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: Draft approach.
Denver: This is only the second season of the Josh McDaniels era, so it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how he approaches the draft. However, if his first draft is any indication, it's clear he's going to be bold. McDaniels took running back Knowshon Moreno with the No. 12 overall pick -- a choice many considered to be a luxury pick. Most analysts expected the Broncos to draft a defensive end.
McDaniels showed he is not afraid to wheel and deal. Denver traded its 2010 first-round pick to take cornerback Alphonso Smith with the No. 37 pick. McDaniels has guts and his draft philosophy is to take gambles when he feels the need. The former New England offensive coordinator used six of 10 picks last year on offensive players, despite having more needs on defense.
Kansas City: This is Scott Pioli’s second draft as the Chiefs’ general manager. While with New England, Pioli and gang were known for trading picks when necessary and for making value picks. Pioli’s first draft in Kansas City was difficult to gauge. The team so far hasn't received much value from its picks. Most alarming is that the team reached for defensive end Tyson Jackson with the No. 3 overall pick. The Chiefs drafted Jackson to fill a need. While there is nothing wrong with that strategy, there was no way Jackson, a 3-4 defensive end, would have been a top-10 pick had Kansas City passed on him. Overall, Pioli was more conservative in the draft last year than anticipated. He has, however, been more aggressive in pursuing free agents during the offseason so maybe he will take the same approach during the draft.
Oakland: We all know about Al Davis' legendary draft approach. Lately, his strategies have been ridiculed as Oakland’s drafts have put the team in a seven-year funk and kept it from getting out of the abyss. The Raiders have routinely had a top-10 pick in recent years and will pick eighth this month. If recent drafts are any indication, Oakland will look for a beauty contest winner.
Davis has always been smitten with speed. But his lust for speed and test numbers has gotten out of control. The Raiders drafted receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey at No. 7 last year. He was expected to be a late first-round pick because of his speed and potential. But because he was raw and has trouble catching the ball, teams did not consider him a top-10 choice. His struggles as a rookie showed the Raiders may have overdrafted him.
In the second round, Oakland took little-known Ohio safety Mike Mitchell based, in large part, on his speed. He didn’t make a huge impact as a rookie. Oakland’s other recent first-round picks, Darren McFadden (No. 4 in 2008) and JaMarcus Russell (No. 1 in 2007), have failed to live up to their pre-draft rankings. Davis has had luck in the later rounds and his history as a drafter can’t be denied, but his approach has not worked recently in the early rounds.
San Diego: San Diego general manager A.J. Smith’s approach has been pretty flexible since he took over in 2003. He likes to make deals and is not afraid to move up or down in the draft.
The Chargers have the No. 28 and No. 40 overall picks. Because he is so flexible, Smith could stand pat and address needs at running back and defensive tackle. But Smith also could try to move up in the first round. He is a shrewd drafter who approaches every draft with an open mind. The Chargers have built a championship contender based on players who contributed on the field during their college days.