Second Year Spotlight: AFC West

Justin Ellis – DT – Oakland Raiders As a fourth round draft pick out of Louisiana Tech, not much was expected from defensive tackle Justin Ellis. He outplayed expectations by starting 14 games and finishing the season with 21 total tackles. Now in his second year, Ellis and the Raiders would like to see vast improvement. After taking part in a full offseason program, he will be in much better shape to take on the long NFL season. The feeling is that the Raiders would love to see Ellis double his production from his rookie year, and that shouldn’t be a problem. The area where he needs to show the most improvement is with his pass rush. Last year, he did not register a sack, and while pass rushing will never be his forte, he still needs to improve. Ellis has a quick first step. He just needs to stay low and use his hands better. My feeling is that we should see Justin finish the year with three to four sacks on the season. By being in better condition, he will be able to play more snaps, and his work against the run will also improve. He has the physical tools to become a very good inside player in the league and will start to see that this season. Dontrelle Inman – WR – San Diego Chargers For the first 14 games of the 2014 season, wide receiver Dontrelle Inman had no production. In the final two games, he caught 12 passes for 158 yards and no touchdowns. Throughout the offseason and OTA’s, Inman has continued to build on that impressive finish to last season. He is a sure-handed, tough possession-type receiver who quarterback Phillip Rivers has confidence in. With his size (6’3 – 210) he can create mismatches and he has the quickness and burst to gain separation on a consistent basis. With the signing of Stevie Johnson as a free agent, Inman might not be a starter, but he will get plenty of play time. What he showed in the final two games is just a sign of what is to come. Cody Latimer – WR – Denver Broncos To say Cody Latimer’s rookie season was a disappointment is an understatement. The 2014 second round choice caught only two passes for a total of 23 yards. Coming from an unsophisticated Indiana offense, Latimer was in learning mode for most of the season. With Peyton Manning at quarterback, the receivers better know what they are doing. If there is no trust between Manning and a receiver, there is no sense in him being in the game. With a year under his belt, Latimer goes into the 2015 season with much more confidence and he should be able to make a contribution. He has all the physical tools to be a very good NFL receiver. At 6’2 -2 he has excellent size to go along with very good overall athleticism, speed and explosion. By the time the 2015 season opens, I expect Latimer to be the Broncos third receiver, and I can see his production being what a third receiver in that offense should have (at least 50 catches). Dee Ford –OLB – Kansas City Chiefs Last year, Ford who was a first round pick, did not have very good production. He finished the season with 7.0 total tackles and 1.5 sacks. Part of the reason is Ford has two outstanding players in front of him on the depth chart. Justin Houston is one of the better pass rushing outside linebackers in the league (22 sacks a year ago) and Tamba Hali has been a defensive leader for years. Still, Hali is on the wrong side of 30 and is coming off minor knee surgery during the off season. While Ford still may not be a starter in 2015, his play time will increase and the Chiefs will find a way to get him on the field. Coming out of Auburn, Ford was one of the better pass rushers in last year’s draft class. He has spent the last year getting bigger and stronger and refining his technique. I expect Ford to do some big things this year playing in a rotational role. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe