Skip to main content

AFC West rookie grades: Joey Bosa boosts Chargers' defense

The 2016 NFL season just ended -- but the 2017 NFL season is coming. As the NFL Scouting Combine nears, looks forward by looking backward, grading the 2016 rookie class for each team and identifying what the front office should focus on this offseason. Click below to scroll through each divisional rundown.

Denver Broncos

» Round 1: (No. 26 overall) Paxton Lynch, 3 games/2 starts.
» Round 2: (63) Adam Gotsis, DL, 16 games/0 starts.
» Round 3: (98) Justin Simmons, S, 13 games/3 starts.
» Round 4: (136) Devontae Booker, RB, 16 games/6 starts.
» Round 5: (144) Connor McGovern, OG, 0 games.
» Round 6: (176) Andy Janovich, FB, 11 games/5 starts; (219) Will Parks, S, 16 games/0 starts.
» Round 7: (228) Riley Dixon, P, 16 games/0 starts.

The full picture of most draft classes isn't available for years, but Denver's might come into focus by late summer. First-round pick Paxton Lynch was obviously the most-discussed selection, given Brock Osweiler's free agency defection. He started two games for the league's 22nd-ranked scoring offense and fared pretty well, completing 59 percent of his passes (60 is a good benchmark for rookie quarterbacks) and a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio (2:1). His athleticism far eclipses that of his counterpart on the Broncos' roster, Trevor Siemian, but Siemian's knowledge of the offense and established trust with top wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders kept him on the field. Second-round pick Adam Gotsis appeared in all 16 games situationally and logged a pass breakup along with 14 tackles (five solo). Third-rounder Justin Simmons found himself in a similar situation, but he might have been one of the stronger mid-round finds by Elway. He logged two interceptions, a sack and four passes defensed over just 296 defensive snaps. Fourth-rounder Devontae Booker was thrust into a much larger role than initially expected when injuries opened up a hole at the running back position. Booker responded with five total touchdowns and 877 total yards. Sixth-rounder Andy Janovich might have been the Broncos' best selection of all, especially if Denver is going to remain committed to using a fullback (Janovich played 235 snaps in 2016). GRADE B-

Combine/free agency focus: Denver has some interesting decisions to make, especially with DeMarcus Ware set to hit the open market. Theoretically, this defense is built for one more championship run under new head coach Vance Joseph, but this will all depend on what John Elway wants to do with $30 million in cap space (according to My take is to go for it while the quarterbacks still come with such small cap hits. There will be some top-shelf veteran pass rushers on the market. As NFL personnel guru Daniel Jeremiah pointed out in his most recent mock draft, the draft will be about squaring away the offensive line.

Kansas City Chiefs

» Round 2: (No. 37 overall) Chris Jones, DT, 17 games/12 starts.
» Round 3: (74) KeiVarae Russell, CB, 0 games.
» Round 4: (105) Parker Ehinger, OG, 5 games/4 starts; (106) Eric Murray, DB, 17 games/0 starts; (126) Demarcus Robinson, WR, 17 games/0 starts.
» Round 5: (162) Kevin Hogan, QB, 0 games; (165) Tyreek Hill, WR, 17 games/1 start.
» Round 6: (178) D.J. White, CB, 11 games/0 starts; (203) Dadi Nicolas, OLB, 11 games/0 starts.
» Notable undrafted FAs:Terrance Smith, LB, 10 games/2 starts.

Kansas City traded out of the first round, but still landed a fantastic player in Chris Jones with its second-round pick. Initially pegged by ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher as a potential replacement for the soon-to-be free agent Dontari Poe, Jones, in my opinion, outplayed the behemoth nose tackle in 2016. Over 573 defensive snaps, he logged a pair of sacks, 17 solo tackles and four broken-up passes. Third-round pick KeiVarae Russell was a surprise release, while fourth-rounder Parker Ehinger started before a slew of injuries culminated in a knee injury that ended his season prematurely. I liked the Kevin Hogan pick, but, like Russell, he ended up getting cut and heading to an AFC North team (Russell went to the Bengals, Hogan to the Browns). Tyreek Hill was obviously the moneymaker, though his complicated past made this a controversial selection (and explains why he was around so late). On the field, he looks like DeSean Jackson 2.0 for Andy Reid. GRADE: A-

Combine/free agency focus: If a real successor to QB Alex Smith isn't in the cards just yet, Kansas City would do well to continue building its defense. Marcus Peters is among the best cornerbacks in football, but he could use some help. Assuming Steven Nelson continues to develop, it still wouldn't hurt to add another playmaker in the secondary. Kansas City is also confronting the potential loss of five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro safety Eric Berry to free agency -- that'd be a crucial hole to fill in Kansas City's defense. Another playmaker on offense would be an interesting addition. Reid is not scared of big-ticket free agents and could use another threat to pair with Travis Kelce, Hill and Jeremy Maclin, even if Chris Conley is on his way.

Los Angeles Chargers

» Round 1: (No. 3 overall) Joey Bosa, DE, 12 games/11 starts.
» Round 2: (35) Hunter Henry, TE, 15 games/10 starts.
» Round 3: (66) Max Tuerk, C, 0 games.
» Round 4: (102) Joshua Perry, LB, 15 games/1 start.
» Round 5: (175) Jatavis Brown, LB, 12 games/7 starts.
» Round 6: (179) Drew Kaser, P, 16 games/0 starts; (198) Derek Watt, FB, 16 games/2 starts.
» Round 7: (224) Donavon Clark, OG, 0 games.
» Notable undrafted FAs:Kenneth Farrow, RB, 13 games/2 starts; Chris Landrum, LB, 10 games/0 starts; Spencer Pulley, OG, 16 games/0 starts; Trevor Williams, CB, 12 games/5 starts.

Drafting Joey Bosa third overall was a massive boom-or-bust proposition, but it paid off for the Chargers, with Bosa winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award and leading the team with 10.5 sacks despite missing four games. He might be the player who finally unlocks all the untapped potential across that defense -- it'll be a thrill to see him paired with new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley in 2017. Hunter Henry was sixth on the team in receptions but first in touchdowns (eight). The rookie tight end seemed to pair perfectly with QB Philip Rivers. Linebacker Jatavis Brown added some serious energy to the middle rounds and led the Chargers with 64 solo tackles on top of 3.5 sacks. His presence alone could make someone like pending free agent Manti Te'o expendable this offseason. Eventually, the Bolts will get a look at third-round center Max Tuerk, but anything he gives them at this point should be considered a bonus. This was a very solid draft. GRADE: A-

Combine/free agency focus: The Chargers can take hold of the Los Angeles market this season. They are that talented. This offseason should be about building a more inspired offensive line in front of Rivers and allocating its roughly $20 million in cap space (per for some veterans who can transform this bundle of potential into a divisional contender. In both of hismock drafts thus far, Jeremiah has Los Angeles using the seventh overall pick on Malik Hooker, who, as he notes, could help quickly turn this defense into one of the best secondaries in football.

Oakland Raiders

» Round 1: (No. 14 overall) Karl Joseph, S, 13 games/10 starts.
» Round 2: (44) Jihad Ward, DE, 16 games/13 starts.
» Round 3: (75) Shilique Calhoun, OLB, 10 games/0 starts.
» Round 4: (100) Connor Cook, QB, 2 games/1 start.
» Round 5: (143) DeAndre Washington, RB, 15 games/2 starts.
» Round 6: (194) Cory James, LB, 17 games/5 starts.
» Round 7: (234) Vadal Alexander, OG, 9 games/5 starts.
» Notable undrafted FAs:Johnny Holton, WR, 16 games/0 starts; Denver Kirkland, OL, 7 games/4 starts; Darius Latham, DT, 15 games/2 starts; Jalen Richard, RB, 17 games/0 starts.

This is a difficult class to evaluate, because the Raiders were set at many of their key positions before the start of the draft, especially on offense. And yet, general manager Reggie McKenzie did a nice job peppering in some key role players. Then there was first-round pick Karl Joseph, who, over 13 appearances (including playoffs), established himself as a fine starter with Pro Bowls in his near future. Had Joseph not struggled with lingering injuries, he probably would have led Oakland in tackles (he finished fifth in total tackles despite missing four games). This was the year Oakland found an identity, and Joseph's hit-stick mentality will be a crucial component moving forward. Second-rounder Jihad Ward and third-rounder Shilique Calhoun weren't expected to log a ton of snaps but ended up with 806 regular-season defensive snaps between them (most to Ward, who started 13 regular-season games). Connor Cook added some much-needed depth and, despite his poor performance in the playoff-opening loss to the Texans, gives Oakland the chance to build a stable backup situation for the future. My favorite selection of the draft was versatile back DeAndre Washington, who finished with 467 rushing yards, 115 receiving yards and two touchdowns. GRADE: B

Combine/free agency focus: Oakland was on a collision course with the Patriots had the team not lost quarterback Derek Carr to a broken fibula in Week 16. While the Raiders are by no means perfect, they are again primed to make a run at the AFC West crown. Defensive tackle Dan Williams isn't going anywhere, but he seemed to drop off a bit in 2016, so that might be an interesting place for the Raiders to start looking. They also need help in the secondary, which was reflected in Jeremiah's first twomock drafts. Both had Oakland taking a cornerback (Teez Tabor from Florida or Tre'Davious White from LSU). projects the Raiders to have $39.9 million in salary-cap space, but I would be surprised to see them get super active in free agency. A lot of this money now must go into a war chest for re-signing their own players. Carr is entering the final year of his rookie deal. He and Khalil Mack will be difficult to extend, but Oakland has no choice but to do it.

Follow Conor Orr on Twitter @ConorOrr.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content