NFL Draft Team Needs: AFC West

As the 2022 NFL Draft approaches, it is time to start preparing for one of the most important weekends of the year, with your favourite NFL team drafting their next generation of young talent out of college.

To help you prepare for and enjoy the draft more, I am putting together an in-depth look at the Team Needs of every team in the league. These articles will be coming thick and fast throughout the month of April, so you can read them all to fully understand who needs what and which picks they have to address it, or you can keep an eye out for the division that your team is in.

This time out we are talking about potentially the most exciting division in the entire NFL, the AFC West. The AFC West is currently hosting a nuclear arms race, with all four teams trying to acquire as much firepower as possible and win now, despite the strong competition. It’s only going to get even crazier with the addition of new young talent, so let’s talk about what these teams need to make their postseason aspirations a reality.

Kansas City Chiefs

Record: 12-5

Needs: WR, Defensive Line, S, CB

Draft Picks: 1st (29th, 30th), 2nd (50th, 62nd), 3rd (94th, 103rd), 4th (121st, 135th), 7th (233rd, 243rd, 251st, 259th)

The Kansas City Chiefs would be widely considered one of – if not the – best teams in the NFL when we entered this offseason. The best QB, the best weapons, the most dynamic offense… Well, now the team looks very different. In fact, in the nuclear arms race that we call the AFC West, they’re actually the only team that has taken a step backward since 2021’s season ended. However, this step back, by trading away star WR Tyreek Hill, has landed them some serious draft capital. This is a team that is one of the best in the league, but while also having two picks in every single round through the first four in this year’s draft.

Having made that trade, I think that a Wide Receiver 1 is now the Chiefs’ biggest positional need. However, that doesn’t mean it was a bad trade. We’re going to talk about another team later who made a trade for an elite WR and only paid a first and a second – for the Chiefs to get five picks for Hill makes this worthwhile, as long as they can reinvest the draft capital and either trade for or draft their way back to being an elite offense, while also being able to re-invest in their defense with whatever picks they have left.

If they don’t trade for a top-tier wide receiver before April 28th, they will 100% need to draft one in the first two rounds in the draft – and they may even want to do both. When you have Patrick Mahomes at QB, you can’t waste him. He has a decade worth of contract left, but his friend Travis Kelce may only have a handful left, so they need to take full advantage.

Then there’s the defense. They will no longer have Tyrann Mathieu, which is a big blow, and their defense was already notably weaker than the other side of the ball. I think their biggest position to address on D is the defensive line, where they could do with help both with EDGE and interior linemen. Their secondary also really needs help. Without ‘Honey Badger’, the safety position is very light for them, even after adding Justin Reid who will help smooth whatever transition period we see here. They could also do with adding better cornerbacks, they lost Charvarius Ward, and they weren’t even that set at the position, before that.

It seems weird to say, but the Kansas City Chiefs actually have a lot of work to do. Let’s hope all those draft picks they just got do the trick.

Denver Broncos

Record: 10-7

Needs: LB, Offensive Line, CB

Draft Picks: 2nd (64th), 3rd (75th, 96th), 4th (115th, 116th), 5th (152nd), 6th (206th), 7th (232nd)

One team that was poised for an exciting offseason from the start was the Denver Broncos. This is a team that wasn’t satisfied with their QB position and everybody knew that they were open to upgrading. Except most people thought it would probably be Aaron Rodgers. Instead, they surprised the NFL world when they traded for Russell Wilson from Seattle. They had to send two firsts (one this year), two seconds (one this year) and a 2022 fifth-rounder as well as QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant and EDGE Shelby Harris. This trade was not cheap, to say the least, but they landed a fantastic quarterback, who can still dominate, at age 33, and will do for many more years.

While they paid up, they still have very solid draft capital, when you look beyond their lack of a first round. Their first selection is the 64th overall, but they have five of them by pick 116. Now, with their biggest team need addressed, let’s look at what else Denver needs to do.

The offensive line is my biggest concern, I think. You could argue that other positions are weaker, but protecting Russell Wilson is very important if this team is going to take the next step, especially in the AFC West, which is becoming one of the most ridiculous offense-heavy divisions we’ve ever seen. If every game is going to be a shootout, might as well make sure your elite QB has protection. I also wouldn’t mind a pick to be spent on the Tight End position, now that Noah Fant is gone, but that isn’t essential as they have some solid wideouts and Albert Okwuegbunam can do a job there if they don’t draft anybody.

On the defensive side of the ball, the biggest thing to do would be to fix up their linebacker group. It’s alarming to see that a team who just let go of Vic Fangio is struggling with their defense and in particular with LB’s, but it’s true. They could really benefit from some upgrades at the position in the draft, and I’m fairly surprised they didn’t make any moves in free agency for any veteran linebackers.

Their next biggest need on defense is probably the CB position. They made a fantastic pick when they drafted Patrick Surtain II last year, but I think he could do with some more help, so I’d love to see them inject another young athletic corner in to their secondary to grow alongside Surtain.

Los Angeles Chargers

Record: 9-8

Needs: OT, TE, LB, WR

Draft Picks: 1st (17th), 3rd (79th), 4th (123rd), 5th (160th), 6th (195th, 214th), 7th (236th, 254th, 255th, 260th)

As per my original notes, I was going to write about how the LA Chargers could do with improving their defensive line… Then they did that. They traded for AFC West favourite Khalil Mack, who has the potential to completely wreck games on his own. Except he’s not on his own, he’s now paired up with Joey Bosa. This is potentially the most dangerous EDGE pairing in the entire league. They also added one of the best cornerbacks from last season, J.C. Jackson, previously of the Patriots. These are two complete game-changers, and the Chargers still have their first-round pick. What an offseason!

Their biggest positional need now is a starting offensive tackle. They have some great offensive weapons and a great young QB, so amending their lack of a top-tier right tackle is the number one priority above all else. Los Angeles could also benefit from adding to that pile of offensive talent with more young WR’s and TE’s, not because they don’t have any of them, but just to try and get the most out of Justin Herbert. They have like 4 TE’s, none of which are amazing, and they have two standout wide receivers but could add another young WR to grow and stick around with Herbert for the long term.

Defensively, the Chargers have already made absolutely huge upgrades, but I’d love to see them add another LB into the mix, too. They have a crazy DL and their secondary is really strong. They just need to bolster that second level in between, and they will be a scary opponent, for sure.

As a Raiders fan, writing this, I really wish I could give you more. But essentially if they get a new tackle and a linebacker, they’re going to be a dark horse Super Bowl contender and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Las Vegas Raiders

Record: 7-10

Needs: Offensive Line, LB, Coverage Safety, CB

Draft Picks: 3rd (86th), 4th (126th), 5th (164th, 165th), 7th (227th)

In my original draft of the Raiders team needs, I simply noted ‘Alpha outside WR’… Well, they got one. They traded their first and second-round picks to the Green Bay Packers for superstar receiver Davante Adams. Not only does this immediately solve the biggest team need the Raiders had, it also only cost them two picks. This was a great deal for Las Vegas, and came shortly after they also signed star EDGE rusher Chandler Jones, an 11-year veteran who came from Arizona. This is a top-tier sack-artist who demands a lot of attention from offenses and an elite WR who dominates in the red zone and demands a lot of attention from defenses.

The Raiders’ new HC-GM combo of Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler have started off very strong, as they stand front and centre in the AFC West arms race. However, there’s still work to do.

On offense, there’s only one thing that they need to address, but it’s important. That thing is the offensive line. Once a staple of this team, the OL is currently the only weakness of the entire side of the ball. They could do with at least two startable offensive linemen, as their right side of the line really struggled last year. They should be able to grab a couple of players, and they can have near enough an open competition at training camp for who starts on the right side in 2022.

Then there’s the defense. Their defensive line is genuinely really strong, by far the best positional group on defense. Then there is basically everything else. The secondary has a couple of solid players in it, but Johnathan Abram can’t play coverage well enough to be on the field in obvious passing situations, so I think they need another coverage safety back there to help Trevon Moehrig out on passing downs. Then there is the matter of linebackers. The LB position is in need of some young help, Corey Littleton didn’t work out, Denzel Perryman was an absolute tackle monster, but got hurt because he had so little help, and behind him there just wasn’t anything. That has to change.

Finally, they need to grab at least one more cornerback, after missing on a couple of their draft picks in recent years, to avoid getting beat up on by some of the wide receiver talent in the AFC West. Like I said before, every game in the AFC West from now on is odds on to be an absolute shootout, but with the Raiders offense overflowing with talent, it’s time to fix the OL up a bit and spend as many draft picks on young defensive talent as possible to build on the few stars who already form the defensive core.