Four Downs: AFC West
by Andrew Healy
Biggest Post-Draft Weakness: Quarterback
QBASE, our quarterback prediction model, thinks it is unlikely that the Broncos actually addressed their quarterback problem by trading up to draft Memphis prospect Paxton Lynch. Based on his college stats, and in particular the weak schedule he faced, Lynch projects to have about a one-in-three chance of being an adequate starter or better.
It's not just the numbers. Lynch's soft schedule means there's less evidence to know whether Lynch can quickly get through his reads at the NFL level, an area in which some scouting reports have questioned his abilities.
With their great defense, the Broncos may only need adequate quarterback play to contend. Ryan Fitzpatrick, 14th in our DVOA rankings and 12th in ESPN Total QBR last year, is remarkably still available. He would be more likely than either Mark Sanchez or Lynch to be adequate.
Notable Undrafted Free Agent Additions: As they prepare to shift to the Paxton Lynch era, the Broncos brought in two interesting undrafted receivers. Oregon's Bralon Addison had 10 touchdowns in 2015 after missing all of 2014 with a torn ACL. His production throughout his college career got him a Playmaker Rating higher than two first-round picks (Josh Doctson and Laquon Treadwell). The Broncos also signed Lynch's top target at Memphis, Mose Frazier. While Frazier had just four receiving touchdowns in 2015, he added two more as a rusher. Iowa tight end Henry Krieger-Coble also has a good shot to make the roster, as he faces an uncertain depth chart at the position. Krieger-Coble can beat man coverage and could fit well in a zone-blocking scheme.
Kansas City Chiefs
Biggest Post-Draft Weakness: Offensive Guard
Last year, the Chiefs had the league's No. 6 offense by DVOA and the No. 1 rushing offense, but that success masked some weaknesses on the offensive line. The Chiefs ranked close to the bottom in adjusted line yards, our measure of the yards created by the blocking, on runs to the right. They also ranked 28th in adjusted sack rate, a mark that falls partially on the line and partially on Alex Smith.
This offseason, the Chiefs addressed their problem at right tackle by signing free agent Mitchell Schwartz. But the Chiefs still have a weakness at left guard, where fourth-round pick Parker Ehinger is slotted to compete with Jarrod Pughsley (zero NFL starts) for a roster spot. At the other guard, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif got 13 starts in his second season, but mostly struggled.
Notable Undrafted Free Agent Additions: The Chiefs targeted their free agent signings on players who could fill holes on the offensive line and in the secondary. On the interior of the line, they picked up three-and-a-half year starter guard Jake Bernstein out of Vanderbilt and four-year starter Ben Clarke out of Hawaii. Clarke played his first two years at center (where he projects as a pro) before moving to left tackle his last two, not missing a game in 2015 despite playing with a broken foot for several weeks. The Chiefs also picked up two players to help address their thinness at cornerback: Mount Union's Tre Jones and Dartmouth's Vernon Harris. Jones returned five interceptions for touchdowns and would not be the first player to stick in the NFL from his alma mater. Mount Union produced Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts in recent years.
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Biggest Post-Draft Weakness: Receiving Tight End
2015 first-round wide receiver Amari Cooper helped Derek Carr make a huge leap forward in his sophomore season. To give Carr his best chance to advance another level, the Raiders would ideally add a receiving tight end to complement Cooper.
Last season, the Raiders had no tight end rank in the top 30 by our receiving numbers. The Raiders currently have their hopes at this spot riding on the shoulders of 2015 third-round pick Clive Walford, who we rated as below-average last season. While Walford showed some flashes as a rookie, he also is now battling a knee injury sustained earlier in the offseason that was just reported on Tuesday.
Notable Undrafted Free Agent Additions: The Raiders grabbed one of the most interesting UDFA options when they signed Southern Utah pass rusher James Cowser. The FCS career sacks leader with 43.5, Cowser also posted the fastest 3-cone time of any pass rusher invited to the combine this year. SackSEER likes Cowser's production and it's surprising no team took a late-round flier on him. Great pass rushers have come out of small schools in the past, and we can even leave out Cowser's new teammate, the already-great Khalil Mack. Robert Mathis (Alabama A&M) and Jared Allen (Idaho State) are two small-school pass rushing gems that teams unearthed in the later rounds of the draft. In addition to Cowser, the Raiders picked up Ed McCaffrey's son -- that would be >this one, not this one.
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San Diego Chargers
Biggest Post-Draft Weakness: Linebacker
Coming into the offseason, the Chargers' defensive line was in the running for the NFL position group most in need of improvement. The Chargers ranked dead last in DVOA against the run and 25th in adjusted sack rate in 2015.
To address their defensive line deficiency, the Chargers signed tackle Brandon Mebane and end Joey Bosa, with the latter technically being a linebacker in a 3-4, but with the job description of a 4-3 defensive end. Those acquisitions should help with San Diego's defensive problems, but much of the Chargers' shortcomings in run defense came behind the first line of defense. The Chargers ranked 31st in stopping opposing runners between 5 and 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and 32nd beyond 10 yards. Even after adding Bosa, San Diego still needs more from the other linebackers than they got last year.
Notable Undrafted Free Agent Additions: Before tearing an ACL in the last game of the 2013 season and then tearing the same ligament again before the start of the next season, Oregon left tackle Tyler Johnstone seemed unlikely to eventually go undrafted. Remember that there was a time when it took two years to recover from ACL injuries. If Johnstone can return to his pre-injury trajectory, the Chargers could have a valuable line contributor. The Chargers certainly know success in the undrafted free agent market, having signed one of the best UDFAs in NFL history: tight end Antonio Gates.