AFC West Draft Grade Analysis

Denver Broncos
1st round pick #31 – Ohio State CB Bradley Roby
Bradley Roby fills a need for the Denver Broncos at corner as they lost both their starting corners last year in Dominique Rogers-Cromartie to the New York Giants and Champ Bailey to the New Orleans Saints. Roby has untapped potential and all the athletic ability you could want, but needs to work on tracking the ball and being more consistent on and off the field.

2nd round pick #56 – Indiana WR Cody Latimer
Cody Latimer brings with him a 6’3 215 lb. frame along with blazing speed to add to a receiving corps. that already has DeMaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders, and pass catching TE Julius Thomas. This was somewhat of a luxury pick as this offense was coming off a year where they were ranked #1 and Peyton Manning set a record throwing for 55 TD’s. However, looking at how they got pushed around by the Seattle secondary, Cody Latimer will add another physical body and toy that Peyton can use to become an even more prolific offense, if possible.

3rd round pick #95 – Michigan OT Michael Schofield
Michael Schofield brings a physicality to the offensive line which everyone knew was needed after watching the Broncos get pushed around in last years Super Bowl. He will compete for RT and at the very least provide solid depth to a group that experienced an injury plagued 2013 season.

5th round pick #156 – LSU LB Lamin Barrow
Lamin Barrow brings more athleticism to this LB group along with Danny Trevathan. Lamin will get his looks at ILB and could be a surprise plug and play starter for years to come. Even if he doesn’t start from day 1 look to see him on the field in sub package situations rushing the QB or dropping into coverage.

6th round pick #207 – Boise State C Matt Paradis
Matt Paradis is another physical blocker who will add solid depth which is never a bad thing when you have an aging, immobile QB with a bad neck who is one nasty shot from having his career ended. I think this draft shows how much Denver learned about their team from last years Super Bowl loss to the Seahawks as they get more athletic and physical across the board.

7th round pick #242 – Oklahoma LB Cory Nelson
Cory Nelson is another athletic specimen who will provide much needed depth in the Denver LB group. They have Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware as pass rush specialists coming off the edge so getting versatile true LB’s was one need that Denver covered in this draft.

Overall Draft Grade: B
The Denver Broncos got crushed in last years Super Bowl, 43-8 against the Seattle Seahawks, but that only made them come back more aggressive this off-season. They signed hugely talented free agents in DE DeMarcus Ware, SS T.J. Ward, CB, Aqib Talib, and WR Emmanuel Sanders. This draft by itself may not be utterly flashy, but the Broncos spent plenty of time in free agency making the flashy moves while they used the draft to build depth. The Broncos are clearly still the class of the AFC West and look to once again battle New England for the right to play in this seasons upcoming Super Bowl.

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Kansas City Chiefs
1st round pick #23 – Auburn DE Dee Ford
Dee Ford has one huge knock against him in my eyes which is that he is in fact, not Johnny Manziel. As Johnny “Football” started to fall in the draft everyone knew at some point some team would more than likely be moving up to snatch him. Johnny got all the way to the 22nd pick which was right before the Chiefs were to be on the clock. The Cleveland Browns traded with the Philadelphia Eagles to move up and select the electrifying QB. When it was announced at the 2014 Kansas City Chiefs draft party that they had drafted Dee Ford the crowd went silent. Looking at the pick on its own I can see the need for the Chiefs to add a third pass rusher alongside Tamba Hali and Justin Houston as both were injured at various times last year. This will allow the Chiefs to be much more versatile in their sub rush packages and if one of the star pass rushers were to get injured Ford could step in without there being a huge drop-off as there was last season. Having said that, in my opinion the Chiefs had a prime opportunity to move up in the draft as Johnny Manziel started to fall and for the first time in 31 years, draft a 1st round QB who could potentially be your franchise guy.

3rd round pick #87 – Rice CB Phillip Gaines
Phillip Gaines has good size, speed, and ball skills which is exactly the type of corner that this regime of Andy Reid and John Dorsey are looking for. Phillip doesn’t have great hands to come up with a lot of interceptions, but his ball skills are shown in his pass breakups. Brandon Flowers who stands at 5’9 may not be around much longer after the 2014 season as Phillip Gaines, Marcus Cooper, and Ron Parker develop more and gain valuable playing experience. Also of note, this was one of NFL Network analyst Charles Davis’ favorite players in this years draft.

4th round pick #124 – Oregon RB De’Anthony Thomas
De’Anthony Thomas comes into Kansas City as a faster version of Dexter McCluster whom the Chiefs lost in free agency to the Tennessee Titans. De’Anthony looks to be used in just as many ways as Dexter was as a RB, WR, KR, and PR. Just how effective De’Anthony can be in that Dexter McCluster role is a huge question mark and will determine whether he will be a Chiefs in the long run.

5th round pick #163 – Georgia QB Aaron Murray
Aaron Murray may very well have been the #1 overall pick to the Kansas City Chiefs instead of OT Eric Fisher had Aaron chosen to come out for the 2013 draft. After a remarkable career at Georgia setting multiple SEC records for a QB, but ending his season with a torn ACL; QB Aaron Murray dropped to the 5th round where the Chiefs always feel more comfortable taking a QB. Time will tell if this 6’0 QB will pan out for the Chiefs and resemble Drew Brees, another 6’0 QB, or if he will be another late round QB selection who doesn’t pan out for Kansas City (latest examples are Brodie Croyle and Ricky Stanzi).

6th round pick #193 – Tennessee OG Zach Fulton
Zach Fulton joins a Chiefs offensive line who lost two starters from last year in free agency; LT Branden Albert who signed with the Miami Dolphins and RG Jon Asamoah who signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Zach looks to add depth in his rookie season, but with the talent thin at right guard for the Chiefs nobody would be stunned if he became a starter at some point in his rookie campaign. As of right now it looks to be Rishaw Johnson and Jeff Linkenbach competing during training camp and preseason to see who will start.

6th round pick #200 – McGill OT Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is a big athletic offensive tackle that the Chiefs hope they can mold into their new swing tackle to play either side if an injury should arise. Last year this role was held by Donald Stephenson who would come in when Branden Albert or Eric Fisher were injured. Now, Donald is the starter at right tackle with Eric Fisher moving over to start at left tackle so Laurent must learn to play both sides and be able to bring versatility to a line that desperately needs help.

Overall Draft Grade: C+
The Kansas City Chiefs are strapped when it comes to the salary cap with Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry’s contracts ballooning up over $10 million each. The Chiefs lost LT Branden Albert, RG Jon Asamoah, DE Tyson Jackson, WR/PR Dexter McCluster, RG/RT Geoff Schwartz, SS Quintin Demps, and FS Kendrick Lewis to free agency while making several lackluster signings in LB Joe Mays, WR Weston Dressler, DE Vance Walker, RG Jeff Linkenbach, OT J’Marcus Webb, and DT Kyle Love. Negotiations with Alex Smith on a new contract are not going well so we can only hope he is traded or let go after this season which is the last year of his contract. It’s time for the Chiefs to develop a young franchise QB such as Aaron Murray or Tyler Bray. The Chiefs got worse as a football team this off-season while the other teams in the division either stood pat (Chargers) or got better (Broncos and Raiders). Without the help of an easy schedule and backup QB’s to play against the Chiefs are looking at a significant step back in 2014. This draft may provide some talent down the road, but in the here and now it doesn’t appear to be a draft that can fill the many holes on this Chiefs roster. Also of note, the Chiefs didn’t add a WR to a group that is begging for a play-maker to help out Alex Smith and take the pressure off Jamaal Charles.

at FedExField on December 8, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.

San Diego Chargers

1st round pick #25 – TCU CB Jason Verrett
Jason Verrett, although short, has all the ability, speed, and ball skills you could want in a CB which is why San Diego drafted him with their first pick. The Chargers pass defense was horrid last season, but adding my favorite CB in the draft may allow them to lock down one side of the field. I believe that too much emphasis is placed on size after what the Seattle Seahawks did to the Denver Broncos and how they did it. The Chargers got a play-maker and a kid that will stick to any WR like glue until he’s ready to make his move on the ball. Teams are looking for an immediate starter and impact player with their first pick in the draft and that’s exactly what I believe the Chargers got here.

2nd round pick #50 – Georgia Tech OLB Jeremiah Attaochu
Jeremiah Attaochu joins a LB group that could be the strongest in the AFC West right alongside the Chiefs. Jeremiah joins Melvin Ingram, Dwight Freeney, Jarrett Johnson, Donald Butler, and Manti Te’o to give the Chargers three outstanding outside pass rushing LB’s while Butler and Te’o man down things in the middle. The more pressure the Chargers can get on opposing QB’s the easier things will be on a secondary who really struggled last season.

3rd round pick #89 – Notre Dame RG Chris Watt
Chris Watt may have been a slight reach at this juncture, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad pick by the Chargers. The Chargers didn’t have a 4th round pick so they may have felt that if this is a player they had targeted that they better select him now. He could come in and start from day 1 as the Chargers RG next to last years first round pick RT D.J. Fluker. Watt is not athletic, but the Chargers wouldn’t be asking him to be. Watt has a powerful punch and if asked to block one on one he can stonewall the best of them from getting to the QB or ball-carrier.

5th round pick #165 – Arkansas State DT Ryan Carrethers
Ryan Carrethers fills another hole for the Chargers who have needed a steady, strong, run stopper in the middle since the days of Jamal Williams. While Ryan was one of the strongest DT’s at the combine he brings explosiveness and an ability to open gaps for his fellow defensive linemen and linebackers to squeeze through and make plays. Ryan isn’t solely there to take up blocks like most defensive tackles, but he can effectively move and toss offensive linemen around which allows him to wreak havoc in the backfield.

6th round pick #201 – Arizona State RB Marion Grice
Marion Grice will fill an immediate hole in the return game for the Chargers with his blazing speed and ability to make something out of nothing. As a RB, Marion may not see much playing time his rookie year with Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, and off-season acquisition Donald Brown ahead of him. Ryan and Danny are in the last year of their contracts however and this draft pick shows the Chargers have an eye to the future for the RB position.

7th round pick #240 – Baylor WR Tevin Reese
Tevin Reese comes to the Chargers giving them a deep threat that can take the top off a defense. Everyone is used to seeing the Chargers with tall WR’s such as Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd. This new regime has found talent with shorter WR’s as Keenan Allen was outstanding for them last year and now Reese gives them a go to slot WR.

Overall Draft Grade: B+
The San Diego Chargers snuck into the playoffs last season and beat the Cincinnati Bengals before running into the Broncos buzz-saw. That struggling secondary going up against the Broncos passing game and Peyton Manning’s record breaking season of 55 TD’s was too much to overcome. The Chargers have been quiet this off-season with one notable signing in RB Donald Brown coming over from the Colts. This draft should go a long way in making up for a quiet off-season as it appears that they snagged several players who could make an immediate impact come the start of the 2014 season.

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Oakland Raiders
1st round pick #5 – Buffalo LB Khalil Mack
Khalil Mack has the chance to learn from two of the best pass rushers in the game thanks to the Raiders off-season acquisitions of DE Justin Tuck and OLB LaMarr Woodley. Mack didn’t play at a big school or in a big conference, but he did play against Ohio State with outstanding results where Mack tallied 9 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and an interception returned for a touchdown. The Raiders must’ve been surprised as I’m sure everyone was that Khalil made it to #5 as there were talks he could go #1 to the Houston Texans. Once the Jaguars selected QB Blake Bortles and Buffalo moved up to select WR Sammy Watkins the Raiders quickly knew they had their guy.

2nd round pick #36 – Fresno State QB Derek Carr
Derek Carr is widely regarded as the best pure passer in this draft class, but he’s also known to have the “Jay Cutler disease” which is believing in your arm so much that you don’t focus on the little things. Derek needs to work on his footwork and consistency to be a successful starter in this league. The Raiders went out and signed Matt Schaub this off-season and if he can regain his confidence I’d like to see the Raiders sit Carr for a year. However, if Matt Schaub is the same guy from 2013 “Mr. Pick Six” then the Raiders should give the reigns to Derek and let him learn the ropes his rookie season.

3rd round pick #67 – Mississippi State OG Gabe Jackson
Gabe Jackson is a mauler with long arms which will allow him to keep defenders at bay while stoning them at the point of attack. Gabe should come in and compete for a starting guard job right away which would music to the Raiders fans ears as their offensive line was a weak spot last season. RB Darren McFadden comes back on a one year deal with the Raiders and newly acquired RB Maurice Jones-Drew will both need the help of Gabe Jackson to open up holes in the middle. The Raiders have a fairly nice WR corps so if they can get a consistent running game to go along with that they could create a good balance on offense.

4th round pick #107 – Louisiana Tech DT Justin Ellis
Justin Ellis has great size and an amazing first step off the ball which should allow him to be a nice rotational player inside for the Raiders. Pat Sims and Antonio Smith look to be the starters in the middle, but as they get up there in age and need snaps off Justin will get his share of quality playing time.

4th round pick #116 – Utah CB Keith McGill
Keith McGill is 6’3 and hoping to be the next Richard Sherman as a tall physical CB overlooked in the early rounds who shocks the world to become one of the NFL’s best. Keith is extremely raw, but the potential to mold into a very good CB is right there for the taking if Keith is willing to work for it.

7th round pick #219 – Ohio CB T.J. Carrie
T.J. Carrie along with Keith McGill adds depth at the CB spot as D.J. Hayden and Carlos Rogers are slated as the starters. T.J. will be 24 when the Raiders open their training camp. T.J. is raw and it will take him time to develop, but as a 24 year old 7th round pick, will the Raiders give T.J. have that kind of time?

7th round pick #235 – Illinois State DE Shelby Harris
Shelby Harris is a risk/reward player that you can take a chance on in this spot in the 7th round. Harris was a top rated recruit who started his career at Wisconsin then moved on to Illinois State after being dismissed from Wisconsin due to team violations. He was then dismissed from Illinois State for conduct detrimental to the team. The Raiders are hoping to straighten this player out and unleash that untapped potential that Harris has been gifted with.

7th round pick #247 – Western Kentucky S Jonathan Dowling
Jonathan Dowling will come in and compete to make the team and to add depth to the safety position for the Oakland Raiders. He has good size at 6’1, but comes in with a relatively thin frame which he’ll need to improve. Some of his strengths include his vision and ball skills, but the competition will be quite a step up from Western Kentucky to the NFL. Tyvon Branch will hopefully take him under his wing and teach him how the safety position is supposed to be played. Then maybe someday you will see Dowling and Branch share the field as the Oakland Raiders starting safeties.

Overall Draft Grade: A-
The Oakland Raiders attacked free agency with a vengeance signing QB Matt Schaub, DE Justin Tuck, OLB LaMarr Woodley, CB Carlos Rogers, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, and recently acquiring WR Greg Little off waivers from the Browns. Pairing their free agency moves along with this draft it’s easy to see a much improved Raiders team in the 2014 season. The big question will be whether Matt Schaub can regain form or if Derek Carr will be handed the keys to the car at some point in his rookie campaign. The Raiders added a lot of talent and depending on the level of QB play they get they could possibly stay out of the AFC West cellar in 2014. This draft helped them bolster their defense with a stud like Mack and depth across the board. Gabe Jackson could very well come in and be a day 1 starter for them along with Mack and Carr which would be an absolute home-run for the Raiders.

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*Now it’s time to get to work and no matter how things look on paper you have to go out there and prove it on the field. #AnyGivenSunday

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