2020 Virtual NFL Draft Preview: AFC West

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Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

Jack Jamieson, Zach Schiller, Theo Asher, and Aaron Notis

The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft is set to take place virtually, with general managers and Commissioner Roger Goodell operating from their own homes, at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 23. It will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN and NFL Network, among other online streaming platforms. From across the nation and from their respective quarantines, Colgate Maroon-News sports writers put together a guide for each of the 32 teams in the league, offering insights on top prospects and projecting likely selections. Rounds two and three will be on Friday, April 24 and rounds four through seven are on Saturday, April 25. 

 

Denver Broncos 

Jack Jamieson, Maroon-News Staff 

After winning four of their last five games to close the 2019 regular season, the Denver Broncos will look to carry their late success into the beginning of 2020. The Broncos were active in the free agency market, signing offensive lineman Graham Glasgow and former Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. They also traded for cornerback A.J. Bouye from the Jacksonville Jaguars and five time Pro-Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey from the Tennessee Titans. 

Still, two key needs remain to be addressed: wide receiver and cornerback. Second-year quarterback Drew Lock has a surefire number one receiver in Courtland Sutton. However, a true number two who could stretch the field and beat defenses over the top with speed is missing from the roster. 

With this in mind, Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III would be a great fit. Ruggs is one of the fastest wide receivers in this draft class, running a 4.27 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. His overall athleticism and route running is also superb. 

However, if Denver sits at their current No. 15 selection, Ruggs might already be off the draft board. So, look for them to potentially move up to an earlier pick. Trading up to the No. 10 pick with the Cleveland Browns will allow them to secure Ruggs or maybe even his fellow Alabama wideout Jerry Jeudy, who is the consensus top receiver in the draft. 

If they are unable to trade up, and Ruggs is not on the board when their pick rolls around, cornerback is another great option. CJ Henderson is a big corner out of the University of Florida who would add great value to their defense and start from day one. The Broncos are trending in the right direction, and either of these picks would be quick contributions and add to the winning culture.

 

Kansas City Chiefs

Zach Schiller, Assistant Sports Editor  

How ‘bout those Chiefs! After capturing the franchise’s first Super Bowl in 50 years, the Chiefs are primed to defend their title returning 20 of the team’s 22 starters from last year’s Super Bowl winning roster. 

However, there is always room for improvement, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. With the departure of cornerback Kendall Fuller, the team will look to address that hole with a playmaking defensive back early in the draft.

 One option could be TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney. The former high school receiver has a knack for locating the ball and his quick feet make it hard for receivers to shake his coverage. If the team wants to find a more direct replacement for Fuller’s skillset, they could look to draft Alabama safety Xavier McKinney. With his ability to line up deep, in the slot or in the box, McKinney and all-pro Tyrann Mathieu could form a versatile duo in the Chiefs secondary.

If the Chiefs do not opt to go defensive back in the first round, they likely will look to draft a linebacker. The two most likely options would be LSU’s Patrick Queen and Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray. Both linebackers are tenacious tacklers and have the ability to blitz as well as drop back into coverage. As one of the worst teams defending against the run the last few seasons, both of these athletic, three-down linebackers could greatly benefit the defense.

While the Chiefs already boast an embarrassment of riches on offense, their running backs pale in comparison to the rest of their talented offense. The Chiefs could look to change that and take dynamic Georgia running back D’Andre Swift with the last pick in the first round. While Damien Williams serves as a suitable running back for the pass heavy Chiefs, Swift would be an immediate upgrade both as a runner and a pass catcher, adding another dynamic playmaker to the Chiefs electric offense.

 

Las Vegas Raiders 

Theo Asher, Executive Editor  

The Las Vegas Raiders are in a unique position for the 2020 NFL Draft after relocating from Oakland, Calif. The management team of coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock has a lot of work to do if they are to return the franchise to competitiveness in 2020. In 2019, they recovered from the preseason Antonio Brown drama to finish 7-9 in a division loaded with some of the best young talent in the league. If they are to build toward contention, Mayock must equip his squad with elite skill players that can rectify blunders like last season’s 31-point, zero-touchdown loss to the New York Jets. 

Seven picks is not a lot, and when you consider that two of those are first-rounders, it only increases the pressure on the organization. There is no other option with the No. 12 pick than to make a big splash with either Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy or Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, this class’ two best wide receivers. 

Jeudy is the near-unanimous best wide receiver prospect. He possesses sensational quickness off the line of scrimmage, combining the kind of shifty moves and lateral acceleration that makes him a mismatch in any contest. Some scouts say his foot speed is so elite that it could launch any offense into scoring position in the blink of an eye. Even when he doesn’t make separation, he has the aggressive hand instincts to bring down all kinds of throws. In the wake of two-straight 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown seasons, Jeudy is a prime candidate for Las Vegas. 

If the Alabama star is taken, Lamb is a comparably solid pick. Much of the same praise doted upon Jeudy can apply to Lamb, but he lacks in line-of-scrimmage quickness and sprint speed.

At No. 19, I think their best move is to go with a cornerback. Following suspensions, injuries, and free agency, they are bone-dry in this department. Not to mention they’ve got to face Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs twice a year. 

Kristian Fulton (LSU) and C.J. Henderson (Florida) have the best chances to thrive in the black and silver. Fulton is a formidable enemy on the line, possessing confidence that allows him to kick into gear against any receiver. Henderson is also quick, but it’s his overall production that has turned heads: in 2018, on 365 coverage plays, he gave up zero touchdowns. It’s studs like these that will help redefine the Raiders brand in their new city. 

 

Los Angeles Chargers 

Aaron Notis, Maroon-News Staff  

Things just have not been the same since the Chargers moved from San Diego to Los Angeles. They have been plagued by lower attendance numbers and less success in the wins column since their move (excluding 2018). Longtime franchise quarterback Philip Rivers is gone; he jumped ship and signed with the Colts in free agency. In this draft, the Chargers should look to replace him. But, it all depends on what the Miami Dolphins do with the No. 5 pick. 

Quarterback Joe Burrow is presumed to go first in the draft to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Dolphins will likely look at Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert. Whichever one they do not pick will probably end up a Charger. The Chargers should hope the Dolphins take Tagovailoa. Herbert is more similar to Rivers than to how Tagovailoa compares to the old Chargers QB. Herbert has shades of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz in his game and that should reflect well with the weapons L.A. already has in its offensive arsenal. With Herbert’s strong-arm and playmaking ability, the Chargers offense would be a force to be reckoned with in their new stadium.

After picking at No. 6, the Chargers’ next selection is in the second round at No. 37 overall, which would give them an opportunity to add an offensive tackle. Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson and Houston’s Josh Jones are both potential options for that pick. Overall, the Chargers have the draft assets to bolster their already decent roster. They just need to make the right picks.