Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Optimist/Pessimist - AFC West Draft Review


Kansas City Chiefs

OPTIMIST
I dislike massive system overhauls that seemingly ignore elite talent, which was my thought of the initial 3-4 turn of the Jets in 2006 and the 3-4 switch of a Chiefs team with Glenn Dorsey so young in his career (just keep saying the name Mario Williams, doubters). That said, if you’re going to do it, it’s best to do what you can to make the transition as quick and effective as possible. Drafting two defensive linemen built to work in the 3-4 is the perfect way to do just that. DE Tyson Jackson is the kind of 3-4 tackle that can swallow offensive blockers or make them pay for not taking him seriously, and DT Alex Magee provides another quality end for a 3-4 scheme, giving the Chiefs a plethora of linemen. Considering that the team is considering a blend of 3-4 and 4-3 looks, this defense could become one of the most frustrating in the league thanks to its ability to put up a great front line in any format. And if WR Quentin Lawrence turns his speed into smart production at the number two WR spot, Pioli may have this squad at the top of a division in turmoil.

PESSIMIST
But man, when you have a 4-3 defense, DT Glenn Dorsey developing, and LB Aaron Curry, undeniably the best player available coming out of college, isn’t it just like a former Pats guy to draft for the system and not for the people involved? With Curry, a mediocre LB corps gets a shot in the arm, and opposing teams have to deal with two levels of defensive threats thanks to the aforementioned overflow of linemen. Without Curry, the front of this defense will be deadly (and the Giants taught us all that you can win with a stunning defensive front and not a whole lot more), but the middle of this defense will continue to raise questions. In short, a defensive front in transition now carries the burden of the entire defense, which could leave Dorsey looking like a bust when in reality he’s just the greatest remnant of a dead regime (aside from Brodie Croyle’s wife, that is).

San Diego Chargers

OPTIMIST
OG Louis Vasquez is a big man with a mean streak, which is always a good sign for an interior offensive lineman, and his addition should make Tomlinson look at least a little better than last year’s mediocrity. Furthermore, LB Larry English is one of the best player’s on film in this year’s draft. But the real player to keep an eye on here is WR Demetrius Byrd, who was an effective number one option at LSU and fell in the draft due to that most nebulous of draft measurements, “character issues.” With the speed to make a solid two or three option at WR and the size to frustrate typical corners, the Chargers may have pulled off a Houshmandzadeh style steal in the 7th round.

PESSIMIST
I am so tired of people pissing on the NFL combine, and drafts like this are why. No, the combine doesn’t tell you everything about a player, but you know what tells you even less? Your “gut”. It’s like scouts are a bunch of old men with dreamcatchers and windchimes they trust more than stopwatches. See, drafting on “gut” is how you wind up with a physically unimpressive pass rusher instead of a much needed offensive lineman, and an unnecessary slow RB instead of Cedric Peerman, who proceeded to slip two rounds lower to a team that will finish with at least two more wins. I don’t get to “kind of sort of feel my way to 30 MPH” when I drive, so why is it GMs somehow feel it’s OK to ignore combine performance when drafting positions so dependent on physical skill (looking RIGHT at you, Bengals…)?

Denver Broncos

OPTIMIST
You know what keeps Josh McDaniels’s clothes on? The gravitational pull of his HUGE BALLS. Those babies are also what made him decide to damn the torpedoes and draft for talent. The result is RB Knowshon Moreno being drafted in the first round despite a defense generously comparable to a thick fog. Considering that the team also acquired underrated RB J.J. Arrington and power back RB LaMont Jordan in the offeason, we may finally be looking at a Denver team that doesn’t keep nine backs on the roster. But more importantly in terms of need, the team used its second first round pick to add DE Robert Ayers, who is the kind of athletic monster that McDaniels’s old team used to add on a yearly basis, regardless of where he fit in the system. Versatile enough to rush at the line or drop back into pass coverage, this is the kind of physicality that a soft Denver defense has been missing for the last several years, and should speed the transition to a more workable 3-4 system.

PESSIMIST
Josh McDaniels had better pray that Kyle Orton walk onto the field on opening day and throw three touchdowns and no interceptions in a win, because otherwise Denver could be in flames by week two. I’ve heard of burning the boats, but not drafting a QB to at least develop behind Neckbeard is like shooting a couple of soldiers to prove you’re the man. In fact, of all the Belichick disciples, McDaniels certainly appears to be the most gung ho about establishing his primacy on the team. Whether this makes him more or less like his mentor remains to be seen, but without a couple of good wins quickly, he’ll have a whole city wondering why they ran the rare athlete out of town and kept a guy who can do what they do playing Madden every day.

Oakland Raiders

OPTIMIST
I said it when it happened, and I’ll say it again: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey over Crabtree and Maclin was the right decision. Crabtree was a so-so deep ball receiver in a pass wacky offense that reportedly turned him into a diva and gave him his one magic moment on which to build hype (if they showed the catch against Texas one more time on draft day, I was going to go insane). Meanwhile, Maclin, though certainly speedy and productive in college, is exactly the kind of player that disappears in the league when forced to become a top option too soon, which is what the Raiders are looking for (on the Eagles, he’ll be great, but in bracket coverage, he’d languish). In DHB, they get a faster and bigger receiver than either Crabtree or Maclin. Furthermore, with the immediate reaction against him, they also get a guy with something to prove, unlike their last two splashy picks. Yes, I recognize that DHB’s collegiate production wasn’t ideal, but anyone who watches ACC football (there are, like, five of us) knows that Maryland was a run first team with a bad QB. Considering that the Raiders are desperate to make JaMarcus Russell’s incomparable arm look like something other than a money pit, giving him a big, fast target was the right decision.

PESSIMIST
Fine, we won’t complain about taking a physical wonder that disappointed statistically in college. But that doesn’t mean the rest of this horrendous draft doesn’t get a good thrashing. Wasting a second round pick on a so-so safety is idiotic considering the needs this team has on both lines, and drafting a slew of undersized players means that for all the speed on both sides of the ball, nobody will be able to win their individual matchups, meaning they will be fast for exactly how long it takes them to run into an opposing player. I’m not convinced this offense is terrible (it made strides toward the end of last year), and there’s definitely some talent on the defensive side of the ball (Nnamdi is like a black hole where receivers go to die), but until this team starts winning some wars in the trenches, they’ll just get worn down to the point where their speed is less of a weapon and more of a spectacle, which is a word that has defined these guys for far too long.

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