Both Western divisions of the NFL shared a few traits. A high-powered passing attack in the division winners followed by 8-8 second-place teams and a pair of teams in various stages of rebuilding at the third and fourth slots.
In the AFC West, San Diego has dominated the division as of late, while Kansas City and Oakland have found themselves mired in perennial top-10 draft status.
Denver has fared better than the Raiders or Chiefs, but late collapses have ultimately doomed back to back seasons.
In a splashy draft weekend for the division, each of the teams did its best to put the AFC West atop the headlines, but who fared best?
After years of getting their draft weekend ripped, Oakland came away looking great.
It began when genuine first-round talent Rolando McClain was drafted to replace Kirk Morrison, who was solid but appeared to have peaked in his potential.
It may be questionable from a need standpoint, but is a much safer bet than Oakland’s workout warrior history.
Lamarr Houston continued a trend of shoring up the front seven, while a pair of offensive tackles in Bruce Campbell and Jared Veldheer give the team solid potential at the position, though neither appear ready to start as rookies.
After kick return/slot receiver Jacoby Ford, the team then went for an array of defensive backs. None of these look like game breakers, this late in the draft solid value is all that can be expected.
Oakland’s biggest pickup of draft weekend was not a rookie at all, however. Jason Campbell doesn’t have the pro bowls of Donovan McNabb or the massive upside of Jimmy Clausen; but he is a proven starter who has carried himself well despite the horrible situation that has been the Daniel Snyder-era Washington Redskins.
Final Verdict: The steps Oakland took this draft have the best upside in years. After Rolando McClain, it could be a year or two before the rest of the rookie class starts to truly show its colors, but a slow-steady approach like this is perfect for a team that has been hamstrung by overreaching in the past.
Jason Campbell is an instant-credibility type player, who is can make it happen on the run and rally a team around him. He is easily the best non-draft pick addition of any team this weekend.
Kansas City started the draft with the type of player you can build a defense around in safety Eric Berry. Playing the center-fielder role he will be in a great position to rely on his own ability over the talent level around him.
After that, the Chiefs' draft turned questionable however. Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas at 36 and 50 are similar players despite going on either side of the football.
McCluster is a speedster who can give the team an electrifying presence as a running back/slot receiver hybrid as well as return kicks. He is probably better suited to going to a team with fewer direct holes to fill however.
Arenas also has great potential as a dual threat returner and cornerback.
Unfortunately McCluster is probably a better overall return man which will force him to being specifically a corner, where he is probably more of a late third-early fourth talent.
Tony Moeaki and Jon Asamoah could both emerge as rookie starters while Kendrick Lewis might be hard pressed to be more than a deep reserve.
Cameron Sheffield rounds out an up-and-down draft as a solid value late.
Final Verdict: Eric Berry was the best and obvious choice at No. 5, while Arenas and McCluster are fine picks as players, but questionable in terms of relative value for a 4-12 team with its share of needs including gaping holes in the front seven and wide receiver spots.
Josh McDaniels followed a turbulent first year by ensuring that he didn’t slip away from the spotlight.
After trading all around the first round, he settled on a pair of prospects that could very well define his tenure.
Demaryius Thomas is a great physical talent who has comparable size and speed to the departed Brandon Marshall, but his questionable hands and suspect route running could make him dangerously comparable to Braylon Edwards.
Tim Tebow’s first-round selection was a stunner in light of more polished names like Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy still being on the board. He is a great upside guy who will give his all while learning and developing, but a high-upside project is probably not the ideal first-round pick.
Picks 45 and 80 shored up the offensive line with the reach of Zane Beadles offset by the solid value of J.D. Walton.
Erick Decker makes a nice insurance policy as a wideout with less upside than Thomas, but more polish.
Perrish Cox may not be a glaring need with Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman currently in the lineup, but he will be a solid return man in the near future, while being groomed to eventually succeed one of the other.
The tail end of the draft is just as interesting as the top, with the team taking both a second center and corner, while final pick Jammie Kirlew looks more like a solid UFA than late draft pick.
Final Verdict: The mid to late stages of the draft are a blue-collar mixed bag that is neither a standout or particularly horrible. McDaniels’ first two picks are the kind that will make or break a career however.
Because both are higher on upside than instant ability, this can only really be judged in about three years.
For the short-term however they could signal a backslide in 2010, while aging defense tries to hold up long enough for the very youthful offense to catch up.
After trading up to land Ryan Mathews, the immediate perception was that San Diego had hitched itself to being a one-pick draft. Mathews was the second highest rated running back, and top ranked workhorse-style runner.
More trade movement around the mid-rounds allowed San Diego to net a few other picks that will make this draft not totally about Mathews.
ILB Donald Butler should immediately replace backup linebacker Tim Dobbins, while showing the potential to evolve into an eventual starter.
Darrell Stuckey is not the force of earlier safeties drafted, but is considered a solid value at 110 and an upgrade over hard-working but coverage challenged Kevin Ellison.
Cam Thomas was considered before the draft as questionably the third-rated nose tackle prospect and a late-second to early-third round pick in value. Landing him in the 5th seems a mini-coup while the other fifth round pick quarterback Jonathan Crompton finds himself in an ideal position as a good upside player that needs some coaching going into a situation that should give him the time and coaching he needs.
Tight end Dedrick Epps is not a world-beater, but adds something of a blocking element to a pass-centric tight end corps.
Final Verdict: At value per pick San Diego came away quite well. The debate over how well they drafted falls squarely within the question of trading up to secure Mathews early.
Finding a great value nose-tackles smooths over the lost No. 40 somewhat while Stuckey could be a rookie starter.
After Mathews there were no game-breakers, but a host of steady picks should help to shore up a blue-collar defense that worked to get younger steadier this offseason.
So, with a high-profile draft weekend, the AFC West potentially put itself back on the map.
San Diego took the necessary steps to ensure that it should remain on top of the division in 2010. They replaced the aging Tomlinson with the ranked workhorse back in Mathews while filling in an undersized nose tackle position with great value fifth-rounder Cam Thomas.
Oakland now emerged as the top candidate for second place in the division, and should be very well situated to break their string of five-win or fewer seasons. Campbell and McClain should give year one upgrades while the pair of offensive line projects will likely need a year or two to make their presence felt.
Denver gave the appearance of a team looking to the future rather than trying to win now in selecting two offensive talents that will need a few years to be developed in the first round.
With no game-changing weapons on offense and a steady but aging defense, Denver could find itself in the middle of a crossroads.
Kansas City will be bringing probably the best newcomer to the division in Eric Berry, but made a few suspect choices that could be awkward fits in a team that needs solid starters over dynamic role-players.
With Oakland making big strides and Denver operating from a more stable core, it would be a big surprise if Kansas City finished anywhere but fourth in 2010.