NFL Draft: AFC West team needs
Going into last season, many anticipated the AFC West to be one of the toughest divisions of football. Derek Carr was coming back from a gruesome leg injury, and the Raiders were one of the favorites to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 52. The Denver Broncos had one of the best defenses in football, the Chargers were a young team in a new city and the Chiefs were the team to win the division.
However, as the season progressed those early expectations were called into question. The Chiefs looked like the most dominant team in the AFC. The Chargers got hot too late. The Raiders came nowhere near where people expected them to be and the Broncos were one of the worst teams in all of football.
But, with free agency under way, and just over a month until the NFL Draft, it’s time to look at the top five needs for each of these underperforming squads.
Los Angeles Chargers
1. Linebacker- The biggest need the Chargers will have to address this offseason comes on the defensive side of the ball. Their linebacking corps is arguably the worst in the league. Jatavis Brown was tied for the second on the team in total tackles last season, and according tohe isn’t even projected to start next year.
2. Free Safety- Due to free agency, Trey Boston will no longer be with the team next season. This is a huge blow as he led the team last season in interceptions and was tied for second in total tackles. They will have to find his replacement sooner rather than later.
3. Right Tackle- Overall, the Chargers offensive line isn’t in bad shape. Left tackle Russel Okung is coming off his second Pro Bowl. Rookies Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney both played well, and just recently they traded for center Mike Pouncey. The only position on their offensive line without a solidified starter is at right tackle.
4. Tight End- Future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates is on his last couple of seasons in the league. While Hunter Henry has been receiving the majority of the snaps at the position, they will still need look at getting more depth at that position.
5. Quarterback- Phillip River may be at the tail end of his career, but he is still playing at an All-Pro level. However, he will be 36 when the season starts, meaning they will have to start thinking about drafting his eventual replacement.
Kansas City Chiefs
1. Cornerback- The Chiefs are in an interesting point in their franchises history. They still have enough talent to be a contender, but they lost some key pieces this offseason. Their biggest issue right now is needing to find replacements to Marcus Peters and Phillip Gaines. Peters was traded to the Rams a couple weeks ago, and the Chiefs have yet to address his replacement. They may be waiting for the draft, but without a first-round pick their options may be slim.
2. Pass Rusher- Along with Peters, the Chiefs also cut ties with all-time great Tamba Hali. For years, the former Nittany Lion was their defensive leader and best pass-rusher. However, with him now out of the picture, they will need to find someone to fill his shoes. They still have Justin Houston, but unless he is okay with facing double teams they will need to find someone to put on the other side of him quick.
3. Nose Tackle- Last years starter Bennie Logan has left the team in free agency. While they have a couple tackles on their roster, none of them are proven NFL starters.
4. Free Safety- Eric Berry beat cancer and came back right where he left off. However, the other safety playing beside him hasn’t had quite the same impact. They might want to think about fining him a suitable partner.
5. Offensive Lineman- The Chiefs already have their quarterback of the future in Patrick Mahomes. They have a running back who was a candidate for rookie of the year last season. To ensure that they both thrive for years to come, they should add some more depth upfront.
1. Cornerback- Last year the Raiders drafted Gareon Conley out of Ohio State in the first round. He played great for them and is their unquestioned number one player at the position. The problem comes that the other two starters are no longer with the team. Their top priority should be finding the replacement for Sean Smith and David Amerson.
2. Linebacker- Bruce Irvin is locked in as the Raiders starter at their left outside linebacker position. However, the other two linebacking positions are virtually up for grabs. NaVorro Bowman played well for them last season, but the veteran has once again hit the open market. They will need to find an impact player in the draft to help sure up their defense.
3. Right Tackle- The Raiders have one of the best offensive lines in all of football. All-Pro players such as Donald Penn and Kelechi Osemele have helped to anchor their line for the past couple seasons. However, if there is one position along the line they need help at, it’s right tackle. If they can find a viable starter in the draft, then Derek Carr should be able to get back to where he left of two seasons ago.
4. Defensive Tackle- Eddie Vanderdoes and Justin Ellis aren’t terrible starters at the position. However, you can never have enough depth along the defensive line. Finding another rotational player would be very beneficial.
5. Punt/Kick Returner- The one thing that has escaped the Raiders in recent years has been an explosive returner in special teams. Finding a lightening quick receiver or defensive back could be the difference maker in such a tight division.
1. Offensive Lineman- The Broncos have a pair of solid bookend tackles in Jared Veldheer and Garett Bolles. The problem comes in between them. The Broncos should look to add either a guard or center to help protect new quarterback Case Keenum.
2. Tight End- The Broncos still have some weapons offensively in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. However, they have virtually no players at the tight end position. Finding a big red zone target for Keenum to throw to in a jam should be high up on their priority’s list.
3. Inside Linebacker- Between Von Miller, Shane Rey and Brandon Marshall, the Broncos might have the best linebacking corps in the league. However, they could still benefit from one more piece to their incredible unit.
4. Defensive End- Domata Peko and Derek Wolfe are two solid starters on defensive coordinator Joe Wood’s defensive line. If they can add another ferocious defensive end to that, they will be something all quarterbacks and offensive lineman will stay up thinking about.
5. Cornerback- Despite trading away Aqib Talib to the Rams, the Broncos still have enough depth to survive. They will rely on Chris Harris and Bradley Roby to cover the outsides, while Tramaine Brock will come in on nickel packages. However, adding more depth is never a bad thing.
Jason Marcus is a junior, studying telecommunications. To contact, email him at email@example.com.
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Junior / Telecommunications