AFC West: Stephen Hill

Round 2: Chiefs and Chargers

April, 27, 2012
The Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers both addressed their greatest needs in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday.

The Chiefs took Memphis nose tackle Dontari Poe at No. 11 and San Diego grabbed South Carolina pass-rusher Melvin Ingram at No. 18.

Let’s take a look at what direction both teams could go in Friday's second round as a result of their work in the first:

Kansas City, No. 44: The Chiefs are looking for the best players available, because they don’t have many glaring needs. I think could consider a quarterback such as Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins or even Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler. We could see them take a look at Midwestern State guard Amini Silatolu, Wisconsin guard/center Peter Konz or perhaps a receiver if a top talent like Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill, LSU’s Rueben Randle or South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery falls to them at that spot.

San Diego, No. 49: I think we can see the Chargers taking a running back such as Oregon’s LaMichael James or Miami’s Lamar Miller. Other possibilities include LSU safety Brandon Taylor and Mississippi offensive lineman Bobby Massie.
After reading the transcript from John Elway’s press briefing Thursday night, it is clear to see why the Broncos traded down twice and eventually out of the first round.

They didn’t think anybody was worthy of a first-round pick where they were picking and they wanted to add picks. Denver now has the No. 36 pick in the second round and added No. 101, in the fourth round. Denver has two picks in the second round, one in the third round and three in the fourth round. I would be surprised if the Broncos don’t try to add another third-round pick and get four picks on Friday.

I think Denver decided to trade down once defensive tackles Dontari Poe, Fletcher Cox and Michael Brockers were off the board by the 14th pick. Denver originally had the No. 25 pick, then traded to No. 31 before going to No. 36.

“Everyone else saw the talent that we saw too,” said Elway, Denver’s top decision-maker. “When those guys started going like that, they went in a hurry. We thought we were going to have to get a little bit lucky for them to fall to us anyways. They’re good football players and when they didn’t get to us that gave us the opportunity to start moving back a little bit.”

Elway made it clear that the Broncos would rather stockpile picks than make a reach, thus the trades with the Patriots and the Buccaneers.

“When we looked at where we were, obviously we had some guys targeted that didn’t quite make it to us in 25, so we had some opportunities to move back with New England to pick up a fourth. We liked that, thought that was great,” Elway said. "Then, when we had a chance to move back from 31 to 36 with Tampa again, our board looked the same. We thought we’d be able to get the same people at 36 that we could at 31 -- or have the same pool of players there at 36 as we did at 31. By doing that we moved up 25 spots to the top of the fourth, which we really believe this is a deep draft. It’s not real thick at the top, but it’s pretty deep through the middle rounds. We thought by adding another good pick it gives us more options going into tomorrow. Plus, we’ll still be able to get the same people that we had targeted that made it to us at 25 at 36. We’re excited about the day. Obviously it’s a little bit of a downer when you don’t have a new player. But, we’re excited about where we sit and the next two days are going to be exciting.”

Among the players Denver could target at No. 36 with their top pick Friday are Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, Connecticut defensive tackle Kendall Reyes, Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill, LSU receiver Rueben Randle, North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins, Cincinnati defensive tackle Derek Wolfe and Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David. I think we could see Denver try to get a quarterback Friday as well.
The Denver Broncos moved out of the first round Thursday night as they twice traded down.

The Broncos know have six picks in the next three rounds. I think we will see Denver try to get a defensive tackle, running back and quarterback on Friday. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Broncos make more trades in the second or third rounds.

I think Denver decided to move down after all the top defensive tackles were taken. It's difficult to argue with that tact.

Among the players Denver could target at No. 36 with their top pick Friday are Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, Connecticut defensive tackle Kendall Reyes, Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill, Cincinnati defensive tackle Derek Wolfe and Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David..

The Broncos probably were not thrilled to see running backs Doug Martin and David Wilson go in the final two picks of the first round. Among the running backs Denver could look in the second round at include Oregon’s LaMichael James and Miami’s Lamar Miller.

Denver’s new draft order after Thursday night is in the chart above. Here are the trades they made:

Broncos get: 1st-round pick (No. 31), 4th-round pick (No. 126)
Patriots get: 1st-round pick (No. 25)

Broncos get: 2nd-round pick (No. 36), 4th-round pick (No. 101)
Bucs get: 1st-round pick (No. 31), 4th-round pick (No. 126)

Reviewing my mock draft

April, 23, 2012

These were not the results I was expecting in our Blogger Mock Draft Live held Monday.

However, I feel pretty good about the players we pegged to come to the AFC West. Each divisional blogger was in charge of picking for each team in their division in the first round. I based my decisions on value of the picks and what I thought the decision makers on each team would do in that situation.

Let’s review the film:

Kansas City: I was tempted to try to move up to No. 7 to take Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. I could see the Chiefs doing it, but I’m just not sure they want to spend what it takes to get him, so I stayed at No. 11. I would have taken Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, but he went two spots earlier. In the end, I chose Stanford guard David DeCastro. I think he was the best value player at the spot and he would be an instant impact player on the offense. Many scouts believe DeCastro will be a perennial Pro Bowl player. It’s time to make that Kansas City O-line special again.

San Diego: I think San Diego general manager A.J. Smith will be willing to do anything. When South Carolina pass-rusher Melvin Ingram dropped, I started to work on a trade up. I was talking to NFC West blogger Mike Sando about a deal for Ingram at No. 12 with Seattle in case he fell. But in an intra-division deal, James Walker had the Jets give a load to Buffalo to take Ingram at No. 10. Then, when North Carolina pass-rusher Quinton Coples fell, I hit the phones again. I was close to a deal with AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky at No. 15, but he wanted more and he wanted to make a decision, so talks stalled. When the No. 18 pick came around, I went with Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower over pass-rushers such as Syracuse’s Chandler Jones or Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus. I picked Hightower because Smith values talent regardless of need and Hightower was the best player on the board. Todd McShay has him ranked as the No. 13 available player. He is an impact player and he’d be the Chargers’ best inside linebacker. Plus, he is a solid pass-rusher from the inside. It all came down to value.

Denver: In our previous blogger mock draft, LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers fell to Denver at No. 25. He was taken at No. 14 by Dallas this time. There was a chance Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe was going to be there, but, predictably, Pittsburgh took him at No. 24. I then considered trading the pick or taking Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill. In the end, I went for need and value and took Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy. He is a good player who will start right away and McShay has him ranked as the No. 22 player available. If this is the way the draft falls on Thursday, I can see the Broncos trading down a few spots and still getting Worthy.

Oakland does not have its pick (No. 17). It was sent to Cincinnati in a package for quarterback Carson Palmer.

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.

Raiders sign troubled former Packer

February, 16, 2012
Reggie McKenzie’s first signing of a former Green Bay Packer as the general manager of the Oakland Raiders shows he is willing to give a player with a checkered past a second chance.

The Raiders announced the signing of cornerback Brandon Underwood on Thursday. Underwood did not play in 2011 after he was cut by Green Bay – where McKenzie was an executive – last September after he was arrested for the second time in his professional career. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of soliciting a prostitute in a June 2010 incident at a resort cabin in Lake Delton, Wis., after two women alleged that he sexually assaulted them. He was arrested after a June 2011 incident in which his wife accused him of domestic violence; he later pleaded no contest to a reduced charge.

Underwood was a sixth-round pick of the Packers in 2009. He played mostly on special teams in Green Bay. He will likely have a difficult time making the Raiders’ 53-man roster. However, the Raiders are very thin at cornerback, so Underwood may get his chance. He is probably the first of several cornerbacks Oakland signs before training camp.

In other AFC West news:

The Raiders have reportedly parted ways with longtime team spokesman John Herrera. It is another indication of the changes following the death last October of team owner Al Davis, of whom Herrera was a close ally.

Insider In an Insider piece, Todd McShay explains why Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill may be a good fit for Denver.