Monday, April 28, 2008

Draft analysis: AFC West gaining on Chargers?

Time is starting to run out on the Chargers, so they hope for immediate results from their 2008 draft picks.

The Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders are gaining on the Chargers; thus San Diego better take advantage before the Chiefs and Raiders become solid contenders by 2010.

Certainly, the Chargers took care of their need at cornerback by taking Antoine Cason (Arizona) in the first round and DeJuan Tribble (Boston College) in the sixth round.

Whether they fully made up for the loss of Michael Turner and Lorenzo Neal by drafting running backs Jacob Hester (LSU) in the third round and Marcus Thomas (UTEP) in the fifth round is debatable.

But there’s no debate the big need is at offensive tackle, and waiting till the seventh round to take an OT (Corey Clark, Texas A&M) may prove to be a big mistake.

After all, the last time the Chargers failed to make the playoffs in 2005, it was due to lack of depth on the offensive line when injuries occurred. Unless they pick up a proven veteran OT before the season, it could prove to be their downfall, also, in 2008.

Meanwhile, NFL draft expert Mel Kiper of ESPN certainly thinks Kansas City and Oakland can sneak up on the Chargers within a couple years, based on this year’s picks. Here are some comments by Kiper on the AFC West picks:

Kansas City: (Grade: A) The rebuilding process is on. The Chiefs started the draft with 13 picks, and they made them count. After getting defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey -- the No. 1 player on my Big Board -- with the fifth overall pick, the Chiefs grabbed tackle Branden Albert, although he will be a work in progress. Virginia Tech cornerback Brandon Flowers would have been a mid-first-round pick if he had run better 40 times at the NFL combine. On Day 2, RB Jamaal Charles and Tennessee TE Brad Cottam -- who has untapped ability -- will be nice complements on offense. Cottam could be a diamond in the rough.

Oakland (Grade: B-) We all know what Darren McFadden can do. I really liked Oakland's second-round pick, Connecticut CB Tyvon Branch. He can help out in the return game, and also has great catch-up speed. Wide receiver Arman Shields hurt his knee early in the season and fell off the radar, but he's a developmental receiver.

Denver (Grade C+) Ryan Clady is the left tackle the Broncos needed to help Jay Cutler, and Clady should start right away. Eddie Royal is a decent slot receiver who has some return skills, Kory Lichtensteiger was one of the top centers in the draft and Arizona State's Ryan Torain is an interesting pick at running back because he has the potential to prosper in Denver.

San Diego (Grade: C+) Antoine Cason played a lot of football at Arizona, which at times works against a player in terms of being overevaluated. Cason doesn't have great recovery speed, but he has good technique in coverage and good ball skills. Jacob Hester could make up for the loss of Michael Turner. Hester was a fullback at LSU, but isn't a prototypical lead-blocking fullback. UTEP RB Marcus Thomas has some ability and was a good fifth-round pick; CB DeJuan Tribble did not have great workouts, but he flashed second-round potential early in the season. One thing I didn't like about the Chargers' draft is they didn't really address their need at right tackle.

If Kiper is correct, the rest of the AFC West may be gaining on the Chargers.

1 comment:

sam said...

I'm not so sure KC or Oakland will catch the Chargers anytime soon. They have too much catching up to do.