AFC West: Jason Smith
I think Liuget, the team’s first-round pick in 2011, should already be on the list. He is a monster.
In other AFC West notes:
Oakland backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor has switched from No. 6 to No. 2. He wore No. 2 at Ohio State. Perhaps the Raiders thought enough time has passed since the last No. 2 played quarterback in Oakland. Yes, JaMarcus Russell. Pryor said when he was drafted that then-coach Hue Jackson wouldn’t let him wear No. 2. Punter Marquette King moved from No. 2 to No. 7.
Oakland rookie tackle Menelik Watson is practicing for the second time this camp. He had a calf injury. If he can stay healthy, he has a chance to play early.
U-T San Diego reports Chicago rookie linebacker Jon Bostic was fined $21,000 for a hit on San Diego receiver Mike Willie last week.
Scott Pioli, the man who drafted Jon Baldwin in the first round two years ago, stuck up for Baldwin. He was traded to San Francisco for fellow former first-round pick A.J. Jenkins.
San Diego tight end Antonio Gates doesn’t think the Broncos “will miss a beat” during the six-game suspension of star pass-rusher Von Miller.
New Orleans cut tackle Jason Smith. Oakland needs depth at the spot.
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: history in that spot.
The Broncos’ top pick is No. 2 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:
2010: DT Ndamukong Suh (Lions)
2009: T Jason Smith (Rams)
2008: DE Chris Long (Rams)
2007: WR Calvin Johnson (Lions)
2006: RB Reggie Bush (Saints)
2005: RB Ronnie Brown (Dolphins)
2004: OL Robert Gallery (Raiders)
ANALYSIS: This is the Broncos’ first top-five pick since 1991, when they took linebacker Mike Croel at No. 4. The Broncos would love to have the success Detroit had last year with the pick. Suh looks like a unit changer, and Denver needs a similarly dominant defender. Detroit is the only team to have great success at No. 2 in the past seven years. Along with Suh, Johnson is a fabulous player. There are some good players on this list, though, with no flat-out duds. The Rams hope to see progress in Smith and Long, who made strides in 2010.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers’ top pick is No. 18 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:
2010: C Maurkice Pouncey (Steelers)
2009: LB Robert Ayers (Broncos)
2008: QB Joe Flacco (Ravens)
2007: CB Leon Hall (Bengals)
2006: LB Bobby Carpenter (Cowboys)
2005: LB Erasmus James (Vikings)
2004: DE Will Smith (Saints)
ANALYSIS: This is an interesting group. It shows that teams can find franchise players at No. 18 but also that they can make a major mistake with the pick. Flacco was a tremendous value for Baltimore in 2008. Pouncey looks as if he’ll be at center in Pittsburgh for the next decade. Smith has also had a terrific career and was a solid pick at No. 18. James was a terrible pick; Carpenter wasn’t worth it; and the jury is still out on Ayers. The Chargers know they have to pick smart. They took linebacker Larry English at No. 16 in 2009 and are waiting for a payoff. It’s interesting that there are four defensive ends/linebackers on this list. That’s exactly the position the Chargers will be looking for with the No. 18 pick.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs’ top pick is No. 21 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:
2010: TE Jermaine Gresham (Bengals)
2009: C Alex Mack (Browns)
2008: T Sam Baker (Falcons)
2007: S Reggie Nelson (Jaguars)
2006: RB Laurence Maroney (Patriots)
2005: WR Matt Jones (Jaguars)
2004: DT Vince Wilfork (Patriots)
ANALYSIS: The Chiefs are not used to drafting this low. Kansas City has picked in the top five the past three years. However, Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli is plenty familiar with having the No. 21 pick. He was with New England when it had the choice in 2004 and 2006. Pioli has seen teams score with this pick and seen teams whiff with it. Wilfork was a tremendous choice, but taking Maroney was a blunder. However, the pick has paid solid dividends in recent years. This doesn’t appear to be a bad spot to be in.
The Raiders’ top pick is No. 48 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:
2010: QB Jimmy Clausen (Panthers)
2009: S Darcel McBath (Broncos)
2008: TE Fred Davis (Redskins)
2007: LB Justin Durant (Jagaurs)
2006: DB Cedric Griffin (Vikings)
2005: LB Odell Thurman (Bengals)
2004: LB Dontarrious Thomas (Vikings)
ANALYSIS: It’s interesting that a quarterback was taken at this spot in 2010. Clausen was the third quarterback taken last year. If a quarterback such as Washington’s Jake Locker or Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett takes a similar tumble, we could see a quarterback taken at No. 48 again. This pick has been hit-or-miss, so it could be worth taking a gamble. Oakland picked at No. 47 two years ago and is still waiting for safety Mike Mitchell to develop. Last year, Oakland took defensive lineman Lamarr Houston at No. 44, and he had a terrific rookie season. In 2007, Oakland took standout tight end Zach Miller at No. 38. The Raiders know they can find talent in the second round.
NAPA, Calif. -- Wrapping up a crazy day in the AFC West:
Darrius Heyward-Bey is one practice into his NFL career. He arrived at Oakland's camp during the afternoon practice and got some practice time after his contract was finalized.
The first pass that came his way, though, sailed through his hands. The biggest knock on Heyward-Bey has been his hands. He needs to pick it up now that he is guaranteed $23-plus million.
Oakland coach Tom Cable said the team released former starting quarterback Andrew Walter because his time in Oakland "ran its course." Don't be surprised at all if Denver considers signing the Grand Junction, Colo., native. Walter may fit new Denver coach Josh McDaniels' system.
At Kansas City's camp, Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters showed up for training camp. He had wanted a trade. Waters did show up for the mandatory minicamp. He may still be unhappy, but it appears he will continue to play for the Chiefs.
The Chiefs are now on the clock concerning No. 3 overall draft pick Tyson Jackson. No. 2 overall pick Jason Smith signed with the Rams on Thursday. Jackson didn't not report to the Chiefs' camp on time Thursday.
Denver defensive starters -- Champ Bailey, Renaldo Hill and Marcus Thomas -- will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list. Denver signed cornerback Rashod Moulton and receiver Travis Shelton.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The Denver Post expects Brandon Marshall to show up for the Broncos' mandatory minicamp Friday.
My take: Marshall needs to show up. He won't be able to practice because of a March hip surgery that will keep him out until training camp. Marshall has been rehabilitating on his own partly because he wants a pay raise. If he doesn't come back during this minicamp, it will send a bad message, whether he can practice or not.
With Mark Sanchez signed, when will Tyson Jackson ink his deal?
My take: The No. 2 through No. 4 picks -- St. Louis' Jason Smith, Jackson and Seattle's Aaron Curry -- will all look at Sanchez's huge deal. He received $28 million guaranteed. The deal could reach $60 million. Sanchez was the No. 5 pick. Jackson, a defensive end, could be looking for a bigger contract than the player taken two picks lower. But the Chiefs will likely argue that Sanchez is a special case because he is a quarterback. I'm not saying the Jackson talks are going to be difficult, but the early Sanchez signing does introduce a potential wrinkle into the talks.
JaMarcus Russell had a nice OTA day Wednesday.
My take: Good for Russell. Just like when he struggled earlier in organized training activities, we shouldn't go wild about this. But it is a good sign. Russell has to make strides and he is showing he can. That's important.
Former quarterback Ryan Leaf is in legal trouble.
My take: Leaf was a bust in the NFL, but he still has a long life to live. He needs to take care of his legal issues and try to move forward.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Denver coach Josh McDaniels said the Broncos are not interested in moving up in the draft by trading both their first-round picks, No. 12 and 18. There has been speculation Denver will pursue USC quarterback Mark Sanchez in the first round.
Still, it wouldn't be a surprise if the Broncos trade one of their picks, either to move down or up. One potential trading partner could be Baltimore, which may be interested in the No. 18 pick.
Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry believes he'd be a perfect fit in Kansas City. Curry has been heavily connected to the Chiefs and the No. 3 pick. Still, the Chiefs could go in another direction, including taking LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson or Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith if he falls.
Team needs: Defensive end, linebacker, offensive line, safety.
|Paul Jasienski/Getty Images|
|Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry is the best defensive player in the draft, and one the Chiefs desperately need.|
Plan B: If Curry is off the board and if a trade down can't be worked out, the Chiefs may have to look at offensive players. Yes, defense is the team's greatest need but there aren't a lot of great defensive players at the top of the draft. But there are some good offensive players who could provide Kansas City some options. A possibility could be Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree. He'd make a nice tandem with Dwayne Bowe and give new Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel a nice group of weapons. Kansas City could also look at tackles such as Jason Smith of Baylor (if he remains on the board) or Eugene Monroe of Virginia. If the Chiefs take a tackle, they could move Branden Albert -- the No. 15 overall pick last season -- to right tackle.
Scouts Inc.'s take: "I think what Kansas City should do is draft Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji. I think he is the best fit for the Chiefs as they go to the 3-4 defense. He'd be the perfect nose tackle in that defense. I think he'd be an immediate impact player. I like Aaron Curry but I'm just sure if he fits the 3-4 defense. He can be mismatched in those instances. I really think he can be a great 4-3 linebacker but I'm not sure if he'd be a fit. It's the same thing with last year's top pick, Glenn Dorsey. I don't think he fits the 3-4 defense. If they take Dorsey and Curry in back-to-back years it would be taking two guys that don't really fit the new system. That's why I think Raji should be the guy." -- Matt Williamson, Scouts Inc.
Who has final say: Scott Pioli enters his first season as Kansas City's general manager after spending the past several years as a key executive in New England.
Now On the Clock: St. Louis Rams, April 16.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Team needs: Offensive tackle, wide receiver, defensive tackle.
|Sam Adams/US Presswire|
|Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree would be a solid complement to JaMarcus Russell and Darren McFadden in Oakland.|
Plan B: If Oakland gets impatient or if it decides quantity over quality is the route it wants to go, it could trade down in the first round. One possible trade partner could be Philadelphia, which has the No. 21 and No. 28 picks. The Raiders could possibly get a receiver such as Percy Harvin or Darrius Heyward-Bey with the No. 21 pick. Oakland could then snag an offensive tackle, such as Arizona's Eben Britton, or a defensive tackle at No. 28.
Scouts Inc. take: "Oakland is in need of help in a lot of areas. The Raiders can draft at receiver, offensive line or on the defensive line. I think the guy they should take is Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji. He'd be perfect there. But if they don't go with Raji, I really like Michael Crabtree if he is there. I think he'd be a better pick for Oakland than Jeremy Maclin. Then, there's a bunch of offensive tackles and Oakland will need to take one in the early rounds. But it starts with Raji or Crabtree." -- Matt Williamson, Scouts Inc.
Who has final say: Owner Al Davis makes the final call in everything in Oakland. Davis, 79, still studies plenty of film as the draft approaches.
Now On the Clock: Cincinnati Bengals, April 12.
Previous On the Clock: Jacksonville Jaguars. The team-by-team series.
If Todd McShay's latest mock draft, which is based on the idea of the Lions passing on quarterback Matthew Stafford at No. 1, is on the money, there will be some very interesting players headed to the AFC West. Here's a look:
3. Kansas City: Aaron Curry, linebacker, Wake Forest: This is the player most often connected to Kansas City. The Chiefs have serious defensive needs and Curry is considered the best defensive player available. If Stafford isn't the top pick to the Lions, though, Curry could be, so the Chiefs would have to reconsider their options, possibly starting with trading out of the No. 3 pick.
7. Oakland: B.J. Raji, defensive tackle, Boston College: This is fascinating. The Raiders most need tackles and receivers. In this scenario, tackles Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe and receiver Michael Crabtree would be off the board. Oakland could take Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin, but McShay has the team taking Raji. This wouldn't be a bad pick. Raji is very talented and the Raiders could use the help in the middle of their defensive line. Still, it would be somewhat surprising to see Oakland bypass Maclin.
12. Denver: Tyson Jackson, defensive end, LSU: Many mock drafts have Jackson being Denver's pick, so the Stafford scenario doesn't change much. Jackson is being linked to Denver because he is a 3-4 player. The Broncos are adopting the defensive scheme and could use a defensive end.
16. San Diego: Jeremy Maclin, wide receiver, Missouri: This is the most eye-popping pick of McShay's AFC West selections. The Chargers really don't need a receiver. But Maclin would be an incredible value at No. 16. Again, he could easily go to Oakland at No. 7. Maclin is a sure top-10 talent. The Chargers have bigger needs on defense. Southern California linebackers Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga (who are both available on McShay's board) could make impacts as rookies. But Maclin could make San Diego's offense one of the most multidimensional and dangerous in the league. It would be difficult to argue against this pick.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
DANA POINT, Calif. -- The Raider Nation came through big time for this week's "sound off" question.
The question was should the Raiders take a receiver or a tackle with the No. 7 pick in the April draft. I received hundreds of responses and there were terrific points made in both cases. If the Raiders' brass reads these responses I'm sure it will be unsettled as ever because such fine points were made for both sides.
Here we go:
Chris from San Diego: When it comes to my raiders #7 pick in the draft, I think they should go with a tackle! I dont care how good the receiver is, you cant get the ball to him without having time to throw it to him! We had one of the best receivers in football with randy moss and look where that got us. Higgins is a good player and I think Schilens will get better. If Russel has the time to throw...you can make those guys look like true receivers. Crabtree is a stud but we need to address the line, and im hoping we can get Jason or Andre Smith. Love ur stuff Bill!....RAIDERS WILL BE BACK!!!!!!!!
Gabriel M: With the 7th pick in the draft the raiders should get. Michael C, Tom Cable made the raiders horried line of 07 into one of the better run blocking linesof 08.
Joe from Oakland: They need a #1 receiver NOW! With the running game they have they need to keep defenses honest. If they have a true playmaker at receiver, play action will make this offense one to fear.
Jason Radar: With their first pick the Raiders should take a tackle. defensive tackle that is. The Raiders have addressed their offensive line with three key signings already. A capable if unspectacular starter in Barnes, another tackle with starting experience in Pears, and another instant starter at C with Satele. While WR is a sexy pick, the Raiders have had an atrocious run defense for 6 years now. The Raiders desperately need help along the defensive line in general and DT/NT in particular. A quality WR can be had in round 2. So the Raiders definitely need to go with a DT if Raji is still there. If not, then it's time to look at WR or see if anyone is interested in moving up for a QB.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The Kansas City Chiefs may have a draft issue brewing.
|Mark Goldman/Icon SMI|
|With Aaron Curry's stock going through the roof, the Chiefs may have to explore other options at No. 3.|
Aaron Curry may be getting too hot. The Wake Forest linebacker is shooting up NFL draft boards so fast, he may be gone by the time the Chiefs pick at No. 3. Many mock drafts have the Chiefs pegging Curry. And it makes perfect sense.
He is considered the best defensive prospect available in an offense-heavy top of the draft and the Chiefs' primary needs are on defense. Curry would be an instant starter at linebacker and he would help the Chiefs in both passing and running defense immediately.
Still, will the Chiefs get a chance to draft him? This story suggests Detroit could take Curry with the No. 1 overall pick. If that happens, what should the Chiefs do?
They do have other needs, but defense is their biggest need area and no defensive player other than Curry is clearly worth the No. 3 pick. If Curry is off the board when Kansas City picks at No. 3 on April 25, here are some other options:
Take an offensive lineman: There are several solid tackles available. The Chiefs drafted Branden Albert with the No. 15 pick last season. He could move from left tackle to right if the right player is brought in. Kansas City could be tempted to take a tackle and have two bookend offensive line anchors for the next 10-12 years. Tackles that could interest Kansas City could include Baylor's Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe.
Take Michael Crabtree: He could be tempting, too. Crabtree would make a nice pair with Dwayne Bowe and give quarterback Matt Cassel two legitimate stud receivers to work with.
Trade the pick: This leads us to perhaps Kansas City's most intriguing option if Curry is off the board at No. 3. The Chiefs could possibly take advantage of a team with a top-10 pick that wants to move up. That way, Kansas City could get one of the top defensive players on the board without overpaying for him and getting more draft picks in exchange. The Chiefs don't have a second-round pick because they traded it to New England for Cassel and Mike Vrabel. So Kansas City could be excited by this option.
The draft ebb and flow will likely change dramatically in the next six-plus weeks but right now the possibility of Curry being off the board when Kansas City picks is very real.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
With the NFL combine going on for the next several days in Indianapolis, here is a look at the key goals of each team in the AFC West. Free agency (which begins Feb. 27) and the draft (April 25-26) are looming.
The Broncos cut five defensive starters earlier this week and carved several million dollars in salary-cap room, so the team is at the combine in full reload mode.
The combine is supposed to be about the draft, but it is just as much about free agency. With free agency a week away, many teams spend the time in Indianapolis finalizing their game plans for free agency. That's what Denver surely is doing.
The Broncos need five or six defensive starters and they need help at every layer of their defense. The list could include nose tackle Grady Jackson and cornerback Ronald Bartell. The draft is also of major importance to Denver, so its scouting department will be keeping a keen eye on what's happening on the field in Indianapolis.
The Broncos have the No. 12 overall pick and nine draft picks total. Like in free agency, expect defense to be the focus. Players Denver will study the most are Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji and USC middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. Denver would likely be thrilled to draft either player.
Kansas City has the No. 3 pick and what it does with it will help define the early portion of the Scott Pioli and Todd Haley era.
Expect the Chiefs to seriously eye quarterbacks. The Chiefs may not take one because of the presence of Tyler Thigpen, who's a capable player, and their huge need for impact players on defense. But the Chiefs may be romanced by the memory of what last year's No. 3 pick, quarterback Matt Ryan, did for Atlanta.
The Chiefs will no doubt spend a lot of time with Georgia's Matt Stafford and USC's Mark Sanchez, the top quarterback prospects. There is also the idea of trading for New England's Matt Cassel, who obviously has a history with Pioli.
Also expect the Chiefs to spend a lot of time with Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry this week. He could be the best defensive player available.
Other burning issues for Kansas City in Indianapolis include the likelihood of the Chiefs talking to teams about trading for Johnson. Because of his price tag and off-field baggage, Johnson may difficult to move. He may end up getting cut.
The Raiders' job is fairly simple. They must pick up an impact offensive player with the No. 7 pick. Because there are about eight can't-miss offensive players, Oakland, which has failed often this decade with its first choices, has a chance to get a quality player who can make an instant impact on offense.
The Raiders will likely choose between a receiver and an offensive tackle with the No. 7 pick. The top choices at receiver are Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree and Missouri's Jeremy Maclin. Seattle may take Crabtree at No. 4; otherwise, Oakland might be able to choose between the two receivers.
Still, Oakland needs a dominant left tackle nearly as much as it needs a game-breaking receiver. The top tackles available are Alabama's Andre Smith, Baylor's Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe. One of these three tackles, at least, should be available. So, the Raiders should be able to pick between at least two of five players who could instantly help them. This week's work will help Oakland decipher what it wants to do in the draft.
The Chargers are going to have an interesting weekend as they try to resolve the LaDainian Tomlinson situation and prepare for the future.
The team is expected to have serious talks with Tomlinson's agent. The two sides are expected to try to hash out a restructured contract that will keep Tomlinson in San Diego. If a new deal can't be reworked by Thursday night, Tomlinson will be released. But both sides want to avoid that sad scenario.
A new deal may be tricky but not impossible. The in-person talks in Indianapolis could have the team and Tomlinson come to a resolution. Also, it wouldn't be a shock if the Chargers continue talks about a long-term deal with quarterback Philip Rivers while at the combine.
As far as draft business this weekend, the Chargers, who have the No. 16 overall pick, have plenty of options. If Tomlinson returns, the team will likely not pursue a running back such as Georgia's Knowshon Moreno or Ohio State's Chris Wells.
The Chargers will likely focus on linebackers this weekend, including Maualuga and his USC teammate, Brian Cushing, and Ohio State's James Laurinaitis.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
This is the second in a series looking at the potential draft direction of the teams in the AFC West.
Needs: Wide receiver, offensive line, defensive tackle, safety.
Possible first-round picks
Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia: The Raiders greatly need an anchor on the offensive line. There are decent skill-position players on Oakland's roster, but the team needs some protection. Monroe has the look of a solid option. Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith could also be an option.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech: It wouldn't be a surprise if the Red Raiders star ends up in Oakland. He's the premier receiver available and the Raiders yearn for a receiver. Plus, Oakland owner Al Davis loves skill-position players. If Crabtree is still on the board, Oakland will have a difficult time bypassing him. But Oakland needs to get some help on the offensive line at some point.
Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma: The Raiders needs some life in the middle of their defensive line. McCoy, if he decides to go pro, has great potential.
Wild card: If Oakland pursues a veteran receiver in free agency or through a trade, the team will likely look at offensive tackles in the first round.