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NFL Draft Review - AFC West (Part 7 of 8)
by Brett Berliner (NFL)
Posted on January 9, 2007, 3:15 PM

Denver Broncos:

1 11 Cutler, Jay QB 6-3 225 Vanderbilt
2 61 Scheffler, Tony TE 6-5 255 Western Michigan
4 119 Marshall, Brandon WR 6-4 230 Central Florida
4 126 Dumervil, Elvis DE 5-11 258 Louisville
4 130 Hixon, Domenik WR 6-2 210 Akron
5 161 Kuper, Chris G 6-4 302 North Dakota
6 198 Eslinger, Greg C 6-3 291 Minnesota

Best Pick: Greg Eslinger, C, Minnesota. I hate the NFL sometimes - how can a lineman as good as Eslinger fall this far? Hell, if I'm Kansas City and my D can't stop Denver's running game, I almost take Eslinger so the Broncos DON'T. He's a beast and really, as hard as it is for me to say this, I don't think there's a lot of difference between Eslinger and Nick Mangold. In fact, Greg probably fits better in Denver's scheme. Undersized in comparison to the average NFL lineman, but a great puller and a great technician. He should develop into a Pro Bowler in Denver's scheme - honestly. Should have been a first day pick.

I liked all of their fourth round picks. Marshall is a bit inconsistent, but you can't teach his size and athletic ability. With the addition of Javon Walker, it will allow him to learn from a very similar receiver and develop for a year or two and hopefully eventually replace Rod Smith. Their other four round WR, Domenik Hixon, went a little higher than his value warranted, but I like him as a player. He has decent size and speed and is uber-reliable. He didn't have a great senior campaign in comparison to his junior year, mostly because of the loss of Charlie Frye, but he can play. I think between Hixon and Marshall they'll have a great set of complimentary receivers for Javon Walker, with one playing a very solid #2 and one a very solid #3.

Continuing on with the fourth round, I like the Dumervil pick. I know some are comparing him to Corey Moore, former Virginia Tech DE, but Dumervil is actually going to play DL in the pros, unlike Moore. He may be undersized, height wise, but his moves and determination are plenty for the NFL. He won't become a 20 sack guy, but as a fourth or fifth DE, he can chip in six or seven sacks a year as part of a rotation, and I like that.

Their best move on draft day was a second for Javon Walker. Coming off an injury, sure, potential character concern, whatever, the guy can play and Jake Plummer is going to love him. He could be the player that pushes the Broncos over the top. Well, I'm exaggerating, if Jeb Putzier couldn't do it, who can? But Walker was a great addition.

Worst Pick: Jay Cutler, QB, Vanderbilt. I know, I know, I know. People are going to rip on me and that's fine. I can already predict a few of my fans, how they will take the fact that I think this was a bad pick. Cutler is okay, I guess. He certainly has a strong arm and a gunslinger's mentality, and I can even see the Brett Favre comparisons, but a couple of things stand out at me: one, Cutler isn't a good leader, two, Cutler isn't adept at reading a defense and three, he never took his team to a bowl game. For me, a guy who's drafted at 11 has to be a winner and you look at the top 10.. peppered with guys like Bush, Leinart, Young, Sims and Hawk. Guys who played their best in big games and won a ton of big ones. I don't think you can develop into a winner - Cutler isn't one yet, but of course, that could be due to his teammates. I'm not ready to write him off as a bust, I just don't think you take a guy this high who isn't great at reading defenses, never has really had the time or ability to show what he can do with time to throw and good receivers, and never won much in college. I personally think Cutler is going to develop into somebody like a Jeff George, a gunslinger who never really wins a lot in the pros. I do trust in Mike Shanahan, generally, so I'm not going to rip him or this pick, but I just have to wonder, is all.

I don't know about Tony Scheffler yet. He's very fast and he's a reliable receiving target - I think he'll fit fine in Denver's offense. I just think, with the talent of the guys that went close before him (Joe Klopfenstein and Anthony Fasano) and the talent of the guys who went after him (Dominique Byrd and Leonard Pope), I'm not sure this was a value pick. In most years, a tight end with his speed, size and ability probably goes here and it's a steal, but this was maybe the best tight end draft of all time, so it's hard for me to really be behind this placement. I will preface it by saying that I think Scheffler will turn out to be a fine player, I just don't think he's in the league of the aforementioned four yet.

Overall: I think the Broncos will get my HIGHEST GRADE EVER FOR A TEAM WHOSE FIRST AND SECOND ROUNDS I DIDN'T LIKE. Read it and weep. They set themselves up nicely, and if Cutler is what everyone expects, this was a knockout draft. I'm just not sure he will be. Final Grade: B

Kansas City Chiefs:

1 20 Hali, Tamba DE 6-3 275 Penn State
2 54 Pollard, Bernard SS 6-2 223 Purdue
3 85 Croyle, Brodie QB 6-3 204 Alabama
5 154 Maxey, Marcus CB 6-2 197 Miami (Fla.)
6 186 Stallings, Tre' G 6-3 315 Mississippi
6 190 Webb, Jeff WR 6-2 201 San Diego State
7 228 Page, Jarrad SS 6-0 220 UCLA

Best Pick: Marcus Maxey, CB, Miami. Maxey is a tall corner who isn't particularly athletic, but he's a player I've liked quite a bit. He seems to be fine in coverage, albeit a little stiff, but he has great size and is a good tackler. The Chiefs really needed someone like this in their secondary, even as a dime back, as they play against more physical teams. He'll never be a superstar, but the boy can play. I think Tamba Hali was quite a bit underrated coming into the draft. No, he's not the quickest guy - he isn't Julius Peppers in terms of speed, but he's got a few reliable pass rush moves, he's strong against the run and relentless. He is a future pro bowl performer.

I also liked their last two picks, quite a bit. Jeff Webb in particular is an explosive receiver with great hands. He may have come from San Diego State, but this is not a sixth round talent. Shocking that a guy that fast with that kind of speed and size could fall all this way. That just blows my mind. Jarrad Page isn't an athletic freak, but he can play and could provide nice depth and special teams play. These guys will help.

Worst Pick: Bernard Pollard, S, Purdue. I've heard about Pollard ever since he enrolled at Purdue, and every year, I've been more and more disappointed with him. Although he isn't the quickest, he's a smooth strider with decent spped, and he has great size and hitting ability, but he has never put it all together to be a dominant player. He played on a defense with a lot of NFL talent (Rob Ninkovich, Ray Edwards and Shaun Phillips), and although they aren't superstars, they had a lot of other solid players on that team, but Pollard always was a step late to every play. His instincts aren't where they need to be and they may never be. He's the type of player who teams think can be an enforcer in the secondary, but never quite pan out because they're always a step late and never quite get that big hit. I'd say that NFL coaching would help, but if Joe Tiller can't teach you to play above your talent level, who can? I don't know. He could easily be a great player in the NFL, but he could just as easily tantalize and never live up to his potential.

Not a huge Brodie Croyle fan. He's been hurt so much already and he's not even in the NFL. He needs to add weight and even then he is likely headed for a few seasons on IR. As a QB, this is a fine pick - he had a good command of the 'Bama offense, was accurate and heady and his loss was clearly shown this season, but I don't generally like injury prone players, and especially not

Overall: The Chiefs didn't really nail any pick besides Hali (who I love), and they didn't really whiff on anything. They add more solid players to their team, but still not much in terms of playmakers. This is a major issue. This draft was decent, but I don't want to say great.. you know, your basic Chiefs draft. Just to be a jerk, to Chiefs fans, I was chosen as them in a message board draft. I ended up picking:

Round 1: Tye Hill
Round 2: Jason Allen
Round 3: Orien Harris (my only miss)
Round 5: Skyler Green
Round 6: Marques Colston
Round 6: Tarvaris Jackson

Think I could do this for a living?

Final Grade: B-

Oakland Raiders:

1 7 Huff, Michael SS 6-0 203 Texas
2 38 Howard, Thomas OLB 6-3 240 Texas-El Paso
3 69 McQuistan, Paul G 6-6 313 Weber State
4 101 Bing, Darnell SS 6-2 228 Southern California
6 176 Boothe, Kevin OT 6-5 315 Cornell
7 214 Morris, Chris C 6-3 300 Michigan State
7 255 McMahan, Kevin WR 6-2 195 Maine

Best Pick: Michael Huff, SS, Texas. Before the draft, I was a pretty big Huff fan. Not so much anymore, because he plays for the Raiders, but in all seriousness, Mike is a great, great, great player. I feel like he could play any position in the defensive backfield, although I like him best at safety (not strong or free, just safety). He has cornerback speed and hips, free safety recovery speed and strong safety hitting ability, so the best thing to do is put him wherever the game dictates. He will be a playmaker for years to come.

I like both of the linebackers the Raiders took, that is, UTEP's Thomas Howard and converted safety Darnell Bing. While neither of these guys are spectacular at shedding blocks and playing tough coverage, the speed they bring to the game is going to be complimentary and help the Raiders attack in the future. Howard is extremely fast for a Sam and Bing will be a great Will, so assuming they find a Mike to play in the middle (shouldn't have traded Napoleon Harris), this is a good move.

Worst Pick: Paul McQuistan, G, Weber State. First, McQuistan played for such a small school and wasn't even incredibly dominating there. Second, he's probably a project RT, but the Raiders apparently intend to play him at guard. I don't think he's a terrible player, but he's not super strong or fast, nor is he incredibly tough. He's just a player. Good depth, yes, and potentially a cog on a decent line, but I don't see him as a first day pick. Not a fan of Kevin Boothe, either. He's not a polished player, and he isn't physically dominating. I saw a stat that indicated Boothe gave up one of the highest number of sacks of lineman drafted, and he played for Cornell. I don't see him ever seeing the field for the Raiders, unless they're in trouble.

Overall: Oakland had a fine draft. There wasn't much to talk about, because they absolutely were nondescript on draft day. None of their picks could be considered 'sexy'.. that's okay, but there isn't much to add on some of these kids. It's impossible to know how they'll fit in, considering the horrible, horrible situation in Oakland. Final Grade: B

San Diego Chargers:

1 19 Cromartie, Antonio CB 6-2 207 Florida State
2 50 McNeill, Marcus OT 6-7 337 Auburn
3 81 Whitehurst, Charlie QB 6-5 222 Clemson
5 151 Dobbins, Tim ILB 6-1 247 Iowa State
6 187 Clary, Jeromey OT 6-6 304 Kansas State
6 188 Smith, Kurt K 6-0 181 Virginia
7 225 Page, Chase DT 6-4 286 North Carolina
7 227 Martin, Jimmy C 6-4 303 Virginia Tech

Best Pick: Marcus McNeill, OT, Auburn. Really like this pick. McNeill has a way to go on his technique, but you can't teach 6'7, 337 pounds with the agility and athleticism he has. He didn't give up very many sacks at all at Auburn, and his pass blocking is far beyond what people expect and give him credit for, but really, that's just icing on the cake. Where McNeill will fit in is as a road grading tackle who can open holes for LT and company. The best part is that with his agility and acumen for pass blocking, McNeill should quickly develop into a strong enough blindside protector to play the much more important left tackle spot, and be one of the stronger run blocking left tackles in the league. I really love this pick, in fact.

Charlie Whitehurst, I think, is the classic player who will be a better NFL player than he was in college. He was maddeningly inconsistent at Clemson and part of that was his supporting cast and coaching staff. I think he could eventually develop into a starter, but at worst, he's a strong backup who was well worth the pick. He has the size, intelligence, athleticism and arm to play in the NFL. He just has to be coached up. Tim Dobbins was a great pick on the second day. He's not a super athlete but he can play in the NFL at the MLB spot. He'll never be a star, but he could be a solid starter.

Worst Pick: Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida State. I actually like Cromartie as a player a ton. I watched him play at FSU a couple of times, and he has size, speed and the second most important quality for a corner behind hips - a short memory. He got thrown on time and time again (Cro was a backup at the time), but he never quit trying to make plays, and steadily, he improved game to game until he was - even as a backup - one of the best returning corners in the nation. Then, he went out and tore his knee, and while I think it was a great move for him to come out early (as shown by the fact he was drafted 19th, which means a whole lotta green), I'm not sure this was a great pick. Teams jump at corners with size, speed and hips like Antonio's, but one coming off of a major knee injury? That scares me. More than likely, he should have been a second round pick. He could develop into the player they thought they were getting when they drafted Quentin Jammer, but it's hard for me to want to spend a first on a guy with a knee like that.

Overall: Cromartie is one of those 'high risk, high reward' type of players that either helps win championships or has no impact. He could develop into a hall of fame DB, or he could never live up to his potential, but if he even approaches meeting some of the talent he has, he'll be a star. McNeil, however, was the better pick. Final Grade: B

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