The draft will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday in New York. Times NFL writer Sam Farmer examines team needs by division. Today, the West divisions:
Now that they have their quarterback in Alex Smith, the Kansas City Chiefs need someone to protect his blind side. They're looking to trade left tackle Branden Albert, and with the No. 1 overall pick, they have their pick of two excellent prospects: Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel and Central Michigan's Eric Fisher. The Chiefs also are looking for help at both inside and outside linebacker, and for depth at running back.
The good news for the Oakland Raiders is they'll have all sorts of excellent directions they can head with the third overall pick. The bad news is, they don't have nearly enough selections to address all their needs. Some options with their first pick could include Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan, and Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner.
Mike McCoy takes over as coach of the San Diego Chargers, who missed the playoffs the last three seasons under Norv Turner. Getting a left tackle is a must for a team that started an undrafted rookie there last season. A pass-rushing outside linebacker is on the wish list, and the Chargers might want to start grooming a quarterback of the future who can learn behind Philip Rivers.
With Peyton Manning at the helm and Wes Welker added to the receiving corps, the Denver Broncos look to be in great shape. They could use a running back, though, seeing as Knowshon Moreno is coming off knee surgery and Willis McGahee will turn 32 next season. Denver is also looking for a pass-rushing defensive end, having lost Elvis Dumervil, and a wide-bodied defensive tackle to clog the middle.
The Arizona Cardinals blew a 4-0 start by losing 11 of their final 12 games last season. They're in desperate need of help on the offensive line, particularly at tackle, and might need to trade up from seven to assure themselves of one the three top tackles in this class. Arizona could use a safety. Later in the draft, the Cardinals can look for help at tight end, receiver and running back, having already secured a quarterback in Carson Palmer.
Already on a big upswing, the St. Louis Rams have two first-round picks, Nos. 16 and 22, and an excellent chance to further upgrade their roster. With Danny Amendola now in New England, the Rams are in the market for a quality receiver. Running back Steven Jackson is in Atlanta, so there's a vacancy there too. Both safeties are gone from last season, and the Rams should be in good position to grab Kenny Vaccaro of Texas or Florida's Matt Elam.
The Seattle Seahawks don't have a first-round pick, but they addressed some key areas of need in free agency, trading for Minnesota receiver Percy Harvin, as well as adding defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, and cornerback Antoine Winfield. The Seahawks are expected to look for someone to create competition at right tackle, and for depth at defensive tackle and linebacker.
With most of their starters back, the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers are a tough roster to crack. Last year, none of the 49ers' seven picks started a game. The club has 13 picks this year and might look to package some of those to move up in the first round. It's logical that the team would look for replacements for safety Dashon Goldson and tight end Delanie Walker, and build more depth at offensive and defensive tackle.
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