NFL DRAFT REVIEW: AFC WEST
By Simon Carroll
The NFL Draft is in the books. And whilst it is far too early to assign grades to these draft classes we can analyse how they have affected team’s rosters and division outlook ahead of the upcoming season.
We continue the series with a look at the AFC West:
|2||46||KJ Hamler||WR||Penn State|
|5||178||Justin Strnad||LB||Wake Forest|
|6||181||Netane Muti||IOL||Fresno State|
|7||254||Derrek Tuszka||EDGE||North Dakota State|
John Elway went into this offseason with a clear mandate to build an offense. Derided for his less than exemplary record at quarterback, a 4-1 record from rookie Drew Lock to end 2019 has given Broncos fans optimism. With the first two picks in the draft Elway gave his young gunslinger some more weapons. Jerry Jeudy brings elite route running to the outside opposite the possession receiver Courtland Sutton, whilst KJ Hamler can stretch the field from the slot with his electric speed. Add that to the chain-moving Noah Fant and red zone threat Albert O (selected in the fourth), and this passing attack is loaded.
Days two and three saw Denver bolster the trenches, with value selections on offense in Cushenberry and Muti and upside picks on defense in Agim and Tuszka. With free agency additions Jurrell Casey, Graham Glasgow and Melvin Gordon, the Broncos have improved their run game whilst simultaneously getting better at shutting down their opponent’s ground attack. The aim of the game in the AFC West is to keep up with The Chiefs. Whilst this is no mean feat, Broncos fans can be satisfied that they have probably done the most in this division to close the gap. Expect better things from Denver in year two under Vic Fangio.
Kansas City Chiefs
|2||63||Willie Gay||EDGE||Mississippi State|
|4||138||L’Jarius Sneed||S||Louisiana Tech|
Clyde Edwards-Helaire? Seriously? At this stage adding any more firepower to this offense must be considered cheating. As good as Damien Williams has proven to be making splash plays on the ground, adding CEH to the mix just gives the Chiefs another dimension on an already ridiculous attack. Able to line up anywhere in the backfield or spread out, Edwards-Helaire’s skillset is ideal for Andy Reid and his box of tricks. Any notion the Chargers, Raiders or Broncos had of going toe to toe with this offense just got a lot harder…
With the offense loaded it was a little surprising to see them hit defense just once over the first two days. And it’s a risky move too – Willie Gay is supremely talented with the athleticism to wreak havoc in the NFL. But he comes with significant character concerns, including breaking his former quarterback’s jaw in a fight and getting a tutor to write some college papers. We know the Chiefs pay less attention to morals and character than some franchises, and this is another high risk, high reward move by this front office.
Some good value found throughout the later rounds, including the ultra-smooth Niang at tackle and the versatile Sneed at defensive back – The Chiefs managed to get better over draft weekend. They have a stacked roster and were able to add some finishing pieces. If you’re top of the tree and want to stay there, this is how you do it.
Las Vegas Raiders
|1||19||Damon Arnette||CB||Ohio State|
|3||81||Bryan Edwards||WR||South Carolina|
|4||139||Amik Robertson||CB||Louisiana Tech|
I think it’s fair to say that Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden have their own way of doing things and aren’t afraid to go against convention when it comes to the NFL Draft. Last year they took Clelin Ferrell roughly ten picks higher than anyone else had him. This year they went one further, snagging Damon Arnette a whole round earlier than anticipated. Arnette had an excellent 2019 at Ohio State and brings what I would call a ‘Raiders attitude’ to the position, namely physicality, aggression and competitiveness. I can only assume Mayock tried to trade back before making the selection, because this was far from good value. But schematically, philosophically: I see the fit.
Arnette aside, this was another solid haul of talent for The Raiders. Henry Ruggs finally brings the elite speed to the receiving corps that this team has been searching for since this time last year. They added a versatile weapon in Lynn Bowden and the ultra-productive Edwards with back to back picks – Derek Carr now has a phenomenal set of weapons at his disposal.
Maybe Mayock’s best pick came with their final selection – Amik Robertson is a junk yard dog of a cornerback who weighs 1701lbs but plays 30lbs heavier. He relishes the physicality and routinely went up against the biggest and best receivers at Louisiana Tech. With Arnette and Mullen on the outside, expect Robertson to thrive in nickel/slot duties on this defense.
Los Angeles Chargers
|6||186||Alohi Gilman||S||Notre Dame|
|7||220||KJ Hill||WR||Ohio State|
Tyrod Taylor is officially on the clock. The Chargers were always coming out of the draft with a new quarterback, and no move up for Tua tells us that at the very least Tom Telesco was happy to take the guy that fell to him. Herbert proved doubters wrong in the pre-draft process and I can see Anthony Lynn utiliising his big arm and athleticism well in this dynamic offense.
Herbert falls into a situation with good receiving options in Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry, but The Chargers weren’t done there. Getting KJ Hill – the most productive receiver in Ohio State history – with a seventh round pick was ludicrous. They also found a new burner and special teams contributor in Joe Reed. And the run game got better too; signing Austin Ekeler to a long-term deal was a good move. But Ekeler works much better as part of a tandem, and Joshua Kelley’s physical running style and production makes him the perfect complement. Expect to see Kelley take up the lead back, early down duties, with Ekeler being used in a multitude of ways.
After taking Herbert the Chargers traded back in to the first to get Kenneth Murray. Murray is a beast who oozes athelticism and physicality – the perfect tonic to keep Patrick Mahomes under control. The trade up cost them a pick and a potential new body on the offensive line, but all in all this has been a very good offseason for this franchise.
previously the founder of nfl draft uk, simon has been covering college football and the nfl draft since 2009. based in manchester, simon is also co-creator & weekly guest of the collapsing pocket podcast.