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Saturday, April 27, 2013
AFC West draft analysis

By Bill Williamson

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


Leave it to Manti Te'o to overshadow the No. 1 pick in the draft.

The 2013 NFL draft began when the Kansas City Chiefs took athletic Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher with the No. 1 pick. It was a great pick, and Fisher has a chance to be a stalwart for years to come.

However, the selection of Fisher was not the story of the draft weekend in the AFC West. The headline-stealing pick came about 24 hours and 37 picks later when the San Diego Chargers, who had been very quiet this offseason, shook up the draft by taking polarizing Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te’o in a trade up.

Te’o was a highly-rated player, but was involved in a bizarre hoax involving a dead girlfriend who, it turned out, did not exist. Te’o will be remembered for the hoax, but now he will try to make a name in the AFC West.

I thought all four teams in the division (the worst division in the NFL last year) made savvy choices. When the draft grades pour in, and they will, I expect solid grades for all four teams.

In the meantime, let’s look closer at the division’s draft:

BEST MOVES:

It’s difficult to beat what new San Diego general manager Tom Telesco pulled off in the second and third rounds. After taking Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker at No. 11 in the first round, Telesco came back firing Friday with the trade-up for Te’o and the with the third-round selection of California receiver Keenan Allen.

Immediately after the Allen choice, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said Telesco drafted three first rounders. That view was later echoed by fellow ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper.

I expect both Te’o and Allen to contribute immediately. Allen, who has had some manageable knee issues, is a sure receiver who gives the offense-needy Chargers a serious weapon. Philip Rivers has seen several top weapons leave in free agency in recent years. He gets a gift in the form of Allen.

RISKIEST MOVES

It wasn’t all perfect for the Chargers. They entered the draft, as they entered free agency, with left tackle as their greatest need. It is still a major need.

In some ways the Chargers can’t be blamed for not addressing the position this weekend. Only three left tackles were considered sure instant starters -- Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Lane Johnson -- and they were all off the board in the first four picks. So the Chargers really didn’t have a chance to get any of them. Still, it is risky for the Chargers to come out of this draft without a left tackle. They may have to pursue Baltimore free agent Bryant McKinnie as a short-term rental.

Oakland's D.J. Hayden
The Raiders took cornerback D.J. Hayden in spite of the rare injury he suffered last year.
The Raiders also did well in the draft overall. But they did not get a sure pass-rusher. Oakland had a paltry 25 sacks last season. They need a pass-rush burst somewhere. But the Raiders had so many holes, they simply couldn't fill all of them.  Oakland has to figure something out on defense, or progress will be delayed.

MOST SURPRISING MOVE

In a mild surprise, the Raiders took Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden. He is a fine player, and the Raiders maintain they would have taken him at No. 3 had they been unable to trade down with Miami and take him at No. 12. Now, that would have been a surprise.

Leaguewide, Hayden was expected to be taken in the 15-25 range, but several teams really liked him. The last time he was on a football field was November, when he tore a major vein that pumps blood to the heart. Such injuries are most common in auto accidents and have just a 5 percent survival rate. Still, Hayden has been cleared. I expect him to be a great immediate help for the Raiders, who badly need star power at the position.

FILE IT AWAY

Denver first-round pick Sylvester Williams is going to be an instant standout. The North Carolina product was expected to go much higher than No. 28. He is disruptive and athletic. He fits in with a young, talented Denver defense. John Elway scored on defense with his first two top picks in Von Miller and Derek Wolfe and he did it again with Williams.