AFC West Division Draft Recap

April 27, 2009

With the completion of this year's NFL Draft, hope once again springs eternal in the league. Of course, that will all come crashing to a halt in the next few months, when some of these picks get injured, holdout, or just plain don't pan out. Until then, each franchise probably walked away from the draft feeling that they at least addressed some of their off-season needs.

Here is our team-by-team draft evaluation of the AFC West:

Denver Broncos

The Broncos had quite the tumultuous offseason, beginning with owner Pat Bowlen's sacking of coach Mike Shanahan, and subsequent hire of Josh McDaniels. This event was followed by McDaniel's ill-advised attempt to accquire Matt Cassell, despite already having a Pro Bowl starter in Jay Cutler at quarterback. This inexplicable move led to an angry trade demand from Cutler, and to an eventual deal with Chicago for journeyman Kyle Orton, among others.

However, Denver's brass did manage to offset the disastrous beginning to their offseason by improving their team through the draft.

With their first pick (12th overall), the Broncos snatched up Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno. As explosive and dynamic a runner as there was in the draft, Denver deserves praise for acquiring such a talent.

Still, the pick did merit some scrutiny when one considers that they had already signed NFL veterans JJ Arrington, Correll Buckhalter, and Lamont Jordan in the offseason. This decision to load the roster with so many ball carriers may have led some to speculate that Bowlen had secretly hired Shanahan to replace an overwhelmed McDaniels, who had missed a number of key draft workouts due to migraine headaches.

In any event, Moreno will have an immediate impact, as he can be used in a number of ways, and is a threat to score from anywhere on the field.

With their second pick in the first round (acquired from the Bears in the Cutler deal) Denver grabbed enigmatic defensive end Robert Ayers. Ayers, a player with all the tools necessary to be a productive defensive end or outside linebacker, turned in one fantastic season as a Tennessee Vol, but has some wondering whether he has the work ethic needed to be a consistent performer.

Denver had three picks in the second round, and they selected ball-hawking cornerback Alphonso Smith from Wake Forest with the first of those picks. This was a wise move, as the Broncos had one of the worst pass defenses in the history of organized professional football last year, despite the presence of future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey in the secondary.

Next, they grabbed defensive back Darcel McBath from Texas Tech. The Broncos staff may decide to convert McBath to safety, since he has the instincts and range to make the switch and cover the deep half of the field. It should be noted that the Broncos secondary could also be improved by the signing of former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins. Although the fearless Dawkins always played at a consistently high level with Philadelphia, his reckless ways may be catching up with him, as there were whispers throughout the Eagles' front office that Dawkins was on the decline.

Denver used their third pick in the second round to grab blocking tight end Richard Quinn, with the hope that he could help bolster their running game.

Overall, it will be interesting to see if the Broncos crazy offseason translates to wins, or just more unanswered questions.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs filled their biggest need this offseason by picking up one-year wonder Matt Cassell from New England.

They also addressed another area of concern by drafting defensive end Tyson Jackson, a rare find in that he is a stout enough defender to play right away as an end in KC's new 3-4 defensive scheme.

In the third round, the Chiefs made a smart move in nabbing Alex Magee, a player with enough versatility to play on the interior or perimeter of the D-Line.

KC followed that pick with the selection of Donald Washington. Washington, an early-entry candidate out of Ohio State, is a phenomenally explosive, yet still raw athlete.

Their selections of offensive lineman Colin Brown, wideout Quinten Lawrence, and running back Javarris Williams, all amounted to projects who the Cheifs will likely look to develop over time.

San Diego Chargers

After watching division rival Denver grab the player they were rumored to covet in running back Knowshon Moreno, the Bolts surprised many by drafting defensive end Larry English out of Northern Illinois. While many saw this as a reach, this was acutally a wise pick, giving San Diego depth at defensive end, and an insurance policy considering the still-uncertain future of star pass rusher Shawne Merriman.

With their next pick, the Chargers wisely selected Louis Vasquez, a gargantuan and powerful player out of Texas Tech who will most likely be penciled in at guard. The addition of Vasquez will undoubtedly help keep the Chargers power running game near the top of the League.

The most intriguing pick for the Chargers came with San Diego's Round 4 selection of Canadian defensive tackle Vaughn Martin from Western Ontario. Standing 6'3" and weighing well over 330 pounds, Martin's brute strength (44 bench press reps) and surprising athleticism (sub :05 second 40-yard dash) had some scouts saying he compared favorably to the late, great Reggie White. Whether this comparison proves to be pure hyperbole or accurate prophecy, Martin's development will be a compelling story to follow.

Oakland Raiders

Ah, the Raiduhs. The one team we can always count on to liven things up with some bold, or just plain stupid, draft day decisions. Virtually all of Oakland's picks this year had one thing in common -- they tested well in terms of speed and quickness.

With their first pick (seventh overall) Oakland decided to go with Darrius Heyward-Bey. While this pick was much maligned by many pundits, it says here that the Maryland speedster could actually prove to be the perfect deep ball target for JaMarcus Russell, provided the Raiders O-Line can give him enough time to find Heyward-Bey open downfield.

Next, the Raiders went after another player that apparently had intoxicated owner Al Davis with his alluring speed, spending their second round pick on strong safety Mike Mitchell from Ohio. Although he tested incredibly well, there are some that wonder if Mitchell can actually be a productive player on Sundays, or if he was simply just a "workout warrior."

Other notable picks by the Raiders included fleet-of-foot Florida receiver Louis Murphy; hybrid linebacker/defensive end/special teamer Slade Norris from Oregon State; and Mizzou's swift defensive end Stryker Sulak.

Although it is anybody's guess how many, if any of Davis' picks will actually pan out, one thing is still certain, the Raiders believe the best way to improve their team is by acquiring players that possess top-end speed.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for

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