1. S. Even casting aside the horrible angle and timing on Rahim Moore's nightmare play against the Ravens, the Broncos have a strong need for a safety. Moore made significant improvements from his rookie year and should head into the 2013 season as a starter at free safety. His progression next year will determine his fate with the Broncos and decide whether or not he's the future of the team. As a playmaker in college, the team still holds high hopes for him. Beside him are a group of safeties not of starting caliber. They attempted to fill holes in the secondary through free agency and failed. If they don't make a play for a big time free agent, they'll turn to the draft to fill this hole.
2. MLB. Starting an inside triangle that averaged 33 years of age, the Broncos miraculously finished 2nd in the league in run defense. With all 3 starters (Justin Bannan, Kevin Vickerson, Keith Brooking) set to become free agents, Denver should use the opportunity to get younger. Brooking, the senior of the bunch at 37 (38 next year) is first in line for a replacement in the starting lineup. Joe Mays is that guy on the current roster and played decent football in 2011 before breaking his leg in 2012. Expected to compete for that position again, Mays will probably face stiff competition as the team looks for an impact player in the middle. Regardless of the contract situations of Bannan and Vickerson, depth on the defensive line is sure to be on the team's radar.
3. OL Depth. With the injuries of Chris Kuper, the contract status for Dan Koppen, and the lack of a strong swing tackle, the Broncos could use some depth on the offensive line. Under the assumption that Ryan Clady is re-signed, Denver has a strong opening day starting line-up aided by the quick release of Peyton Manning. However, the current roster isn't equipped to handle an injury to a starting tackle and would be susceptible to an injury on the interior where back-ups haven't impressed with their opportunities.
4. Slot WR. Eclipsing 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns each, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker developed into one of the finer receiving tandems in the league. Behind them, Manning lobbied to bring back an old friend of his in Brandon Stokley, whose reliability and knowledge of the old Colts' offense, now installed in Denver, helped moved the chains. At 37, Manning will hope to have him back as the Broncos look to draft and develop younger slot molds in the meantime.
5. RB. The combination of McGahee and Moreno could form a solid backfield—if healthy. Unfortunately, both have had extensive histories of injury, leaving the Broncos short on productivity through stretches of the season. And though the Broncos may not be thinking too far into the post-Manning future quite yet, they'll want a back with experience and youth to help smooth the transition for the next quarterback. This feels like a hole that will be filled later in the draft.
San Diego Chargers:
1. OT. A year ago, fans were hoping some news would surface indicating that Philip Rivers played the 2011 season with a mysterious injury affecting his play. Nothing came, then 2012 turned out to be a virtual repeat of 2011. With a line that has deteriorated from the Rivers glory days, it's the Chargers final attempt at salvaging a quarterback that has gone from darn near elite to near replacement. Complicating matters is the $6 million cap they'll almost assuredly take to cut Jared Gaither, whose "lazy" ways irked teammates last season after inking a payday. A tackle situation that could have used an upgrade at right tackle will now almost surely not get one with the more urgent need of a starter on the left side.
2. OG. The guard situation isn't particularly strong either and may hold the key to the offense. Starters Tyronne Green and Louis Vasquez are unrestricted free agents and will not hold starting positions uncontested going into next season. After an impressive 2011 season, Vasquez was a disappointment in 2011, but of the two, he's more likely to be re-signed. On the other side, the offense could use a balanced guard to help open up some running lanes and more importantly give Rivers some room in the pocket to step into downfield throws, a strength of his. With new Head Coach Mike McCoy managing three offensive schemes in the past 2 seasons with 3 different quarterbacks, it'll be interesting to see what type of scheme he implements in San Diego. A vertical offense playing to Rivers' strengths will require protection.
3. CB. The San Diego defense wasn't able to get much consistency out of Quentin Jammer, Antoine Cason, or Marcus Gilchrist a year ago, leaving the cornerback position vulnerable and a likely candidate for a talent infusion. Even though it was Jammer's first bad season in a long time, a new front office means it's conceivable that the Chargers head into 2013 with a pair of new starting corners using both free agency and the draft to fill positions.
4. DE/OLB. Though Melvin Ingram looked impressive in bursts early in the year, he finished with only a single sack to show for his rookie season. Heading into his second year—the "jump year" for many young players—this will be an important offseason for him and the Chargers defense, which could use yet another pass rusher. After having spent recent 1st round picks on Ingram and Larry English with little production to show for it, San Diego will probably address this issue through free agency, which will likely include re-signing their own Shaun Phillips.
5. RB. When healthy and holes in front of him, Ryan Mathews has showed promise that justified his selection in the 1st round. Relying on him in the backfield has been a different story with absences to injury for 10 games in his first 3 years and an early season "benching" for motivation. He's left the team always wanting more. As his broken collarbone heals, Mathews should be ready for the start of camp and shouldn't be surprised if there's a back waiting there to give him a little challenge. Depth at the position is a must and if they can find an impressive mid-round rookie, there are touches to be had in an offense that can be improved with a more dependable run game.
Kansas City Chiefs:
1. QB. Undeniably and unequivocally the Chiefs biggest team need is at quarterback. With Andy Reid and an offseason to mull over the options, Kansas City will have the opportunity to construct plan to land a quarterback. It's possible they trade for one of a couple available mid-ceiling guys already on rosters such as Matt Flynn, sparing them a high draft pick on a prospect far from can't miss. Otherwise they may take a shot with Geno Smith with the top overall selection or go the route of the Bengals and take a quarterback to begin the second round where there's better value at the position in this draft. As a team, the Chiefs are only an adequate quarterback and a strong offseason away from competing for a playoff spot again, similar to Andrew Luck's Colts.
2. DB. The defense has gone from allowing 6.5 yards per pass attempt in 2010 to 7.5 in 2011 to 8.0 a year ago. Realistically, there doesn't seem to be much room from rock bottom. Defensively, this offseason has to be about shoring up the secondary, including needs at cornerback and free safety. After losing Brandon Carr to free agency, Javier Arenas was forced to jump into a starting role. If they can find a starting corner, they can bring him out in nickel packages where he can play almost exclusively in the slot where he excels. A league low 7 interceptions can also be turned around with a ball-hawking free safety.
3. 3-4 DE. Staying in the 34 front, it's likely that Glenn Dorsey will leave the team in free agency and take a crack at a 43 one-gapping front better suited for him. As a disappointment in KC, his departure won't be devastating, but it will make defensive line help a bigger immediate need. They have their outside backers, nose tackle of the future, and a playmaking inside backer up front, leaving a defensive line that needs to be filled out with players that can hold the point.
4. OL Depth. The previous regime did a nice job of drafting linemen high virtually every year and investing in free agency to build the offensive line. Re-signing Branden Albert at left tackle will be a priority, but if they can accomplish that, the line should gel creating a big strength up front. Off the bench, there isn't much in the form of depth to protect against injury, particularly in the middle. If Dwayne Bowe leaves in free agency, wide receiver becomes a higher priority.
5. 3-4 ILB. Beside Derrick Johnson, the Chiefs could use a downhill linebacker capable of shedding blocks in the box. In New York that player was Bart Scott and if his contract proves too cumbersome in New York, it would be a free agent signing that would make a lot of sense in KC. Johnson is at his best when he can be kept /off blockers and has the freedom to roam sideline to sideline. Though it would be ideal to have a pair of linebackers like San Francisco, realistically, the Chiefs already have one and just need a 2-down backer now.
1. QB. With serious cap problems and a plethora of needs, the Raiders will have a lot of restructuring and cutting to do before getting to a position where they can rebuild the roster. As they look to address their holes, they should (and will) stick to a best talent available philosophy. Still, finding a quarterback for the future is their biggest concern—whether it's this year or next. With Carson Palmer and Terrelle Pryor, they have flexibility to take the team in one of two directions next year, neither of which look particularly promising. Palmer can be a decent stopgap, but for a Raiders team not well-positioned for a run of any kind, it may be a recipe that swallows them into mediocrity.
2. NT/DT. Defensively, there's much work to be done in the trenches. Too costly for the Raiders, Richard Seymour is certain to leave in free agency, leaving behind a void at defensive tackle. Unrestricted free agent Desmond Bryant played well down the stretch and is likely to be high on the re-signing priority list for Oakland. He and Tommy Kelly will start with no depth to speak of whatsoever behind them. At defensive tackle, there is room for another starter, depth, or preferably both.
3. DE/3-4 OLB. With just 25 sacks a year ago and expiring contracts Matt Shaughnessy and Andre Carter responsible for 6 of that total, the Raiders could use pass rushers. With a pass rush as inept as the Raiders a year ago, GM Reggie McKenzie and has staff won't be able to end the offseason with enough, no matter how many they acquire. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver comes from a 3-4 background holding the same position at Stanford and coaching outside linebackers in San Francisco before that. He'll ensure this becomes an area of strength over the coming years. With the magnitude of the rebuilding project in Oakland, expect a high turnover in the front 7 as the organization begins to mold it into form.
4. CB. Moving a former safety in Michael Huff back to cornerback, the Raiders are very thin at the position. They've brought in a number of cuts from various teams around the league for depth, but lack talent in the secondary. Finishing with one of the worst pass defenses, they should make attempts to improve the unit through the draft. With a poor pass rush and a shaky secondary, the most efficient way to acquire talent will be using the best talent available strategy in the draft and using low cost free agent options and late round draft picks to plug more specific needs.
5. OL. With the benefit of position-diverse players, there are a number of moves Oakland could make to improve the offensive line. At tackle, Jared Veldheer is locked into one tackle position, either on the left or right side, while the other is up for grabs. Mike Brisiel is firmly entrenched at right guard, while center Stefan Wisniewski can play center or the other guard. In all, Oakland is short a tackle, an interior linemen, and depth behind them.
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