Publish date:

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About AFC West Teams

DenverBroncos_defense_2014.jpg

The Denver Broncos continue to lead this division, with Peyton Manning leading the way. However, Manning's not getting any younger, and the Chiefs and Chargers both made some personnel upgrades after each just missed out on a wild card spot last season. They are certainly not far behind, and the Raiders finally appear to have some pieces to build around too. The Broncos remain the team to be beat, but the gap is narrowing.

Image placeholder title

In order to get an accurate assessment of how the AFC West is shaping up heading into the 2015 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders.

Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

Denver Broncos

Image placeholder title

“No one will ever know what would have happened if Peyton Manning didn’t agree to take a ‘haircut’ on his contract and go from $19M to $15M for 2015."…

"Nevertheless, he returns for what might be his last season, although at 39, he feels that a high level of play is still attainable."…

"If it is, it will likely be because Gary Kubiak’s emphasis on the run game and play-action will take some of the load off the future Hall of Famer."…

"Kubiak takes over for John Fox, who flamed out in the postseason for the third year in a row."…

"TE Julius Thomas left in free agency for Jacksonville, but WR Demaryius Thomas was first tagged and then signed to a long-term deal. He is a supremely talented player that has prospered under Manning’s guidance."…

"Emmanuel Sanders filled the slot role well in 2014, but how much will that change under Kubiak?"...

"2014 second-round pick Cody Latimer must take a big step forward after catching only two passes as a rookie."…

"The offensive line is sort of ordinary, but they get by because the QB simply doesn’t hold the football."…

"LT Ryan Clady is clearly their best lineman, but the rest are just guys."… [Editor's note: Clady will miss the 2015 season because of a torn ACL.]

"On defense, they are set up front with Sylvester Williams, Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson in their base 3-4."…

"Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and first-round pick Shane Ray will form one of the best pass-rushing trios in all of football."…

"At safety, T.J. Ward always brings the right kind of demeanor, and former Raven Darian Stewart was signed during free agency."…

"With Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and Bradley Roby at the corner spots, the Broncos have enough variety at the position to match up with most everyone."…

"Despite Peyton’s protests, the theme of the season will be can the Broncos make a final run with No. 18 at the helm? And, if not, what is the plan going forward at QB and for the entire organization?”

Kansas City Chiefs

Image placeholder title

“Despite no wide receivers catching a single touchdown pass and a defense that was 28th in the league vs. the run (127.3 yards per game), Andy Reid and Co. still finished with a 9-7 record."…

"With zero explosiveness in the passing game, KC allowed Dwayne Bowe to walk and probably overpaid for the Eagles’ Jeremy Maclin."…

"They are very high on second-year wide receiver Albert Wilson who had 12 of his 16 catches in the final five games and look for De'Anthony Thomas to get an increased role in 2015 as a ‘satellite’ player."…

"Their two best offensive producers are RB Jamaal Charles and TE Travis Kelce."…

"Charles had his third straight 1,000-yard season and caught 40 passes, while Kelce came back from a ‘redshirt’ season and latched on to 67 throws."…

"The offensive line allowed 49 sacks (26th in NFL) and Rodney Hudson left for the Raiders in free agency."…

"They are banking on Eric Fisher getting healthy and playing well at LT, while they traded for the Saints’ Ben Grubbs to fill the LG spot and drafted Missouri OL Mitch Morse to compete at center with Eric Kush. This unit may be the most worrisome on the entire roster."…

"Internally, the organization believes in Alex Smith as a starting QB, but his impending contract situation will tell the world what they really think long-term."…

"Defensively, KC gave up 17.6 points per game (2nd in league), where they were particularly stingy down in the red zone."…

"NT Dontari Poe is a Pro Bowl-caliber player and upped his sack total to six in 2014…Their biggest losses were sustained in Week 1 when both LB Derrick Johnson DE Mike DeVito went down with torn Achilles and their absence left a crater in the middle of the D."…

Recommended Articles

"Justin Houston was franchised and then signed to a massive deal after a 22-sack season and he has really developed into a complete outside linebacker."…

"His counterpart, Tamba Hali, continues to plug along and will always chip in 6-10 sacks per year."…

"The Chiefs took CB Marcus Peters from Washington with their first-round pick and they are gambling that his character and personality can be managed."…

"He will line up opposite of Sean Smith with the thinking that the Chiefs now have the athleticism and length to compete with the receivers of the AFC West."…

"This division has bunched up some during the offseason, so with Reid at the helm, they should again be competitive and in the hunt for a playoff berth.”

Oakland Raiders

Image placeholder title

“Everything that was said about the Raiders going into the 2014 season, came true: no firepower on offense and too many aged players on defense."…

"The good news is that GM Reggie McKenzie hit on OLB Khalil Mack, QB Derek Carr and OG Gabe Jackson with his first three picks of the 2014 draft and they are all good, young players to build around in the future."…

"Dennis Allen did not survive the season, so Tony Sparano finished up as the interim coach and now Jack Del Rio gets his second chance as a head coach in the league."…

"Carr is their greatest asset, so they chose Alabama WR Amari Cooper with the fourth overall pick and Miami-FL TE Clive Walford in the third round to give him more options."…

"Cooper is a pro-ready talent that can line up anywhere and help Carr immediately, while Walford is a gifted pass catcher that can threaten the seam."…

"The offensive line should be bolstered in the middle with former Chiefs’ center Rodney Hudson, but still not sure they are good enough on the edges with Donald Penn and Austin Howard."…

"Defensively, Mack was sensational as a rookie and looks to be a star-in-the-making."…

"LB Sio Moore has had two solid years of production and really plays hard…The back end is a work-in-progress and this part of their roster could derail everything."…

"With only Charles Woodson established as a starter, they signed FS Nate Allen from Philadelphia."…

"If they played a game tomorrow, D.J. Hayden and Travis Carrie would be the opening corners, but Keith McGill (’14 fourth round) is expected to challenge for play time."…

"The Raiders were deplorable in total offense and then scoring offense and defense, but their bigger issue was not taking care of the football. They were minus-15 in the turnover margin category (32nd in league) and that is the area Del Rio must clean up first and foremost for them to escape the basement of the AFC West.”

San Diego Chargers

Image placeholder title

“Word got out this spring that QB Philip Rivers would play out his contract and was not interested in going to LA, if in fact, the Chargers were on the move."…

"Rumors swirled before the draft that San Diego would trade him to the Titans in exchange for the chance to pick Marcus Mariota at No. 2."…

"None of that happened, so now it’s back to trying to work through an extension for the 33-year-old QB."…

"RB Ryan Mathews signed with the Eagles, so SD moved up two spots in the draft for Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon who should help their 30th-ranked rushing attack (85.4 yards per game)."…

"The offensive line has been surprisingly effective over the past two years, especially LT King Dunlap. He has far surpassed most scouts’ expectations as a full-time starter."…

"D.J. Fluker is huge on the right side and has become a staple figure along their front wall."…

"TE Antonio Gates just keeps going, but has indicated that 2015 will be his last season."… [Editor's note: Gates is suspended the first four games of the season for a violation of the NFL's policy on the use of performance-enhancing drugs.]

"Keenan Allen and Malcolm Floyd give them a set of legitimate WRs and they helped them finish fourth in the league in third down conversions (45.1 percent)."…

"Most of the success of the 3-4 defense stems from the pass rush and the Chargers were 29th in sacks with just 26 last year."…

"They are banking on Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu to stay healthy and produce better results in 2015 (6.5 sacks between them)."…

"Safety Marcus Gilchrist left for the Jets and Eric Weddle is sitting out the spring, except for the mandatory minicamp, due to a contract dispute."…

"The Chargers are smallish in the back end, but Jason Verrett is a nifty cover man who has to demonstrate that he can survive the rigors of the NFL."...

"San Diego has won between seven and nine games for five straight seasons and nothing seems to indicate that 2015 will be any different.”