Q&A with Chris Steuber: AFC West Draft Plans

NFL Draft Analyst Chris Steuber fields questions submitted by Scout.com readers regarding the draft plans of all the teams in the AFC West. Will the Raiders steal Andre Smith? Is Sam Bradford destined to be a Chief? Will the Chargers look to replace Shawne Merriman? Which running back fits Denver's system best? These answers and more are inside.

Q: Who are some of the running backs in this year's draft who fit the one-cut scheme of the Denver Broncos?

A: It seems like the Broncos could place anyone in their backfield and have success. But in their zone-blocking scheme, having a dynamic back would make their offense much harder to defend and open up opportunities in the passing game for Jay Cutler to exploit.

A lot of the explosive running backs in college football are underclassmen, such as: Knowshon Moreno (Georgia), Chris Wells (Ohio State), LeSean McCoy (Pittsburgh) and Shonn Greene (Iowa). It's unknown if they will declare for the draft, but if they did, Moreno and McCoy would be the Broncos' best bet. Michigan State senior Javon Ringer is also a possibility. Ringer possesses the shiftiness necessary to be successful in the Broncos' scheme and is versatile to the point where he can be a weapon as a receiver.

A late-round option for the Broncos could be Boise State RB Ian Johnson. The Broncos selected Johnson's former teammate at Boise State, OT Ryan Clady, in the first round last year. Johnson isn't the fastest or strongest runner, but he's elusive and has big-play potential.


LB Aaron Curry
Brian Westerholt/Sports On Film

Q: What positions could you see the Kansas City Chiefs addressing with their first-round pick? Who are some of the top candidates at those positions?

A: The three positions I could see the Chiefs addressing in the first round are quarterback, linebacker and defensive end. The quarterback position is truly dependent on the underclassmen who declare. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford (rSo) and Georgia's Matthew Stafford (Jr) are the top two quarterbacks in the country, and from what I've heard, they're leaning towards entering the draft, which is great news for the Chiefs.

At linebacker, there are three cornerstone defenders that will likely be instant impact players at the next level: Aaron Curry (Wake Forest), James Laurinaitis (Ohio State) and Rey Maualuga (USC). Of the three, Curry has the most intrigue surrounding him, with many scouts anointing him as the most complete linebacker in the draft. Laurinaitis and Maualuga are known commodities and tremendous playmakers, but with the draft being more about a player's upside and potential, Curry may ultimately be the first linebacker selected next April.

There are a few quality defensive ends that will receive top-ten consideration: Texas' Brian Orakpo, Georgia Tech's Michael Johnson and Florida State's Everette Brown (Jr). All three had breakout-out seasons and will compete this offseason to be the first DE taken in the draft. Orakpo had 18 TFL and 10.5 sacks; Johnson recorded 15 TFL and seven sacks; and Brown emerged with 20.5 TFL and 12.5 sacks. If Brown declares for the draft, his potential is off the charts and he will be the first DE off the board.


OT Andre Smith
Chris Graythen/Getty

Q: It seems like OT Andre Smith would be a perfect fit for the Oakland Raiders. Is there any chance of him falling to the Raiders? How do you think he would fit in Oakland?

A: I agree that Andre Smith (Jr) would be a perfect fit for the Raiders, but the only way he will end up in Oakland is if they have the first or second selection. With the Detroit Lions flirting with an historic 0-16 season and the St. Louis Rams throwing in the towel, I don't see any possibility of Smith falling to the Raiders, outside of a potential trade.

Q: How do you believe the Shawne Merriman situation affects the draft plans of the San Diego Chargers? Do you think San Diego will draft a player to complement Merriman? Or will GM A.J. Smith draft to replace Merriman, who is entering the final year of his contract?

A: Even though Merriman is expected to return at 100 percent next season, you never know how a knee will react after major surgery. The explosion that Merriman had prior to the injury may not return, and that's a concern moving forward. I don't think the Chargers will go into the draft with the idea of replacing Merriman, but I don't think that will stop them from drafting a linebacker in the first round.

There will be three tremendous linebackers (Aaron Curry, James Laurinaitis and Rey Maualuga) available in the first round, and the Chargers may have a shot at two of them. Of the three, Maualuga fits best with the Chargers and has the versatility to play all linebacker positions.

Q: What do the Broncos need to focus on in this year's draft? Will it be the defensive line again? Or safety? Or overall depth?


S William Moore
Missouri

A: I think the Broncos have to upgrade their secondary and select a playmaking safety that can alter a game. The Broncos allow 230.3 passing yards a game, which ranks 27th in the league. And if that's not bad enough, they are ranked 31st in the league in interceptions with six. Selecting Missouri's William Moore or USC's Taylor Mays (if he declares) would bolster a defense in need of youth and depth.

Q: Is Tyler Thigpen a franchise quarterback? If not, do you think Sam Bradford would be a good fit for the Chiefs? And if so, is there any way for the team to finagle a way to get him?

A: I think Tyler Thigpen has done an outstanding job this season for a dreadful Kansas City Chiefs team. But I don't think he's a quarterback a franchise can build around and expect to become a top-level player.

If Sam Bradford enters the draft, he will be a hot commodity and a fit for any team. With the Chiefs currently holding onto the third pick overall with one week to go, they have a great shot at securing Bradford for the future. However, a lot will depend on what the Detroit Lions do with the first pick, as they could draft Bradford or improve their offensive line with Michael Oher (Ole Miss) or Andre Smith (Alabama). If Bradford is off the board before the Chiefs make their selection, Matthew Stafford is another possibility.

Q: What positions and players will the Raiders target in the draft?

A: The Raiders will look at the following positions in the draft: OT, WR, CB and S. Like I previously stated, Andre Smith would be the perfect selection for Oakland. He would start from day one and help protect JaMarcus Russell. But if Smith is off the board, the Raiders could look at Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, Illinois CB Vontae Davis or USC FS Taylor Mays.

Q: The Chargers could use a definite upgrade at right tackle. Are there any first-round prospects at that position who could tempt the Chargers in round one?

A: There will be some really good linemen available in the first round, but I don't think any team should select a right tackle that high. I think you can always find good talent at RT later in the draft and select a more prominent position in the first round.

If the Chargers are looking to upgrade their offensive line, they could go for a versatile lineman like Eugene Monroe or Duke Robinson. Monroe and Robinson have experience playing at guard and tackle. Monroe is your prototypical left tackle prospect, while Robinson is a mauler who can play either guard position or star at right tackle.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber's features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com.


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