This is the second in a three-part series of an examination of the past three draft classes of each AFC West team leading up to the NFL scouting combine at the end of the month. Last week, we looked at the 2008 class.
Our second part is the 2009 class:
First pick: No. 12, running back Knowshon Moreno
Total picks: 10
Stars: No player has stood out yet. First-round picks Moreno and defensive end/linebacker Robert Ayers, have not established themselves. Both could end up being good players, but there is also a bust possibility for each.
Duds: Again, Moreno and Ayers need to show something soon. Second-round pick Alphonso Smith was a disaster (more about him in the next section). Fellow second-round picks safety Darcel McBath and tight end Richard Quinn, have done very little as well. Moreno, Ayers, Smith, McBath and Quinn were all taken in the first 64 picks, partly because of the Jay Cutler trade. Yet, Denver has gotten very little out of this group.
The Smith whiff: This is one of the reasons why Josh McDaniels was fired after 28 games. McDaniels made several questionable personnel decision, and this one was particularly poor. Denver traded it 2010 first-round pick (which turned out to be No. 14) to take Smith at No. 37. Smith was replaced four times as a rookie (including by an undrafted rookie), and Denver gave up on Smith last preseason. It traded him to Detroit for backup tight end Dan Gronkowski.
What’s the future of this class? It all depends on the five players from the first two rounds. This was supposed to be a nucleus draft. But if these players don’t develop quickly, this class will be looked at as a total failure.
First pick: No. 3, Tyson Jackson, defensive end.
Total picks: Eight
Star: The player who has been the most productive out of this class so far was kicker Ryan Succop. He was the final pick of the entire class. Yes, the fact that Succop has been the best player of this class says a lot.
Duds: It may be too early to call Jackson a bust, but he hasn’t been overly productive. Jackson has had his moments, and he may turn into a reliable, productive player. But I’m not sure he’ll ever become a player worthy of being taken No. 3. The Chiefs may regret not taking nose tackle B.J. Raji. He went to Green Bay at No. 9 and has become an integral part of the Packers’ 3-4 defense. The Chiefs run the same defense.
Slow start to Pioli era: The first two seasons of the Scott Pioli era in Kansas City have been mostly golden. His 2010 draft class was terrific, and he has made good veteran pickups. But his first draft class doesn’t look overly impressive.
What’s the future of this class? If Jackson doesn’t develop -- 2008 top pick Glenn Dorsey came on in his third year so there’s time for Jackson -- the class will be looked at as being very weak. However, it has to be noted that the team did score linebacker Jovan Belcher as an undrfated free agent. He was a 15-game starter in 2010, and he looks like he has a fine future.
First pick: No. 7, receiver, Darrius Heyward-Bey
Total picks: Seven
Stars: Third-round pick defensive end Matt Shaughnessy and fourth-round pick Louis Murphy; both could be longtime contributors for the Raiders. Neither may end up being a star, but they should be productive players who ended up being good-value choices.
Duds: You have to continue to question the choices of Heyward-Bey and second-round pick Mike Mitchell. Both players were considered large reaches on draft weekend and neither has established themselves as a sure things. Both players have potential, but it may be unrealistic to think either will be stars.
Why not Crabtree? Until Heyward-Bey starts playing like a top pick, he will be compared with San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree, who was taken three picks later. Crabtree was considered a much better all-around prospect than Heyward-Bey, who impressed Oakland owner Al Davis with his great speed. So far, Crabtree has been the better pro. Crabtree has 103 catches and eight touchdowns in 27 NFL games. Heyward-Bey has 35 catches and two touchdowns in 26 NFL games.
What’s the future of this class? If Heyward-Bey and Mitchell make big strides, this will be a pretty good draft. If not, it will be remembered as one of missed opportunity. But again, Shaughnessy and Murphy are good players, and seventh-round pick Brandon Myers is a nice role player. So, at least, Oakland is getting something out of this class, and it may be the best class in the division from 2009.
First pick: No. 16, linebacker Larry English
Total picks: Eight
Star: Third-round pick Louis Vasquez may be the best player of this class in the entire division. He has been a starter in San Diego since Day One. He looks like he’ll be a 10-12 year starter. He was a terrific value pick.
Duds: There wasn’t much value of this draft beside Vasquez. English -- like the four other first-round picks in this division --- could end up being a bust. English has been injury prone and unimpressive. He was drafted as a pass-rusher, but he has just five sacks in 24 NFL games. He is a hard worker who could still develop. But he has to show something in 2011.
Message to Merriman: The drafting of English was the Chargers’ first public indication that they were losing patience with Shawne Merriman. English was clearly taken to be Merriman’s replacement. The oft-injured Merriman was cut in 2010.
What’s the future of this class? The Chargers have hope for fourth-round picks defensive end Vaughn Martin and guard Tyronne Green. If they can develop, there will, at least, be some value in the class other than Vasquez. But if English turns out to be a bust, this class will be remembered as a failure.