Is this Philip Rivers' best chance at playing in a Super Bowll? Scouts offer their takes on the Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs and Raiders
The Kansas City Chiefs were the story in the AFC West last season behind the eye-popping numbers put up by MVP Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs have Super Bowl aspirations but don't forget about the Los Angeles Chargers, a team that made the playoffs last season and could take another step forward this season.
The Denver Broncos are looking to turn things around with a 60-year-old, first-time head coach and a former Super Bowl MVP at quarterback. Oakland was aggressive in the offseason adding some big-name free-agent additions to its offense but there are still plenty of questions of how all of the pieces are going to fit and what to expect from the Raiders in Jon Gruden's second season back in charge.
In order to get an accurate assessment of how the AFC West is shaping up heading into the 2019 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.
"With all due respect to John Elway as a Hall of Fame player, he has been below average as a GM. No other executive would be allowed to rifle through four coaches and five quarterbacks in nine seasons. Now, it's Vic Fangio and Joe Flacco's turn to try and lead the Broncos back to the playoffs."
"Highly respected across the league, Fangio should elevate their defense, and he has the tools in place to get that done.
"Von Miller and Bradley Chubb should dominate in his hybrid 3-4 scheme."
"They combined last year for 26.5 sacks and didn't play all that often with a lead."
"Todd Davis is a consummate pro and underappreciated; he led them with 114 tackles in 2018."
"In the back end, they lost Bradley Roby in free agency to the Texans but signed Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan to help in coverage."
"Most of the questions are on offense."
"Elway traded for Flacco, and he has been dead average since his Super Bowl run in 2012. Without an airtight OL, I cannot imagine him being all that effective."
"Phillip Lindsay was an amazing local find for them. He rushed for 1,037 yards and proved to his doubters that he could run inside and catch the football (35 receptions). Royce Freeman and Devontae Booker form a nice backfield-by-committee."
"Courtland Sutton has big-play potential, and he flashed as a rookie with 42 catches for a 16.8-yard average."
"Not sure about the OL. Matt Paradis signed with Carolina and none of their other linemen are in the top half of the league."
"While their motivation and strategy will be better under Fangio, I don't see this team improving their 6–10 record."
"The development and transition of Patrick Mahomes from college spread quarterback to All-Pro in his second season has been remarkable to watch. The Chiefs thought he would be special and, wow, did he deliver in 2018."
"Despite a tumultuous offseason and a number of key defections, anything less than a Super Bowl will be disappointing in KC."
"Andy Reid and former GM John Dorsey took chances on Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill; now Hunt is in Cleveland on an eight-game suspension, and Hill's career is in jeopardy after another domestic incident." [Editior's note: The NFL announced in mid-July that Hill would not face any discipline after conducting its own investigation of the reported incident.]
"Travis Kelce is the anchor of their throw game. Last year, he had 103 receptions and 10 TDs while controlling the middle of the field."
"The left side of the OL has always been shaky and remains that way."
"After the defensive meltdown in the AFC title game, Bob Sutton is out and Steve Spagnuolo is in."
"They traded Dee Ford and allowed Justin Houston to walk in free agency, but they gave up a first-round pick and signed Frank Clark to a huge deal."
"Speaking of pressure and attention, Chris Jones will be a marked man after his 15.5-sack season. Derrick Nnadi was impressive as a rookie and should improve their run D in 2019."
"Kendall Fuller is a quality corner, but they will miss Steven Nelson, who left for the Steelers."
"The biggest question for them will be defensive leadership; who takes over for Houston and Eric Berry? However, with Mahomes and this offense, it may not matter."
"Coach Anthony Lynn and GM Tom Telesco have put together one of the best rosters in the AFC. Kansas City was a national story with Patrick Mahomes, so many have missed the fact that the Chargers have gone 21–7 since losing their first four games in 2017."
"Philip Rivers is such a joy to watch, all he does is show up and throw for a gazillion yards each year."
"Austin Ekeler forced himself into the mix with Melvin Gordon; both averaged five-plus yards per carry and caught 89 passes between them."
"They lost Hunter Henry during minicamp and persevered through almost all of 2018 without him. They cannot wait to get him back in the lineup."
"Keenan Allen is a consensus Pro Bowler, but his health and availability is always a concern. Mike Williams is a giant athlete and caught 10 TDs in five starts, so they let Tyrell Williams walk in free agency."
"The offensive line is a concern, with right tackle being the shakiest spot."
"Joey Bosa played in seven games and had 5.5 sacks. If he and Melvin Ingram can actually line up together, they can be legit on D."
"Brandon Mebane is a phenom and returns for his 13th season. First-round pick Jerry Tillery should start immediately."
"Jatavis Brown is an unknown, but he racked up 97 tackles and flies around the field."
"Desmond King earned All-Pro recognition as a punt returner, and in eight starts at corner, he broke up 10 passes and intercepted three more."
"Derwin James is a game-changer as a hybrid safety, and second-round pick Nasir Adderley should partner with him right away."
"It's not far-fetched to envision an All-L.A. Super Bowl. This is a quality football team."
"The 2018 Raiders made their fans wish for the Jack Del Rio era as Jon Gruden dismantled the roster he inherited. While Gruden and Derek Carr received the most criticism, it was really turnovers and a poor defense that did them in. Carr's numbers were better than his actual on-field play, but he is Gruden's guy."
"For the second straight offseason, they had a receiver makeover. In comes Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and J.J. Nelson, but the question remains: Can they get on the same page with Carr in a complicated, wordy offense?."
"Trent Brown signed the largest offensive lineman contract in league history, and prior to his playoff run with the Patriots, he was just a guy with size and potential. Much will be expected of Kolton Miller at right tackle, but they can definitely count on center Rodney Hudson."
"They love Josh Jacobs and expect him to spark the run game."
"GM Mike Mayock will prove his worth by fixing one of the league's worst defenses. He reached on Clelin Ferrell, but at worst, he should be a consistent three-down end."
"Maurice Hurst was solid as a rookie, but P.J. Hall proved that he was an over-drafted, small-school project. Tahir Whitehead is an active run-and-hit linebacker, but this is still their weakest unit."
"Gareon Conley had a decent season, but they hope Trayvon Mullen will grow up fast. Karl Joseph can be explosive as a downhill safety, yet they selected Johnathan Abram, who is cut from the same cloth."
"When your rookie specialists were the strength of the team, that tells you this organization has a long way to go."