Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Biggest team needs.
The Broncos, who have the No. 2 overall pick, currently have six draft picks (four in the top 67 picks). I wouldn’t be surprised if the Broncos stuck with the six picks, and five of them could be dedicated to defense. Denver was last in total defense and points allowed in 2010. New head coach John Fox is a defensive specialist, and he will look to upgrade this unit in the draft.
Although Denver has needs throughout the defense, its biggest needs are on front seven. Denver is moving from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 look under Fox. Denver needs a lot of help at the defensive line. It is looking for a pass-rusher and for multiple defensive tackles. I bet it will also look for a middle linebacker and a strongside linebacker. D.J. Williams probably will play weakside if he doesn’t play in the middle. Denver probably will look at the defensive line first with the No. 2 pick.
It could also use a safety and it probably will consider LSU’s Patrick Peterson at No. 2 pick because he is so special. Once Denver addresses its defensive needs, it probably will consider a right tackle and a tight end. Running backs will also be considered.
The Chiefs have one of the more exciting young rosters in the NFL. But Kansas City, which went 10-6 and was a surprise AFC West winner in 2010, has some needs. If the Chiefs get the right front seven players for their intriguing 3-4 defense, this unit could be top notch soon.
Kansas City could use a pass-rusher to team with Tamba Hali. Hali, who was given the franchise tag last month, led the AFC with 14.5 sacks in 2010. This is a very strong draft for pass-rushers, so the Chiefs should have a lot of options at No. 21.
The Chiefs, who lost out to New Orleans for Shaun Rogers, also are looking for some help at defensive tackle. I think the Chiefs are looking for two defensive tackles through the draft and free agency this offseason. A huge run stuffer will be a top priority.
Offensively, I can see the Chiefs looking for a receiver and a perhaps a right tackle. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Chiefs used a very high pick on a receiver. Kansas City is looking for a legitimate No. 2 receiver to pair with Dwayne Bowe. If an upgrade from Barry Richardson can be found, I think Kansas City would consider it. I also wouldn’t be shocked if Kansas City looked for a developmental quarterback in the middle rounds.
One of the interesting aspects of this improving team is that it really doesn’t have a ton of pressing needs. It has young players penciled in through the lineup on both sides of the ball. The only question is whether these young players are ready.
But the Raiders do have some needs, starting on the offensive line. They could have multiple openings in the starting lineup. I’d think the Raiders would seriously consider using the No. 48 pick -- Oakland’s first-round pick was sent to New England for Richard Seymour in 2009 -- on an offensive lineman, probably a guard.
Oakland may need to take a cornerback early if Nnamdi Asomugha leaves in free agency. Other areas that may need to be upgraded because of free agency include safety and tight end.
Oakland also could look for a developmental quarterback in the middle rounds and could consider a linebacker and receiver at some point in the draft.
The Chargers have one of the better rosters in the NFL, but it could use some sprucing up at several spots. San Diego has extra picks in the second and third rounds, and its five picks in the top three rounds are the second most in the NFL behind New England, which has six.
So, the Chargers have the draft power to get better. Like Kansas City, San Diego will look at the strong class of pass-rushers first. The Chargers could use a defensive end or a pass-rushing linebacker. I would expect San Diego, which has the No. 18 pick, to seriously look to fill this need first.
The Chargers could look for multiple defensive linemen and will surely try to grab an inside linebacker early as well. If Eric Weddle leaves through free agency, safety will also have to be addressed.
San Diego could also look for a receiver early in the draft, depending on free agency. The same thing goes at right tackle. A change-of-pace running back and return man may be needed in the middle rounds if Darren Sproles leaves in free agency. I could also see San Diego looking for a blocking tight end in the middle rounds.