Team-by-team draft needs: AFC West

Pat Kirwan breaks down each team's positional needs, listed in order of importance, entering the draft.

More team draft needs:

AFC: East | North | South | West
NFC: East | North | South | West


Denver Broncos

Quarterback: The trade of Jay Cutler automatically makes this a top priority for the Broncos. That is unless they believe Kyle Orton is more than a stopgap. Mark Sanchez played in the same system as Matt Cassel at USC, and we all know how much Josh McDaniels loves Cassel.

Nose tackle: If the Broncos are going to move toward a 3-4 defense, they need to find a big-bodied two-gapper who can clog up the middle. That player isn't on the roster at this point. Boston College's Ron Brace could be the answer in the second round.

Defensive end: Kenny Peterson re-signed with the Broncos and Darrell Reid came over from the Indianapolis Colts, but neither is an impact player with impressive size, strength or athleticism. LSU's Tyson Jackson is a grinder who could be an option in the first round, or the Broncos could take a player like San Jose State's Jarron Gilbert in the third round.

Safety/cornerback: The Broncos signed CB Andre' Goodman and safeties Renaldo Hill and Brian Dawkins in free agency, but all of them are 30 or older. Cornerback Champ Bailey (30) is no spring chicken either, so Denver needs a hybrid corner/safety for depth behind the veterans.

Center:Broncos starter Casey Wiegmann is 35, and it's a strong draft for centers. Connect the dots.

Linebacker: A team that plays a 3-4 defense can't have enough linebackers. The Broncos could use a pass rusher from the right side opposite Elvis Dumervil, and despite the signing of Andra Davis to play next to Boss Bailey, they also could use a strong tackler inside.

Wide receiver:Brandon Marshall could miss up to eight games if his latest off-the-field incident leads to a league-mandated suspension. Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokley and Jabar Gaffney can hold the fort for a few games, but beyond that, the Broncos have to think about another player to fill the void.

Kicker:Matt Prater has a strong leg, but his accuracy was a big question mark in 2008. He connected on just 73.5 percent of his field-goal attempts last season and has made 68.4 percent in his two-year NFL career. He's strictly a kickoff specialist.

Draft choices: Nos. 12, 18, 48, 79, 84, 114, 140, 149, 185, 225, 235


Kansas City Chiefs

Outside linebacker: Mike Vrabel was acquired in a trade with the New England Patriots this offseason, and that helps, but the Chiefs need 3-4 linebackers, with Wake Forest's Aaron Curry likely at the top of the list. This is a team that last year had just 10 sacks -- the fewest in a season since the NFL started recording the statistic -- so the Chiefs must find players who can get to the quarterback.

Defensive end: While the Chiefs initially might have to settle for hybrid-type players, they will look for a bigger end who has the strength to be a force against bigger blockers and also provide some pass-rush help.

Right tackle: The Chiefs must rebuild the right side of their offensive line. Damion McIntosh, at 32, isn't the long-term answer, and there is little viable depth behind him.

Center: Starter Rudy Niswanger is a former undrafted free agent, and the Chiefs badly need to upgrade at this position.

Guard: Again, the right side of the offensive line needs help. Incumbent Wade Smith is a journeyman who is with his third team in the last five seasons. The Chiefs expect to be in a lot of spread shotgun formations and need an athletic guard who's good in pass protection.

Free safety: The Chiefs have some exciting young players in the secondary, but the team seriously lacks depth behind Jarrad Page at this position and Bernard Pollard at strong safety.

Wide receiver: The signings of Bobby Engram and Terrance Copper went a long way toward fixing an ailing receiving corps, but that shoudn't preclude the team from picking up another young playmaker.

Draft choices: Nos. 3, 67, 102, 139, 175, 212, 256


Oakland Raiders

Wide receiver: Javon Walker is the only receiver with any kind of extensive experience, and while Johnnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens began to show some promise toward the end of the 2008 season, the Raiders can't really expect to go into the 2009 season with either in the starting lineup. Team owner Al Davis has to like Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree's speed.

Left tackle: Though free-agent signee Khalif Barnes is an upgrade over Kwame Harris, I wouldn't be too comfortable with him on the left side because he lacks the athleticism to protect on that side. If the Raiders can land one of the several highly regarded left tackles in the draft, they might be able to move Barnes to the right side. Protecting young QB JaMarcus Russell has to be the team's first priority.

Cornerback/safety: After Nnamdi Asomugha, the Raiders are thin at cornerback, with Chris Johnson, Stanford Routt and Justin Miller all spot starters at best. The situation at safety isn't better. Hiram Eugene is a former undrafted free agent, yet he finished 2008 as a starter. Former Texas star Michael Huff, a first-round draft pick in 2006, has been a huge disappointment.

Defensive tackle:Tommy Kelly was a bit of a disappointment last season, and Gerard Warren is nothing more than a hold-the-fort guy. Though the two veterans combined for 8.5 sacks in 2008, the Raiders should look for a quick, penetrating defensive tackle who can collapse the pocket from the interior and disrupt plays in the backfield.

Defensive end: Derrick Burgess' numbers were down last season partly because teams constantly threw double teams at him. There is no viable pass-rushing threat on the opposite side to help balance opponents' protection schemes. Until the Raiders find another pass rusher, they will continue to struggle to pressure the quarterback.

Outside linebacker: Thomas Howard has been a sure tackler and a playmaker on the weak side, but this spot has been manned by former undrafted free agent Ricky Brown. The Raiders would like to upgrade that position.

Draft choices: Nos. 7, 40, 71, 108, 181, 216


San Diego Chargers

Defensive end: Igor Olshansky left for the Dallas Cowboys in free agency, so the Chargers need another big, strong defensive end who can play the run and crash the inside gaps on passing downs, creating rush opportunities for the outside linebackers. San Jose State's Jarron Gilbert is an athletic, 288-pound defensive end who could fit the Chargers' 3-4 mold and might be available in the third round.

Right tackle:Jeromey Clary has been the Chargers' starting right tackle since 2007, but he lacks the strength and athleticism to be an effective every-down player at the position. The right side of the offensive line is the only real weakness for this Chargers offense, and the team needs to address the issue early in the draft.

Safety: Free safety Eric Weddle was very productive with a team-high 127 tackles in 2008, but strong safety Clinton Hart saw his playing time cut as the season progressed. The Chargers would love to replace Hart, but they don't have the player to do it. Expect them to look for a young, versatile player to groom at that position.

Running back: The Chargers don't want to pay LaDainian Tomlinson, and they don't want to commit to Darren Sproles. In short, they need to look for the guy who will take over for Tomlinson.

Right guard: Mike Goff joined the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency, leaving the job to Kynan Forney, but the Chargers could use an interior swingman to provide some depth.

Cornerback:Antonio Cromartie played hurt all last season, but now that he's healthy, he needs to regain the playmaking form he showed in 2007, when he led the NFL with 10 interceptions. The Chargers have plenty of depth on their roster, but they need to shut down the best receivers with Cromartie and Quentin Jammer. To protect themselves, the Chargers should have a cornerback with speed and ball skills in their plans.

Inside linebacker: The signing of former Cowboy Kevin Burnett might address this need. Burnett was an outside linebacker and a special-teamer in Dallas, but he'll line up inside for the Chargers. Burnett's value comes in his ability to also fill in at outside linebacker when needed.

Draft choices: Nos. 16, 78, 113, 133, 134, 148, 189, 224

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