NFL Draft 2019: Best of the AFC West

NFL Draft 2019: Best of the AFC West
Reading Time: 10 minutes.

The 2019 NFL Draft is officially over!

From the first selection of Kyler Murray, to the final selection of “Mr Irrelevant” Caleb Wilson, the fans in Nashville were treated to a show. Despite the clamour around the pick of Murray, it was defence that nominated. Of the 32 first round selections, 18 belonged to the defence. The linebacker class led the way overall with 33 selections, narrowly beating out the cornerback class.

It was a draft of records. The SEC conference saw 64 of it’s college players selected, a new record for the number of players drafted from one conference. There was a record 40 trades between teams which beat out the 2017 record of 37 trades. A record crowd packed down Broadway to witness the stars of the future, with over 500,000 reportedly turning up over the three days.

The 2019 AFC West Draft Class…

So, with all the picks in, one question remains. Which teams won and which teams lost in this year’s draft? In this week’s Hodgkinson’s Huddle, I break down the picks for each AFC West team and focus on the highs and lows.

Oakland Raiders

  • 4: Clelin Ferrell – DE – Clemson
  • 24: Josh Jacobs – RB – Alabama
  • 27: Jonathan Abram – S – Mississippi State
  • 40: Trayvon Mullen – CB – Clemson
  • 106: Maxx Crosby – DE – East Michigan
  • 129: Isaiah Johnson – CB – Houston
  • 137: Foster Moreau – TE – LSU
  • 149: Hunter Renfrow – WR – Clemson
  • 230: Quinton Bell – DE – Eden Prairie

There can be no doubting that the Oakland Raiders were the most intriguing team going in to the NFL Draft. They held the highest number of first round picks and already used some draft capital in snagging Antonio Brown. All eyes were on new GM, Mike Mayock, as to how he would use them.

For me, they were one of the winners of the draft.

Their selections have Mayock’s stamp all over them. High character, high effort players are his thing and Oakland picked a bunch of them. There are some really high quality picks here, from start to finish. He can be rightly proud of his first NFL Draft behind the wheel.

Surprise in the first round…

Photo Credit: @NinetynineYards

That said, there were some gasps from the crowd when Roger Goodell announced the selection of Clelin Ferrell at number 4 overall. Some called it a surprise selection, some a bad selection. I love the selection and I love Clelin Ferrell. Oakland fans, you’re going to love him too. He fits the mold perfectly of what Mike Mayock wants to do. The Raiders needed an edge rusher and they got a beast. What they also got is a proven winner. If ever a team needed proven winners on their team, the Raiders are that team.

They have filled the team with them in this class. You could be forgiven for thinking that Mayock went to the College Football National Championship Game, watched Clemson dominate Alabama, and returned with the desire to draft all their players. In the end, he had to settle for just three. Trayvon Mullen and Hunter Renfrow joined Ferrell in the silver and black.

Leadership in the secondary…

Mullen joins a defence that was vastly in need of direction and leadership. They found that leadership in the form of safety Johnathan Abram. The hard hitter from Mississippi State will bring not only leadership but an aggressive approach to the game.

The whole approach from the Raiders was to get better on defence. Ferrell, Mullen and Abram were the marquee pieces selected but they added plenty of others as the draft progressed. Isaiah Johnson from Houston joins the defensive back room. Maxx Crosby, a defensive end from East Michigan, provides an additional pass rush threat. He really came to the fore at the combine and will be a great addition.

With their final pick, they selected Quinton Bell from Prairie View A & M. Bell came in to Prairie View as a wide receiver but changed to defensive end for 2018. In his only season as an end he tallied 7.5 sacks. Having turned heads at his pro day, the Raiders give him a chance to develop in the NFL.

New weapons for Derek Carr…

As well as getting better on defence, the Raiders gave Derek Carr some new weapons to play with. Marshawn Lynch’s retirement in the week before the NFL Draft left a hole in the backfield. They filled that with Josh Jacobs. His rags to riches to Raiders story is one that will endear him to fans. He is also that rare commodity, a college running back that hasn’t been run to death during his career.

Mayock also hit on a high character guy on offence with the selection of Foster Moreau. The former LSU tight end will provide quality and leadership on and off the field. At LSU he wore the fabled number 18 shirt, an honour bestowed on a player that exemplifies quality on and off the field.

A successful NFL draft with very little drama for Oakland. The turn around has begun.

Kansas City Chiefs

  • 56: Mecole Hardman – WR – Georgia
  • 63: Juan Thornhill – S – Virginia
  • 84: Khalen Saunders – DT – Western Illinois
  • 201: Rashad Fenton – CB – South Carolina
  • 214: Derwin Thompson – RB – Utah State
  • 216: Nick Alegretti – G – Illinois

The Chiefs biggest move of the NFL Draft came before Roger Goodell even put the Arizona Cardinals on the clock. They traded their first round pick to Seattle for defensive end Frank Clark. They had also secured Emmanuel Ogbah to bring the pass rush threat that had been lost with trading away Dee Ford and allowing Justin Houston to walk to Indianapolis.

I’m not sold on what the Kansas Chiefs are doing. I may be completely wrong, and come February I may be eating my own hat, but they just don’t feel like a team that are set up to repeat last year’s success. Which is a huge shame for Patrick Mahomes.

I did like what they did with a couple of picks in this draft however.

Keen on Khalen…

Photo Credit: Chiefs Wire – USA Today

Let’s start with the pick that I loved the most for them. At pick 84 they selected Khalen Saunders, a defensive tackle from Western Illinois. Saunders was one of my favourite players in this class. I studied him a lot at the Senior Bowl and he got after it. As a small school prospect, every opportunity to showcase your talent has to be maximised and he did just that. Missing the birth of his daughter to pursue his dream has paid off with his landing spot here. Chiefs fans, you are getting a strong, athletic tackle who is going to be a starter in the middle of Spagnuolo’s 4-3 base defence for years to come.

Juan Thornhill is another defensive selection to get excited by. With him and the “Honey Badger”, Tyrann Mathieu, patrolling the secondary, the Chiefs have got significantly better at the back end of the defence. The Kansas City front office will have been blown away by Thornhill’s athletic ability which he showcased at the combine. They also addressed a need in the secondary by drafting Rashad Fenton from South Carolina. However, it is undrafted free agent Mark Fields that I see having a more productive career at Arrowhead.

Mahomes to Mecole…

Their first selection of the draft came at pick 56. Unfortunately for Mecole Hardman, the circumstances around the need to pick a wide receiver overshadowed the selection itself. Hardman set the combine alight with his pace. He gives Mahomes a legitimate threat as he looks to repeat 2018’s 50 touchdown and 5000+ yard performance.

The Chiefs only had six selections in the 2019 NFL Draft. I’m not sure that they are the six steps to success that they will need to reach the Super Bowl.

Los Angeles Chargers

  • 28: Jerry Tillery – DT – Notre Dame
  • 60: Nasir Adderley – S – Delaware
  • 91: Trey Pipkins – OT – Sioux Falls
  • 130: Drue Tranquill – LB – Notre Dame
  • 166: Easton Stick – QB – North Dakota State
  • 200: Emele Egbule – LB – Houston
  • 291: Cortez Broughton – DT – Cincinnati

Prior to the NFL Draft, I had two theories of how it might go for the Chargers. They could load up on tools to protect Philip Rivers and give him a shot to win a Super Bowl now. The other alternative was to load up on defensive pieces and create a monster for years to come. My vision for both also included a succession plan for when Rivers finally retires.

What the Chargers actually did was manage to combine all of those aspects.

Defining the defence…

Photo Credit: @NinetynineYards.com

Their draft class is one that’s really impressive to my mind. Within the first two picks they’ve shaped their defence for the next few years and it’s going to be an absolute monster.

With Melvin Ingram off one edge, and Joey Bosa off the other edge, they now have Jerry Tillery anchoring the middle of the line. It’s a truly terrifying prospect for opposition offences. They also added some defensive tackle depth with Cincinnati’s Cortez Broughton.

If Bosa/Ingram/Tillery wasn’t terrifying enough, you’ve then got Nasir Adderley to contend with. The Chargers must have been absolutely ecstatic when he was still there at pick 60. He was a standout at the Senior Bowl, which he used perfectly did plot his path from the FCS to the NFL. Adderley brings high intelligence and a hard hitting style which will fit in perfectly with some of the things the Chargers do on defence.

Loading up at linebacker…

Playing between Tillery and Adderley on the field will be Drue Tranquill and Emele Egbule. The linebacker position was one of the big needs for the Chargers and they’ve taken two shots at it. Tranquill in particular brings a level of versatility to the position which should see him compete for a starting spot from the off.

The succession plan for Rivers comes in the form of North Dakota State’s Easton Stick. The Chargers will be hoping that Stick can follow his NDSU alum, Carson Wentz, in to being a successful NFL starting quarterback. Stick is an intriguing prospect. He’s a true dual threat quarterback that has been highly successful at the college level. The Chargers picked up his former offensive lineman, Tanner Volson, as a free agent as soon as the draft concluded.

The head scratcher from Sioux Falls…

The real head scratcher of the Chargers draft was the selection at 91 of Trey Pipkins, a tackle from Sioux Falls. Projected as a possible Day 3 prospect, the Chargers pulled the trigger very early on him. He becomes the first non-kicker to be drafted out of Sioux Falls. Although he only allowed one sack as a junior and none as a senior, there were some bigger names available at the tackle position when he was picked.

With all things considered, it was an exceptionally good weekend for the Chargers in Nashville. They were one of the best overall teams in the NFL last season and have got better through the draft.

The Super Bowl window for Phil Rivers is wide open.

Denver Broncos

  • 20: Noah Fant – TE – Iowa
  • 41: Dalton Risner – OT – Kansas State
  • 42: Drew Lock – QB – Missouri
  • 71: Dre’Mont Jones – DT – Ohio State
  • 156: Justin Hollins – DE – Oregon
  • 187: Juwann Winfree – WR Colorado

Mike Mayock has some serious competition for the award of GM that won the NFL Draft. John Elway masterminded an exquisite draft plan that saw the Broncos fill some of the more pressing holes whilst building for the future.

Although this year’s draft saw a record 40 trades, it had opened up without any trade action at all. Then the Broncos landed on the clock at pick 10. This was the highly touted “Drew Lock, quarterback of the future” pick. Except it wasn’t. Denver traded out of it to allow the Steelers to jump up and grab Devin Bush from under the noses of the Cincinnati Bengals.

A Fant-astic selection…

Photo Credit: @NinetynineYards.com

With the 20th pick acquired from the Steelers the Broncos grabbed Noah Fant. It wasn’t a pick that had been seen in many mock drafts. With hindsight it’s a pick that makes so much sense for Denver. Tight end was a position of need and they filled it with a true difference maker. Fant is going to give Joe Flacco a legitimate target at tight end. As a result, he’ll also help free up Courtland Sutton for a big breakout year. He can be active in the ground game, helping to open lanes for Philip Lindsay. It’s the perfect pick.

Using the second round pick they received from the Steelers in the trade, Denver secured their quarterback of the future. Some 32 picks after he’d been projected to go, Drew Lock became a Denver Bronco. It’s a scenario that couldn’t have worked out more perfectly for them. Lock is everything Elway looks for in a quarterback. His deep ball is probably the best of any quarterback in the draft. What impressed me most about Lock this weekend was how happy he was to become a Bronco. He also conducted himself impeccably on the stage in the face of questions about Joe Flacco. The future of the Broncos is in good hands.

It’s Dalton for Denver…

The pick immediately before Lock was one that will ensure the future of the franchise is protected for years to come. Dalton Risner is local to Mile High stadium and a Denver Broncos fan. He also happens to be an incredibly talented and versatile offensive tackle. It was predicted that he would go in round one, but some interesting decisions further up the board saw him land in the best possible place for him. It’s another pick that makes so much sense for the Broncos.

Since Vic Fangio became the head coach of the Broncos, defence has been a key component of what will make the Broncos a success. With their third and fifth round picks they gave him some valuable defensive pieces. Dre’Mont Jones from Ohio State was a steal in the third round. He will play from day one at defensive tackle as a rotational player before becoming a starter.

Hot on Hollins…

I love the pick of Justin Hollins out of Oregon in the fifth round. The defensive MVP of the East-West Shrine game gives them another pass rushing threat. He could play as a defensive end in a 4-3 system or as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. Versatility is key in the NFL and Hollins brings that for sure. He can only get better learning from Von Miller and last year’s first round pick Bradley Chubb.

For their final pick of this year’s NFL Draft they selected Juwann Winfree. He’s another local boy having played his football at Colorado. Winfree took the opportunity to impress at the Broncos local day. Despite not having dazzling production in college, he impressed Elway with his physicality and speed.

With a new head coach, and a great draft class, the Broncos could be one of the teams to watch in the AFC this season.

As always, if you have any thoughts or opinions on anything in this column, find me on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.

Feature image: Mark Humphrey (AP)

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