by Dave Syvertsen, Ourlads’ Draft Analyst
Below is a quick overview of the each team’s draft in the AFC West with a focus on what they really tried to do with this class. Also noted is their best value pick and top undrafted free agent signing. Value is based on where they were selected and where I had them graded.
1 (5) – Khalil Mack – LB/Buffalo
2 (36) – Derek Carr – QB/Fresno State
3 (81) – Gabe Jackson – G/Mississippi State
4 (107) – Justin Ellis – DT/Louisiana Tech
4 (116) – Keith McGill – CB/Utah
7 (219) – Travis Carrie – CB/Ohio
7 (235) – Shelby Harris – DE/Illinois State
7 (247) – Jonathan Dowling – S – Western Kentucky
I have quietly loved what Oakland has done over the past year to improve the direction of this troubled franchise. This draft will allow them to leapfrog a stage of progression, as I see a bunch of kids that can elevate their respective side of the ball right away. Carr finished the grading process as my top QB, and Mack finished as the best edge presence not named Clowney. That is a great 1-2 get for this team. Beyond those two, Oakland picked up my top sleeper CB in Carrie and made the effort to upgrade the presence along both lines. When it comes to building through the draft, this class is a go-to guide for how it should be done.
Top Value Pick: Travis Carrie – CB/Ohio (3rd round grade)
As I mentioned above, Carrie is my top CB that nobody talks about. He has size and strength to go with smooth hips, easy feet, and a knack for anticipating the action. He has shown legit ability in man coverage and while he needs to acclimate himself to NFL speed from a lower level of college football, I see Carrie being a starter within 2 years. He also has the physical tool set to play some safety in mix packages.
Top UDFA: Carlos Fields JR. – LB/Winston Salem State
I am always on the look out for quality 4-3 LBs, as I think they are still a vital factor to a good defense despite their league-wide value being diminished by the pass happy offenses. Fields is a violent player that always looks like he has something to prove. His speed from tackle to tackle can be put up there with anyone in this draft and in addition to that, he always seems to have a power presence about him whether he is making a hit or ridding himself of a blocker.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
1 (23) Dee Ford – DE/Auburn
3(87) Phillip Gaines – CB/Rice
4 (124) – De’Anthony Thomas – RB/Oregon
5 (163) – Aaron Murray – QB/Georgia
6 (193) – Zach Fulton – G/Tennessee
6 (200) – Laurent Duvernay-Tardif – OT/McGill
After the biggest turnaround from 2012 to 2013 in the league, Kansas City entered the draft with very few holes. It seems they tried as best they could to simply stick to their board because they did not exactly address those needs with any sort of early round aggression. They made two great value picks in Gaines and Murray, preparing themselves for potential free agency issues next year. The impact of this class won’t be immediate but that isn’t always the end-goal.
Top Value Pick: Phillip Gaines – CB/Rice (2nd round grade)
Gaines offers the size and length that the NFL is constantly looking for at the CB position these days. But in addition we are talking about a kid with legit 4.4 speed and ball skills. Put all of those in to one player and it’s hard not to see enormous potential here. Gaines can fit any scheme because of his tool set and ability to diagnose. He’ll need a year of seasoning but he may already be the most talented CB on this team.
Top UDFA: Albert Wilson – WR/Georgia State (7th round grade)
Many expected Kansas City to go after a WR early on, if not at some point over the weekend. However all six picks passed without one being brought in. Enter Wilson, a short but strong, thick, explosive small school playmaker who I think has a clear shot at making the roster and possibly even competing for a role as a return man and slot receiver. He is coming from a small school conference, this the leap in competition needs to be accounted for but the opportunity will be there for someone to grab.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
1 (25) – Jason Verrett – CB/TCU
2 (50) – Jeremiah Attaochu – OLB/Georgia Tech
3 (89) – Chris Watt – G – Notre Dame
5 (165) – Ryan Carrethers – DT/Arkansas State
6 (201) – Marion Grice – RB/Arizona State
7 (240) – Tevin Reese – WR/Baylor
San Diego did not have a lot of ammo to work with over draft weekend but they attacked their needs while maintaining proper value throughout. If they have any intention on taking the division crown away from Denver, their defense needed to be built up on all three levels. I really like what they did by adding a DL, LB, and a DB that can all make an early impact. The upside of these picks may be limited but they are all quality players that should make the team and at the very least provide an upgrade in quality depth.
Top Value Pick: Jason Verrett – CB/TCU (top 10 grade)
If size were no factor, Verrett would have been my top corner in this draft class by a comfortable margin. He has elite movement ability when moving in any direction, in any kind of role. Verrett may be pound for pound the toughest DB in this entire class and that chip on his shoulder combined with the movement and ability to read the action will get him involved with a lot of big plays. While the league has made its way to bigger, longer cover men, a player like Verrett will always have a spot in this league. A guy that can stick to a receivers back pocket and make plenty of plays on the ball is really important and it always will be. I think Verrett becomes the team’s top corner within a year or two.
Top UDFA: Colton Underwood – DE/Illinois State
The Chargers have had some issues trying to fill their pass rushing spots with quality, consistent players. The injury bug has bitten hard and some of their young guys just haven’t panned out. Underwood will have to fight hard to make this team but I think he has a good shot of doing so. He is a really good athlete that plays with strong hands and developed technique. He played at a lower level of college football but he performed well as a result of doing the little things right and consistently locating the football. Simply put, Underwood is a gamer that finds ways to make things happen.
1 (31) – Bradley Roby – CB/Ohio State
2 (56) – Cody Latimer – WR/Indiana
3 (95) – Michael Schofield – OT/Michigan
5 (156) – Lamin Barrow – LB/LSU
6 (207) – Matt Paradis – C/Boise State
7 (242) – Corey Nelson – LB/Oklahoma
Denver has made their offseason very much about free agency, bringing established production in to the fold. It’s a reasonable approach considering Manning may only have another year or two left in the tank. With this draft their main focus was to add depth to the offensive line and acquire a DB talent. Beyond that, I think they simply stuck to their board with the hope that a couple of these guys could at least help out on special teams.
Top Value Pick: Cody Latimer – WR/Indiana (1st round grade)
Latimer was part of a deep WR class that I had a feeling Denver was going to make their way in to. Latimer is a great fit for what this team needs in an effort to try and replace Eric Decker. I’m not sure he will break in to the top 3 rotation but he has the talent to make things happen here. There is a lot of ability when it comes to catching the ball and getting yards after the catch. He can be a tough matchup for guys because of his size/strength/quickness combination. If not this year, look for Latimer to shine in 2015.
Top UDFA: Bennie Fowler – WR/Michigan State (5th round grade)
The Denver WR group may make this a tough roster for Fowler to make, but I really like this kid. He lacks the ideal size and speed but every time I watched him play, he stood out. He gets himself open and attacks the football in the air. He showed really good ball skills when it came to tracking the deep ball but also when he was in intermediate traffic. This is the kind of receiver that Manning loves throwing to, reliable and safe.