AFC West: Jared Allen

Fans and media types alike wondered why Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was suffering from what seemed like paralysis by analysis at the onset of free agency.

Why was McKenzie, with close to $65 million in salary-cap room, seemingly sitting out the first day or so of the frenzy, allowing the likes of division rival Denver to swoop in and sign players with aplomb, while his two best young players -- left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end Lamarr Houston -- walked?

[+] EnlargeJared Allen
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesJared Allen signed a deal with Chicago that could be worth up to $32 million.
It was, the harsher critics suggested, as if McKenzie was fiddling while Silver and Blackdom burned.

But all the while there was a thought that no one wearing silver-and-black-colored glasses wanted to face: What if, no matter how financially enticing an offer, a prime free agent simply did not want to come to Oakland?

Heresy or reality?

The Raiders got a dose of that Wednesday when NFL Network reported that veteran defensive end Jared Allen passed on the largest offer he received -- a $9 million per year bid from the Raiders -- and chose instead to go to the Chicago Bears, which, ironically enough, is where Houston went.

Early in the offseason, I suggested the Raiders re-sign Houston and make a run at Allen to play on the right side, while flipping Houston back to the left, his more natural position. Seems like the two will team up after all ... just in the NFC North.

Allen chose the four-year, $32 million deal offered by the Bears, in part because he was reportedly turned off by the Raiders not having a quarterback in place at the time, though Matt Schaub was acquired shortly thereafter.

Also, McKenzie has been saying this week that Veldheer and Houston simply did not want to return to Oakland. McKenzie told the San Francisco Chronicle that he struggled with the notion.

Of course, many will say that McKenzie could have simply slapped a franchise tag on either player if he wanted them back that badly or, on the other end of the spectrum, that he low-balled the two.

None of that really matters now, though. Not when McKenzie accomplished what he set out to do by getting high-character, veteran locker room leaders who are still productive such as defensive ends Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith, linebacker LaMarr Woodley, receiver James Jones and left tackle Donald Penn.

Besides, they all did want to be in Oakland.
While calling the shots for the Denver Broncos, Mike Shanahan once said, “If we signed all the guys we're supposedly going to sign we'd have 100 guys and no money."

Well, history has rolled around to repeat itself once again.

The Broncos' decision-makers, poised on the edge of free agency, are once again seeing the team's name floated plenty on players they are indeed interested in, but are also not prepared to bid the highest on.

Or, as executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said just over a month ago, when discussing his take on contracts and pending free agents:

"It's a matter of how many people are out there and how many buyers. Are there six teams chasing him or five, or one team or teams? Plus it comes down to the thing that it's been my goal to really continue what [Broncos owner] Pat Bowlen created in the fact that people want to play here. So players will come here late in their career when they know they have a chance to win a world championship and they know the reputation of the Denver Broncos since Pat Bowlen has been here that it's a good place to play. That's why, to me, if you find a veteran guy and that's what matters to him, you're finding the right veteran guy. That's just as important as money. If money is the No. 1 thing, we're really not on the same page if it's all about money in my mind."

So, sure the Broncos have discussed the likes of pursuing safety T.J. Ward and defensive end Jared Allen. But to say the Broncos lead the way with either of those players, as some have said already, is simply not realistic.

At this point the Broncos are a negotiating tool for those two players as well as those who represent them. For either to end up in Denver it would likely require a willingness to trade dollars for playoff potential. And leaving dollars on the table is not often the business of those hired to negotiate contracts on commission.

The Broncos will be aggressive when free agency opens Tuesday; they will likely sign a player or two or even three in the opening days. That's been their profile with Elway on the job, and then they wait to add another veteran player or two in April or May.

Last year they signed Louis Vasquez, Wes Welker and Terrance Knighton early and then Shaun Phillips, who led the team in sacks last season with 10, on the draft weekend and Quentin Jammer in May.

So, the Broncos are poised to spend some of Bowlen's money this week -- it just won't always be on the players who were said to be "locks" to end up in Denver.

Free-agency primer: Raiders

March, 7, 2014
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: LT Jared Veldheer, DE Lamarr Houston, RB Rashad Jennings, FS Charles Woodson, CB Tracy Porter, RB Darren McFadden

Where they stand: With 17 remaining unrestricted free agents -- Oakland re-signed offensive tackle Khalif Barnes last week -- the Raiders chose not to use the franchise tag on Veldheer or Houston. That should not surprise anyone; general manager Reggie McKenzie said he wanted to avoid using it, and Veldheer said he did not want to be tagged. With nearly $65 million in cap space, the Raiders are primed to be players during free agency. They need help especially on the defensive line -- all four starters are free agents -- and in the secondary, and ditto with both cornerbacks and the free safety. The primary need on defense is a prototypical edge rusher.

What to expect: As McKenzie said last year, just because he has money to spend does not mean he’s going shopping at Macy’s. And as he restated this year, just because he has money does not mean he’s going to spend it on junk. True, it’s time for McKenzie to make like Macklemore and “pop some tags,” but don’t expect him to break the bank. He’ll use the money judiciously, and although the Raiders have the most cap space, they also have the most needs. It makes sense for Oakland to find a veteran quarterback to serve as a bridge, of sorts, while McKenzie strengthens to team around said quarterback, someone the staff trusts and already knows. Targets could include Josh Freeman, Josh McCown and Mark Sanchez (if and when the Jets cut him). Defensively, Jared Allen could fit the bill at defensive end.

Offseason Blueprint: Raiders

March, 4, 2014
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Looking for a blueprint for the Raiders’ offseason as they try to turn the corner after consecutive 4-12 seasons under general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen?

Our ESPN.com NFL Insiders have you covered Insider. With more than $60 million in salary cap space, to 18 scheduled unrestricted free agents, the Raiders have more than a few franchise-altering decisions to make. From finding a franchise quarterback (neither Terrelle Pryor nor Matt McGloin seem to be the answer) to looking at a potential starting lineup (is Mychal Rivera the truth at tight end?) to who the Raiders should target in free agency (Jared Allen, anyone?) to what they should do with the No. 5 overall pick (QB or DE, DE or QB?) to McKenzie’s top picks from a year ago needing to step up (are you listening, D.J. Hayden and Menelik Watson?). It’s all here.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders last played a game on Dec. 29, and the final game of the 2013 season -- Super Bowl XLVIII -- goes down Sunday with the Denver Broncos facing the Seattle Seahawks in New Jersey. So with that as our backdrop, let's get our first offseason Raiders Twitter mailbag party started ...

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- In his 45-minute end-of-the-season sitdown with six reporters who regularly cover the team on Thursday, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie acknowledged that his team does not have a biggest need.

“We have biggest needs,” McKenzie said, “with an 'S.'"

As in the Raiders need a franchise quarterback, a playmaking receiver, a solid piece to the offensive line, and a prototypical edge pass-rusher, to name a few.

[+] EnlargeReggie McKenzie
Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesRaiders GM Reggie McKenzie will have plenty of salary-cap space as free agency approaches.
Among the league’s pending free agents: quarterback Josh Freeman, receivers Eric Decker and Golden Tate, offensive tackles Michael Oher and Branden Albert, center Alex Mack and defensive ends Greg Hardy, Justin Tuck, and Jared Allen.

The Raiders will also have more than $60 million in cap space.

The trick, then, is convincing a top-tier free agent to come to Oakland and play for a team that is not only coming off consecutive 4-12 seasons in which it lost eight of its final nine games in both years under coach Dennis Allen, but has not been to the playoffs or had a winning record since 2002.

“It’s the opportunity to play and be a part of something,” McKenzie said of his sales pitch. “We’re going to turn this thing around. We’re going to try and sell the Raiders. That’s the No. 1 thing. It’s not trying to attract guys by saying an end result like 'we’re going to the Super Bowl.'

“We’re going to get this thing turned around and we’re going to win. If you want to be a part of this, here’s what we’ve got, and here’s how we want to play you. Here’s what we present offensively and defensively, and here’s where you fit in. If the kid wants to come, we’ll get more into detail about how he can help that process. When you deal with football players, they just want an opportunity to showcase what they have.”

McKenzie does not believe it will be that tough a task, even as he says he will not overspend. He said as much last year, when he eyed this coming offseason by saying he’d have money to spend, but that did not mean he would go shopping at Macy’s.

Now?

“We want to accumulate as many good players as possible,” he said. “The philosophy is not to dump every dollar and cent into one or two players; that’s not what I want. We’re not at that point with our team that we’re able to do that, because we have more than one or two needs. We’re going to do things that make sense for the big picture, which is the overall overhaul of the roster.

“Just because I have $5 in my pocket, that doesn’t mean I have to spend all of it ... on junk.”

Still, McKenzie’s overall philosophy is one of building through the draft, with an eye on free agency to serve as a bridge after two years in salary-cap hell.

“(It’s) not necessarily a weight being lifted,” he said, “but it’s an excitement about what’s to come, that we’re ready to move forward with this Raider team.”
One of the reasons why pass-rusher Melvin Ingram fell to the San Diego Chargers at the No. 18 pick in the recent NFL draft was his relatively short arms.

The South Carolina product was expected to be a top-10 pick yet one of the few red flags on Ingram is he doesn’t have the long arms that classic pass-rushers have. Ingram’s arm length is 31.5 inches, according to Steve Muench of Scouts Inc.

The Chargers aren’t worried about Ingram’s arms and were thrilled that Ingram fell to them. San Diego general manager A.J. Smith quipped to U-T San Diego about Ingram’s supposed issue:"I think Melvin will have the same problem Tyrannosaurus rex had millions of years ago."

Still, teams prefer pass-rushers with longer arms because it allows them to separate quickly from offensive linemen. Still short-arm pass-rushers can have success. Two of the better pass-rushers in the NFL, Kansas City’s Tamba Hali and Minnesota’s Jared Allen, have arms in the same length range as Ingram.

Muench is not worried about Ingram’s shorter arms being an issue.

“The thing I love about Ingram is he makes plays on film and against the highest level of collegiate competition,” Muench said. “I think he has the motor, active hands and motor to overcome an concerns about his length.”

AFC West mailbag

November, 26, 2011
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Weekend mail call:

Michael Jacobson from Kinnelon, N.J. wants to know if I think Oakland left tackle Jared Veldheer could make the Pro Bowl.

Bill Williamson: The second-year player is having a terrific season and he is leading a re-charged Oakland offensive line, which is quietly having a strong season. Veldheer shined on Sunday when he shut down Minnesota's Jared Allen. Allen had a streak of 11 straight games with a sack snapped. Veldheer will likely get some consideration for the Pro Bowl but players often need to have a full, strong season before they get consideration for the Pro Bowl.

Tim from Fort Collins, Co. wants to know if the Broncos will draft a quarterback next year regardless if they make Tim Tebow the long-term quarterback.

BW: I think they will study quarterbacks very closely. Denver has scouted some of the top quarterbacks who will be available in the draft. With Brady Quinn a free agent, Denver will certainly be looking for some quarterbacks and I suspect one will be a youngster.

Adam from Nashville if Oakland wants to know coach Hue Jackson could become the Raiders’ general manager.

BW: There have been reports that Mark Davis -- the son of the late Al Davis -- will look to hire a general manager in the offseason. A name that keeps popping up is Green Bay executive Reggie McKenzie. He has ties to the Raiders and Davis consultant Ron Wolf. So, I could see Davis leaning that way. I think the only way Jackson remains in control if they don’t decide to hire a general manager and just keep Jackson in his role as the top football man in the organization. I’d be surprised if Jackson was actually given the general manager title. I think Oakland would be better off in bringing in a true personal man who could work in connect with Jackson moving forward. It’s tough for a coach, especially a young coach, to have so many responsibilities.

One player to watch

November, 24, 2011
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One player to watch from each AFC West team in Week 12:

Denver, Elvis Dumervil, defensive end: After dealing with several injuries early in the season, Dumervil is healthy and it's showing. He has all 3.5 of his 2011 sacks in the past three games. He is coming on strong and he is teaming with rookie Von Miller to give Denver a first-class pass-rush. The pair could do some real damage Sunday at San Diego against the Chargers’ battered offensive line.

Kansas City, Derrick Johnson, linebacker: Johnson is having a terrific season and is leading the AFC West with 83 tackles. Johnson was very active in Week 11 at New England and shined with 12 tackles despite the 31-point loss. If the Chiefs have any chance to stick with the Steelers in Week 12, Johnson will need to continue to make plays.

Oakland, Jared Veldheer, tackle: The second-year left tackle is having a strong season. He shut down Minnesota sack star Jared Allen in Week 11. Allen had a sack in 11 straight games, but Veldheer kept him in check. Now, Veldheer gets to tangle with Chicago’s Julius Peppers on Sunday. However, don’t expect Veldheer to be intimidated. He is becoming an upper-level left tackle.

San Diego, Nick Hardwick, center: He is the anchor of a battered offensive line. The Chargers have been playing without three starting offensive lineman because of injuries. Hardwick brought the unit together and found a way not to allow any sacks at Chicago in Week 11. Miller and Dumervill will pose a challenge, so Hardwick will have to rally the troops again Sunday.

Wrap-up: Raiders 27, Vikings 21

November, 20, 2011
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A look at a fortunate day for the Oakland Raiders in the Twin Cities as they beat the Minnesota Vikings 27-21.

What it means: The Raiders are now 6-4, and they will remain in first place in the AFC West regardless of the rest of the action in the division in Week 11. Denver is 5-5, and San Diego and Kansas City are 4-5.

Survival: The Raiders looked great in the first two quarters against the undermanned Vikings, who fell to 2-8. Oakland scored 24 unanswered points and led 24-7 at the half. Yet the Vikings came back thanks to several Oakland penalties. Had the Vikings not been mistake-prone (they committed five turnovers, including two interceptions that were deep in Oakland’s territory), they could have won this game. The Raiders need to find a way to play a complete game moving forward, but they'll take a win.

Spreading the ball around: In his third Oakland start, quarterback Carson Palmer had his moments, especially in the first half. He ended up 17-of-23 passing for 164 yards. It was a great sign that Palmer spread the ball around. He completed passes to seven different receivers and hit tight end Kevin Boss five times. Getting Boss more involved is paramount. Palmer’s comfort level in this offense is growing, even though his numbers weren’t spectacular Sunday.

Scary scene: Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey had a good game with four catches before he injured his neck or head in the fourth quarter. He had to be taken off the field on a stretcher.

UPDATE: Oakland coach Hue Jackson said Heyward-Bey has regained all of his feeling in his arms and his legs, and he was hopeful Heyward-Bey could fly home with the team.

Controlling Allen: Minnesota sack master Jared Allen came into the game with a sack in 11 straight games. The streak ended Sunday. Oakland did allow four sacks, but it was able to contain Allen.

Big game for Bush again: Oakland backup running back Michael Bush had 109 yards on 30 carries. He has a total of 266 rushing yards in the past two games, as Darren McFadden has been out since Week 7 with a foot injury.

Satele hurt again: Center Samson Satele had a concussion in the first half. Rookie guard Stefen Wisniewski moved to center, and Stephon Heyer came in to play left guard. Wisniewski excelled at center in Week 10 at San Diego when Satele was injured.

Bringing the heat: The Raiders continued to get to the quarterback. They had five sacks Sunday and have 11 sacks in their past two games.

Penalties still an issue: The Raiders -- the most penalized team in the NFL -- were flagged 12 times for 117 yards. This is a major issue for Oakland that has to somehow be cleared up.

Fourth-quarter problems continue: The Raiders were shut out in the fourth quarter for the fifth straight game. It almost caught up to them Sunday.

What’s next: The Raiders host Chicago in Week 12.
Former Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen is still mad about his final days as a Chief.

Allen blasted Carl Peterson in a conference call with Kansas City reporters Wednesday for trading him to the Minnesota Vikings in 2008 because they did not want to give him a long-term deal. The Chiefs replaced him with Scott Pioli. Allen also took some lighter jabs at Kansas City chairman Clark Hunt, but Peterson was his main target. The Vikings visit Kansas City on Sunday.

"His name was Carl Peterson,” Allen said when he was asked to explain what he meant by earlier comments in the call about his problems in Kansas City.

“You can write that in caps. Obviously, I guess I had a problem with Clark [Hunt], too, because he chose Carl over me. When everything went down there, I didn’t appreciate being lied to. I was told I’d be getting a [contract] extension and everything and the way things played out. ... My biggest thing was, ‘Listen, I never lied to you guys. I show up and I bust my tail for you. Please don’t lie to me.’ After so many times of hearing they’re going to take care of you and they don’t and hearing the words Carl had to say about me, it’s tough to give it your all for somebody like that."

Allen said he didn’t have a problem with his coach, Herm Edwards, in Kansas City.

"Absolutely not,” Allen said. “Herm is one of my good friends to this day. Unfortunately, I think Herm got the raw end of the deal over there, too. The truth of the matter is we were an aging team. Herm drafted a bunch of guys and I feel he kind of got the shaft if you will. I loved playing for Herm and he's one of my favorite coaches."

Allen’s visit to Arrowhead Stadium will likely be more emotional for the fans than for the Chiefs. The staff and the roster have changed dramatically since he was traded. However, Allen was a favorite of the fans and I’m sure his juices will be flowing Sunday.

Allen has been terrific in Minnesota since the trade, where he's had 44.5 sacks. Only one player in the league, Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware, has more with 51.5

The trade has worked out for the Chiefs as well. They added Jamaal Charles and Branden Albert with picks acquired in the deal.

Moving on: Kansas City Chiefs

September, 26, 2011
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Here are some areas the Kansas City Chiefs need to focus on after a 20-17 road loss to the San Diego Chargers:

Recap: Despite falling to 0-3, the Chiefs had to feel a sense of satisfaction on the flight home from Southern California. That has to stem from the second half of Sunday’s game. The Chiefs showed life offensively for the first time this season. Kansas City didn’t have a first down in the first half Sunday. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was the first time that has occurred in the NFL since 2009. Yet, the Chiefs came back and actually had a chance to win the game until the final minute. Moving forward, Kansas City now knows it can compete offensively.

Biggest area to fix: The Chiefs now have to put together a full game. Defensively, the Chiefs had their moments Sunday, but they need to tighten things up. Can the Chiefs play a full 60 minutes on both sides of the ball? That’s the next task.

Biggest area to build on: I liked the pairing between quarterback Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe in the second half Sunday. Bowe finished with four catches for 67 yards and one touchdown. These two players built a nice chemistry last season. Perhaps they can do it again.

What to watch for: The Chiefs will host one of their most popular players in recent memory Sunday when defensive end Jared Allen and the Vikings visit. It will be the first time Kansas City has faced Allen in the regular season since he was traded in 2008.
SAN DIEGO -- A look at a game that was much closer in the end that it should have been.

What it means: The Chargers need to learn the create separation between themselves and their opponents. They dominated this game, but the Chiefs came back in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs had an opportunity to try to tie the score with a field goal in the final minute before San Diego safety Eric Weddle sealed it with an interception off a poor decision by Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel. San Diego is now 2-1. The Chiefs fell to 0-3.

Tomorrow’s talker: There could be some hope for the Chiefs. They played much better in the second half offensively. The Chiefs didn’t convert a first down in the first half. It was the first time that has happened in the NFL since December 2009, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Yet, Todd Haley’s team did not lay down Sunday. That has to be encouraging.

Trending: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers has thrown two interceptions in all three games this season. He has never thrown three interceptions in a game. His highest season interception total is 15. Rivers is playing well, but he has been far from perfect.

Mathews’ maturation: San Diego running back Ryan Mathews is a much better player in his second season than he was last year. He had 98 yards rushing and added 51 yards receiving. He is running with a lot of confidence.

What’s next: The Chargers host winless Miami on Sunday. Barring a meltdown, the Chargers should emerge from the first quarter of the season with a 3-1 record. That would help quiet the worry over slow starts under Norv Turner. The Chiefs go back home, looking for their first win when they host former star defensive end Jared Allen and the Minnesota Vikings. It will be the first time Allen has played against the Chiefs since they traded him in 2008.

Draft Watch: AFC West

March, 17, 2011
3/17/11
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NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: draft rewind -- examining the past five drafts.

Denver Broncos

Best choice: Elvis Dumervil, defensive end/linebacker.The Broncos have had an uneven drafting history in the past five years. Many of Denver’s better picks are no longer with the team. Dumervil was a safe choice. He has been a very productive player since Denver took him the fourth round in 2006. Dumervil led the NFL with 17 sacks in 2009. He missed all of last season with a pectoral injury. But he is considered a cornerstone of Denver’s defense as it begins the John Fox era.

Worst choice: Alphonso Smith, cornerback. There are a lot of candidates here, but I had to go with Smith. He edged out 2007 No. 17 overall pick Jarvis Moss, who was cut last season. Smith is the choice because he lasted one season in Denver and he cost the Broncos the No. 14 overall pick in 2010. Former Denver coach Josh McDaniels fell for Smith when he dropped to the second round in 2009. McDaniels, running his first NFL draft, traded the team’s first-round pick in 2010 to take Smith. He was replaced four times as a rookie, including by an undrafted rookie. Denver finally dumped him off to Detroit on the final cut-down day last year.

On the bubble: Knowshon Moreno, running back. There are a few choices here, but Moreno has to make immediate strides. The No. 12 overall pick in 2009 has had a slow start to his career. He’s had his moments, but he’s been plagued by injuries and an overall lack of productivity. If he doesn’t progress in 2011, the Broncos may have to make other plans at tailback.

Kansas City Chiefs

Best choice: Jamaal Charles, running back. Charles was a wonderful parting gift from the Carl Peterson era. He was part of Peterson’s final draft in Kansas City and was he a doozy. He was taken in the third round, with the No. 73 overall pick in 2008. The pick was acquired from Minnesota in the Jared Allen trade. Charles has developed into one of the best running backs in the NFL. He is a big reason why the Chiefs were a worst-to-first story in 2010.

Worst choice: Turk McBride, defensive lineman. The Chiefs haven’t had many overtly horrible picks in the past five years. I’m going with McBride because he was a second-round pick, No. 54 overall, in 2007. The defensive lineman spent his second season on the injured reserve and was cut in 2009.

On the bubble: Tyson Jackson, defensive end. Jackson had potential to make Kansas City fans forget about McBride. The defensive end was the No. 3 overall pick in 2009. He hasn’t done much in two seasons. Still, the Chiefs are hopeful that the earnest Jackson will develop into a good player. He will have time to prove himself, but he will be watched closely.

Oakland Raiders

Best choice: Zach Miller, tight end. The Raiders’ 2007 draft will always be remembered for the colossal JaMarcus Russell mistake. But the Raiders did find a gem with their very next pick. They took Miller in the second round with the No. 38 overall choice. Miller has developed into one of the better young tight ends in the NFL. He is a top offensive weapon.

Worst choice: JaMarcus Russell, quarterback. I didn’t have to do much debating on this one. Russell is considered by many league observers to be the worst draft pick of all time. He never improved and the Raiders gave up on him last spring at the age of 24. Russell is still out of the league.

On the bubble: Darrius Heyward-Bey, wide receiver. The No. 7 overall pick in 2009 needs to start producing on a consistent basis and he needs to show he can catch the ball. If not, Heyward-Bey will fall further behind Oakland’s other, more productive young receivers. Heyward-Bey has only 35 catches in 26 NFL games.

San Diego Chargers

Best choice: Marcus McNeill, left tackle. The Chargers have some solid picks in the past five years, but I’m going to go with McNeill. He is not an elite left tackle, but he is a very solid player who is a strong anchor to the offensive line. He is the long-term answer for San Diego at a key spot. San Diego is getting a lot of value for the No. 50 overall pick in 2006.

Worst choice: Buster Davis, wide receiver. The Chargers haven’t whiffed badly on a lot of picks in the past five years. But it looks as if Davis may not ever pan out as a Charger. He was the team’s first-round pick in 2007, No. 30 overall. His biggest issue has been staying healthy. He finally showed some promise last year, but he missed the final nine games with an injury. He has played only 26 games in four seasons.

On the bubble: Larry English, linebacker. English is the fourth 2009 first-round pick to make this list. Like the other three players, it’s time for English to show he can help his team. The Chargers took the Northern Illinois linebacker at No. 16 because of his high motor and ability to rush the passer. English, who already is 25, has only five sacks in two NFL seasons. He missed eight games because of injury in 2010. The Chargers probably will draft a pass-rusher in the first round, so English will have to fight for playing time in 2011.

2008 AFC West draft rewind

February, 4, 2011
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On the next three Fridays we will present a three-part series examining the past three draft classes of each AFC West team leading up to the NFL Scouting combine at the end of the month.

Our first part is the 2008 class:

Denver

First pick: No. 12, left tackle, Ryan Clady

Total picks: 9

Stars: Clady is the standout of this class. He is one of the NFL’s best left tackles and one of the prizes of Denver’s roster as it begins the John Fox era. Receiver Eddie Royal had a great rookie season under Mike Shanahan in 2008 and bounced back with a positive third season after a sluggish 2009 season. There’s still time for him to be a consistent, quality NFL receiver.

Duds: There are no players on this list that stand out as being terrible value picks. However, that doesn’t mean this was a productive draft for the long haul.

Not much left: Shanahan’s final draft class in Denver was one of his best. Denver got great production out of this class in 2008. But once he came to Denver in January 2009, Shanahan’s replacement, Josh McDaniels, had no interest in moving forward with many of Shanahan’s players. McDaniels jettisoned running backs Peyton Hillis and Ryan Torain, center Kory Lichtensteiger and cornerback Jack Williams. They all caught on elsewhere and Hillis -- who showed signs of stardom under Shanahan -- has become a star in Cleveland. Promising safety Josh Barrett was lost on waivers because McDaniels didn’t follow normal protocol when the player was put on the injured reserve.

What’s the future of this class? Fox doesn’t have much to work with. Only fullback Spencer Larsen, Clady and Royal remain. They are three good players, but this class had so much promise.

Kansas City

First pick: No. 5, defensive lineman, Glenn Dorsey

Total picks: 12

Stars: Dorsey, left tackle Branden Albert, cornerback Brandon Flowers, running back Jamaal Charles, cornerback Brandon Carr and right tackle Barry Richardson all were key players on the Chiefs’ first AFC West championship team in seven years in 2010.

Duds: There were really not any major whiffs on this list. Third-round pick, tight end Brad Cottam, had dealt with a serious neck injury, but he was showing signs of becoming a decent player before his injury.

The Jared Allen payoff: Albert and Charles were drafted with pieces obtained in the Allen trade with Minnesota. Losing Allen was difficult, but the Chiefs wanted to reload and spend the money it would take to secure Allen. Kansas City received two very good players in the trade. Charles and Albert are the type of talents that can help Kansas City for the much of this decade.

What’s the future of this class? This was the final class of the Carl Peterson era, and it was a good one. A big reason why the Scott Pioli-Todd Haley era looks bright is this class. I’ve heard some league observers say this class was one of the best of its decade. I’m not sure if that will pan out, but if the Chiefs continue to grow as an organization, the 2008 class will be seen as a nucleus draft. It was the best class in the AFC West in 2008.

Oakland

First pick: No. 4, running back, Darren McFadden

Total picks: 5

Stars: McFadden is the centerpiece of this class. After an injury-plagued two-year start to his NFL career, McFadden became the player he was expected to be when Oakland took him. The former Arkansas star was one of the NFL’s most dynamic running backs in 2010. He is very versatile, and he is a matchup headache. He’s a bright spot for this organization. Safety Tyvon Branch has a nice future. He was better in 2009 than in 2010, but he’s a keeper. Pass-rusher Trevor Scott (sixth round) and receiver Chaz Schilens (seventh round) have potential to be good players.

Duds: McFadden was in danger of being known as a bust, but that notion is off the table. The only pick from this class not on the roster is receiver Arman Shields. He never played for Oakland and that hurt because he was a fourth-round pick, but it wasn’t a colossal loss.

Hall trade hurt: The Raiders gave up second- and fifth-round picks to Atlanta for cornerback DeAngelo Hall. He played eight games in Oakland before the Raiders shocked the league and cut him because of a sluggish start. That second-round pick would have been nice to keep around.

What’s the future of this class? It could end up being a dandy even though it was such a small class. McFadden looks like a star. If Branch can make strides and if Scott and Schilens can become reliable contributors, this will end up being a solid class.

San Diego

First pick: No. 28, cornerback, Antoine Cason

Total picks: 5

Stars: Cason is the best of this small, uninspiring class. Cason started for the first time in 2010 and showed great promise. He took over for the traded Antonio Cromartie. The assignment wasn’t too big for Cason at all.

Duds: The worst part of this class is that there just wasn't enough that came out of it. Only Cason and fullback/special teams player Jacob Hester are still with the team. The other three picks, taken in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds, never made any contribution.

Was Hester worth it? San Diego traded a second-round pick in 2009 and a fifth-round pick in 2008 to take Hester with the No. 69 pick of the draft. San Diego general manager A.J. Smith said at the time that Hester was a longtime target. He replaced Michael Turner, who went to free agency. Hester hasn’t developed into a consistent rushing threat. But he plays often and he has a role on the team. The development of 2008 undrafted rookie Mike Tolbert has limited Hester’s role.

What’s the future of this class? The Chargers will have to hope Cason sticks around as a long-term starter. That way, San Diego could be getting something from this class. This, overall, was the worst class of the division in 2008. Saving this class are undrafted players Tolbert, who could soon get a lucrative new deal from the team, and offensive lineman Brandyn Dombrowski, who provides valuable depth.

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