There was a lot on the line in the draft for the AFC West. Denver hoped to add the extra piece to get them across the finish line while the Chargers and Chiefs were looking for a few players to get them over the hump and back into the playoffs. On the other hand the Raiders hoped to build upon what was a strong effort from the 2014 draft.
Despite needing help on offense the belief moving towards the draft was Denver would look linebacker in round one and they did exactly that snatching up a free falling Shane Ray. The junior pass rusher watched his draft stock plummet in large part due to an arrest for possession of marijuana just days before the draft. Ray is in the perfect spot as the Broncos offer veteran leadership and the ability for him to slowly break into the line-up. Offensive line was addressed in round two with Tyler Sambrailo from nearby Colorado State. The hometown product is just what the Broncos want in their offensive linemen; athletic and versatile with the ability to line-up in a zone blocking scheme. With Ryan Clady going down to a knee injury in OTA’s this selection looks even better. I didn’t like the pick of Jeff Heuerman when it was made and like it less now. The tight end is an enigma as he looks the part but produces pedestrian numbers. Some will claim the system he played in at Ohio State was not prone to big numbers for a tight end but Heuerman never seemed to elevate his game. Its meaningless now as he’ll miss the season after tearing a knee ligament just weeks after the draft. Max Garcia was a terrific pick in round four and can line-up at guard or center. Fifth rounder Lorenzo Doss ran much faster than expected at the combine and is a physical corner who must learn to play to his speed while polishing his game. Darius Kilgo could be a steal in round six. He’s a natural two-gap lineman who plays with a competitive spirit, controlling the gaps and moving well in a straight line or laterally. Their late round picks were head scratchers. Trevor Siemian was fun to watch on the college level but I struggle to see how he’ll make a roster. Defensive backs Taurean Nixon and Josh Furman are solid athletes with NFL size but show little in the way of consistent ball skills. The team made up for questionable late round picks by signing Josh Watson in free agency. For some reason Watson received no love in the scouting community despite being a very good defensive lineman at Clemson the past two seasons then turning in an incredible pro-day. I think Watson will have a real chance to make the active roster.
Grade C+ Ray is a boom or bust pick and Heuerman is on the shelf before the season even begins. I think the value in this draft can be found from the linemen on both sides of the ball who will be competing for roster spots this summer.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs entered the draft with needs on both sides of the line of scrimmage but in the end felt cornerback Marcus Peters was too good to pass up. This choice comes with a bust factor but Peters has been penciled in as the starter and possesses a terrific upside. Mitch Morse was a strange selection in round two for a variety of reasons. Morse was selected a round early and though possessing all the skills necessary to play tackle (I don’t buy the short arms argument), he was drafted by the Chiefs as a center. Why? Morse played in a pass happy offense at Mizzou and did a terrific job blocking the blind side with no help. This could be insurance for the future if Eric Fisher continues to disappoint. Third rounder Chris Conley was a massive reach. While his combine workout was tremendous Conley does not transfer that athleticism onto the field and drops to many catchable throws. There were a wide variety of opinions on Steve Nelson entering the draft but in the end the Chiefs got themselves a nickel back/return specialist with their second pick of round two. Fourth rounder Ramik Wilson is a solid athlete with upside and adds depth at inside linebacker. I am a fan of linebacker DJ Alexander, the team’s first selection in round five, but don’t feel he’s a good fit for the Chiefs defense. James O’Shaugnessy, the other pick in round five, could’ve been had in free agency and is practice squad material. Rakeem Nunez-Roches was good value in round six as he’ll bring youth and depth to the defensive end spot. Da’Ron Brown could be a steal in the seventh frame as he’s a dependable underneath receiver with sure hands. I thought Kansas City did a bang up job signing players after the draft. Offensive linemen Melvin Meggs and Daniel Munyer are great fits for their system, receiver Kenny Cook is a big bodied pass catcher with solid hands and keep an eye on Sage Harold. He was a terrific pass rusher at defensive end for James Madison and offers the athleticism and skill to stand up over tackle. Finally David Irving will be an interesting watch. He showed flashes of dominance at Iowa State before being dismissed from the program but has the underlying skill to play at the next level if he matures off the field.
Grade C: Peters could turn into a solid starter at cornerback but after that I feel the Chiefs reached for a lot of players and came away with few first teamers.
The Raiders, again saddled with a top eight selection, had needs at the skill positions as well as cornerback but were staring at the best player in the draft when Leonard Williams fell into their laps. Oakland bypassed Williams choosing instead the second ranked player on my board and why not? Amari Cooper is a difference maker at receiver and a pass catcher who will hasten the development of Derek Carr. There’s a lot to like about his game, which was far and away the best of any receiver available in the 2015 draft. They next gambled in round two on Mario Edwards Jr. The defensive lineman underachieved in college, occasionally dominating the action only to disappear for long stretches. Though I’ve never been a fan the talent is available for Edwards but until he proves otherwise, the determination and fire are not. Clive Walford is the perfect compliment for the tight ends presently on the depth chart. Walford is not the downfield threat of starter Mychal Rivera rather a much better blocker and comes with better hands than number two tight end Lee Smith. The team went back to the Miami Hurricanes in the next round, selecting guard Jon Feliciano. I had the senior graded as a 6th rounder but feel he has starting potential down the road. The team selected a pair of linebackers in round five and may hit pay dirt. In Ben Heeney they’re getting a smallish but explosive run defender with great instincts. Henney has the speed to play sideline-to-sideline and is great in pursuit. Neiron Ball will be a terrific fit for the Raiders and could see action as a rookie if his knee is healthy. I don’t feel the same way about Max Valles whom I thought made a mistake entering the draft. He offers nice size but lacks speed and strength at the point. I felt Valles was best in a 3-4 and is a long ways from being NFL ready. Anthony Morris, the first of their trio of picks in round seven, is a massive blocker with practice squad potential. Andre Debose comes off a disappointing senior season but was drafted for his return skills as much as anything. Dexter McDonald was worth a last round pick as he’s athletic and a big bodied defensive back who needs to improve the consistency of his play. Josh Harper, who is very familiar with quarterback Derek Carr, was a major steal after the draft and will challenge to line-up in the slot this season. Safety Tevin McDonald and cornerback SaQwan Edwards are two more UDFA’s to watch this summer.
Grade B: The only reason I didn’t give this effort a B+ was the fact many of Oakland’s middle round picks were slight reaches on my board. That said I could see 6-to-7 of these picks making the active roster this September and another handful of players selected in the draft or signed afterwards being stashed on the practice squad.
San Diego Chargers
Word was the Chargers would broach the topic of moving up for quarterback Marcus Mariota the week before the draft but when they could not pull a trade off the team chose running back Melvin Gordon in round one. In Gordon the team is getting a feature back who will be an excellent fit for the offense as well as quarterback Philip Rivers. The selection of Denzel Perryman in round two strengthens the Chargers run defense and offers a defender who’ll be a nice addition next to Manti Te’o. Texas State cornerback Craig Mager went a little earlier than many thought but he’ll offer the Chargers a nickel back/special teams player. I love the selection of Kyle Emanuel in round five as he’s a natural pass rusher with great intensity. Melvin Ingram has not live up to expectations while Jeremiah Attaochu flashed as a rookie so the opportunity is there for Emanuel. Darius Philon is a developmental prospect with a good amount of upside and worth the use of a sixth round pick. If he’s healthy and ready to go, UDFA receiver Titus Davis could make the active roster.
Grade B: The team was limited with a handful of selections bit did a terrific job with their five picks. Gordon and Perryman should contribute immediately while Mager and Emanuel could see action in sub-packages this fall.