NFL Nation: Darcel McBath

The fine folks at ESPN's Stats & Information group have confirmed what many have long thought about the 2009 NFL draft.

There were many scouts and personnel folks in the league who didn't like what they saw on that draft board in the weeks and month before they had to make those picks and they've all tried to dig out of it over the five drafts since.

Turns out their instincts were right with the benefit of some quality hindsight.

Of the 256 players selected that year, there are almost as many out of the league -- 122 -- as there are still on one of the 32 teams -- 134. However, just 38 of 256, or a not-so-sizzling 14.8 percent, remain on their original teams.

For the Broncos, the grand total of 2009 players selected in the 10-player draft class who still has a spot on the depth chart is one. As in safety David Bruton, the first of two fourth-round selections that year.

And while that was clearly a difficult draft board for the entire league to figure out, it was a dismal year for the Broncos since they had more premium picks in it than they've had in any draft since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

The Broncos had five selections in the draft's top 64 picks that year, two first-round picks and three second-round picks. Handled the right way, it should have been the foundation of what they have now, but none of those five top 64 picks remain with the team and of those five only running back Knowshon Moreno started more than 10 games in multiple seasons.

Moreno just had his first 1,000-yard rushing season in 2013 to go with 60 receptions in the Broncos' high-flying offense. It was easily his best overall season with the team, but concerns over his long-term health -- he had multiple knee procedures, including to repair a torn ACL, to go several other soft-tissue injuries in his time in Denver -- led to the Broncos to decide not to re-sign him in free agency. Moreno signed a one-year deal in Miami.

Robert Ayers, taken at No. 18 overall that year, had the same number of sacks in 2013 -- 5.5 -- as he had in his first four seasons combined, including none as a rookie when the Broncos tried to fit him into their 3-4 defense under Josh McDaniels. The Broncos let Ayers sign elsewhere, too, and he signed with the New York Giants earlier this year.

McDaniels used a second-round pick (No. 64 overall) on Richard Quinn, a tight end who had all of 12 receptions in his career at North Carolina. McDaniels' hope Quinn would be a factor as an on-the-line blocking tight end simply never materialized at any point after Quinn arrived.

McDaniels also traded a first-round pick, in 2010, to move up in the second round to select cornerback Alphonso Smith and then traded Smith, to the Detroit Lions, a year later. And safety Darcel McBath (No. 48 overall) showed some potential, but had injury issues with the Broncos and ended up playing in a Super Bowl for the San Francisco 49ers with just one career start in the league.

It is a draft that has left a substantial hole in the Broncos' developmental plans to be sure, but the Broncos can take heart there. They were obviously not alone.
NaVorro Bowman's fourth-and-4 pass breakup all but delivered the San Francisco 49ers to victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game.

The play was notable for a few reasons.

Having Bowman, an inside linebacker, in coverage against a wide receiver with Roddy White's credentials would seem to favor the offense. But as White dragged across the formation, Bowman blanketed him and made contact before quarterback Matt Ryan delivered the ball, making this a legal play.

Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons' 13-time Pro Bowl tight end, came open on the play, but Ryan seemed to lock in on White from the beginning. There was logic to Ryan's thinking with a linebacker in coverage.

Bowman and fellow inside linebacker Patrick Willis both had underneath coverage responsibilities on this play. Their ability to remain on the field and make plays in nickel situations sets them apart from traditional run-defending inside linebackers.

In the end, Bowman's breakup will go down as the most pivotal play on the 49ers' road to the Super Bowl -- not just on an anecdotal basis, but also on a statistical one.

The play produced change in win probability of 31.5 percentage points, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That was the largest positive swing for any play during the 49ers' first 18 games of the season.

The chart, courtesy of Dean Oliver, shows the 49ers' 10 most pivotal positive plays of the season by change in win probability. Colin Kaepernick appears on the list four times. Alex Smith does not appear on the list.

Denver Broncos cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
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Check here for a complete list of the Denver Broncos' roster moves.

Surprise move: The cuts of defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon and safety Kyle McCarthy were unexpected. Jarmon was brought in through a trade from Washington for Jabar Gaffney. He was expected to be part of Denver’s defensive-line rotation. McCarthy was working with the first-team defense for parts of camp. But in the end, 2010 draft picks David Bruton and Darcel McBath were kept over McCarthy.

No-brainers: There was talk that Derrick Harvey could be cut. But the team needs to keep him, especially with Jarmon out. The former No. 8 overall pick from Jacksonville is needed on Denver’s tenuous line. While he probably will never live up to his lofty draft position, Harvey is solid against the run and could help Denver. Also, I’m not shocked that Denver kept only rookie tight ends Julius Thomas and Virgil Green behind starter Daniel Fells. They cut Dante Rosario and Dan Gronkowski. The Broncos really like their three tight ends.

What's next: The Broncos have the No. 2 waiver priority. Expect them to use it often. Denver probably will look at defensive linemen, cornerbacks, offensive linemen and running backs on the waiver wire. The Colts cut defensive tackle Tommie Harris. DT is Denver’s greatest need, but the Broncos might be reluctant to pursue a player who has been cut by the Bears and Colts this year. Recently cut defensive linemen Jacob Ford (Tennessee) and Marcus Harrison (Chicago) could be appealing to Denver.

Camp Confidential: Denver Broncos

August, 17, 2011
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For a franchise that was accused of turning stale a few years ago, the Denver Broncos have become pros at taking fresh approaches.

For the second time in three training camps, Denver has a new head coach. John Fox takes over after the disastrous 23-month Josh McDaniels regime. From 1995 to 2008, the Broncos were the picture of coaching constancy. It was the Mike Shanahan show. Everyone knew it.

But the Broncos have been in flux and have gone from one of the better-run organizations in the NFL to a team that is grasping for an identity. Denver hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 2005 season. It hasn’t had a winning record since 2006.

In comes Fox, who is experiencing a rebirth himself after spending the past nine seasons in Carolina. Fox’s biggest task in Denver is to restore normalcy after the rocky McDaniels era and rebuild a winner.

“There has been instability here, good, bad or indifferent, that’s just the way it has been,” said Fox, whose team will be on its sixth defensive coordinator (former New Orleans secondary coach Dennis Allen) in six seasons.

“We have to build our program here. But I think it can be done. There are good pieces here.”

Many Denver players have raved about Fox. They appreciate his professionalism, his structure and his attention to detail. They believe there is a plan in place, and they trust Fox’s experience. The players also seem to appreciate the fact that Fox is simply in Denver to coach. The front office is run by legendary Denver quarterback John Elway and general manager Brian Xanders. Both Shanahan and McDaniels made personnel decisions.

“I get a great feel for Coach Fox,” star cornerback Champ Bailey said. “He’s one of the better coaches I’ve been around ... I like it that he is focused on coaching us on the field. That’s where he wants to be.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeVon Miller
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireRookie Von Miller will need to play well right away if Denver's defense is going to improve this season.
1. Fix the defense. While the Tim Tebow-Kyle Orton competition has garnered much attention, the real key issue in Denver’s camp has been the defense. This unit was ranked No. 32 in the NFL last season and was generally awful in every major statistical category. Fox and his defensive staff have taken a hands-on approach to improve this group, which is a mix of veterans and youngsters.

If the reconstructed defensive front plays well and rookie linebacker Von Miller makes an instant impact, this group has a chance to improve quickly. It seems to be working early. Denver’s defense has been capable in camp and it looked solid against Dallas in the preseason opener Thursday. Injuries to defensive tackles Ty Warren (who signed to a two-year, $8 million deal) and Marcus Thomas create more uncertainty at a key spot for Denver. It needs to get help there by Kevin Vickerson, Brodrick Bunkley, Jeremy Jarmon and Derrick Harvey in the rest of the preseason. Warren could be out for a long period and Thomas will miss the rest of the preseason.

2. Clarity at quarterback: The Broncos’ camp has been about getting the first-team ready to go with Orton. There is no question Orton is the starter now. If the team struggles, Tebow could enter the picture, but players love playing with Orton and the team thinks he currently gives them the best chance to win now.

Of course, the lack of clarity was team-induced. It spent the immediate days after the lockout trying to trade Orton to Miami. After that fell through, Orton took control of the offense quickly and has given Denver no choice but to make him the starter, TebowMania be dammed.

3. Establish a ground game: Although Fox is a defensive-minded coach, he has a strict philosophy on offense. He believes in stuffing the ball down an opponent’s throat and killing the clock. Denver struggled to run the ball under McDaniels, and Fox said adding a veteran tailback was paramount.

The Broncos jumped on Willis McGahee when he was cut by the Ravens. Expect McGahee and third-year player Knowshon Moreno to combine for plenty of carries. They have worked well in camp, and they combined for 40 yards on six carries in the preseason opener at Dallas. This camp has been spent getting these two involved in the offense as much as possible.

ELVIS IS BACK IN THE BUILDING

The Broncos are raving about the play of Elvis Dumervil. After leading the NFL with 17 sacks in 2009 and getting a contract worthy of that performance, Dumervil tore a pectoral muscle in early August last year and missed the entire 2010 season.

There was concern that his rust and a move back to the 4-3 under Fox could hamper the smallish Dumervil. He flourished in McDaniels’ 3-4 system after being a solid player in Shanahan’s 4-3 defense. Dumervil beefed up to more than 260 pounds, and he‘s been impressive under Fox.

The Broncos expect Dumervil and Miller to become one of the better pass-rush tandems in the league.

RELYING ON THE ROOKIES

[+] EnlargeRahim Moore
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe Broncos will also be looking to rookie Rahim Moore to shore up Denver's secondary.
One of the most exciting aspects of this camp for Denver has been the play of its rookies. The Broncos thought they drafted well in April, and after three weeks, they are thrilled with what they see.

“I think we had an excellent draft,” Fox said.

Added Dumervil: “This is the best group of rookies I’ve seen here in awhile.”

Leading the way is Miller, who was the No. 2 overall draft pick. The Texas A&M product has been as advertised. Teammates rave about his speed, explosiveness and his ability to make plays. They expect instant success.

Second-round pick Rahim Moore is vying for a starting spot with Kyle McCarthy at safety and has shown he is ready for NFL play. Right tackle Orlando Franklin, middle linebacker Nate Irving, tight end Julius Thomas and safety Quentin Carter are all expected to be major contributors. This is exactly what this 4-12 team needed -- a solid group of youngsters to build around after a couple of shaky years of drafting by McDaniels.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Safety Brian Dawkins may be turning 38 this year, but the Broncos are still getting a lot out of him. He works well with Fox’s staff, and his leadership has been uncanny during camp.
  • Defensive end Robert Ayers has been getting chances to break out in camp, but he has been slow to show progress. He was the No. 18 overall pick in the 2009 draft.
  • Receiver Brandon Lloyd has been slowed by swelling in his knee. Still, the team expects him to contribute. Lloyd had a breakout season in 2010 -- 77 catches for 1,448 yards.
  • The second-round draft class of 2009 has been a bust. Tight end Richard Quinn is hurt and could be the odd man out. Safety Darcel McBath has yet to develop, and cornerback Alphonso Smith (who Denver traded its 20101 first-round pick for) was shipped out to Detroit last year. This was supposed to be the nucleus of future success, and Denver hasn’t seen results.
  • The Broncos’ passing game struggled in red-zone and third-down situations. That has been a point of emphasis during this camp.
  • Veterans Joe Mays and Mario Haggan are competing to hold off Irving at middle linebacker.
  • Franklin has struggled in pass projection. Still, the team is committed to him.
  • Denver is excited about second-year receiver Eric Decker. Expect Decker to get a chance to contribute a lot.
  • The Broncos like what they have in new tight end Daniel Fells. He is solid as a receiver and as a blocker. He should help in both phases of the game.
  • Right cornerback Andre' Goodman has been steady, and the team is confident he can play well in 2011.
  • Second-year center J.D. Walton continues to improve, and he has shown strong leadership for a young player.

Draft Watch: AFC West

April, 7, 2011
4/07/11
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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: history in that spot.

Denver Broncos

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 teams can find franchise players at No. 18, but they can also make a major mistake with the pick. Flacco was a tremendous value for Baltimore in 2008. Pouncey looks like 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 Kansas City 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 both score and whiff with the pick. Wilfork was a tremendous choice while 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.

Oakland Raiders

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.

Sleepless in London

October, 28, 2010
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Unlike the San Francisco 49ers, who flew to London earlier this week, the Denver Broncos opted to practice at home for three days before heading out to London on Thursday.

It is going to be a short, crammed trip and the key, according to Denver coach Josh McDaniels, is for the team to sleep as much as possible in the eight-hour flight to London. Once the Broncos’ land in London, they’ll be in work mode despite losing a lot of time while in the air.

“We’re telling them to sleep on the plane as much as possible and we’re going to try to aid that in any way that we can,” McDaniels said. “Once we’re there, we’re trying to treat it like a normal Friday. We’re not going to have them sleeping until noon or 1 p.m. -- that would be probably the worst thing we can do to try to get acclimated for Sunday. Once we’re there, there’s no time (to sleep), there’s no choice. We’re going to go meet and go walk-through and then come back and then we have a curfew (Friday) night.”

McDaniels said five injured players will not accompany the team to London and they will stay in Denver to rehabilitate. The players are cornerback Perrish Cox, defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson, safety Darcel McBath, linebacker Robert Ayers and linebacker Wesley Woodyard. None of these decisions were surprises.

Meanwhile, legendary Broncos quarterback John Elway will serve as an honorary captain and be with the team during the coin flip. Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice will accompany the 49ers.
Denver coach Josh McDaniels is usually in one of the most secretive coaches in the league when it comes to injuries. That’s why it is startling that he has already ruled out three defensive starters for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets.

McDaniels told reporters in Denver on Monday that safety Brian Dawkins (knee), right cornerback Andre Goodman (quadriceps) and outside linebacker Robert Ayers (undisclosed) will be out. Two backups -- safety Darcel McBath (ankle) and linebacker Wesley Woodyard (hamstring) -- are also out.

He didn’t say how long any of the players will be out. But let’s face it, if these five players were all ruled out six days before the game, the timetable could be lengthy for all of them. If there was a chance they could return soon, McDaniels wouldn’t make this call now.

McDaniels acknowledged the injuries, which have been hammering his team since the start of camp, are taking a toll.

"Certainly the injuries don't make it easy, but we've been dealing with that for quite some time now. The next guy's got to step up and play well," McDaniels said. "We've got to give them a good game plan. We might have to be creative with a few things that we do, but that's part of everyone's season. Everyone has to go through roster decisions and make their minds up on how to make up for players that can't play, and that's where we are right now."
The Denver Broncos had the type of draft in 2009 that was supposed to give the team a nucleus.

Thanks to several trades (including one that sent Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler to Chicago), the Broncos finagled five picks in the first two rounds. It was an impressive display of draft chip building by first-year Denver coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders.

There’s no doubt that if the Broncos become a premier team in the near future it will be because of the development of the 2009 draft class. However, it appears solid production from this class is not a foregone conclusion. The class produced very little last year for Denver, which also wheel-and-dealed this year and produced five players in the top No. 87 picks, including receiver Demaryius Thomas and quarterback Tim Tebow in the first round.

“I like how Denver has found ways to acquire picks and it’s a good way of building a great foundation,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “I’m just not sold on the players they have taken.”

While the 2010 class prepares to begin their rookie season, the 2009 class in Denver is preparing to make progress from a disappointing NFL start. Denver also has hope fourth-round picks David Bruton and Seth Olsen (guard) and fifth-round pick Kenny McKinley (receiver) will contribute as well. But the attention is on the five picks in the first two rounds.

The following is a look at those top five picks from Denver’s 2009 class:

No. 12, Knowshon Moreno, running back

Moreno
Moreno
Recapping 2009: Moreno had 947 yards and averaged 3.8 yards per carry. His production dipped terribly as the season wore on. He had a total of 173 yards in the final four games as the Broncos, who started the season 6-0, fell out of playoff contention and finished 8-8. Moreno’s 2.7 per carry average in that time span was alarming. Overall, he didn’t show much explosiveness at all. His longest carry of the season was 27 yards.

What’s expected in 2010: The Broncos have been pleased what they have seen from Moreno this offseason and he seems to be more prepared for the long NFL season. He will be the starter and Denver hopes that he can get in the 1,200-1,400-yard range as the Broncos move to a more traditional power-blocking scheme.

A scout’s view: “I liked Moreno as a late-first round pick but not at No. 12. You don’t take a running back that high unless he is Adrian Peterson, a superstar. I don’t think Moreno will be a superstar, but he should be better in Year 2. He’s a good player, but not an elite player.” -- Matt Williamson

No. 18, Robert Ayers, linebacker:

Ayers
Ayers
Recapping 2009: Ayers started just one game last season, finishing the year with 19 tackles. He didn’t have any sacks. That was disappointing for Denver since it drafted him to be a pass-rusher. He was moved to linebacker to utilize his explosiveness, but he didn’t show it as a rookie. Ayers was a late draft riser after a so-so college career.

What’s expected in 2010: It hasn’t started great. After being lauded by McDaniels for much of the offseason, Ayers didn’t practice for the first two days of the mandatory minicamp earlier this month. Finally, on the third day, Ayers did some work and McDaniels said the problem had been resolved. Ayers can’t have any more setbacks. He will get a chance to start at linebacker, but he will have to earn his keep.

A scout’s view: “I think he’s more of a 4-3 defensive end than a 3-4 linebacker. I don’t know if he is a good fit for Denver’s scheme. I’d be reluctant to write him off because he is adjusting to a new scheme.” -- Matt Williamson

No. 37, Alphonso Smith, cornerback

Smith
Smith
Recapping 2009: Smith’s rookie season was as a disaster partly because of how he was acquired. That’s not his fault, but he has to deal with it. When Smith, who was expected to be a late first-round pick, fell to No.37, Denver jumped up and traded its 2010 top pick (which turned out to be No. 14) to Seattle for him. Smith didn’t live up to the price tag. He couldn’t keep his nickel cornerback job as he was beaten out by veteran pickup Ty Law and undrafted rookie Tony Carter.

What’s expected in 2010: The Broncos expect Smith to be the nickel cornerback. If he doesn’t keep the job this year, the alarms will sound loudly.

A scout’s view: “I liked the move to get him at No. 37; I’m not so sure about giving up a first-round pick. He is tough as nails and he is a good player. I’m not sure why he had a slow start.” -- Matt Williamson

No. 48, Darcel McBath, safety

McBath
McBath
Recapping 2009: McBath was decent when he played, but for now, he is just a backup safety. He was a good special-teams player, but his season was cut short because of injuries.

What’s expected in 2010: To continue to develop and help on defense when needed and be a special-teams standout. He will eventually replace Brian Dawkins when he retires.

A scout’s view: “I thought he was a good pick and he could be a good player. But he’s backup for now.” -- Matt Williamson

No. 64, Richard Quinn, tight end:

Quinn
Quinn
Recapping 2009: Like Smith, Denver gave up a lot to get Quinn. He was the centerpiece of a trade in which Denver sent two third-rounds picks away in 2009. Quinn was clearly targeted. Yet, on draft day, Quinn admitted that he expected to be selected much lower in the draft. Denver took him because of his blocking. He played in 15 games and didn’t have a catch. He made noticeable mistakes in games and in training-camp practices.

What’s expected in 2010: He needs to develop. The team is using more of a power-blocking scheme so he may be on the field with Daniel Graham more in double-tight end sets.

A scout’s view: “He’s a blocking tight end. He’s not dynamic enough to use that high of a pick on. The Broncos already have Graham and Quinn is a Graham clone. It’s clear that’s what they want out of the position, but I’m not sure he’ll give them the production that’s expected because of what they gave up to get him.” -- Matt Williamson

Draft Watch: NFC South

March, 31, 2010
3/31/10
1:03
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NFC History: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

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: History in that spot.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

They’re sitting at No. 3 and recent history indicates they’ll get a big name, but not necessarily a guaranteed star. The jury is still very much out on defensive end Tyson Jackson, who went to Kansas City in this spot last year. Jackson didn’t record a sack in his rookie year. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan went No. 3 overall in 2008 and is off to a very good start, and the same can be said for 2007 No. 3 pick Joe Thomas. The Cleveland offensive tackle already has been picked for three Pro Bowls. But 2006 third pick Vince Young and 2005 No. 3 Braylon Edwards have both had very uneven careers thus far.

Atlanta Falcons

They hold the No. 19 pick and the recent history in that spot has been solid. Philadelphia receiver Jeremy Maclin and Carolina offensive tackle Jeff Otah are off to strong starts. Tennessee safety Michael Griffin, who went in this spot in 2007, has been a very solid player and 2005 pick Alex Barron has been a regular starter at offensive tackle for the Rams. The biggest question mark at this spot in recent history is Antonio Cromartie. He had a few very productive years in San Diego, but slumped last season, prompting his move to the New York Jets.

New Orleans Saints

They hold the No. 32 pick, the final one in the first round because they won the Super Bowl. There are no guarantees of instant success when you’re picking this late. Ziggy Hood went in this spot to Pittsburgh last year and the Steelers are bringing him along very slowly. Safety Kenny Phillips went No. 32 to the Giants in 2008. He was primarily a backup as a rookie and got hurt early last year. It’s a similar story for 2007 pick Anthony Gonzalez of the Colts. He showed promise in his first two seasons as a backup, but an injury derailed him last year. The Giants have had mixed results with defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, whom they took in this spot in 2006. He hasn’t been spectacular, but he has been somewhat productive. The real gem in this spot has been 2005 pick Logan Mankins. The New England guard has been to two Pro Bowls.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers traded this year’s first-round pick to San Francisco last year. As a result, their top pick is in the second round and it’s No. 48 overall. History has shown you still can get a productive player at this spot. Cornerback Darcel McBath got off to a good start with Denver last year before being sidelined with an injury late in the season. Tight end Fred Davis had a quiet rookie season with the Redskins in 2008, but started to emerge last year. Jacksonville linebacker Justin Durant was a part-time-starter as a rookie in 2007, but has been a full-time starter the past two seasons. Cornerback Cedric Griffin has developed into a solid starter in Minnesota after being selected by the Vikings in 2006. Then, there’s the sad story of linebacker Odell Thurman, whom the Bengals took at No. 48 in 2005. He played only two seasons before suspensions and off-field problems derailed his career.

Draft Watch: AFC West

March, 26, 2010
3/26/10
1:04
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NFC Under-The-Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week 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: Under the radar needs.

Denver

I could see Denver drafting a safety in the fourth round. Starters Brian Dawkins (36) and Renaldo Hill (31) will not be around forever. Denver did take Darcel McBath in the second round last year and he made some decent strides before getting hurt. It would hurt Denver to try to find another young safety to develop. I could also see Denver looking for a big running back late in the draft. The team needs a pounder. The Broncos struggled in short-yardage situations. The Broncos also need a punter.

Kansas City

The Chiefs have done a nice job in free agency, but they still have plenty of needs heading into the draft. Many of Kansas City’s needs are on the defensive side of the ball. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kansas City added multiple linebackers, perhaps starting in the second round. Since the Chiefs use a 3-4 defense, they need several linebackers on an aging crew. Linebacker might be the top need after safety, offensive line and receiver. The Chiefs are young on the defensive front, but it wouldn’t hurt to get more talent in the later rounds at nose tackle. Even though tight end is not a glamour position in Todd Haley’s offense, the Chiefs do need some talent there.

Oakland

After the offensive line, linebacker and quarterback, the Raiders need some defensive line help, especially at tackle. Watch for Oakland to use a mid-round pick on this position. I could also see Oakland trying to find a running back in the third-to-fifth rounds. It cut Justin Fargas and needs some help behind Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. Oakland was set to visit with former Kansas City star Larry Johnson before he signed with Washington. Cornerback and safety are other areas Oakland might address add late in the draft. Oakland also needs some help at receiver. Ideally, it would be in the form of a veteran (Terrell Owens, anyone?) because Oakland is so green at the position.

San Diego

This is an important draft for the Chargers. The team has has lost several players this offseason. San Diego is still the class of the AFC West and it has pretty nice depth. But reinforcements are needed at several positions. The Chargers’ biggest needs are running back and nose tackle. But San Diego will be busy after filling those two early needs. San Diego could use some youth at defensive end and inside linebacker. Also, watch for the team to look for a cornerback in the post-Antonio Cromartie era. Offensively, San Diego needs a blocking tight end to replace Brandon Manumaleuna, who signed with Chicago. That position could be addressed in the middle rounds. San Diego also could use a young right tackle to groom. I could also see a young receiver taken in the late rounds.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

NEW YORK -- The Cowboys were hoping Texas Tech safety Darcel McBath would be there on Day 2, but the Broncos just scooped him up with the 48th pick overall.

Scouts Inc. had McBath rated as the 101st player in the draft. And he just went at 48?

Wow!

I might be inclined to call that a reach, but I've seen McBath play way too much. He gets his hands on a lot of throws and had seven interceptions in '08. He will also come up and pop you in the running game. Oops, Max Unger is off the board at No. 49. Cowboys striking out left and right.

Let's see which way they turn. Might be time for Mohamed Massaquoi at wide receiver. He's the kid from Georgia. I know the Cowboys love him. And Massaquoi's off the board to the Browns.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Now we're moving. Roger Goodell just breezed by to say hello on his way to the commissioner's green room.

So far in the second round, safeties Louis Delmas and Patrick Chung are already off the board. The Cowboys were in love with Delmas, but they had plenty of company. As we told you last week, look for the Cowboys to wait until Sunday to take Texas Tech safety Darcel McBath. My gut's telling me the Cowboys will select the enormous offensive tackle out of Oklahoma, Phil Loadholt, as a potential replacement for Flozell Adams. And another player the Cowboys loved, Ohio State wide receiver Brian Robiskie, just went to the Browns.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

By this time next Thursday (it's officially 3 p.m. ET), I'll be boarding a flight to New York for the NFL draft. Through the magic of live-blogging, my plan is to take you to Radio City Music Hall with me. With that in mind, it's time to address Five Burning Draft Questions in The Beast:

1. Will Redskins owner Dan Snyder select USC quarterback Mark Sanchez?

Sanchez
Mosley: With the 13th pick overall, the Redskins should only take Sanchez if they've truly given up on Jason Campbell. And based on their recent attempt to land Jay Cutler, some of you probably think Washington has already turned its back on Campbell. Well, I think we have a split vote on that one at Redskins Park. And unfortunately for Campbell backers (me), head coach Jim Zorn can't win a contest against the formidable duo of Snyder and Vinny Cerrato. It was Zorn who moved quickly to reassure Campbell even while desperate attempts were being made to land Cutler several doors down.

Snyder and Cerrato met with Campbell, but that was simply window dressing. The club decided to take Campbell's trade value for a spin -- and it didn't like the results. After investing all this time (and a first-round pick) in Campbell, it's looking like the Redskins are ready to start all over with Sanchez, who dazzled scouts and innocent bystanders at his recent pro day. I think Snyder-Cerrato are suffering from a condition we're calling "RyanFlacconitis," which has caused front office types around the league to mistakenly think that pretty much any rookie quarterback with a solid background (Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco) can lead them to the playoffs. The best result for Redskins fans would be for Sanchez to go off the board before No. 13. I may be in the minority (shocker), but I'd love to see what Campbell could do in his second season with Zorn. Who knows? Maybe the Redskins let Sanchez learn for a season behind Campbell. On second thought, that will never happen.

2. What will the Giants and Eagles do at wide receiver?

Boldin
Wouldn't you like to know? I thought the timing of Ken Whisenhunt's "we're all ears on Anquan Boldin" comment was pretty interesting. Did it just happen to immediately follow a report that a Braylon Edwards to the Giants trade was imminent? I think not. If the Browns truly want to move Edwards, they may have lost a little leverage. Now that the Cardinals have gone public, Giants general manager Jerry Reese could play their situation against any potential Browns' offers. As Scouts Inc. stalwart Matt Williamson pointed out Wednesday on the NFC West blog, the Eagles appear to be a better fit for Boldin than the Giants. Boldin would the perfect complement to speedsters DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis. In New York, he might not be quite as effective. But if Reese thinks he can get a better deal from the Cards, then more power to him. Heard Boldin do a local radio show in Dallas recently and he indicated once again that he loves his teammates, he just doesn't care for management. If the Giants end up with Edwards and the Eagles trade for Boldin, I might have to redo my NFL schedule analysis. Surely no one wants that to happen.

3. What will the Cowboys do with the No. 51 pick?

Let's be honest. Not having a first-round pick makes the draft far less interesting. It's also made talk radio in Dallas much more of a challenge. In my Dallas Morning News days, I would've had seven mock drafts by now. But with the proliferation of mock drafts -- my pastor has one -- I've decided to take a year off. But anyway, the Cowboys aren't going to feel pressured to take any specific position at No. 51. The only way they take a quarterback is if Josh Freeman ends up in a free-fall. I'm hearing the Cowboys are in love with Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas, who is one of the best free safeties in this draft. He's 5-11, 202 pounds, but scouts say he plays much bigger than that. He's a tough run defender and his athletic ability (4.5 in the 40 and 37-inch vertical) is pretty impressive. The Cowboys signed Gerald Sensabaugh in free agency, but I think Delmas would be starting by midseason -- if not before. The other safety they really like is Darcel McBath out of Texas Tech. Excellent ball skills (eight interceptions) and he grew up in nearby Gainesville, Texas. Jerry Jones loves the homegrown kids. I'm not saying McBath's going at No. 51, but he's certainly a name to remember. In terms of receivers, the Cowboys think Brian Robiskie could be an effective receiver in the league for the next 10 years. If he's there at No. 51, they'd have a hard time passing him up.

4. Don't the Redskins need a pass-rusher?

Could all this talk about Mark Sanchez be a huge smokescreen? If so, t
he Washington Post has bitten hard. That's why I think there's definitely some interest in Sanchez, but it won't happen in the end. The 'Skins desperately need a right tackle and a defensive end. I certainly respect the work of grizzled veterans such as Phillip Daniels, Andre Carter and the immortal Renaldo Wynn. That said, Redskins fans are suffering from a condition widely known as "Haynesworth fever." There's a thought that you pay the guy $41 million in guaranteed money and he suddenly makes old men young again. Folks, Phil Daniels isn't going to return from a serious knee injury and suddenly have 10 sacks. The Redskins need to surround Haynesworth with talent in order to get their money's worth. That's why Snyder has to forget about a quarterback and find a way to get his hands on Brian Orakpo. Yes, I know some scouts struggle with recommending University of Texas kids because they've been pampered so much, but Orakpo is the real deal. I've been watching him manhandle Big 12 blockers for years. Snyder and Cerrato have to find a way to move up and get him.

5. So what do the Eagles do with those two first-round picks?

Well, you could always send that No. 28 pick over to the Cardinals for Anquan Boldin. I don't think the Cardinals will come close to getting a Roy Williams deal, which is to say they won't get a first- and third-round pick for Boldin. And I think Boldin is much better receiver than Williams. Of course, there's always the chance the Eagles actually make those first-round picks. If Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher is there at No. 21, that's the direction Andy Reid will go. At No. 28, drafting Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew wouldn't surprise me at all. So what about running back, you ask? Well, I don't think the Eagles have to take someone in the first round -- especially when there are guys like Rashad Jennings out there in the second or third rounds. You can find productive backs in later rounds. Ask the Cowboys and Giants about that. And I seem to recall a man by the name of Westbrook who wasn't taken in the first round. This flies in the face of what Philly writers are saying, but you have to go out on a limb every now and then -- or every day for that matter.

If you have questions regarding this column, please feel free to utilize the Mailbag. I'm planning to spend a lot more time reading your mail in the coming days. Thanks for your continued support of The Beast.

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