The 2011 NFL Draft came and went without so much as a squeak coming from the AFC West. Given three of the four teams have settled quarterback situations, at least for this year, and the Raiders had no first round pick, it isn’t all that surprising. Still the division has plenty of questions surrounding it. For the first time since 2005 the Chargers were not division champs. The Chiefs made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and the Raiders finally showed signs of life. Meanwhile Denver quickly ended the Josh McDaniels experiment in only his second season as coach. 2011 was the first draft for new regimes in Denver and Oakland, while the Chargers and Chiefs must retool to keep their windows of opportunity open. Brent Foshee grades out the draft for the division.
It’s hard to question Denver for taking Von Miller despite the perception that the linebacker doesn’t fit their system. In the NFL you need pass rushers and John Fox will almost certainly be creative in how he uses Miller. Given that the team took him with the draft’s second selection one would guess he was their highest rated player by a large margin. Now he has to prove that he can play outside in a 4-3 at a pro bowl level. Rahim Moore gives the Bronco’s an eventual successor to Brian Dawkins and should be able to contribute early. Orlando Franklin will eventually improve the physicality of the offensive line in the running game. Nate Irving is a nice value pick that could be a surprise. Quinton Carter is a nice hedge against Moore.
The Bronco’s ignored what appears to be their biggest need, the defensive line, and went with the linebacker and people will question this draft if Dareus, Fairley, or even Patrick Peterson become much better players than Von Miller. The Broncos have a lot of rebuilding to do, however, and were able to come away with not only the top rated safety and outside linebacker in the draft as well as additional talent at other positions. Grade B
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs traded down in the first round and came away with a talented but mercurial receiver in Jonathan Baldwin. Playing opposite Dewayne Bowe should help Baldwin and it gives Matt Cassell another large target on the perimeter yet it does not fulfill the need for speed at receiver. Baldwin never really dominated the college game like he should have and questions do surround his work ethic/attitude. Rodney Hudson should start early on at guard or possibly center. Justin Houston and Allen Bailey were nice additions in the third round as both were considered first round picks by many earlier in the process. Ricky Stanzi could be a nice developmental pick at quarterback who could eventually take over for Cassell or perhaps be traded away for future picks. Jerrell Powe in round six is a steal and few would have questioned his selection in the third round.
Kansas City took a different route this year by selecting players with questionable character. They did add four solid prospects to their defensive front seven though, which addresses a major need for them, and should get at least three future starters out of this draft. Grade B
2010 looked like a turning point for the Raiders that began with a solid draft. 2011 looks like Al Davis and company are back to their old tricks. Stefen Wisniewski was a solid selection that offers little downside but may not ever be as good as his uncle and could have been available latter in the draft. DeMarcus Van Dyke is a good athlete that lost his starting job as a senior in Miami. Taiwan Jones is a talented athlete with good skills but a long injury history. Playing behind Darren McFadden could help him make it through a 16 game season by limiting his touches.
Oakland didn’t really impress here. They added the two fastest players in the draft, a workmanlike guard, and a few developmental prospects that might start in a few years because the team has no one else at their positions. It’s hard to see how Oakland is better coming out of this draft. Grade C-
San Diego Chargers
Corey Liuget will be expected to start at defensive end from day one and should help stabilize the Chargers defensive line. Marcus Gilcrest projects best to free safety and will assist Eric Weddell, the only player that has given the team good play at either safety spot in recent years. James Mouton was a reach and the projected weak-side linebacker might be best suited for the inside. Vincent Brown is a good player and atypical for a Chargers receiver. Jordan Todman will enhance the running back depth.
Apparently San Diego is still counting on Larry English to develop and Liuget should upgrade the defensive front. The Chargers are a more talented team than their 2010 record would suggest but with five picks in the first three rounds the team should have come away with something more than what amounts to developmental players. This draft could be a good draft in three years when we look back on it but right now it leaves a lot to be desired. Grade C