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NFL Mock Draft: Denver Broncos & AFC West

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(credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

(credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

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By: Tony Meale

The 2012 NFL Draft is just one week away so we’ve pulled together a mock draft featuring the first and second rounds for the NFC East. Do you agree with the picks? Comment below.

AFC West

Broncos

I still have no idea why acquiring Peyton Manning meant the Broncos had to trade Tim Tebow. If Manning and John Elway wanted to avoid the sideshow and hoopla, okay. But last time I checked, Denver loves Tebow – and Manning is 36. Couldn’t Tebow have stuck around and learned a thing or two from old No. 18? Or, I don’t know, contributed on offense? It’s not like Denver is saturated at the skill positions. Tebow would have been a stellar goal-line back, short-yardage specialist or even a tight end.

Oh well.

Denver, which has seven picks (two via trading Tebow to the Jets), selects 25th in both the first and second rounds. While the Broncos certainly possess some elite pass-rushers, they could use some help at defensive tackle. Penn State’s Devon Still and Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy are both worthy of first-round consideration.

if Denver doesn’t go defense with its first pick, it’ll likely go offensive line or wide receiver. The Broncos’ line was solid last year, but there’s no such thing as too much depth when you’re talking about protecting perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time. Wisconsin’s Peter Konz would be a worthy addition.

Adding wideout Andre Caldwell from the Bengals will help Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but Denver needs another pass-catcher or two (or three or four). Baylor’s Kendall Wright is an explosive player, as is Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill. And we all know how much Peyton loves his tight ends. Stanford’s Coby Fleener will likely be available.

Given the overall mediocrity of the AFC West, Denver is the no-brainer favorite to win the division. Whether the Broncos do much beyond that, however, may hinge on giving Manning more toys and shoring up the trenches.

Chargers

The Chargers have eight picks – one in each of the first six rounds and two in the seventh – and should use six or seven of these picks on defense.

Yes, Philip Rivers lost big-play threat Vincent Jackson, but Antonio Gates, Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Brown all return. San Diego also signed Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal, so moving the ball through the air shouldn’t be an issue. As for the ground, leading rusher Ryan Matthews (1,500+ total yards, 4.9 YPC) will be primed for the feature role. Aside from adding depth at offensive tackle, San Diego’s biggest needs are defensive.

The Bob Sanders signing was a bust, so the Chargers may make the secondary a priority. If so, they’ll likely target Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Stephon Gilmore or maybe even Janoris Jenkins. If they don’t go secondary first, outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw and defensive end Quinton Coples are prime possibilities.

Bottom line? The Chargers have become the Cowboys of the AFC. Lot of talent, lot of potential; no results.

San Diego is running out of excuses. To say it’s “playoffs or bust” in 2012 is an understatement.

Chiefs

Kansas City’s aerial attack was embarrassing to, well, the game of football last year, but drafting a quarterback isn’t the answer. A healthy Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki should do the trick. In fact, a healthy Eric Berry – not to mention the addition of Peyton Hillis – could catapult the Chiefs into the division race.

KC’s biggest needs are in the trenches. So the Chiefs’ first pick – 11th overall – should be spent on a guard (think Stanford’s David DeCastro) or a nose tackle (think Memphis’ Dontari Poe). It might be wise for them to draft DeCastro and then wait on another nose tackle like Josh Chapman or Alameda Ta’amu.

Now, back to quarterback. If the Chiefs think Matt Cassel is their guy, they should stick with him. They brought in Brady Quinn as a backup should Cassel succumb to injury, but Brady Quinn shouldn’t be anybody’s guy. I’m not opposed to the Chiefs rolling the dice on someone like Brandon Weeden. His age and experience would help if Cassel goes down; then again, will Weeden be content sitting for a year – or longer – given that he is already 28?

A lot needs to happen for KC to be considered a dangerous team; that said, the Chiefs are closer than you think.

Raiders

If one non-losing team from 2011 will have a losing season in 2012, I’m predicting it’ll be Oakland. The Raiders, which lost six of ten and four of five to close the season, released or lost to free agency numerous players, including Michael Bush. Carson Palmer is their quarterback, and they have only five picks in the draft – none within the first two rounds.

Oakland has several needs, most notably at linebacker. Top potential options at Pick 95 include Miami’s Sean Spence, Florida State’s Nigel Bradham and TCU’s Tank Carder. After linebacker, the Raiders should do what they can to improve the secondary and offensive line, but due to the trade for Carson Palmer, their hands are a little tied.

Every other team in the AFC West has gotten – or will get – better before the start of next season. Will Oakland?

It’s doubtful.

>> more: Mock Draft AFC North | Mock Draft AFC South | Mock Draft AFC East | Mock Draft NFC North | Mock Draft NFC South | Mock Draft NFC East | Mock Draft NFC West

Tony Meale is a freelance writer for MLB.com, cincinnati.com and ffjungle.com, among others. His fantasy football work has led to guest appearances on several radio outlets, including ESPN Radio and Sirius Radio. He has a Master’s in Journalism from Ohio University and has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists for outstanding work. A Cincinnati native, he is currently writing a book on one of the great sports stories never told. Follow Tony Meale on Twitter @tonymeale.

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