It is time to dish out my 2011 NFL Draft Grades for the AFC West. Before the grades are dished and assessed let's take a look at the division as a whole. The AFC West was greedy this year. They loaded up on draft choices. 34 of 'em to be precise. And even more frightening is that 16 of these picks were made before Round 4.
The picks were almost evenly divided between offense and defense: 16 on offense and 18 on defense. There was one QB, three RBs, five offensive linemen, three tight ends, four wide receivers, four defensive linemen, seven linebackers and seven defensive backs.
This infusion of young talent sets up for what should be a fun year in the AFC West. Jump over for the team by team breakdowns....
The New Additions: LB Von Miller (first round), S Rahim Moore (second round), OT Orlando Franklin (second round), LB Nate Irving (third round), S Quinton Carter (fourth round), TE Julius Thomas (fourth round), LB Mike Mohamed (sixth round), TE Virgil Green (seventh round), DL Jeremy Beal (seventh round).
Summary: Someone needs to tell the defensive Broncos that when you switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 that you are adding a defensive tackle and not subtracting one. The Broncos currently have zero players under contract that appear capable of starting at defensive tackle, and they just made nine selections in a draft and not one of those selections was a defensive tackle. Not only that, but they had three picks in the first two rounds that contained some elite defensive tackle talent.
Of course, the twisted good news for the Broncos is that their defense was so depleted that to say they had holes would be incorrect description. That would suggest there is enough material there to have holes in the first place. As long as they were drafting on defense they were drafting to need. Something John Elway and co. were aware of.
Six of their nine picks went towards defense. They got the player considered to be the best pass rusher (Miller) and drafted the highest-rated safety (Moore). Quinton Carter is a solid pick, and may be a starting strong safety.
Most of their picks can be considered value picks. Although they reached a bit for OT, Orlando Franklin. TE, Julius Thomas is a converted basketball player that is really raw and has unlimited potential, and they backed up their need at TE by drafting Virgil Green in the seventh. Both he and fellow seventh-rounder, Jeremy Beal, were tremendous values.
In the end, the Broncos did next to nothing to address their run defense. I like the selection of LB, Nate Irving. He should be solid against the run, but without a presence at DT, he and the other Denver LBs, are going to be fighting off guards on every play.
The New Additions: WR Jonathan Baldwin (first round), C Rodney Hudson (second round), LB Justin Houston (third round), DE Allen Bailey (third round), CB Jalil Brown (fourth round), QB Ricky Stanzi (fifth round), LB Gabe Miller (fifth round), DT Jerrell Powe (sixth round), FB Shane Bannon (seventh round).
Summary: The Chiefs started off addressing a need, and sacrificed value to do it. They had to add a WR to create a legitimate passing attack. So they took a receiver approximately a full-round higher than projected. Baldwin has the tools, but many question the intangibles. Their eye for value vastly improved after that.
It will be interesting to watch their second-round pick Rodney Hudson progress as he was selected just after the Raiders took Wisniewski. Hudson was rated higher as an interior lineman on many draft boards than Wiz. LB, Justin Houston had been speculated as a possible first-round selection. He has the talent, but his perceived lack of effort found him slipping.
CB, Brown is a Raider type of corner. He is better in press man coverage than in zone, and he has solid size/speed ratio. QB, Stanzi was a good value in the fifth. Jerrell Powe was an outstanding value in the sixth, and he has the size to be a true nose tackle, which was an area of need for the Chiefs.
Besides Baldwin the biggest reach appears to be for LB Miller. He was a DE in college, and not on many radars. I don't see him having the athleticism to convert. An odd pick in an otherwise disappointingly solid draft.
This was not the typical Scott Pioli draft. Pioli has a tremendous draft resume, and that was largely built on going with high-character guys that were safe picks. Baldwin and Houston both have big-time character issues. Allen Bailey is another high risk/reward type as he seems to be between positions in the NFL, but he is a tremendous athlete. Make no mistake about it though—these guys all have tremendous upside.
The New Additions: C Stefen Wisniewski (second round), CB Demarcus Van Dyke (third round), OL Joseph Barksdale (third round), CB Chimdi Chekwa (fourth round), RB Taiwan Jones (fourth round), WR Denarius Moore (fifth round), TE Richard Gordon (sixth round), WR David Ausberry (seventh round).
Summary: All of us on SBPers have and will continue to discuss this more in-depth, but I'll post a quick summary for any eyes of the enemy doing some advanced scouting.
The Raiders addressed their biggest need at offensive line with two of their first three picks. Some feel that the first three picks by the Raiders were all reaches. I am not buying that on Wisniewski, but I am not going to argue that Van Dyke and Barksdale were slight reaches. However, both definitely address needs, and both players have high ceilings.
Barksdale will likely be limited to right tackle, and maybe even guard. He is also the lone selection of the Raiders that has been dogged by any questions of effort. Van Dyke is a corner that needs to bulk up, but his tools and potential are right through the roof. Chekwa is another battle tested corner with good size/speed ratio.
RB, Taiwan Jones was a solid enough value that it is hard to argue with this selection even though it did not address a need. WR, Denarius Moore was an amazing value in the fifth. TE, Richard Gordon was one of the better blocking TEs in the draft, and the Raiders need all the blocking help they can get.
This is a hard draft to grade for the Raiders. On the one hand they had some reaches, and I have to knock them for not maximizing their value. On the other hand, they addressed needs, and they clearly had a plan. It is hard to imagine a team getting more potential in rounds 3-5 than the Raiders. If just two of those five selections come close to hitting their vaulted ceilings the Raiders are going to look like geniuses.
The New Additions: DT Corey Liuget (first round), CB Marcus Gilchrist (second round), LB Jonas Mouton (second round), WR Vincent Brown (third round), CB Shareece Wright (third round), RB Jordan Todman (sixth round), OL Steven Schilling (sixth round), LB Andrew Gachkar (seventh round).
Summary: The Chargers had the luxury of having five picks in the first 89. And this is a scary proposition for a team with a solid nucleus like the Chargers. They started off with a solid value with Liuget. A move that was likely brought on by the Raiders running all over them. They could have gone for a more balanced DE like Cam Jordan, but they went for more of a run stuffer.
CB, Marcus Gilchrist was a bit of a reach in the second, but he has real potential as a corner, and he has experience as a safety. His versatility will make him valuable. LB, Jonas Mouton was a big reach and a head scratcher. Leading up to the draft the talk was that the Chargers needed an OLB to add some pass rush. That is not Mouton.
Both third-round selections were solid value, and have the potential to come in right away and take care of slot duties for the Chargers. One on offense and one on defense. It was surprising that the Chargers did not try to upgrade their tackle position in the first three rounds. They instead waited for the late-rounds to address the offensive line, and both of those guys may have gone un-drafted had the the Chargers not taken them.
Of their late round picks I'd watch for Jordan Todman to potentially make an impact. He is a compact power runner that has the ability to get some tough yards.
All in all, the Chargers didn't do the best job of maximizing their value. However, they did a good job of adding athleticism and edge.