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NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About AFC West Teams

Derek Carr

Derek Carr

The AFC West saw some roles reversed in 2016. Super Bowl 50 champion Denver missed the playoffs, falling a game short of a wild card berth. But Kansas City and Oakland both made the playoffs with 12-4 records, with the Chiefs taking the division title via a tiebreaker.

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The Raiders locked up quarterback Derek Carr with a contract extension this offseason, and got Marshawn Lynch to end his retirement, and enter the season as the favorite. The Chiefs won't give up their crown withouit a fight, while the Broncos hope for better results on offense, particularly from the quarterback position. The Chargers debut in their new home with a new head coach and some familiar concerns (offensive line, health).

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In order to get an accurate assessment of how the AFC West is shaping up heading into the 2017 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

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“John Elway has already announced that there will be an open competition at the quarterback position between unheralded Trevor Siemian and last year’s first-round choice, Paxton Lynch. Internally, they were pleased with Siemian’s progress and the way he handled the job and his teammates. However, Lynch brings more raw potential to the table but must do better in the communication and execution phases of his game.”

“Denver will have a backfield-by-committee approach in 2017 with C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker, rookie De’Angelo Henderson and former Chief Jamaal Charles, signed right after the draft.”

“Wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders both suffered through injury-plagued 2016 seasons.”

“The offensive line is where their major issues are, and they tried to address the left tackle spot by drafting Utah’s Garett Bolles in the first round. They hope he can start right away.”

“The defense will go through a major transition from coordinator Wade Phillips to Joe Woods and a subtle change in scheme.”

“Still, Von Miller is at the top of his game as a pass rusher, and Shane Ray continues to get better since being drafted in 2015.”

“Unheralded linebacker Todd Davis is an unknown to the fans, but he is a productive player.”

“Regardless of who calls the defense, this team has rushers and cover people with tons of versatility in the secondary with Chris Harris, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby. Like Houston, the Broncos are a legitimate contender if they can get any level of consistent quarterback play. The problem is that it’s extremely difficult to manage a quarterback competition while having everyone else focus on winning.”

Kansas City Chiefs

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“Andy Reid has consistently proven to be one of the top NFL coaches of this generation with his success in Philadelphia and now Kansas City. The naysayers will point to no Super Bowl wins, and that is the very reason they boldly moved up in the first round to grab quarterback Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech.”

“Alex Smith is ideal in this West Coast system, but he might be too conservative with the football to get the Chiefs past New England in the AFC, hence the ‘redshirt’ for Mahomes in 2017 with an eye toward inserting him into the lineup as a second-year pro.”

“Running back Spencer Ware had 921 yards last year, but I predict rookie Kareem Hunt makes a significant contribution.”

“Tight end Travis Kelce is one of the best in the league, period.”

“The offensive line is adequate as a collective unit, but left tackle Eric Fisher is just not good enough.”

“The Tyreek Hill gamble paid off with his 61 catches and six touchdowns as a rookie.”

“Defensively, Kansas City let Dontari Poe walk and added Bennie Logan from the Eagles.”

“The coaching staff expects Chris Jones to dominate on the inside with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston on the edges. However, Dee Ford is their best pass rusher now, and he played extremely well in 2016 with 10 sacks.”

“Linebacker Derrick Johnson suffered his second Achilles injury in three years, but the position was neglected in the draft.”

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“Marcus Peters is really gifted at one corner.”

“Eric Berry is arguably the NFL’s best safety and continues to play at an elite level.”

“I anticipate the Alex Smith critique to take its toll on this team. With an ordinary run game and shaky linebackers, they look like playoff contenders but once again only Super Bowl pretenders.”

Los Angeles Chargers

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“The Chargers move to Los Angeles with a new coaching staff and an improved roster that has promise and stability. Anthony Lynn takes over as the head man, despite the fact that his experience has primarily been as a running backs coach.”

“He wisely kept Ken Whisenhunt as the offensive coordinator, and the addition of Gus Bradley as the defensive coordinator should increase the energy on that side of the football.”

“All Philip Rivers does is pump out big numbers every single year regardless of who is in front of or around him on offense.”

“Their run game had marginal improvement from 2015, but Melvin Gordon was much better in his second season.”

“Russell Okung was added as the left tackle in free agency after they let King Dunlap walk.”

“I really like what they did in the draft with wide receiver Mike Williams, then offensive linemen Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney, all assets that can help Rivers.”

“Antonio Gates still has something left, while Hunter Henry proved to be a wise choice. He caught 36 passes with eight going for touchdowns as a rookie.”

“When healthy, Keenan Allen is a prolific playmaker; however, he has been plagued by injuries and has never played 16 games in a season.”

“Despite a ridiculously long holdout, Joey Bosa did respond when he reported and finished with 10.5 sacks in 12 games.”

“Melvin Ingram has enjoyed back-to-back successful seasons and is a formidable rusher opposite Bosa.”

“The defense finished tied for first in interceptions with 18 after the brilliant addition of cornerback Casey Hayward, who had seven picks of his own.”

“Sometimes the statistical numbers do reflect what a team is; the Chargers finished 5–11 while ranking 14th in total offense and 16th in total defense.”

“If the offensive line jells and Okung holds up for the entire campaign, this team could surprise in a very balanced AFC West.”

Oakland Raiders

Oakland Raiders 2019 Schedule

“No one can anticipate the ramifications of the announced move to Las Vegas, but the Raiders are in the unique position of having a really good team with stable leadership from the general manager, head coach and quarterback.”

“Derek Carr emerged last year as a potential top-five quarterback because of his natural passing ability and off-the-charts intangibles.”

“His connection with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree will only improve, and look for new tight end Jared Cook to make an impact as a pass catcher. ... Everyone in the organization is excited about the arrival of Marshawn Lynch, but what does he have left?”

“While Carr should be fully recovered from the fractured leg he suffered at the end of the season, the real key to this offense has been the offensive line. The guard-center-guard trio of Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson is as good as any in the entire league.”

“Other than Khalil Mack, the defense needed an infusion of playmakers at all levels, so the Raiders took a chance on Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, who was plagued by a rape allegation just days ahead of the draft.”

“Free-agent corner Sean Smith was a disappointment in 2016, while safety Reggie Nelson continued his renaissance as an older player.”

“The staff is expecting big things from safety Karl Joseph, who should be healthy and has a year in the system.”

“The young stars get all the attention, but going from minus-15 to plus-1 to plus-16 in the turnover margin over the last couple years is the secret to their rise in the AFC. That’s all about coaching and putting an emphasis on protecting the football. The emotional toll of playing in front of a heartbroken fan base is difficult to forecast, but on paper, this team is primed to make a Super Bowl run.”