Grading the 2014 NFL Draft: Chargers close the gap in AFC West
NFLDraftScout.com takes a division-by-division look at which teams fared best in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Grading an NFL Draft immediately after it occurs is akin to giving your compliments to the chef based on the menu rather than actually waiting to taste the food. It will take at least three years before we can truly assess how the 32 NFL teams fared over the weekend. But waiting is no fun. As such, let's take a take at which teams appear to have done the best job of filling needs and building for the future via the seven rounds of the 2014 draft.
The weaker teams have the advantage on draft day because not only do they generally get the earlier picks, they have plenty of holes for which rookies to show their stuff. As such, when a Super Bowl team like Denver fills holes like they did in Rounds 1-3, it deserves special mentioning. I really like the addition of the tough and talented corner Bradley Roby at No. 31. He needs to play with greater consistency but the talent is undeniable. Wideout Cody Latimer adds to the length, speed and toughness of a unit that frankly failed to match Seattle's physicality in the Super Bowl - with the notable exception of star Demaryius Thomas, of course. Michael Schofield and Matt Paradis are no-nonsense blockers who also fill a need for depth along the offensive line and I like the athletic upside of linebackers Lamin Barrow and Corey Nelson. This wasn't a breath-taking draft for the Broncos but few clubs did more with less (six) picks. Grade: B
Kansas City Chiefs
Given the success of the Chiefs' defense -- in large part due to pass rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali -- the addition of Dee Ford in the first round was surprising. Adding impact edge rushers is never a bad idea, though, especially in a division featuring relatively immobile pocket passers like Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. Given that the Chiefs' starting quarterback, Alex Smith, is not of this caliber, I anticipated that the team would add some pass-catchers to help him so the additions of running back De'Anthony Thomas and quarterback Aaron Murray as the club's only offensive skill-position prospects is interesting, to say the least. Some will blast the Chiefs for not adding receivers but Andy Reid's offense is said to be especially difficult so expecting any rookie to make an immediate impact would have been a stretch. Still, I would have liked to see more playmakers added to help Smith. Phillip Gaines and Zach Fulton could carve out niches as a rookie and I love the upside of Laurent Duvarney-Tardif. A solid class but not one that I believe will keep the Chiefs from taking a step back in the AFC West next season. Grade: B-
The results are going to have to be seen on the field, of course, but there is reason for optimism in Oakland with a very intriguing class that demonstrated a great deal of patience from general manager Reggie McKenzie and his staff. Pass rusher Khalil Mack was a no-brainer at No. 5 overall and I would argue that quarterback Derek Carr was, as well. While true that he struggled with pressure in his face at Fresno State, it should be noted that he also never had much of an offensive line there either, as only one blocker during his time with the Bulldogs was drafted (and he, OG Andrew Jackson, was in the seventh round three years ago). The Raiders nabbed two shockingly athletic wide-bodied interior linemen with guard Gabe Jackson in the third and defensive tackle Justin Ellis in the fourth. I also like the length of the three defensive backs Oakland nabbed in this draft, especially given the size of the top receivers in this division. Grade: B
San Diego Chargers
Like Denver, San Diego did a very nice job of filling some holes with a limited number of picks. What Jason Verrett lacks in size, he makes up for with quickness, instincts and tenacity. One of the long-time NFL scouts I trust most graded Verrett as the top senior prospect in the country, regardless of position. I love the schematic fits and value that the Chargers found with outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu in the second round, guard Chris Watt in the third and nose guard Ryan Carrethers in the fifth. Former ASU running back Marion Grice offers a very specific skill-set as one of the elite pass-catchers at the position as does big play wideout Tevin Reese, whose speed is better described with his propensity for long touchdowns rather than just his 40-yard dash time. Reese was clocked at 4.41 seconds. More impressively, 22 of his 25 career touchdowns at Baylor traveled at least 40 yards. That's no misprint. San Diego is gambling on some specialists here to be sure but they are intriguing fits that could help the Chargers take another step in the divisional race. Grade: A-
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