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AFC West draft grades: Chargers make play for divisional title

Former NFL player/scout Bucky Brooks and Around The NFL's Conor Orr are performing a division-by-division assessment of the 2017 NFL Draft, spotlighting notable picks and handing out grades for each team. Below is Conor's review of the AFC West.


BEST PICK: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Los Angeles Chargers, Round 1, No. 7 overall

My admiration for the Chargers' draft stems from their willingness to recognize what veteran quarterback Philip Rivers needs and then provide it for him. The NFL is about maximizing windows, and the perpetual rebuilding of the Chargers has cost the franchise some valuable time with the 35-year-old quarterback. Williams, by my own observation, is devastatingly physical and allows the Bolts to push back against some of the formidable defensive backs in the division. Should the Chargers make it to opening week without any major injury concerns, they will be a trendy pick to win the division, thanks in large part to Williams.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
Oakland Raiders, Round 1, No. 24 overall

As NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said, if the Raiders are correct and their investigatory work backs up their confidence in Conley, it's a fine pick. If not, the general manager needs to come forward and take the blame. Conley met with Cleveland police this week to address an accusation that he raped a woman at a Cleveland hotel on April 9 -- less than a month before the draft. Conley has not been charged or arrested, and a warrant has not been issued for his arrest. As NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, Conley passed a polygraph test that was administered by a professional. The test was requested by the Baltimore Ravens. On the eve of the draft, a trio of general managers told that Conley was likely to slip to the third round. Instead, the projected first-round pick remained one of the highest-selected players in the draft.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova
Kansas City Chiefs, Round 2, No. 59 overall

Some fans are just now getting around to watching the Kpassagnon highlight tapes out of Villanova, which appear to show a full-grown man beating up on kids a third his size and speed. The increase in competition was always going to be a worry for scouts, but the Chiefs also have one of the smartest defensive coordinators in football (Bob Sutton). At the least, Sutton should be able to free the 6-foot-7, 289-pound defensive end and allow him to scare the wits out of an unprotected passer or two this season.


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

» Round 1: (No. 7 overall) Mike Williams, WR, Clemson.

» Round 2: (38) Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky.

» Round 3: (71) Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana.

» Round 4: (113) Rayshawn Jenkins, S, Miami.

» Round 5: (151) Desmond King, DB, Iowa.

» Round 6: (190) Sam Tevi, OT, Utah.

» Round 7: (225) Isaac Rochell, DT, Notre Dame.

As we mentioned above, this was a coup for GM Tom Telesco and new head coach Anthony Lynn. Not only do you diversify your offensive weapons, but you acquire Lamp, who by all accounts was one of the safer offensive line choices in this draft. Lamp was enjoyable to watch against Alabama this past year, which had to be a nice barometer for scouts wondering how he could perform against top-tier competition. I did not sense hesitation against a blue-chip defensive line aiming to blow up the Hilltoppers' pocket.

» Round 1: (No. 24 overall) Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State.

» Round 2: (56) Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut.

» Round 3: (88) Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA.

» Round 4: (129) David Sharpe, OT, Florida.

» Round 5: (168) Marquel Lee, LB, Wake Forest.

» Round 7: (221) Shalom Luani, S, Washington State; (231) Jylan Ware, OT, Alabama State; (242) Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina; (244) Treyvon Hester, DT, Toledo.

I am biased here, given that Melifonwu was one of my favorite players in the entire draft -- a Jamie Collins for the secondary. Had he gone to a team that did not have someone with a strong defensive mind present, I'm not sure I would have been as crazy about the pick. Jack Del Rio, who hasn't had this kind of size and athleticism in his secondary in his Raiders tenure thus far, essentially secured himself a shape-shifter who can be the linchpin of game plans for years to come. Setting the uncertainty surrounding Conley aside for now, Oakland's focus on defensive talent made sense and played with the strength of the class as a whole. Surround Khalil Mack with talent and watch the team get tougher and tougher. 

» Round 1: (No. 10 overall) Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech.

» Round 2: (59) Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova.

» Round 3: (86) Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo.

» Round 4: (139) Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan.

» Round 5: (183) Ukeme Eligwe, LB, Georgia Southern.

» Round 6: (218) Leon McQuay III, S, USC.

For me, the final grade will hinge on what kind of results they can get out of Eligwe, their fifth-round linebacker out of Georgia Southern. The Chiefs are planning to start two linebackers who were drafted 11-plus years ago (Derrick Johnson, chosen in 2005, and Tamba Hali, chosen in 2006) and need to inject some youth back into their front seven. Obviously, this draft was all about Mahomes, which may end up being one of the best picks of the Andy Reid-John Dorsey era. Personally, I feel like veteran QB Alex Smith will continue to be an above-average starter for the duration of his contract (he has two years remaining) and that Smith's limitations are not the main issue with the Chiefs as a whole. However, Reid cannot be questioned in a scenario where he had an opportunity to strike for a quarterback who reminds him of the great Brett Favre. A definitive grade is years away, but for now, we'll give the Chiefs a B+ for aggression and conviction on both sides of the ball. 

Denver Broncos

» Round 1: (No. 20 overall) Garett Bolles, OT, Utah.

» Round 2: (51) DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State.

» Round 3: (82) Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech; (101) Brendan Langley, CB, Lamar.

» Round 5: (145) Jake Butt, TE, Michigan; (172) Isaiah McKenzie, WR, Georgia.

» Round 6: (203) De'Angelo Henderson, RB, Coastal Carolina.

» Round 7: (253) Chad Kelly, QB, Mississippi.

Aside from the Jaguars, the Broncos might have made the most obvious first-round selection in the draft. Bolles is raw, according to several of's draft analysts, but new coach Vance Joseph has to put faith in assistants like Jeff Davidson, who will handle the offensive line this year. The knock on Bolles, according to Mayock, was with regard to "football IQ," which can be a scary thing for a team starting one of two green quarterbacks. Should the pick pan out, this is yet another example of John Elway's draft and free agency savvy (he could have spent lavishly on a veteran offensive tackle this winter). Should Bolles be the weak link, Denver could see the Chargers and Raiders fly by them without much recourse. I think of the Giants, who are still wrestling with their selection of Ereck Flowers years later, and wonder if this could end up being Denver's fate, as well.

Follow Conor Orr on Twitter @ConorOrr.

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