Best and Worst Drafts from the AFC
One week removed from the NFL Draft and I already miss it. The AFC had some great drafts so let’s see who had the best and worst of the AFC.
Kansas City Chiefs – Notable Additions: Orlando Brown Jr. LT, Nick Bolton, LB, Creed Humphrey, C, Trey Smith, OG
Patrick Mahomes gets roughed up in the Super Bowl and the Chiefs replace the entire offensive line. Kansas City traded away its first-round pick to the Ravens in return for a 25-year-old 2x Pro Bowl LT Orlando Brown Jr. Sitting at pick 31, there was no chance a player of his caliber would be there and just a phenomenal trade by the Chiefs. With the first of two second-round picks, they select Nick Bolton, middle linebacker out of Missouri, who many believed to be one of the safer players in this draft. A smart move to plan and find a replacement for current MLB Anthony Hitchens who they will most likely cut next year due to a $12 million cap hit. With their second 2nd round pick the Chiefs got Creed Humphrey, who I had graded as the top center in this class. Just to understand how good Creed Humphrey is, he was a 3-year starter at Oklahoma who allowed ZERO sacks his entire college career. To top off the O-line overhaul they get Trey Smith in round 6. Now Trey Smith comes with some health concerns which is why he fell so far but before his health concerns he was graded as a round 2-3 pick. What do you do for a guy you locked up to a 10-year, $500 million contract? You protect him, and the Chiefs should have one of the best offensive lines in football.
New York Jets – Notable Additions: Zach Wilson, QB, Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, Elijah Moore, WR, Michael Carter, RB
This is the first time in a very long time someone is writing about the New York Jets having a good draft, but they crushed it! The Jets get their franchise QB in Zach Wilson and then immediately do everything they can to ensure he is successful. The Jets move up in round 1 with the Vikings to select USC OT/G Alijah Vera-Tucker who was the highest-rated guard in the draft and had dominant years for USC at both left and right tackle. I expect him to start at left guard, lining up next to last year’s first-round pick LT Mekhi Becton and forming an absolute wall for Wilson on his blind side. In round 2 they grab a stud of a wide receiver Elijah Moore. I have written about Moore a few times as he has excellent speed and can be damaging from both the slot and outside as a receiver. Moore will be a great complement to Corey Davis and Denzel Mims. Then in round 4 they fill a giant hole at running back by selecting Michael Carter out of UNC. Carter was ranked the 4th or 5th best running back in the draft on almost every board, so great value here to get him in round 4. Zach Wilson now has all the tools to be successful and with defensive-minded head coach Robert Saleh, the Jets should be a tough out each week.
Cleveland Browns - Notable Additions: Greg Newsome II, CB, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Anthony Schwartz, WR
The Browns came into the draft with not many holes to fill and in my opinion and have the second-best roster in the league behind the Bucs. In round 1 they get a lockdown corner in Greg Newsome II. I didn’t think Newsome had any chance of getting this far into round 1 but the Browns got an elite player who will give opponents nightmares locking up receivers alongside Denzel Ward. The Browns secondary who struggled last year, some due to injury, now have one of the strongest units in football led by John Johnson III, Grant Delpit, Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, and Greg Newsome II. In round 2 the Browns selected Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah an elite off-ball linebacker with great coverage skills who fell out of round 1 due to a heart issue that arose just before the draft. Doctors have fully cleared him, and it could turn out to be one of the biggest steals in the draft for Cleveland. Finally, the Browns top it off by selecting the fastest player in the draft, wide receiver Anthony Schwartz out of Auburn who ran a 4.25 40 time. Cleveland broke the playoff drought last year and now has a roster ready to take it to the next level.
Los Angeles Chargers - Notable Additions: Rashawn Slater, OT, Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Josh Palmer, WR, Tre' McKitty, TE, Chris Rumph II, DE
This makes it two years in a row that the Chargers nailed the draft. Justin Herbert looks like an elite QB who they are lucky didn’t get hurt last year behind the 3rd worst offensive line in the league according to PFF. Even with a revamped O-line in the offseason, the Chargers still had a hole at left tackle and filled that hole in round 1 with a stud in Rashawn Slater. The clear #2 tackle in the class dominated at Northwestern and wowed scouts with his impressive 2019 film against Chase Young. In round 2 they filled their biggest hole on the defensive side of the ball and grabbed a great corner in Asante Samuel Jr. With Samuel, Michael Davis, and Chris Harris new head coach Brandon Staley has the talent to play his man to man cover scheme that we saw be so effective for last year’s top defense, the LA Rams. They turned their attention back to the offense in round 3 selecting wide receiver Josh Palmer and tight end Tre’ McKitty. With Mike Williams a free agent next year I think Josh Palmer could be the guy the Chargers see taking his spot. A bigger receiver, who has excellent hands and ran in the low 4.5s. Palmer has all the talent needed to be a successful starter in the NFL and was derailed by poor QB play in college. If I could find a rookie who most resembled Charger's current TE Jared Cook it would be Tre’ McKitty. Both have great size at 6’5 and while McKitty doesn’t quite have the top-end speed as Cook, he is very athletic and should be a productive pass catcher in year one. One of the best sleeper edge rushers in this class was Chris Rumph II out of Duke. A perfect complement for Joey Bosa and Jerry Tillery and should do favorably seeing consistent one-on-one matchups. Chargers had a great draft weekend filling both need and maximizing talent that was on the board. A dangerous and fun team to watch in 2021.
Miami Dolphins - Notable Additions: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Jaelan Phillips, DE, Jevon Holland, S, Liam Eichenberg, OT, Hunter Long, TE
The Miami Dolphins had hands down the best draft regardless of conference. The quality and quantity of starters they added in this draft was amazing and they still gained an extra future first-round pick because of the 49ers trade. Miami starts it off by reuniting Tua with his college buddy Jaylen Waddle who many have compared to Tyreek Hill and should be everything Raider fans wished Henry Ruggs III would become. With the 18th pick Miami selected Jalen Phillips, the best edge rusher in the class and while he does come with injury concerns, could turn into a double-digit sack producer for Brian Flores’ defense. Next, was a pair of round 2 picks where they selected ball-hawking safety Jevon Holland out of Oregon and LT Liam Eichenberg out of Notre Dame. Holland fills a big need at safety and adds to a ball-hawking secondary led by reigning INT leader Xavien Howard. Eichenberg should step in on day one as the starting right tackle which is a key position for Miami’s lefty QB. It’s not often a team has 4 picks in the top 42 and nails every one of them. In round 3 the Dolphins get a really good tight end out of Boston College, Hunter Long. Long can be a long-term replacement for Mike Gesicki who is an unrestricted free agent after this year and will be a matchup nightmare in 2021 in two tight end sets. No more excuses for Tua in year 2 with a loaded offense and a strong defense. I expect the Dolphins to be a playoff team in 2021.
Las Vegas Raiders – Notable Picks: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Trevon Moehrig, S
Just like previous years, the Raiders continue to pass up on better talent and reach for people early. From Clelin Ferrell, Henry Ruggs III, Damon Arnette, and now Alex Leatherwood. Leatherwood may be a fine player but there was better offensive line talent on the board (Tevin Jenkins, Christian Darrisaw) and Leatherwood would have, more than likely, still been there in round 2. The Raiders passed upon addressing key positions of need at edge rusher and cornerback by picking Leatherwood and by doing so missed out on the likes of Jaelen Phillips and Caleb Farley. A head-scratcher to say the least. In round 2 I did like the selection of Trevon Moehrig who I had as the top safety in the class but with holes at WR, Edge, and CB I didn’t think it filled much of a need. People may like Jon Gruden, but I’d assume (and hope) the end is near for the Gruden and Mayock era in Las Vegas.