NFL Draft Preview: AFC West

Las Vegas Raiders

By Aaron Silverstein

This team needs a defense. There is literally nothing else to say about the Raiders’ roster other than that. Head Coach John Gruden has quietly put together an effective offense led by Derek Carr and Josh Jacobs over the past few seasons. But if this team has any playoff aspirations moving forward, they need to fill the gaping holes on their roster all over the defensive side of the ball. With the seventeenth overall pick, Las Vegas has an opportunity to draft a player who can change their defensive culture. Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II should be at the top of their draft board if he’s still available. The six-foot-one defensive back was a shutdown player for the Wildcats during their impressive Big Ten campaign last season and could be an important piece in Vegas. Despite all of their defensive struggles and needs, the Raiders may opt to use this selection to bolster their offensive line. The Raiders will return only one of their five starting offensive lineman next year. Alijah Vera-Tucker out of University Southern California could be a smart selection — with a versatile skill set, he could play multiple positions and ultimately help the Raiders tremendously at the line of scrimmage.

Denver Broncos

By Zach Schiller

Don’t let the Broncos 5-11 record in 2020 fool you. This team has talent on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately for Denver though, their biggest weakness is at the sport’s most important position: quarterback. Although the Broncos could run it back with Drew Lock at the quarterback position next season, Lock’s performance last season left much to be desired. Barring a drastic improvement in year three, it appears that Lock is not the long-term answer in Denver. While the Broncos would like to select a quarterback in this year’s draft, that might be difficult given the Broncos position at pick no. nine. Quarterbacks will likely be taken with the first three picks in this year’s draft, and teams like Atlanta at no. four, Detroit at no. seven and Carolina at no. eight are all candidates to trade their pick to teams eager not to miss out on the consensus top five quarterback prospects. While the Broncos could roll the dice and hope one of these quarterbacks falls to them at no. nine, it is likely the team will have to trade up if it wants a guaranteed chance at drafting its signal caller of the future.

In the event the Broncos do not draft a quarterback, look for the team to add a talented player to Vic Fangio’s defense. One option for the team could be to add a versatile linebacker which would most likely lead to the team taking Penn State’s Micah Parsons. If the team opts to take a cornerback to boost their secondary, look for them to snag either Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II or South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn.

Kansas City Chiefs

By Zach Schiller

After a devastating Super Bowl loss in which the Chiefs vaunted offense failed to score a single offensive touchdown thanks in large part to Patrick Mahomes running for his life the entire game, it seems fairly obvious that the Chiefs need to address the offensive line early in this draft. While adding former pro bowl left guard Joe Thuney is a decent start, the Chiefs have major question marks at tackle after releasing last year’s starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and starting left tackle Eric Fisher. All signs point to the Chiefs taking a tackle at pick no. 31 in order to protect Mahomes’ blind side. Look for the Chiefs to add either Texas’ Samuel Cosmi, Oklahoma State’s Tevin Jenkins, Michigan’s Jaylen Mayfield or Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg.

After addressing their need at tackle, the Chiefs will likely turn to their defense. Expect them to add another edge rusher opposite Frank Clark, as well as another playmaking corner and linebacker. Also, while loaded with talent on the offensive side of the ball, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Chiefs select a wide receiver at the end of day two or on day three of the draft. The team pursued JuJu Smith-Schuster before he ultimately chose to resign with Pittsburgh, which means the Chiefs could look to add another young pass catcher in the draft.

Los Angeles Chargers

By Zach Schiller

After taking quarterback Justin Herbert at pick no. 6 in last year’s draft, the Chargers seem to have found the cornerstone of their franchise. The next step is figuring out a way to protect the up-and-coming signal caller. They have already taken steps toward accomplishing this goal by signing two of the top offensive lineman in free agency in guard Matt Feiler and center Corey Linsley. However, the team still needs an all-important left tackle to protect their cornerback’s blindside. If Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater somehow slips to the Chargers at no. 13, they should grab him in a heartbeat. If he’s not available, Los Angeles should look to grab either Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw or University Southern California’s Alijah Vera-Tucker.

With their subsequent picks, the team should look to further shore up their offense by adding a left guard and a tight end to replace Hunter Henry who left for the New England Patriots. On the defensive side of the ball, new Head Coach Brandon Staley’s system requires versatile defensive backs. Especially after cutting veteran corner Casey Hayward, look for the team to add some safeties and corners on day two and day three of the draft.