Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Busts and late-round gems.
Denver’s drafting has improved in recent years after it struggled mightily in the first several years of the 2000s. Denver’s draft fortune turned around some in 2006. The team had three picks in the fourth round. Two of the picks were receiver Brandon Marshall and defensive end Elvis Dumervil. They are two of the best players in their positions in the NFL. Starting guard Chris Kuper was taken in the fifth-round that year. However, there have been some poor picks in Denver in recent years. In 2007, Denver traded up to take defensive end Jarvis Moss at No. 17. He has been terrible in both the 4-3 and the 3-4 defenses under two regimes in Denver. He has started one game in three NFL seasons and has only 3.5 career sacks. He could soon be cut. After taking Moss, Denver took defensive end Tim Crowder in the second round in 2007. He was cut last year.
The focus of a look-back at Kansas City’s recent draft picks has to be the slow starts of its past three No. 1 picks. In 2009, Kansas City used the No. 4 overall pick on defensive lineman Tyson Jackson. In 2008, Kansas City, which had two first-round picks as a result of the Jared Allen trade with Minnesota, took defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey at No. 5 and tackle Branden Albert at No. 15. None of the three players made the impact expected from players taken at those draft slots. All three have time to develop, but there is some concern there. Kansas City has gotten some production from late-round picks recently. In 2009, the Chiefs took kicker Ryan Succop with the final pick of the draft. He was Kansas City’s best rookie last season. He has a big leg and is reliable. He could be around for several years. In 2008, Kansas City took cornerback Brandon Carr in the fifth round. He has started every NFL game of his career and he and 2008 second-round pick Brandon Flowers are bright spots on Kansas City’s defense.
The Raiders have had their share of both busts and gems in recent years. But the busts have been devastating to the program. The bust talk in Oakland starts with quarterback JaMarcus Russell. The No. 1 overall pick in 2007 has been awful and now he has to fight to try to regain his starting job. The Raiders’ next two top picks -- running back Darren McFadden (No. 4 in 2008) and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (No. 7 in 2009) --- have also resembled busts in the early stages of their careers. McFadden has had one good game and he has been injury prone. He has been nothing like the explosive star he was at Arkansas. It’s early, but McFadden has to show something soon. Heyward-Bey came into the league with major questions about his NFL readiness and hands. Those questions remain after he had only nine catches in 11 starts. Oakland has done decently in the latter rounds recently. Running back Michael Bush was taken in the fourth round in 2007 and he may be the team’s best running back. Receiver Chaz Schilens was a seventh-rounder in 2008. He has potential to be a solid No. 1 receiver. Linebacker Trevor Scott was taken a round ahead of Schilens and he has nice pass-rushing skills. Safety Tyvon Branch was taken in the fourth round in 2008 and he had a fine season in 2009. Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy and receiver Louis Murphy were taken in the fourth round last year. They both were solid contributors as rookies. Oakland has some good young talent, it’s just not the young talent it is paying a lot of money to that is producing.
The Chargers’ recent draft classes have been neither wonderful nor horrible. The team has gotten some good production out of the classes and it hasn’t struck out much. The only top pick not to do much is 2007 No. 1 pick Craig Davis. Nicknamed “Buster,” Davis looks like he may be a bust. The No. 30 overall pick just can’t stay healthy. The team has done well with finding some late-round gems. Starting right tackle Jeromey Clary was a sixth-rounder in 2006. Linebacker Brandon Siler was a seventh-rounder in 2007. He has a chance to be a difference-maker. Receiver Legedu Naanee was a fifth-round pick in 2007 and he is a solid part of the offense. Safety Kevin Ellison, a sixth-round pick last season, looks like he could be a long-time starter.