By: Alexander Amir & Jack Bourgeois
(Round 1, Pick 15) OT Kolton Miller- The UCLA offensive tackle is a versatile player with prototypical size and length. Gruden’s main goal was not to take the best player available but to protect the quarterback and keep Derek Carr healthy. Kolton Miller was the best tackle on the board and Oakland was able to move back from the 10th pick to the 15th, drafted their future LT and collect picks that allowed Oakland to draft Arden Key and Maurice Hurst in the mid rounds.
(Round 2, Pick 25) DT P.J. Hall- Although Hall had a great showing at the NFL Combine and looks like an elite physical specimen, this pick is a far reach. The defensive tackle out of Sam Houston State was expected to go in the 4th round, but the Oakland Raiders must see something the rest of the scouts don’t.
(Round 3, Pick 1) OT Brandon Parker- Another lengthy tackle who’ll need to add size, as well as clean up his form and technique to succeed in the NFL. This is a project pick and Brandon is expected to sit and learn behind Donald Penn until the aging veteran hangs up his cleats.
(Round 3, Pick 23) EDGE Arden Key- The LSU edge rusher was one of the best sack artist in college football during the 2015 and 2016 season, but was considered undersided for the position at 225 lbs. Key bulked up but added too much weight, which slowed down what used to be the quickest 1st step in all of CFB. If Arden can rebound from his poor 2017 showing, he could wind up one of this drafts biggest steals, especially with Khalil Mack showing him the ropes.
(Round 4, Pick 10) CB Nick Nelson- He’s primarily a press man cover corner, who’s aggressive play tends to get him in trouble. Nelson could get asked to slide inside and play the slot due to his size and lack of elite speed, but won’t see much action with Gareon Conley, Rashaan Melvin, and Darryl Worley ahead of him on the depth chart.
(Round 5, Pick 3) DT Maurice Hurst- Possibly the steal of the draft!!! Maurice Hurst who’s a solid 1st round talent and arguably the best interior lineman to come out this year, was diagnosed with a heart condition during the combine. The same heart condition that forced Star Lotulelei to slide in the draft, but hasn’t hindered him at all throughout his NFL career. It’s a small risk with a huge reward if the Raiders get the player everyone sees on film.
(Round 5, Pick 36) P Johnny Townsend- The team needed a punter after releasing the loudest special teamer in the game by the name of Marquette King. Townsend has one hell of a leg on him and a very awkward screwball like trajectory to his kicks, but lacks NFL caliber hangtime.
(Round 6, Pick 42) LB Azeem Victor- Linebacker is possibly the team’s biggest weakest and it’s clear they needed to add depth. Now that the draft is over and Oakland wasn’t able land Roquan Smith in the 1st round, expect the Raiders to be giving Navorro Bowman a call.
(Round 7, Pick 10) WR Marcell Ateman- The 6’5” Oklahoma State wideout is a big bodied, possession type receiver who’ll have a chance to be a decent red zone target at the next level. His 4.64 speed isn’t anything impressive, but his highlights show a very physical player who doesn’t shy away from contact.
Since Raiders’ Head Coach John Gruden started making moves this offseason, a lot of people are questioning if he still has it. His additions to the team are reminiscent of an old school football approach and whether or not it’ll pay off won’t be seen until a this season or the next. It’s obvious Chucky was in the driver seat of Oaklands draft, his intentions were to solidify the trenches on both sides of the ball. He traded out of the ten spot, drafted the most well rounded tackle in Kolton Miller in the 1st, but followed that up with two head scratching picks. Both Parker and Hill were considered mid to late round prospects and there was far more talented players still on the board at those positions in the 2nd and 3rd round. Now Gruden’s best picks of the weekend came later on. Arden Key was a day one talent but off field issues, along with a down 2017 season allowed the Raiders to take him far later than anticipated. Top that all off with this year’s biggest steal of the draft in Maurice Hurst, and FINALLY Oakland has a defensive line that’ll allow Khalil Mack to feast off the edge.
Final Draft Grade: B+
Los Angeles Chargers
(Round 1, Pick 17) S Derwin James- The FSU safety is an ultra talented, do-it-all prospect that was just added to one of the league’s best secondaries featuring Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett. What a pick! James fell the Chargers at 17 when it was believed by many he was a lock to go 7th overall to the Buccaneers. He will become an instant starter and has the versatility to play in multiple packages across the field.
(Round 2, Pick 16) EDGE, Uchenna Nwosu- Adding the speedy USC edge rusher to an already potent pass rushing defensive line will give Gus Bradley another toy to play with on passing downs, with upside to turn into a 3-down starter. While he needs to improve his strength and ability to set the edge, he has a ton of long-term potential and will contribute this season as the Chargers plan to make a Super Bowl run.
(Round 3, Pick 20 ) DT Justin Jones- Jones is a strong tackle with a sturdy, dense body. He has good hands and motor and takes up a lot of space in the middle of the line, but doesn’t get into the backfield as well as he could. Jones was projected as a 4–5th rounder, and the fit is a little questionable given Brandon Mebane’s hold on the nose tackle position, but maybe the Chargers saw something in him to groom to be Mebane’s replacement.
(Round 4, Pick 19) S Kyzir White- After picking Derwin James three rounds earlier, the Chargers get a safety that some analysts have compared to Kam Chancellor. White is a nasty player with high urgency, motor, and toughness on every play. He has great instincts, and is an excellent tackler and enforcer with pro-ready strength and build. He likely dropped to round 4 due to his lack of speed and ability to play the free safety position, but he will be an instant contributor to the Chargers as a hybrid linebacker/safety in Gus Bradley’s defense.
(Round 5, Pick 18) C Scott Quessenberry- This was a complete depth draft pick, as Mike Pouncey is firmly entrenched as the starting center for the Chargers. While Quessenberry lacks power and explosion he is an all-around solid player, and he may be able to play guard in a pinch. He is likely the Chargers’ future at center after Pouncey.
(Round 6, Pick 19) WR Dylan Cantrell- Cantrell lacks speed and quickness, but has great instincts and ball skills. He will never be a #1 receiver due to his inability to separate, but he will offer Phillip Rivers a nice, big bodied red-zone target to complement the speedy Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin.
(Round 7, Pick 33) RB Justin Jackson- This is a nice, complementary pick to star running back Melvin Gordon and current backup Austin Ekler. Jackson is very athletic with quick feet and good elusiveness. He can be a good third-down back given his elusiveness, as a screen pass or dump off could turn into a big gain with his quickness. He has a small frame so he couldn’t be a workhorse, but he’s a great backup for a team that has Melvin Gordon.
After starting the 2017 season 0–4, the LA Chargers came roaring back with a 9–3 record to end the season. While that wasn’t enough to overcome the hole they dug at the beginning of the year, the team looks like it found its groove. Keenan Allen had 5 touchdowns and almost 800 yards in the final 7 games of the season, and the defense ranked 7th in defensive efficiency by Football Outsiders. They dedicated their draft to defense, spending their first four picks on that side of the ball. Derwin James and Kyzir White will both be hard-hitting thumpers for a defense that lacked some fire in the secondary. Uchenna Nwosu and Justin Jones add to an already loaded defensive front, and Nwosu has the upside to be a 3-down player in the near future. The reason the team doesn’t earn an “A” grade, however, is because they failed to address the future of the quarterback position. Phillip Rivers is 36 years old, so I would have loved to see them take a QB like Mason Rudolph or Kyle Lauletta to groom for a couple years behind him. However, with these draft pieces and the team’s free agent additions of Mike Pouncey, Caleb Sturgis, and Virgil Green, look out for the Bolts in 2018.
Final Draft Grade: B+
(Round 1, Pick 5) DE Bradley Chubb- As a player that was in the conversation for best prospect in the draft with Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb at #5 was an absolute no-brainer for John Elway and Denver’s front office. A complete defensive end with the strength, speed, and versatility to play in any defensive scheme, Chubb suddenly gives the Broncos arguably the best defensive end duo in the league. He and Von Miller will be a nightmare for opposing offenses.
(Round 2, Pick 8) WR Courtland Sutton- While the Broncos have Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as their clear top two receivers, Courtland Sutton will provide excellent depth with the opportunity to become the top receiver when Thomas or Sanders depart. He has a great blend of size and quickness, and has solid hands and body control. He actually compares very similarly to Thomas, and could see very similar success.
(Round 3, Pick 7) RB Royce Freeman- After releasing C.J. Anderson this offseason, the Broncos were in need of a running back to compete for the starting job. Freeman was the leading rusher in Oregon’s history with over5,500 yards in 4 seasons and 60 touchdowns. He has great size, vision, and power, and should thrive in a power run scheme, which the team is likely to lean on with Case Keenum at QB.
(Round 3, Pick 35) CB Isaac Yiadom- The Broncos were in need of a lengthy corner after trading Aqib Talib, so Yiadom is a good fit. While he doesn’t necessarily thrive in coverage he is good enough, and definitely has upside to improve. He has good awareness, aggression, and special teams skills, which will serve him well immediately.
(Round 4, Pick 6) LB Josey Jewell- The Broncos needed linebacker depth, so Jewell should see playing time right away. While he tested pretty poorly at the Combine and is on the smaller side for a linebacker, his game tape shows great play diagnosis and overall solid technique. Despite his physical limitations, he should make an impact on the outside for Denver.
(Round 4, Pick 13) WR DaeSean Hamilton- Denver double dipped at the wide receiver position, this time selecting a big slot receiver with plus route running ability. He lacks the shiftiness and quickness of a prototypical slot, but compensates with route running. However, I would have preferred to see them add another speedy receiver given the presence of Thomas and Sutton.
(Round 5, Pick 19) TE Troy Fumagalli- With Virgil Green no longer on the roster, Fumagalli will provide depth to Jake Butt and contribute in two tight end sets. He uses his route running and awareness to find openings in the defense, and while he lacks strength he puts in a lot of effort as a blocker. He is a nice depth pick.
(Round 6, Pick 09) G/C Sam Jones- Jones is a good athlete with nice movement and a quick release from the line. However, his strength and frame are questionable, especially if he is going to be asked to play guard at the next level. I can see him going to the practice squad to build up strength, but he may make the 53-man roster immediately due to the lack of depth on the O-Line.
(Round 6, Pick 43) LB Keishawn Bierria- The Washington linebacker has great work ethic and football IQ. He also had consistent productivity in college, with 60 or more tackles in each of the past three seasons. He should make the roster as a special teams player and as potential linebacker depth.
(Round #, Pick 80 RB David Williams- The Broncos only had two running backs on the roster with Devontae Booker and Royce Freeman, so this is a pure depth pick. Williams is yet another large running back at 6’0” and 224 lbs, giving pretty good insight into head coach Vance Joseph’s offensive philosophy this season.
The Denver Broncos seem to be going back to the formula that won them a Super Bowl in 2015 with the barely mobile Peyton Manning at quarterback. They boasted the top passing defense and 3rd ranked rushing defense, and relied on contributions from their skill position players on offense. Bradley Chubb and Von Miller will create an absolutely monstrous defensive front, brought in a high-upside cornerback to replace Aqib Talib, and created depth across the board. On offense, young wide receivers and running backs will give Case Keenum viable weapons. I think Denver could have benefited by selecting an interior offensive lineman earlier in the draft, but they hit on all of their needs while drafting arguably the top player in the entire draft.
Final Draft Grade: A
Kansas City Chiefs
(Round 2, Pick 14) DE Breeland Speaks- Picking Speaks at this spot was a bit of a reach, as he was considered a round 3–4 prospect. He has a lot of upside, as he is a very good athlete, solid awareness, and has good hands. However, he only had one season of good production in college and struggles with his technique when fighting for leverage or shedding blocks. I would have preferred a Kemoko Turay or Jessie Bates at this spot, or for the Chiefs to have traded down to take him.
(Round 3, Pick 11) DT Derrick Nnadi- The Chiefs clearly committed to their front 7, selecting a defensive lineman twice in a row. Nnadi is a very good run stopper with great play strength, lateral movement, and shedding ability. However, he is not a pass rusher, something the Chiefs badly need.
(Round 3, Pick 36) LB Dorian O’Daniel- O’Daniel is yet another unspectacular defensive player, one who has decent technique and good hustle. He lacks size and speed, but is a monster on special teams. Picking O’Daniel in the 3rd round may also be a reach, but if he can translate his nose for the ball on special teams to the linebacker position he may earn a rotational spot.
(Round 4, Pick 24) S Armani Watts- I like this pick, as Watts has the athletic potential to be a great safety. His instincts, timing, and anticipation are all there, but he often times is caught spacing out and has problems with general consistency. If the team can fix the mental issues though there is a lot in this pick to like.
(Round 6, Pick 22) CB Tremon Smith- The Chiefs are set at cornerback this season, so this pick was simply a case of best available. While Smith played against a lower level of competition, he had excellent production and is an absolute ball hawk. He ran a 4.3 40-yard dash, and has some good coverage technique as well. He could end up being a steal this late in the draft, especially since he won’t have to start immediately.
(Round 6, Pick 24) DT Reginald (Kahlil) McKenzie- The son of current Oakland Raiders GM and former star linebacker Reggie McKenzie, Kahlil is going to be a project for the next couple years. The size and frame are there, but he is inexperienced and doesn’t know how to fully use his strength yet. He will likely be on the practice squad this season.
The Chiefs went all-in on defense this draft after allowing 19 points in the 2nd half of their 2017 playoff game to the Tennessee Titans. Unfortunately, most of the players they took have limited upside and are longer-term projects. While they do have a young core on offense, I don’t think they drafted enough talent to be able to compete this year with a significantly improved Denver Broncos team in their division. If they can properly groom these players for the future, however, they could be dangerous in a couple of years.