The AFC West continues to try and narrow the gap on the Kansas City Chiefs. The five-time defending division champions are looking for a third straight Super Bowl appearance and rebuilt their offensive line this offseason in hopes of taking some pressure off of Patrick Mahomes. The Los Angeles Chargers appear to be in great shape with second-year quarterback Justin Herbert leading the offense and boast a talented roster, but Brandon Staley is a rookie head coach that must deal with playoff expectations right away. The Las Vegas Raiders made wholesale changes, especially on defense, as they look to get back to the postseason. Denver has the longest playoff drought (five seasons) of any AFC West team and even though the defense may be stout once again, the Broncos' offensive issues start under center.
In order to get an accurate assessment of the AFC West heading into 2021, 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.
"Quarterbacks Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater couldn’t be any more different. Lock is a gunslinger. He’s physically gifted, but he is inconsistent. Bridgewater has just enough arm strength. He’s very heady. He doesn’t make mistakes. I think Bridgewater will win that job. There’s a reason why [general manager] George Paton, who was in Minnesota with him, went and got him. He understands what Bridgewater is."
"Courtland Sutton is a big downfield target who can go up and get it."
"KJ Hamler is one of the fastest guys in the league."
"I think Noah Fant is overrated. He’s stiff and robotic."
"Receiver Tim Patrick is underrated."
"Garett Bolles made huge strides last season. He was a holding penalty machine before."
"I like their running backs, Melvin Gordon III and Royce Freeman and Javonte Williams."
"The injury to Ja’Wuan James is really bad for him and the team."
Related: Denver Broncos Depth Chart
"I like the defense. They’re banking on Von Miller being Von Miller again."
"Shelby Harris had a good year."
"Bradley Chubb and Miller provide the edge rush you need."
"I don’t love their inside linebackers. Josey Jewell is not a starter, in my book."
"They took Patrick Surtain II too early. He’s going to struggle initially against really good receivers."
"Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons are very good."
"I thought Simmons was stiff coming out of college. He’s been much better in coverage than I thought he would be."
"We all know how good Patrick Mahomes is. He’s proved that many times and continues to build on his success. What we also know is no matter how good he is, if the offensive line is decimated, it’s hard to be a great quarterback. Tampa Bay was in his face the whole Super Bowl and he had no chance."
"Cornell Powell could challenge to start on some teams, teams that don’t have Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman Jr. on their depth chart. They’re loaded at receiver. They have Travis Kelce, who’s a special tight end."
"They’re smart with how they use Clyde Edwards-Helaire. They’re not going to give him 25, 30 touches and break him down."
"Trading for Orlando Brown Jr. was a smart move. Now, they need to sign him to a new contract."
Related: Kansas City Chiefs Depth Chart
"Defensively, Chris Jones and Frank Clark give them two impact players up front. Signing Jarran Reed gave them the third pass rusher they needed."
"Anthony Hitchens is a stud at linebacker."
"Rookie linebacker Nick Bolton will challenge for a starting job."
"I think their corners are just solid, nothing special. I could see Deandre Baker winning one of those outside jobs."
"Tyrann Mathieu is a special football player and leader. ‘Honey Badger’ has outstanding range and instincts. He finds the football, reacts quickly and arrives in a bad mood. His nasty streak sets the tone."
"Derek Carr is a good, solid quarterback, not a great one."
"Henry Ruggs III shouldn’t have been drafted so high. They need him to become a player for the offense to be dynamic"
"Hunter Renfrow is solid, not special."
"I like Kolton Miller a lot."
"Alex Leatherwood got overdrafted, but he fits their scheme, so I don’t care so much about that."
"Josh Jacobs is excellent, period."
"Darren Waller is unstoppable."
Related: Las Vegas Raiders Depth Chart
"The defense is a big problem."
"They overdrafted Clelin Ferrell. He’s a backup."
"David Irving is their best defensive lineman, their most talented guy. If he can keep his head on straight, they’ve got a player with him."
"Yannick Ngakoue should be a good addition."
"They’re not very good at linebacker. Nick Kwiatkoski was a horrendous free agent signing."
"Nicholas Morrow is OK."
"I like Cory Littleton; he has a chance."
"Their secondary isn’t bad. Damon Arnette is good at press coverage, but he’s not a good all-around corner. It’s not there with the intangibles."
"Johnathan Abram is a good all-around safety. He’s a hammer, not the nail."
"Trevon Moehrig is highly regarded."
"This defense needs to get a lot better playing against Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert."
"Justin Herbert is strong-armed, mobile and gives them a real chance to be a playoff team. He has really good targets: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Josh Palmer. What sold them on Palmer is he kicked butt against Patrick Surtain II."
"I thought Rashawn Slater was the best left tackle in the draft. He’s not as big and strong as Penei Sewell, but he’s athletic and can pull and trap with the best of them."
"I like their backfield. I think Justin Jackson may be their best running back, not Austin Ekeler."
Related: Los Angeles Chargers Depth Chart
"Their defense starts and ends with Joey Bosa."
"They like Jerry Tillery a lot."
"The personnel department and coaches are very happy with their corners."
"If Derwin James Jr. is healthy, their defense goes from good to great. If he and Joey Bosa are healthy, it’s a top-10 defense."
"I like what [general manager] Tom Telesco is doing as far as drafting and being selective with free agency. He’s a sharp evaluator and a good administrator."
"Brandon Staley is an intelligent coach, and he did a great job with the Rams. I think he’ll be a good motivator and come up with innovative ways to run the team."