In a year that many expected the Oakland Raiders to plant their flag atop the AFC West, it was the Kansas City Chiefs who won the crown. In fact the Oakland Raiders completely fell off, so much so that coach Jack Del Rio was fired and former head coach John Gruden was finally coaxed out of the press box.
The Denver Broncos also took a significant step back under first time head coach Vance Joseph. The team still thinks they have enough on defense to make a Super Bowl run and went out and signed Case Keenum to steer the ship. He and senior personnel advisor Gary Kubiak have familiarity going back to Houston.
There’s also the Chargers, who actually took a good step forward last year despite once again being decimated by injury. The team looks to be in good hands with Anthony Lynn. He brought in coordinators with head coaching experience in Gus Bradley (defense) and Ken Whisenhunt (offense) and that brain trust seems to be really clicking. Maybe Phillip Rivers has one last playoff race in him.
So with all these ups and downs in the division. Who is up and who is down after this weekend? Well here’s the breakdown…
Denver Broncos: A
1.) Bradley Chubb, OLB, NC State
2.) Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
3.) Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
3.) Isaac Yiadom, CB, Boston College
4.) Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
4.) Daesean Hammilton, WR, Penn St.
5.) Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin
6.) Sam Jones, C, Arizona St.
6.) Keishawn Bierria, LB, Washington
7.) David Williams, RB, Arkansas
It was a dream come true for the Broncos when Chubb fell to them. They had already set up a trade with the Bills, but when Chubb fell to them they called it off. Arguably the best prospect in the draft, Chubb paired with Von Miller should give the quarterbacks of the AFC West night terrors. Chubb tallied 20 sacks and 46.5 tackles for loss in his last two seasons. Jewell and Bierria, also help flesh out the linebacking corps. Injuries and age are becoming an issue in the middle of their 3-4 defense. Jewell, is a tackling machine and should help sooner than later. He has starter upside. The addition of Sutton, Freeman, Hamilton, and Fumagalli tells us that the Broncos are confident that Case Keenum was not a one year wonder. They are bolstering his arsenal. Freeman, will be the most intriguing to watch. He is a tank and develop a good one, two punch while paired with Devontae Booker.
Kansas City Chiefs: C-
2.) Breeland Speaks, DT, Ole Miss
3.) Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida St.
3.) Dorian O’Daniel, LB, Clemson
4.) Armani Watts, S, Texas A&M
6.) Tremon Smith, CB, Central Arkansas
6.) Reginald McKenzie, OG, Tennessee
The Chiefs draft class is perplexing to say the least. After trading away Marcus Peters, cornerback became their greatest need and they waited until the sixth round to address that need. Instead they decided to address the defensive line with Speaks and Nnadi. Nnadi, is a quality addition as he can man the middle as the nose tackle. But Speaks will likely sit behind Chris Jones and Allen Bailey. Then there are Speaks’ off-field issues that are worth noting. Watts and O’Daniel are the teams best picks. O’Daniel can step in at inside linebacker, a position long held by Derrick Johnson, but he was cut during the offseason. Watts, provides depth and possible succession plan to veteran Ron Parker, who is good, but the Chiefs could get more out of the position. Watts had six interceptions over the past two seasons.
LA Chargers: B+
1.) Derwin James, S, Florida St.
2.) Uchenna Nwosu, LB, USC
3.) Justin Jones, DT, NC State
4.) Kyzir White, S, West Virginia
5.) Scott Quessenberry, C, UCLA
6.) Dylan Cantrell, WR, Texas Tech
7.) Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern
The Chargers needed to rebuild their defense and have done so in tremendous fashion. James, was considered a Top 10 talent, and they got him at No. 17. James and White, are tone setters. Clearly the Bolts are looking to charge up their defense and these two safeties can do just that. White, can play the ball while James enforces the middle of the field. It will be fun to watch their development. Most pressing was their need along their linebacking corps. Nwosu, really progressed well at USC. He capped off his senior year with 75 tackles, 9.5 sacks, and 13 passes broken up. He’s a problem off the edge, but he may take a minute to adjust to the Chargers 4-3 system. Jones, is the rock LA needed in the middle. He can clog up the running lanes. Jackson, is a good prospect, but had an insane workload.
Oakland Raiders: C+
1.) Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
2.) PJ Hall, DT, Sam Houston St.
3.) Brandon Parker, OT, North Carolina A&T
3.) Arden Key, DE, LSU
4.) Nick Nelson, CB, Wisconsin
5.) Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
5.) Johnny Townsend, P, Florida
6.) Azeem Victor, LB, Washington
7.) Marcell Ateman, WR, Oklahoma St.
The Raiders did a lot of interesting things in the draft, none more so than the selection of Nelson and Hurst. Both were considered Day Two prospects, but Nelson was injured during a pre-draft workout and Hurst was found to have a heart condition at the combine, which he was eventually cleared of. Both players have immense talent and could develop into starters. They will be worth watching. Oakland also took a flier on Arden Key. He was viewed as one of the best pass rushing prospects in the nation coming into the season last year, but he was out of shape and tallied just four sacks after tallying 12 in 2016. If Key has gotten past his issues, he could be a steal. Clearly, new head coach John Gruden didn’t like the tackles he inherited. Miller, could start on the right side as a rookie before eventually replacing stalwart Donald Penn. Parker, will need some time to develop. He has starter upside. Ateman, is a big target to develop behind the starters. He could be a red zone weapon. A lot of risk and development in this draft class.