AFC West: Vontaze Burfict

Mailbag: Give Poe a chance

May, 2, 2012
5/02/12
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Midweek mail call:

John from Kansas City wants to know if I think Kansas City's top pick, Dontari Poe, will be a sure bust.

Bill Williamson: I find it a bit amusing that the consensus is that Poe will not succeed in the NFL. It’s as if the poor kid’s fate has already been sealed. Come on, folks. Had Kansas City not taken the defensive tackle from Memphis at No. 11, another team would quickly have taken him. Sure, he didn’t have great film in college. But there is no denying he is a talent. He will get supreme coaching from Romeo Crennel and Poe will be put in a position to succeed. Just because there are question marks doesn’t mean Poe has no chance to succeed. Don’t be shocked if in two years we hear what a steal he was.


Mike from San Francisco wants to know if the Raiders made a mistake by not drafting Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

BW: Well, if Oakland whiffed on Burfict, so did the rest of the league. He was not drafted and he signed with Cincinnati as an undrafted free agent. Here’s why Burfict wasn’t drafted: he didn’t deserve to be. In addition to having character red flags, his game film wasn’t great. He doesn’t have strong fundamentals and he freelances too much. He wasn’t worth the trouble to draft. Perhaps he will develop, but just because he was a known quantity doesn’t mean he should have been drafted.


Rich from St. Louis wants to know what I think of Kansas City draft choice DeQuan Menzie.

BW: I like him. I think he has a real chance. The fifth-round pick from Alabama was a cornerback in college but he may project as a safety in the NFL. He is a smart, heady player who stood out on a classic defense. Nick Saban’s defenders come to the NFL ready and I think we will see an impact made by this player. Yes, he lacks ideal speed, but it didn’t hurt him in the SEC and he knows how to make up for it. I know the Chiefs are tickled about this pick.
Let take a look at some players who could be available in the second round and beyond and might interest teams in the AFC West:

QUARTERBACKS

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Kirk Cousins, Michigan State

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Brock Osweiler, Arizona State

Round range: 2-3

Possible interested teams: Kansas City, Denver

Nick Foles, Arizona

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Denver

RUNNING BACK

Lamar Miller, Miami

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams: Denver

Doug Martin, Boise State

Round range: 2-3

Possible interested teams: Denver

David Wilson, Virginia Tech

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams: Denver

LaMichael James, Oregon

Round range: 3

Possible interested teams: San Diego

Chris Polk, Washington

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Denver

Robert Turbin, Utah State

Round range: 4-6

Possible interested teams: Oakland

Dan Herron, Ohio State

Round range: 5-6

Possible interested teams: Oakland

WIDE RECEIVER

A.J. Jenkins, Illinois

Round range: 3-5

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Juron Criner, Arizona

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Danny Coale, Virginia Tech

Round range: 4-5

Possible interested teams: Denver, Kansas City

Devin Goda, Slippery Rock

Round range: 6-7

Possible interested teams: Oakland

TIGHT ENDS

Michael Egnew, Missouri

Round range: 4-5

Possible interested teams: Oakland, San Diego

Deangelo Peterson, LSU

Round range : 4-5

Possible interested teams: Oakland, San Diego

OFFENSIVE LINE

Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Mitchell Schwartz, California

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Senio Kelemete, Washington

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: San Diego

Steven Baker, East Carolina

Round range: 4-6

Possible interested teams: Oakland

DEFENSIVE LINE

Alameda Ta'amu, Washington

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams: Kansas City, San Diego

Brandon Thompson, Clemson

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams : Denver

Josh Chapman, Alabama

Round range: 3

Possible interested teams: Kansas City, Oakland

Billy Winn, Boise State

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Oakland, Denver, Kansas City, San Diego

Mike Martin, Michigan

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Kansas City, San Diego

Drew Nowak, Western Michigan

Round range: 5-7

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Ronnie Cameron, Old Dominion

Round range: 5-7

Possible interested teams: San Diego

Donavan Robinson, Jackson State

Round range: 5-7

Possible interested teams: San Diego

LINEBACKER

Chandler Jones, Syracuse

Round range: 2-3

Possible interested teams: San Diego

Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma

Round range: 2-3

Possible interested teams: San Diego

Bruce Irvin, West Virginia

Round range: 3-5

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Nigel Bradham, Florida State

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Oakland

Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State

Round range: 3-5

Possible interested teams: Denver, Kansas City, Oakland

Jonathan Massaquoi, Troy

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Oakland, San Diego

Sean Spence, Miami

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Oakland, San Diego

Sammy Brown, Houston

Round range: 5-7

Possible interested teams: Oakland

Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Washington State

Round range: 5-7

Possible interested teams: Oakland

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Harrison Smith, Notre Dame

Round range: 2

Possible interested teams: San Diego, Kansas City

Trumaine Johnson, Montana

Round range: 2-3

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

Josh Norman, Coastal Carolina

Round range: 3-4

Possible interested teams: Denver, Oakland

George Iloka, Boise State

Round range: 4-5

Possible interested teams: Denver, Kansas City

Asa Jackson, Cal Poly-SLO

Round range: 4-5

Possible interested teams: Oakland

Brandon Taylor, LSU

Round range: 4-5

Possible interested teams: Kansas City

D.J. Campbell, California

Round range: 5-7

Possible interested teams: San Diego

Tavon Wilson, Illinois

Round range: 5-7

Possible interested teams: San Diego
One of the more intriguing players available in next month’s draft is Arizona State’s Vontaze Burfict.

A year ago, Burfict was considered a top-10 pick. However, after a rocky 2011 season, some character concerns and a poor offseason in 2012, Burfict’s draft stock has tumbled. I know of one team that has him as a third-round pick. There are some who think he could slide to the third day of the draft.

Despite his issues, Burfict -- who is going to perform for scouts at another pro day Friday -- has some terrific game film. Some folks in the know think he may be a good fit in Denver and Kansas City. The versatile Burfict is being looked at as a middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense and as a weakside inside linebacker in a 3-4. Let’s see how if Burfict fits with all the AFC West teams:

Denver: The issue here is the Broncos have second-year middle linebacker Nate Irving, who they believe in. The Broncos, who run a 4-3 defense, just re-signed Joe Mays as well. I think Burfict could benefit from the strong coaching in Denver and a veteran locker room, but I don’t know if there is room for him.

Kansas City: This is an interesting fit. The Chiefs could use an inside linebacker for their 3-4 system. Burfict would benefit from playing for Romeo Crennel. The Chiefs gambled and scored with outside linebacker Justin Houston in the third round last year. They could do the same thing here. I’d say they would be the favorites in the division to draft Burfict.

Oakland: Some people don’t think this is a fit, but I could see the Raiders looking at Burfict in the right circumstance. The Raiders have not yet committed to what defensive scheme they will run, but they will, at least, be flexible. Having a versatile linebacker like Burfict could be beneficial. The Raiders will look for a true strongside linebacker with their first pick at No. 95. But I could see Burfict on Oakland’s radar.

San Diego: The Chargers, who run a 3-4 defense, are probably the least likely to grab Burfict. They have a surplus of young talent at inside linebacker and have other needs. Right now, it doesn’t seem like a perfect fit.

AFC West combine primer

February, 23, 2012
2/23/12
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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
12/26/11
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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.
Todd McShay has the unenviable task of projecting his first 2012 mock draft in an Insider piece.

It’s a difficult task because the prospect list could change dramatically in the next year. Plus, the projected selection order will likely change dramatically.

But it’s a fun exercise in early May and it does give fans a taste of what to expect. Here is a look at McShay’s choices for the AFC West:

No. 5, Denver

Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

My take: The position is Denver’s greatest need heading into the 2011 season.

No. 9, Oakland

Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

My take: I think Oakland will pick later than No. 9. But adding to the offensive line would be a smart idea.

No. 17, Kansas City

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

My take: This inside linebacker would be a smart pick by the Chiefs.

No. 22, San Diego

Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State

My take: Burfict seems like a boon-or-bust type player.

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