Last year, the AFC West saw two teams make it to the playoffs in the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers. Both boasted the top records in the AFC and looked to build on already strong teams in this year’s draft. The Denver Broncos are only a few years removed from being playoff contenders, and John Elway feels the team is close to getting back there again. However, the most interesting team to watch, arguably in the entire draft, was the Oakland Raiders and their three first-round draft picks. Get each of the four team’s 2019 NFL draft grades below.
AFC West 2019 NFL Draft Grades
Denver Broncos: B
The Denver Broncos put in a solid draft, with the strength of it being on the top end. Noah Fant and Dalton Risner should be able to immediately contribute, with them also able to steal Drew Lock in the second round. Their last three picks are developmental guys, who may not see the field right away.
1.20 – Noah Fant, TE
At first glance, the Noah Fant pick was kind of a head-scratcher. Many thought that Denver should have gone after Drew Lock with that pick. Well, it ended up working out, because it turned out that Lock would fall to them over 20 picks later. Still, others felt they could have shored up their offensive line with guys like Andre Dillard, or even a wide receiver like Marquise Brown. However, Fant is has all the skills of a wide receiver, plus the size. He will probably be the best tight end they’ve have since Julius Thomas back in the Peyton Manning days.
2.41 – Dalton Risner, OT
The Broncos came back to their need on the offensive line with their next pick, Dalton Risner. Risner needs work in the pass game, but the Broncos want to run the ball anyway, whether it be in front of the statuesque Joe Flacco, or rookie Drew Lock. They still have Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, so Risner will feel right at home opening up lanes for them if he wins the starting job.
2.42 – Drew Lock, QB
It seemed ludicrous when the Broncos passed not once, but twice on Lock. Denver originally owned the tenth pick in the draft, and many mocked Lock to the Broncos there. However, the Broncos got their man, immediately trading back into the second round after picking Risner. Lock has a ton of upside as a passer but needs to work on his accuracy. The good thing is that as a second-round pick, he won’t be expected to come in and start immediately. He can sit and learn for this season under Flacco if necessary.
3.71 – Dre’Mont Jones, DL
The Broncos decided that you can never have too many pass rushers when they chose Dre’Mont Jones in the third round. They could have taken a flier on a cornerback with contract issues brewing between them and star corner Chris Harris Jr. However, Jones a player who could be molded to play anywhere on the defensive line.
5.156 – Justin Hollins, LB, Oregon
Justin Hollins initially seems like he could get a shot to fill the void left by Brandon Marshall’s departure. However, he is a lengthy linebacker with some pass rushing skills. He is raw, and will need some time to develop, but could see some playing this season.
6.187 – Juwann Winfree, WR, Colorado
Juwann Winfree was the Broncos final pick in the draft after they gave up their two seventh-round picks to move up and draft him. Winfrey isn’t the fastest or strongest guy, but is physical and can run good routes. Still, he is risky, having a ton of various injuries throughout college. Sure, it’s a late-round pick, but risky even by those standards.
Kansas City Chiefs: B-
The Chiefs draft is hard to grade due to their first pick being outside the top 50. They were also without a fourth and fifth-rounder, so there was a huge gap between when they picked. Overall, they filled some holes, but one can’t help but wonder if they could have addressed more pressing needs like cornerback a little earlier.
2.56 Mecole Hardman – WR
The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t have a pick until late in the second round, so it was an uphill battle to choose a player with the potential to immediately contribute. With Tyreek Hill’s future with the Kansas City Chiefs in question, Mecole Hardman might be able to fill in the void. He has 4.3 speed and potential as a return man. His size is a concern, as his comparison at the moment is Tavon Austin.
2.63 – Juan Thornhill – S
Juan Thornhill fills a definite need for the Chiefs on defense. Other than Tyrann Mathieu, the Chiefs really don’t have anyone else at safety. Durability has been a concern for Mathieu as well, making Thornhill a welcome addition. He has a good combination of size and speed but needs some work on his discipline and technique. With good coaching, he can develop into an above-average player.
3.84 – Khalen Saunders – DL
Khalen Saunders is a big man. At 324 pounds, he will be expected to plug up holes in the middle of the defensive line. The Chiefs are also thin at this position, so he could see some playing time during his rookie season, at least as a rotational guy. He faster than his size indicates, but still a bit small for a pure run stopper.
6.201 – Rashad Fenton – CB
Last year, cornerback was arguably the Chiefs biggest weakness. They really didn’t address it in free agency, so it makes sense to roll the dice on a prospect like Rashad Fenton late in the draft. It would have been nice to grab someone early in the draft, but without a top pick, Kansas City didn’t have many options by the time they were on the clock for the first time.
6.214- Darwin Thompson – RB
Darwin Thompson was kind of a head-scratcher at running back. The team already has Damien Williams and Carlos Hyde. Last year, Spencer Ware was also in play after the team released Kareem Hunt. Thompson is a smaller back, who still put up over 1,000 yards last year. He could be a change of pace back at best.
6.216 – Nick Allegretti – C
Nick Allegretti was a depth pick for the Chiefs. With starter Mitch Morse leaving in free agency, the Chiefs need all the help they can get at center. But, if he is forced into action his first season with the team, it could mean trouble.
Los Angeles Chargers: C
The Los Angeles Chargers chose two great players at the top of the draft, but things went a bit downhill after that. They may have waited too long to address the tackle position, which could come back and bite them this season. Despite their pass rush being a strong point, the team opted to spend three of their seven picks on their defensive line.
1.28 – Jeffery Tillery – DT
Defensive tackle is a definite need for the Chargers, but it isn’t necessarily their biggest need. The Chargers have a ton of question marks on their offensive line and could have taken someone like Kaleb McGary or Jawaan Taylor late in the first. Instead, they opted for Tillery, a six-foot-six defensive tackle. Tillery has potential to add some interior pressure to an already stacked set of pass rushers that includes Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The Chargers are building a nightmare of front seven.
2.60 – Nasir Adderley – S
After getting the steal of the first-round with safety Derwin James falling to them last year, the Chargers are going for two in this year’s draft. Nasir Adderley was projected by some to go to Los Angeles in the first round. Many had him as the top-rated safety in the draft. Questions about his competition are likely the reason he fell so far in the draft, but his coverage skills are great, and he will probably slide right in next to James.
3.91 – Trey Pipkins – OT
The Chargers finally addressed their biggest need in the third round with tackle Trey Pipkins. It was kind of surprising to wait this long because guys taken this late usually need a year or two to develop before being ready to contribute. Pipkins has the size, at six-six 309 pounds to excel, but he just needs to refine his technique. He also could be a reach, as many teams had a fourth-round grade on him. Some would argue that Chuma Edoga, taken by the New York Jets right after Pipkins was a safer option. But, as the old adage goes, it’s not a reach if he’s your guy.
4.130 – Drue Tranquill – ILB
Drue Tranquill is a versatile linebacker who is good stopping the run and in pass coverage. He looks like an option to fill the void of standout special teamer Kyle Emanuel, with potential to fill in if needed. Injury concerns are a worry that could stunt his development as a full-time starter.
5.166 – Easton Stick – QB
Easton Stick has one of the more interesting names of any player. However, the pick is kind of interesting itself. No one would be surprised if the Chargers took a quarterback to start grooming to be Philip Rivers’ replacement, but Stick is probably not that guy. Los Angeles is better off rolling with backup Tyrod Taylor if Rivers were to go down and wait another year to draft his successor.
6.200 – Emeke Egbule – DE
The Chargers love their pass rushers. This is really the spot where a developmental offensive tackle may have been a good idea. Instead, the Chargers went with a situational pass rusher in Emeke Egbule. It could work out for them, but it wasn’t really a need.
7.242 – Cortez Broughton – DT
The Chargers final pick is on Cortez Broughton at defensive tackle. Broughton is a bit undersized for a defensive tackle, but was still relatively productive, earning six and a half sacks his final season. There is some potential here, but again, it is not really a need for the Chargers.
Oakland Raiders: B+
The Raiders had a surprisingly good draft despite it being Mike Mayock’s first with the team. It looked like it might be off to a rocky start with Clelin Ferrell projecting as a huge reach at number four, but a theme quickly emerged: high character guys who were sure to be Gruden Grinders. The best part is, almost every pick here has the potential to make some type of impact as a rookie.
1.04 – Clelin Ferrell – DE
Oakland’s first pick started off questionably. Clenin Ferrell was projected by many to go to Oakland – but not with the fourth overall pick. Most believed that he would be there late in the first. Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden must have thought otherwise. Top rated talents like Josh Allen and Ed Oliver were still on the board, so it was surprising to see Oakland go with Ferrell over them. Either way, the Raiders got their guy, and his ceiling is as high as any of the other pass rushers. Many point to Ferrell’s leadership and work ethic as to what got the coach and GM’s attention.
1.24 – Josh Jacobs – RB
It was almost written in stone before the draft that the Silver and Black were going to draft Josh Jacobs. Once Marshawn Lynch announced his retirement, Oakland suddenly had a need at running back, and Jacobs was graded right around where Oakland had its final two first-round picks. Sure enough, the Raiders pulled the trigger on the versatile back. He was the consensus top-rated back, despite limited production. He will fit right into a Raiders offense that already came into the draft with Derek Carr, Antonio Brown, and Tyrell Williams.
1.27 – Johnathan Abram – S
It looked like Oakland might get a steal in Montez Sweat when he was still available at 26, right before their last of three first-round picks. However, the Washington Redskins ended up trading up to snag him right under the Raiders’ noses. However, Oakland still gets a top rated player at his position in safety Johnathan Abram. Abram is a hard-hitting safety who excels in the box. He’s similar to former Raiders first-round pick, Karl Joseph, only bigger. Abram will give the Raiders versatility to move Joseph and newcomer Lamarcus Joyner around in the secondary.
2.40 – Trayvon Mullen
For the third straight time, the Raiders potentially had a player they were targeting snatched right from under them. Rock Ya-Sin was taken by the Indianapolis Colts the pick before Oakland was set to pick at 34. After that, Oakland ended up trading back twice, all the way to number 40, where they took Trayvon Mullen. It could have been the plan all along though, as Mullen was one of three Clemson players Mayock ended up taking.
4.106 – Maxx Crosby – DE
Maxx Crosby is the first of three fourth-round draft picks by the Raiders. Crosby is another highly productive, high ceiling player who provides some depth at defensive end. If he develops quickly, he could challenge Arden Key for playing time opposite of Clelin Ferrell
4.129 – Isaiah Johnson – CB
Isaiah Johnson is almost a duplicate of Mullen, only with a lower draft grade. He’s a big, physical corner who also used to play wide receiver. He’ll have chance to sit and develop for a year or two if necessary.
4.137 – Foster Moreau – TE
Many projected the Raiders to go after T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant with one of their late first-round picks to replace the departed Jared Cook. However, both were off the board by the time Oakland was up. Instead, Oakland opted to wait until the fourth round, taking Foster Moreau. He was a respected teammate and great blocker. The scheme there didn’t have him catching passes, but he is athletic enough to develop his pass-catching skills.
5.149 Hunter Renfrow – WR
Hunter Renfrow has the potential to make an impact out of the slot. Starting as a walk-on at Clemson, he became a highly productive player for the school, racking up over 2,000 receiving yards while he was there. He’ll have to bulk up his 175-pound frame to stick around long in the NFL, but, there won’t be a lack of effort from this young man.
7.230 Quinton Bell – DE
Quinton Bell is exactly what you want when you take a seventh-round pick. He has the potential to fill a need at pass rusher, Oakland’s biggest weakness. But, to say he is a project is an understatement. Last season was his first year ever playing defensive end, converting over from wide receiver. Still, he had 7.5 sacks.
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