Apr 13, 2012
The 2012 NFL Draft is nearly upon us, and this edition is much clearer than last year, at least in terms of team needs, because free agency has already taken place. Here on the staff blog, I’m going to break down each team’s top needs and fantasy outlook for the draft, going division by division. Today we head to the AFC West, and, if you missed them, check out the AFC East, AFC North, and AFC South. Got a player you want your team to target? Let me know in the comments.
Also, be sure to take a look at our massive 2012 Pre-Draft Rookie Report, which takes an in-depth look at all the top fantasy prospects.
Picks: 25, 57, 87, 108, 120, 137, 188
1. Defensive Tackle – The Broncos’ defensive tackle position is a bit of a mess right now. Brodrick Bunkley signed with the Saints, while Ryan McBean will miss the first six games of the season because of a suspension. Plus, Marcus Thomas remains a free agent. For now, that leaves Ty Warren and Kevin Vickerson in the middle of the Broncos’ 4-3 defense. With the 25th pick, they should be in good position to grab a DT, with options including Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy and Penn State’s Devon Still.
2. Cornerback – The Broncos will have a new-look secondary with CB Tracy Porter and S Mike Adams joining the starting lineup. But, while Porter and Champ Bailey form a very good cornerback tandem, Bailey is 33 years old, but the Broncos still need to add some depth to the position and may also have an eye toward the future. They probably won’t address the position in the 1st round, but it’s a possibility if either Dre Kirkpatrick or Stephon Gilmore slips.
3. Running Back – The 30-year-old Willis McGahee had a terrific season last year in returning to a starting role, but he is 30 years old. Meanwhile, former 1st-round pick Knowshon Moreno has fallen out of favor and tore his ACL last year, so the Broncos may look to draft a RB fairly early. Someone like Boise State’s Doug Martin would be a good target in the 2nd round.
Fantasy Outlook: With QB Peyton Manning now in place, the Bronco offense will look totally different after the Tim Tebow experiment last year. Manning has decent weapons around him in McGahee; WRs Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Andre Caldwell; and TEs Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen, but depth is a question at QB, RB, and WR. Caleb Hanie is the team’s insurance behind Manning, who missed all of last year, so the Broncos could take a QB on Day Two. Another WR is certainly possible too.
Kansas City Chiefs
Picks: 11, 44, 74, 107, 146, 182, 218, 238
1. Offensive Line – The Chiefs actually don’t have many glaring needs, but offensive line is still a place where they can add some help, even after they signed top RT Eric Winston. They’re probably not going to draft a G or C with the 11th overall pick – although an argument can be made for Stanford’s David DeCastro – but they could draft a tackle as an eventual replacement for Branden Albert, who will be a free agent next year. If Iowa OT Riley Reiff is still on the board at #11, he’s a definite possibility.
2. Nose Tackle – Kelly Gregg is a free agent, leaving Jerrell Powe to slide into the starting lineup next to Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson in the team’s 3-4. The Chiefs will likely target a tackle early in the draft, making Memphis’ Dontari Poe, who’s more of a an upside pick, and LSU’s Michael Brockers as possible picks and potential starters over Powe.
3. Inside Linebacker – The Chiefs have one of the league’s best inside linebackers in Derrick Johnson, but they could use an upgrade at the other ILB spot with Brandon Siler currently slated to start. There’s a very good chance they’ll take Boston College’s Luke Kuechly, who’s clearly the draft’s top ILB, with the 11th overall pick.
Fantasy Outlook: The Chiefs backfield should look great with Peyton Hillis joining Jamaal Charles, who will return from injury, and they also look very good in the receiving corps with Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, Jonathan Baldwin, Tony Moeaki, and Kevin Boss. The only question mark is quarterback. Instead of signing competition for Matt Cassel, as expected, the Chiefs signed Brady Quinn, and the only other QB is second-year prospect Ricky Stanzi. The Chiefs can’t be ruled out in the Ryan Tannehill sweepstakes as a team that could trade up.
Picks: 95, 129, 148, 168, 189
1. Pass Rush – Well, the Raiders can’t really address any of their pressing needs in the draft, as they traded away everything and won’t pick until their compensatory pick at the end of the 3rd round. It’s been unclear what scheme the Raiders will run, although signs point to a 4-3, but either way they could use some help in the pass rush, where Kamerion Wimbley is gone. They did sign DE Dave Tollefson, but it’s pretty clear they need more help after losing Wimbley.
2. Tight End – The Raiders completely ignored Kevin Boss last year after Zach Miller left, so it’s hard to tell how big of a need this is. Of course, there is a new regime, so perhaps they’ll get the TE involved a bit more. Right now, the Raiders have Brandon Myers, Richard Gordon, and David Ausberry, who have combined for a total of 35 catches in their young careers. In a draft class short on TE talent, the Raiders probably won’t get anyone of note, especially considering they don’t pick until the end of Day Two. Still, it’s clearly a need.
3. Defensive Back – Safeties Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff are back, but the Raiders got rid of Stanford Routt and added Shawntae Spencer and Ronald Bartell. Spencer and Bartell could be solid, but this unit has seen serious downgrades over the last couple years. Huff is a versatile player who can actually play some corner, so adding someone at safety could give them flexibility.
Fantasy Outlook: QB Carson Palmer is entrenched at QB, but the Raiders have question marks around him. That’s not to say there isn’t talented. RB Darren McFadden is one of the best in the league, and the WR corps has a lot of young talent. The problem is that no one can stay healthy. The Raiders replaced backup RB Michael Bush with the speedy Mike Goodson, who is solid, but the offense could be in big trouble if McFadden and the WRs continue to have durability issues.
San Diego Chargers
Picks: 18, 49, 78, 110, 149, 183, 226, 250
1. Offensive Line – The Chargers had mixed success up front last year, and the move that actually helped solidify the unit was the signing of Jared Gaither, who replaced Marcus McNeill at LT. Gaither is back on Philip Rivers’ blind side, but otherwise they need some help, especially after G Kris Dielman retired. With the 18th pick, the Chargers are in position to draft someone like Stanford G David DeCastro or versatile Georgia G/T Cordy Glenn.
2. Cornerback – The Chargers ranked 13th against the pass last year, but CBs Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason too easily give up big plays. In fact, they couldn’t even decide on a starter between Cason and Marcus Gilchrist, a 2nd-round pick last year. In today’s NFL, CB has become even more important, plus Peyton Manning is now in the division. Gilchrist is still young, but it’s possible the Chargers will address the position again.
3. Strong Safety – The Chargers are in good shape with Eric Weddle at one safety spot, but are they comfortable with Atari Bigby taking over for Steve Gregory, who signed with the Patriots, at the other spot? Alabama’s Mark Barron is a possibility if he falls to the 18th pick, but the Chargers will likely wait to address the position until a bit later.
Fantasy Outlook: The Chargers remain one of the best teams in the league for fantasy, although their WR corps will look different with Vincent Jackson gone and Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem stepping in next to Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown. The two positions they could address are RB and TE. They have a pair of great players in Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates at those positions, but they could take a player at both spots in the draft. RB Mike Tolbert is gone, and while the Chargers signed Le’Ron McClain, they could look to add a power back. At TE, veteran backup Randy McMichael is back, but the Chargers could still look to add someone like Louisiana-Lafayette’s Ladarius Green as Gates’ protégé.