AFC West: Matt Barkley

Raiders to miss Vick this week?

October, 28, 2013
The Oakland Raiders will most likely not face Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on Sunday at the Coliseum after Vick re-injured his left hamstring against the New York Giants.

"Mike didn’t seem like he was going to be ready this week," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Monday, according to Eagles reporter Phil Sheridan. "He felt like, the first time, that he was going to be back after the (Oct. 6) Giants game.

"This is the first time I’ve talked to him where he thought he may be out. We’ll see after we sit down and visit, after we get the final (MRI) results."

Vick, who originally injured the hamstring on Oct. 6, said he felt the hamstring "pop" when he went down this time.

If Vick is indeed out, the Raiders might face a quarterback they had their sites on in Matt Barkley. The Eagles traded in front of the Raiders at the start of the NFL draft’s fourth round this past April to select Barkley out of USC, which prompted Oakland to trade back and select Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, who was later cut by the Raiders and re-signed to the practice squad.

Barkley replaced Vick on Sunday and completed 17 of 26 passes for 158 yards and an interception. He was sacked three times and fumbled three times, losing one, in the 15-7 loss to the Giants. Regular backup Nick Foles was out with a concussion suffered the week before.

“I wish I knew a lot more than I do now," Kelly said of his quarterbacks. "I don’t have the final answer right now."

Foles, according to Sheridan, was taking his concussion protocol tests Monday.

The Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles will collide in high-speed fashion Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff.

The 3-0 Broncos feature the league's highest-scoring offense -- their 127 points are 31 more than any other team this season after three weeks -- and quarterback Peyton Manning has thrown for more touchdowns (12) than 29 teams have scored overall.

The Eagles, at 1-2, lead the league in rushing and yards per play (7.0), so this one could have the look of a drag race, think Mile-High Nationals, a summer staple for race fans on the Front Range.

Eagles team reporter Phil Sheridan and Broncos team reporter Jeff Legwold break down the game.

Legwold: Phil, you have been around the Eagles for a long time and have seen the organization go through many changes. Coach Chip Kelly's offense was certainly the talk of the offseason around the league, as most teams discussed wanting to join the fun, to go faster, to get more snaps, to stress defenses with speed. But given what the Broncos have done on offense this season, how fast does Kelly really want to go in Denver? Is there a risk of exposing his defense if he gives the Broncos too many possessions?

Sheridan: There is enormous risk, Jeff, but my sense of Kelly is that he'll want to put the pedal to the metal anyway. He's trying to build a culture, with an aggressive approach to every aspect of the sport. I don't see him easing up for one game, no matter the specific challenges. Besides, I think the Eagles' only chance is to try to match the Broncos score for score and take their chances with a close, high-scoring game. As the Eagles learned the hard way the past two weeks, their defense is not good enough to shut down an opponent at crunch time.

That leads me to this question: Doesn't Denver's up-tempo offense put stress on the Broncos defense? Oakland seemed to move the ball as the game wore on. Doesn't that suggest the Broncos will be vulnerable to Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and the rest of the Eagles offense?

Legwold: I think that is the risk overall with the move toward up-tempo offenses around the league. It's all well and good to be fast on offense, snapping the ball at light speed, but those 45-second possessions that end in a three-and-out are just about the worst thing for any defense that just got to the sideline. That's one of the most interesting items about the Eagles so far: They have had just one three-and-out that ended in a punt in 38 possessions.

The Broncos were aggressive against the Raiders defensively last week, and linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan did a quality job keeping Terrelle Pryor hemmed in. The Broncos are a speed defense overall, up and down the depth chart, so the teams that try to run out of open formations, like the three wide, tend not to do as consistently well as the teams that keep them in the base defense and pound away a bit. But McCoy and Vick will easily be their toughest challenge in the run game of the young season. In terms of defense, how would you expect the Eagles to approach the Broncos -- come after Manning a bit or drop into coverage and hope they can fill the gaps?

Sheridan: The Eagles' best bet might be to close their eyes and just pray Manning fumbles the snap. Don't think that's in the game plan, though. Seriously, they know their only hope is to generate some pressure from unexpected sources, be incredibly disciplined in their gap and coverage assignments and be exponentially better at tackling than they have been. They're not going to outsmart Manning, but if they can make him a little uncomfortable and get a break or two -- a fumble, a tipped pass that gets picked off -- they can keep the Broncos from running away with the game. Denver thrives on yards after the catch, which is what killed the Eagles in their two losses.

I was interested in your comments about getting the Broncos into their base defense, because the Eagles have used a lot of three wide receiver sets to get defenses into nickel personnel. So much depends on the corners, so let me ask A) If Champ Bailey is playing, and B) Why Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is so much better than he was in Philadelphia for two lost seasons?

Legwold: Bailey has not played since injuring his left foot in a preseason loss to the Seahawks in mid-August. He certainly wants to play, keeps saying he's "close" and even upped to it "very close" last week. The Broncos would like him out there, especially in this one, but he's going to have to move around better than he did a couple of hours before kickoff Monday night when it was pretty clear he was going to miss his third consecutive game. But if he shows a little better movement this week, especially Thursday and Friday, I think he'll be in uniform.

On DRC, the Broncos gambled a bit on tough love. They essentially, and Rodgers-Cromartie has said this as well, told him what was wrong with him on his visit. They told him why he wasn't playing as well as he should and that they could fix it if he was willing to be coached hard. He said he was and has been. A gifted athlete, Rodgers-Cromartie has been the saving grace with Bailey's injury and has played like a No. 1 guy. I won't be surprised if the Broncos try to work out a little longer deal at some point in the coming months.

I know we've spent plenty of time on offense, but I am wondering if Kelly sees Vick as the long-term future at quarterback -- or as long term as a 33-year-old can be -- or does Kelly have bigger plans at the position?

Sheridan: I would love to know the answer to that one too. The Vick situation is fascinating. If he has a great year and somehow gets the Eagles into the playoffs (not as far-fetched as it sounds in an NFC East where half the teams are 0-3), it would be awfully hard to let him walk. But can you re-sign a guy at his age, with his injury history, and expect him to be the guy when you're really ready to contend in one or two or three years? My hunch is that Kelly would love to get one of the quarterbacks in next year's draft, that this year is about getting as much of the rest of the program in place as possible. But that would make much more sense if he had gone with Nick Foles or even rookie Matt Barkley than with Vick, who is just good enough to keep you from drafting high enough for a franchise quarterback.

Since it's a subject of discussion, let me ask you about the altitude. Do the Broncos believe it gives them a physical advantage, or do they see it more as a psychological thing? Is their home-field advantage about thin air or having good teams with loud, passionate fans rocking the stadium?

Legwold: The Broncos believe it gives both a physical and mental advantage. Objectively, for an elite athlete to work for three or so hours in Denver likely has minimal impact on performance. But who's to say even a sliver of impact isn't enough to tip the scales at times. The Broncos' record at home over the decades is well over .600 since 1960, and in September games, they are over a .700 winning percentage at home. The Olympic Training Center is in Colorado and many of the world-class cyclists on the planet train in the area, so it means there's some athletic benefit for the Broncos to work in the altitude. The Broncos particularly feel it's an advantage when they go fast on offense. Watch the Ravens defense in the second half of the opener and it was pretty clear that group didn't enjoy Manning at 5,280 feet.

Phil, great stuff and that should cover it. It could be a long night for both defenses with these two high-powered offenses going at it.

Here are some random draft thoughts:
  • The Chargers added another interesting young cornerback -- Cal’s Steve Williams in the fifth round. He has a chance to quickly climb the depth chart.
  • Denver added yet another interesting receiving weapon when they took Georgia’s Tavarres King in the fifth round. He averaged more than 19 yards per catch for his career.
  • I like the two tight ends Oakland took in the sixth round, Colorado’s Nick Kasa and Tennessee’s Mychal Rivera. This is a two tight end league, so it makes sense. These picks put some pressure on David Ausberry. He has yet to develop. He better do it now or the youngsters will take his job.
  • The Raiders took a promising Division II pass-rusher in David Bass of Missouri Western in the seventh round. He has natural pass-rush skills. Yet, he is a long-term project.
  • Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie did a nice job wheeling and dealing. He turned seven picks into 10. That is important for a team that is totally rebuilding. All 10 players have a legitimate chance to make Oakland’s roster.
  • For what it’s worth, Kansas City coach Andy Reid said the Chiefs were not going to take USC quarterback with the second pick of the fourth round. The Eagles moved up ahead of the Chiefs and took Matt Barkley with the first pick of the day. Barkley said he heard the Chiefs were interested in him. Kansas City did not take a quarterback.
  • Reid said fourth-round pick Nico Johnson will compete with free-agent newcomer Akeem Jordan for an starting inside linebacker spot. My money is on Johnson. Big-league player.
  • The Packers are reportedly interested in trading running back James Starks. Oakland could use another running back. It did take Central Florida’s Latavius Murray in the sixth round.
  • With the Vikings drafting a punter, perhaps Chris Kluwe will become free at some point and perhaps Oakland could show interest. It only has unproven Marquette King in the aftermath of longtime star Shane Lechler signing with Houston.
  • Reid said fifth-round pick Sanders Commings will play free safety and seventh-rounder Mike Catapano will play outside linebacker. The Princeton product has strong pass-rush skills.
  • New Denver pass-rusher Shaun Phillips -- the former Charger who signed Saturday -- said he is fine playing defensive end in a 4-3. He was a linebacker in the Chargers' 3-4. Regardless of the spot, Philips’ position will be as a pass-rusher and he will be moved around.
When the fourth round began, there was talk the Oakland Raiders could take former USC quarterback Matt Barkley with the third pick in the fourth round. After Oakland traded down, there was talk it could take Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib. He was taken two picks before Oakland's pick.

Undeterred, the Raiders continued the quarterback run by taking Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson with the No. 112 pick.

Thus, the Raiders were going to get that quarterback.

[+] EnlargeTyler Wilson
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireTyler Wilson will likely battle Terrelle Pryor to be the backup to expected starter Matt Flynn.
This is a fascinating pick.

Oakland has pressing needs throughout the roster. Yet, it took a quarterback fairly early in the draft. In the end, I don’t mind it because if you score a future starting quarterback in the fourth round, it is tremendous value. So in the end, why not take Wilson if you think he can be good?

I do think this says something about the other two quarterbacks on Oakland’s roster.

After Carson Palmer refused to take a pay cut, Oakland shipped him to Arizona and traded for Matt Flynn. They also have Terrelle Pryor.

I think the Wilson pick says much more about Pryor than Flynn. If the Raiders really felt Pryor would soon be ready to push Flynn for a starting job, they wouldn’t have added another young quarterback at a fairly premium pick. Pryor was taken two years ago by the previous regime in the third round of the supplemental draft.

Teams only have so much time to develop young quarterbacks. Trying to get two youngsters the requisite amount of reps on the practice field is difficult. Usually, teams can only develop one potential starting quarterback at a time.

Plus, regimes love their own guy. Wilson is now "the guy" of general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen; Pryor is the hand-me down who this regime felt needed further competition.

Sure, Pryor can always develop and prove he is the guy, but the presence of Wilson means the Raiders want to see what he can do just as much as Pryor.

I don’t think this pick means all that much for Flynn. He is either going to be good or not. If he is good, he will keep the job. If Flynn, who soon turns 28 and who has started just two NFL games, fails, the Raiders will have to turn to someone else anyway.

It could be Wilson.

He is a big, strong-armed, smart quarterback who is as tough as they come. He has great moxie and I think he can develop. It may take some time, but he has a chance to become a starter. I think it is worth Oakland’s time to get him in its program and see what he can do.

Let’s face it: Next year’s quarterback draft class has a chance to be strong. If the Raiders have a shot at a franchise quarterback, they could take him.

It’s open audition time for the Oakland starting quarterback of the future and Tyler Wilson is the next in line.
The Kansas City Chiefs added a need piece in the form of Alabama inside linebacker Nico Johnson with the second pick of the fourth round Saturday.

Johnson, a high-character leader on a national championship team, theoretically could compete to start as a rookie. The Chiefs have several players in mind to start along with three Pro Bowl players in their 3-4 linebacking crew. But Johnson has to be given a shot.

He was a productive college player and he comes from the premier college defensive program. He is instinctive and tough. Even if Johnson isn’t an immediate starter, I see this as a good long-term choice.

Meanwhile, there was speculation Kansas City might use the No. 99 pick on USC quarterback Matt Barkley. But the Eagles moved ahead of the Chiefs in a trade with the Jaguars and took Barkley with the No. 98 pick, the first of the fourth round. If the Eagles end up getting rid of quarterback Nick Foles, perhaps former Philadelphia coach Andy Reid will be interested in bringing Foles to the Chiefs. Will it happen? Who knows, but it’s worth monitoring.

Will AFC West teams net QB?

April, 27, 2013
There are still several quarterbacks available going into the final day of the draft and many league observers expect an early run in the fourth round.

The Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers all could draft a developmental quarterback. The Chiefs have the second pick in the fourth round and the Raiders have the third. The Chargers do not because they sent it to Arizona to draft Manti Te'o trade in the second round.

The biggest name available is USC's Matt Barkley. He would fit the Chiefs' system and Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie attended Barkley's pro day.

He could be an interesting developmental quarterback if either team decides to take a flier. Other quarterbacks available include Tyler Wilson, Ryan Nassib. Zac Dysert, Matt Scott and Tyler Bray.

The Chiefs, Raiders or Chargers could end up taking a quarterback on the final day of the draft. At this point, it’s pretty low risk.
The Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers are both in solid position in the second round, which begins at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday. Oakland has the No. 42 pick (via a trade with Miami) and San Diego picks No. 45.

Denver, meanwhile, is slated to pick 58th, fifth-to-last in the round, while Kansas City does not have a selection, having sent its No. 34 pick to San Francisco in the the Alex Smith trade. (There is some chance the Chiefs get the No. 54 pick from Miami if the teams can yet work out a Branden Albert trade.)

There are some good players available in the top half of the second round. Let’s look at some of the players who may fit with Oakland and San Diego, respectively:


Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State

Margus Hunt, DE, SMU

Matt Barkley, QB, USC

Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford

Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

San Diego


Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State

Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State

Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

AFC West links: Will Chiefs draft a guard?

April, 10, 2013
Denver Broncos

"I'd say there's a 33 percent chance the Broncos will draft a running back in the first round," writes The Denver Post's Mike Klis, who considers the position to be one of the top three needs for Denver.

Gray Caldwell of takes a look at five of the top draft prospects at the inside and outside linebacker positions.

Oakland Raiders

Defensive end Andre Carter said via conference call with the media that he was optimistic he would be re-signed by the team this offseason, despite the many changes to the Raiders' coaching staff.

The Raiders were a busy bunch on Tuesday, closing out the day by signing free agent safety Usama Young and re-signing slot cornerback Joselio Hanson.

Linebacker Rolando McClain, the No. 8 overall pick by Oakland in 2010, is reportedly working on a contract with the Ravens.

Kansas City Chiefs

A guard has never been selected with the first pick of the NFL draft, and the Kansas City Star's Randy Covitz says, "If ever there were a year for a guard to go first overall, this could be it." Will the Chiefs make it happen?

The Chiefs have contacted veteran offensive lineman Ryan Lilja about playing another season, and he was receptive to the idea, according to Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star. Lilja, who is still rehabbing from surgeries on his knee and toe, is not likely to sign a deal soon, the newspaper reports.

Reid Ferrin of the team's website profiles USC quarterback Matt Barkley as a draft prospect.

San Diego Chargers

While the Chargers are in need of a legitimate left tackle to protect Philip Rivers' blind side, guard might be in even worse shape, reports's Chris Wesseling.

Ricky Henne of the team's website profiles Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long.
Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie reportedly attended Matt Barkley's pro day workout at USC on Wednesday.

Does that mean Barkley is an Oakland target? Not with the No. 3 pick. That would be way too high. Barkley is considered to be a choice in the Nos. 25-40 range. Oakland currently doesn’t have a second-round pick.

Plus, I’m not sure if Barkley is a fit for this offense. It was a short plane flight for McKenzie and he is scouting a lot of players. So, I wouldn’t necessary connect Barkley to Oakland based on McKenzie’s presence at the workout.

In other AFC West notes:

This Insider piece looks at how the addition of slot receiver Wes Welker changes Denver’s offense. It is a detailed look written by former NFL defensive back Matt Bowen.

South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore had an impressive pro day Wednesday, just months after a devastating knee injury. Many scouts think Lattimore is the most talented running back in this draft. But the injuries probably will put him in the range of Rounds 2-4. All four teams in the AFC West could use a running back. I’m sure Wednesday’s events were duly noted within the division.
Alex Smith AP Photo/Tony AvelarAlex Smith may be Kansas City's best option if they are looking to add a veteran quarterback.
The biggest story in the AFC West heading into the new league year will be to see where the Kansas City Chiefs find their new starting quarterback.

We may have an answer soon. Quarterbacks have worked out at the NFL combine and the NFL league season starts March 12. The Chiefs can either then trade for a veteran or sign one. Let’s look at the options as the Andy Reid era in Kansas City begins with a big decision:


I am listing these players first because even though the Chiefs have the No. 1 pick, I think they are leaning toward pursuing a veteran.

Most Likely

Alex Smith, San Francisco:

Why he fits: Several recent reports have identified the Chiefs as Smith’s greatest pursuer. Getting the former 49ers’ starter will probably require a trade instead of waiting for him to be cut. I think it may be worth it since he may be the best fit of all of the available quarterbacks this year. He is not perfect, but he could be a good bridge quarterback for a year or two while the Chiefs wait for a better option. Smith has shown he can be a part of a quality team. He is smart and he has played winning football. With good coaching and a solid unit around him, I think Smith can help the Chiefs win games.

Why he doesn’t fit: He is not going to wow anyone and is probably not a long-term answer. He also probably reminds too many people of outgoing Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel. Smith also can’t win games alone on a regular basis.

Nick Foles, Philadelphia:

Why he fits: Reid drafted him in the third round last year and made him his starter. There has been a report that stated the Chiefs have asked about Foles. I think it is worth Reid’s time to pursue him. They made good headway together last year and it could be interesting to see the relationship continue. If Foles can develop, he can be a long-term answer. How many other veterans on this list can that be said about?

Why he doesn’t fit: As of now, the Eagles are maintaining he is not available. But that could change since he doesn’t seem like a perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s offense. If the Chiefs’ compensation package is tempting, I can see the Eagles letting go of Foles. It wouldn't be smart to keep a quarterback who doesn’t fit a system instead of getting an additional draft pick to go after a player who does.

Matt Flynn, Seattle

Why he fits: Flynn is a West Coast offense quarterback who came from Green Bay. He was there with new Kansas City general manager John Dorsey. Flynn doesn’t fit anymore in Seattle, but he can develop into a decent player. If the price tag and Flynn’s salary are right (both should be), it could be worth giving Flynn a flier as a backup option to Smith and Foles. It’s not a great year for quarterbacks. Sometimes, teams have to take chances. This would be a low-risk chance and he fits the team's needs.

Why he doesn’t fit: There is a chance the Chiefs may have to go find another quarterback next year if Flynn is acquired.

Other possibilities:

Jason Campbell (Chicago), Ryan Mallett (New England), Colt McCoy (Cleveland) Kyle Orton (Dallas), Carson Palmer (Oakland), Braden Weeden (Cleveland),

Summary: This isn’t a great list and there are no guarantees everyone on this list will be available. Palmer’s availability will be a longshot. Guys like Mallett and Weeden could be intriguing because they both have a chance to develop even though Weeden is already 29.


First round

Geno Smith, West Virginia:

Why he fits: I put Smith on the favorite list along with Alex Smith, Foles and Flynn. I’m not sure Smith will be worthy of the No. 1 pick, but there are some things to like about his game. Many scouts think he’d be a nice fit for Reid’s offense. He has all the tools and he is a good pocket passer who can get out and run. Of this entire rookie class, he looks like the best quarterback.

Why he doesn’t fit: He’s no sure thing and nothing sets a franchise back like blowing the No.1 pick. Geno Smith comes with risks.

Second-tier options

Matt Barkley (USC), Tyler Bray (Tennessee), Mike Glennon (North Carolina (Syracuse), E.J. Manuel (Florida State), Ryan Nassib (Syracuse) Tyler Wilson (Arkansas)

Summary: I could see the Chiefs getting a veteran, adding a top player elsewhere in the draft and then taking a quarterback at No. 34 or No. 65 to develop. I think Barkley, Wilson, Bray and Manuel could all particularly interest the Chiefs. None of them may be the answer, but it could be worth getting them in the system and to try to develop them in a year where there is no such thing as a guarantee.

2013 NFL combine: AFC West primer

February, 21, 2013
Andy ReidAP Photo/Charlie RiedelAndy Reid and the Chiefs need a quarterback, but will they take one with the No. 1 pick?

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL scouting combine starts Thursday. Let’s look at some key storylines that affect the AFC West:

It starts with the Chiefs: The Chiefs have the No. 1 pick in the draft for the first time in the modern era. It’s been well documented that this is not an ideal year for the Chiefs to have the top pick. Even though a quarterback has been selected with the top pick in 12 of the past 15 years, there are no quarterbacks who currently have a chance to be the top choice. Yes, quarterback is the Chiefs’ greatest need. The Chiefs would probably like to trade out of the first pick. But because the lack of a top quarterback and the fact that most of the top prospects are fairly equally rated, the trade market may not be robust. The Chiefs will likely test the trade waters this week at the combine, but don’t be surprised if they leave Indianapolis resigned to the fact that they will keep the pick.

The Raiders are not far behind: Welcome to the AFC West, where third place equals the No. 3 overall draft pick. Unlike the Chiefs, the Raiders are in a great spot because this is a defense-heavy draft. Oakland needs all kinds of defensive help. It will spend the week scouting the best defensive talent and then go from there.

Will Floyd rise all the way to Oakland? That leads us to this question: Could Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd get on Oakland’s radar at No. 3? Floyd is considered a fast riser. He started as a late first-round prospect. However, there's talk he could move all the way up to the Raiders' pick and bypass Utah’s Star Lotulelei as the top interior defensive lineman. This is a big week for Floyd, and Oakland will be watching closely.

New philosophies abound: Don’t look now, but John Elway is the most senior decision-maker in the AFC West. It’s just the third year in this role for the legendary former quarterback, but he is the dean of AFC West executives. We have new general managers in San Diego’s Tom Telesco and Kansas City’s John Dorsey. Both men are first-time general managers. Both Telseco and Dorsey are highly regarded. It will be interesting to see them operate this week at the combine.

[+] EnlargeSharrif Floyd
Kim Klement/US PresswireThe Raiders could be looking at Shariff Floyd for the No. 3 pick.
Will Denver trade down again? Last year, the Broncos traded out of the first round. Could they do it again? Elway has shown he values picks and tries to pick a player where there is value. The Broncos have a lot of options at No. 28, but this week starts the process for Elway to see whether he will be flexible to move down.

Second-round QB options for the Chiefs: Unless West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith steals the combine, the Chiefs will likely consider taking a quarterback in the second round. If I had to guess, three quarterbacks to watch in the second round may be USC’s Matt Barkley, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson. Barkley could be a great fit for Andy Reid’s West Coast offense. Barkley’s shoulder is still not healed enough for him to throw, but I’m sure the Chiefs will quiz him this week.

Chargers have options: San Diego may be in a position of strength at No. 11. We may not see the Chargers’ draft plan unfold after they do their free-agent shopping. Left tackle is San Diego’s top need. The free-agent class is solid. If the Chargers answer their left tackle needs before the draft, they could operate from a position of strength in the first round. They could let the draft board play out and see if guards Chance Warmack of Alabama or Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina fall to them. Both are considered top prospects, but the truth is, guards often drop. So, either player could be a steal at No. 11. I think the same could be said for Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner. But it starts with the Chargers looking at this class of left tackles and deciding if free agency is the way to go.

Will Patterson be one of them? A dark horse for the No. 11 spot is Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. This is not a strong class for receivers, but Patterson is supremely talented. If he blows the doors off at the combine, he could intrigue the Chargers. They badly need a playmaker for Philip Rivers as he enters a critical time in his career. The Chargers will surely poke around Patterson.

Will Oakland get more picks? The Raiders, who didn’t pick until the end of the third round last year, have more picks this season, but they are missing second- and fifth-round picks because of failed trades for veterans. Oakland has one of the thinnest rosters in the NFL. It needs talent everywhere. The Raiders would like to trade down from No. 3 to acquire more picks. But similar to Kansas City with the No. 1 pick, trading down from No. 3 will not be easy. But I’m sure Oakland will put feelers out this week.

Great year to need linemen: Many folks around the league do not think this is a great overall draft. But it seems strong for offensive and defensive linemen. Several could be taken in the top 40 picks. Each team in the division could use help in both areas. It will be interesting to see if the feeling about these positions remains strong after the combine.

Will Lane Johnson continue to rise? If the Chargers do take their chances at left tackle in the draft, an answer may be Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson. He had a great Senior Bowl, and the former quarterback could be an option for the Chargers if he comes through with a strong combine.

Will the Honey Badger migrate west? One of the more talked about prospects this week will be former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. He will be at the combine after missing last season because of reported drug issues. Known as the "Honey Badger” for his dynamic playmaking and return ability, Mathieu is a fan favorite. But the truth is, scouts had questions about him before he missed the 2012 season. He is considered an average cover man, but he has ball skills. If he has a good combine he could be taken in rounds 3 or 4. All of the AFC West teams could use a cornerback (with Oakland and San Diego having the greatest needs), so he will be watched by this division.

Injured stars will get looks: South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore and Florida State’s pass-rusher Tank Carradine would likely be top prospects if they weren’t coming off major knee injuries. Still, both will likely land in the middle rounds and could be steals if they regain their health. I could see Denver closely monitoring Lattimore, and Carradine is a type of player who could help any team. So, the focus at the combine will be on more than just the players on the workout field. offers a great point why it doesn’t make much sense for Oakland to give punter Shane Lechler the franchise tag.

Lechler is 36, he has had injuries and his play slipped some last season. Still, he has value, but not at more than $5 million a year.

I could still see him coming back to Oakland, but if he gets a solid offer somewhere on the open market, one of the greatest punters of all-time could be leaving. The AFC West is a very strong punting division, so if Lechler leaves Oakland, he will likely also be leaving the division. The only way that could change is if Kansas City Pro Bowl punter Dustin Colquitt leaves as a free agent. But the Chiefs want Colquitt back.

In other AFC West news:
  • ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting USC quarterback Matt Barkley will not throw at this week’s NFL combine because his shoulder injury is still not healed. Barkley is confident he will be able to throw at his pro day next month. I don’t think the fact that Barkley can’t throw this week impacts Kansas City’s draft preparation. Barkley was more likely a potential target as a second-round pick than the No.1 overall pick prior to this news.
  • Former Denver quarterback Jake Plummer is helping Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein prepare for the draft.
  • Here is more smoke that Brad Childress will eventually join Andy Reid’s staff in Kansas City.
  • In an Insider piece, has a list of the top 50 free agents available.

Rookie QBs get the memo

February, 12, 2013
It appears the 2013 rookie quarterback class has become a buyer’s market.

Thus, none of the incoming rookies believe they are in a position of strength as the draft evaluation process begins in earnest.

There have been reports in the past two days that both West Virginia’s Geno Smith and USC’s Matt Barkley are planning to workout fully at the NFL combine that begins next week. Smith is considered the top quarterback prospect and Barkley is considered one of the top prospects.

Often, the top quarterbacks prospects do not throw the ball at the combine. However, no quarterback this year is currently considered a sure thing.

Thus, the quarterbacks will have to convince teams they are worthy of a top pick and that starts with throwing the ball at the combine in addition to throwing at their individual pro day workouts, which usually occur in March.

The first team that needs to be convinced to take a quarterback is Kansas City. The Chiefs have the No. 1 pick in the April draft and quarterback is their greatest need. However, unless a quarterback shows it is worthy of the top pick, the Chiefs may try to trade for a veteran once the league season starts March 12.

Both Barkley and Smith are going to try to use the combine as a time to convince the Chiefs to wait for the draft.
Thursday, in Insider pieces, Todd McShay Insider and Mel Kiper Jr. Insider offered updated mock drafts. Friday, the two discussed some of the reasons for their picks Insider.

It was interesting to read Kiper Jr.’s thoughts on the Chiefs avoiding a quarterback with the No.1 pick. It is the same tack I have taken: I don’t think the Chiefs should take a quarterback at No. 1 if no player is worthy of the pick.

Here is what Kiper Jr. had to say on the subject: “I disagree that the No. 1 pick could be a QB. At this point, it's just hard for me to see Geno Smith, Matt Barkley or a guy like Mike Glennon being considered enough of a guarantee at that spot. I think where you see Kansas City think about QB is either at No. (34) overall, or if they trade up into the 20's and get a better value. And you're right, Todd, free agency or a trade could still solve that problem.”

If one of these quarterbacks somehow shows he is worthy of being the No. 1 pick in the next couple of months, then that’s a different story. If not, the Chiefs should find their next starting quarterback on the veteran market and address another need with the top pick. That is maximizing the overall talent of the roster.

In other AFC West news:

In an Insider piece, thinks Insider Oakland defensive tackle Desmond Bryant could be a steal in free agency. I agree. Bryant is a fine player who some teams might throw some money at. As far as AFC West fits for Bryant, I can potentially see Denver showing some interest.

One less look at Matt Barkley

February, 1, 2013
If Andy Reid was hoping to get a close-up look at Matt Barkley throw this month, it looks like he will have to readjust his plans.

The USC quarterback told ESPN radio he does not plan to throw at the NFL Combine, which will be held later in February. Top quarterback draft picks often choose not to throw at the combine and instead wait until their pro day workout.

Teams prefer it when prospects do everything they can at the combine. Barkley may be better served if he throws at the combine. He had a disappointing season in 2012 and he has fallen from a top prospect to a likely second-round pick.

The Chiefs will watch Barkley closely, along with the other top quarterback prospects. The fact that they won’t see Barkley throw at the combine may frustrate the team.

Meanwhile, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith stumped to be the Chiefs’ pick in a radio interview.