Can Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City make history? Scouts offer their takes on the Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs and Raiders
In the AFC West, all eyes are on the Kansas City Chiefs, the defending Super Bowl champions who also have won the past four division titles. The Chiefs have their sights on another Lombardi Trophy while the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders look to do their part to make them earn that opportunity.
The Raiders open their new era in Las Vegas with a brand-new stadium and several new faces on the roster. The Chargers also will be moving into a new stadium (sharing SoFi Stadium with the Rams) and won't have Philip Rivers as their starting quarterback for the first time since the 2006 season. The Broncos have the longest playoff drought of any team in the AFC West (four years), but hopes to end that with better production from a retooled offense.
In order to get an accurate assessment of how the AFC West is shaping up heading into the 2020 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders, and Chargers.
Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.
"Top executive John Elway believes in Drew Lock as the starting QB, so this offseason, the goal was to surround him with a framework to be successful."
"RBs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman have been a reliable combo, and they strengthened the unit with division rival RB Melvin Gordon III."
"They have a big-play WR in Courtland Sutton, but he was the only dependable receiving option as slot WR DaeSean Hamilton and last year's first-round pick, athletic TE Noah Fant, were inconsistent, so they added playmaking WR Jerry Jeudy in the first round."
"The OL has improved as a unit because of well-respected position coach Mike Munchak, but LT Garett Bolles has looked like a disappointing first-round pick up to this point in his career." [Editor's note: Starting right tackle Ja'Wuan James has opted out of the upcoming season.]
"After finding a gem last year with DL Dre'Mont Jones and trading for longtime Tennessee Titan DL Jurrell Casey, they let DE Derek Wolfe depart in free agency."
"They have perhaps the best edge unit in the NFL with elite pass rusher Von Miller and rising star Bradley Chubb, who's coming off an ACL injury."
"Veteran ILB Todd Davis is reliable and led the team in tackles, but overall, the ILB unit is underwhelming."
"They lost star CB Chris Harris Jr. to the division rival Chargers but have faith in nickel Bryce Callahan and newly acquired CB A.J. Bouye to fill that void."
"They franchise-tagged star safety Justin Simmons with the optimism of a long-term deal, but they're paying veteran Kareem Jackson $11 million a year, making this one of the highest-paid duos in the NFL."
"Head coach Vic Fangio will have this team ready, but overall, I don't see them making the playoffs nor improving much from last year."
"QB Patrick Mahomes played at a sensational level in head coach/play-caller Andy Reid's system. Mahomes displayed precise offensive execution and improvisation, showing he can make any throw on the field with his rocket arm."
"RB Damien Williams showed his value during the playoffs, but the Chiefs had the 23rd-ranked rushing attack, so they drafted RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round." [Editor's note: This scouting report was submitted before Williams announced he was opting out this season.]
"Tyreek Hill is a rare athlete and is improving each year as a WR. They brought back WR Sammy Watkins, but look for dynamic playmaker WR Mecole Hardman to play a bigger role this season."
"This passing attack flows through TE Travis Kelce, who is arguably the best TE in the NFL."
The OL is sub-par, but the athletic ability of Mahomes disguised it." [Editor's note: Expected starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has opted out this season.]
"In Steve Spagnuolo's first season as the defensive coordinator, he elevated this unit."
"They're bringing back star DL Chris Jones with the optimism of a getting a long-term deal done, and the trade for star pass rusher Frank Clark looked like it paid off, with quality depth behind them." [Editor's note: In mid-July, Jones and the Chiefs agreed to a four-year contract extension that's worth $85 million, including $60 million guaranteed.]
"They have some young pieces at ILB but needed an impact player, so they drafted Willie Gay Jr."
"They lost CB Kendall Fuller in free agency, but they were able to bring back an underrated veteran, CB Bashaud Breeland. Expect second-year CB Rashad Fenton to step up as well."
"Versatile DB Tyrann Mathieu is the heartbeat of this defense, and rangy safety Juan Thornhill played well, as this duo combined for seven INTs."
"Harrison Butker is one of the best kickers in the NFL."
"With so many starters returning, expect this team to have a good shot at repeating."
"Last year, the offense was built around their rushing attack, with rookie RB Josh Jacobs and FB Alec Ingold leading the way."
"We saw QB Derek Carr (21 TDs, eight INTs) improve in his second year with Jon Gruden, but Carr appeared uneasy, like he hasn't developed chemistry with his new playmakers yet."
"The WR unit got better with the addition of rookie speedster Henry Ruggs III to complement WR Tyrell Williams and slot WR Hunter Renfrow."
"Quietly, the Raiders have one of the best TE units with Darren Waller, Foster Moreau and the addition of Jason Witten."
"This is one of the highest-paid OL units, with a stout interior but average production from both OT spots."
"Defensively, they're in the bottom half of the league, but they made some free-agent signings with two new starting ILBs in Nick Kwiatkoski and athletic Cory Littleton."
"They expect more from last year's top-five pick, DE Clelin Ferrell, but found a gem with DE Maxx Crosby."
"CB Trayvon Mullen can take away bigger receivers, and they drafted feisty Damon Arnette to play opposite of him. With enforcing safety Johnathan Abram returning from injury and the addition of Damarious Randall, they should get better production on the back end."
"Carr must elevate his play in Year Three, or else Gruden will give another QB the opportunity to lead this team."
"QB Philip Rivers' 15-year tenure with the Chargers came to a sad ending. Although they gave Rivers playmakers, they never put a big emphasis on protecting a pocket passer with a top-level OL."
"This will be a more spread-look offense with QB Tyrod Taylor, so expect them to have more of a zone-based OL scheme with the addition of Pro Bowl OG Trai Turner and veteran OT Bryan Bulaga."
"They rewarded RB Austin Ekeler, a tough and underrated playmaker, with a contract extension and let Melvin Gordon III depart."
"They have a great receiving unit with one of the best route runners in WR Keenan Allen, jump-ball expert WR Mike Williams and TE Hunter Henry, but they need to upgrade the depth."
"This is one of the best defenses in the NFL under coordinator Gus Bradley."
"They have a top-three edge duo with All-Pro Joey Bosa (11.5 sacks), high-end starter Melvin Ingram III, and rising role player Uchenna Nwosu, but an average DT unit, so they signed Linval Joseph to help."
"They moved on from veteran ILB Thomas Davis Sr. with high expectations for Denzel Perryman, Drue Tranquill and first-round pick Kenneth Murray Jr. to fill that void."
"The nickel and safety spots have All-Pros Desmond King II and Derwin James, but look for Rayshawn Jenkins, a ball-hawking safety, to play a bigger role this season."
"The outside CB unit had a glaring weakness next to Casey Hayward Jr., but they addressed that with star CB Chris Harris Jr."
"GM Tom Telesco and head coach Anthony Lynn have a talented defense and drafted Justin Herbert, their QB of the future, but can they find a way to sneak back into the playoffs?"