Draft Needs: AFC West
Neil Hornsby offers a team-by-team display of positional draft needs for the AFC West.
Draft Needs: AFC West
At PFF we’re not big on telling you things we don’t know about first hand, so saying who a team should draft is not something you’ll see here. However, giving you our view on areas of need, is another matter. With free agency essentially in the books, we thought this might be a good opportunity to give you a pre-draft look at the areas they should look to address either via the draft or otherwise .
You know how much we like colour-coding everything and this set of articles (one for each division) is no exception. Before you dig in we’d highly recommend you check out the legend – these are not player grades as in our projected line-ups series, we are grading need. Obviously, to some degree, they are related but not always. Let’s be clear, the fact that in the AFC East Review we have the Patriots QB situation as a slightly higher need than that of the Jets does not mean we are saying Geno Smith is a better QB than Tom Brady; just that Smith has shown enough to say he deserves a decent shot and with Michael Vick backing him up there is no immediate need to draft another QB while in New England it may be time for them to consider a successor to the great man particularly given Ryan Mallett is a free agent next year and shown very little in recent preseasons.
In some of the grades we are also considering the depth behind the player listed so, for example, with Buffalo’s slot corner position the fact they have Nickell Robey as well as Corey Graham ensures this is a straight dark green. However, where this is the case, I’ll mention it in the text below relating to each team.
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To say this team is close is pretty redundant. Last year, without three of their premier players, they easily got to the Super Bowl before being out-matched against the supremely talented Seahawks. Add back in Ryan Clady, Von Miller and Chris Harris then supplement with DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward (I’ll call Aqib Talib for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a wash) and there’s no doubt this team is improved. So how can they go further? As they learned from their opponents in February, more depth on the defensive line is always useful and an all-around player at MLB helps a lot. Adding more corners is perhaps a luxury, but they can afford it so why not?
Two aspects of the playoff game in Indianapolis showed the way to go for the Chiefs. How much better the offense looked when it got acceptable production from its wide receivers stood out as did the fragility of the secondary. It’s no revelation that KC needs to get someone to complement Dwayne Bowe at WR, but they need to bolster the corner position too. For the last two years (with different teams) Sean Smith has been great for the first half of the season and rotten thereafter. Add to this that Marcus Copper was exposed following a good start and Brandon Flowers, while still a superior CB, is in slow decline and its clear help is needed.
Finally, losing one Top-20 guard would hurt but two is eye-watering and will need to be rectified.
Well, the roster looks better but the proliferation of what are effectively a bunch of one-year contracts leaves a very shaky feel to the whole thing. It’s quite difficult to name more than five starters you can absolutely guarantee (injury aside) will be starting in 2015. That leaves loads of options and young productive talent, at whatever position, has got to be the order of the day. That said, Matt Schaub was at his best only a better than average quarterback. In 2013 we saw the worst and it was frightening just how badly he disintegrated. He’s a ticking bomb the Raiders need to plan for now.
So contrary to popular belief Philip Rivers wasn’t over the hill and neither were the Chargers. A superior coaching job turned the Chargers into a playoff team but don’t let that mask a fair number of roster deficiencies. The corners vied for the league’s worst in 2013 and, if anything, look worse now. While the defense may be able to patch together a pass rush from Dwight Freeney and Melvin Ingram, it’s a huge risk I wouldn’t take. Finally, hasn’t the Jeromey Clary experiment just gone too far? He was an awful tackle and now we know he’s an awful guard. Eight years is a long time to be in the league when you’ve averaged a -10.7 grade the last four years.
Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil