AFC West: Louis Nix III

Totally spit-balling here, like just about every other draft prognosticater out there, but if the Dallas Cowboys are as hot and heavy for Johnny Manziel as Twitter would have you believe, the Oakland Raiders might be sitting in prime position.

So long as two scenarios play out.

Manziel
The first, obviously, is that Manziel is still on the board when it comes time for the Raiders’ choice at No. 5 overall.

The second, is that both Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins are already gone, because if either of those guys are still available, that has to be Oakland’s pick, at least, in this corner.

In that combined development, though, the Raiders could reach out to Jerry Jones and offer up that No. 5 selection for a boatload of picks. Using the Trade Value Chart, the No. 5 pick is worth 1,700 points. The No. 16 pick, which is where the Cowboys currently sit, is worth 1,000 points.

So, for the swap to work, the Cowboys would have to come up with 700 more points in draft picks, or a player. Dallas’ second-rounder this year (No. 47 overall) is worth 430 points and its third-rounder (No. 78) is worth 200 points, while its fourth-rounder (No. 119) is worth 56 points. That gives the Raiders two seconds, two thirds and two fourths, but still nothing in the fifth or sixth rounds to go with three seventh-rounders. It also still leaves the Cowboys needing 14 points to make up the difference.

Of course, the Trade Value Chart is more of a guideline for teams than a hard fast rule, and the Cowboys would have to stomach gutting the middle of their draft, though they could conceivably involve future picks in such a deal.

Plus, from the Raiders’ perspective, going from No. 5 to No. 16 is a pretty big drop (last year, they went from No. 3 to No. 12). Because as has been mentioned in this corner, Oakland needs an impact player with its first pick, rather than a developmental one like in general manager Reggie McKenzie’s first two seasons in Tony Bergstrom and D.J. Hayden.

So who could potentially be there at No. 16? Think UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr, or Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, or Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III, or USC receiver Marqise Lee, or even Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.

Or should the Raiders simply stay put at No. 5 and take the best player available?
Like most other NFL organizations, the San Diego Chargers are a team that builds and maintains its roster through the draft. General manager Tom Telesco doesn’t necessarily put any more value on securing impact players through the draft, versus trade or free agency.

But annually selecting rookies that can make an impact on a team’s roster is important, particularly when you consider the player will be under the team’s control for at least four years, likely at an inexpensive salary.

So getting detailed medical evaluations and vetting players through the intense interviewing process are the most important things for teams this week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Of the 53 players that finished the season on San Diego’s roster, 23 were secured through the draft, compared to 27 free agents, two through trades, and one claimed off waivers.

The Chargers have seven original picks in this year’s draft, one in each round beginning with the No. 25 overall pick. So they will be paying close attention to the more than 330 players invited to this year’s combine.

Along with evaluating draft prospects, Telesco will have an opportunity to meet with middle linebacker Donald Butler's representation as the Chargers try to get him signed to a multi-year deal before he hits free agency next month.

Here are five things to keep an eye on regarding the Chargers.

1. Physical cornerbacks who can turn and run: A major area of need for San Diego is improving the overall talent and depth at cornerback. Last year’s top free agent signee Derek Cox likely will not be back after being supplanted in the starting lineup by Richard Marshall. San Diego’s 2013 fifth-round selection Steve Williams could work into the conversation at corner in 2014. The Cal product sat out his rookie year after suffering a torn pectoral muscle during preseason play. But the Chargers need to add a couple physical corners who can cover -- through the draft, free agency or trade. Some names to keep an eye on include Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Ohio State’s Bradley Roby and Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy. Those players stand out to me because of their length, athleticism and playmaking ability.

2. Edge rushers needed: The Chargers have several veterans at this position, but you can never have enough athletes who can rush the passer. And San Diego struggled at creating consistent pressure, particularly on third down. Three guys potentially available on Day 1 of the draft who could make an impact include Missouri’s Kony Ealy, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, and Auburn’s Dee Ford.

3. A run-stuffing defensive tackle: San Diego gave up an average of 4.59 yards per carry on defense in 2013, No. 29 in the NFL. Cam Thomas started the most games at defensive tackle, but will be a free agent in March. Sean Lissemore finished as the team’s starter at the end of the season, but needs to add some bulk to effectively fill this position. San Diego could certainly use a two-gap defensive tackle to control the middle of the defense, similar to Dontari Poe in Kansas City. Potential candidates in the draft include Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III, Minnesota’s Ra'Shede Hageman, and Penn State’s Daquan Jones.

4. Improved interior offensive line depth: With center Nick Hardwick contemplating retirement and veteran guard Jeromey Clary a potential salary-cap causality, the Chargers need to add some depth to the interior of the offensive line. Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson and Stanford’s David Yankey are the top rated guards in this year’s draft. And USC’s Marcus Martin could be the long-term answer for a team at center.

5. Add a couple explosive playmakers: San Diego could use some help in the return game. Keenan Allen should not be the team’s main punt returner. He’s too valuable on offense. And the Chargers could use someone with some juice in the kick return game. Washington’s Bishop Sankey, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, and Oregon’s De'Anthony Thomas makes some sense because of their ability to create explosive plays on offense and in the return game. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers needs a few more weapons on offense to make his job easier, and all three of these players would fit the bill.

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