Sweets and Sours of the Draft: AFC West
So this year I decided I would try to get into a sport that suits the timezone of my new home a bit better and lo and behold, I ended up loving Aussie Rules Football (AFL). The mix of sheer athleticism combined with fantastic skill is extremely impressive and makes for a great sport to watch.
The reason for that tangent is that one of the popular articles that pops up on websites covering the sport is the "Sweets and Sours of the Draft" where they go back several years and cover the players that each team has drafted and loved verses players that just maybe they wish they had passed on.
It would take a long time to do the league as a whole and one team at a time would be too short, so I thought I would go one division at a time covering the last 6 years, since then we'll have a few classes that we can really start to see how they've panned out with progression. The GMs in this league for the most part draft pretty well, so some of these may seem like a bit of a stretch.
Draft skews are not taken into account as when I'm writing these I like to pretend that we can't actually see the ratings ahead of time and that it all came down to scouting. I'm also sure that I'll miss a few players, so feel free to let me hear about how terrible and far off I was after you've read through!
Let's start with the AFC West, since the Aussies inspired this and this division 2 of them.
Something that immediately sticks out about the Broncos is that they don't stockpile first round picks like many of the other consistent top teams seem to do. In fact, the team seems to like to even trade their top pick more often than others. However, the picks that they do keep, they tend to keep those players as well.
While first round picks are probably pretty easy for the most part to list here, just keeping them around combined with their production puts both DE Tank Carradine and WR Mark Perez in the sweets category. Perez has gone for over 1000 yards and double digit touchdowns in every season so far, while Carradine's production has easily surpassed his draft cohort, DE Damontre Moore.
Looking a bit further down in the draft, the guy that stands out is third round pick, WR Marvin Young. Young has been a starter for the Broncos for a couple of years now and finally broke out last year. While he has no physical abilities that jump off the page, he's been a solid contributor and has offered much more than a receiver taken only a few picks later in Levon Taylor.
Sours will have to be judged not just on busts, which is hard to find complete busts in this league for high picks, but also for players who were drafted in for a purpose but have been passed around the league, therefore not contributing to the team that's drafted them.
Under that category for the Broncos falls OLB Khaseem Greene. Greene is one of those guys that has done alright, but hasn't lived up to the promise of double digit tackles for a loss in his first season. He's since been lured away by the Lions. While it's also too early to tell for sure, OT Deon Moser also looks to be a future sour from the Broncos drafts, as he has quickly been buried on the depth chart after coming in as a highly touted pick from Oklahoma.
Tim Millers Chiefs were one I was really looking forward to writing for this series. He seems to like to alternate having 18 first rounders and having no picks at all at different points in the year. He also isn't afraid to take a few risks which means we see more variance in steals and busts for his teams.
One of those later picks that has started to make a name for himself is DE Ezekiel Ansah. Ansah is one of those guys that had to wait for his turn before his was ready to play but came good once chosen as the starter. He had a down year last season but has the ability to get his numbers back up. Another guy who looks to be adding his name to the sweets list is FS Shad Lundy. Replacing a guy like Eric Berry is never easy but Lundy came in and immediately won the starting job over DJ Swearinger and will look to build on his rookie year.
Here is where things get tricky with Tim's Chiefs. WR Justin Hunter was supposed to be the answer to any problems in the passing game. He was the whole package for what you would want in a primary receiver at 6'4" with great speed. Unfortunately he never lived up to the hype of a number 4 overall pick. While hitting 1000 yards receiving is a great target, a guy like that should get up to 1200, 1300 or more yards even with another top receiver like Terrence Williams on the other side of the field for a couple of years.
Even OG Frank Capone could be added to this list despite his mobster name. While he hasn't been bad outside of maybe 2016 where he allowed 11 sacks, guys like Bull Victorino went in the third round and have put up great numbers.
The top sweet here is an easy choice in CB Sylvester Spence. The third round pick out of Northwestern has come good in a bit way as the team's current best cover player. Last year alone saw him take two interceptions back to the house.
Funny enough, in that same draft and a round later, the Raider picked up another key player in FS Neal Green. While it is somewhat understandable that teams were scared by his height, he isn't that short and has incredible athleticism. What a great year for the Oakland defensive backfield.
Of course, for every winning pick there is a guy who loses out and that was FS Tavon Wilson, the Raiders second rounder who was the first pick of their 2014 draft. Despite being a fairly high pick, Wilson never saw a starting role for Oakland and was eventually cut from the team.
Another second round pick, who coincidentally has also ended up on the Panthers, was MLB Shayne Skov. Drafted to eventually take over for Rolando McClain, Skov took the same path as Wilson by never taking over the starting role before getting cut.
Finally we get to the Chargers, the only team in the division who has seem their GM change over this timeframe. One pick I really like is TE Jackie Thomas. The second round is a decent place for a tight end to be selected but the Chargers have made of most of the relatively small but fast player out of Wisconsin. As the starter, he's never gone under 800 yards receiving and scored double digit touchdowns both of the past 2 years.
On the other side of the coin, DE Sam Montgomery is still the starter for the Chargers but hasn't lived up to his billing as a first round pick. He showed promise in his first year as a starter but has dropped his production further in every year since.
OT Zack Barrett is another for the Sours list. Drafted with the 4th pick of the second round, Barrett put up poor numbers despite playing every game last season and has been benched this year.
This was a fun exercise but ended up being quite a bit hard to put together than I expected! It was tough to set a line where a player drafted in X round needed to have Y production to be a Sweet or a Sour. Looking forward to any feedback for the next one!