Kansas City Chiefs 11--5
This is an article from the Feb. 15, 2016 issue
TOP PRIORITY: DEFENSE
The Chiefs' D is elite in a scheme that's heavy on matchup coverages and select overload blitzes. This approach demands athleticism and raw speed. There has been plenty of both, but much of it is no longer under contract. The list of free agents includes FS Eric Berry, ILB Derrick Johnson, OLB Tamba Hali, CB Sean Smith, S Husain Abdullah, SS Tyvon Branch, DT Jaye Howard and DE Mike DeVito. Superstar NT Dontari Poe is also in the final year of his rookie deal. Some of them are sure to re-sign, though the 27-year-old Berry, a four-time Pro Bowler, is the only lock. Those who don't will have to be replaced.
ALSO: GUARD. Someone to succeed free agent Jeff Allen or to push starter Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 7--9
TOP PRIORITY: A STADIUM ... OH, AND A SAFETY
Charles Woodson is gone and not expected to resurface until his Hall of Fame induction speech in 2021. The Raiders employ a basic zone-coverage scheme that, frankly, does not require an elite safety. But it does require a stable, full-time contributor. Oakland's options, Taylor Mays and Larry Asante, are free agents (and backups anyway). T.J. Carrie played well in '15, but he's a corner by trade and usually slides to that position in obvious passing downs. Woodson played centerfielder and, sometimes, the box, leaving two vacancies to fill.
ALSO: RUNNING BACK. Latavius Murray needs a backup.
DENVER BRONCOS 12--4
TOP PRIORITY: OFFENSIVE LINE
Denver is faced with uncertainty at both tackle spots: 2015 second-rounder Ty Sambrailo had a season-ending left shoulder injury; '14 third-rounder Michael Schofield has been erratic in pass protection; Ryan Harris is a free agent; and Ryan Clady, coming off left ACL surgery, could be cut (cap number: $10.1 million). The protection inside is also precarious. Matt Paradis, a sixth-rounder in '14, struggles at center against bigger opponents. Guard Louis Vasquez is solid but approaching the final year of his deal. At the other guard Max Garcia is better than a declining Evan Mathis but hasn't been good enough to hold the starting role. Denver should draft the best lineman available.
ALSO: SAFETY. Depth was an issue during the postseason.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 4--12
TOP PRIORITY: WIDE RECEIVER
San Diego's passing game was built in response to the injuries that ravaged its offensive line in 2015. Mike McCoy's quick-strike system gets the ball out of Philip Rivers's hands faster than you can say, "holding, offense, number...." Unfortunately, during a rough start to the season, top wideout Keenan Allen went down with a lacerated kidney, exposing the lack of depth at wide receiver. The O-line's woes manifested, leading to more third-and-longs, when quick throws often aren't enough. Lanky No. 2 receiver Malcolm Floyd has retired. The O-line will heal on its own; the Chargers' receiving corps will not.
ALSO: FREE SAFETY. To replace FA Eric Weddle.