great right away. But I see many jump balls in his immediate future. Once again, the Pioli-Haley tandem appears to have made a strong move.

AFC West draft primer

April, 22, 2011
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Aldon Smith, JJ Watt, Cameron JordanAP PhotosCould pass-rushers Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt or Cameron Jordan end up in the AFC West?
With the NFL draft starting in six days, there are many interesting storylines involving the AFC West. Let’s take a look:

Will any AFC West teams draft a quarterback? Denver, Kansas City and Oakland have all been studying several of the top quarterbacks. There is a chance Denver and Oakland could use a second-round pick on a quarterback. Kansas City will probably wait until the mid-rounds before it addresses the position. I wouldn’t be shocked if we see a quarterback enter the division Friday. San Diego could take a quarterback in the late rounds because backup Billy Volek is a free agent.

Will a top pass-rusher land in the division? Denver, San Diego and Kansas City have all looked at pass-rushers very closely. I could see San Diego, which has the No. 18 pick, and Kansas City, which has the No. 21 pick, drafting a pass-rusher in the first round. The run on pass-rushers will probably start at No. 15. Guys like Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt, Cal’s Cameron Jordan, Missouri’s Aldon Smith Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan, UCLA’s Akeem Ayers and Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson could all be in play for these two teams.

Will Denver trade out of the No. 2 pick? I know Denver is open to trading out of the No. 2 pick. It would ideally like to go down to the No. 5-to-8 range and still grab a top-flight defensive player while adding picks. Denver’s best bets may be Arizona (No. 5) and Tennessee (No. 8). One of those two teams may believe it is necessary to move up to take a quarterback. Still, it won’t be easy. The No. 2 pick hasn’t been traded since 2000.

Will the Chiefs take a receiver high? The Chiefs need a No. 2 receiver and may take one early rather than waiting for free agency. They could pounce on a receiver like Leonard Hankerson of Miami, although it might be risky waiting for him to drop to No. 51.

[+] EnlargeDa'Quan Bowers
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesInitially Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers looked like a candidate for Denver at No. 2. But he may still be heading to the AFC West.
Will Da'Quan Bowers end up in the AFC West? Before all the alarm about his surgically repaired knee, the Clemson pass-rusher was considered a possibility for Denver at No. 2. His injury will probably cause him to fall. It wouldn’t be a total shock if Bowers fell all the way to San Diego. There has been speculation that Bowers won’t fall past Minnesota at No. 12, but if he did slide to San Diego, he’d be a great value at No. 18.

Will the Chiefs’ infatuation with the SEC continue? The Chiefs have drafted a player from the SEC in the past four years, and Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli has a long history of taking players from that conference. I’ve been told the Chiefs have been scouting the entire South hard this spring. It will be interesting to see how that affects their draft class.

Will the Chiefs draft some beef? The Chiefs could add a nose tackle and an offensive tackle early. Don’t be surprised if the Chiefs try to make a trade and take Baylor’s massive nose tackle Phil Taylor if he drops some in the second round.

Will Casey Matthews be AFC West-bound? Denver, Kansas City and San Diego all have been connected to the Oregon linebacker, the younger brother of Green Bay star Clay Matthews. A lot of teams are excited about Matthews, and it would be interesting to see him end up in the division.

Will A.J. Smith be a mad trader? San Diego general manager A.J. Smith is known as an active draft trader. He has five of the first 89 picks, and he has tremendous trading power. Smith could trade up or down. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Chargers ended up with two first-round picks.

Will Denver take a running back high? Despite Denver’s greatest needs on defense, there has been speculation it could take a running back to pair with 2009 No. 12 overall pick Knowshon Moreno. New Denver coach John Fox believes in running the ball first, so help is needed. One player Denver has been targeting is Illinois’ Mikel Leshoure. He could be a target with one of Denver’s two second-round picks.

Will Oakland trade up into the first round? The Raiders are the only team in the league without a first-round pick. They don’t pick until No. 48. Oakland probably can pair that pick with the No. 81 pick to get into the end of the first round if it focuses on a particular player.

Will Wiz II come to the AFC West? Penn State center/guard Stefen Wisniewski has been connected to Denver, Kansas City and Oakland. The Raiders are obviously being connected to Wisniewski because he is the nephew of former Raiders’ offensive lineman and current assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski. Wisniewski would fill a big need in Oakland. He might be a second or third-round pick.

Will Jimmy Smith fall to Oakland? Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith is considered a top-15 talent, but he could fall because of character questions. Oakland probably would jump on him if he fell to No. 48 as a potential replacement for free-agent Nnamdi Asomugha. Still, Philadelphia or Baltimore could take him in the first round.

Will Oakland combat defensive moves by adding to the offensive line? The offensive line is Oakland’s greatest need. The other three teams in the division could add front-seven help on defense. Thus, Oakland may feel more pressure to add to the offensive line.

Will the Chargers add to the secondary? The Chargers have been looking hard at safeties because Eric Weddle is a potential free agent. This isn’t a strong class for safeties, but expect the Chargers to look for a gem in the late rounds.

Will AFC West move to Taiwan? One of the hottest names in recent weeks is Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones. Denver, Kansas City and Oakland have been connected to Jones. He also could fill a need in San Diego if the Chargers move away from free agent Darren Sproles. Jones runs a blazing 4.3 40-yard dash. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has said Jones could potentially be a third-round pick.

Draft Watch: AFC West

April, 21, 2011
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NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Dream scenario/Plan B.

Denver Broncos

Dream scenario: The Broncos’ dream scenario begins with the Carolina Panthers taking a quarterback with the No. 1 pick. That would mean the entire defensive draft board is available. The Broncos' primary needs are on defense. Denver would likely choose between Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. The general consensus is Denver will most likely take Dareus.

Plan B: If Carolina takes Dareus, Denver could take Miller or Peterson or trade down to the No. 5-8 range and compile other high-round picks. I could see Miller and Peterson being available at No. 5. If Denver goes down to No. 8, it could look at Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn or Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.

Kansas City Chiefs

Dream scenario: The Chiefs are in a great position. They pick No. 21 and need pass-rushers and an offense tackle. Several of those prospects should be available at No. 21. But if the Chiefs had a dream, I’d think it would be to see Alabama receiver Julio Jones tumble to them. But that is a pipedream. He likely won’t fall past St. Louis at No. 14. I think the Chiefs would like to see a pass-rusher like Missouri’s Aldon Smith, Cal’s Cameron Jordan, Purdue’s’ Ryan Kerrigan or Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson available at No. 21. If not, the Chiefs could go for a pass-rusher like UCLA’s Akeem Ayers or Georgia’s Justin Houston.

Plan B: If all the pass-rushers are gone, that’d probably mean some tackles would fall. Among those players who could interest the Chiefs are Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo, Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi or Colorado’s Nate Solder. Kansas City will have options and it could prompt it to trade down a few spots to gain another quality pick and grab a player high on its list.

Oakland Raiders

Dream scenario: The Raiders are the only team currently without a first-round pick. Their first pick is at No. 48. Oakland’s dream scenario would to see a first-round talent slide to them without having to trade up. If a quarterback such as Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett or Washington’s Jake Locker is there, Oakland could easily grab them. The Raiders like veteran Jason Campbell, but getting an eventual replacement at the bargain price of No. 48 is worth it. Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith would also be a dream scenario for Oakland if he was available at No. 48. The team may lose Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency. Smith is considered a top-15 talent; he may fall because of character issues. He’d be a steal at No. 48.

Plan B: If these players don’t fall, Oakland will likely look at offensive linemen (its biggest need), cornerbacks and quarterbacks in the second round. If the Raiders could get a player like Penn State guard Stefen Wisniewski and Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the second day of the draft, they would be thrilled.

San Diego Chargers

Dream scenario: The Chargers are in an even better position than the Chiefs. San Diego, which has the No. 18 pick, could use a pass-rusher or an offensive lineman. Plenty should be available when they choose. Plus, San Diego has extra picks in both the second and third rounds. The Chargers can do basically whatever they want to do. Thus, the Chargers can make up their own dream scenario. If they want to move up to No. 5 and take Miller, they probably can. If they want to move up to No. 11-12 and take Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt or Jones to help at receiver, they can.

Plan B: If they stay put, the Chargers can wait for players like Jordan, Smith or Kerrigan at No. 18. They could also move down to take a pass-rusher like Houston or Ayers or an offensive lineman in the No. 20-25 range. The Chargers are truly in charge of their own draft destiny.
Marcell Dareus, Nick FairleyAP Photos, Getty ImagesMarcell Dareus (left) and Nick Fairley are two of the top-ranked defensive tackles in the draft.
There are high expectations for this defensive line draft class.

San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith says this is the strongest group available in the draft. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said that he hasn’t seen such an impressive defensive line group at the combine and in workouts.

That’s why defensive tackles Marcell Dareus of Alabama and Nick Fairley of Auburn both could be top-five picks. Defensive ends Da'Quan Bowers of Clemson and Robert Quinn of North Carolina may not be far behind Dareus and Fairley. The Denver Broncos are studying defensive linemen closely and may take Dareus at No. 2.

Even though the talent is high at this position, Denver -- and every other team picking in the top five -- must beware. Taking a defensive lineman with a top-five pick is a major gamble.

Over the past 20 years, 24 defensive linemen have been taken with top-five picks -- with extremely mixed results. For every Julius Peppers (drafted No. 2 in 2002) and Ndamukong Suh (drafted No. 2 in 2010), there are busts like Dewayne Robertson (No. 4, 2003), Courtney Brown (No. 1, 2000) and Steve Emtman (No. 1, 1992).

Even though he likes this group of defensive linemen, McShay acknowledged earlier in the offseason that the bust rate for defensive linemen is “shockingly high.” Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said he thinks defensive line and wide receiver are “neck-and-neck” as the riskiest positions in the first round behind quarterback, which is in a different league when it comes to draft uncertainty.

Williamson thinks one of the reasons many top defensive linemen fail is a sense of entitlement. He said top defensive linemen are rare because of their combination of size, speed and ability. They are pampered from an early age and may not work as hard as other, less-coveted players.

“I think it comes down to them just being very special people/athletes,” Williamson said. “If you notice, a high percentage of the stud DT talent comes from huge colleges. For example: When I was at Pitt, we just couldn't get great DT recruits. There are just so few people in the world with their size that can move like stud DTs need to. They are very coveted and go to massive programs. Even at the college level, they are freakish enough that they often don't have to work extremely hard to be great. When they get to the NFL, that all changes ... and they often don't adapt in terms of professionalism and work ethic.”

Williamson said he believes Dareus will buck the trend and have a strong NFL career and be worthy of a top-five pick. However, he said he has concerns about Bowers and Fairley because they were “one-year wonders [who] would disappear at times.”

Studying the history of failure at the position and trying to figure out if this year’s prospects can succeed in the NFL has been one of the Broncos’ toughest tasks. Vice president of football operations John Elway has acknowledged the risk involved in studying defensive linemen.



“It’s so hard to be able to find guys with that size that have athletic ability,” Elway said. "Whether they’re raw coming out of college or they’re polished coming out of college, people see that athletic ability with the size and the speed. You just can’t find that, it’s very difficult to find those type of athletes that are that big later in the draft. That’s why I think you see so many of those guys with the speed and the size do not go very deep in the draft.”

Perhaps last year signaled a change in the trend. Detroit took Suh at No. 2 and Tampa Bay took Gerald McCoy at No. 3. Suh was brilliant and McCoy was impressive before he was injured. Denver would love to get a player of Suh’s or McCoy’s caliber in the form of Dareus.

The decade before 2010 didn’t produce anyone great other than Peppers, although Mario Williams, who was taken No. 1 in 2006, has become a good player.

The Chiefs took defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey at No. 5 in 2008 and defensive end Tyson Jackson No. 3 in 2009. Dorsey came on strong last season and was a big part of an improved defense after a slow first two seasons. Jackson has shown some flashes, but he has yet to show he was worthy of a top-five pick. Like Dorsey, St. Louis defensive end Chris Long, taken at No. 2 in 2008, began to make strides in 2010.

Denver can’t afford to wait on production if it takes a defensive lineman with the No. 2 pick. The Broncos were last in the NFL in total defense and points allowed in 2010. Elway has said numerous times that the Broncos have to get this pick right. In a perfect world, the Broncos would take a defensive lineman and begin their resurrection. History, though, shows it’s not that simple.
Here is a sampling of our AFC West chat, which was held Thursday. Thanks to everyone who participated:

Gabe, Houston: How far could the Broncos drop and still get an elite defensive player? (Dareus, Peterson...maybe Fairley & Bowers)

Bill Williamson: Dareus will be gone early. Peterson and Fairley may be had in 5-7 range and Bowers could drop out of the top 10 because of health concerns.

D, Portland, OR: Dalton to Oakland. What do you think? As an added bonus, if they do pick him I can dust off my Chuckie Doll from the Gruden days.

BW: He's smart, polished and he's a winner. But he doesn't have the big arm Al Davis covets. But I think he'd be worth considering.

Mike, KC, M0.: Do you think kc will address a pass rusher first and who might it be also do you see them adressing the qb and what pick might they use?

BW: I think pass rusher is where KC will look first. They could start looking at QB in 3-4 rounds. Stanzi in the fourth?

Sergio, Tijuana, Mexico: With the new Kickoff rule in place, has Darren Sproles market value gone down enough for him to be viable option to return to the chargers, if he leaves how do you expect the chargers to deal with his role?

BW: Chargers coach Norv Turner has said he thinks the new rules hurt good returners, so I think it does lessen the Chargers' need to give Sproles big money. They are looking at Troy's Jernigan. who could fill that role.

Mock draft is kind to AFC West

April, 6, 2011
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I tinkered with a complete first-round mock draft to see if the teams in the AFC West will be in line to take the players they want.

My mock draft breaks down favorably for the three teams in the division that have a first-round pick. Oakland doesn’t have a first-round pick.

I have Carolina taking Auburn quarterback Cam Newton at No. 1. That leaves the entire defensive draft board to Denver at No. 2. I have Denver taking Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.

San Diego (picking No. 18) and Kansas City (No. 21) are both looking for pass-rushers. There should be a glut of pass-rushers available in the No. 16-21 range and I have five pass-rushers going in that span. Because of the lack of need for pass rushers in the No. 8-15 range, players like North Carolina’s Robert Quinn and Clemson’s Da'Quan Bowers could tumble out of the top 10 and perhaps a little further. I have Quinn going to Houston at No. 11 and Bowers, who has dealt with health issues, dropping down to Jacksonville at No. 16. That may be a bit low, but it’s possible.

San Diego and Kansas City should both get fine players. I still have San Diego going with Cal’s Cameron Jordan and Kansas City taking Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson. Because there may be so many good pass-rushers available in the middle of the first round, I could see San Diego and Kansas City staying pat and waiting to see who falls to them.

A lot can change and my mock draft will likely have the same fate as my NCAA hoops bracket (no Final Fours, folks), but this exercise has shown me each team in the AFC West should have plenty of attractive options.
The Denver Broncos are hosting Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers on Monday. A key part of his visit will be his meeting with physicians.

Bowers has been perhaps the most talked about top prospect because of a January arthroscopic knee surgery. There have been numerous reports that Bowers’ knee hasn’t responded well and that his draft stock has fallen. Bowers led the nation with 15.5 sacks last season and he was considered a top-five pick earlier in the offseason.

At Bowers' pro day on Friday his knee held up well, although he ran a slower 40-yard dash than he hoped. There has been chatter that Bowers should have postponed his pro day or scuttled it all together.

But I think it was Bowers’ strategy to perform the pro day and not worry about his times. The key is his health. Now, teams like the Broncos will get a look at Bowers’ knee fresh off a full workout. If tests come back clean in April this soon after a full workout, teams should be satisfied.
Da'Quan Bowers answered questions about his health Friday at his pro day.

However, the Clemson defensive end didn’t perform as well as he hoped. Bowers ran a slower-than-expected 40-yard dash, putting a damper on an otherwise solid performance.

The key for Bowers, who led the nation with 15.5 sacks in 2010, was to prove his health. He had arthroscopic knee surgery in January. There have been rampant reports in the past several weeks that Bowers wasn’t recovering well and that teams were concerned. His showing Friday should quiet those concerns.

Still, it would be an upset if Denver took Bowers with the No. 2 pick at this point. Denver was previously intrigued by Bowers partly because he reminded the team of Julius Peppers, who played for new coach John Fox in Carolina. I think the only way Denver could take Bowers is if it traded down to the No. 5-7 range.

Denver’s brass wasn’t at Bowers pro day because Washington quarterback Jake Locker is visiting Denver on Friday. However, Bowers is set to visit Denver on Monday. Denver did have a small contingent led by college scouting director Matt Russell, at Clemson on Friday.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter writes that Bowers’ stock is dropping. It will be interesting to see how his pro day affects his stock, either positively because of his health or negatively because of his poor 40 time.
I don’t think teams should be overly concerned by the fact Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers reportedly failed physicals in February.

He had arthroscopic knee surgery in January. It’s predictable he wouldn’t be able to pass physicals just weeks after the procedure.

The key for Bowers is Friday’s pro day. His agent wrote in an email to ESPN.com last week that Bowers has recovered well from the surgery and he expects his client to perform well at the pro day.

Denver, which has the No. 2 pick, is expected to be at the pro day and to meet with him Friday evening. Bowers will also visit Denver in April. The next month is critical for Bowers. If he does well in front of scouts and passes his physicals with teams prior to the draft, he’ll be a high draft pick.
We are offering our fourth AFC West mock draft of the offseason. We’ll likely have a couple more before the April 28 draft.

Here goes our fourth take:

2. Denver, DT, Marcell Dareus, Alabama: This pick is one of the reasons I’m updating this list. Denver could take five or six different players at this spot. I’m now leaning toward Dareus. I think the Broncos are going to decide to upgrade at defensive tackle and they’ll decide Dareus is a better fit than Auburn’s Nick Fairley. That’s if Carolina doesn’t nab Dareus with the top pick.

Previous pick: Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers.

18. San Diego, DE, Cameron Jordan, California: I think San Diego will take Jordan if he’s available. Jacksonville (No. 16) and New England (No. 17) could take Jordan. If he’s available, Jordan would be a terrific fit for the Chargers’ 3-4 defense. If Jordan is off the board, Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan should get a long look. The Chargers have been to his pro day and have a visit set up with him.

Previous pick: Jordan

21. Kansas City, DE, Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple: I think Wilkerson is a riser and he could be a good value pick for the Chiefs. They will also consider linebackers, but he could help as a pass rusher and give the team some good size on the defensive line and could project as a defensive tackle. He could be too tempting to pass up.

Previous pick: Georgia linebacker/defensive end Justin Houston

48. Oakland, Stefen Wisniewski, OL, Penn State: I have stuck with Wisniewski during every mock draft and I’m not changing now. He has Raider bloodlines and he said he wants to play for his uncle, Oakland assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski, a former Oakland lineman. Oakland could also look at the secondary or even a quarterback with this pick. But Wiz II is still my choice.

Previous pick: Wisniewski

Draft rush is on in AFC West

March, 25, 2011
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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:

[+] EnlargeDa'Quan Bowers
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesDa'Quan Bowers led the NCAA's FBS with 15.5 sacks last season.
Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

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.

Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M

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.

Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

Why he is a candidate: He is considered one of the best performers in the draft. He has game-changing ability.

Warning sign: Quinn missed the entire 2010 season after he accepted gifts from an agent.

Chances of ending up in AFC West: I think he’ll fall between Denver and San Diego.

J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

Why he is a candidate: He has scouts drooling this offseason. He is one of the great risers in the draft.

Warning sign: Some teams may think he looks better in shorts and a T-shirt than on the field.

Chances of ending up in AFC West: He is the type of player the Chargers could trade up to get. San Diego General manager A.J. Smith was at his pro day. He could go in the 10-12 range.

Cameron Jordan, DE, California

Why he is a candidate: He is the full package. He performs well. He tests well. He has a high character and his father, Steve, was an NFL tight end.

Warning sign: There’s very low risk here. There may be some worry he is a tad small to make a huge difference as an every-down player.

Chances of ending up in AFC West: I think San Diego is a prime candidate to get him. He will be popular starting around pick No. 15. The Chargers might have to trade up a few spots to get him.

Aldon Smith, LB-DE, Missouri

Why he is a candidate: He is supremely talented. He is a game-changer and he's a stats monster.

Warning sign: He had injury issues and he has not played a lot of college football.

Chances of ending up in AFC West: Smith could go anywhere from No. 15 to 25. The Chiefs like him and have a workout set with him.

[+] EnlargeRyan Kerrigan
Chuck Rydlewski/Icon SMIRyan Kerrigan led the Big Ten in tackles for loss, sacks and forced fumbles last season.
Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

Why he is a candidate: He is classic pass-rusher. He has a high motor and he is relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback.

Warning sign: He may be a bit small at 6-foot-4, 263 to take the every-down pounding at defensive end.

Chances of ending up in AFC West: He could be a perfect fit in San Diego. Kerrigan is already being linked to the Chargers. If he gets by the Chargers, the Chiefs could take a look at him.

Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple

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.

Justin Houston, LB-DE, Georgia

Why he is a candidate: Big-play performer who dominated at the highest level of college football. He looks like a perfect rush linebacker for a 3-4 team.

Warning sign: He doesn’t have great size, and a lack of production before last season could concern teams.

Chances of ending up in AFC West: He should be available at No. 21, where the Chiefs would be tempted to take him. Kansas City has a workout set up with him.

Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA

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.

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Why he is a candidate: He is a big, strong player who was dominant early in his career. He could be a solid 3-4 defensive end.

Warning sign: His play slipped some in 2010 and there is concern he will not stand out as an NFL player.

Chances of ending up in AFC West: He could be a secondary selection for the Chargers if they get back into the end of the first round.

Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

Why he is a candidate: He is a big, strong productive college player with NFL bloodlines. He is the son of the late Craig “Ironhead” Heyward. He can play in both the 3-4 and the 4-3.

Warning sign: He is not a refined player, and he could have trouble with technique in the NFL.

Chances of ending up in AFC West: He could be on the Chargers’ list and perhaps Denver could look at him if he falls to No. 36 overall in the second round.

Bowers' agent says all is well

March, 24, 2011
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There have been reports Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers -- who Denver could take with the No. 2 overall pick -- is dealing with a problematic knee that won’t heal after a January arthroscopic surgery.

However, his agent, Joe Flanagan, emailed ESPN.com to say Bowers is healthy and he will perform all drills at his pro day next week.

"Bottom line: Da’Quan's knee has progressed ahead of schedule, in every regard, since the day he walked out of his procedure," Flanagan wrote. "There have been no 'setbacks' or 'new concerns,' and Da’Quan is very much looking forward to his workout on April 1."

Bowers is set to visit Denver in April. Bowers can end the negative talk about his health with a strong pro day and by passing physicals with teams prior to the draft.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that Auburn quarterback Cam Newton’s Denver visit will be April 18. Denver will visit with several top quarterback prospects, including Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert. The reserved Gabbert is profiled in this ESPN.com piece.
The Denver Broncos surprised everybody on Tuesday when it was reported that the team will work out Washington quarterback Jake Locker.

It’s no surprise that Denver is going to take a close look at Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers. He is expected to be one of the players Denver considers taking with the No. 2 overall pick. The Broncos have many needs on defense.

They have worked out Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller and are scheduled to workout LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. I’d expect Denver to visit with top defensive tackles, Marcell Dareus of Alabama and Nick Fairley of Auburn as well.

Bowers' visit to Denver, which will come after his April 1 pro day, will be important because Denver will get to take a closer look at his knee, which was injured in January. Bowers has said his knee will be fine. He will meet with seven of the teams with the top eight picks in the draft.

AFC West mailbag

March, 16, 2011
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Midweek mail call:

John Fanghella from Houston wants to know if I think the Chargers could draft Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews.

Bill Williamson: I think he is a player the Chargers will look at. San Diego has two second-round picks and I think Matthews will be considered in that range. The Chargers will likely pick up two inside linebackers this offseason and could draft one early. Inside linebackers Stephen Cooper, Kevin Burnett and Brandon Siler are free agents. I could see two of them leaving. Matthews is a type of guy who looks like he could be a fit in San Diego and who would interest Chargers’ general manager A.J. Smith.


Ian John from Pueblo, Colo., wants to know if Denver would have too many pass-rushers if it ended up with Da’Quan Bowers, Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers.

BW: Hi, Ian. You can never have enough pass-rushers. They are at a premium. You truly can’t have enough. A strong pass-rushing defense is a good defense. Also, there are questions in Denver. Will Dumervil regain his same pass-rushing groove after missing last season with a pectoral tear and moving to a 4-3 defense? Will Ayers ever reach his potential? I think Denver is considering Bowers because it feels like it is not settled at the position.


Brandon from Kansas wants to know I think the Chiefs could make a play for Mike Sims-Walker in free agency.

BW: I think the Chiefs have to be put on the list of the teams that would look at the Jacksonville free agent. I could see Oakland and San Diego on that list as well. As far as Kansas City goes, I think he’d be a nice complement to No. 1 receiver Dwayne Bowe. He’d stretch the field and be a nice No. 2 option to Matt Cassel. This should be a strong receiver free-agent class and Sims-Walker could be relatively reasonably priced and attractive to Kansas City.

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