Draft Division Preview: AFC West

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The draft is almost here! Now that free agency has largely concluded, we have a better view of where each team stands. Where do the back-to-back champs and the rest of their AFC West companions need the most help in the draft?


Let’s get into the AFC West! For each team, we will give some general information on each squad’s 2023, note offseason movement, and give 3 team needs with 3-4 prospects that make sense (some in the earlier rounds and others in the middle; order is based on a combination of expected draft capital and my big board rankings) for each team. Finally, I will also outline who I have each team taking in my most recent mock draft (link here!), sorry for the spoilers!

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Denver Broncos:

What a season it was (not…) for the Broncos. The Russell Wilson experience fully failed in Sean Payton’s initial campaign with the team, and they moved on this offseason. The team will have many new faces, as they have lost quite a few starters. They are looking at a rebuild with multiple botched trades, signings, and early picks. However, with Sean Payton, they will be aggressive and could turn it around (or implode) very quickly. If they can find a quarterback in Jarrett Stidham/Zach Wilson/rookie, they have a decent stable of weapons in Javonte Williams, Jaleel McLaughlin, Cortland Sutton (if he reports), Marvin Mims, and Greg Dulcich (still hoping!!!).

Their IDP squad is more in flux; as Zach Allen is not largely relevant in non-DT leagues. There is competition for LB1 between Alex Singleton and Cody Barton. The team lacks a difference-making EDGE. Aside from Patrick Surtain II, there are no locked-in starters in the DB field, though Ja’Quan McMillian, PJ Locke, and Brandon Jones are interesting.

Departures: 

Additions:

  • Brandon Jones, S, Miami Dolphins
  • Josh Reynolds, WR, Detroit Lions
  • Cody Barton, LB, Washington Commanders
  • Zach Wilson, QB, New York Jets
Draft Picks (8): 1.12, 3.76, 4.121, 5.136, 5.145, 5.147, 6.207, 7.256

Team Needs:

  1. Quarterback: Look at the depth chart… Jarrett Stidham and Ben DiNucci. In a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert (plus the half-dozen or so other stars in the conference), you need to be able to score. The Broncos do not have a difference-maker on the roster as it stands.
    • J.J. McCarthy, Michigan
    • Bo Nix, Oregon
    • Michael Pratt, Tulane
  2. EDGE: Despite how high I was on Drew Sanders (second-year LB, who may be switching to EDGE, as he played dominantly at times in college), the Broncos need a difference-making pass rusher. They have finished in the bottom half of the league in sacks each of the past 3 seasons, failing to replace Von Miller. In a class with some talented rushers, they could look to secure their star early on.
    • Jared Verse, Florida State
    • Laiatu Latu, UCLA
    • Jonah Elliss, Utah
    • Jalyx Hunt, Houston Christian
  3. Outside Corner: Damarri Mathis has some talent, but they need more help next to Pat Surtain II. This may be more of a luxury pick with an already strong coverage unit, but having two lockdown CBs is a great help to compete with the aforementioned superstar QBs in the conference while a younger one develops.
    • Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo
    • Terrion Arnold, Alabama
    • Cam Hart, Notre Dame
    • Khyree Jackson, Oregon

Mock Draft Selections:

  • 1.12: Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State
  • 3.76: Malachi Corley, WR, Western Kentucky
  • 3.97 (trade up with CIN): Michael Pratt, QB, Tulane
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Kansas City Chiefs:

Oops, they did it again! “It” is winning a Super Bowl despite having massive flaws in the receiving corps. They had a rotation up on the defensive line that still saw a star in Chris Jones, a breakout from George Karlaftis, and usable players in Charles Omenihu (now injured) and Mike Danna. The top LBs were typically great week-in and week-out, but predicting which ones was difficult as Nick Bolton was injured and Drue Tranquil and Willie Gay rotated. With Gay off to NoLa, the room should be set: with a healthy Bolton a typical LB1 while Tranquil has LB1 upside. Losing L’Jarius Sneed may cause concern for Trent McDuffie, depending on who Sneed is replaced with. Sneed was in the slot until McDuffie got comfortable as a rookie, could we see the same for McDuffie with a new slot?

On offense, any pass catcher for Patrick Mahomes is intriguing, but who will be catching passes? Hollywood Brown is what he is, and the ongoing legal situation with Rahsee Rice required further time to develop. Will a new name enter the fold? Travis Kelce is elite, but his fantasy production may continue to decline as the Chiefs save him more for the Swiftoffs – err I mean, playoffs. Isiah Pacheco seems to have the RB role locked down but was in danger of being benched early last season with consistently poor vision and ball security. Patrick Mahomes is, well, Mahomes!

Departures: 

  • L’Jarius Sneed, CB, Tennessee Titans (trade)
  • Marquez Valdez-Scantling, WR, unsigned (released)
  • Nick Allegreti, iOL, Washington Commanders
  • Willie Gay, LB, New Orleans Saints
  • Mike Edwards, S, Buffalo Bills

Additions:

  • Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals
  • Carson Wentz, QB, Los Angeles Rams
  • Irv Smith Jr, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
Draft Picks (7): 1.32, 2.65, 3.95, 4.131, 5.159, 5.173, 7.221

Team Needs:

  1. Offensive tackle: Jawaan Taylor and Donovan Smith (current FA) struggled massively here; Wanya Morris showed some promise, but is not a high pedigree prospect. 
    • Amarius Mims, Georgia 
    • Kingsley Suamataia, BYU
    • Patrick Paul, Houston
    • Kiran Amegadjie, Yale
  2. Cornerback: After trading L’Jarius Sneed, the Chiefs could use an upgrade at the outside corner position. They have developed mid/late rounders here well recently, but getting a bigger name may be just what they need.
    • Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama
    • T.J. Tampa, Iowa State
    • Ennis Rakestraw, Missouri
    • Max Melton, Rutgers
  3. Wide Receiver: The Chiefs have notably had plentiful receiver issues over the past two seasons. Getting a pair of more sure hands with some explosion is a must for the team, whether it is trading up or waiting until day 2 in this deep class.
    • Adonai Mitchell, Texas
    • Ladd McConkey, Georgia
    • Ja’Lynn Polk, Washington
    • Jalen McMillan, Washington

Mock draft selections:

  • 1.24 (trade up with PHI): Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas
  • 2.64: Max Melton, CB, Rutgers
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Las Vegas Raiders:

After cutting ties with Josh McDaniels, the Raiders became a frisky team, beating the Chiefs and putting the final nail in Brandon Staley’s Charger coffin. Zamir White took the reins at the end of the season, but will he continue to be unopposed in the backfield this season? They have a great receiving corps in Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, and second-year Michael Mayer, but they will need more consistent QB (and OL) play to reach their lofty ceilings.

On defense, the addition of Christian Wilkins will be great for Maxx Crosby on the field but may steal some tackles from him. Both are locked in top-12 players in their positions, with top overall potential. Robert Spillane remains LB1, but a healthy Divine Deablo or rookie could put that into jeopardy. Neither safety is reliable for IDP, as they rotate box usage (though Marcus Epps remains a favorite under-the-radar pick of this fellow Wyoming alum!). Nate Hobbs is in contention for the top CB, as he has an ideal fantasy CB role, with almost 100% of snaps in the slot.

Departures: 

Additions:

Draft Picks (8): 1.13, 2.44, 3.77, 4.112, 5.148, 6.208, 7.223, 7.229

Team Needs:

  1. Quarterback: Aidan O’Connell was solid as a day-3 rookie, but is clearly not the QB of the future. Gardner Minshew is frisky, but not a competent QB. They are in a similar spot as Denver, needing a game-changing QB to compete with Mahomes, Herbert, and co. 
    • Jayden Daniels, LSU
    • Michael Penix Jr, Washington
    • Bo Nix, Oregon
  2. Right Tackle/offensive line in general: Jermaine Eluemunor left in free agency, leaving a hole at their RT/Swing tackle/guard spot. Thayer Munford is the current starter, which is non-inspiring for the Raiders offense. In order for their QB (spoilers!) to survive and move the ball, they need protection and a difference-maker up front. 
    • JC Latham, Alabama
    • Tailese Fuaga, Oregon State
    • Amarius Mims, Georgia
    • Blake Fisher, Notre Dame
  3. Defensive back: Nate Hobbs and Marcus Epps (Go Pokes!) are solid players in the slot and one safety spot, but the rest of the secondary needs some work. Tre’Von Moehrig has been good, but is on the last year of his rookie deal. Jack Jones and Jakorian Bennett flashed las season, but are massively inconsistent. Getting another stable-to-great outside corner would do wonders to help Maxx Crosby, Christian Wilkins, and co get home.
    • Terrion Arnold, Alabama
    • Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo
    • Jaden Hicks, Washington State
    • Tyler Nubin, Minnesota

Mock draft selections:

  • 1.09 (trade up with CHI): Tailese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State
  • 1.31 (trade up with SF): Michael Penix Jr, QB, Washington
  • 3.95 (trade up with PHI, KC): Blake Corum, RB, Michigan
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Los Angeles Chargers:

The hellish end to the 2022 Wild Card loss did roll into 2023, as the season went off the rails early. Justin Herbert fought through injury early but did end up going on IR to end the year. Once he was less than Superman, the team imploded from the top down, leading to a max exodus this offseason. Currently the RB, WR, and TE rooms are full of disappointing rookie-contract players and mid-level free agents. The OL is fine but needs upgrades in order to keep their golden-armed QB upright and making magic out of Quentin Johnston and Josh Palmer.

On defense, both Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack are back and should be weekly plays when healthy. Tuli Tuipulotu flashed as a rookie and could see an increased workload, especially in an effort to keep Bosa and Mack healthy. Could Daiyan Henley take over as LB1, or will he continue to be a special teamer? Derwin James should stay the course as a DB1, as he moves into the big-safety role that Jesse Minter’s defense uses (see Kyle Hamilton with Mike MacDonald’s Ravens). 

Departures: 

Additions:

Draft Picks (9): 1.05, 2.37, 3.69, 4.105, 4.110, 5.140, 6.181, 7.225, 7.253

Team Needs:

  1. Wide Receiver: After trading away Keenan Allen and cutting Mike Williams, the room is… uninspiring. Quentin Johnston needs to make massive improvements to even see the field, while Josh Palmer is a feisty 3rd WR at his peak. And that is about it on the depth chart. The Chargers need to spend a top-100 pick (or two) on the position, so we go a little deeper on options here with only higher-round talent.
    • Any of the big 3 (Marvin Harrison Jr, Rome Odunze, Malik Nabers is the order I would expect the Chargers to have them in, which happens to reflect my personal rankings)
    • Ja’Lynn Polk, Washington
    • Roman Wilson, Michigan
    • Ladd McConkey, Georgia
    • Ricky Pearsall, Florida
    • Jermaine Burton, Alabama
  2. Linebacker: Kenneth Murray never lived up to his draft stock and is now in Tennessee. Diayan Henley was a project last season and still is far from a sure thing. The only reliable linebacker on the roster now is veteran journeyman Denzel Perryman, who has also been hurt often over his career (never played a full 16/17 game season). They need talent and stability for the new Jesse Minter defense.
    • Junior Colson, Michigan
    • Cedric Gray, North Carolina
    • Jeremiah Trotter Jr, Clemson
    • Michael Barrett, Michigan
  3. Cornerback: The Bolts have been shredded in the passing game recently. Asante Samuel Jr is a solid corner, but there is no one else of note in the corner room.
    • Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo
    • Terrion Arnold, Alabama
    • Dru Phillips, Kentucky
    • Mike Sainristill, Michigan

Mock draft selections:

  • 1.08 (trade back with MIN, back up with ATL): Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
  • 1.23 (from MIN trade): JC Latham, OT, Alabama
  • 2.37: Junior Colson, LB, Michigan
  • 3.69: MarShawn Lloyd, RB, USC

 


Thank you for diving into the AFC West with me! You can find my other work on the IDP Guys Author Page, and feel free to reach out to me directly to discuss rookie profiles, Baltimore Orioles, Star Wars, Bluey, and more @JoeLow63 on X, where you can also find and follow @IDPGuys. Be sure to also check out the IDP+ Mailbag show with me and @JFryeDP Tuesdays at 2CST and the @RideOrDynasty Podcast with @JJWenner, @Jamesonrulez, and myself every Friday!

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