AFC West: Pre-Draft Guide


By: Cody Manning

Denver Broncos

Team Record in 2017: 5–11 Number of Selections in 2018 Draft: 8 Overall Pick #s: 5, 40, 71, 99, 106, 113, 149, 160

Summary

The Denver Broncos’ 2017 season started off great, as they were 3–1 a quarter of the way through season. But then the team hit a wall, going on an 8-game losing streak. Their defense played great, but they were very inconsistent on the offensive side of the ball, especially from quarterbacks Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiler. After a second straight season missing the playoffs, John Elway is looking to improve his roster to return to the playoffs.

The team did sign Case Keenum to a two-year deal, and if he plays like he did this past season they will have significantly upgraded that position. I believe this move indicated that Denver will look elsewhere in the 1st round and draft a QB in the later rounds instead to develop behind Keenum. Additionally, the Broncos did trade away cornerback Aqib Talib but added Tramaine Brock in his place. They will also be looking to add to their running back stable since they released C.J. Anderson. Elway will have his hands full as he looks to upgrade the roster with this draft class.

Top 5 Positions of Need

  1. Offensive Guard- The Broncos need to find a guard to help solidify their offensive line. They acquired Jared Veldheer to fill their need at right tackle, so if they hit on a guard then maybe their run game will return to old form.

  2. Running Back- Denver needs to find a new bell cow at their running back position after letting Anderson go. Devontae Booker never grabbed the opportunity when he had the chance, so they need to find someone to compete with him for carriers in the fall.

  3. Quarterback- Case Keenum is this season’s answer, but they need to find a long-term one as well. Paxton Lynch hasn’t shown any promise, so I expect Elway to address this position in the draft. He could target one with the team’s 2nd or 3rd round picks.

  4. Tight End- Jake Butt has a lot of potential but hasn’t been on the field yet. This position group needs to add competition and overall depth. I think they could find one in the mid-round range.

  5. Wide Receiver- The Broncos have no depth at receiver behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. They need an influx of young talent to mix in this unit, and could target one with one of their 3rd or 4th round picks.

Prospect Fits

  1. OG Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame)- Nelson should be taken with their 1st pick if the Broncos sit at #5 and feel that they can wait on a quarterback. I expect that he will be due to a run on quarterbacks in the Top 4 picks.

  2. RB Saquon Barkley (Penn St.)- Barkley should be the only player taken over Nelson if they find themselves in the situation above. This would jolt their offense and help their new QB Keenum.

  3. QB Kyle Lauletta (Richmond)- Lauletta is one of the better quarterbacks in the 2nd tier of the 2018 class. He would be a great prospect to come under Keenum to learn how to be a professional quarterback and take over when Case’s contract is up. Denver could target him in the 2nd- 3rd round.

  4. TE Ian Thomas (Indiana)- Thomas can come in and compete for the starting tight end position and would add much needed depth. The Broncos could look to land him in the 2nd- 3rd round range.

  5. WR Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame)- St. Brown is a long and athletic wide receiver that would help give Keenum another weapon to throw to in the offense. He could learn from Thomas and Sanders on how to be a pro. They could use one of their 3rd or 4th round picks to take him.

Los Angeles Chargers

Team Record in 2017: 10–6 Number of Selections in 2018 Draft: 7 Overall Pick #s: 17, 48, 84, 119, 155, 191, 251

Summary

The Los Angeles Chargers had a rough start to the beginning of the season. They started 0–4, but three of those losses were by 3 points or less, which can be attributed to their kicking woes. After the poor start, they went on to win their next three games but stumbled again, losing their next two. It was in Week 11 when everything clicked, and the Chargers won 6 of their 7 final games to finish 9–7. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as they were on the outside look in on the playoffs.

Even though they missed the playoffs, Los Angeles must feel good about how they finished the season. They addressed some needs by signing Mike Pouncey to help strengthen the interior of their offensive line. They also picked up Caleb Sturgis to potentially be the answer to their kicking need. I expect the front office to address needs in the draft to help build a team around Rivers for at least one or two more championship runs.

Top 5 Positions of Need

  1. Defensive Tackle- The Chargers need to improve their rush defense. A run stuffer to help fill gaps and demand attention would open things up on the edge for Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. If they land a top prospect, then they will have one of the best defensive fronts in the league.

  2. Linebacker- Another way to help stop the run would be to find a linebacker that can flow freely behind Ingram and Bosa. Denzel Perryman hasn’t played much in the past two seasons because of injuries, so they need depth across the board in their linebacker group. I expect them to address this throughout the draft.

  3. Safety- Tre Boston is still a free agent and Los Angeles hasn’t addressed their free safety position. They need to find a starter or at least create competition for the position in training camp. They could address this with one of their picks.

  4. Offensive Tackle- The Chargers need to find a right tackle to help solidify the offensive line. This would help Rivers stay on his feet, and they could look to find someone that could slide over to the left side in a couple years if they were to move on from Russell Okung.

  5. Quarterback- While they should look to help Rivers make a run or two for the Lombardi Trophy, they also shouldn’t ignore that they need to find a replacement for Phillip when he retires. This draft class has options they could look to find in the later rounds.

Prospect Fits

  1. DT Vita Vea (Washington)- Vea would be a dream scenario for the Chargers at #17. He is the best defensive tackle in this class and would demand attention right away as a rookie. This selection would help their run defense immediately.

  2. LB Rashaan Evans (Alabama)- Evans has the athletic ability to come in as their best linebacker from the start. He will help stuff the run and can even be used as a pass rusher in situations. He would be a great pick up to help address a big need for the Chargers.

  3. S Jessie Bates (Wake Forest)- Bates has the skills to come in and contribute right away as a rookie, and compete for the starting job at the free safety position. Los Angeles could look to target him in the 2nd-3rd round range.

  4. OT Tyrell Crosby (Oregon)- Crosby has the size and strength to come in to help open lanes for Melvin Gordon. He would help anchor the right side of the line and keep Rivers on his feet. They could look to land him in the 2nd or 3rd round.

  5. QB Mike White (Western Kentucky)- White is one of the better quarterbacks in the 2nd tier range of this year’s quarterback class. He has the potential to be a starter at the next level and would benefit from sitting behind Rivers for a couple years. Los Angeles could look to grab him in the 3rd or 4th round.

Kansas City Chiefs

Team Record in 2017: 10–6 Number of Selections in 2018 Draft: 8 Overall Pick #s: 54, 78, 86, 122, 124, 196, 233, 243

Summary

The Kansas City Chiefs had a roller coaster type season in 2017. They started off hot where they opened 5–0. Then they found themselves in a rut there they went 1–6 in the next 7 games, but ended up finishing strong with four wins in their last four games to win the AFC West. Unfortunately, they did lose their wildcard game in the playoffs. Since then, they have traded their starting quarterback, Alex Smith, and their promising young cornerback, Marcus Peters.

The Chiefs already had planned for Smith’s departure with their 2017 selection of Patrick Mahomes. They received cornerback Kendall Fuller in the Smith trade, so he does help fill a need at the position. The team also went out and got a weapon for their young quarterback in Sammy Watkins. With no pick until the 2nd round, the Chiefs will have to wait to help build a defense to support their new franchise player.

Top 5 Positions of Need

  1. Cornerback- Even with the addition of Fuller, the team still hasn’t made up for the loss of Peters’ playmaking ability. They need to find more overall talent and depth for this position group with a player that can come in to compete to be on the starting unit.

  2. Edge Rusher- Kansas City needs to find a way to get pressure in 2018. They lack the talent on the outside, and the guy they hoped would be the answer, Dee Ford, hasn’t lived up to his selection and is in the last year of his contract.

  3. Interior Offensive Line (OG and/or C)- The Chiefs interior line needs upgrades across the board and they need to make sure they are protecting their star quarterback. Ideally, they should look at a versatile lineman that could play both.

  4. Wide Receiver- The team added Watkins, but beyond him and Tyreek Hill they lack depth in their wide receiver core. Kansas City needs to find out who is going to be their WR3 going into the fall. Plus, it can help build a stockpile of weapons for Mahomes.

  5. Safety- Kansas City could use an upgrade on this position. Eric Berry is returning but coming off an Achilles injury, and he is getting older. They could look to add some youth at this position group in this draft.

Prospect Fits

  1. CB Carlton Davis (Auburn)- Davis can come in and compete to be a starter in training camp. He has great size and strength that should transition well at the next level. He is expected to be selected in the 2nd round and Kansas City should be happy if they land him with their first pick.

  2. EDGE Lorenzo Carter (Georgia)- Carter is long and super athletic edge rusher that could develop to become a productive starter in the NFL. His talent will allow him to come in and contribute to a defensive unit that needs to find ways to get pressure on the quarterback.

  3. OG Wyatt Teller (Virginia Tech)- Teller gives the Chiefs much needed depth on the interior of their line and is a player that could develop into a starter. He is very strong and could help open lanes for Kareem Hunt. They could target him in the 3rd or 4th rounds.

  4. WR Dante Pettis (Washington)- Pettis would make a perfect WR3 for Kansas City. He would give them depth not only at wide receiver but also as a returner. This is a position they could address with one of their four picks in the 3rd and 4th rounds.

  5. S DeShon Elliott (Texas)- Elliot has the potential to be a starting strong safety. He could contribute on special teams and learn behind Eric Berry before becoming a starter. The Chiefs could look to land him somewhere in the 4th to 5th rounds.

Oakland Raiders

Team Record in 2017: 6–10 Number of Selections in 2018 Draft: 11 Overall Pick #s: 10, 41, 75, 110, 159, 173, 185, 212, 216, 217, 228

Summary

The Oakland Raiders entered the 2017 season with a lot of hype, with some even thinking they had the potential to make a Super Bowl run. After a 2–0 start, the team went on a four-game losing streak and never got back on track. The organization decided to move on from Jack Del Rio and brought back an old familiar face in Jon Gruden.

Gruden and Reggie McKenzie entered the offseason looking to revamp their roster while still making it competitive next season. They signed Rashaan Melvin who should come in as their top cornerback in the fall, and did bring in older veterans like Jordy Nelson and Doug Martin, but the latter aren’t the same players they once were. Oakland should be looking to upgrade and find long-term solutions with their eleven picks in this draft.

Top 5 Positions of Need

  1. Inside Linebacker- Oakland needs to find young and talented linebacker to help bolster its defense. NaVorro Bowman has done a good job, but they need a long-term solution at this position. I expect them to address it with this class.

  2. Cornerback- Behind Gareon Conley and Melvin, the Raiders lack the overall talent they would like to have in this position group. They could look to upgrade the bottom of the group and find a potential long-term solution to team up with Conley in the future.

  3. Offensive Tackle- The Raiders need to address their tackle position, so they are protecting Derek Carr for his foreseeable future. Donald Penn is coming off surgery and is 35-years old, they need a plan in place replace him.

  4. Outside Linebacker- They need someone on the outside to team up with Khalil Mack, who is the only player finding a way to get consistent pressure. Someone needs to help take some attention away from him.

  5. Wide Receiver- Amari Cooper is great, Jordy Nelson is a short-term solution, and Seth Roberts hasn’t showed any consistency. They need a boost of talent and depth for this position group.

Prospect Fits

  1. ILB Roquan Smith (Georgia)- Smith would answer the biggest need on the Raiders defense. He would be a sideline to sideline linebacker that will go out and get the job done for Gruden. He is a top ten talent, and should he be available for the Raiders then they should walk away on the first night ecstatic.

  2. CB Denzel Ward (Ohio St.)- Ward is the best cornerback in this draft and can come in to start for their defensive unit right away. He is an immediate upgrade for that position group. If Oakland can’t land one of the top two linebackers, then Ward would make a great back-up plan.

  3. OT Orlando Brown (Oklahoma)- Brown has first round talent but has dropped on boards due to his lackluster combine performance. The Raiders need a long-term option and if they think he has the talent, then they could use him for depth as he develops. They could look to land him in the 2nd or 3rd round.

  4. OLB Jerome Baker (Ohio St.)- Baker has the speed to play at the next level and help contribute. He will be all over the field making plays on the ball or in pass coverage. The Raiders could target him in the 2nd-3 rd round.

  5. Wide Receiver Antonio Callaway (Florida)- Callaway would more than likely have been a 1st round pick if it wasn’t due to his off-field concerns. If he stays on the field, then he would push for playing time immediately. The Raiders could look to grab him in the 3rd- 4th round.