AFC West: Matt Jones
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: history in that spot.
The Broncos’ top pick is No. 2 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:
2010: DT Ndamukong Suh (Lions)
2009: T Jason Smith (Rams)
2008: DE Chris Long (Rams)
2007: WR Calvin Johnson (Lions)
2006: RB Reggie Bush (Saints)
2005: RB Ronnie Brown (Dolphins)
2004: OL Robert Gallery (Raiders)
ANALYSIS: This is the Broncos’ first top-five pick since 1991, when they took linebacker Mike Croel at No. 4. The Broncos would love to have the success Detroit had last year with the pick. Suh looks like a unit changer, and Denver needs a similarly dominant defender. Detroit is the only team to have great success at No. 2 in the past seven years. Along with Suh, Johnson is a fabulous player. There are some good players on this list, though, with no flat-out duds. The Rams hope to see progress in Smith and Long, who made strides in 2010.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers’ top pick is No. 18 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:
2010: C Maurkice Pouncey (Steelers)
2009: LB Robert Ayers (Broncos)
2008: QB Joe Flacco (Ravens)
2007: CB Leon Hall (Bengals)
2006: LB Bobby Carpenter (Cowboys)
2005: LB Erasmus James (Vikings)
2004: DE Will Smith (Saints)
ANALYSIS: This is an interesting group. It shows that teams can find franchise players at No. 18 but also that they can make a major mistake with the pick. Flacco was a tremendous value for Baltimore in 2008. Pouncey looks as if he’ll be at center in Pittsburgh for the next decade. Smith has also had a terrific career and was a solid pick at No. 18. James was a terrible pick; Carpenter wasn’t worth it; and the jury is still out on Ayers. The Chargers know they have to pick smart. They took linebacker Larry English at No. 16 in 2009 and are waiting for a payoff. It’s interesting that there are four defensive ends/linebackers on this list. That’s exactly the position the Chargers will be looking for with the No. 18 pick.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs’ top pick is No. 21 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:
2010: TE Jermaine Gresham (Bengals)
2009: C Alex Mack (Browns)
2008: T Sam Baker (Falcons)
2007: S Reggie Nelson (Jaguars)
2006: RB Laurence Maroney (Patriots)
2005: WR Matt Jones (Jaguars)
2004: DT Vince Wilfork (Patriots)
ANALYSIS: The Chiefs are not used to drafting this low. Kansas City has picked in the top five the past three years. However, Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli is plenty familiar with having the No. 21 pick. He was with New England when it had the choice in 2004 and 2006. Pioli has seen teams score with this pick and seen teams whiff with it. Wilfork was a tremendous choice, but taking Maroney was a blunder. However, the pick has paid solid dividends in recent years. This doesn’t appear to be a bad spot to be in.
The Raiders’ top pick is No. 48 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:
2010: QB Jimmy Clausen (Panthers)
2009: S Darcel McBath (Broncos)
2008: TE Fred Davis (Redskins)
2007: LB Justin Durant (Jagaurs)
2006: DB Cedric Griffin (Vikings)
2005: LB Odell Thurman (Bengals)
2004: LB Dontarrious Thomas (Vikings)
ANALYSIS: It’s interesting that a quarterback was taken at this spot in 2010. Clausen was the third quarterback taken last year. If a quarterback such as Washington’s Jake Locker or Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett takes a similar tumble, we could see a quarterback taken at No. 48 again. This pick has been hit-or-miss, so it could be worth taking a gamble. Oakland picked at No. 47 two years ago and is still waiting for safety Mike Mitchell to develop. Last year, Oakland took defensive lineman Lamarr Houston at No. 44, and he had a terrific rookie season. In 2007, Oakland took standout tight end Zach Miller at No. 38. The Raiders know they can find talent in the second round.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Weekend mail call:
Jason from Pensacola, Fl. wants to know if Denver will make a play for Dallas defensive end Greg Ellis.
BW: I wouldn't be surprised if Denver made a play or Ellis, whether through a trade or if he is released by Dallas. We know Ellis won't be in Dallas next year, so Denver can get involved if it chooses. The Broncos' old brass liked Ellis a couple of years ago. He'd give the team a legitimate veteran pass rusher to help offset a bunch of young pass rushers. This wouldn't be a terrible move by the team.
Jesse from Huntsville wants to know if JaMarcus Russell has a bad season could Oakland go after Sam Bradford or Colt McCoy in the next year's draft:
BW: If Russell really struggles and the team decides, he can't be counted on as a future starter, then sure, Bradford and McCoy could be possibilities next year. But I really think Oakland will give Russell two more years to prove himself. Don't get me wrong, this season is crucial for Russell. But because so much was invested in the 2007 top overall pick, the Raiders are going to make sure Russell is a failure before cutting bait. He will be given every benefit of the doubt before an alternative option is taken. Raiders' fans need to root for Russell to succeed. If he doesn't, it will set the franchise back a few more years.
Kevin from Cedar Rapids wants to know if Oakland could pursue free agent receiver Matt Jones.
BW: I haven't heard much about Oakland. I know some other teams could be in play for Jones, including Dallas. He could help Oakland. But I think the Raiders may be better off trying to develop some younger receivers than trying to latch onto a troubled veteran such as Jones or Plaxico Burress at this point.
Randy wants to know if Matt Cassel will sign a long-term deal with the Chiefs.
BW: I know there has been chatter that either Cassel is asking for too much or that the Chiefs want Cassel to show himself. I don't really buy it. I think the plan is for Cassel to sign a long-term deal. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if a deal was announced by the start of the season. Kansas City has a slew of salary cap room and paying Cassel would eat some of it up. The team traded for him to be the starting quarterback. I see this one playing out fairly soon with Cassel chasing in a new contract.