AFC West: Ra'Shede Hageman

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Minutes after selecting Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack with the fifth pick of the 2014 NFL draft, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was asked if he thought his quarterback of the future might still be available.

Mind you, this was when Blake Bortles had been the only quarterback taken.

“Yes,” McKenzie said softly, “there’s an opportunity for that. Yes.”

[+] EnlargeDerek Carr
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesDerek Carr passed for 5,082 yards with 50 TDs and eight interceptions in 13 starts last season.
So by the time the dust cleared on the first round Thursday night, Bortles, who was taken third overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, was joined by Johnny Manziel, who fell to 22nd and the Cleveland Browns, and Teddy Bridgewater, who went 32nd in the final pick of the night to the Minnesota Vikings, who traded up to get him.

Might Fresno State’s Derek Carr, who has long been linked to the Raiders, still be on the docket when Oakland is scheduled to make the fourth pick of the night, No. 36 overall, or will the Houston Texans, who badly need a quarterback and lead off the second round, make it a family affair by drafting the younger brother of the man they made the first overall pick in 2002, David Carr?

From the Raiders’ perspective, it’s no secret they believe they are set with Matt Schaub for at least the next two years, and they even feel comfortable with backups Matt McGloin and Trent Edwards. But the feeling is also they would like to draft a project in the middle rounds, someone like Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage. Currently, the Raiders’ fourth-round pick is at No. 107 overall.

One plausible scenario has the Raiders, who do not have picks in the fifth or sixth rounds but hold three in the seventh, trading back in the second round to acquire more selections, especially if they are not truly in love with a player at No. 4 in the second round today.

McKenzie, though, said “no deal was presented, only interest” for the No. 5 overall pick on Thursday. With it not clear if there will be a market today for the Raiders’ second-rounder, they have options.

Mack certainly addressed a need and was the best player available as well.

So, besides Carr, who passed for 5,082 yards with 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions and completed 68.7 percent of his passes in 13 starts last season, who is a potential target for the Raiders in the second round?

Here is a look at five possible prospects:

USC receiver Marqise Lee was the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner as a sophomore, but had a down junior year. At just under 6-foot and 192 pounds, there are questions about his durability, but he is a playmaker after the catch.

Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is massive at 6-7, 321 pounds, but there are concerns about his surgically repaied knee. He is considered an ideal fit to work in a power-blocking scheme.

Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman is a disruptive if inconsistent force at a tick under 6-6 and 310 pounds. His athleticism might force a move to defensive end.

Utah cornerback Keith McGill is big at 6-3, 213 pounds, and his long arms make him an ideal fit for press coverage. Still, he only had one interception in two seasons for the Utes.

Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste is also big for the position at 6-3, 218 pounds and had seven interceptions in 19 starts for the Cornhuskers.
When it came to making a pick for the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round of ESPN NFL Nation’s mock draft, I felt a little like a man without a country. The top two safeties? Gone. The top two cornerbacks? Gone? The top five wide receivers? Gone.

So picking a player at a position of need for the Chiefs would have meant forcing a pick and that would violate one of my two rules for the Chiefs in this year’s draft. The other was not to trade up. Doing so in a draft without a second-round pick meant this would either be, in effect, a one-player draft for the Chiefs or they would have damaged a future draft. Not going to do either one.

That left either a trading down or selecting the best available player. I had what I would call significant discussions with three teams, the most serious of which was San Francisco. But my 49ers colleague, Bill Williamson, wouldn’t relinquish his first-round pick, No. 30 overall. He did offer two second-round picks, Nos. 56 and 61. But I wasn’t going to trade out of the first round for that, so it was time to make my pick.

I considered a few players, including Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller and Indiana wide receiver Cody Latimer. Ultimately, picking either of those players felt like I was forcing a need.

Instead, I settled on Minnesota defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman and after some reflection, this doesn’t feel like a consolation prize to me and I would be surprised if the Chiefs felt that way if they wind up making the same pick.

Hageman is big (6-foot-6 and 310 pounds) and has uncommon athleticism and skill for a player of his size. He’s a good fit for the Chiefs’ defensive system, though he doesn’t fill an immediate need. The Chiefs have Mike DeVito, Vance Walker and Allen Bailey0 at his spot.

Hageman might take some time to develop into his full potential but the Chiefs can wait. His potential makes him worth the wait. He could become the best interior pass-rusher in this draft and if that happens, the Chiefs got themselves a bargain.
The Denver Broncos continue to get face-to-face with some of the prospects who have piqued their interest for next month’s draft.

They have been in front of their allotment at the college all-star games, the scouting combine and continue to do their homework as they bring many into their Dove Valley complex to meet with coaches and executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway.

Here is the first of an occasional look at the prospects who have attracted Denver's attention.

Fox
Fox
Combine a quality work ethic with a powerful frame and long arms and you have the kind of cornerback Broncos head coach John Fox, a former defensive backs coach when he entered the NFL, always talks about in Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller.

Fuller, who already has a brother in the NFL and carries a grade worthy of the Broncos’ first-round pick, is 5-foot-11 3/4, 190 pounds and ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at the combine (electronically timed). He has upper-tier ball skills and understands where receivers are trying to go as he consistently plays with good anticipation to get himself to the spot.

He is also a quality tackler. He missed time after surgery this past November for a sports hernia -- he missed five games and the Senior Bowl because of it -- and dealt with shoulder and groin injuries in 2012, but didn’t miss any games that season.

The bigger cornerbacks routinely move up the board once the actual picks get made, so there is plenty of question as to whether Fuller would even be there when the Broncos pick at 31.

Among the other defensive backs on their radar is Washington State safety Deone Bucannon, who sat with the team for the first time at the Senior Bowl. Bucannon ran a 4.49 at 211 pounds at the combine and his 78-inch armspan is among the biggest on the board at the position.

Among the defensive lineman on the board keep an eye on is Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman. Hageman, at 6-5 7/8, 310 pounds is a top-tier athlete for a player his size -- he arrived to the Gophers as a tight end -- and carries a grade worthy of a pick in the bottom third of the first round. Connecticut defensive tackle Shamar Stephen is an interior player who, at 6-4 7/8, 309 pounds, will get a look down the board some. Stephen is adept at attacking double teams and very active/effective with his hands to shed blockers.

Elway has also routinely promised to look at quarterbacks in every draft no matter who the team has behind center, and has used a pick in 2012 (Brock Osweiler) and 2013 (Zac Dysert) to grab one with Peyton Manning on the top of the depth chart.

They still project Osweiler as the first starter in the post-Manning era, but Elway simply will not let the cupboard go bare. Among the quarterbacks the Broncos have met with are Miami’s Stephen Morris and Wyoming’s Brett Smith.

Both are down-the-board guys for the Broncos and are slightly undersized. For his part Morris is a two-time team captain who has the head for the game and the fire Elway likes in a passer. Smith is a get-it-done guy who will grind it out to make a play, and was a team captain as a sophomore.

Analyzing McShay mock 4.0: Broncos 

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
12:15
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Over the course of his work on this year’s draft, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has kept the Denver Broncos focused on defense, including last month’s mock draft when McShay had the Broncos selecting Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy with the 31st pick.

And in his latest effort -- a two-round mock -- McShay again has the Broncos opening their draft with a defensive player

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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