NFL draft preview: AFC and NFC West team needs

AFC and NFC West team needs going in to Thursday's NFL draft

The draft will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Chicago. Times NFL writer Sam Farmer examines team needs by division. Today, in the last of four parts, the West divisions:

AFC West

Protecting Peyton Manning is paramount, so the Denver Broncos almost certainly will look for help along the offensive line in this draft. But will they go that way with the 28th pick? They need to fill the vacancy left by defensive tackle Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton, who’s now in Washington. They also need a tight end to step in for the departed Julius Thomas, even after adding Owen Daniels.

The San Diego Chargers’ direction depends on what they do with quarterback Philip Rivers. If the rumors are true and they trade him to Tennessee, they will go for a quarterback at No. 2. More likely, they (and Rivers) stay put and the team takes a power running back who can get the hard yards. Offensive line is a priority too, as is a pass rusher.

Now that they have a quarterback to build around in Derek Carr, the Oakland Raiders need to get him some receiving targets. At No. 4, the Raiders are in position to take a potential star pass catcher in West Virginia’s Kevin White or Alabama’s Amari Cooper. Indications are they’re leaning toward White. The Raiders used their top pick on Khalil Mack last year, but they could use another edge rusher.

The Kansas City Chiefs have lots of picks (10) and lots of needs, including at cornerback, where their only established player is Sean Smith. With the 18th pick, Kansas City is in good position for a draft that’s deep in corners. They have vacancies along the offensive line too, and are looking for some receiving targets for Alex Smith, even though they added Jeremy Maclin via free agency. Not a single wide receiver scored a touchdown for the Chiefs last season.

NFC West

NFL coach of the year Bruce Arians has the Arizona Cardinals heading in the right direction, but there are miles to go. They could go running back in the first round, someone to complement Andre Ellington, and there are options. The Cardinals need to ramp up their pass rush too, perhaps adding a bookend to Calais Campbell.

Big changes are afoot for the San Francisco 49ers, now without Jim Harbaugh as coach, and the rebuilding process could start at linebacker, especially with the surprise retirements of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland. The team probably will target inside linebackers in the middle rounds. However, the No. 15 pick could be a cornerback, and the 49ers have an opportunity to get a good one there.

Because of the Jimmy Graham trade with New Orleans, the Seattle Seahawks don’t have a first-round pick. There’s still work to be done in this draft, particularly along the offensive line (only heightened by the trade of Max Unger.) To this point, the Seahawks have made the most of their wide receivers, and it’s time for an infusion of players there.

The St. Louis Rams have a new quarterback in Nick Foles, and they need to protect him. There are several needs along the offensive line, and that might be the direction the team goes with the 10th pick — although the Rams worked out Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, so a trade up isn’t out of the question. Cornerback is a need too, and the Rams are in prime position to grab one.

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