A Little over a month ago the NFL held their NFL draft where college players saw new beginnings to their dreams coming true. We at Mental Dimes have taken the liberty of comparing these draft classes one division at a time, today I’m tackling the AFC West. A division that looks to be one of the strongest in the entire league, an off-season arms race that saw big moves being made and draft classes rounding out their off seasons. As each team fights for the ultimate goal of a Lombardi trophy.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs had 2 first round picks after trading away Tyreek Hill for a slew of picks from the Miami Dolphins, their first 1st round pick was used on Trent McDuffie. The 5’11 193-pound CB from the DBU of the West in Washington is great at both man coverage & zone coverage & isn’t scared to get physical with his tackling ability. He should plug into that Kansas City defense on day one to fill the hole left by Charvarius Ward who signed with the 49ers in free agency. With their other 1st round pick they drafted George Karlaftis. The pass rusher out of Purdue has good size & speed off the edge. Was a top 10 prospect early in draft season & is already turning heads at OTAs in Kansas City. He will be a staple on the Chiefs defense for years going forward & could fill the role of Frank Clark who is getting closer to the magic number (30) in the NFL. The Chiefs also had 2 2nd round picks, they used their first one on Skyy Moore out of Western Michigan who I had mocked to them in their first round, so to draft him at 54 overall has incredible value. Moore has excellent size & speed & will excel in the Andy Reid offense with Patrick Mahomes slinging him the rock. With their other 2nd round pick they drafted the Cincinnati Bearcat Bryan Cook. Bryan Cook is a versatile safety with great tackling ability. Might soften the blow of Tyrann Mathieu leaving for New Orleans a bit. In the third round the Chiefs drafted a developmental LB out of Wisconsin in Leo Chenal. The 6’3 250 pounder has excellent size & is an excellent tackler who attacks the A gap with reckless abandon racking up 18.5 tackles for loss to go along with 8 sacks & 2 forced fumbles, a year or two on special teams & he should be ready to plug into the middle of that defense. In the 4th round they drafted a division II standout in Joshua Williams out of Jacksonville State, Williams is a big CB standing at 6’3 with some good ball skills, it will be interesting to see how well he handles the step up in competition at the NFL level coming from Division II. In the fifth round, the chiefs grabbed OT Darian Kinnard out of Kentucky, he’s a 3 time all-American who played right tackle at Kentucky against great SEC competition but is thought to be more suited at guard in the NFL because he struggles with speed off the edge some. He is a steal in the fifth round here, the chiefs have a history of finding late-round gems with trey smith last year out of Tennessee & Kinnard this year there will be stiff competition on that offensive line for years to come. The Chiefs rounded out their draft with 3 7th-round picks, the first being Jaylen Watson a DB out of Washington State. The next was used on a speedy RB out of Rutgers named Isaiah Pacheco who ran a 4.37 40 and shows an ability to just keep chopping his feet. Their final pick was used on Nazeeh Johnson out of Marshall, this is most likely a special teams player, I love teams using late-round picks on safeties for special teams because they have a unique blend of size, speed & tackling ability needed to take return men to the ground. Overall, the Chiefs did an excellent job of filling holes, especially in the defensive backfield that will be needed in this division to be competitive. That will take some pressure off Patrick Mahomes & company from having to score 50 points a game to win.
Las Vegas Raiders
The raiders off-season started off with a bang when they traded for Derek Carr’s college WR Devante Adams who is arguably the best WR in the league and as a Bears fan I am happy to see him out of my division to be completely honest. With that trade the Raiders were without a first or second round pick, but they may boast the best complete set of weapons in the league, with their 3rd round pick the Raiders got Carr some protection up front by drafting Dylan Parham out of Memphis. Parham was a four-year starter at Memphis and can play either Guard position, he could push to start right away, but his versatility makes him an excellent depth piece at the very least. The raiders had 2 4th round picks, using their first on Zamir White out of Georgia. Typically, an SEC RB comes with a lot of mileage, however, White was used as an RB by a committee at Georgia with him & James Cook coming out of the backfield. With their other 4th-round pick they drafted Neil Ferrell a DT out of LSU who is a run stuffing DT that could be a huge help on the DL rotation from day 1, in a pass-happy league you still have to shut down running attacks. In the 5th round, they drafted another DT in Matthew Butler out of Tennessee who I was surprised to see available at this point in the draft. The 6’4 DT tips the scales at 300 pounds but has good lateral quickness to take on blockers in both the running and passing games. More reinforcements to go after the QBs within the division. The Raiders finished off the draft class with a pair of 7th round picks in Thayer Munford an offensive lineman out of Ohio State that can play either guard position or some depth at tackle if needed. They used their final pick on Brittain Brown a RB out of UCLA. In a loaded backfield he may be a practice squad player for the year.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers started their off-season by trading for Khalil Mack to rush the passer across from Bosa. They also added JC Jackson in free agency giving them an even better defense than they already had. They used their first-round pick on what may have been the best guard in the draft in Zion Johnson. The Chargers left side of their offensive line is great already with Pro bowler Rashawn Slater at left tackle. Promising young left guard in Matt Feiler & the all-pro veteran at center in Corey Linsley. Zion Johnson will plug right in at right guard and start from day one. Their second-round pick was used in the above-mentioned Khalil Mack trade, so the Chargers came back in the 3rd round and drafted JT Woods the Safety out of Baylor. Woods has a background as a sprinter so he shouldn’t get beat deep very often & could be a special teams ace right out of the gate if he’s not up to speed in Brandon Staley’s defense. In the 4th round, they drafted Isaiah Spiller the RB out of Texas A&M has a football background in his family as his brother CJ played at Clemson and is currently the RB coach at that school after a short-lived NFL career due to injury. Hopefully, Isaiah has better luck in that department, he gives the Chargers a nice 1-2 punch with him & Austin Ekeler. In the 5h round, they drafted Otito Ogbannia a DT out of UCLA to give them a nice push-up front to go along with star pass rushers on the edges. In the 6th round, the Chargers had 2 picks. With their first 6th round pick the Chargers drafted Jamaree Salyer from Georgia who is listed as a guard but has the versatility to play guard or tackle & could push to start at Right Tackle from day one competing with Storm Norton for that position. Their other 6th-round pick was used on Ja’Sir Taylor a DB out of Wake Forest at 5’10 190 pounds he has good size for the CB position with the depth the Chargers have he could be a special teamer or a DB they try to stash on the practice squad for the year. The Chargers also had 2 7th-round picks, they used the first on a big DB Deane Leonard out of Ole Miss. At 6’2 195 he has excellent size and coming from the SEC West he is well prepared for the next level. The Chargers rounded out their draft by grabbing Zander Horvath a full back from Purdue. The Chargers had a solid off-season, honestly this whole division had great off seasons.
The Denver Broncos also made a big off-season move by trading for Russell Wilson, included in the trade were draft picks, as well as promising young TE Noah Fant, DT Shelby Harris & Drew Lock who hasn’t really lived up to his draft position in Denver. The Broncos started the draft in the second-round drafting Nik Bonitto a DT from Oklahoma who could help fill the hole left after trading away Shelby Harris to Seattle. In the 3rd round they drafted Greg Dulcich out of UCLA. With Albert Okwuegbunam as TE1 on the depth chart for now Dulcich will have to fight for snaps, but he is well equipped to do so. They had a pair of 4th round picks they used both to help on defense. The first on Damarri Mathis a DB from Pitt, the 5’11 195-pound DB could be a core special teamer that gives the Broncos good depth in the secondary. The other was used on DE Eyioma Uwazurike out of Iowa State. The well accomplished 4-year starter will give them a nice pass rush up the middle from his DT spot. The Broncos had a trio of 5th round picks. They used the first on Delarrin Turner-Yell a Safety out of Oklahoma. The 5’10 197-pound safety shows good fluidity and control on the field. Has ideal size & play strength to excel at the next level, he is a contact seeker which makes him perfect for a core special teamer who may be able to start at the strong safety position. With 3 interceptions last year he could be used in more than just run support as well. They followed that up by drafting Montrell Washington a 5’10 170-poind WR out of Samford. Washington has good height at 5’10, but it is yet to be seen if his small frame could withstand the hits he would take at the next level. He plays with the speed of a Tavon Austin and could challenge KJ Hamler for some playing time with a new coaching staff in Denver. With their last pick of the fifth round, they invested in the offensive line by drafting Luke Wattenburg out of Washington. Wattenburg is expected to be a center at the next level but could be a good depth piece at either guard spot as well. In the 6th round the Broncos drafted Matt Henningsen out of Wisconsin. A 6’3 295-pound DT/DE Henningsen shows good lower body strength & comes prepared with short-area athleticism & a nice bullrush at the point of attack. The Broncos dipped back into the Wisconsin well in the 7th round finishing off their draft by getting Faion Hicks a defensive back. Hicks could be a practice squad stash player who will struggle early with the speedsters in the NFL. He is better at zone than man to man so the coaches in Denver will want to get their hands on him to mold him into his potential as an NFL DB.
This off-season arms race in the AFC West is hot & heavy with all these teams fielding playoff caliber rosters. All of them used a lot of picks on defense to help compete in the best QB division in football. Some of the biggest off-season moves in this division were via trades whether we’re talking about the Raiders trading for the best WR in football, the Broncos trying to let Russ cook with a new coaching staff, The Chargers hoping Khalil Mack can find the fountain of youth & return to his dominant ways that haven’t been seen much since his first year in Chicago, or the Chiefs allowing their cheetah in Tyreek Hill to take his talents to South Beach, for a hefty fee of course. However, just looking at the draft I love what the Chiefs did, getting high quality players with their Tyreek Hill bounty. The Broncos did well with the draft capital they had available even finding some possible late round gems like Uwazurike who I like a lot. The Raiders beefed up in the trenches as well as bringing in some solid RBs I love the Zamir White pick & he could step into that committee of RBs right away, but if I had to pick my favorite draft class in this division that would be the Los Angeles Chargers. Zion Johnson is an absolute unit & Jamaree Salyer could fight for that RT spot as well being a steal at his draft position & filling out an already excellent offensive line to protect their biggest asset the franchise QB in Justin Herbert. It will be intriguing to see how Isaiah Spiller’s NFL career plays out I was a huge fan of his brothers & he was one of the best RBs in this draft. They used their last few picks at DB & as I mentioned before I love those DBs on special teams until they are ready to start. It was a tough decision to pick my favorite draft class in this division, all of these teams have the ability to be great and it will be exciting to watch how it plays out on the field in the fall.