Last year, my immediate reaction was that the AFC West, as a whole, had a lackluster draft. Once the season began, few rookies in the division made a large impact.
This year, though, I was far more impressed with the selections of teams in the AFC West. I expect it to reflect on the play on the field during the season.
The following are my draft grades for each team in the division. I think each team did very well in their own right. Everybody made the honor roll:
Oakland (A): I loved what the Raiders did. They played the board straight and they addressed several needs. It was very smart. I think linebacker Rolando McClain, the No. 8 overall pick, is going to be a star, and he has to be considered a serious early candidate to be the defensive of rookie of the year. Second-round pick Lamarr Houston will help the run defense. Tackle prospects Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell were worthwhile picks and will have a chance to help revamp on Oakland’s line in the next few years. The trade for Jason Campbell completed a great draft weekend.
Denver (B+): Broncos coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders are interesting drafters. They are creative and aggressive. They made a ton of trades to manipulate the board. Sure, Denver gave up a ton for quarterback Tim Tebow, and he is a risk. But McDaniels thinks he’ll be a star. Give credit to Denver for getting the guy it wanted. The Broncos have two outstanding receiver prospects in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but both are coming off foot injuries. The team did well with offensive linemen Zane Beadles and J.D. Walton. Cornerback Perrish Cox is a sleeper. There are some good pieces here, although there are some risks.
San Diego (B+): San Diego general manager A.J. Smith was crafty during the weekend. The Chargers didn’t get a lot of players, but San Diego doesn’t need much. San Diego was criticized by some for giving a big package to move from No. 28 to No. 12 to get running back Ryan Mathews. But the payoff is huge. Mathews is the player San Diego thinks can revive its run game and bring balance back to the offense. So, he was worth the price tag. Linebacker Donald Butler and defensive tackle Cam Thomas -- who San Diego traded up to draft -- could help soon.
Kansas City (B-): The Chiefs did some good things. I love the pick of Tennessee safety Eric Berry at No. 5. He will give this defense an identity. He will instantly make the unit better. Second-round picks Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas give Kansas City speed and playmaking ability on both sides of the ball and in the return game. Guard Jon Asamoah has a real future. I would have liked to have seen Kansas City grab a nose tackle and perhaps trade to get more picks. But this was a solid draft as the Chiefs continue to improve.