Today we conclude the AFC portion of our division-by-division wrap up of the NFL Draft with the West division. This division was one of the worst on the field last season, and they were one of the worst during the draft, with all four teams being among the bottom half of the league in draft performance. Nevertheless, here’s how these four teams stack up against one another:
1. San Diego – The Chargers ended up with the best draft in this division. San Diego’s offensive line was horrendous last year, and getting D.J. Fluker at tackle in the first round will be a huge help. They showed bravery in taking Manti Te’o, but San Diego should be a good place for him to go, and the Chargers essentially got a player with first-round talent in the second round. In the third round, the Chargers landed wide receiver Keenan Allen, a player that could have snuck into the back end of the first round or gone early second round, giving San Diego a third player with first-round talent.
Outside of those three picks the Chargers didn’t do a whole lot, although Brad Sorensen is a nice sleeper at quarterback. The Chargers didn’t have a deep draft, but it’s tough to argue with the amount of talent San Diego picked up in the first three rounds, and there’s no one else in the AFC West that added as much pure talent as they did.
2. Kansas City – The Chiefs traded away their second round pick to get Alex Smith, which hurt them in the draft, but they did well to take Eric Fisher first overall to strengthen their offensive line, which needed a lot of help. Tight end Travis Kelce, who they took the third round, is the kind of offensive playmaker they lacked last season and should be a great addition to their passing game.
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Running back Knile Davis was another nice pick up in the third round, if he pans out, which is questionable, as he’s been held back by injuries the past couple of seasons at Arkansas. Nico Johnson, their fourth round pick, isn’t the most versatile linebacker, but with three other Pro-Bowlers at linebacker in Kansas City, Johnson should have no difficulty fitting in and playing the role the Chiefs need him to play. Cornerback Sanders Commings and defensive end Mike Catapano are two late-round picks that should contribute as well. There isn’t a player that stands out in this class other than Fisher, but the Chiefs definitely picked up a handful of helpful role players in this draft.
3. Denver – It’s tough to criticize John Elway after what he’s done in the draft the last couple of seasons, but right now, at least on paper, this draft doesn’t look all that impressive for Denver. The highlight of the draft was first round pick defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, who is a perfect fit for what the Broncos need and should make an impact right away.
Drafting Montee Ball in the second round was a questionable move, because despite their need at running back, they could have waited until later in the draft to take someone at that position. Denver did add another cornerback to their contingent in Kayvon Webster, but they may have reached for him, and they didn’t add a safety, which was a questionable move after the way their season ended last year. Quanterus Smith, their fifth round pick, was a smart pick and has a high upside as a pass rusher if he can recover from an injury, but none of their last three picks appear to be players with a realistic chance to contribute this year. The Broncos didn’t need a lot of help coming into the draft, and they certainly didn’t add a lot of help coming out of the draft, although Williams and Ball should be important players in 2013.
4. Oakland – The Raiders had one of the worst drafts in the NFL, making several questionable picks. The first was taking cornerback D.J. Hayden in the first round, which was one of the riskiest picks of the draft. Hayden was a bit of a stretch at 12th overall to begin with, but after suffering a life-threatening injury in college, there has to be concern about his health in the NFL. Second round pick Menelik Watson is also a risk as well, as the offensive lineman doesn’t have a lot of experience playing football and may not develop as the Raiders hope he does.
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Quarterback Tyler Wilson will require some development, so it may not have been wise to use a fourth round pick on him since he probably won’t be playing this year and the Raiders have a myriad of other needs. Linebacker Sio Moore should be helpful, but won’t make the kind of impact you want from a third round pick. Finally, the Raiders ended up with six picks in the final two rounds, where they may have been able to pick up a few sleepers like running back Latavius Murray, defensive tackle Stacy McGee, or wide receiver Brice Butler. However, there is almost no one in this draft class that is certain to make a big impact for Oakland, as even their top picks carry a risk, and that’s not what the Raiders need right now, as they look to rebuild from the bottom once again.