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NFL Draft Grades: AFC West

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The Sports Xchange

Grading an NFL Draft immediately after it occurs is akin to giving your compliments to the chef based on the menu. It will take at least three years before we can truly assess how the 32 NFL teams fared over the three-day event. But waiting is no fun, so let’s take a take at which teams appear to have done the best job of filling needs and building for the future.

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos: At first glance, the selection of Shane Ray for the Broncos is a bit surprising given the presence of star edge rushers Von Miller and Demarcus Ware, but given Peyton Manning’s advancing age (and some would say declining play), clearly Denver is looking to win right now. The three-headed monster of Miller, Ware and Ray is formidable, especially given that the other clear cut Super Bowl candidates from the AFC (New England, Indianapolis) are so reliant on the pass. New head coach Gary Kubiak didn’t have to look far for an ideal athlete for his beloved zone-blocking offense with Colorado State’s Ty Sambrailo, and Florida’s versatile Max Garcia could also compete for early playing time. Jeff Heuerman isn’t going to make anyone forget about free agent departure Julius Thomas, but is a better player than his limited production at Ohio State would indicate.

Grade: B

Kansas City Chiefs: Say what you will about Marcus Peters’ character, the kid can flat out play. With the Chiefs’ best cornerback, Sean Smith, entering the final year of his contract, this was a selection that makes sense now and in the future for Kansas City. Between Peters and fellow former Pac-12 star Steven Nelson, the Chiefs nabbed two of the more physical, ball-hawking corners in the 2015 draft. Some clubs thought that Mizzou’s Mitch Morse was the draft’s most versatile offensive lineman. Chris Conley didn’t make as many plays at Georgia as his unbelievable athleticism would make seem possible, but that was in part due to the Bulldogs’ focus on the run. More dynamic than any receiver currently on the Chiefs’ roster, he offers the potential playmaking ability to help Alex Smith take his game to another level.

Grade: B

Oakland Raiders: While it may have been a bit surprising to see Oakland pass up on the opportunity to pair up rising star edge rusher Khalil Mack with defensive lineman Leonard Williams, in Amari Cooper the Raiders nabbed their most talented wideout since Hall of Famer Tim Brown. The addition of tight end Clive Walford two rounds later will also help quarterback Derek Carr take the next step. While Cooper and Walford were as safe as it gets at their respective positions in this draft, Oakland gambled on upside with defensive lineman Mario Edwards, Jr., outside linebackers Neiron Ball and Max Valles and seventh round cornerback Dexter McDonald. Of Oakland’s Day Three picks, inside linebacker Ben Heeney (a teammate of McDonald’s at Kansas) is the likeliest to have an immediate impact.

Grade: B-

San Diego Chargers: Perhaps one of the reasons why there had been so much speculation that Philip Rivers might be traded was the fact that the Chargers didn’t seem to have a plan in place at running back to protect him. With the aggressive move up to nab Melvin Gordon III, however, San Diego now boasts a dynamic rusher with underrated receiving and pass-blocking ability to keep the Chargers’ offense humming. The trade up for Gordon left the Chargers with just five picks, but few clubs made more improvements with a limited number of selections. Inside linebacker Denzel Perryman is the best traditional run-stuffing ‘thumper in this class and defensive tackle Darius Philon flashes. Small-schoolers Craig Mager and Kyle Emanuel dominated their level of competition, with the Texas State cornerback ranking as one of my favorite Diamond in the Rough prospects.

Grade: B+

–Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for www.NFLDraftScout.com, a property of The Sports Xchange distributed in partnership with CBSSports.com.


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