Skip to main content

AFC West rookie grades: Raiders clean up; Broncos stay on pace

With Super Bowl LIV in the books, the offseason is upon us. To get ready for the NFL Scouting Combine, free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft, Nick Shook and Gennaro Filice are taking a division-by-division look backward to evaluate each team's crop of 2019 rookies, weighing hits and misses -- then looking forward at areas for each squad to focus on in the coming months. Shook examines the AFC West below.

Round 1: (No. 4 overall) Clelin Ferrell, DE, 15 games/15 starts; (24) Josh Jacobs, RB, 13 games/13 starts; (27) Johnathan Abram, S, 1 game/1 start.

 **Round 2:** (40) 
 Trayvon Mullen, CB, 16 games/10 starts. 
 **Round 4:** (106) 
 Maxx Crosby, DE, 16 games/10 starts; (129) 
 Isaiah Johnson, CB, 5 games/0 starts; (137) 
 Foster Moreau, TE, 13 games/7 starts. 
 **Round 5:** (149) 
 Hunter Renfrow, WR, 13 games/4 starts. 
 **Round 7:** (230) 
 Quinton Bell, DE, 0 games/0 starts. 
 **Notable rookie FA signings:** 
 A.J. Cole, P, 16 games; 
 Keelan Doss, WR, 8 games/2 starts; 
 Alec Ingold, RB, 16 games/4 starts; 
 Andre James, OT, 12 games/1 start. 

Ferrell showed promise as a rookie, recording 4.5 sacks, but he needs to be more consistent in rushing the passer. Analysis on Abram is incomplete, as he played just one game due to a shoulder injury. Jacobs, however, was an excellent addition, breaking 1,100 yards as a rookie and providing the Raiders with a much-needed bellcow in the backfield. Mullen was a solid corner as a rookie, excelling in run support while also recording one interception. Crosby was even better, recording 10 sacks opposite Ferrell. Moreau served as a complementary but scarcely targeted option opposite breakout tight end Darren Waller. Renfrow made the transition by doing what he did at Clemson: maximizing his talents. The receiver ran sharp routes and found soft spots in the defense on his way to breaking 600 yards receiving and catching four touchdowns as a rookie. Johnson didn't see action until later in the season, primarily playing special teams. Bell ended up on Tampa Bay's practice squad. Considering how much help the young Raiders received from a number of picks in this class, they earn the division's best grade, even without the contributions of Abram.

 **Combine/free agency focus:** Two needs immediately jump off the screen for this team: linebacker and wide receiver. Veteran receiver 
 Tyrell Williams flourished in his first season with the 
 Raiders (42 catches, 651 yards, six TDs), and Renfrow was effective, but the team still lacks a true No. 1 option at the position. Linebacker was filled with veterans and needs a fresh infusion of talented youth. The 
 Raiders could also use another young corner opposite Mullen and should start exploring their future on the interior offensive line, with 
 Rodney Hudson (turning 31) and 
 Richie Incognito (turning 37) getting older. 

Round 1: (No. 20 overall) Noah Fant, TE, 16 games/11 starts.

 **Round 2:** (41) 
 Dalton Risner, G, 16 games/16 starts; (42) 
 Drew Lock, QB, 5 games/5 starts. 
 **Round 3:** (71) 
 Dre'Mont Jones, DT, 14 games/1 start. 
 **Round 5:** (156) 
 Justin Hollins, LB, 15 games/0 starts. 
 **Round 6:** (187) 
 Juwann Winfree, WR, 3 games/0 starts. 
 **Notable rookie FA signings:** 
 Andrew Beck, FB, 16 games/6 starts; 
 Malik Reed, LB, 15 games/8 starts. 

The Broncos have to be happy with the product of their last two drafts. In 2019, they might have found their franchise quarterback in Lock after a handful of swings and misses. Fant steadily improved with the season, posting two games of 110-plus yards in the Broncos' final eight contests. Risner was a starting-caliber guard as a rookie, finishing 29th among NFL guards in pass-blocking grade, per Pro Football Focus. Jones needs to improve in the run game but found success rushing the passer, finishing with 3.5 sacks. Hollins saw increased playing time later in the season, recording 21 tackles and one sack. Winfree spent most of his time on special teams.

 **Combine/free agency focus:** Receiver seems to be one of the first positions GM John Elway will have to address after shipping out veteran wideout 
 Emmanuel Sanders during the season. The 
 Broncos have a budding star in 
 Courtland Sutton and an undersized complementary piece in 
 DaeSean Hamilton, but they could use a legitimate No. 2 opposite Sutton. Cornerback could use a youth infusion, too, with 
 Chris Harris Jr. not guaranteed to sign another deal in Denver. It's also time to start to consider life after 
 Von Miller, who turns 31 in March and is only under contract for two more seasons. 

Round 2: (No. 56 overall) Mecole Hardman, WR, 16 games/5 starts; (63) Juan Thornhill, S, 16 games/16 starts.

 **Round 3:** (84) 
 Khalen Saunders, DT, 12 games/4 starts. 
 **Round 6:** (201) 
 Rashad Fenton, CB, 12 games/0 starts; (214) 
 Darwin Thompson, RB, 12 games/0 starts. 
 **Round 7:** (216) 
 Nick Allegretti, G, 7 games/0 starts. 

The Chiefs sent a first-round pick to Seattle for Frank Clark, then followed that up by nailing their two second-round picks in Hardman and Thornhill. The latter's success came as somewhat of a surprise; Thornhill created an excellent tandem with Tyrann Mathieu in the back end of Steve Spagnuolo's defense before tearing his ACL in Week 17. Saunders was able to make a rotational contribution, recording 22 tackles and one sack in his 12 games played. Fenton worked his way onto the field in both special teams and defensive roles, while Thompson received a handful of carries and contributed on special teams. Nearly all of Allegretti's 49 snaps played came on special teams. When counting the first-round pick traded for Clark, who finished with 13 sacks, including five in the playoffs (one of which helped secure the win in Super Bowl LIV), the Chiefs did very well at the top of this draft.

 **Combine/free agency focus:** 
 Sammy Watkins caught four touchdown passes, including the game-sealing score in the AFC Championship Game in 2019, and chipped in five catches for 98 yards in the 
 Super Bowl, but he only has one more year left on his deal. With Hardman and 
 Tyreek Hill also in their corps, the 
 Chiefs might be a year away from finding a replacement, but this class is loaded at the position and could offer Kansas City a chance to fill a potential future need. Or, with 
 Mitchell Schwartz headed toward a contract year in 2021, the 
 Chiefs could draw from another position that's deep in this class: tackle. Late-season addition 
 Terrell Suggs helped reinforce Kansas City at edge rusher, but the team could use some youth there as well. 

Round 1: (No. 28 overall) Jerry Tillery, DT, 15 games/3 starts.

 **Round 2:** (60) 
 Nasir Adderley, S, 4 games/0 starts. 
 **Round 3:** (91) 
 Trey Pipkins, T, 13 games/3 starts. 
 **Round 4:** (130) 
 Drue Tranquill, LB, 15 games/3 start. 
 **Round 5:** (166) 
 Easton Stick, QB, 0 games/0 starts. 
 **Round 6:** (200) 
 Emeke Egbule, LB, 15 games/0 starts. 
 **Round 7:** (242) 
 Cortez Broughton, DT, 2 games/0 starts. 
 **Notable rookie FA signing:** 
 Roderic Teamer, DB, 7 games/6 starts. 

Tillery wasn't a home-run pick, but he was a solid contributor and just about matched his value as the 28th overall pick as a rookie, finishing with two sacks. Adderley's rookie season became a redshirt year of sorts after he landed on IR just four games into the season. Pipkins struggled with edge rushers in his three starts but provides depth at tackle for the Chargers. Tranquill saw plenty of playing time and was solid against the run. Stick didn't appear in a game while entrenched behind Philip Rivers and veteran backup Tyrod Taylor. Egbule spent the majority of his first season on special teams. Broughton played just 25 snaps in 2019.

 **Combine/free agency focus:** Though not a massive need, a reliable third receiver could be had in this draft class. Tillery primarily plays 3 technique, meaning the 
 Chargers will have a need at nose tackle to replace the 35-year-old 
 Brandon Mebane. Cornerback might also be a need to fill opposite 
 Casey Hayward, though there are reliable options currently on the roster. Health was a huge issue for the 
 Chargers on the offensive line, so a pick or signing wouldn't hurt. And of course, we have to mention quarterback, with 
 Philip Rivers moving his family to Florida permanently and his future with the 
 Chargers very clouded. 

Follow Nick Shook on Twitter @TheNickShook.

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