Draft Analysis – AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers

After being one of the unluckiest teams in the NFL for the past few years, the Chargers finally hit the jackpot with the selection of Derwin James. At one point rumored to be a top five pick, he fell to the seventeenth overall pick where the Chargers made the best pick of the draft. Safety was one of the few needs on an already dominant Chargers team, and James turned it into a strength. Linebacker was another need on the defensive side of the ball, although it is questionable whether there were better players available than second round pick Uchenna Nwosu. Nwosu provides versatility as a third pass rusher and explosive playmaker, but the pick was a bit of a reach considering he is a role player who can’t play on run heavy downs. However, the need at linebacker was filled later in the draft by Kyzir White, a talented safety/linebacker hybrid who should pair with Derwin James to give the defense additional versatility and toughness. He should be able to start immediately at outside linebacker given his ability to play in the slot or inside. The Chargers also attempted to address the need for depth at defensive tackle with Justin Jones, a questionable pick that lacks in upside. With the major needs addressed, the Chargers added depth on offense, drafting center Scott Quessenberry, receiver Dylan Cantrell, and running back Justin Jackson. All three have floors as backups with the upside of pushing for playing time. The addition of starters and depth made an already talented team even better.

B+

Oakland Raiders

In the first glimpse into what the Jon Gruden tenure might look like, the results were not as pretty as the Raiders had hoped. The selection of offensive tackles Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker in the first and third rounds, respectively, were questionable, especially given the fact that the team had more pressing needs on defense. Despite what many analysts think, Kolton Miller was hard to pass up on as a high upside prospect with the ability to play on both sides of the offensive line, although doubling down with Brandon Parker was a bad decision. The need for talent at linebacker and cornerback were not filled adequately in the early rounds, the only exception being backup level cornerback Nick Nelson in the fourth. The Raiders also took numerous swings at high upside defensive linemen, selecting PJ Hall, Maurice Hurst, and pass rusher Arden Key. PJ Hall was a huge reach in the second round, especially considering the vast quantity of more talented defensive linemen and cornerbacks available. Arden Key was considered to be one of the most talented and inconsistent pass rushers in the draft, so drafting him in the third round to pair with Khalil Mack could work out well. Maurice Hurst fell due to a major medical concern, but the fifth round is not too soon to take a chance on a potentially disruptive interior pass rusher. It is yet to be seen how many picks the Raiders hit on, but passing on talented players such as Tremaine Edmunds could come back to haunt them.

D+

Denver Broncos

After being prepared to trade away the fifth overall pick to the Bills, the Broncos decided not to pass up the opportunity to pair Bradley Chubb with Von Miller. Although Chubb was believed by many to be the best player in the draft, quarterback Josh Rosen may have looked like a better pick ten years from now; the Broncos have a number of young pass rushers on the roster, and Case Keenum is most likely not a long-term solution. With Demaryius Thomas and Emanuel Sanders in their early thirties, drafting similar players in Courtland Sutton and Daesean Hamilton was a slick move, even if their talent may be questionable. The Broncos did a good job addressing their other needs with talented players on both sides of the ball. Running back Royce Freeman is an every down player with similarities to Le’veon Bell, and he should win the starting job over Devontae Booker. Troy Fumagalli is a well rounded tight end with excellent hands who can provide the quarterback a safety blanket in the middle of the field. While not a tremendous athlete, Josey Jewell is an instinctual, old school linebacker who should eventually supplant Brandon Marshall. Meanwhile, Isaac Yiadom is a lengthy corner who can step in and fill the gap left by Aquib Talib’s departure. The Broncos may have had a few shaky picks, but the high level of talent added in the draft is undeniable and will eventually make up the nucleus of the team.

A-

Kansas City Chiefs

A year after trading up for Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs decided to focus on improving their much maligned defense. Defensive end Breeland Speaks was a bit of a reach in the second round, especially due to his inconsistent recklessness and lack of starting experience. However, he is an explosive player who has the disruptive playmaking ability to potentially become a dominant defensive end. Derrick Nnadi was a good pick in the third round, as he should be a capable starter at nose tackle. Fellow third round pick Dorian O’Daniel was less of a plug and play pick, as he is much more of a special teams player than a full-time starter. He lacks the size to hold up as an inside linebacker, but is not capable of rushing the passer effectively as an outside linebacker. The Chiefs also added a key secondary piece in the fourth round in Armani Watts, a huge playmaking safety. Although his lack of tackling skills are a major red flag, his ability to make plays in the box or in the slot makes him a huge asset for a Chiefs secondary that has a dearth of talent outside of Eric Berry. The Chiefs did a good job in addressing their needs on defense, adding a good combination of solid and high upside players.

C

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