AFC West draft grades: Broncos shine; Raiders surprise

Print

Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you're reading this, aren't you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2019 NFL Draft. Below is Dan's review of the AFC West.

NOTABLE SELECTIONS

BEST PICK: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
Denver Broncos, Round 2, No. 42 overall

This is not a prediction that Lock will melt the snow off the top of the Rocky Mountains with his sizzling play and instantly lead a renaissance of a franchise that's lived in QB hell for the past few seasons. I just like the value and the willingness of John Elway to keep swinging even after some epic fails at the position. We're used to seeing QB prospects get pushed up the board, putting passers who either weren't particularly good or weren't particularly ready for prime time (or both) in situations where they were expected to deliver the goods from the moment they entered the league. This is the opposite of that. Lock was the No. 24 prospect in former scout/NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah's prospect rankings, but he was still available at Pick No. 42 when Denver traded up to get him (Elway gave up a fourth- and sixth-rounder to get his guy). He was the Broncos' third pick. Lock is in the perfect situation. The pressure is off. Expectations are not sky high. He can get acclimated behind Joe Flacco for at least a little while and maybe even a year or more, which should allow him to focus on getting better in the areas where he has to improve -- putting better touch on the ball, footwork, taking the easy completion instead of forcing throws -- before it's his time. NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein's comp for the big-armed passer from Mizzou is Matthew Stafford -- you rarely find that type of talent outside of the top 10 these days.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
Oakland Raiders, Round 1, No. 4 overall

Unless you were one of the few souls Mike Mayock allowed in his draft lair, you had no idea this pick was coming. None of the final mock drafts posted to NFL.com had Ferrell going higher than 13th overall. Now, I have no doubt the Raiders landed a very good player who will help them for a long time in Ferrell. By all accounts, he will bring impeccable character along with prototypical traits as a 4-3 defensive end. The question is whether they passed on great for good, playing it too safe by taking a guy with a high floor rather than taking a shot on a prospect who offered a higher ceiling (Houston DT Ed Oliver, for example). I appreciate the conviction, but this was the draft's first stunning development and one of the biggest jaw-droppers of the weekend.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson
Oakland Raiders, Round 5, No. 149 overall

Yes, the guy who looks more like a banker than a football player (according to his high school coach) was a top-150 pick. We've seen this story before. The walk-on who isn't the biggest, fastest or strongest defies the odds and blah, blah, blah. Well, guess what? It's going to happen again. That's exactly who Renfrow is. The 5-foot-10, 184-pound slot receiver, who made big plays in big games as a member of two national title-winning teams at Clemson, is somehow going to stick in the league for 10-plus years and he'll have some pretty damn respectable seasons along the way while tormenting nickel corners. The grindiest of Gruden Grinders is in a perfect spot and will quickly become a favorite of QB Derek Carr, despite his small hands and short arms.

TEAM GRADES

NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

RANK

1

BRONCOS: A

» Round 1: (No. 20 overall) Noah Fant, TE, Iowa.
» Round 2: (41) Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State; (42) Drew Lock, QB, Missouri.
» Round 3: (71) Dre'Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State.
» Round 5: (156) Justin Hollins, OLB, Oregon.
» Round 6: (187) Juwann Winfree, WR, Colorado.

Just when you all were ready to cast John Elway into the ether as a guy the game had passed by, he showed the football world he knows exactly what he's doing. Sure, Devin Bush would have been nice at No. 10, but trading down to Pick 20, collecting a couple selections from the Steelers and then landing Fant is some mighty fine maneuvering that deserves our respect and admiration. The Broncos have a bunch of tight ends already, but none of them have the athletic ability of Fant, who will be Joe Flacco's best friend (before he becomes Lock's best bud later). Elway was just getting started, though. Coming back in Round 2 for Risner and Lock back-to-back? That's good value! Those two might be handling the center-QB exchange for a decade, although it sounds like Risner will start off at right guard. He has experience at every spot on the offense line. The big-armed Lock slipped into Round 2, defying the conventional wisdom that highly touted QBs go higher than their talent warrants in the draft. The opposite took place here, and the Broncos are the beneficiaries. His upside is tantalizing, but he certainly has issues to work out, from footwork to putting better touch on his throws, before he can be considered for the QB1 job. Flacco will keep the seat warm for him. The Broncos flipped over to the defense in Round 3, where the highly athletic Jones was a nice find. Hollins provides depth at a position of strength and will get a chance to learn from Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.

RANK

T-2

CHARGERS: B

» Round 1: (No. 28 overall) Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame.
» Round 2: (60) Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware.
» Round 3: (91) Trey Pipkins, OT, Sioux Falls.
» Round 4: (130) Drue Tranquill, LB, Notre Dame.
» Round 5: (166) Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State.
» Round 6: (200) Emeke Egbule, OLB, Houston.
» Round 7: (242) Cortez Broughton, DT, Cincinnati.

This is a solid haul for GM Tom Telesco. The Chargers addressed one of their biggest needs with decent value in the tall and long Tillery, who should be a high-impact inside disruptor from Day 1 as long as he doesn't encounter any issues in his return from the shoulder surgery he underwent before the draft. Adderley might be one of the weekend's bigger bargains. He was a borderline first-round value on Jeremiah's board (ranked No. 34), yet the Bolts snagged him late in Round 2. With good range and ball skills, the former Blue Hen should be a fine complement at safety to last year's first-rounder, Derwin James. The Chargers could use a right tackle who's ready to play right now -- better protection for Philip Rivers is vital to this team's success -- but Pipkins is more of a developmental prospect as he transitions from Division II. Telesco continued to pull the trigger on high-upside types who might prove worth the investment in time on Day 3. Tranquill will have to make it as a core special-teamer at first, but he has a " beach-body build," per Zierlein, so the ex-ND LB landed in the right place. It will be fun to see how L.A. utilizes Stick, with Telesco not ruling out a Taysom Hill-like role for the former Carson Wentz backup.

RANK

T-2

RAIDERS: B

» Round 1: (No. 4 overall) Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson; (24) Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama; (27) Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State.
» Round 2: (40) Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson.
» Round 4: (106) Maxx Crosby, DE, Eastern Michigan; (129) Isaiah Johnson, CB, Houston; (137) Foster Moreau, TE, LSU.
» Round 5: (149) Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson.
» Round 7: (230) Quinton Bell, DE, Prairie View A&M.

It's still a couple years too early to tell if Jon Gruden is a genius or a silly man for dealing away Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, but we all know the fate of his 2019 draft picks, the three first-rounders in particular, will play a huge role in history's judgment of those decisions. It seems Gruden and Mayock did a nice job of setting a new foundation, although taking Ferrell at No. 4 was stunning, considering Kentucky's Josh Allen and Houston's Ed Oliver were still on the board (and might have been a better solution to the squad's pass-rushing woes). I have no doubt that Ferrell will be a good player, but they might have passed on better players to play it safe. That's odd whiplash from the way Gruden seems to have embraced rolling the dice in personnel decisions (maybe it's the Mayock effect?). Anyhow, it's hard not to like the Jacobs and Abram picks. That's the top RB and safety in the draft. The Jacobs selection is looking especially handy with the news Wednesday that Isaiah Crowell will miss the season with a torn Achilles. Mullen fills a need, too, and should compete for a starting job. Oakland took a shot on a couple developmental pass rushers on Day 3 (meaning there's still a need off the edge in the short term), but I like the Johnson and Renfrow picks a lot. I'm intrigued by the upside of Johnson, who played receiver for his first two seasons before switching to defense, and the likelihood that Renfrow will continue to be Mr. Clutch even while he looks more like Mr. Rogers.

RANK

4

CHIEFS: B-

» Round 2: (No. 56 overall) Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia; (63) Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia.
» Round 3: (84) Khalen Saunders, DT, Western Illinois.
» Round 6: (201) Rashad Fenton, CB, South Carolina; (214) Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State.
» Round 7: (216) Nick Allegretti, OG, Illinois.

The Chiefs were without a first-round pick after sending it to Seattle in the Frank Clark trade. I'm still befuddled by the decision to invest major draft capital and a massive long-term deal in Clark rather than sticking with Dee Ford, who had received the franchise tag. Clark will have to prove to be a major upgrade over Ford for that price to seem reasonable, and it's just not a move I would have made. I did like the team's first three picks, though. Hardman fills a glaring need given the uncertainty surrounding Tyreek Hill's future in the NFL. Hardman is raw, but he has the field-stretching speed Kansas City is going to need. Zierlein wrote in his scouting report that Hardman "could develop into a lesser version of Tyreek Hill with his playmaking potential after the catch, on deep balls and as a returner." Thornhill can play corner or safety, and the Chiefs will be able to move him all over the field, giving them a pair feisty ballhawks with the Honey Badger in tow. Saunders is one of our favorite players in the draft -- the 324-pound man does a mean backflip -- and should fit nicely into Steve Spagnuolo's rotation up front.

Follow Dan Parr on Twitter @TheDan_Parr.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop