By: Lucas Kochevar
The AFC West was a division that was dominated by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs for the third straight year, but with some additions to the Broncos and Chargers, the division might be slightly more competitive. The Chiefs still run the division with their superstar quarterback and a totally revamped offensive line. The Chargers found their franchise QB in Justin Herbert and hired defensive guru Brandon Staley to be the HC. If that defense can stay healthy with Derwin James and Joey Bosa, I project the Chargers as a surprise team. The Broncos are a team to look out for in regards to Aaron Rodgers, but in the meantime, newly hired GM George Paton made the most of his first draft. The Raiders are gonna be a wild card team. Things will break right for them some games, but then they'll look like the worst team in the league. The Wild West will be a good battle between some underrated teams.
Kansas City Chiefs
Notable Players: LB Nick Bolton, OL Creed Humphrey, DE Joshua Kaindoh, OG Trey Smith
The Chiefs surrendered their first round pick to the Ravens when they acquired rising star OT Orlando Brown Jr. The Chiefs went ahead and snatched up LB Nick Bolton from Mizzou. Bolton was an SEC standout and a smart player. I had a first round grade on Bolton for the last first round, but he managed to fall into a perfect situation with Kansas City. Bolton plays with great fundamentals with tackling and is surprisingly good in zone coverage. The Chiefs sole purpose this off-season was to make the offensive line great. They built it in free agency, trades, and now the draft. They took Creed Humphrey from Oklahoma as a center and guard combo. Creed plays with an edge to him and is great at run blocking. His arm length could hold him back, but he should be in the Chiefs future plans on the line. Kaindoh is a raw edge rusher with upside. OG Trey Smith was the number one recruit for a lineman a couple years ago. Health issues dropped him severely, but if he can turn that around then he might be one of the biggest steals in the draft. With limited picks, Brett Veach and co. made solid work out of what they had.
Notable Picks: CB Patrick Surtain II, RB Javonte Williams, LB Baron Browning, S Caden Sterns, S Jamar Johnson, WR Seth Williams
Denver is in a tricky spot as a franchise. Since the John Elway days, Denver has made a name for themselves as a marquee franchise. Since HOFer Peyton Manning's retirement in 2016, they have been looking for a QB to lead them. Many thought that Drew Lock was the answer, until he had a rough year last year. Teddy Bridgewater was brought in from a trade with Carolina and Denver has been listed as a potential Aaron Rodgers suitor. People thought that Denver might go QB in this draft, but they took a left turn and went with the best player available strategy for their draft. First year GM George Paton spent his first ever pick on Patrick Surtain II, who I believe was the best all around CB in this draft. RB Javonte Williams was the second round pick and he runs like a bull in a china shop. Browning is a gifted athlete that should provide an impact on special teams while he gains more experience at LB. Picking two safeties here is interesting considering the fact that they made FS Justin Simmons one of the highest paid safeties in the league. Regardless, they got great value in both players and one of them should pan out. Lastly, Seth Williams is a speedster and deep threat from Auburn. I don't know if Denver increased their overall roster, but I love the players they drafted.
Los Angeles Chargers
Notable Picks: OT Rashawn Slater, CB Asante Samuel Jr., WR Josh Palmer, TE Tre McKitty, DE Chris Rumph II,
The Chargers are my big sleeper team with second year QB Justin Herbert. Herbert was a star last year and showed the league that he has all the talent in the world to compete with the best of them. They drafted Rashawn Slater to protect Herbert and he should be a foundation piece for that offensive line for years to come. Slater was projected as the best OT in this draft over Sewell from many analysts. Ultimately, he fell to 13 and finds himself in an ideal scenario. He earned his high draft status when he handled star DE Chase Young, the year before. He adds strong pass blocking technique, but could work on his footwork. Asante Samuel Jr. comes from a football family as his dad was a prominent CB a couple years ago. He has a nose for the football and plays a lot like his dad. After moving on from Casey Heyward, Samuel Jr. should get a shot at starting CB. Palmer was brought in as another weapon on the outside. McKitty was an excellent blocker for UGA last season. Tell me if you've read this before, they took a raw defensive end that could work his way into being a solid player in Chris Rumph II. This defensive line class was simply not good, therefore, a lot of guys like Rumph can project to be rotation pieces, but they won't be starting day one. The Chargers were another team that I circled when I saw their draft class. I think they filled needs and helped out Justin Herbert along the way. I'm curious to see if first year HC Brandon Staley will be the answer to take LA to the next level.
Las Vegas Raiders
Notable Players: OT Alex Leatherwood, S Tre'von Moehrig, DE Malcom Koonce, S Tyree Gilespie
The Raiders had a funky draft. I don't like it, but I don't absolutely despise it like many draft analysts. I think Alex Leatherwood was a big reach, but that doesn't mean he can't turn out to be a good player. Moehrig fell down the draft board and there has to be a reason, but the Raiders went with him anyway. Leatherwood played OG in college for Alabama, but has the size to play tackle. Leatherwood is a good player and I'm sure he is a really nice guy, but he screams bust. Coming from a big name program, switching positions, and expectations of a first rounder all are reasons for concern. Frankly, he wasn't even that impressive on tape. I would be weary of this guy. Moerhig could fill the hole in the back end of the secondary as he was considered one of the better safeties in the draft. Koonce is a large and physical defensive end. Gilespie shows promise, but will likely be a special teams player. GM Mike Mayock has been at the helm for a couple years now and has very little to show for it. If the Raiders don't perform, I don't think they will, Vegas could be ditching the TV analyst-turned-GM real quick. HC John Gruden is getting paid for six more years, so don't expect him to go anytime soon. I am curious to see what the Raiders do with Derek Carr. The friction has been there for a couple years now and with Marcus Mariota breathing down his neck, look out for a possible QB change in Sin City.