Four Downs
Offseason analysis of the NFL, division by division

Four Downs: AFC West

Denver Broncos QB Drew Lock
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

For this May round of Four Downs, we will be looking at each team's biggest remaining need as well as notable undrafted free agents who will be going to camp with each franchise.

Denver Broncos

Biggest Need: Backup quarterback

The Broncos had a terrific draft, running out of it with Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, and exactly zero excuses for Drew Lock to not play well in 2020. Lock finished the 2019 season with a 2.2% DVOA and, in theory, these new weapons should unlock the deep passing game that is his strong suit. However, the Broncos still have no real backup of acclaim. No Case Keenum, no Joe Flacco. They're rolling with Jeff Driskel. Lock's rookie season showed some promise, but QBASE 2019 compared him to Brady Quinn. Given how strong the rest of the roster looks after a strong draft and the trades for A.J. Bouye and Jurrell Casey, you could argue that there's not a player in the league that could make more of a difference between contention and flopping than Lock without a real backup plan in 2020.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents: If you want to follow the money, Western Michigan running back LeVante Bellamy reportedly got a $60,000 bonus to join up with the Broncos. The MAC MVP ran for 1,472 yards in his senior season and scored 23 rushing touchdowns. Bellamy wasn't asked to do a lot of receiving and probably projects best as someone challenging Royce Freeman's roster spot. Wake Forest's Essang Bassey is a 5-foot-9 corner who played a ton outside in college but will probably kick into the slot in the pros. That's a potential challenge for Bryce Callahan.

Kansas City Chiefs

Biggest Need: Edge rusher

The Chiefs did not re-sign Emmanuel Ogbah or Terrell Suggs, and they spent only a fifth-round pick on Michigan's Mike Danna in the draft as a way to patch the hole next to Frank Clark. First crack probably goes to Alex Okafor, but Okafor has not notched more than five sacks in a season since 2014 and has exactly one season of experience as a full-time starter. Breeland Speaks and Tanoh Kpassagnon are better fits on run defense. In a league where waves of pass-rushers are becoming the norm, the Chiefs increasingly look like a two-man show between Clark and Chris Jones.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents: The Chiefs had a very busy UDFA class, most of it targeted at three positions. They signed five different UDFA wideouts. Vanderbilt's Kalija Lipscomb, who got a $110,000 bonus, was probably the most notable of the five. Lipscomb has a history of returning kicks so that's an easy way for him to get on the field while we see if he pans out as an NFL receiver. The Chiefs also signed four different UDFA corners. The headliner at that position is Lavert Hill, who got a $110,000 bonus of his own as an undersized press corner out of Michigan who was destined to get Jourdan Lewis comps. However, some draftniks are higher on Auburn's Javaris Davis, who ran a 4.39s 40-yard-dash at the combine and projects as a slot corner due to a 5-foot-8, 183-pound frame. Finally, the Chiefs signed a few different offensive linemen, including their reported highest bonus: $150,000 for Missouri tackle Yasir Durant, who projects to right tackle as a pro.

Las Vegas Raiders

Biggest Need: Pass rush

The newly-moved Raiders finished 27th in adjusted sack rate in 2019 and didn't make an impact addition off the edge for the 2020 season, drafting nobody and bringing in only Carl Nassib in free agency. Now, Maxx Crosby had an impact rookie season with 10 sacks, and Clelin Ferrell is still young. Maurice Hurst also has shown some promise. But Crosby appears to be the only rusher for whom anyone has to game plan on this roster right now, and that's something that could cost the Raiders the negative plays they'll need to create over the season to get their young secondary off the field.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents: Las Vegas' reported highest bonus went to Penn State tight end Nick Bowers, who has spent a lot of his Nittany Lions career on the shelf with injuries. $100,000 went into securing his signature for the Raiders. UNLV safety Javin White wasn't invited to the combine and was probably damaged by not being able to host a pro day during COVID-19 times. He's a tweener with some special teams ability and the question of whether he'll be able to play in the box in the NFL hanging over him. UDFA Dominik Eberle, from Nuremberg, Germany, was a kicker for Utah State last year -- so Jordan Love did have some good teammates, you're saying. Eberle hit on 87.5% of his field goals in his senior season, and could force a training camp battle with Daniel Carson.

Los Angeles Chargers

Biggest Need: Offensive tackle

Justin Herbert, welcome to the NFL! We have good news: your franchise made the decision to sign Bryan Bulaga in free agency. Bulaga started all 16 games in 2019 for the first time since 2016, and when that signing is paired with the trade for Trai Turner, the Chargers are building some solid offensive line talent. Here's some bad news: Sam Tevi is probably starting at right tackle, and he has one of the worst multi-year resumes at tackle of any full-timer. Backup Trent Scott struggled last year when called upon in relief of Russell Okung. And given Bulaga's injury history, we should probably expect Scott to get more work in 2020. Herbert's arm has drawn a lot of praise, but he may have to deal with plenty of snaps where he gets hurried out of using it early in his career.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents: Northwestern edge Joe Gaziano will have a chance to grow behind Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Gaziano had 29.5 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks over his last two seasons for the Wildcats. Tulane's Darius Bradwell was considered a fullback by many draft scouts, and the Chargers do need to replace Derek Watt. Notre Dame's Asmir Bilal is yet another inside linebacker who could push the established order of Denzel Perryman and Nick Vigil.

Portions of this article originally appeared at ESPN+.


5 comments, Last at 26 May 2020, 5:22pm

1 Brian Bulaga

Brian Bulaga is currently listed as the starting RT on the ESPN version of the Chargers depth chart. The Chargers won't update their own site until August. I would also expect Bulaga to be the starting RT as that was his position in Green Bay. He was going to switch to the left side, but he was injured during the preseason in Bakhtiari's rookie season and Bakhtiari has kept the position since. I'd really doubt the Chargers would switch him to the left side after ten years on the right side, even if it means Tevi as the starter on the left. 

2 I was surprised y'all chose…

I was surprised y'all chose qb for den.  Last year Denver had an epic disaster at outside cb in Isaac yiadom get benched for bausby, who seemed decent in small action before getting IRed, then saw Harris and yiadom rotate getting benched for each other.  They drafted a day 2 cb, but day 2 rookie cbs tendb to either not start or be quite poor so it's likely to be those same 3 fighting for snaps.  As a Denver fan I'm optimistic about bausby, but that seems a huge hole.

3 I think CB depth is one of…

I think CB depth is one of their strengths. They have Bouye and Callahan in 2 of th e starting spots, and either Bausby and Harris at the third. That's 4 solid players, even if three of them are a bit inexperienced. Then they have one of the best safety tandems in the league behind the CBs. Sucks that we lost Will Parks but he too is replacable

Oh and I completely forgot about Yiadom, who may still turn out to be an NFL CB. Fangio sure seems to like him, and he did improve last year after starting the season terribly