We’ve taken a look around the AFC and seen many teams make major moves in the offseason. With the NFL draft just around the corner, the AFC West is a conference that could really use their draft picks to create a more successful team in the 2018 season.
The Denver Broncos had a tough season this past year. They finished the season with a losing record, 5-11. This was Denver’s first losing season since 2010. They went on an 8-game losing streak in the heart of their schedule and lost 10 of 12 games. The Broncos offense ranked 27th in the NFL in scoring.
It is extremely crucial for the Broncos to use the upcoming draft wisely. The offense should be their main concern when it comes to selecting players. The offensive line allowed 52 sacks this past season, which tied for third-most in all of the NFL. Denver could use more playmakers in the receiving positions, and a long-term quarterback should still be kept in mind. Defensively, the Broncos are in great shape, as they ranked third in total defense, fourth in pass defense, and fifth in rush defense. They could use more big plays, so acquiring more depth at linebacker is an option, as well as an elite pass rusher. Overall, if the Broncos put their focus into their offense, then they should be able to start to work their way back to the Super Bowl team that they were just a few years back.
The Oakland Raiders also struggled this season and ended with a 6-10 record and 3rd in the AFC West. They had a very successful 12-4 season in 2016, so they were overconfident coming into this season and it showed in the way they played. Their offense seemed to disappear after the first two games of the season, as the team only scored more than 24 points just once in the final 14 games. Two separate four-game losing streaks eliminated any possibility of them making the playoffs last year.
In terms of the draft, the positions that Oakland should focus on are a linebacker, defensive line, and offensive line. Head Coach Jon Gruden added offensive skill positions and defensive backs through free agency, but there is a concern that he has focused too heavily on aging veterans. The main focus for the Raiders should be to really round out their lineup as best as they can. They have the number 10 overall pick in the draft, so there should be plenty of opportunities for them to really fill their roster with good quality players.
The Los Angeles Chargers had a pretty successful season considering their recent history. After having back-to-back losing seasons, the Chargers got back above .500 this past season. They dug themselves a hole at the beginning of the season, going 0-4, which made it too difficult for them to recover enough to make the playoffs. This is the fourth season in a row that this team missed a playoff spot. However, they won nine of their last twelve games of the season and ended up with one of the best defenses in the league. They ranked third in both scoring defense and pass defense, so there is definitely potential for a playoff opportunity in 2018.
The Chargers were very good at keeping opponents off the scoreboard and stopping the opposing quarterbacks, but they ranked 31st in run defense. This proves the need for Los Angeles to improve their defensive line, although linebacker and safety are also positions that could use upgrades. The Chargers could also think about trying to find a backup for quarterback Philip Rivers, although it is not a top priority. Adding depth up front is certainly not crucial, but would not hurt to think about. The Chargers have a very talented lineup and have the capability to succeed, but they have to do it the right away. They have the 17th pick in the first round of the draft, so we will see what they decide to do.
Finally, we have the Kansas City Chiefs, who were the AFC West champions and made it to the playoffs. The Chiefs had a great start to their season, as they defeated the New England Patriots 42-27 in their opening game. Their win streak continued for five games, but then the squad lost six of seven games before finishing the regular season with four straight wins. They went 10-6 on the season, but fell just short of a victory in the first round of the playoffs, as they lost 22-21 to the Tennessee Titans.
Kansas City is in desperate need of a solid defense. For them, the draft should be about filling gaps in the defensive lineup, because they only ranked 15th in scoring defense this past year. Offensively, they performed very well, as the team ranked 6th in scoring offense. In overall defense, the team ranked 28th. This shows that they could use upgrades in every area of the defensive side. The secondary need for them is a linebacker after the team signed Anthony Hitchens to a $45 million free agent contract. Defensive line and depth at linebacker are the primary concerns for this organization. Offensively, Kansas City does not need to make many adjustments, but a tight end would be the biggest need on that end. The Chiefs do not have a first-round pick in the draft, so it could be difficult for them to fill all of their desired positions. I guess we will just have to see what happens!