Early Look at the Biggest 2017 NFL Draft Needs for AFC West Teams

The right addition by any team could be the difference in the NFL's most competitive division

The AFC West was a two-team race for the most part in 2016, with the then-defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos coming in third place. The talented and now newly re-located Chargers pulled up the rear with a 5-11 record that was not necessarily indicative of how talented their roster was.

 

Heading into 2017, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs are looking to make a move or two that would keep them in the mix of AFC front-runners. Denver is trying to keep the championship window open for one of the league's best defenses and the Chargers are looking to build a corps of player who will lead the franchise into the future in their new city.

 

Denver Broncos

2016 Snapshot: The Broncos came into the 2016 season in a weird spot. They were the defending Super Bowl champions, but they also were trying to move on from and replace an NFL legend at quarterback. All in all, the campaign was not terrible. Unfortunately for Denver, the team was competing in a division with two of the NFL's hottest up-and-coming teams. Their veteran leadership was not enough to overcome injuries and the distraction — as minor as it ended up being — of the quarterback transition.

 

Biggest needs: If the Broncos truly think they have their quarterback of the future on the roster — and it sounds like that is the case — their biggest need is without a doubt at offensive tackle. They have no legitimate long-term answers on either side of the offensive line, and that's bad news for a team about to plug in a young quarterback.

 

First-round pick: No. 20 overall

 

Potential Picks: It must be an offensive tackle. There are enough talented options in the draft for Denver to land a solid option and a mainstay at the position for a decade at the No. 20 spot. If the Broncos don't walk away with Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk, Utah's Garrett Boles or Alabama's Cam Robinson, I'll be stunned and their fans should be irate.

 

Kansas City Chiefs

2016 Snapshot: The Chiefs won the AFC West on the back of solid defensive play and an electrifying rookie playmaker in Tyreek Hill. The lack of a true, consistent threat at the receiver position seemed to be the biggest limiting factor for Andy Reid's club, as they lacked the firepower to get past the Steelers at home in the playoffs.

 

Biggest needs: As much as Kansas City could use that wide receiver, the Chiefs need playmakers at all three levels of the defense in order to remain in the conversation of the AFC's elite teams. Linebacker, cornerback and nose tackle are all positions where Kansas City needs help.

 

First-round pick: No. 27 overall

 

Potential picks: You can expect the Chiefs to take a long, hard look at Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan if he's available. He would be the perfect long-term replacement for Derrick Johnson. If they go corner, I like Colorado's Chidobe Awuzie as an option.

 

Los Angeles Chargers

2016 Snapshot: A tumultuous 2016 preseason — thanks in large part to the Joey Bosa contract fiasco — didn't get the Chargers off on the right foot. It was another year where Philip Rivers was obviously in need of more consistent targets in the passing game. Bosa ended up being the bright spot on a defense that had a hard time keeping opponents out of the end zone.

 

Biggest needs: The Chargers have a talented young running back in Melvin Gordon, they just need a line for him to run behind. Both guard and tackle are positions of need. On defense, a solid shutdown corner would make things a whole lot easier for Bosa and the rest of the front seven.

 

First-round pick: No. 7 overall

 

Potential picks: All of the top tackles and guards should be available when the Chargers pick in the first round. that said, I'm just not sure any of them merit being taken with the seventh overall pick. For that reason, San Diego likely goes corner in the first round and focuses on offensive line after that. The most likely options are Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore or Alabama corner Marlon Humphrey.

 

Oakland Raiders

2016 Snapshot: It looked as if the Raiders were on a collision course with the New England Patriots to battle it out for AFC supremacy until Derrick Carr injured a finger on his throwing hand. Oakland was never quite the same team after the fact. Then after Carr broke his leg, they stood almost no chance against the Houston Texans in the AFC Wild Card game.

 

Biggest needs: Oakland has talent on both sides of the ball, but the Raiders still need more depth on defense. Linebacker and defensive tackle are both priorities that need to be addressed, as an injury in any of these position groups could derail another championship-caliber season. The team also needs a legitimate replacement at running back for the recently departed Latavius Murray.

 

First-round pick: No. 24 overall

 

Potential picks: Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell would be a nice fit in Oakland's defensive scheme if he's available when the Raiders pick. You also could see general manager Reggie McKenzie pull the trigger on Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham or Temple's Haason Reddick at outside linebacker — either or which would form a dangerous duo with Khalil Mack.

 

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Event Date: 
Thursday, March 23, 2017 - 13:45

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