The AFC West (much like the AFC South) didn’t focus on acquiring many offensive skill players through the NFL Draft. In fact, there were only two offensive players who went to this division in the entire first round (Patrick Mahomes and Mike Williams).
The Denver Broncos drafted the most players on the offensive side of the ball but waited until the third round before going all-in. Overall, they selected five of them, which matched the total of the other three teams combined. The Chiefs were second with three players, finally getting a quarterback with some rifle power in the form of Mahomes. The Chargers went and got more ammo for Philip Rivers with Williams at seven overall, and the Raiders went mostly defense until grabbing the seventh-round bruiser Elijah Hood at running back. Let’s review the winners and losers from this division.
Carlos Henderson, WR Louisiana Tech Round 3, Pick 18 (No. 82)
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan Round 5, Pick 1 (No. 145)
Isaiah McKenzie, WR, Georgia Round 5, Pick 29 (No. 172)
De’Angelo Henderson, RB, Coastal Carolina Round 6, Pick 19 (No. 203)
Chad Kelly, QB, Mississippi Round 7, Pick 35, (No. 253)
Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech Round 1, Pick 10 (No. 10)
Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo Round 3, Pick 22 (No. 86)
Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan Round 4, Pick 33 (No. 139)
Los Angeles Chargers
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson Round 1, Pick 7 (No. 7)
Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina Round 7, Pick 24 (No. 242)
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The long-term Denver Broncos Quarterback
The winner here is the quarterback of the future, who may or may not end up being Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian. In fact, looking into the future, perhaps the long-term answer will be the talented Chad Kelly, who was drafted in the seventh round. Whoever it is will appreciate how Denver went all out in helping the passing game, drafting two wide receivers and a tight end. They didn’t dip early, but starting in round three, the Broncos drafted five offensive skill positions with their next six picks. I also believe they absolutely stole Jake Butt in the fifth round, who could have been a first round selection had he not been injured. Carlos Henderson is a speed demon and Isaiah McKenzie gives them a deep option at wide receiver and kick returner as well.
Carlos Henderson will play the slot, decreasing pressure on both Thomas and Sanders and giving each an opportunity to burn defenses when it comes down to man-to-man coverage. Teams are simply not going to be able to cover all these players and if they leave Henderson in the zone, he will burn them with his great yards after the catch ability. If they cover him, Thomas and Sanders will make them pay. Henderson also gives the quarterback multiple options, more likely resulting in first downs, keeping the offense on the field and that solidifies the Denver quarterback as a clear winner this year.
Patrick Mahomes QB KC
Mahomes will be the backup quarterback for now, but looking forward he will inherit some nice offensive skill players when Alex Smith moves on or proves to be ineffective. For this season, Jehu Chesson will be a nice rookie addition to the Chiefs wide receiver group that is remarkably young now that Jeremy Maclin (Baltimore) was released. Alex Smith will have Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley, Travis Kelce, Albert Wilson and Chesson to target as he keeps Mahomes’ seat warm.
Chesson has been an enigma in Michigan, either dominating or just looking asleep at the wheel with very little in between. Some of that could be having a bad quarterback, however. Smith and Mahomes will also have a solid running back in Kareem Hunt who can do many of the same things Jamaal Charles did. Andy Reid loves these types of backs and these are usually the ones who score the points in fantasy leagues. All in all, Smith wins in the short-term but Mahomes is clearly going to take the helm at some point in the near future and he’ll have some nice weapons to utilize.
Philip Rivers, QB LAC
The wide receivers for the Chargers have been good when healthy. The problem is that hasn’t happened often enough. Keenan Allen could easily be a top wideout in fantasy and reality if not for his health concerns. With Mike Williams in the fold, Rivers will have another red zone target who knows how to go up and get it. I am a little concerned about his overall talents and experience level, but Williams has the tools to get the job done. The problem here is obvious – Williams is experiencing back trouble and that, combined with the scary neck injury he had in college, is enough to make any dynasty owner if the Chargers injury trouble at wideout is going to get worse before it gets better. Still, the optimist has to believe Rivers is a winner this year as a healthy Williams would give him a dynamic option in the passing game.
Marshawn Lynch, RB OAK
Elijah Hood is going to give Marshawn Lynch the rest he may need. Lynch is long in the tooth and will likely tire more easily. Remember, he started to lose some of his effectiveness the last year he was in Seattle. When situations arise and Lynch needs a breather, look for Hood to come and spell him in short distances and goal line situations.
I believe whoever becomes the starting quarterback this season should brace for next year when Chad Kelly should be ready to play. Kelly is an underrated prospect and his seventh-round draft selection doesn’t really match his talent pedigree. If Kelly’s character concerns prove to be minor and he develops quickly, both of these quarterbacks may have to battle for the starting job this year and the backup job next season if neither really takes advantage of the monster opportunity they have in 2017.
Alex Smith, QB KC
Yes, Smith will be the starter this season. However, Kansas City did not move up in the draft to select Patrick Mahomes to have him sit on the bench for very long. Once the Chiefs selected Mahomes, it basically gave Smith his walking papers. Unless Smith can really push the Chiefs further in the playoffs or magically clicks with the offense, the Chiefs may keep him after the season but it would undoubtedly be more in a mentorship capacity. In that scenario, Smith likely wouldn’t have done enough to warrant a starting job somewhere else anyway and could be amenable to it. Whichever the case may be, Mahomes will be given every chance to succeed as the franchise’s future while Smith is either the backup veteran or starting somewhere else as early as next season.
If healthy, Mike Williams will become the second receiver for the Chargers – this will undoubtedly limit the targets for Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman and the rest of the receiving corps. This will also limit Keenan Allen a bit. In other words, it should relieve man-to-man pressure on Allen, but also take away some of his normal targets. As for the Chargers tight ends, it has been a position for Rivers to go to in the red zone. It will be hard to say if there will be a dramatic change right away, but one of Mike Williams’ specialties is the red zone, and with his stature, it will be difficult for Rivers to look in another direction – this could impact the effectiveness of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry.