AFC West: Dont'a Hightower

Why Brockers instead of Worthy

April, 26, 2012
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In our bloggers mock draft Monday, I had the AFC West picks looking like this: No. 11, Kansas City: Stanford guard David DeCastro; No. 18, San Diego: Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower; No. 25, Denver: Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy.

In my individual team mock drafts, posted earlier Thursday, DeCastro and Hightower remained the picks for Kansas City and San Diego. But my pick for Denver was not Worthy. It was LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers.

Why?

Brockers wasn’t available in our Monday mock. However, in the mock I did for Thursday’s post, I had Dallas (who was slotted for Brockers in Monday’s mock) passing on Brockers. If that is the case, I could see him falling to Denver.

If not, I think Worthy could easily be the pick. I just wanted to clarify the reasoning between the changes in the Denver choice from Monday.

San Diego mock draft

April, 26, 2012
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Here is the Chargers’ mock draft:

Summary: The draft should allow the Chargers to add depth in several areas. They might add a safety fairly early (a trade up for Mark Barron) and Iloka is a solid choice in the third round. James could play a Darren Sproles role. Harris would be a great value; Lindley would be a good developmental prospect and be reunited with receiver Vincent Brown, a teammate at San Diego State.

Reviewing my mock draft

April, 23, 2012
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These were not the results I was expecting in our Blogger Mock Draft Live held Monday.

However, I feel pretty good about the players we pegged to come to the AFC West. Each divisional blogger was in charge of picking for each team in their division in the first round. I based my decisions on value of the picks and what I thought the decision makers on each team would do in that situation.

Let’s review the film:

Kansas City: I was tempted to try to move up to No. 7 to take Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. I could see the Chiefs doing it, but I’m just not sure they want to spend what it takes to get him, so I stayed at No. 11. I would have taken Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, but he went two spots earlier. In the end, I chose Stanford guard David DeCastro. I think he was the best value player at the spot and he would be an instant impact player on the offense. Many scouts believe DeCastro will be a perennial Pro Bowl player. It’s time to make that Kansas City O-line special again.

San Diego: I think San Diego general manager A.J. Smith will be willing to do anything. When South Carolina pass-rusher Melvin Ingram dropped, I started to work on a trade up. I was talking to NFC West blogger Mike Sando about a deal for Ingram at No. 12 with Seattle in case he fell. But in an intra-division deal, James Walker had the Jets give a load to Buffalo to take Ingram at No. 10. Then, when North Carolina pass-rusher Quinton Coples fell, I hit the phones again. I was close to a deal with AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky at No. 15, but he wanted more and he wanted to make a decision, so talks stalled. When the No. 18 pick came around, I went with Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower over pass-rushers such as Syracuse’s Chandler Jones or Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus. I picked Hightower because Smith values talent regardless of need and Hightower was the best player on the board. Todd McShay has him ranked as the No. 13 available player. He is an impact player and he’d be the Chargers’ best inside linebacker. Plus, he is a solid pass-rusher from the inside. It all came down to value.

Denver: In our previous blogger mock draft, LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers fell to Denver at No. 25. He was taken at No. 14 by Dallas this time. There was a chance Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe was going to be there, but, predictably, Pittsburgh took him at No. 24. I then considered trading the pick or taking Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill. In the end, I went for need and value and took Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy. He is a good player who will start right away and McShay has him ranked as the No. 22 player available. If this is the way the draft falls on Thursday, I can see the Broncos trading down a few spots and still getting Worthy.

Oakland does not have its pick (No. 17). It was sent to Cincinnati in a package for quarterback Carson Palmer.


Chargers' pick is in

April, 23, 2012
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In our bloggers' live mock draft, the San Diego Chargers just took Alabama inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower.

He’s an instant impact player, folks.

Check out the live mock draft now.
One of the more difficult draft minds to predict belongs to San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith.

Smith has made plenty of first-round picks made by that have been under the radar. Few expected him to take Illinois defensive end Corey Liuget last season or Northern Illinois pass-rusher Larry English in 2009.

Don’t be surprised if Smith springs another surprise this year with the Chargers' No. 18 pick.

A lot of people (myself included) think the Chargers will take a pass-rusher such as Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw, Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus, Syracuse’s Chandler Jones or USC’s Nick Perry or an offensive lineman such as Stanford’s David DeCastro or Georgia’s Cordy Glenn.

But I think it would be a mistake to simply think in such a limited scope.

If Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd is available, I could see him being the choice despite the heavy focus on receivers in free agency. Floyd is a special talent and the Chargers like him.

San Diego could also draft a cornerback such as Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick or South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore. Cornerback isn’t a major need area, but if the Chargers like a certain player there, a case could be made.

I know the Chargers like their inside linebackers, so maybe Smith will nab Alabama’s Dont'a Hightower. Why can’t an impact defender be a classic inside 3-4 linebacker?

What does this all mean?

We’re dealing with Smith and that means everything is on the table, pressing needs or not.

AFC West team needs

March, 9, 2012
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Michael BushKelley L Cox/US PresswireRaiders running back Michael Bush could be a good fit for the rival Broncos.
Offseason movement starts Tuesday, when the free-agent signing period begins. Let’s take a look at the top needs of each team in the AFC West in free agency and in the draft:

Denver Broncos

1. Defensive line: The Broncos could use a stout defensive tackle even if Brodrick Bunkley returns. They need a tone setter. Denver hasn’t taken a defensive tackle in the first round since 1997 when it selected Trevor Pryce. Perhaps this is the time that streak ends.

Possible fits: The Dolphins' Paul Soliai, Memphis’ Dontari Poe, Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox, Michigan State's Jerel Worthy.

2. Secondary: Denver is too old at cornerback and too young at safety, especially with Brian Dawkins likely not returning. I think the Broncos will look to add to their secondary.

Possible fits: The Redskins' LaRon Landry, Boise State’s George Iloka, Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick.

3. Running back: The Broncos want to add a running back to pair with Willis McGahee and will address this need either in free agency or early in the draft.

Possible fits: The Raiders' Michael Bush, the Chargers' Mike Tolbert, University of Miami's Lamar Miller, Virginia Tech's David Wilson, Boise State's Doug Martin.

Scouts Inc. take: "I also think that they need a lot of secondary help overall. I also think they really need a QB, but that is probably a discussion for a different day."
-- Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.

Kansas City Chiefs

1. Offensive line: The Chiefs need a tackle. If they go for a left tackle, they can move Branden Albert to right tackle or they can get one. They might also be interested in a guard.

Possible fits: The Saints’ Carl Nicks, the Dolphins' Vernon Carey, the Eagles' King Dunlap, Stanford's Jonathan Martin, Iowa's Riley Reiff.

2. Nose tackle: The Chiefs have the makings of a strong defense, but they are missing a nasty nose tackle. They need to find one this offseason.

Possible fits: The Dolphins' Kendall Langford, the Ravens' Cory Redding, Soliai, Cox or Poe

3. Inside linebacker: The Chiefs could use one more standout linebacker to flourish in Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 defense.

Possible fits: Boston College's Luke Kuechly, Alabama's Dont'a Hightower

Scouts Inc. take: "Right tackle is far and away their biggest need. I would say nose tackle is second."
-- Matt Williamson

Oakland Raiders

1. Cornerback: The Raiders currently don’t have any starting-quality cornerbacks on the roster.

Possible fits: The Saints' Tracy Porter, the 49ers' Carlos Rogers, the Cardinals' Richard Marshall, the Jaguars' William Middleton, Vanderbilt's Casey Hayward.

2. Linebacker: I get the sense that the new Oakland regime would like to find at least one new starter. I think they can get a cornerstone linebacker who can set the tone for the defense.

Possible fits: The Vikings' Erin Henderson, the Seahawks' Leroy Hill, the Bengals' Manny Lawson, West Virginia's Bruce Irvin.

3. Offensive line: The Raiders' offensive line is a work in progress and they may be looking for at least one new
starter.

Possible fits: Texans' center Chris Myers, Texans' guard Mike Brisiel, Miami of Ohio's Brandon Brooks.

Scouts Inc. take: "Cornerback is far and away their biggest need. I would put right tackle and interior offensive line second."
-- Matt Williamson.

San Diego Chargers

1. Linebacker: The Chargers desperately need a game-changing linebacker. It will be a top priority in the first round of the draft and in free agency.

Possible fits: The Texans' Mario Williams, Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw, USC's Nick Perry, Illinois' Whitney Mercilus.

2. Defensive line: The Chargers like youngsters Corey Liuget, Vaughn Martin and Cam Thomas, but could use a stud veteran in the middle.

Possible fits: The Seahawks' Red Bryant, Redding, Soliai, Washington’s Alameda Ta'amu.

3. Offensive line: The Chargers may have to make wholesale changes on the line because of Kris Dielman's retirement, and because center Nick Hardwick and left tackle Jared Gaither will be free agents.

Possible fits: Nicks, Carey, Stanford’s Martin, Stanford's David DeCastro, Wisconsin's Peter Konz.

Scouts Inc. take: "To me, the Chargers need a lot. Offensive line is a massive need. Some receivers would be nice if Vincent Jackson leaves. On defense, I think they could use a little something at every level, but their biggest two spots would be at outside linebacker and strong safety."
-- Matt Williamson.

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