Division-by-division look at each NFL team's needs before the draft: AFC West

Terez PaylorSenior NFL writer
Yahoo Sports

Teams have spent the past few weeks adding talent via free agency, but not all holes can be filled that way. Each franchise has some pressing needs remaining, and we’re going division-by-division to analyze those needs and figure out which directions teams are leaning heading into the draft.

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

Positions needed: WR, T, G, EDGE, CB

Analysis: The Broncos haven’t been to the playoffs since winning the Super Bowl in 2016, and the road back to the mountaintop goes through Kansas City. That means constructing a defense that can combat Patrick Mahomes, and in that regard, Denver has some interesting pieces. The veteran defensive line is strong, and Dre’Mont Jones is an intriguing young piece. Denver could also use depth on the edge to bolster starters Bradley Chubb and Von Miller. Cornerback needs to be reinforced, especially with the speed merchants Kansas City has collected at receiver.

Offensively, the Broncos need to give promising young quarterback Drew Lock more assistance. Adding Melvin Gordon to the backfield and Graham Glasgow to the O-line will help, but Denver also needs to draft a big-play complement to stud young receiver Courtland Sutton and improve significantly at right guard. Ja’Wuan James was a big money addition at right tackle a year ago, but he played only 63 snaps last year. Drafting a long-term replacement there would be ideal.

Kansas City Chiefs

Positions needed: RB, G, C, LB, CB

Analysis: The defending Super Bowl champions head into 2020 with a motto of “run it back,” and the team’s offseason plan has reflected that. Kansas City re-signed several key players from its championship team, betting on continuity in a COVID-19-affected season as the Chiefs currently have everyone who played at least 57 percent of the snaps last season under contract for 2020. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room to strengthen the roster. 

Offensively, the Chiefs are powered by an explosive offense guided by Mahomes, but there’s a need to bolster the interior of the line to grow with Mahomes and help protect him for the next decade. Beyond that, Super Bowl hero Damien Williams returns to man the running back position, but he’s in a contract year and the team could draft a young back and groom him to take the reins in 2021. Defensively, the Chiefs need second-level help — a sideline-to-sideline linebacker with skills in pass coverage could carve out an immediate role — while the cornerback position would also benefit from the infusion of a top-100 draft pick. And with Mahomes’ massive extension looming, don’t be surprised if Kansas City entertains a trade down in the first round in an attempt to stockpile more cost-controlled assets.

Las Vegas Raiders

Positions needed: QB, WR, G, LB, CB

Analysis: With five top-100 picks in this draft, the Raiders are well-positioned to add plenty of talent to a team that went 7-9 and showed significant improvement in Jon Gruden’s second season. Start on defense, where Las Vegas has added a few free agents who are expected to contribute immediately, including linebackers Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton, safety Damarious Randall, defensive tackle Maliek Collins and defensive end Carl Nassib. The spending spree means the Raiders won’t have to force an early pick anywhere on defense, though the cornerback and linebacker positions remain shaky.

Las Vegas presumably spent on defense because there’s a good chance Gruden will want to use his two first-round selections on offense. At No. 12, the Raiders are positioned to nab one of the first-round receivers (Jerry Jeudy, CeeDeeLamb or Henry Ruggs III), and with Derek Carr’s potential possibly maxed out, Gruden could also select a young quarterback to groom. There’s also a need to cultivate a young, long-term option at guard, but that can be accomplished in the mid-to-late rounds.


Los Angeles Chargers

Positions needed: QB, WR, T, G, EDGE, LB

Analysis: In keeping with the theme of building a defense to topple Mahomes, the Chargers have done a pretty good job of it. Despite their 5-11 record last year, few defenses played the Chiefs as tough as Gus Bradley’s unit, and Los Angeles improved on the backend this offseason with the free-agent signing of cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who was recently named to the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team. Harris completes one of the league’s best secondaries, and when combined with one of the game’s best edge rush duos in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III, that’s going to give the opposition problems. The Chargers could use additional depth on the edge — Ingram, 31, is entering a contract year — and they need their two young defensive tackles, Justin Jones and Jerry Tillery, to step up in 2020. Some competitive depth (or an outright stud) at linebacker would be welcome, too. 

Offensively, the Chargers have two nice young backs. Otherwise, they have work to do. The line, in particular, has been a mess for far too long, and while the offseason additions of guard Trai Turner and tackle Bryan Bulaga will help significantly, they need to draft long-term upgrades at the other spots or develop the three linemen they’ve used top-100 picks on since 2017. There’s also a dire need to add a young quarterback with upside to the roster, as well as a playmaker with speed at receiver. Keenan Allen is entering a contract year and Mike Williams is entering a critical Year 4, but the Chargers need a reliable third receiving option anyway.

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