The Super Bowl champs made their offense even more dangerous
All eyes are on the AFC West and not just because it's home to reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City. The Chiefs have dominated the division recently, winning the past four titles and last season culminated with their first Super Bowl victory in 50 years. But the other teams in the division — Denver, Las Vegas, and the Los Angeles Chargers — are making their own moves in hopes of dethroning the champs.
With the Broncos, Raiders and Chargers all picking well ahead of the Chiefs in the 2020 NFL Draft, there was an opportunity for them to potentially narrow the gap. Here's what each AFC West team accomplished last week.
Objective Achieved: A supporting cast for Drew Lock
A quarterback is only as good as the players around him. So Broncos GM John Elway used this draft to invest heavily on offense to put Lock in the best position to succeed in 2020. Elway used seven of his 10 picks on offensive players, including three wide receivers. Jerry Jeudy (No. 15 overall) and KJ Hamler (No. 46) are the big names and should make an impact right way with Tyrie Cleveland rounding out this trio. If that wasn't enough, Denver also selected Lock's former Missouri teammate, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth round. He'll pair with Noah Fant, last year's first-round pick, to give the Broncos a dynamic tandem at the position (and Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman are currently on the roster too). Offensive linemen Lloyd Cushenberry, who will probably start at center, and Netane Muti add to the team's options up front.
While they didn't get as much attention, cornerback Michael Ojemudia, defensive tackle McTelvin Agim, linebacker Justin Strnad, and egde rusher Derrek Tuszka should help out at their respective positions on defense or on special teams.
Kansas City Chiefs
Objective Achieved: New backfield toy for Andy Reid to play with
The Super Bowl champs return largely intact so what did Andy Reid do with his first pick, the last of the first round? He took LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire to add another explosive playmaker to his already potent offense. Edwards-Helaire could have the same impact that Kareem Hunt provided prior to the team parting ways with him in November 2018 due to a much-publicized off-field incident. Last season, the Chiefs got plenty of production on the ground, but it was a collaborative effort as 13 different players recorded a carry. Edwards-Helaire can serve as an every-down back for Kansas City or share the workload with Damien Williams. Either way, the former Tiger is now another concern for opposing defensive coordinators.
The Chiefs had only five other picks besides Edwards-Helaire. Willie Gay Jr., the team's second-round pick, could start at linebacker while third-rounder Lucas Niang is a potential future starter at offensive tackle.
Las Vegas Raiders
Objective Achieved: Additional offensive firepower
General manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden's decision to take Alabama's Henry Ruggs III as the first wide receiver (No. 12 overall) in what was a loaded class is straight out of late Raiders owner Al Davis' draft textbook — speed kills. In Ruggs, South Carolina's Bryan Edwards and Kentucky's Lynn Bowden Jr. (both third-round picks), Derek Carr has even more options to throw to. Bowden, the wide receiver-turned-Wildcat quarterback for Kentucky will officially be listed as a running back, but chances are Gruden will line him up all over the formation. Las Vegas also added some depth along the offensive line in Clemson guard John Simpson (fourth round).
On the other side of the ball, using their other first-round pick on Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette surprised many considering where (No. 19 overall) it was in the draft, and many analysts are already saying that fourth-rounder Amik Roberston will end up being a more valuable player when all is said and done. Tanner Muse, another Clemson product, also was taken in the third round. He should bolster the coverage units and help out at safety.
Los Angeles Chargers
Objective Achieved: Next franchise quarterback, anchor for the middle of the defense
The headliner of the Chargers' draft is without question Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, but how soon he gets on the field remains to be seen with head coach Anthony Lynn repeatedly expressing his confidence in Tyrod Taylor as the starter. But while the fan base is excited about the guy tasked with replacing Philip Rivers as the face of the franchise, the team may have made just as important a decision by trading with New England to select Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray later in the first round (No. 23 overall). The Chargers sent their second- and third-round picks to the Patriots but if Murray ends up being the anchor in the middle of the defense for years to come, then it the price will be worth it. With pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, and rock-solid defensive backs Derwin James and Chris Harris Jr. already in place, the addition of Murray could make Los Angeles one of the top defenses in the NFL as soon as this season.
Herbert's addition aside, the offense also gained some valuable depth in the selections of running back Joshua Kelley along with wide receivers Joe Reed and K.J. Hill. Alohi Gilman, the only other defensive player drafted this year by the Chargers, should help out at safety or serve as a core special-teams player.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.