By Tony Meale

The 2013 NFL Draft will take place this week, so let’s take a look at which holes each team in the AFC West needs to fill to have a successful draft.

Denver Broncos

After adding Wes Welker, the Denver offense – which scored 30 points or more in 12 of 17 games last season (playoffs included) – will be virtually unguardable. Yes, Peyton Manning and Co. have all they need on that side of the ball to reach, and win, the Super Bowl.

As for the defense, well…

If the Broncos could defend 70-yard passes, they might have won the Super Bowl last year. Instead, Denver, which finished fourth in the league in scoring defense, allowed 31+ points in three of its four losses, including 38 in a double-overtime playoff loss to Baltimore. Improving the secondary and attempting to replace Elvis Dumervil’s 11 sacks – “attempting” being the key word – should be the Broncos’ chief concerns entering the draft. (Dumervil was released in March following a paperwork snafu and was subsequently signed by the Ravens).

Thus, Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant and Florida State defensive end Cornellius Carradine are attractive options for the 28th overall pick.

If Denver drafts an offensive player in the first couple of rounds, it could be a running back. Willis McGahee performed admirably last season but turns 32 in October. Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman, meanwhile, were serviceable in a back-up role, but both averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry and aren’t exactly known for their blocking skills. Alabama’s Eddie Lacy or Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead would be an intriguing addition to the Denver offense – which, again, will put up crazy-good numbers.

2013 NFL Mock Draft – First Round Picks Here

Kansas City Chiefs

Fifty years. That’s how long it’s been since the Chiefs last drafted first overall. In 1963, they selected defensive tackle Buck Buchanan, who is in the Hall of Fame. Five decades later, the Chiefs will likely select another tackle – this one of the offensive variety – and hope for similar results.

Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, who is projected as the top overall pick, might not be the sexiest prospect on the board, but he’s certainly among the safest. Given Andy Reid’s penchant for drafting linemen – eight of his 12 first-round picks in Philadelphia were spent along the trenches – and given that Kansas City just signed quarterback Alex Smith, drafting Joeckel makes sense on a lot of levels.

With a new quarterback in tow, Joeckel would be a nice addition for an offense that also locked up wide receiver Dwayne Bowe to a five-year deal and signed tight end Anthony Fassano. As a result, don’t be surprised if Kansas City – which finished dead last in passing offense in 2012 – spends most of its later picks on defense, particularly at linebacker and defensive back. The Chiefs have eight picks in the draft, including four in the top 100 (1, 63, 96 and 99). A backup for Jamaal Charles, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards last season, is also an option.

Bottom line: The Chiefs, who last season went 1-7 at home, 1-7 on the road and 0-6 in the division, are positioned to improve – perhaps even drastically.

2013 NFL Mock Draft – First Round Picks Here

Oakland Raiders

When you’re tied with Cleveland and Tennessee for the league lead in something, odds are that “something” isn’t a good thing.

It isn’t.

From 2003 to 2012, the Raiders have used 15 different starting quarterbacks – tied for most in the NFL with, you guessed it, the aforementioned Browns and Titans. After acquiring Matt Flynn from the Seahawks, however, Oakland hopes the 27-year-old can provide stability under center and become the quarterback of the future.

Whether he can or can’t, the Raiders will almost assuredly use their third overall draft pick to bolster their pass rush – a wise choice given that a) the defense finished 31st in the league with just 25 sacks last year and b) the division crown goes through Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

In a wide-open draft, Oakland selecting defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is about as no-brainer as it gets. Floyd played defensive end and tackle at Florida and has the quickness and strength to be a legit up-the-gut pass rusher to play alongside Lamarr Houston. Ohio State’s John Simon is a solid option in the later rounds.

2013 NFL Mock Draft – First Round Picks Here

San Diego Chargers

After making the playoffs in four consecutive seasons from 2006 to 2009, the Chargers have been shut out of the postseason for three years in a row. The bad news is that they have a lot that needs improving; the good news is that they have the 11th pick in the draft and could go any number of options.

They could draft a shifty, speedy receiver in West Virginia’s Tavon Austin. They could draft Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert to groom as a replacement for Antonio Gates. They could go with Alabama’s Dee Milliner, an NFL-ready cover corner who’s won a national championship. Or they could go with Georgia’s Alec Ogletree and insert a freakishly athletic inside linebacker into the 3-4.

None of those would be bad moves. But the best move? That would be taking Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei or one of the top offensive guards in this year’s draft – Alabama’s Chance Warmack or North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper.

Lotulelei is just that talented, while Warmack and Cooper would protect Phillip Rivers, who was sacked 49 times last year – second most in the league – and improve a running game that ranked 27th in yards.

Denver may have this division on lockdown for at least the next two seasons, but San Diego, with deft drafting, could contend for the Wild Card – and given the way the last three years have gone, that should make Chargers fans happy.


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Cincinnati-based sportswriter Tony Meale is the author of The Chosen Ones: The Team That Beat LeBron and contributes to several outlets, including and MaxPreps. He has a master’s in journalism from Ohio University and is available for guest-speaking engagements. Follow Tony Meale on Twitter @tonymeale.


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