On the next three Fridays we will present a three-part series examining the past three draft classes of each AFC West team leading up to the NFL Scouting combine at the end of the month.
Our first part is the 2008 class:
First pick: No. 12, left tackle, Ryan Clady
Total picks: 9
Stars: Clady is the standout of this class. He is one of the NFL’s best left tackles and one of the prizes of Denver’s roster as it begins the John Fox era. Receiver Eddie Royal had a great rookie season under Mike Shanahan in 2008 and bounced back with a positive third season after a sluggish 2009 season. There’s still time for him to be a consistent, quality NFL receiver.
Duds: There are no players on this list that stand out as being terrible value picks. However, that doesn’t mean this was a productive draft for the long haul.
Not much left: Shanahan’s final draft class in Denver was one of his best. Denver got great production out of this class in 2008. But once he came to Denver in January 2009, Shanahan’s replacement, Josh McDaniels, had no interest in moving forward with many of Shanahan’s players. McDaniels jettisoned running backs Peyton Hillis and Ryan Torain, center Kory Lichtensteiger and cornerback Jack Williams. They all caught on elsewhere and Hillis -- who showed signs of stardom under Shanahan -- has become a star in Cleveland. Promising safety Josh Barrett was lost on waivers because McDaniels didn’t follow normal protocol when the player was put on the injured reserve.
What’s the future of this class? Fox doesn’t have much to work with. Only fullback Spencer Larsen, Clady and Royal remain. They are three good players, but this class had so much promise.
First pick: No. 5, defensive lineman, Glenn Dorsey
Total picks: 12
Stars: Dorsey, left tackle Branden Albert, cornerback Brandon Flowers, running back Jamaal Charles, cornerback Brandon Carr and right tackle Barry Richardson all were key players on the Chiefs’ first AFC West championship team in seven years in 2010.
Duds: There were really not any major whiffs on this list. Third-round pick, tight end Brad Cottam, had dealt with a serious neck injury, but he was showing signs of becoming a decent player before his injury.
The Jared Allen payoff: Albert and Charles were drafted with pieces obtained in the Allen trade with Minnesota. Losing Allen was difficult, but the Chiefs wanted to reload and spend the money it would take to secure Allen. Kansas City received two very good players in the trade. Charles and Albert are the type of talents that can help Kansas City for the much of this decade.
What’s the future of this class? This was the final class of the Carl Peterson era, and it was a good one. A big reason why the Scott Pioli-Todd Haley era looks bright is this class. I’ve heard some league observers say this class was one of the best of its decade. I’m not sure if that will pan out, but if the Chiefs continue to grow as an organization, the 2008 class will be seen as a nucleus draft. It was the best class in the AFC West in 2008.
First pick: No. 4, running back, Darren McFadden
Total picks: 5
Stars: McFadden is the centerpiece of this class. After an injury-plagued two-year start to his NFL career, McFadden became the player he was expected to be when Oakland took him. The former Arkansas star was one of the NFL’s most dynamic running backs in 2010. He is very versatile, and he is a matchup headache. He’s a bright spot for this organization. Safety Tyvon Branch has a nice future. He was better in 2009 than in 2010, but he’s a keeper. Pass-rusher Trevor Scott (sixth round) and receiver Chaz Schilens (seventh round) have potential to be good players.
Duds: McFadden was in danger of being known as a bust, but that notion is off the table. The only pick from this class not on the roster is receiver Arman Shields. He never played for Oakland and that hurt because he was a fourth-round pick, but it wasn’t a colossal loss.
Hall trade hurt: The Raiders gave up second- and fifth-round picks to Atlanta for cornerback DeAngelo Hall. He played eight games in Oakland before the Raiders shocked the league and cut him because of a sluggish start. That second-round pick would have been nice to keep around.
What’s the future of this class? It could end up being a dandy even though it was such a small class. McFadden looks like a star. If Branch can make strides and if Scott and Schilens can become reliable contributors, this will end up being a solid class.
First pick: No. 28, cornerback, Antoine Cason
Total picks: 5
Stars: Cason is the best of this small, uninspiring class. Cason started for the first time in 2010 and showed great promise. He took over for the traded Antonio Cromartie. The assignment wasn’t too big for Cason at all.
Duds: The worst part of this class is that there just wasn't enough that came out of it. Only Cason and fullback/special teams player Jacob Hester are still with the team. The other three picks, taken in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds, never made any contribution.
Was Hester worth it? San Diego traded a second-round pick in 2009 and a fifth-round pick in 2008 to take Hester with the No. 69 pick of the draft. San Diego general manager A.J. Smith said at the time that Hester was a longtime target. He replaced Michael Turner, who went to free agency. Hester hasn’t developed into a consistent rushing threat. But he plays often and he has a role on the team. The development of 2008 undrafted rookie Mike Tolbert has limited Hester’s role.
What’s the future of this class? The Chargers will have to hope Cason sticks around as a long-term starter. That way, San Diego could be getting something from this class. This, overall, was the worst class of the division in 2008. Saving this class are undrafted players Tolbert, who could soon get a lucrative new deal from the team, and offensive lineman Brandyn Dombrowski, who provides valuable depth.