With Denver in the Super Bowl and Kansas City and San Diego wild card playoff teams, The AFC West just might be the best division in the conference. While the Raiders struggled last year, they have done enough to at least be competitive in 2014. I thought all four clubs did well in the draft. Let’s take a look.
Kansas City Chiefs
First round pick Dee Ford had, perhaps, the quickest first step of all the pass rushers in this draft. Though he played down at Auburn, he will have to play on his feet as an OLB in Kansas City but will play down in sub package situations. KC already has two edge rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, but Houston is coming out of contract following the 2014 season. This gives KC much needed depth and contract flexibitlity.
Third round pick Phillip Gaines from Rice was one of the fastest and most athletic corners in the draft. Gaines is already a fairly good press man cover guy, but he needs to improve his off cover skills as well as his run support.
Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas is a unique player. He doesn’t have the size to be an every down player but with his speed and quickness, he is a big play waiting to happen. Get him 15 touches a game as a runner, receiver and return guy and he will give you some big plays every week.
All Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray lacks is ideal height. He is quick footed and athletic with a quick release and a strong arm. It will be interesting to see how Andy Reid utilizes him.
The Chiefs last pick, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif from McGill University in Canada, is an interesting guy. He has the physical traits to be a good NFL player, but coming from Canada, he is very raw. He may need a year on the practice squad, but he could very well develop into a starter down the road.
Zach Fulton, the guard from Tennessee, provides quality depth. He also has position versatility as he can play anywhere along the offensive line.
The AFC champs got themselves a quality corner at the end of the first round. Bradley Roby is a consistent press, off, and zone cover guy who will also support the run. He had one poor game versus Wisconsin, but in every other tape I looked at he was superb.
I’m not as high on Cody Latimer as many other people are. Yes, he is big and runs fast for the stop watch, but he doesn’t play with that speed. He plays like a 4.6 guy and is not quick in and out of cuts. What he does very well is track the ball and win the jump balls. I feel he still needs to develop his route running skills.
I thought the third round may have been a round too high for Michigan tackle Michael Schofield. He has size and is a tough guy, but he lacks top movement skills and needs to get stronger.
On the other hand, getting LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow in the fifth was a steal. He is very athletic and a play maker. I felt he was a third to fourth round type.
While Khalil Mack doesn’t have the natural physical traits that Jadeveon Clowney has, he was not far behind and WAS the best defensive player in the draft. You won’t have to worry about Mack taking off plays! He is an all-around player in that he can defend the run, rush the passer, and drop into coverage, all at a superior level.
I felt Derek Carr was the best quarterback in the draft. The Raiders got a bargain getting him in the second round. Don’t be surprised if he is the starter, come September.
Gabe Jackson is a powerful inside offensive lineman who will help the Raiders running game. He still needs to improve his pass blocking skills but the talent is there for him to be a top player. Justin Ellis is a prototypical nose tackle who will help the run defense. He also gets a surprising push as a pass rusher.
Utah’s Keith McGill is a tall, press corner, the type of player Seattle loves. He needs to develop his man off technique, but he is a very talented player. Getting him in the fourth round is a bargain.
Travis Carrie, Shelby Harris and Jonathan Dowling are all developmental type players who may need a year on the practice squad.
San Diego Chargers
At 5096 – 189, Jason Verrett lacks ideal size, but on tape, he just may have been the best corner in the draft. He is a dynamic playmaker who is proficient in all coverages.
Georgia Tech’s Jerimiah Attaochu is an ideal fit for the Chargers defensive scheme. He can play on his feet or down in a three-poiint stance and make plays form either position. He has excellent pass rush ability, but still needs to develop his pass coverage skills.
Chris Watt played guard at Notre Dame, I think he can be a Pro Bowl center in the NFL. He is a thick, wide body with strength and power. He can dominate as a run blocker, but needs to use his hands better in pass protection.
When you play a 3-4, you need a big anchor in the middle of the line, and that is what Ryan Carrethers is. While not tall, he is very thick and wide and knows how to occupy blockers.
I liked Arizona State’s Marion Grice much higher than a sixth round pick. He can run inside and outside as well as give you something in the pass game. He will be a valuable rotational back for the Chargers. Baylor’s Tevin Reese is a small, but fast slot receiver. He needs to get stronger so he can get off a jam.
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe
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