2015 Draft Needs: AFC West
The 2015 NFL draft is finally at hand and here at PFF we are more prepared for it than we’ve ever been. In tallying a full season of FBS data we’ve been able to present you with tons of info at our College Football Focus home page on the soon-to-be NFL rookies that will soon be appearing at training camps across the league.
Armed with this information we’re suggesting viable targets at key positions of need for all the teams, here for the AFC West:
Early Round Target: Ali Marpet, Hobart
The departure of Orlando Franklin to the division rival Chargers leaves a gaping hole at the left guard position. After a drastic line shuffle left Manny Ramirez and Louis Vasquez out of their natural positions of center and guard, respectively, Denver will likely look to return them to the positions they were so successful at in 2013. Ali Marpet would give them that flexibility. He has the size and athleticism to play all five positions and was the highest-graded lineman at the Senior Bowl.
Early Round Target: Michael Bennett, Ohio St.
With no more ‘Pot Roast’ in Denver, there is an opening at defensive tackle. Sylvester Williams will likely get first crack at the base role, but they also need someone to take over Quanterus Smith’s pass rushing snaps. Michael Bennett could excel early on third downs and then transition to full time if they are unable to re-sign Malik Jackson. Bennett’s 40 total pressures last season were the most among NCAA defensive tackles.
Early Round Target: Derron Smith, Fresno St.
Another need created from a free agency departure as Rahim Moore took his talents to Houston. To replace him, the Broncos signed Darian Stewart to pair up with T.J. Ward. Stewart had a career year last season in Baltimore, but his two-year, $4.25m contract suggests many teams saw it as a fluke. Derron Smith could be the pick in a middle round. The Fresno St. safety had the 10th most stops at the position last year with 27.
Kansas City Chiefs
Early Round Target: Nelson Agholor, USC
They signed Jeremy Maclin, but that won’t fix one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL overnight. Dwayne Bowe was released and is now with the Browns leaving DeAnthony Thomas and Jason Avant as the second and third options. Nelson Agholor has the speed and route running ability to excel in an Andy Reid-coached offense. The USC receiver racked up 509 yards from the slot a year ago, third most in the country.
Early Round Target: Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin
Donald Stephenson has yet to show that he can be the answer at right tackle and he’s graded negatively every season of his career. They need someone that could step in right away and have an impact and Rob Havenstein is just that. The Wisconsin right tackle is already a very polished player who didn’t have any penalties accepted against him last season.
Early Round Target: Josue Matias, FSU
The Chiefs’ offensive line has been decimated in recent seasons with the losses of Jon Asamoah, Branden Albert, Geoff Schwartz, and Rodney Hudson. They could use help at virtually any position on the line with Ben Grubbs the only member to prove he’s capable of above average play. Josue Matias could come in and start Day 1 on the interior. The FSU left guard didn’t allow a sack all last season.
Early Round Target: Amari Cooper, Alabama
Even with James Jones and Michael Crabtree signed in recent years the Raiders would still be wise to provide more help to their young quarterback. Our analysts believe Amari Cooper is the surest thing in the draft and he was easily our highest-graded college receiver in 2014.
Early Round Target: Trae Waynes, Michigan State
D.J. Hayden has yet to live up to his draft placement and while T.J. Carrie surprised for a seventh-round pick, he’s no sure thing. With Tarrell Brown and Carlos Rogers hitting free agency, there’s a big question mark at the corner position. No corner will warrant the Top-5 selection and based on projections Trae Waynes likely won’t make it to the early second round, but that’s where we think he’d provide value. A trade-back scenario is always possible and a bit of a project like Waynes would make sense for a rebuilding franchise.
Early Round Target: Zach Vigil, Utah St.
Miles Burris was our lowest-graded linebacker last season and Curtis Lofton is far from the long-term answer. With Sio Moore and Khalil Mack in place, the Raiders have the makings of a solid linebacker corps. Zach Vigil is one of our favorite draft sleepers for his work against the run and rushing the passer. His 58 run stops were the second most in the NCAA last year.
San Diego Chargers
Early Round Target: Henry Anderson, Stanford
It’s clear at this point that Kendall Reyes is not an every-down player. He’s had the worst Run Stop Percentage among 3-4 ends every season of his career. Henry Anderson was the most productive 3-4 end in the country last season grading highly against both run and pass. His 13.2 Run Stop Percentage and 12.1 Pass Rushing Productivity were second and first at his position, respectively.
Early Round Target: Nate Orchard, Utah
With no more Jarret Johnson and Dwight Freeney in San Diego, Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu will be forced into much larger roles than they’ve ever had. Adding another edge defender could ease that transition and bring some juice to their lackluster edge rush. Nate Orchard has the potential to be an every-down player and was the only edge defender in the country to hand Andrus Peat a negative pass blocking grade a year ago.
Early Round Target: Denzel Perryman, Miami (FL)
This one is tricky as Donald Butler’s contract isn’t one that they can get rid of any time soon. With his poor level of play, though, and the average output from Manti Te’o, it’s a position they would be keen to address. Perryman brings an enforcers attitude that the Chargers are missing against the run. He had the fifth best Run Stop Percentage (11.8) among middle linebackers last season.
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