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: recent history.
Denver: While examining the last three years of Denver’s drafting, it has to be considered that there are two different philosophies in play. Josh McDaniels took over in 2009 after the 14-year Mike Shanahan era. If there is any difference, it is that McDaniels seems more interested in stockpiling picks than Shanahan, who would trade many picks. Still, McDaniels showed he is not afraid of being aggressive, either. He traded this year’s top pick (No. 14) on draft day to take cornerback Alphonso Smith at No.37 because he thought Smith was a top-tier player who slipped into the second round. Like Shanahan, McDaniels likes offensive players. Six of Denver’s 10 picks last year were offensive players, despite a greater need on defense.
Kansas City: Like Denver, there was a change of leadership last year when Scott Pioli took over for Carl Peterson. Like Peterson’s final years, Pioli’s first draft in Kansas City valued defense over offense. At No. 5 in 2008, Peterson took defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey. In 2009, Pioli took defensive linemen Tyson Jackson at No. 3. Kansas City has the No. 5 overall pick this year. Don’t expect the Chiefs to take a defensive lineman for the third straight year. In fact, Kansas City may look at offensive needs with the pick. I'd bet Pioli rotates from offense to defense throughout the draft this year more than he did last year. Last year, Pioli’s first three picks were on defense. Then, his next four picks were on offense. The Chiefs’ last pick was a kicker. With needs on the offensive line, linebacker, receiver and safety, expect Pioli to address all of those needs early.
Oakland: The Raiders have valued offensive skill-position players in the past three years. Since 2007, Oakland has had the No. 1, No. 4 and No. 7 picks in the first round. It has taken quarterback JaMarcus Russell, running back Darren McFadden and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey with the picks. While none of those players have shown they were worthy of the top choices, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Oakland uses is top pick this year, No. 8 overall, on a key offensive position: left tackle. Oakland has ignored that pressing need for several years. It may not be able to avoid it this year. Perhaps this will be the year Oakland hits the jackpot when using a high pick on an offensive player.
San Diego: San Diego has been very balanced in the past three drafts. Chargers general manager A.J. Smith has valued both offense and defense. San Diego has had a total of 20 picks in the past three drafts. It has taken 10 offensive players and 10 defensive players. The Chargers have had solid success in recent drafts as well. Thirteen of the 20 players appear to be decent picks. Smith also has been aggressive. He has shown he is not against moving up into the second and third rounds to get a player he has targeted, such as Eric Weddle in 2007 and Jacob Hester in 2008. San Diego hasn’t taken a classic tailback high recently. Expect that to change this year when the Chargers address the position in either the first or second round.