Making the grade: post NFL draft; AFC West
- Updated: May 9, 2016
Denver Broncos: The defending Super Bowl champs have and will feel the burden of losing Peyton Manning under center and some of their offensive and defensive weapons leaving in free agency. Julius Thomas left for Jacksonville for 5 years, $46 million as well as teammate Malik Jackson signing in Florida for 6 years, $90 million which should definitely make Gus Bradley smile. Gary Kubiak has probably needed some Alka seltzer plus through the off season trying to prepare for the draft. John Elway made the move to draft up and select Paxton Lynch to compete with Mark Sanchez for the quarterback position in the Mile High. Adam Gotsis will come in and work unbelievably hard like Derek Wolfe on the interior. Devontae Booker will challenge for the opening day spot at running back. The shifty back from Utah has the skills necessary to be a versatile back in Denver’s system. Overall, Elway and Co. filled some of the holes left from the departures of key pieces to their championship team. How far will this Denver team go following all these changes to their roster? Only time will tell.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs have been a bit of the forgotten team in the AFC West this offseason. Jamaal Charles is trying to come back from season-ending ACL injury in October. Sean Smith left KC to don the black and silver in Oakland this season. Andy Reid covered his backside by signing Justin Houston to a mega deal. Trading out of the first round for more picks benefits a team that has some players heading into free agency next off season. The defense was the biggest focus especially with Tamba Hali on the back end of his career. Selecting Chris Jones from Mississippi St and KeiVerae Russell from Notre Dame. Jones should be a solid defensive tackle in the league while Russell will need to prove he is healthy enough to play after breaking his leg in 2015. His character will be of a bit concern after missing all of 2014 with an academic issue. Kevin Hogan will be a reliable back up in the pinch in case Alex Smith goes down with injury. The Chiefs still need more weapons on the outside besides Jeremy Maclin to stretch the defense. Overall, the areas of focus for the Chiefs were addressed which should give them depth should they make a push in the playoffs.
Oakland Raiders: The black and silver got busy this off season and hauled in as much star power as they have in a while in recent memory. Bruce Irvin from Seattle, Sean Smith from Kansas City, Malcolm Smith also from Seattle, and Kelechi Osemele from Baltimore. Mark Davis has been spending out of his mind to build on the success of last season. The Black Hole is on the rise people! Oakland decided to draft Karl Joseph out of West Virginia. If he plays to his full potential, he could possibly be another ball hawking safety like Seattle’s great Earl Thomas. Drafting two Big Ten defensive ends in Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun to help improve their pass rush. Surprising pick selecting Connor Cook when you already have Matt McGloin from Penn State. Oakland could have paid some attention to getting some new blood as weapons on the outside to pair with Crabtree and Cooper. It was a productive draft for the Raiders who will look to contend in the AFC.
San Diego Chargers: My San Diego Chargers needed an ambulance all season long with the laundry list of injuries along the offensive line. Phillip Rivers still had a productive year, but a lack of a running game from 1st year running back Melvin Gordon caused the offense to be very one dimensional. The offense sputtered downward more after the loss of Keenan Allen due to a lacerated kidney. It was a rough year for a Chargers team that had questions whether the team would be moving to LA. Answer is NO for now anyways. Offensive line was a key need for the Bolts, but with the 3rd overall pick, San Diego drafted Joey Bosa out of Ohio State. Premiere pass rusher which could definitely help Attaochu and Ingram on the edge. The Chargers may have found their tight end of the future in Hunter Henry from Arkansas and selecting Max Tuerk from USC to compete for a spot as a center or guard in the NFL will serve to add depth to an offensive line that was in desperate need of it last season. A feel good story in drafting Derek Watt from Wisconsin to help block once again for Melvin Gordon. Solid draft for Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy.