GRADING THE DRAFT: AFC WEST

 

Now that the dust is settling and the "priority" is being take out of priority free agents, I want to reflect back on each teams' draft class and share initial thoughts. The number in the parentheses next to the player names is where they were selected vs. where they were on my final big board; a positive number means value, negative number means reach. I added the total numbers up for a total grade for each team, and it means absolutely nothing besides letting me know how I off I was in my evaluation for each players, so take it for what it's worth.

 

While this article focuses on the AFC South, you can click on a different division below.

 

AFC West | AFC South | AFC North | AFC East || NFC West | NFC South | NFC North | NFC East

 

DENVER BRONCOS - A (-762/-171*)

DE Bradley Chubb (+2)

WR Courtland Sutton (+17)

RB Royce Freeman (-50)

CB Isaac Yiadom (-102)

LB Josey Jewell (-5)

WR DaeSean Hamilton (+39)

TE Troy Fumagalli (+50)

OG Sam Jones (-69)

LB Keishawn Bierria (-68)

RB David Williams (-576)

 

Notable UDFAs: RB Phillip Lindsay, WR John Diarse, DT Lowell Lotulelei, LB Jeff Holland, SS Trey Marshall

 

When John Elway had his personnel staff conduct mock draft exercises to anticipate potential scenarios, none of them had Chubb falling to the 5th pick. Chubb gives defensive coordinator Joe Woods some venomous pressure off the edge with Von Miller, but what makes me like this pick is the maturity of Elway as a GM to essentially admit that former first rounder Shane Ray is never going to become the player they envisioned when they burned a first rounder on him, despite picking up his fifth-year option. The only thing that could hurt when reviewing this pick 4-5 years from now is whether Josh Rosen or Josh Allen (lol) develop. Snagging Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton gives the team some much-needed cap flexibility if they decide to move on from the heavy Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders contracts while giving each guy at least one year to develop without immediate pressure. Royce Freeman is a younger, cheaper version of CJ Anderson and has potential to become the starter in week one. They added much needed depth at inside linebacker and worst-case scenario, Josey Jewell will be an exceptional depth player and special teamer in the NFL, similar to Tyler Matakevich in Pittsburgh. Troy Fumagalli gives them some insurance in case Jake Butt's knee rehab doesn't fire as well as they hope, and Sam Jones is a really good fit for their offensive line and could challenge for a starting guard spot this year. The only pick I didn't like is their selection of RB David WIlliams because I really wanted them to snag Phillip Lindsay instead, but the fact that they still landed Lindsay in UDFA essentially cancels it out (and that is the 171 number near the grade above). Speaking of UDFAs, Jeff Holland was the 103rd player on my board and should make the 53, and WR John Diarse was one of my guys throughout this entire process.

 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS - C+ (-319)

LB Breeland Speaks (-118)

DT Derrick Nnadi (-8)

LB Dorian O'Daniel (-73)

FS Armani Watts (+9)

CB Tremon Smith (-74)

DT Kahlil McKenzie (-55)

 

Notable UDFAs: QB Chase Litton, RB Darrel Williams, WR Byron Pringle TE Blake Mack, DT Dee Liner, CB D'Montre Wade, CB Arrion Springs

 

When I heard the Chiefs selection of Breeland Speaks, I thought it would be a nice addition to the defensive line rotation as an underweight interior rusher, so I liked the pick. When I found out that GM Brett Veach and Andy Reid plan on converting him to an outside linebacker, I hated it. How's the Tanoh Kpassagnon experiment going for you? I'm all for trying to forecast player traits to different positions at the next level, but not in the second round, and certainly not with your first pick of the draft. For example, they used the 198th pick on Kahlil McKenzie, who they are converting to offensive line after playing defensive tackle at Rocky Top. While it's going to be a project, high-upside projects are more appropriate in round 6 than in round 2. Derrick Nnadi was a fine need meets value pick to anchor the nose, and Dorian O'Daniel could be a nice depth linebacker behind new high-priced free agent Anthony Hitchens. My favorite pick for the Chiefs was Armani Watts, who I graded much higher than most and was a guy I circled and have been tracking since watching him light up South Carolina as a true freshman. I would be surprised if Watts didn't earn a starting safety spot next to Eric Berry this year. What redeems this largely pedestrian haul is a solid UDFA class. Darrel Williams and/or Kyle Hicks could save the team some cap room at RB over Spencer Ware (~$1.5 million) or Charcandrick West (~$1.7 million), and Byron Pringle should challenge for a roster spot with added ability as returner, perhaps over De'Anthony Thomas. Blake Mack could be the second best tight end on the option on the roster right now with poor depth behind Travis Kelce, and I'd wager one of the two corners D'Montre Wade and Arrion Springs win a spot as well.

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS - B+ (-2)

SS Derwin James (+12)

LB Uchenna Nwosu (-12)

DT Justin Jones (-24)

LB Kyzir White (+23)

C Scott Quessenberry (-58)

WR Dylan Cantrell (-35)

RB Justin Jackson (+92)

 

Notable UDFAs: QB Nic Shimonek, TE Ben Johnson, OT Zach Crabtree, DT Steven Richardson, CB Tony Brown, CB Brandon Facyson

 

Chargers GM Tom Telesco should send hand-written thank you cards to the Bucs, Redskins, and Packers for trading out and allowing a top five talent in this class to slip to 17. James is as strong of a prospect as Jamal Adams (4th overall) was last year, and is a glove-fit at strong safety in Gus Bradley's defense in LA. Uchenna Nwosu was another home run pick, as they needed a major upgrade at the OTTO/SAM spot next to Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown to round out this LB corps, and Nwosu is a perfect fit. Justin Jones should slide in at three-technique and could potentially could see a lot of playing time early with Corey Liuget being suspended for the first four games of the season. Quessenberry, Cantrell, and Jackson provide outstanding depth pieces, and Cantrell especially could be one of the steals of the draft considering Mike Williams' lingering health issues. Kyzir White, one of my pet prospects in the class, might be my least favorite pick of the bunch. It's not because of the player, but it is my understanding that he will be competing as a linebacker when he is a tailor-made box safety in this scheme; a position they had already addressed with the James pick. I was confused at first that they failed to address CB depth, but they did a solid job of recruiting Tony Brown and Brandon Facyson as free agents and I expect both players to make the team.

 

OAKLAND RAIDERS - C (-369)

OT Kolton Miller (-31)

DT PJ Hall (-60)

OT Brandon Parker (-163)

DE Arden Key (+18)

CB Nick Nelson (-93)

DT Maurice Hurst (+112)

P Johnny Townsend (-111)

LB Azeem Victor (-180)

WR Marcell Ateman (+139)

 

Notable UDFAs: WR Saeed Blacknall, FB Nick Sharga, TE Marcus Baugh, OG Alex Officer, LB Jason Cabinda, CB Jamarcus King, K Eddy Pineiro

 

The Raiders start to the draft was bordering F territory, but they did a good job of atoning as the draft progressed. Kolton Miller is going to be a disaster with Tom Cable, who hasn't developed anything since the black eye his coach developed after he socked him in 2009, and then they followed that up by burning a 3rd rounder on Brandon Parker, who I had graded as a late day three guy. On the defensive line, PJ Hall is a measurables freak show with scary upside, Arden Key is a guy who may or may not jive with Gruden's coaching style, and Maurice Hurst, if healthy, could be a major steal. In fact, if you swap where Hurst and Parker were selected, it makes it a much easier pill to swallow. Azeem Victor is another character concern similar to how the Bengals acquired Vontaze Burfict when Paul Guenther was there, and Nick Nelson could be a solid depth corner. My favorite pick was Marcell Ateman, who I had a third round grade on, and re-uniting the Florida Gators special teams unit with Eddy Pineiro (UDFA) and Johnny Townsend is pretty cool. On the UDFA front, Jason Cabinda (197 on our board) stands a good chance to make the team considering the Raiders didn't take a middle linebacker, which was probably their biggest need going into the draft. Marcus Baugh is going to be a better pro than he was a college player, and I fully expect Jon Gruden to be enamored with Nick Sharga. Overall, when you also consider newly-acquired WR Martavis Bryant in this draft class, it starts to grow on you, but the disastrous first and third round picks give it a C ceiling.

 

 

 

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