NFL Draft Review/Grade: AFC West

Wrapping up the AFC in our draft reviews, it’s time to examine the drafts of the teams from the AFC West. This was a polarizing division, as far as the draft is concerned. The Raiders had three first round picks, the Broncos were in search of a franchise quarterback and other cornerstones, the Chargers had no extra selections, and the Chiefs had many holes to fill but did not possess a first round pick. How did these teams fare? Let’s analyze.

Denver Broncos

NFL Draft
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Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 1, Pick 20: TE Noah Fant, Iowa (A)

Round 2, Pick 41: OL Dalton Risner, Kansas State (A)

Round 2, Pick 42: QB Drew Lock, Missouri (A)

Round 3, Pick 71: DT Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State (A)

Round 5, Pick 156: OLB Justin Hollins, Oregon (B)

Round 6, Pick 187: WR Juwann Winfree, Colorado (C+)

Grade: A

The Broncos were in a unique situation heading into the draft; they need a rebuild as their core players start to age, but there’s enough young talent on the roster to justify a playoff push. The team was a prime candidate to take a quarterback in the first round, but after trading back to pick 20 with the Steelers, collecting a second-round pick and a 2020 third-round pick, they selected Iowa tight end Noah Fant. Fant is an absolute mismatch; he’s too fast for linebackers to cover him, but he’s too tall for defensive backs to cover him. He’s a perfect fit in Denver, where his abilities as a receiver will also help improve a lackluster receiving corps in addition to upgrading the group of tight ends. Plus, newly acquired quarterback Joe Flacco loves throwing to his tight ends, and Fant could serve as the #1 option for the quarterback of the future, who Denver snagged in the second round.

With their own second-round selection, the Broncos drafted versatile offensive lineman Dalton Risner. Risner can play right tackle, guard, and center, and with Denver, he’ll likely fill the hole at center created when Matt Paradis leaving for the Panthers in free agency. He’s a very safe pick as a polished prospect, which is ideal considering the Broncos’ immediate need for improvement in the offensive trenches. The big splash came the pick after, in which the team traded up with the Bengals in order to snag who they hope is their quarterback of the future: Missouri quarterback Drew Lock. Lock would’ve made sense for Denver all the way at pick #10, so for them to secure his services in addition to the other talent they brought in with him is impressive. There is some bust potential for Lock, but with a high character, and incredible arm and playmaking talent, he’s worth a gamble in the second round. Furthermore, there isn’t pressure for him to become a star franchise quarterback, since the investment the team made is much smaller than expected. The run of outstanding selections didn’t stop with Lock: the Broncos selected Ohio State defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones in the third round. Jones is athletic, explosive, and versatile, but he lacked consistency in college. However, he fits new head coach Vic Fangio’s scheme perfectly and definitely could emerge as a long-term starter either on the inside or outside.

From there, the Broncos attempted to replace Shaquill Barrett and Shane Ray, who the team let walk in free agency, by drafting Oregon outside linebacker Justin Hollins. Like Jones, Hollins has ideal measurables with good length and explosiveness, but he still lacks polish as a pass rusher. Since the team only needs him to be a depth piece, that’s fine. To cap off the draft, Denver traded both of their seventh-round picks to take Colorado wide receiver Juwaan Winfree, who probably won’t develop into much but adds another body to the receiving corps.

The Broncos were in a peculiar position heading into the draft, with no clear direction. However, after nailing this draft by selecting four franchise building blocks, they are currently sitting pretty; they have enough talent to remain relevant, and now have more than enough young pieces to build a winner in the future without tearing it down.

Kansas City Chiefs

mecole hardman
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Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 2, Pick 56: WR Mecole Hardman, Georgia (B+)

Round 2, Pick 63: S Juan Thornhill (A)

Round 3, Pick 84: DT Khalen Saunders, Western Illinois (B-)

Round 6, Pick 201: CB Rashan Felton, South Carolina (B)

Round 6, Pick 214: RB Darwin Thompson, Utah State (A-)

Round 6, Pick 216: C Nick Allegretti, Illinois (B)

Grade: B+

After trading their first-round pick, and additional compensation, to acquire Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark, the Chiefs had to be creative to fill major holes via the draft. After trading up three picks, the team filled a need at receiver by selecting Georgia receiver Mecole Hardman. With Tyreek Hill’s availability in a pickle due to domestic violence charges against him, Kansas City needed to find a vertical threat to potentially replace him. Hardman is exactly that; he ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash, succeeded as a vertical threat in college, and also could replace Hill as a kick/punt returner. There were better receivers available, but Hardman is an excellent fit for the Chiefs. So is safety Juan Thornhill, who will immediately start opposite of Tyrann Mathieu. His versatility is a bonus and his abilities as a run defender compliment Mathieu as a strong safety.

In the third round, Kansas City drafted Western Illinois defensive tackle Khalen Saunders, who has a lot of upside as an athletic freak on the interior of the defensive line. However, the Chiefs are already set on the interior with Chris Jones and Derick Nnadi; with big holes on defense and in the secondary, they weren’t in the proper position to make this type of luxury pick, especially since they didn’t make a fourth or fifth round selection. With three picks in the sixth round, the team did fill needs by adding cornerback Rashad Felton, running back Darwin Thompson, and center Nick Allegretti. Felton adds much-needed depth in the secondary, Thompson gives the team a much-needed receiving threat out of the backfield, and Allegretti has a legitimate chance at replacing Mitch Morse as the team’s starting center.

The Chiefs had a very solid draft, especially in the second round. I wasn’t a huge fan of the luxury pick of Saunders, but even that pick wasn’t horrible considering he was fine value in the third round. I can’t give them an “A”, but if any of their late-round selections can emerge in starters, then this could be a very nice haul for the team.

Los Angeles Chargers

jerry tillery
Photo Cred: Yahoo Sports

Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 1, Pick 28: DT Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame (A-)

Round 2, Pick 60: S Nasir Adderley, Delaware (A)

Round 3, Pick 91: OT Trey Pipkins, Sioux Falls (B+)

Round 4, Pick 130: LB Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame (B+)

Round 5, Pick 166: QB Easton Stick, North Dakota State (C+)

Round 6, Pick 200: DE Emeke Edbule, Houston (C+)

Round 7, Pick 242: DT Cortez Broughton, Cincinnati (B)

Grade: A-

After an impressive 12 win season, the Chargers had arguably the league’s most talented roster with almost zero holes to fill. One minor needs was another body on the interior of the defensive line, which was addressed with the selection of Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery in the first round. Tillery wasn’t a projected first-rounder, but he was very productive in college and should be a dynamic interior pass rusher in the NFL. The team has two elite edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram; finding a pass rusher on the inside with Tillery could be huge for them.

After realizing safety Jahleel Addae, Los Angeles immediately replaced him by drafting Delaware safety Nasir Adderley in the second round. Adderley is a perfect free safety to complement start safety Derwin James, as this duo could easily emerge as one of the top safety tandems in the NFL. Adderley is a late first round/early second round type of talent, and grabbing him at the end of the second round is excellent value. Right tackle may actually be the team’s biggest need; Sam Tevi was sometimes a liability last season. Though Trey Pipkins is more of a developmental player, he still could be the starting right tackle right away and was a nice find in the third round.

Linebacker Drue Tranquill fits with the team’s desire for athletic linebackers, and the Notre Dame product could earn playing time right away on this talented defense. At the worst, he adds needed linebacker depth. It’s strange that Los Angeles needed to add another quarterback with Tyrod Taylor set to back up Phillip Rivers, but there isn’t anything particularly wrong with the team’s selection of quarterback Easton Stick in the fifth round. Edge rusher Emeke Edbule was not very productive in college despite playing with Ed Oliver, and may not even make the team. Cincinnati defensive tackle Cortez Broughton, on the other hand, was a solid pick and should be an adequate depth piece on the interior of the defensive line.

The Chargers did exactly what they needed to do with this draft, and filled their only three holes: defensive tackle, safety, and right tackle. Though it can be debated the team should have grabbed an offensive lineman such as Jawaan Taylor, Cody Ford, or Dalton Risner with their first-round pick, Tillery is a nice fit, and Adderley was a steal. There isn’t much to critique with this draft at all.

Oakland Raiders

Raiders introduce their three first round picks
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Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 1, Pick 4: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson (C+)

Round 1, Pick 24: RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama (C+)

Round 1, Pick 27: S Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State (D+)

Round 2, Pick 40: CB Trayvon Mullen, Clemson (B-)

Round 4, Pick 106: DE Maxx Crosby, Eastern Michigan (B+)

Round 4, Pick 129: CB Isaiah Johnson, Houston (A-)

Round 4, Pick 137: TE Foster Moreau, LSU (A)

Round 5, Pick 149: WR Hunter Renfrow, Clemson (B+)

Round 7, Pick 230: DE Quinton Bell, Prairie Bell (B-)

Grade: C

Armed with three first-round picks, the Raiders had a chance the jumpstart their rebuild in a huge way by selecting franchise building blocks. However, it’s unclear if they actually accomplished that. With the fourth overall selection, and with the ability to trade down or select a star defensive prospect, the team chose Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell. Ferrell is a leader and was highly productive in college as a pass rusher, but practically no one expected him to be selected within the top ten. If Oakland coveted Ferrell, they easily could have either traded down from this pick, or they could have moved up from one of their later first round picks to secure his services. He should be a long-time starter on this defensive end, but he’s not the star that the team needed from this pick.

With their next first-round selection, Oakland drafted easily the best running back in this class in Josh Jacobs. Jacobs excels as both a runner and a receiver has mixes of Alvin Kamara and David Johnson in him, and should rush for over 1,000 yards right away. However, it’s unclear who else actually wanted him, and with the value of running backs diminishing, this was not a smart pick, especially with so many others needs on such a flawed roster. Another reach came just three picks later, with the selection of Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram. Abram is an old school, thumping safety, and has some similarities to Falcons safety Keanu Neal. However, he is very limited in coverage, and his abilities are completely redundant with a similar player already on the roster in Karl Joseph. They had their choice of any cornerback and still could have selected an impact offensive lineman; this selection makes absolutely zero sense. The Raiders tried to make up for it by addressing the cornerback position by taking Trayvon Mullen, but even then, they bypassed better cornerback prospects, such as LSU’s Greedy Williams, in order to select the Clemson product.

The Raiders definitely had the most success on day three of the draft. Edge rusher Maxx Crosby should start right away opposite of Clelin Ferrell, and his upside is worth a gamble in the fourth round. After losing tight end Jared Cook to the Saints in free agency, the team definitely needed to find a starting caliber tight end, which they may have found in Foster Moreau with their other fourth-round pick; he is a solid blocker and receiver, and could have a big rookie season considering the frequency in which Derek Carr targets his tight ends. Speaking of targets for Carr, Clemson receiver Hunter Renfrow may have limited upside and athleticism, but he has outstanding route running, was extremely productive in college, and will be an immediate starter in the slot. Though Quinton Bell is a massive project after converting from receiver to edge rusher, there isn’t any reason not to take a flyer on him with a seventh-round pick.

Though they tried to make up for it with a great day three, the Raiders massively failed to change the course of the franchise with their four picks in the top 40 in the draft. This was a missed opportunity for the team, and a huge disappointment considering who they traded (Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack) in order to have these draft picks

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