Draft Needs - AFC West (04/30/15)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
NFL Team Needs – AFC West edition

The NFL Draft, which begins on April 30, is fast approaching. Every team hopes to use their picks to fill a position of need. In the days leading up to the draft we will evaluate each team's biggest needs, greatest strengths and the best case scenario for the draft.

To objectively answer many questions related to the NFL including how to rank individual units and at exactly which positions teams can and should improve, we assign impact scores for every current NFL starter.

The impact score is a grade on a 0-10 scale based on a player's expected overall positive contribution at their current ages and relative to position. In the score, a seven or above can generally outperform a replacement player in the NFL at his position; an eight or above can be expected to start and a player with a rating over nine is a unique, standout player who stars.

AFC West – click for NFC East, AFC East, NFC North, AFC North, NFC South, AFC South, NFC West

Denver Broncos

Top needs: Offensive Tackle, Defensive Tackle, Defensive End

Greatest Strength: Skill Positions

Peyton Manning, C.J. Anderson, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders all made the Pro Bowl in 2014. Denver has the best collection of skill position talent in the NFL. If Manning can stay healthy, the 2015 season will likely end with another deep postseason run.

Best Case Scenario:

Denver needs help in the trenches on both sides of the ball but the offensive line should be the primary focus. Drafting a new tackle would help keep Manning upright and open holes in Gary Kubiak's zone blocking scheme.

Kansas City Chiefs

Top needs: Center, Guard, Defensive Line

Greatest Strength: Outside Linebackers and Skill Positions

Kansas City has the best pair of 3-4 OLBs in football. Elsewhere, the Chiefs don't have the same firepower as the Broncos on offense, but what team does? The addition of Jeremy Maclin in the offseason dramatically improves a receiving corps. All Pro running back Jamaal Charles and breakout tight end Travis Kelce are game-changers and, while he isn't a top fantasy player, Alex Smith is an above average starting quarterback.

Best Case Scenario:

Kansas City is loaded with picks, ten to be exact and they will need them. There isn't one player on the Chiefs offensive line that grades out as an adequate starter. Eric Fisher has been a disappointment despite being drafted first overall, Paul Fanaika was one of the worst guards in football last season and Eric Kush, a former sixth round pick, is penciled in as the starting center. KC has talent at the skill positions but if they don't improve the offensive line it could be a long season in Arrowhead.

San Diego Chargers

Top needs: Defensive Tackle, Defensive End, Linebacker

Greatest Strength: Quarterback

In a golden age of quarterbacks, Philip Rivers has been one of the best pocket passers in the league. Last year, Rivers finished in the top ten in completion percentage, yards and touchdowns. Through the first four weeks of the season he was a viable MVP candidate. Rumor has it that the Chargers are considering trading Rivers for the second overall pick. Considering the quarterbacks outstanding play the last two seasons it would be a high price to pay.

Best Case Scenario:

Over the last two seasons the Chargers have sacked opposing quarterbacks 61 times. The only teams worse than San Diego in that same time frame are the Raiders and Falcons. The Chargers need an edge-rusher and should spend picks rebuilding the defensive front seven.

Oakland Raiders

Top needs: Wide Receiver, Inside Linebacker, Cornerback

Greatest Strength: Offensive Line

Oakland was intent on improving one of the league's worst offenses in free agency by revamping the offensive line. The Raiders signed former Chiefs center Rodney Hudson to a five-year $44.5 million deal. Oakland now has a top ten unit but it was costly, the team has one of the most expensive lines in the league.

Best Case Scenario:

Derek Carr still has a lot to prove but he showed enough in his rookie season to look like a possible franchise quarterback. The Raiders improved the offensive line in free agency, so the focus of the draft should be to give Carr some weapons. With the fourth overall pick the Raiders will have their choice of receiver.

AFC West Unit Rankings

Team Offense Defense Skill O-line D-line Front 7 Secondary
Denver Broncos 7 4 1 24 30 12 2
Kansas City Chiefs 20 10 6 31 22 10 14
San Diego Chargers 12 27 12 16 31 32 6
Oakland Raiders 30 24 31 9 19 25 22