2018 NFL Draft Needs by Team: AFC West
April truly is one of the best times of the year for sports fans. Baseball is back, The Masters takes place, the NBA postseason starts, and of course, the annual NFL Draft takes place. As great as those other events are, the impressive growth in popularity of the NFL makes the first round of the draft one of the most important days on the sports calendar.
With that popularity comes the need to analyze each team’s needs, study incoming NFL rookies and for football fans to have an idea of how their favorite franchise might approach the NFL Draft. With so much news to cover, this can be a monumental task for the average fan, so the FantasyPros team is breaking down the draft needs for all 32 NFL teams.
Draft Picks: No. 5, No. 40, No. 71, No. 99, No. 106, No. 113 (via WAS), No. 149 (via WAS), No. 160 (via LAR)
Team Needs: OL, DB, EDGE, WR, ILB, TE
The Broncos are in an excellent position to add an immediate impact starter, as most of the top-five is linked to a quarterback. This also includes Denver, but after signing Case Keenum to a two-year $36 million deal, John Elway doesn’t necessarily need to grab a future franchise quarterback. That doesn’t mean the team won’t, however, as the 2018 QB draft class is loaded with potential difference makers.
Regardless of who is under center, the Broncos need to rebuild a sagging offensive line that allowed 52 sacks and ranked 29th in pass blocking last season. LT Garett Bolles showed well as a rookie, and the Broncos acquired RT Jared Veldheer from Arizona for a sixth-round pick. The interior of the line is much more problematic and could use an infusion of youth. Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson is considered a potential All-Pro and would be a tremendous addition to Denver’s front five.
John Elway traded Aqib Talib to the Rams, which means Denver will now have free agent addition Tramaine Brock and Bradley Roby as potential perimeter cornerbacks, with Chris Harris remaining the slot corner. Adding an elite defensive back like Ohio State CB Denzel Ward, Florida State S Derwin James, or Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick would fill an immediate need with a Day One starter and keep Denver’s defense in the league’s upper echelon.
That defense is still formidable but hasn’t been the same since losing LB Danny Trevathan to Chicago. The Broncos D-line accounted for just 33 sacks last season, which was below average. An edge rusher or inside linebacker to play next to Von Miller is a need and Bradley Chubb would make an intriguing option if he’s on the board.
All skill position groups could use some depth. Outside of the aging duo of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, Denver’s is lacking pass catchers and has one of the worst tight end situations in football. Both of these positions are likely to be addressed in the middle rounds of this draft. There have also been talks of Elway parting ways with RB C.J. Anderson, which would leave the backfield in need of depth.
Kansas City Chiefs
Draft Picks: No. 54, No. 78 (via WAS), No. 86, No. 122, No. 124 (via WAS), No. 209, No. 233 (via ARZ), No. 243 (via TEN)
Team Needs: EDGE, DB, OG, OT
The Chiefs find themselves sans a first-round pick due to last year’s trade up for new starting QB Patrick Mahomes. KC also signed WR Sammy Watkins as a much-needed boost to their receiving corps and will likely use the 2018 NFL Draft to add depth to their secondary and add reinforcements in the trenches.
Edge rusher Tamba Hali was released, which opens up the Chiefs’ most significant need. Kansas City struggled to generate a pass rush last season and also fared poorly against the run, so any help along the defensive line or linebacking corps will be a priority for Andy Reid and new GM Brett Veach.
Kansas City also retooled their defensive backfield this offseason, jettisoning CB Marcus Peters and S Ron Parker and bringing in CBs Kendall Fuller and David Amerson. The return of SS Eric Berry will be a welcomed addition to KC’s secondary, but the club still needs to add depth on the back end.
Offensively, the Chiefs will need to keep their first-year quarterback upright, and that will require offensive line attention in this draft. The club lost OG Zach Fulton to Houston and could also use an upgrade at tackle, where LT Eric Fisher has been merely adequate.
Players to Target: Braden Smith (OG), Malik Jefferson (ILB), Connor Williams (OL), Maurice Hurst (DT), Isaiah Oliver (CB), Orlando Brown (OT), Josh Sweat (EDGE)
Los Angeles Chargers
Draft Picks: No. 17, No, 48, No. 84, No. 119, No. 155, No. 191, No. 251
Team Needs: OT, DT, WR, S
After a 0-4 start, the Chargers ended up on the plus side of .500, including winning six of their last seven games. Now considered early favorites to win the AFC West, Los Angeles will look to shore up an offensive line that had issues with run blocking while also having flexibility as they enter the draft with no glaring needs.
Rushing the passer is not an issue for LA, as the Chargers boast a pair of talented edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Where the club lacks is in run defense, where Los Angeles ranked as a bottom-10 unit in 2017. Adding a run-clogging defensive tackle into Gus Bradley’s 4-3 scheme would open up lanes for Bosa and Ingram and shore up the club’s biggest weakness.
In 2017, WR Keenan Allen was terrific and finally stayed healthy, but he’s battled injuries throughout his career, and the Chargers don’t have a lot of strong talent behind him with replacement-level players like Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, and last year’s first-round disappointment, Mike Williams. It’s unlikely that the Chargers will use another premium pick on a wideout, but pass-catching depth is needed. We could see this crop of wideouts slip further than usual, which would push talented receivers down to where the Chargers could be tempted.
Tre Boston was solid last season but is currently unsigned. That leaves FS Adrian Phillips penciled in as the starter opposite of Jahleel Addae. The Chargers have a pair of excellent cornerbacks in Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett but could use some depth at safety. Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick will be a solid choice if he slips in this draft, which is something that some insiders think is a real possibility.
Players to Target: Da’Ron Payne (DT), Kolton Miller (OT), Mike McGlinchey (OT), Isaiah Wynn (OG), Mike Hughes (CB), Josh Jackson (CB), Justin Reid (S), Deon Cain (WR)
Draft Picks: No. 10, No. 41, No. 75, No. 110, No. 159 (via KC), No. 173 (via DAL), No. 185, No. 212, No. 216, No. 217, No. 228
Team Needs: LB, CB, OT, S
The Raiders seem to be rekindling their past and going rogue once again, bringing in recycled head coach Jon Gruden to turn around what has been a mediocre run for the club as it prepares to leave Oakland once again. Gruden has sheepishly claimed that he intends to embrace old-school football, so it’s hard to know how the club will approach this draft or just how serious Gruden is.
Khalil Mack has been terrific, but the Raiders have little talent around him. The club could use multiple linebackers and should be in an excellent position to nab Georgia LB Roquan Smith or Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds with the tenth pick. Either player would be an excellent fit for a defense that sorely could use an upgrade.
Oakland’s defense forced just 31 sacks last season and secured an NFL-low five interceptions. They need to get better at both cornerback and safety, which puts some talented defensive backs in play with the No. 10 pick.
If Gruden is serious about returning to 90’s football, the Raiders are going to have to get better at running the ball, so an upgraded offensive line will be a priority. RB Marshawn Lynch also didn’t inspire a lot of confidence, so it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see Gruden take advantage of this deep running back class by spending a Day Two pick on a tailback.