AFC West: Mark Barron

AFC West draft analysis

April, 28, 2012
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NFC draft analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


The biggest offseason move in the AFC West in years was the Broncos’ signing of superstar quarterback Peyton Manning in March.

It instantly changed the landscape of the AFC West and it likely will continue to do so for the next three years or so. During the draft, Manning’s impact was felt in the division when several of the premium picks by the Broncos’ rivals were defensive players.

The first player taken in the division was athletic defensive tackle Dontari Poe. The Memphis product was taken No. 11 by the Chiefs. San Diego used its first three picks on defensive players, all of whom have a chance to make an instant impact.

Let’s look at the highlights of the AFC West draft:

BEST MOVE

The first two days of the San Diego Chargers’ draft.

No one in the division scored like the Chargers did. Following up a strong free-agency class, Chargers GM A.J. Smith deserves a lot of credit for this draft. The Chargers badly needed impact players on defense and they got them.

San Diego made one of the top value picks of the draft when it watched South Carolina pass-rusher Melvin Ingram fall to them. He was supposed to be a top-10 pick. San Diego considered moving up to take Alabama safety Mark Barron but he went at No. 7. Instead, the Chargers stayed at home and watched an equally talented player fall to them. Ingram fills the Chargers’ biggest need and he should be an instant contributor.

The Chargers scored again by getting great value in the second and third rounds. San Diego watched Connecticut defensive lineman Kendall Reyes fall to them at No. 49. With LSU safety Brandon Taylor still on the board (San Diego considered him at No. 49), the Chargers moved up and took him at No 73. There is no way the Chargers could have scripted the first three rounds any better.

The 2012 Chargers got better in this draft.

RISKIEST MOVE

Arguably, there wasn't a riskier move in this draft than the Kansas City Chiefs’ choice of Poe at No. 11.

The nose tackle from Memphis was one of the most talked about players in the draft. After his stunning performance at the NFL combine, Poe was considered a potential top-five player. However, after teams dissected his game film, they discovered Poe didn’t consistently make plays against marginal competition.

By the time the draft rolled around, it seemed as though Poe could fall into the 20s. But the Chiefs took him because of his ability and the fact he fills their greatest need. Poe was the best talent at No. 11 and the fact he filled a major need makes this a logical pick.

But if Poe doesn't develop, the Chiefs will get heat for not following the general consensus. The team has failed to hit a home run with recent picks on the defensive line, so the Chiefs have to make this work. Kansas City thinks Poe will excel under coach Romeo Crennel because he will concentrate on one position as opposed to having to play several spots as he did in college. If the Chiefs are right, this will be a big score. If not, they’ll be forever reminded of it.

MOST SURPRISING MOVE

[+] EnlargeBrock Osweiler
Matt Kartozian/US PresswireThe Broncos decided to waste no time in finding Peyton Manning's heir apparent, selecting Brock Osweiler in the second round.
I don’t think it was shocking that the Denver Broncos picked a quarterback or that the quarterback ended up being Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler.

But I think it was a surprise Denver took him at No. 57. That’s a high spot for a player who probably won’t start until 2015, at the earliest.

The Broncos have other needs and they have Manning. Yet, Osweiler was a target. It shows how much Denver executive VP John Elway values the position and how much he liked Osweiler. He could have waited a couple of years to peg Manning’s successor, but he did it before Manning has even thrown a pass in Denver.

FILE IT AWAY

This draft will be remembered as a success for all four teams in the division. I was impressed with how each team approached the draft and the patience each team showed.

I think the Chargers got as many impact players for the immediate future as any team in the league. I like Denver’s creativity. It traded out of the first round and still got some quality players such as defensive linemen Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson and running back Ronnie Hillman.

The Chiefs quietly had a strong draft and middle-rounders such as receiver Devon Wylie, defensive back De'quan Menzie and running back Cyrus Gray will add depth to this team.

New Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie didn’t have many picks to work with -- his first was No. 95. But it is easy to tell there is draft-room stability with the post-Al Davis Raiders.

McKenzie played his board well and didn’t make any puzzling picks based on measurables as the late Davis was known to do. Oakland’s draft will not make many headlines, but McKenzie may have tabbed future starters in tackle Tony Bergstrom, linebacker Miles Burris and receiver Juron Criner.
The Kansas City Chiefs were interested in Alabama safety Mark Barron, who went four picks before they made their choice in the first round.

In the end, though, the Chiefs may have still gotten a safety from Alabama. The Chiefs took DeQuan Menzie in the fifth round.

He played cornerback at Alabama and did a nice job. But he doesn’t have great speed and may project to safety. He is a smart player who knows how to make plays. I think this could be a player to watch develop in the next couple of years and it is another SEC pickup by Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli, who craves players from that conference.

In other AFC West news:
  • The Raiders picked up an extra seventh-round pick when they traded a fifth-round pick (148th overall) to Detroit for the 158th and 230th overall picks. The Lions took small-school cornerback Chris Greenwood at No. 148. Oakland was studying him. Yet, it seems the Raiders want another late pick to add to the bottom of the roster.
  • For all new season tickets purchased and paid for in full from May 1 to June 30, the Raiders will donate ten percent of the gross ticket purchase price to the Oakland Unified School District.
  • At No. 158, the Raiders drafted Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford. He projects to be a rotational pass-rusher. He fits into both the 4-3 and 3-4 so he will fit the Raiders’ versatile group of front seven players.

Chargers score big with Ingram

April, 26, 2012
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In my opinion, the San Diego Chargers just made the best pick of the draft since the two top quarterbacks went 1-2.

Ingram
Ingram
And I’m not alone.

When the Chargers took South Carolina pass-rusher Melvin Ingram at No. 18, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper called it the best value pick of the draft.

Ingram is a top-10 player who becomes the impact defensive player the Chargers have craved. I believe he becomes an instant impact as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He is versatile and can play on the defensive line. He has been compared to James Harrison, and I think he will be a tremendous NFL player. Ingram might have fallen because teams didn’t know where to play him.

San Diego will put him on the field and watch him become one of its best players.

There is no way he should have fallen. The fact that Seattle took Bruce Irvin at No. 15 and bypassed a stellar player such as Ingram is a joke and a gift to San Diego.

Kudos to San Diego general manager A.J. Smith for staying patient and letting the board fall to him. There were reports the Chargers could try to trade up for Alabama safety Mark Barron. To me, Ingram is just as much of an impact player, who fills San Diego’s greatest need as a pass-rusher.

Folks, the three other AFC West teams will be hard-pressed to have a better draft because of this one pick alone.
Todd McShay has offered his final mock draft, in an Insider piece, Insider and he has some extremely interesting choices for the three AFC West teams that are picking in the first round.

McShay has the Chiefs taking Alabama safety Mark Barron. There has been increased talk in the past couple of days that the Chiefs are on Barron. It makes sense. Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli loves players from the SEC. A Barron-Eric Berry combination would be potentially out of this world.

Barron has become one of the hottest names in the draft, and there have been reports the Chargers could try to trade up from No. 18 to get him. Perhaps they will have to leapfrog a rival to get Barron.

McShay has the Chargers doing just fine for themselves. He has South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram dropping to No. 18. Folks, if that happens, you will hear roars of excitement from the Chargers’ war room. He’d be the impact 3-4 pass-rusher the Chargers have been craving.

McShay completes his AFC West blockbuster first round with Denver taking Boise State running back Doug Martin. I know the Broncos like Martin, and with the top defensive tackles off the board, maybe this is where the Broncos will be headed, although they might be able to trade down and still get Martin.

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.

Are the Chiefs trading down?

April, 26, 2012
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There has been some chatter Kansas City could put the No. 11 pick up for sale. With New England potentially interested in Alabama safety Mark Barron and Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, perhaps former colleagues Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick could come to an accord. However, the Chiefs like both of those players as well.

Still, getting the No. 27 and No. 31 picks from the Patriots could perhaps appeal to Pioli. In that case, the Chiefs would have three picks in the first 44.

Meanwhile, NFL.com refuted a report that said Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe may sign his franchise tender prior to the draft because he is worried that the Chiefs will draft a receiver early (Michael Floyd, anyone?) and strip his franchise tag, making him an unrestricted free agent in a market with little free-agency money. The NFL.com report says Bowe is still hopeful of getting a long-term deal by July 15.

I still say the franchise-tag dilemma is overblown. Whether he signs an extension or not, Bowe will be a Chief this season. Is he really going to let more than $9 million in 2012 salary sit on the table? Of course not.

Meanwhile, with the NFL considering suspending the Pro Bowl, many readers have emailed me, saying the league should consider a skills competition and have something similar to the NBA All-Star weekend. I agree, and I know that some in the league have considered that. I think the key is staying in Hawaii. Players love it and would lose interest if Hawaii is taken completely out of the mix.
The Buffalo Bills, owners of the 10th pick in Thursday's first round of the NFL draft, are reportedly high on Alabama safety Mark Barron. There has been rampant talk that the Chargers would like to trade up to get Barron.

San Diego has the No. 18 pick. It previously appeared that the Chargers would have to get to the No. 12 range to get Barron; perhaps they will have to climb higher. If the Chargers want to jump ahead of Buffalo to grab Barron, they might have to part with that No. 18 pick, the No. 49 pick and a late-rounder.

We might soon see exactly how much the Chargers covet Barron.

In other AFC West news:

NFL Network reported that the Giants could potentially part with pass-rusher Osi Umenyiora for a third-round pick this week. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but if I think the Chargers should consider it.

Oakland’s first pick in the draft is No. 95. The last team to have its first pick past that selection is Cleveland in 2008. Its first pick was No. 104.

Kansas City tight end Tony Moeaki reiterated Tuesday that he expects to be back for training camp. He suffered a torn ACL last September.
A lot has been made of Archie Manning saying he thinks Peyton Manning is taking his career “year to year.”

In my opinion, way too much has been made by it. I think it would be wrong to translate Archie Manning’s words as saying his son is going to retire at the end of the 2012 season. Basically, Archie Manning was saying there are no guarantees and you have to take it one season at a time. That’s fair.

The Broncos expect Manning, 36, to be their quarterback for at least three more seasons, and they’d love for him to play for the life of his five-year contract. And let’s be real: Manning is not working so hard to come back from a neck injury to play just one more season. He wants to stick around a while.

In other AFC West news:
  • ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the Broncos are no longer expected to deal for Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel. Denver tired to work out a new deal with Samuel last week, but was unable to do so.
  • Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith wants to play with San Diego safety Eric Weddle. The Chargers wouldn’t mind accommodating him. The Chargers are looking for a safety. They could trade up to get Alabama’s Mark Barron or trade down for Smith.
  • New Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie is looking for students of the game. That is likely one of the reasons Oakland visited with so many draft prospects.
  • Oakland middle linebacker Rolando McClain reportedly underwent experimental stem cell therapy on his knee and an ankle. He has been dealing with pain in the leg.
  • The Broncos’ brass had a nice moment with newly retired Brian Dawkins.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Monday that the Chargers are trying to trade up to take Alabama safety Mark Barron.

For what it’s worth, I heard the rumblings a couple of times, too. Barron looks likely to go in the 12-to-16 range in the first round, meaning that there isn’t much of a chance he will be around when the Chargers draft at No. 18. A trade up could cost a third-round pick and the No. 18 pick or a similar package.

If Barron is the apple of Chargers general manager A.J. Smith’s eye, a trade is likely necessary. We all know Smith is not scared to move up. He’s done it before and I can see him doing it again.

In other AFC West news:

NFL.com reported that the Broncos could still trade for Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel. The Broncos reportedly tried to get Samuels last week, but talks with Samuel about a new deal stalled; perhaps they will reignite. The price for Samuels is expected to be a late-round pick.

The NFL boosted the number of roster spots for the beginning of training camp from 80 to 90. That means each team will probably sign more undrafted free agents. The in-season 53-man roster remains.

Jacksonville cut safety Darcel McBath. He was cut by Denver last year being a second-round pick in 2009. Josh McDaniels’ first draft in Denver was a disaster.

Will the Chiefs draft a receiver with Dwayne Bowe's future unsettled?

The Chargers began their offseason program Monday.

The Raiders had a solid turnout at a voluntary minicamp. These are considered voluntary, but teams highly encourage players to attend, so attendance is usually pretty strong.
The Kansas City Chiefs are in an interesting draft position with the No. 11 pick. They may not be in a perfect spot for their needs and that’s why I could see them moving out of the slot once the draft starts.

This week, Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli said he was completely open to this approach in the first round.

“We may pick, we may trade up if something is getting close to us that we can get and someone is trying to bail out at a ridiculous price that we can’t pass up and there’s a player that really is the apple of our eye, or move back if someone comes to us with something,” Pioli said in a pre-draft news conference. “I think it might be a little bit interesting this year while we’re sitting there as to what we want to do.”

I think there may be a limited group of players Kansas City would trade up for. I could see them moving up to the No. 7 range for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but I’m not convinced Kansas City would go up to the No. 3-4 range for the quarterback.

I’m not so sure there are any other prospects the Chiefs will make a big reach to get.

If the Chiefs stay at No. 11, they will focus on Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly or Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe. Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox has been rising up draft boards and he could possibly be on the Chiefs’ radar at No. 11. Cox was a better college performer than Poe. Pioli values game-film production.

Bailing out and sliding down five to 10 spots and picking up another quality pick is also feasible option. By dropping down, Kansas City would eye Stanford guard David DeCastro (he could be available in the No. 14-16 range) or even Alabama safety Mark Barron (he could also be available in the same spot) to pair with Eric Berry.

The Chiefs have a lot of options and I think they will be one of the most interesting teams to watch in the first half of the first round.
The San Diego Chargers have the No. 18 pick in the first round of next month’s draft.

The Chargers have had a pretty good offseason so far, but they could use an impact player in the draft. Will they be able to secure one at No. 18? It’s questionable. That’s why I think the Chargers could opt to trade up in the draft to find a player. Here are some players who both fit the Chargers’ needs and who I think could be worth trading up for

Memphis DT Dontari Poe

How far up would the Chargers have to go up? The 9-10-pick range

Would it be worth it? It would be fairly costly. The Chargers have some interesting pieces on the defensive front, but Poe has a chance to be special. Poe and 2011 No. 1 pick Corey Liuget would make a fearsome pair for years to come and could change the defense.

Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

How far up would the Chargers have to go up? 12-14-pick range

Would it be worth it? I think Ingram is a perfect fit for the Chargers. He would solve a lot of problems and I think he is a fairly safe pick. It wouldn’t cost too much to get him.

Mark Barron, S, Alabama

How far up would the Chargers have to go up? 14-16 range

Would it be worth it? Only if the Chargers think he is a difference maker and they don’t think he will be available at No. 18.

Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

How far up would the Chargers have to go up? 14-16 range

Would it be worth it? The Chargers have closely scouted him. If the Chargers think the difference between Upshaw and Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus -- the next best pass-rusher on the draft -- is substantial, then it would be worth moving up a few spots to take Upshaw.
The Broncos’ first foray into free agency wasn’t the big hit they were waiting for, but it does fill a hole in Denver.

The Broncos agreed to a two-year deal with Cleveland safety Mike Adams, who fills Denver’s need for a veteran safety.

Adams has a chance to start for Denver. He played 77 percent of the defensive snaps for the Browns last season. With Brian Dawkins likely not returning -- Denver isn't expected to bring him back if he doesn’t retire -- Adams gives the Broncos much-needed experience at safety.

The team drafted Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter last season. Moore began the season as a starter, but he regressed. By the end of the season, Carter was by far the better player. The team still has hopes for Moore, but Adams offers insurance if either youngster struggles.

In other AFC West safety news:

Steve Gregory, formerly of San Diego, agreed to terms with New England. Gregory was an injury replacement for Bob Sanders last year. Gregory is probably a bit underrated, and his departure will have the Chargers looking for a partner for Eric Weddle early in the upcoming NFL draft.

Alabama’s Mark Barron and Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith are possibilities for the Chargers in the draft.

AFC West combine primer

February, 23, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Let’s take a look at what AFC West each team may be seeking during the NFL combine, which starts Thursday:

Will the Raiders still love speed? It became a combine ritual. The Raiders would draft the fastest, or one of the fastest players, at the combine. It happened several times in recent years: Stanford Routt, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford and DeMarcus Van Dyke. No team in the NFL valued speed more than Al Davis’ Raiders. Davis died in October. Will the Raiders be married to speed now that Reggie McKenzie is the general manager? I’m sure the Raiders will stick to Davis’ values somewhat, but I think it will no longer be automatic to connect the fastest combine runners to the Raiders.

Will the Chargers get their pass-rusher? The Chargers took defensive end Corey Liuget at No. 18 last year and bypassed several pass-rushers in a deep class. This year’s class is not nearly as deep, but the Chargers still need a pass-rusher. Once again, San Diego has the No. 18 pick.

[+] EnlargeMark Barron
Randy Litzinger/Icon SMISafety Mark Barron is one of several Alabama defenders that AFC West teams may take a look at.
Will the Alabama defense roll into the AFC West? Alabama won the BCS championship last season on the strength of a dominant defense. There are several key Alabama defenders who will go early in the draft, starting with linebackers Courtney Upshaw, safety Mark Barron and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. I could see all three players drawing interest in the AFC West. I think San Diego would jump on Upshaw if he somehow fell to No. 18, and it could take Barron if it doesn’t address safety in free agency. If Kirkpatrick drops, Denver could take him at No. 25.

Will the Broncos look at quarterbacks? Yes, I believe they will, but it remains to be seen whether Denver makes a play for a quarterback in the early rounds. Denver looked at all the top quarterbacks last year, and I think John Elway and his group will do the same this year. In his last mock draft, Todd McShay of Scouts Inc. has Denver taking Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill at No. 25. I’m not sure Denver -- which has committed to Tim Tebow going to training camp as the No. 1 quarterback -- will take a quarterback that high, but there will be interest in the position.

Is Trent Richardson on the Chiefs’ radar? The Alabama star running back won’t compete at the combine because of a minor knee surgery. However, he will be able to run at his pro day next month. Still, perhaps the Chiefs will meet with Richardson. He has been connected to Kansas City in several mock drafts. I’d be surprised if Kansas City ended up with him because of other needs and because the Chiefs have running back Jamaal Charles coming back from a torn ACL. But it is an intriguing scenario.

Chiefs, Chargers looking at the O-line: Both Kansas City and San Diego could use their top pick on an offensive lineman. There are several players who could help their standing with a strong combine. I think Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin will be closely watched by both teams. San Diego could also look at Wisconsin’s Peter Konz if it doesn’t want to re-sign free agent Nick Hardwick.

Watch out for Luke Kuechly: The Boston College inside linebacker has a chance to be a hot name in the top half of the first round if he has a big combine. He was productive in college and his game translates well to the NFL. Kansas City will surely be interested in him and could have competition if Kuechly lights it up in Indy.

Broncos will be watching running backs: The Broncos probably will add a running back early in the draft or in free agency. Denver could use its top pick on the position. It will be closely watching Miami’s Lamar Miller, Washington’s Chris Polk, Virginia Tech’s David Wilson and Boise State’s Doug Martin, among other tailbacks, this week

Is this the time for a tight end in San Diego? I expect the Chargers to look at tight ends this week. This isn’t considered a great class, but the Chargers need to consider getting younger at the position. Antonio Gates will turn 32 in June and has been dealing with injuries the past few years. The Chargers probably would have to commit a second-round pick for the top tight ends, which include Stanford’s Coby Fleener, Clemson’s Dwayne Allen (though, they could both be late first-round choices) and Georgia’s Orson Charles.

Nick Foles needs to show Denver some accuracy: There was talk that the Arizona quarterback could be on Denver’s radar last season. But he had some trouble with interceptions, which may have cooled the team on him. If he can show better accuracy at the combine. Foles could be a mid-round target of the Broncos again.

The Raiders need to pay big attention: The Raiders currently have the smallest draft class in the NFL this season. They have just a fifth- and a sixth-round pick. They will, though, probably get two or three compensatory picks next month. The earliest will be at the end of the third round. But don’t think for a moment that the combine won’t matter to Oakland. The Raiders will have to dig deep and find great value in the mid-to-late rounds to get some something positive from this class. Closely scouting the combine will be essential.

Is Brandon Weeden too old? The Oklahoma State quarterback is one of the more interesting players in the draft. He has skills that translate to the NFL, and some people think he could be a future starter. But Weeden turns 29 in October. There really isn’t much time to groom him. Is it worth spending a premium pick on a player who could be over the hill in five years? I think both Denver and Kansas City could look at him, but they would have to be comfortable with his age.

Will the coin flip the Chiefs’ way? The Chiefs will have a coin flip with Seattle to determine the No. 11 and No. 12 picks in the draft. It is set to take place Friday. If the Chiefs lose and get the No. 12 pick, it will not be the end of the world, but there’s no denying there is more value in having the No. 11 pick.

Will Mercilus impress the Chargers? One player to keep an eye on for the Chargers is Illinois pass-rusher Whitney Mercilus. He came on strong in 2011, but there are consistency questions. If he answers all the right questions on and off the field this week, I could see his being a target at No. 18.

Will Chiefs look at suspect character players? Kansas City has a reputation for taking players with sterling off-field reputations. However, last year, genearl manager Scott Pioli took Pitt receiver Jon Baldwin in the first round and Georgia pass-rusher Justin Houston in the third round. Both had character questions. Baldwin ended up missing a chunk of his rookie season because of a reported training camp fight with veteran Thomas Jones. It hurt his development. However, Houston was outstanding as a rookie. Let’s see whether Pioli takes more risks this year.

Will Broncos add players to aid Tebow? If Denver takes a running back early, adds to the offensive line and beefs up the defense, that means it is doing what it can to build around Tebow. The best way Denver can win with Tebow is with a good running game and strong defense.

Will the Broncos finally draft a defensive tackle in the first round? Denver could take a defensive tackle at No. 25. Among the players it may consider are Penn State’s Devon Still, Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox and Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy. Denver hasn’t taken a defensive tackle in the first round since Trevor Pryce in 1997.

Will Arizona State linebacker impress the Chiefs or Chargers? Arizona State’s middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict was considered a top-10 pick before the season. But after his production fell off and he had some character issues, Burfict is no longer considered a sure first rounder. I think he could help both the Chiefs and Chargers. His progress this week will be watched by these two teams.

Early draft look: Chargers

December, 26, 2011
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Now that the San Diego Chargers have been eliminated from playoff contention, it’s time to look ahead. Let’s take an early look at the Chargers’ draft needs:

Likely drafting range: 15-20

Top draft needs: Linebacker, tackle, safety, guard, tight end, cornerback.

Possible first-round picks: Alabama safety Mark Barron, Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw, Stanford guard David DeCastro.

Intangibles: The offensive line could become a major priority, even over pressing needs on defense. There is a chance guard Kris Dielman (concussion) and left tackle Marcus McNeill (neck) may not return. Also, standout center Nick Hardwick is a free agent. Star receiver Vincent Jackson is a free agent. If he isn’t given a new deal or if he is not given the franchise tag, receiver could be on the early-round radar. Also, there is a chance the team’s drafting philosophy could change if general manager A.J. Smith is fired.

Breaking down McShay's mock draft

December, 21, 2011
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ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay is talking an early stab, in an Insider piece, at projecting the first round of the April draft. McShay will update several mock drafts between now and the draft based on movement of teams and performances of prospects in bowl games and in the offseason process. The current draft order is based on projections. The exact order will be determined after the season.

Let’s take a look at McShay’s thoughts on where the AFC West teams may be headed:

12. Kansas City: Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin

My take: I like this pick a lot. I think Martin may end up being a top-eight pick. The Chiefs will likely look at improving the offensive and defensive lines. Taking Martin would be a smart move. He has a chance to be a longtime anchor.

15. San Diego: Alabama safety Mark Barron

My take: The Chargers will likely look at the offensive line and for pass-rushers, but if Barron makes the most sense, it would be a good pick. He is a top prospect and we’ve seen what the addition of top-flight safeties can do for a defense.

23. Denver: Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still

My take: The Broncos would probably like to add a running back, but getting a top-level defensive tackle would not be a bad move at all. The Broncos have been looking for a difference-maker at this spot for years.

Oakland does not have a first-round pick as part of the Carson Palmer trade with Cincinnati. McShay projects the Bengals will pick No. 19.

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