Throughout our long and meticulous series of the needs of each NFL conference, we’ve investigated all the way from Miami to Seattle and LA to New York. The journey ends, however, out West, with the AFC West. Success in the shadows, rebuilds, quarterback carousels, and no look passes have filled the AFC West for the duration of the 2018-2019 NFL season. However, with the off-season comes a time for growth and self analytics in the front office of teams league-wide. In the grand finale of our eight part series, we’ll be examining the biggest needs in the AFC West. Onward we trek into the AFC West…
LA Chargers: Offensive Tackle, Defensive Tackle
Offensive Tackle is quite frankly the indisputable Achilles heel of this Chargers personnel group. Russel Okung is hardly a liability on the left side, however, Sam Tevi at right tackle for the Chargers this season gave up eight sacks, twelve quarterback hits, and 41 hurries. These numbers are absolutely unforgivable for someone protecting the franchise quarterback of a football team. Los Angeles absolutely must address the right tackle position early on in the draft come April. Phillip Rivers is only getting older and getting hit in the face week in and week out is only shortening his tenure in the league. If Andre Dillard falls anywhere within range of the Chargers at pick number 28, trading up just may be worth the price.
Tackle seems to be the trend when talking about how to electrify the Bolts’ team. Defensive Tackle just barely edges out linebacker as the second need for the Chargers because of the Thomas Davis signing this off-season. Mebane provides the Chargers with a solid nose tackle on the inside and down in the trenches, however, he had a down season being ranked just the 80th best defensive lineman in the league according to Pro Football Focus. Hardly, irreplaceable numbers there along with the fact Brandon Mebane is 34 years old and is on the back end of his career. Furthermore, introducing a three technique defensive tackle to the defensive side of the ball would do wonders for the Chargers defense, especially in a division where interior offensive line seems to be a constant need. At pick number 28, Notre Dame Jerry Tillery being added should make for an exuberant Chargers fanbase. He would provide an electrifying pass rusher and run stuffer on the interior for the Chargers if drafted at pick 28.
Kansas City Chiefs: Edge Rusher, Strong Safety
The Kansas City Chiefs over the course of the 2018-2019 NFL season had the second worst total defense in the NFL. However, the one good thing that the Chiefs had going for them on defense was their pass rush, tying for a league high 52 sacks this season. But wait, there’s more. Then, the Chiefs enigmatically made a strength a weakness by letting go their two best pass rusher this off-season in Dee Ford and Justin Houston. Now, one of the Chiefs biggest strengths is their biggest weakness as Ford and Houston accounted for 22 of the Chiefs 52 sacks this season alone. Edge rushers are so monumentally vital on the defensive side of the ball and if Clelin Ferrel slides then the Chiefs may be best advised to trade up. Following the first three or four pass rushers, a first round pick would be a reach for the rest. To make matters worse, the first three or four to go off the board should be gone within the first twenty picks. Kansas City may be handcuffed to trading up this draft due to a sloppy free agency.
Surprise, surprise, I didn’t put running back as a need for the Chiefs. Ultimately, this hypothesis of the Chiefs being fine without an early round running back comes to a couple points. First and foremost, Damien Williams had a lot of success in the shadows this season, presenting quite a showcase of his potential. Furthermore, Kansas City would be better suited to chase a receiving back in the mid rounds a la Trayveon Williams from Texas A&M. But I digress and must get back on topic. “Honey Badger” Tyrann Mathieu was an exciting addition for the Chiefs and promises to add a spark plug in the secondary with speed and playmaking ability galore. However, his minute size and frame makes him an insufficient run defender while his injury history makes him being the only viable safety and given a heavy pitch count, well, concerning. Grabbing a hard hitting box safety round two to replace All-Pro Eric Berry could be a huge move for this defense. A round two trade up would also make sense if Abrams or Rapp slide to the back end of round two. Chauncey-Gardner Johnson out of Florida also has Chief written all over him.
Denver Broncos: Quarterback, Interior Offensive Line
This has Tyrod Taylor engraved in the side of it. Joe Flacco just simply is not an elite quarterback and never has been able to be the bright side of an offense, but instead, provide offenses that simply “get by”. Flacco has never thrown for 30 touchdowns in a season, thrown for 4,000 yards just once, and has never thrown for at least a 65% completion percentage in a season. In fact, Joe Flacco has a lower career passer rating than Lamar Jackson (a scrambling quarterback who is ridiculed for his accuracy issues) did this season. Joe Flacco simply is best served in a Tyrod Taylor in Cleveland type role this season where he provides a bridge for the Broncos’ early round quarterback selection. If you tell me that the Broncos have gone through years of a quarterback carousel where they spent a first round pick on Paxton Lynch and then put all their eggs in on Case Keenum just to end with Flacco as their franchise quarterback, then the Broncos just may be the next Browns (wait, that isn’t an insult anymore). The Broncos must take one of the premier quarterbacks of the draft in Haskins, Murray, or Lock. Personally, Drew Lock has Denver written all over him. Book it.
The Broncos made an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G signing this off-season when they went out and grabbed Ju’Wuan James at right tackle. Now with youngster left tackle Garrett Bolles and James at right tackle, the Broncos have solid edge blockers for the first time in a while. That certainly would help slow down the likes of Bosa, Ingram, and whoever the heck the Chiefs draft. Furthermore, Ron Leary is a solid complimentary piece on the interior offensive line. However, the Broncos allowing Matt Paradis to walk was a puzzling move considering if the Broncos had Paradis at center, this would be a complete and solid offensive line. However, Denver would benefit largely from adding an interior offensive lineman round two to help round out this offensive line. Furthermore, if Denver went and got Alabama’s Jonah Williams round one for the left guard position, this has the potential to form into one of the premier offensive lines in the AFC.
Oakland Raiders: Every position except quarterback and receiver
The Oakland Raiders really do have the most incomplete team I’ve maybe ever seen. The Arizona Cardinals at least have an edge rusher in Chandler Jones, a sufficient veteran corner in Patrick Peterson, a young and promising lineman in Nkemdiche, and a dominant running back (who just has had pitiful offensive lines). The Raiders really do not have a single non-need except quarterback and receiver (Carr, Brown, and Tyrell Williams should be promising). Marshawn Lynch is yet again mulling retirement, Doug Martin is a thing of the past, Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack are out of town, and I can’t even remember the last time the Raiders had a relevant corner or safety outside maybe Karl Joseph (also now gone). Ultimately, the Raiders should just go best player available round one. Personally, a series of picks in the vicinity of defensive line at number four and a combo of corner and Devin Bush at picks 24 and 27 seem to be the best route. If they follow this with a steal like Adderly or Thompson in round two, the Raiders just may create a promising young defense with a high ceiling. However, as of now, the Oakland Raiders cannot possibly be pinpointed to two needs. Sorry for the shorter article.
Unfortunately, our “Biggest Needs” series has come to a conclusion my fellow readers. Fear not however as the draft content will be pumping out all month from The Sports Wave. Let me know down in the comments below what you guys would like to see next!