AFC West Overview
Grading the AFC West
Grading the AFC West

Posted Mar 31, 2003


When trying to figure out how the Chargers will fair this year, sometimes you need to look at the competition. The AFC West was one of the most competitive divisions in football last year for most of the year. Oakland deserves props for making the Super Bowl and they should be the favorite walking into this season. But it is April and divisions aren’t won in the off-season or are they? Have the teams in the AFC West caught up to the Silver and Black? Let’s take a look:

Denver

Free Agency … Is Jake Plummer going to be a huge improvement over Brian Griese? For $40 million, he better be. He’s more competitive and has more fire than Brian, but is he better? The stats don’t suggest that is the case and I wouldn’t be stunned to see Denver regret this decision as soon as this year. With good coaching, maybe he turns out to be Rich Gannon Part II. To me, that seems unlikely despite the fact that he was well liked by Bill Walsh coming out of Arizona State. Daryl Gardener replaces Chester McGlockton, which should be an upgrade considering Chester was a shell of his former self. That said, Gardener is not exactly a young player and teams that take risks like this have uneven results. Heath Irwin should be an adequate replacement to Lonnie Friedman, but their CB position is very tenuous with the loss of Denard Walker and Tyrone Poole. Add DE as another consideration since they lost Montae Reagor and were forced to release Kavika Pittman and Keith Washington.

The Draft … I’d be stunned if the Broncos did NOT select a CB or DE with their first pick unless an OL drops to them that they consider a significant improvement over the available players at those 2 positions. IMO, I doubt they reach for a CB and look to fill the void in the 2nd round and OT a little later in the draft. They’ll probably also look towards a RB at sometime as well to be a young backup to Portis and Davis, because that is what the Broncos do.

Prediction: Michael Haynes, DE, Penn State. IMO, Haynes is going to become a terror for AFC West offensive schemes. I can’t believe how underrated he is and the Broncos always seem to draft players that I think are underrated.

Kansas City

Free Agency …The Chiefs have been among the most active players in FA with the biggest acquisitions being Shawn Barber (LB) and Dexter McCleon (CB) from the Eagles and Rams respectively. Barber is a highly athletic player who is good in pursuit and a very solid cover man. That said, teams run at him. McCleon is an upgrade over William Bartee, but he is very beatable since he is undersized and a risk taker. I don’t understand how a team in the AFC West can put that much money on him with all the big WR’s in this division.

The Draft …KC’s defense is the reason they didn’t make the playoffs. They still have holes at DE and despite the signing of McCleon, they could use a nickel back. I wouldn’t be stunned to see them select one of the RB’s available in the 2nd round like Onterrio Smith (Oregon), Musa Smith (Georgia), or Chris Brown (Colorado).

Prediction: Chris Kelsay, DE, Nebraska. Dick Vermeil loves Grant Wistrom so much that he takes a player from his alma matter who has been compared to Wistrom in Kelsay.

Oakland

Free Agency … The Raiders have lost a lot of talent in Tory James, Sam Adams, Reagan Upshaw, and Jon Ritchie … but all those players are replaceable. They replaced Adams with Dana Stubblefield, which should NOT be a bad move and Cecil Martin (Eagles) is an underrated FB. Mo Collins decision could impact the draft.

Draft … With the 31st and 32nd pick, the Raiders can go in many directions. They could use an OL, pass rushing DE, a nickel back, and a starting SS. With the amount of age at WR, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pick up a WR if available. I don’t think Kelly Washington drops, but he’d be the perfect Raider in that he is an arrogant head case who can play.

Prediction #31: George Foster, OT, Georgia, is a big, physically gifted OT. Talent wise, Foster has as much ability as Chris Samuels, but he hasn’t put everything together consistently. There are times where you see him and think there is nothing he can’t do. There are times where you see him and wonder if he has a clue.

Prediction #32: Troy Polamalu, S, Southern Cal is another Raider type who would fit well at SS. He’s a playmaker and a physical presence at the SS position. Plus, the Bay Area tends to like SS’s from USC.

San Diego

Free AgencyDavid Boston is the only WR in the league who can say he is as talented as Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. Weaned on a nautilus machine with speed, hands, and instincts … the only thing that can prevent Boston from joining the NFL elite at the WR position is himself. It is the only reason that he was available in Free Agency. The Chargers are taking a gamble on greatness, but the contract can be restricting in the future. Lorenzo Neal is a huge upgrade over Fred McCrary, though his signing bonus seems a little high to me. Losing Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison seems crippling for the Charger fans that grew up with them. They have been the heart and soul of our team for a while, but age and injuries have made them shells of their former selves.

Draft … They could use a starting OG, a starting CB/FS (depending on where Ryan McNeil plays), and a big DT. The Chargers could also use another option at SS and depth at the LB position and a kicker. Nice laundry list, huh? My bet is they give Rogers Beckett another shot at SS with McNeil at FS with Zeke Moreno taking over for Seau, but as a MLB.

Prediction: Kevin Williams, DT, Oklahoma State. A month ago, I suggested Jonathan Sullivan, but IMO several players are jumping Kevin Williams right now. He reminds you a lot of Richard Seymour (New England) in that he has a non stop motor with great quickness of the snap. He’ll need to work on his ability to shed blocks, but he’s a very good talent.

Rob Curtis writes exclusively at Chargers Update covering the NFL Draft and can be reached at the following link: Rob Curtis or at rcurtis3355@yahoo.com

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