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Saturday, April 24, 2010
AFC West draft analysis

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

NFC draft analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

For much of the offseason, the theme in the AFC West was players who never made it to the division and players who left.

However, the division took control during the draft. The AFC West made news -– and positive strides -- by bringing in talent.

The division's teams brought in some big-league talent this weekend. Headlining the AFC West newcomers are SEC stars Tim Tebow, Eric Berry and Rolando McClain. Add LaDainian Tomlinson’s replacement in San Diego, Ryan Mathews, and a new quarterback in Oakland, Jason Campbell, and the draft weekend provided many thrills for the division.

Forget the departures of Tomlinson, Antonio Cromartie and Brandon Marshall and the missed pursuit of Donovan McNabb in Oakland. The AFC West is making noise with key arrivals.

Best move

Oakland’s weekend. Love it. It started with the selection of McClain. What a great pick. When the Raiders took the middle linebacker from Alabama, it was an announcement that they were going to play the weekend straight. They were not interested in reaching for skill-position players anymore. It was nice to see them trying to improve their team by adding quality players at need areas. McClain will be an instant starter and he should soon be a star. The Raiders continued to help the run defense in the second round by selecting Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston. The Raiders got future help at tackle in the third and fourth rounds with nice prospects Jared Veldheer and Bruce Campbell. Oakland took speedy receiver Jacoby Ford in the fourth round. They wrapped up a terrific weekend by trading a fourth-round pick in 2012 for Campbell. These moves won’t necessarily make the Raiders a playoff team in 2010, but they are a great step in the right direction.

Riskiest move

Tim Tebow
The Denver Broncos will look to build their franchise around Tim Tebow.
Tebow is the riskiest prospect in the entire draft. Denver coach Josh McDaniels put his legacy on the line when he traded three draft picks to the Baltimore Ravens to take Tebow at No. 25. It is now up to make McDaniels to make him an NFL starter. For all his heart and desire, Tebow has to show he can be a true quarterback in the league.

Most surprising move

It was a surprise that San Diego jumped up so high to take Mathews. Because the running back class was so deep, the Chargers were expected to wait out the board. Instead, San Diego gave the Miami Dolphins a lot (the No. 28 and No. 40 picks along with backup linebacker Tim Dobbins) to take the rugged Fresno State star. Chargers general manager A.J. Smith clearly coveted Mathews so he went out and got him. The Chargers think Mathews will be a star and he was well worth the price tag as San Diego moves away from the Tomlinson era.

File it away

Berry is going to be a star. The Chiefs had their dream scenario when both Berry and Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung were available at No. 5. Berry was taken because of his potential to change the defense. Over the past decade, great safety play has been the key to the top defenses in the league. This is a young defense. Expect Berry to be known as one of the best playmaking safeties in the NFL within the next four years.