AFC West: Michael Floyd

Are the Chiefs trading down?

April, 26, 2012
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, 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 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.

AFC West draft primer

April, 20, 2012
With the NFL draft starting in six days, there are many interesting storylines involving the AFC West. Let’s take a look:

Will the Chiefs make a big move up? The Kansas City Chiefs could become the story of the division with a move up for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. There has been recent buzz that the Chiefs may be one of the teams interested in moving up for Tannehill. If he is available at No. 7 (Miami may take Tannehill at No. 8), I could see the Chiefs jumping in the mix. Jacksonville, which has the No. 7 pick, probably would be willing to part with the pick or the Chiefs could take a risk and hope he falls to No. 11. Tannehill is the only attainable quarterback who could immediately press Matt Cassel.

Will a second-day quarterback be on the way? I think a Friday storyline could be the addition of a second-tier quarterback in the division. If the Chiefs don’t take Tannehill, they could take a quarterback in the second or third round, and Denver could take one on the second day as well. The quarterbacks available on the second day probably will be Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler and Arizona’s Nick Foles. Kansas City could look at any of the four and Denver is probably in the mix for all but Weeden. He will soon turn 29, and with Peyton Manning in Denver, I don’t think the Broncos will take an older quarterback.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Eric BakkeWill AFC West teams draft differently now that Peyton Manning is in the division?
Will there be a Manning factor? The Chiefs and Chargers could both opt to use their first-round picks on defensive players. With Manning entering the division, focusing on defense may be the right call in Kansas City and San Diego.

Will there be a changing of the guard? Stanford’s David DeCastro is considered one of the best guard prospects in the past several years and he is considered a sure thing. Both the Chiefs and Chargers are considered teams that could land DeCastro.

Will the Raiders make a move up? The Raiders don’t pick until No. 95, the final pick of the third round. Oakland could move up to get a better prospect, but I wouldn’t think Oakland would move too far up the draft. Sooner or later, the team must stop mortgaging future picks, and I think new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie gets that. I’d expect him to suck it up and deal with what he has this year for the most part.

Will the Chiefs add a running back? There was early talk Kansas City could make a play for Alabama’s Trent Richardson, which could require a move up to No. 5. That may not be a likely scenario. However, the Chiefs could still take a running back in the early rounds. Jamaal Charles is coming off a torn ACL and Peyton Hillis signed a one-year deal. The Chiefs have been visiting with running backs, so I could see them taking one at some point.

Will the Chargers and Broncos take a running back early? There have been projections that both Denver and San Diego could take a running back as early as the second round. I’d think Denver is the more likely of the two teams to take a running back early. Boise State’s Doug Martin, Virginia Tech’s David Wilson, Miami’s Lamar Miller and Oregon’s LaMichael James are all possibilities.

Will A.J. Smith make a splash? The Chargers probably will have to make the playoffs for San Diego general manager A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner to keep their jobs. The Chargers have been aggressive in free agency and they have always been aggressive in the draft. I could see the Chargers taking a chance and moving up for the right impact player.

Will Denver take a defensive tackle? The Broncos haven’t taken a defensive tackle since 1997 when they took Trevor Pryce. It is the team’s greatest need. However, if players such as LSU’s Michael Brockers and Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox are gone by No. 25, Denver may opt for another position or trade down rather than reach for another defensive tackle prospect.

Will the Raiders be a draft factor? The Raiders only have five picks, but I think they can still get a couple of developmental players. It may be too much to ask for the Raiders to find instant impact players, but I think McKenzie will salvage this class.

Will the Chargers reach for their top need? The Chargers badly need an impact pass-rusher, but it isn’t a deep class. By the time the No. 18 picks rolls around, the top pass-rushing prospects -- South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, North Carolina’s Quinton Coples and Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw -- all may be gone. The next level of players include Syracuse’s Chandler Jones, USC’s Nick Perry and Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus. Many scouts think taking those players at No. 18 may be too high. So, the Chargers could be on the move down if that scenario develops.

Will the Chiefs be swayed by Poe’s beauty? Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe is a high-risk, high-reward player. He has all the measurables and he has big potential. But he has unimpressive game tape against second-level competition. Many teams are leery of taking him. The Chiefs could use him, but with a recent history of taking under-achieving defensive linemen, can Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli take the risk?

Another Georgia Tech receiver in Denver? If the Broncos bypass a defensive tackle at No. 25, they could look to give Manning another weapon. A name to keep an eye on is Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill. The Broncos have been scouting him and they wouldn’t mind adding another former Georgia Tech receiver. Denver took Demaryius Thomas out of the school with the No. 22 pick in 2010.

Will Golden Domers head to the beach? Two players Smith likes a lot are Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd and safety Harrison Smith. Floyd could require a trade up and Smith could be a candidate via a trade down. Don’t be surprised if one of the two ends up a Charger.

Is Josh Chapman AFC West bound? One of the underrated players on a strong Alabama defense is versatile defensive tackle Josh Chapman, a fit for both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses. He has visited both the Raiders and the Chiefs and could be a target of any team in the division in the third round.
One of the more difficult draft minds to predict belongs to San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this all mean?

We’re dealing with Smith and that means everything is on the table, pressing needs or not.
As soon as free agency began Tuesday afternoon, the Buffalo Bills had a plane waiting for New Orleans free agent receiver Robert Meachem.

The Bills flew him north and dined with him Tuesday night. The Bills had a full itinerary waiting for him Wednesday. Then, Vincent Jackson left the Chargers. All Buffalo bets were off.

With Jackson and several other receivers off the market quickly Tuesday, the San Diego Chargers -- who reports showed late interest in Pierre Garcon before he signed with the Redskins -- went from showing no interest in Meachem early in free agency to becoming his most ardent pursuer. In addition to Buffalo, the Chargers blew away two other teams with a huge offer for Meachem.

And now the speedster is going to be Philip Rivers’ newest toy.

Meachem agreed to a four-year, $25.9 million deal with $14 million guaranteed in the first two years of the deal. The agreement came hours after Jackson signed with the Buccaneers for five years and $55.5 million.

There is no doubt Meachem is not as accomplished as Jackson and the Chargers would be best served to add another receiver in free agency. The best options are Brandon Lloyd, Laurent Robinson and Mario Manningham. They also could use their first-round pick on someone such as Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd. I think Lloyd could be an interesting option.

Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace would cost a first-round pick as a restricted free agent if the Steelers didn’t match a deal. I think the Meachem agreement ends that possibility. Perhaps San Diego could look at Oakland’s Chaz Schilens, who played at San Diego State. He’d fit the Chargers’ mold of big receivers.

Meachem does give the Chargers a terrific vertical threat. He has 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash. He will be a good fit with Rivers and No. 2 starter Malcom Floyd, who also is a field stretcher. Like Floyd, Meachem has had some durability issues. Vincent Brown likely will be the No. 3 receiver in his second season.

Meachem had 40 catches for 620 yards last season for the Saints, where he often was lost in a strong receiving crew. Meachem, the Saints’ first-round pick in 2007, had 129 catches and 20 touchdowns in the past three seasons, and has averaged 16.1 yards per catch in his career. There is no doubt Meachem has big-play flair and he will fit in Norv Turner’s system, but I still believe the Chargers need to add to their receiving crew.

UPDATE: I caught up with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. on Wednesday morning. Here are his thoughts on the Chargers’ day at receiver:

“Meachem isn’t Vincent Jackson. He is very talented, though, and I do think his most productive football might be in front of him. He also is a deep threat, which is absolutely key in San Diego’s deep passing attack. But, to me, there was only one No. 1 receiver on the market, and he just signed with Tampa Bay.”

The Chargers are in a tough spot

March, 13, 2012
This is not a good day in San Diego.

Vincent Jackson has walked away.

While there were indications in recent days that the Chargers were not prepared to match an enormous deal for Jackson, there has long been the thought that the Chargers -- who are heavily pursuing New Orleans’ Robert Meachem on Tuesday night -- couldn’t afford to let Jackson leave.

This is a critical offseason in San Diego and it has not started well. In addition to Jackson leaving, the Chargers saw longtime standout guard Kris Dielman retire because of a severe concussion he suffered last season, the team cut left tackle Marcus McNeill because of a neck injury and valuable running back Mike Tolbert is poised to visit AFC West rival Kansas City on Wednesday. The Chargers also have priority free agents in left tackle Jared Gaither and defensive tackle Antonio Garay. San Diego’s lone bright spot, thus far, was the re-signing of standout center Nick Hardwick on Tuesday to a three-year deal.

[+] EnlargeChargers' Vincent Jackson
Kirby Lee/US PRESSWIREThe Chargers must now figure out how to replace star receiver Vincent Jackson.
The Chargers must get better. They must do some things in free agency.

Owner Dean Spanos upset the fan base when he brought back coach Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith in January.

Fans expected Spanos to show a commitment to them by getting better in free agency, and the Chargers still could get better.

But seeing Jackson leave is not going to convince the San Diego fan base the Chargers are truly committed to getting back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2009 season.

Jackson is a premier receiver and he was a great fit for quarterback Philip Rivers, who has to be wondering what is going on with his offensive line and receiving crew.

The Chargers gambled by not giving Jackson the franchise tag for a second year because it jumped to more than $13 million this season. He is averaging just more than $11 million per season with Tampa Bay. The Chargers took a shot at Jackson, but they likely never got close to what Tampa Bay offered.

Now, the Chargers have to go find a top receiver. The only receivers on the roster are No. 2 starter Malcom Floyd (who is injury prone) and second-year player Vincent Brown.

The free-agent class is drying up. The best options may be Brandon Lloyd, Meachem, Mario Manningham and Laurent Robinson. Meachem may soon sign with the Bills even though the Chargers are pushing for him. Robinson flourished in Dallas last season after not making the Chargers’ roster last September. I’m not sure any of those players will make anyone forget about Jackson. The Chargers, who badly need a top pass-rusher, may have to consider taking someone such as Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd with the No. 18 overall pick in the draft.

Here is one way I think the Chargers can regain the trust of fans, but it’s a long shot. They could step in front of Buffalo and sign monster pass-rusher Mario Williams and then sign Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace to an offer sheet the Steelers couldn’t match. The restricted free agent would cost the Chargers their first-round pick if he signed. But adding Williams (the best free agent on the market) and having Wallace replace Jackson would show San Diego’s fans the team is serious about getting better.

Again, don’t expect it to happen, but the Chargers must improve and getting creative may be necessary.

Kiper's mock draft: WR to San Diego

February, 15, 2012
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper is offering another mock draft . Let’s check out his first-round picks for the AFC West teams:

*11. Kansas City: Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly

My take: Expect to see Kuechly connected to the Chiefs often in the next two months. I like the pairing. He has a chance to be a tremendous 3-4 inside linebacker in the NFL. He could be part of a standout group of linebackers. Romeo Crennel is on the cusp of assembling a great defense and this instinctive player would be a great addition.

18. San Diego: Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd

My take: This is an interesting pairing. Floyd has a chance to be a dynamic receiver in the NFL. The only way I see this pairing work is if Vincent Jackson leaves as a free agent, which is a possibility. Otherwise, the Chargers have more pressing needs.

25. Denver: Penn State DT Devon Still

My take: This would be a terrific value pick for Denver. I think the Broncos will be looking for the best defensive player or top running back available at No. 25. Adding a player like Still could continue Denver’s improvement on defense.

*A coin flip with Seattle next week will determine whether the Chiefs will have the No. 11 or No. 12 pick. Oakland traded its first-round pick (No. 17) to Cincinnati as part of the trade for quarterback Carson Palmer.
New Denver vice president of football operations John Elway, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL, said the 2011 quarterback class is too good not to examine. The Broncos are looking at several quarterback prospects.

Elway said the fact that Denver, which has the No. 2 overall pick, is looking at draft prospects doesn’t mean the Broncos don’t believe in second-year quarterback Tim Tebow, who was the No. 25 overall pick by the previous Denver regime.

"We're always looking for that guy," Elway told the Denver Post. "We may already have the guy who can pull the trigger and win us a championship someday. We may have him. We don't know. We believe in Tim but he's not there yet."

This is all very intriguing, but I still expect Denver to concentrate on defense in the early portion of the draft.

In other AFC West Monday-night news:
  • Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd could potentially be an intriguing supplemental draft prospect for the AFC West teams who don’t address the area the April draft. Despite multiple arrests on alcohol-related matters, Floyd could be a top-round prospect. San Diego and Kansas City could be looking for young receivers.
  • The Chiefs would be conditioning together if it wasn’t for the lockout. I know a lot of folks think that there is plenty of time to get the lockout settled. The truth is, valuable offseason business is being missed.