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2009 NFL Draft - Team Needs Report - AFC West
The Sports Xchange
April 20, 2009
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Denver Broncos

TEAM NEEDS: Defensive tackle, defensive end, inside linebacker, cornerback.

DT -- The Broncos don't have a proven, natural nose tackle on the roster, someone that can clog up the middle in a 3-4. Denver's run defense has been porous the past few years, and it won't get better until the front line improves. The need is so great at nose tackle, a trade up to get Boston College's B.J. Raji can't be ruled out.

DE -- With the Broncos' switching to a 3-4 defense, they no longer define defensive linemen as they had under Mike Shanahan. Ends in the old defense like Elvis Dumervil and Jarvis Moss don't fit as ends in a 3-4, so there is a strong need to stock up in the draft. The Broncos could use a couple of their picks at this position.

ILB -- Although the Broncos have some young talent at linebacker, a star in D.J. Williams and added Andra Davis via free agency, a stout inside linebacker would help. That could allow others to fall into their more natural positions. The Broncos will also need depth at inside linebacker.

CB -- The starting spots are filled by Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman, but there are some questions further down the depth chart. Last year's rookies, Jack Williams and Josh Bell, could prove to be worthy successors, but the Broncos could also decide to draft a young cornerback to fill the nickel cornerback role with an eye to the future.

QB -- Without Jay Cutler, the Broncos have Kyle Orton and Chris Simms. Neither is a sure-fire franchise quarterback, especially since Orton is only signed through this season. The Broncos could pick a quarterback early, or could try to hit a home run late. That worked for the Patriots and Josh McDaniels, who worked with Tom Brady and Matt Cassel the past few years.

Kansas City Chiefs

TEAM NEEDS: Defensive end, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, offensive tackle, guard, tight end, running back.

DE -- The Chiefs set an NFL record last year for fewest sacks in a season and since dealing Jared Allen a year ago, they don't have a pass rusher on the edge. Whether they play the 3-4 or the 4-3 or some hybrid that combines the two, the Chiefs need an outside push. Tamba Hali has shown flashes over his career, but he's never been a constant presence around the pocket. Last year, former first-rounder Jason Babin was added as an injury replacement and in the second half and he showed a good rush late in the season. But Babin is a free agent and drew no interest from the new regime.

ILB -- The recent signing of Zach Thomas is a stop-gap measure. He'll be 36 years old before the '09 regular season opener. The depth chart lacks a true MLB for the 4-3 or a true ILB for the 3-4. At the end of last season, Derrick Johnson moved into the middle linebacker spot and was productive at the position. But his physical talents are better suited to the outside.

OLB -- The trade that brought Mike Vrabel from the Patriots isn't a permanent fix. Only Derrick Johnson has shown any ability to play the outside and he's in the final year of his contract. Vrabel is coming off a season where he was bothered by a shoulder injury. He'll be 34 in August and has been brought to Kansas City largely because of his leadership skills.

OT -- Last year's addition of first-rounder Branden Albert brought stability and a future to left tackle. Albert moved from his college position of guard and started 15 games, allowing 4.5 sacks. He showed the athletic ability and feet to make big strides in his second season. Right tackle must be addressed; the current starter 32-year old journeyman Damion McIntosh who struggled in pass protection last year, but remains a good run blocker.

OG -- Mike Goff will be the likely starter at right guard, replacing Adrian Jones because there is no young player in the pipeline pushing for playing time. But Goff, a free agent from San Diego, is 33 and his physical style could work against his longevity. Pro Bowl LG Brian Waters, 32, is unhappy and wants out after his first meeting with the new head coach.

TE/RB -- The need depends on whether TE Tony Gonzalez and/or RB Larry Johnson are traded before or during the draft. Both players have asked to be dealt in the past, although Johnson has backed off his request in the last month. If Gonzalez goes, the Chiefs will need more than last year's third-round tight end, Brad Cottam. If Johnson goes and with Kolby Smith fighting back from a serious knee injury, suddenly running back becomes a priority for the Chiefs. They would be left with only second-year men Jamaal Charles, Jackie Battle and Dantrell Savage.

Oakland Raiders

TEAM NEEDS: Safety, wide receiver, offensive tackle, defensive line.

S -- With Hiram Eugene and Tyvon Branch the projected starters and Michael Huff bounced from the starting lineup, the Raiders continue their search for an in-the-box presence who'd help the NFL's 31st-ranked run defense. No safety is worth of their top pick, but the Raiders have to find something either in the draft or by signing a veteran such as Roy Williams, who was cut by Dallas.

WR -- As promising as Johnnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens were at the close of the season, Higgins is a smallish receiver/return specialist and Schilens a seventh-round draft pick. Javon Walker was brought back at a greatly reduced salary, but is no lock to make the team.

OT -- Khalif Barnes and Erik Pears arrived via free agency, but both are on one-year contracts and aren't necessarily the final answer as the Raiders look to protect Russell. If they don't take Andre Smith or Michael Oher at No. 7, a second-tier tackle would suffice.

DL -- Whether it's at tackle or end, the Raiders need a stout presence to hold the point and help the run defense. At end, Derrick Burgess and Trevor Scott are smallish rush ends in the 250- to 260-pound range. At tackle, Tommy Kelly was disappointing come off a knee injury and Terdell Sands has been an underachiever.

San Diego Chargers

TEAM NEEDS: Defensive end, defensive tackle, strong safety, right guard, running back, right tackle.

DE -- The Chargers could use help here, either inside or outside in their 3-4 alignment. The team lost starting end Igor Olshansky to free agency and there wasn't a surefire starter behind him.

DT -- Jamal Williams remains one of the best at his nose tackle position, clogging the middle and keeping blockers off the linebackers who collect most of the tackle. That said, he is entering his 12th season and he has had to baby his knees for the past few years. Williams has another year, but the team must address this critical spot soon.

SS -- Clinton Hart got his big break by being named the 2008 opening day starter at strong safety. But he was unable to hold the position and the team needs to upgrade here as Hart's backup, Steven Gregory, is likely more of a backup. The Chargers need a presence in the backfield with a hard-hitter, something they don't have in the secondary, save cornerback Quentin Jammer.

RG -- Right guard Mike Goff left via free agency and the team is hoping free agent Kynan Forney can step in, but they are not married to that idea.

RB -- With LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles likely on board -- Sproles still needs to sign his franchise offer sheet -- it wouldn't appear likely the Chargers would fill a need here. But Tomlinson could be gone after this season and the undersized Sproles can't be counted on to run between the tackles. So just maybe, the Chargers build for the future here.

RT -- There is also chatter they would like to upgrade the right tackle spot, where Jeromey Clary showed an up-and-down season last year.


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