Four Downs: AFC West
by Derrik Klassen
Biggest Need: Quarterback
Drafting a quarterback after having just paid Case Keenum would have been a tough sell. Keenum is good enough for the team to compete, and certainly an upgrade over Trevor Siemian. However, the terms of a contract speak volumes about how a team views a player, and Keenum's contract does not scream long-term quarterback When Minnesota was rostering Keenum for a roughly $2 million cap hit, as opposed to the $15 million and $21 million marks Denver is looking at, Keenum was a success. But if Keenum repeated his play in 2018 under his new contract, he would not be any sort of bargain.
The Broncos had three of the top quarterbacks fall to them at the fifth overall pick, yet chose to ride with Keenum. Maybe Denver is planning to give Keenum a real chance before committing to a new rookie, similar to what the Kansas City Chiefs did with Alex Smith. Whatever the plan may be, there is very little long-term certainty emitting from Denver's quarterback room right now.
Notable Undrafted Free Agents: The Broncos took shots on priority free agents at the same positions on which they spent premium draft picks. Edge rusher Bradley Chubb and wide receiver Courtland Sutton were the team's first two picks in the draft, while two of the team's best undrafted free agents are edge rusher Jeff Holland (Auburn) and wide receiver John Diarse (TCU). Holland comes as an undersized edge presence, measuring in at 6-foot-1 and 249 pounds, but he packs a punch and plays with impressive energy. Diarse, however, is a more complicated prospect. Originally a role player for LSU, Diarse transferred to TCU and contributed as a starter for two seasons, flashing valuable skills in contested catch situations. Safety Trey Marshall (Florida State) and running back Phillip Lindsay (Colorado) are worth keeping tabs on as well, though Lindsay will have a tough road ahead of him in a crowded running back room.
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Kansas City Chiefs
Biggest Need: Cornerback
Kansas City's most notable offseason transaction at cornerback was swapping out Marcus Peters for Kendall Fuller via two separate trades. Fuller, though plenty talented, is not the caliber of player Peters is. At best, it will be a lateral move for the Chiefs, still leaving them with a tattered secondary. The team also signed David Amerson, but Amerson's signing was more of a gamble on a flashy yet inconsistent veteran than anything of true substance. Kansas City's secondary headed into the NFL draft no better than they ended the 2017 season.
With that in mind, one would have hoped to see Kansas City address the cornerback position, but the Chiefs instead focused resources on the front seven. Tremon Smith, a sixth-round selection, was the Chiefs' only cornerback selection. As is the case with most late-round picks, Smith is not likely to have an immediate impact.
Notable Undrafted Free Agents: As if the Chiefs' offense could not get any more explosive, Andy Reid scooped up deep-threat wide receiver Byron Pringle as an undrafted free agent. Pringle is a one-trick pony, but that can still be plenty valuable. During his final year at Kansas State, Pringle posted nearly 25 yards per reception, good for 724 yards and six touchdowns on just 30 receptions. It is unlikely Pringle turns to a star, but if he can be akin to someone such as Brice Butler, that would be a quality pickup. Quarterback Chase Litton (Marshall) also catches the eye as one of Reid's pet projects. Reid is often keen on taking in late-round or undrafted quarterbacks, ranging from Aaron Murray to Tyler Bray, and Litton fits that bill. Lastly, defensive lineman Dee Liner (yes, really, that is his name, and it is perfect) has a legitimate chance to stick on the roster given Kansas City's defensive line issues. Liner is a transfer from Alabama to Arkansas State whose final college season was shortened due to a preseason groin injury.
Los Angeles Chargers
Biggest Need: Off-Ball Linebacker
Similar to the division rival Kansas City Chiefs, the Los Angeles Chargers opted to bolster areas of the defense, but not the one that seemed to be the biggest weakness. The Chargers drafted a total of four defenders over the entirety of the draft weekend, yet none of them were off-ball linebackers. Two safeties, an outside linebacker, and a nose tackle will join the roster as rookies.
The most likely explanation for avoiding the position altogether is that the Chargers chose to draft the "best player available," not the top players at their most needy position. Safeties Derwin James (17th overall) and Kyzir White (fourth round) both seem to be fantastic value. Outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu and defensive tackle Justin Jones were each selected in a fair range for their talents, but probably got the edge over a linebacker because of the value of defensive linemen and pass-rushers. However, if Denzel Perryman is sidelined by an injury for any extended period of time, the second level of the Chargers' defense will be a complete liability.
Notable Undrafted Free Agents: Heading into the offseason, the Chargers needed help in the secondary. Of course, the team was already fortunate enough for James to fall to them in the draft, but they were also able to acquire safety/nickel hybrid Tony Brown and cornerback Brandon Facyson. Brown is a former five-star recruit who bounced around the secondary while at Alabama and tested exceptionally well in most athletic tests at the NFL Combine. On the other hand, Facyson had an odd career at Virginia Tech. Facyson erupted with five interceptions as a true freshman in 2014, but lingering injuries, primarily a tibia issue, derailed his sophomore season and he never recorded another interception for the remainder of his college career. It is possible that the Chargers can help Facyson regain his former prowess.
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Biggest Need: Off-Ball Linebacker
Oakland's defense was a massive work in progress heading into the draft. There was no way they could address every position of need. Like many other teams around the league, Oakland opted to bolster the defensive line and secondary rather than the linebacker corps.
The only draft resource Oakland put into the position was a sixth-round pick in Azeem Victor. While at Washington, Victor flashed talent early on, but struggled to be a consistent football player and was benched in his senior season. The Raiders may get lucky with a Vontaze Burfict situation out of Victor, but more than likely, Victor is just a depth player.
That leaves Oakland's starting linebackers to be Tahir Whitehead and Cory James, with Marquel Lee and Emmanuel Lamur in relief. Whitehead is a below-average, although functional, NFL starter. James is a backup quality player, and Lee and Lamur are not the caliber of depth players to get excited over. Oakland's linebacker unit will once again be a weak point for the defense. The fan base can take solace in the rest of the defense getting help, but it will be tough to watch the linebackers this year.
Notable Undrafted Free Agents: Oakland selected punter Johnny Townsend of Florida in the fifth round, and he will now be united with his former special teams partner, kicker Eddy Pineiro. Pineiro led the NCAA in field goal percentage in 2017 by making 17 of his 18 attempts. Though he lacks the booming leg of Sebastian Janikowski, Pineiro regularly made attempts of 40-plus yards while at Florida. As for the offense, tight end Marcus Baugh (Ohio State) and fullback Chris Warren III (Texas) have outside chances at roster spots. Warren is the son of former NFL running back Chris Warren Jr., best known for his eight years with the Seattle Seahawks. The Raiders also signed Jason Cabinda, a linebacker from Penn State. Cabinda needs some work, but has the athletic profile to crack a weak Raiders linebacker depth chart.
Portions of this article originally appeared at ESPN Insider.