NFL Draft Grades: AFC West

Denver Broncos

Best pick: S Rahim Moore, UCLA (2nd round, 13th pick)

In a weak safety crop, he was the best of the bunch.  He’s a great athlete, with good speed and ball skills.  He’s just ok in man coverage, but he’s great playing center field and will come up with a good number of turnovers.  He’s a little undersized and isn’t the best tackler, but he’s a great leader and a hard worker.  This was a big position of need with Brian Dawkins nearing retirement.

Questionable move: OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M (1st round, 2nd pick)

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Von Miller.  He’s the best pass rushing prospect to come along in quite a few years.  I just don’t think the Broncos’ new 4-3 defense is the best fit for him.  As a linebacker in a 4-3, he’s going to be asked to cover and stop the run much more than he would in a 3-4, and much more than he should.  He’s ok in both aspects, but his best attribute is his ability to get after the quarterback.  I’ll be interested to see how the Broncos use him.

Third-day gem: DE Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma (7th round, 44th pick)

He didn’t look great in workouts and he might be a bit of a tweener, but his ability to get after the quarterback can’t be questioned.  In his last three years at Oklahoma he amassed 27 sacks.  He might not be an every down player in the NFL, but at worst he’s a great third down pass rusher.  Excellent value as he was projected as high as the 2nd round at one point.

Overall: I really like this draft for Denver.  They picked up a ton of talent on both sides of the ball.  Miller and Elvis Dumervil are going to give quarterbacks nightmares.  Moore and 4th rounder Quinton Carter are excellent complements to each other and should form an excellent safety tandem once Brian Dawkins retires.  2nd rounder Orlando Franklin is a big, mauling right tackle who should really help in the run game.  3rd rounder Nate Irving is a very talented linebacker who should slot in very early.  4th rounder Julius Thomas and 7th rounder Virgil Green are both high ceiling tight ends who have a ton of potential.  The only thing holding them back from a straight ‘A’ is the question about how Miller will be used in their defense.

Grade: A-

Oakland Raiders

Best pick: C Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State (2nd round, 16th pick)

The Raiders had problems at the center position all season, at one point turning to 6’9” rookie tackle Jared Veldheer.  Wisniewski should end those problems.  He’s not a mauler, but he’s very technically sound and he’s excellent in space.  He’s not a star, but he’ll be a very solid starter for the next decade.  A very un-Raider pick, and that’s a good thing.

Questionable move: CB DeMarcus Van Dyke, Miami (FL) (3rd round, 17th pick)

He’s the Darrius Heyward-Bey of corners: all speed, nothing else.  He’s a burner, no question (4.28 forty), but he’s also very thin and gets mauled in the run game.  He’s got a lot of work to do in terms of technique and polish.  A big reach at this point.  There were better corners on the board, but Al Davis probably didn’t like them because they couldn’t run a sub 4.3 forty like Van Dyke.

Third-day gem: RB Taiwan Jones, Eastern Washington (4th round, 28th pick)

Speaking of burners, Jones might be the best in this draft.  He reminds me a lot of Jamaal Charles.  He’s a little tall (5’11”) and thin (195 lbs), but he’s got blazing speed and can break arm tackles.  He’s patient, elusive and has great intangibles.  He’s dyslexic, so there’s some concern about his ability to grasp a complicated playbook, but he’s got all of the physical attributes to be a real speed threat out of the backfield.

Overall: On second look, I like this draft a lot more than I thought I did.  Yes, Van Dyke was a reach, but I really liked their other picks in the first four rounds.  Wisniewski should be a solid starter, 3rd rounder Joseph Barksdale is a strong kid who should help at right tackle or guard and Jones should be a solid speed option out of the backfield.  4th round corner Chimdi Chekwa is fast, but he’s also got some size, strength and technique.  He honestly might be a better prospect than Van Dyke.  The usual Raider speed, but with a lot of talent added in.

Grade: B

Kansas City Chiefs

Best pick: C/G Rodney Hudson, Florida State (2nd round, 23rd pick)

He played almost exclusively at guard in college, but he’s got all of the tools to be a top-notch center.  He’s a little undersized, but he makes up for that by using great technique and leverage.  He’s also an outstanding athlete and should be an excellent fit in their zone blocking scheme.  He’ll need a little time to learn the position, but in time he should be a very good starter.

Questionable move: WR Jon Baldwin, Pittsburgh (1st round, 26th pick)

He’s got all the talent and measurables, there’s no question.  At nearly 6’5”, 230 lbs, Baldwin is a sight to behold.  He’s not as fast as Randy Moss, but he’s got that same type of long-stride, sneaky speed.  However, there are questions about his hands and polish, as well as his character.  Throwing your quarterback under the bus and claiming your team is “trying to harm your draft stock” is not the way to endear yourself to NFL coaches and executives.  Expect him to spend some time in Todd Haley’s doghouse, just like Dwayne Bowe before him.  If Haley can mold him like he did Bowe, there’s scary potential here.

Third-day gem: NT Jerrell Powe, Mississippi (6th round, 34th pick)

Since the Chiefs switched to the 3-4, they have gotten by with undersized and under-talented nose tackles, namely Ron Edwards.  In Powe, they finally have a guy who is big and strong enough to handle the position correctly.  He’s got great size and strength and excels at tying up multiple blockers.  He’s dyslexic, so there is some concern about his ability to grasp a playbook, but he’s got all of the measurables you look for in a big 3-4 nose tackle.  It might take him some time to learn, but GM Scott Pioli might have found his new Vince Wilfork in Powe.

Overall: Pioli took some heat from analysts for breaking from his past “smart, character guys” strategy, specifically for taking Baldwin and 3rd round OLB Justin Houston.  Interesting, considering the same guys bashed him last year for taking low-ceiling character guys like Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster.  Houston and Baldwin both come with some baggage, but they are both also extremely talented.  Pioli did a good job of evening those picks out with solid hard-working character guys like Hudson, DL Allen Bailey and QB Ricky Stanzi.  They filled a lot of needs and got solid value at almost every pick, though there were a few head-scratchers.

Grade: B

San Diego Chargers

Best pick: S Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson (2nd round, 18th pick)

He’s a little undersized and might be a safety/corner tweener, but the guy can play and he’s going to help them somewhere.  I think his best fit is at safety and he’ll be great in coverage at that spot.  He doesn’t have the greatest ball skills, but he’s good in both man and zone and will come up and help against the run.

Questionable move: DT Corey Liuget, Illinois (1st round, 18th pick)

He’s a solid talent at this point in the draft, he’s just simply not a good fit.  He’s shorter and wider than you would like your typical 5-technique.  That’s not to say he can’t be successful.  His integration into this defense will be very similar to what Glenn Dorsey experienced in Kansas City.  Expect a steep learning curve.  They would have been better off selecting Cameron Jordan as he’s a much better fit for their scheme.

Third-day gem: RB Jordan Todman, Connecticut (6th round, 18th pick)

Speed. he’s got it.  Ball security is a question and he’s not a great inside runner, but he could form an excellent three-headed monster with Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert.  He’ll fill the Darren Sproles role, with Sproles likely headed elsewhere in free-agency.

Overall: Liuget is a very poor schematic fit and 2nd rounder Jonas Mouton was a big reach.  Gilchrist and 3rd rounder Shareece Wright were solid picks that will help their defensive backfield.  Vincent Brown went right around when most said he would, but he doesn’t really excite me and doesn’t fit the Chargers’ mold of big receivers.  GM A.J. Smith continues to make some curious choices in the draft.

Grade: C

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