NFL draft: AFC and NFC West draft needs

Khalil Mack
Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack could be one of the players the Oakland Raiders are interested in selecting Thursday during the first round of the NFL draft.
(Mike Groll / Associated Press)

The NFL 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:

AFC West

There’s no doubt the Oakland Raiders need a long-term answer at quarterback — Matt Schaub is a Band-Aid fix — but that doesn’t mean they have to use the No. 5 pick on one. There’s a good chance the Raiders can pick up an outstanding defensive player, such as Buffalo’s Khalil Mack. Or maybe Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins slips through the cracks and tumbles to them. A pass rusher would be an excellent, someone who can learn behind seasoned veterans LaMarr Woodley and Justin Tuck would be nice.

Alex Smith can’t thrive with the Kansas City Chiefs when he’s throwing to Dwayne Bowe alone. Smith needs more targets, and this is a great draft for receivers. The Chiefs used last year’s No. 1 overall pick on Eric Fisher, and now they’re moving him to left tackle. If they can get a player to they can develop into a right tackle, that would be a huge help. On defense, they will look for a safety to pair with Eric Berry.


Cornerback is a big an area of acute need for the San Diego Chargers, who were ranked 29th in pass defense last season. They have the 25th pick, and some of the top corners should be off the board by then. at that point. They also could also continue to upgrade their offensive line, particularly in the interior. The Chargers’ top three picks last year — tackle D.J. Fluker, linebacker Manti Te’o, and receiver Keenan Allen — all wound up in the starting lineup.

The Denver Broncos made a splash with the signings of defensive end DeMarcus Ware and cornerback Aqib Talib, but they still need a middle linebacker. Offensive guard is a big position of need too, and the Broncos are the only team that brought UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo in for a visit. Even with Eric Decker gone, the Broncos are rich with receivers. Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker are in the final year of their respective deals, though, so the club might want to draft a project.

NFC West

Thanks to the Robert Griffin III deal, the St. Louis Rams have two first-round picks, and that’s huge in this ultra-deep draft. They need an offensive tackle, with Jake Long coming off torn knee ligaments and Rodger Saffold probably moving inside to guard. Cortland Finnegan is gone, so there’s a good chance the Rams will use one of their two first-round picks on a cornerback.


The Arizona Cardinals, who hit their stride in the second half of last season, are sorely in need of help at safety. Tyrann Mathieu suffered a knee injury and might not be ready for the start of the season, and free agent Yeremiah Bell has yet to be re-signed. The Cardinals also have to start thinking about an eventual replacement for outside linebacker John Abraham, who had 11 1/2 sacks last season.

With all the success the San Francisco 49ers have had in recent years, it’s difficult for a rookie to log much playing time. The 49ers will be looking for a cornerback, in this draft, though, having lost Carlos Rogers, their slot corner for the last three seasons. Depth at receiver is an issue, too, as Colin Kaepernick had limited options last season, particularly because of injuries to Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham (now a Giant). dealing with injuries.

They won the Super Bowl, but the Seattle Seahawks lost two of their top six offensive linemen. They will likely probably will address that in the draft, maybe with someone who can play both guard and tackle. The team The Seahawks also lost defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who was instrumental to in its their success. So a big body in the middle is on their its wish list. Pete Carroll also could also use another receiver, having lost Golden Tate in free agency.

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