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Wednesday, July 29, 2009
2008 draft class review

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

It's time to review last year's AFC West rookie draft class and look ahead to the class of 2009:

Denver

The early star: Left tackle Ryan Clady. The Broncos had a great overall class, but Clady stood out. In reality, Clady was among the NFL's best rookies. He was dominant each week, excelled in both pass and run protection and appears to be a superstar.

Best value pick: Running back Peyton Hillis, a seventh-round pick. Yet, he was Denver's best running back before suffering an injury. He is a versatile player. Hillis will likely be the starting fullback this season. Coaches love his toughness.

Who needs to pick it up? Cornerback Jack Williams. The fourth-round pick will likely lose the nickel cornerback job to 2009 second-round pick Alphonso Smith. Williams showed some promise, but he is going to have to take his game to the next level if he wants to compete with Smith.

Keep an eye on: Running back Ryan Torain. Torain dealt with two major injuries last season and will try to make an impression in a crowded backfield. He has ability and was a favorite of the previous coaching regime. If healthy, Torain can make some noise.

Grade thus far: A.

This could go down as the best class in team history.

Kansas City

The early star: Cornerback Brandon Flowers. The second-round pick played very well as a rookie. He is a playmaker who is smart and plays beyond his years. Flowers has the look of a player who will start in the NFL for 10 to 12 years.

Best value pick: Cornerback Brandon Carr. The fifth-round pick was a starter all season. He is a fine player who will likely continue to get better. If things go well, the Chiefs will be in good shape with Flowers and Carr for years to come.

Who needs to pick it up? Defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey: The No. 5 overall draft pick is not a bust, but he needs to make a bigger impact than he did as a rookie. He was average but not as special as expected. He is transitioning to a 3-4 defense in which he will likely play defensive end. Dorsey may not be in a perfect fit, but he is a talented player and needs to take his game to the next level now.

Keep an eye on: Left tackle Branden Albert: The No. 15 overall pick get better as the season progressed. The Chiefs expect him to be the anchor of their offensive line in 2009. If he stays healthy, expect Albert to play very well.

Grade thus far: B

The Chiefs' overall development depends on this talented class. If it makes strides in 2009, the building process will be shorter.

Oakland

The early star: Running back Darren McFadden. Although he was hampered by injuries last season, it was clear that McFadden is a dynamic running back. He can be a terrific change-of-pace player, and he can be dangerous in Oakland's strong backfield.

Best value pick: Wide receiver Chaz Schilens. The seventh-round pick is expected to be a starter. He started in the second half of last season and that experience should help him immensely. He has the skill set of an elite receiver.

Who needs to pick it up? Wide receiver Arman Shields. This is a tad unfair because Shields was injured all of last season. But it was a small class and the Raiders will need Shields to perform at a thin receiver position.

UPDATE: Shields was cut Wednesday afternoon as Oakland got down to the 80-man limit. He didn't pass his physical. This hurts Oakland. The Raiders need all the young receivers they can get and he was a fourth-round pick last season. That's not good.

Keep an eye on: Defensive end Trevor Scott. Scott showed signs of being a dangerous pass-rusher as he had five sacks last season. Expect him to be a terror on third downs if his development continues. The sixth-round pick could be a major steal.

Grade thus far: C

The Raiders class was small, but there is some potentially dynamic talent here.

San Diego

The early star: Cornerback Antoine Cason. Cason played very well as the nickel cornerback last season. He is a ball hawk and a very polished player. He has a chance to be a star.

Best value pick: Cason. He was the No. 28 overall pick last season. He made an immediate impact for a team that had a small draft class. He was well worth it.

Who needs to pick it up? Tackle Corey Clark. This is harsh, but with just three 2008 draft picks on the 2009 roster, Clark needs to eventually make an impact. It may not be this year, but the team needs him and likes him.

Keep an eye on: Fullback Jacob Hester. He has gotten bigger and stronger this offseason. Expect him to have a big role in the offense as the starting fullback. He can occasionally help as a runner and as a receiver.

Grade thus far: C

The Chargers had a small class but Cason and Hester make it decent.