The biggest offseason move in the AFC West in years was the Broncos’ signing of superstar quarterback Peyton Manning in March.
It instantly changed the landscape of the AFC West and it likely will continue to do so for the next three years or so. During the draft, Manning’s impact was felt in the division when several of the premium picks by the Broncos’ rivals were defensive players.
The first player taken in the division was athletic defensive tackle Dontari Poe. The Memphis product was taken No. 11 by the Chiefs. San Diego used its first three picks on defensive players, all of whom have a chance to make an instant impact.
Let’s look at the highlights of the AFC West draft:
The first two days of the San Diego Chargers’ draft.
No one in the division scored like the Chargers did. Following up a strong free-agency class, Chargers GM A.J. Smith deserves a lot of credit for this draft. The Chargers badly needed impact players on defense and they got them.
San Diego made one of the top value picks of the draft when it watched South Carolina pass-rusher Melvin Ingram fall to them. He was supposed to be a top-10 pick. San Diego considered moving up to take Alabama safety Mark Barron but he went at No. 7. Instead, the Chargers stayed at home and watched an equally talented player fall to them. Ingram fills the Chargers’ biggest need and he should be an instant contributor.
The Chargers scored again by getting great value in the second and third rounds. San Diego watched Connecticut defensive lineman Kendall Reyes fall to them at No. 49. With LSU safety Brandon Taylor still on the board (San Diego considered him at No. 49), the Chargers moved up and took him at No 73. There is no way the Chargers could have scripted the first three rounds any better.
The 2012 Chargers got better in this draft.
Arguably, there wasn't a riskier move in this draft than the Kansas City Chiefs’ choice of Poe at No. 11.
The nose tackle from Memphis was one of the most talked about players in the draft. After his stunning performance at the NFL combine, Poe was considered a potential top-five player. However, after teams dissected his game film, they discovered Poe didn’t consistently make plays against marginal competition.
By the time the draft rolled around, it seemed as though Poe could fall into the 20s. But the Chiefs took him because of his ability and the fact he fills their greatest need. Poe was the best talent at No. 11 and the fact he filled a major need makes this a logical pick.
But if Poe doesn't develop, the Chiefs will get heat for not following the general consensus. The team has failed to hit a home run with recent picks on the defensive line, so the Chiefs have to make this work. Kansas City thinks Poe will excel under coach Romeo Crennel because he will concentrate on one position as opposed to having to play several spots as he did in college. If the Chiefs are right, this will be a big score. If not, they’ll be forever reminded of it.
MOST SURPRISING MOVE
But I think it was a surprise Denver took him at No. 57. That’s a high spot for a player who probably won’t start until 2015, at the earliest.
The Broncos have other needs and they have Manning. Yet, Osweiler was a target. It shows how much Denver executive VP John Elway values the position and how much he liked Osweiler. He could have waited a couple of years to peg Manning’s successor, but he did it before Manning has even thrown a pass in Denver.
FILE IT AWAY
This draft will be remembered as a success for all four teams in the division. I was impressed with how each team approached the draft and the patience each team showed.
I think the Chargers got as many impact players for the immediate future as any team in the league. I like Denver’s creativity. It traded out of the first round and still got some quality players such as defensive linemen Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson and running back Ronnie Hillman.
New Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie didn’t have many picks to work with -- his first was No. 95. But it is easy to tell there is draft-room stability with the post-Al Davis Raiders.
McKenzie played his board well and didn’t make any puzzling picks based on measurables as the late Davis was known to do. Oakland’s draft will not make many headlines, but McKenzie may have tabbed future starters in tackle Tony Bergstrom, linebacker Miles Burris and receiver Juron Criner.