CB Patrick Peterson
If he's still available at No. 2 overall in Round 1, then the Broncos have to take Patrick Peterson.
Denver seems to be in good shape on the offensive side of the ball, no matter if Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow ends up under center, but this is a defense that hasn't stopped anybody in quite some time. The majority of that blame is shouldered by the front seven, especially this past year when nobody was able to replace Elvis Dumervil -- he had 17 sacks in 2009 but missed all of 2010 with a torn chest muscle. While it's tempting to take a potentially dominant tackle like Alabama's Marcell Dareus, because this is draft is loaded with quality prospects across the D-line, perhaps putting that need on hold until the second or third round is the best way to play the value game.
Peterson, a 6-0, 219-pounder out of LSU, is regarded as the No. 1 player on the board but seems to be slipping out of the top five in a lot of mock drafts, so pairing him with future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey suddenly makes the secondary formidable.
Kansas City Chiefs
OT Gabe Carimi
If he's still available at No. 21 overall in Round 1, then the Chiefs have to take Gabe Carimi.
There certainly are sexier needs that Kansas City could address, namely wide receiver and nose tackle, but 21st is too early to reach for a pass catcher like Maryland's Torrey Smith or a run stuffer like Baylor's Phil Taylor. This is a team that made it to the playoffs last season ahead of schedule because of the two-headed monster in the backfield of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, so making sure the offensive line is still sturdy enough to support that strong ground game is of critical importance. Branden Albert isn't a great left tackle but he's capable enough, although right tackle could use an upgrade and the three interior positions aren't going to stick together much longer.
Carimi, a 6-7, 314-pounder out of Wisconsin, is more of a mauler than a technician, unlike fellow top prospects Anthony Castonzo of Boston College and Derek Sherrod of Mississippi State, so right tackle may be a good fit for him -- the former Badger could even be a guard when it's all said and done.
C Rodney Hudson
If he's still available at No. 48 overall in Round 2, then the Raiders have to take Rodney Hudson -- Oakland is the only team without a first-round pick.
Darren McFadden finally looks like the next great runner in the NFL, racking up 1,157 yards on 223 carries and another 507 yards on 47 receptions in 13 games -- the No. 4 pick in the 2008 draft scored 10 total touchdowns. No question about it, the ball goes through McFadden this coming season, so the blocking up front needs to be the primary focus for the Silver and Black offensively. Center Samson Satele is an average player at best, left guard Robert Gallery isn't in the team's future and right guard Cooper Carlisle will be 34 years old by the time the preseason begins.
Hudson, a 6-2, 299-pounder out of Florida State, can probably step in and start right away, be it at center or either of the two guard positions, where he was nothing short of sensational for the Seminoles.
San Diego Chargers
DE Muhammad Wilkerson
Rob Christy/US Presswire
If he's still available at No. 18 overall in Round 1, then the Chargers have to take Muhammad Wilkerson.
Offensively, San Diego is always going to be in good hands so long as Philip Rivers is at the controls, as the Pro Bowler put together an MVP-worthy performance in 2010 despite LaDainian Tomlinson fleeing town, first rounder Ryan Matthews disappointing to some degree and Vincent Jackson holding out because of a contract dispute. Defensively, credit must be given to nose tackle Antonio Garay, who went from journeyman to standout seemingly overnight, but defensive end is an issue right now. Luis Castillo and Jacques Cesaire simply aren't getting it done, which makes it harder on an excellent outside linebacker like Shaun Phillips.
Wilkerson, a 6-4, 315-pounder out of Temple, has turned out to be one of the scouts' favorites during the pre-draft evaluation process and looks like an ideal fit playing the five-technique end position in a 3-4.
|John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.|