Will the return of quarterback Aaron Rodgers propel the Green Bay Packers to the playoffs?
In 2005, the San Francisco 49ers made quarterback Alex Smith the first overall pick of the National Football League Draft after he led the Utah Utes to an undefeated season. Smith was expected to be a piece in the 49ers turnaround, but his first five years in San Francisco were marred by multiple head coaches, offensive coordinators, and benchings. Smith didn’t begin to realize his potential until 2011 when Jim Harbaugh became the Niners head coach. That year Smith would have the best season of his NFL career to that point as he completed more than 61% of his passes while helping San Francisco reach the NFC Championship game for the first time since 1997. However when Harbaugh took over as the 49ers head coach, he used a second-round pick on quarterback Colin Kaepernick who was perceived as San Francisco’s quarterback of the future. And when Smith was injured during the 2012 NFL season, it opened a door for Kaepernick that he would not relinquish.
With Kaepernick under center in 2012, the Niners were able to advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1994 National Football League season which made Smith expendable.
Following the season Smith would be traded to the Kansas City Chiefs as he would now be under the tutelage of another quarterback guru in Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. Prior to becoming the Chiefs head coach in 2013, Reid had made the playoffs nine times while employing four different starting quarterbacks, and all signs pointed to him adding to what Harbaugh had started with Smith.
In 2013, the Chiefs went 11-5 for their first playoff appearance since 2010 and in the process Smith earned his first Pro Bowl selection. With Smith and Reid working together, the Chiefs have never had a losing record which includes them making the postseason three times, while Smith has become one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the National Football League.
During Smith’s time with Kansas City, he has completed more than 65% of his passes, while his overall record is 44-20. And with the Chiefs hot start here in 2017, Smith has to garner some early consideration in regards to being the National Football League’s MVP.
So far in 2017, Smith has completed nearly 77.5% of his passes which leads the National Football League, while he has yet to throw an interception. Smith did the impossible in Week 1 when he helped the Chiefs get a road victory over the heavily favored New England Patriots.
It was the home opener for the Patriots who entered the season as the defending Super Bowl Champions, and in the process they were ready to debut another title banner. But Smith outplayed his counterpart in Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to the tune of passing for 368 yards on 28-of-35 passing. Smith even threw a 78-yard touchdown pass which silenced myself as well as some of his other critics in regards to his arm strength as he and the Chiefs put the football world on notice after getting the best of big, bad Pats.
Smith has kept that momentum going as the Chiefs have gone on to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles as well as the Los Angeles Chargers. And whereas both the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders lost yesterday, Kansas City now sits alone atop the AFC West.
In recent years Smith has become the product of good coaching which is no fault of his as it is the head coach’s responsibility to put his players in the best possible position to win. Reid’s variation of the West Coast Offense relies on the quarterback getting the football out quickly, while not focusing on one receiver, and this is an aspect that Smith has grasped. The Chiefs are loaded with speed with players such as running back Kareem Hunt and wide receiver Tyreek Hill leading the way. And if this isn’t enough, tight end Travis Kelce has rapidly developed into the poor man’s version of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. But if opposing defenses want to focus too much on the Chiefs backs and receivers, Smith can beat teams with his legs as he has rushed for 1,350 yards while wearing a Kansas City uniform.
Smith is the leader of this Chiefs team and in the process he has become the de facto point guard of this team due to his ability to facilitate. Some people will look at the fact that Smith has talented players at the skill position around him, while he is being coached by Reid, but it takes a special person to not make the situation bigger than his or herself and do what is best for the common good of everyone.
There is still plenty of football that remains to be played this season, but the hot start of this Chiefs team has people that follow this club thinking about the Super Bowl, while Smith’s ability is being magnified more than ever as he is in the running to be the first player in Chiefs franchise history to be named National Football League MVP.
American Football Conference
1. New England Patriots
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. Houston Texans
5. Oakland Raiders
6. Miami Dolphins
AFC Wild Card Round
Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans
These two teams met in last year’s AFC Wild Card Game, but if Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is healthy this time, the results will be much different.
Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Dolphins have what it takes to make a good run in the playoffs, but they’ll draw a Chiefs team in the first round that won’t be denied.
AFC Divisional Playoffs
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Until the Chiefs find a way to get past the Steelers and Patriots, the second round of the playoffs will be as far as they can go.
Oakland Raiders vs. New England Patriots
The Raiders could be the heir apparent to the Patriots in the AFC, but they still have to wait their turn.
AFC Championship Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots
It might be a new season and a more motivated Steelers team, but the result will be the same as last January.
National Football Conference
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. Carolina Panthers
5. New York Giants
6. Dallas Cowboys
NFC Wild Card Game
Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
There is no love lost between the Cowboys and Eagles which will make this an intense battle.
New York Giants vs. Carolina Panthers
After coming up short in playoffs last season, Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. needs to redeem himself.
NFC Divisional Playoffs
New York Giants vs. Seattle Seahawks
Which Super Bowl winning quarterback will be able to do enough to help his team advance?
Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers
The networks will be salivating over covering this game as it’ll be the Cowboys and Packers meeting in January for the second consecutive year.
NFC Championship Game
Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers
The Packers have been close, but will this be the year in they are finally able to get back to the Super Bowl?
Super Bowl 52-US Bank Stadium-Minneapolis, Minnesota: Green Bay Packers vs. New England Patriots
It will be must-see TV to have Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers playing each other in the Super Bowl, but Brady finds a way to win his unprecedented sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.
X-Kansas City Chiefs 10-6
Andy Reid’s run as the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs has a familiar feel to his time with the Philadelphia Eagles as well as that of former Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer. In four seasons in Kansas City, Reid has led the Chiefs to the playoffs three times which included ending the franchise’s postseason victory drought during the 2015 National Football League season. Last year the Chiefs won the AFC West for the first time since 2010, but they would lose at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round in controversial fashion. The last two years have seen the Chiefs eliminated from the postseason by the New England Patriots and Steelers respectively as they have been the premier teams in the AFC for more than 20 years. And for the Chiefs to reach their first Super Bowl as members of the National Football League, these are the team’s that Reid’s squad must go through in order to get to Minneapolis in February.
For Reid, Alex Smith has been his guy in regards to being his starting quarterback with the Chiefs. In 2013, one of Reid’s first moves in Kansas City after finding out about the city’s great barbecue was to acquire Smith from the San Francisco 49ers. In Kansas City, Smith has enjoyed immense success which has included three playoff appearances, and two Pro Bowl selections. Smith has developed a reputation of being a “game manager” and he is known to not force the football, while relying on his athleticism and smarts. But being that Smith has never been known for having a strong arm, is he the guy at quarterback to help the Chiefs take the next step?
Last year the Chiefs were 15th in the National Football League while they also failed to produce a 1,000-yard ball carrier. But a staple of Reid’s offense is also to get his running backs involved in the passing game. Losing running back Spencer Ware to an injury changes what the Chiefs are able to do, but it gives running back Charcandrick West and rookie Kareem Hunt more opportunities to show what they can do. And I guarantee that Reid will find creative ways to get West and Hunt the football this season.
In limited action last year wide receiver Tyreek Hill showed his potential to be an impact player on offense for Kansas City as well as special teams. Hill is one of those players who excels in space, while I see Reid getting him the football on various plays such as reverses and screens.
When the Chiefs used a third-round draft pick on tight end Travis Kelce in 2013, he was an afterthought. However Kelce has continued to improve in each season with the Chiefs as some folks in the National Football League see him as the poor man’s Rob Gronkowski. Last season Kelce became the first Chiefs tight end to gain at least 1,100 yards receiving in a season and his ability to split the seams, while also constantly demanding a double team will open things up for other players at the skill positions.
The Chiefs have one of the more underrated offensive lines in the National Football League which includes the likes of left tackle Eric Fisher. Kansas City was able to add to that depth when they acquired Cam Erving from the Cleveland Browns this summer. Erving has the versatility to play multiple positions on the line which means that quality line play should never skip a beat for the Chiefs.
There is no underscoring the fact that the loss of defensive tackle Dontari Poe in free agency will hurt the Chiefs, as he was the perfect fit at nose tackle due to his ability to consistently command a double team. But now the Chiefs will also have to do it without the services of free safety Eric Berry who was lost for the season with an Achilles injury as he and Poe were solid anchors for the defense. Kansas City still maintains one of the strongest linebacking units in the National Football League which is led by inside linebacker Derrick Johnson who has quietly become one of the best defensive players in the franchise’s history. And the smarts of Johnson on the football field, along with his leadership ability will be needed more than ever to somewhat offset the loss of Poe and Berry.
It’s hard to believe, but the Chiefs have never won the AFC West in consecutive years which means that Reid and his team will have their work cut out for them in order to make it happen this season.
Y-Oakland Raiders 10-6
2016 saw the long awaited re-emergence of the silver and black as the Oakland Raiders appeared in the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Jack Del Rio delivered on his promise of reversing the fortunes of the Raiders as he was able to return the team to the postseason in just his second season with the franchise. The Raiders revival once again sparked a fan base that has suffered through losing seasons and bad draft picks as the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was once again a raucous place for opponents to visits.
However all of this goodwill was thrown out of the window in late March when it was announced that the Raiders would soon be leaving Oakland in favor of Las Vegas, Nevada. This has left a bitter taste in the mouths of Raiders fans as this now marks the second time that the City of Oakland has been burned by the silver and black. The Raiders intend to play in Oakland for the next two years, but will they be able to succeed on the field in spite of the ill will between the fans, the city, and team owner Mark Davis?
Regardless of the Raiders preparing to leave Oakland, they have one of the best young quarterbacks in the National Football in Derek Carr. In 2014, Carr had all of the tools necessary to be selected in the first round of the National Football League Draft. However Carr was forced to wait with a team such as the quarterback needy Houston Texans passing up on him twice. Carr would find a home with the Raiders and he has a chance to be the franchise’s best quarterback since Ken Stabler.
Carr was in the running to be the National Football League’s MVP last year until he suffered a broken fibula in Week 16. Subsequently Carr would be unavailable for the Raiders during their foray into the postseason as a team that was once viewed as a Super Bowl contender was now one-and-done in January.
But now as the new season is set to begin, Carr is once again someone who should be in consideration to be the MVP of the National Football League. The Raiders also believe in Carr and his ability as this summer saw them give him a five-year deal for $125 million.
Carr has a talented combination of wide receivers to throw the football to in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Last season both Cooper and Crabtree gained more than 1,000 yards receiving and in the process they became the Raiders first duo of wide receivers since Jerry Rice and Tim Brown in 2001 to pull off the accomplishment. And with Carr entrenched as the Raiders starting quarterback, don’t expect the level of productivity for Cooper and Crabtree to fall off.
The Raiders were sixth in the National Football League in rushing last year and they’ll get a boost this season with the addition of running back Marshawn Lynch. Lynch developed a reputation for being one of the best power backs that the game has ever seen and in the process he helped the Seattle Seahawks win their first and only Super Bowl Championship in franchise history. However in 2016, Lynch decided to retire from the NFL at the age of 29, it took some people by surprise. But Lynch has always been an unpredictable person, and this year he once again developed the inch to play football. Lynch decided to give the NFL another try, but since he was still under contract with the Seahawks, the Raiders had to compensate their former AFC West rivals which saw Seattle receive a fifth-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft. The year away from the game should provide Lynch with some fresh legs, while he will look to get it done in his hometown of Oakland.
Since Reggie McKenzie has taken over as the general manager of the Raiders, he has taken great pride in building Oakland’s offensive line as he himself played on the O-line in the National Football League. The Raiders offensive line produced three Pro Bowlers last season in left tackle Donald Penn, center Rodney Hudson, and guard Kelechi Osemele. The offensive line of the Dallas Cowboys gets a ton of attention and rightfully so, but the unit of the Raiders isn’t exactly chopped liver.
The Raiders were 26th in the National Football League in total defense last season and they got exposed once Carr went down with the injury. The Raiders do have defensive end Khalil Mack who is a premier edge rusher, while outside linebacker Bruce Irvin is solid as well. However the Raiders were 24th in pass defense last year and their secondary must improve if they want to be a Super Bowl contender.
It’s good to see the Raiders once again relevant in the National Football League, but you have to wonder if the upcoming move to Las Vegas as well as a suspect secondary will hurt their chances here in 2017.
Denver Broncos 7-9
From 2006-2010, the Denver Broncos failed to make the playoffs which was their longest stretch without being able to play football in January since 1976. In 2011, former Broncos quarterback John Elway would return to the organization as the team’s executive vice president of football operations. Elway would rapidly begin to revitalize the Broncos roster and in his first season, the Broncos would win the AFC West. With Elway leading the charge, the Broncos were once again a title contender and in just five years he led them to their first Super Bowl Championship since he played for them.
Last year would see the Broncos go 9-7 as they would lose four of their final six games which included being swept by the Kansas City Chiefs for the first time since 2000. And in the process Denver would be watching the postseason at home for the first time under Elway’s watch.
But the 2017 Broncos will look very different and have a new feel to them as opposed to the team that played last season. Health issues have forced Gary Kubiak to step down as Broncos head after two years. However Kubiak will always be remembered for helping the Broncos get another Super Bowl Championship. Kubiak has been replaced by Vance Joseph who joins the Broncos after spending last season with the Miami Dolphins as their defensive coordinator.
Joseph is seeking to put his stamp on the Broncos and his first order of business was to switch Denver’s base defense from a 3-4 to that of a 4-3 which made defensive coordinator Wade Phillips expendable.
Over the last 35 years, Phillips has built a reputation for having one of the sharpest minds in the National Football League in regards to coaching defensive football. Phillips believes in putting consistent pressure on an opposing team’s quarterback, while his players would run through a wall for him. And when Phillips decided to leave the Broncos organization following Joseph’s arrival, it marked the end of an era, while Joseph will have a tough selling job ahead of him in regards to making the defensive players in Denver believe in his system.
But with Joseph set to begin his run with the Broncos, one thing that he has going for him is outside linebacker Von Miller. Since Miller entered the National Football League in 2011, he has played like a man possessed. Miller plays with a high motor and although that he only weighs in at 250 lbs., he has been known to make some of the best left tackles in the NFL look bad. Miller flourished in the 3-4 scheme of Philips, however his versatility allows him to be successful in any system that he is in. And if Miller buys into what Joseph is selling, the Broncos defense should continue to be one of the top units in football.
Miller will have to carry the load for the beginning of the season as his tag-team partner in outside linebacker Shane Ray will miss roughly two months as he is recovering from a torn ligament in his wrist, while Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. continue to operate one of the best cornerback tandems in the National Football League.
The Broncos defense should once again be solid, but for this team to be a postseason contender, their offense must improve. Last year Denver was 27th in the National Football League in total offense which included them failing to score at least 20 points in three of their last four games. Two years ago Elway used a first-round pick on quarterback Paxton Lynch, but he has yet to show that he can be the guy. In 2015, Elway drafted quarterback Trevor Siemian who was an afterthought when he was taken in the seventh round. But Siemian who does have a reputation as being game manager has become the more viable option for the Broncos at quarterback in spite of the fact that he doesn’t possess a big arm like Lynch. And whereas Siemian might not be able to win the game for Denver, he won’t lose it either.
Siemian will be the Broncos starting quarterback this season and he’ll have a pair of talented wide receivers to throw the football to in Emanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Both Sanders and Thomas gained more than 1,000 yards last year receiving, however it will be difficult for them to match those numbers due to the struggles of Denver’s rushing attack.
Last year the Broncos were 27th in the National Football League in rushing, and it marked the third consecutive year in which they failed to produce a 1,000-yard running back. The Broncos will once again rely on a “running back by committee” which C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles more than likely getting the bulk of the carries. But if the Broncos are unable to effectively run the football, it will put their offense in a bind.
Fans in the Rocky Mountains are not accustomed to seeing the Broncos partake in losing seasons. However this could be the case in 2017 as Denver appears to be a team that is in limbo.
Los Angeles Chargers 6-10
It will definitely take some time to get adjusted to referencing the Chargers as being from Los Angeles. For more than 50 years the Chargers called San Diego home as it was hard to think of one without the other. But the finances and politics in the National Football League reign supreme as the City of San Diego and the Chargers would prepare for a very messy divorce. For years Chargers owner Dean Spanos has attempted to get a new stadium for his team, but he was unable to secure the funding from the City of San Diego in order to make it happen. And with the NFL hell bent on putting two franchises in Los Angeles, Spanos decided to pack up his team for a three-hour trip north on Interstate-5 to join the Rams in Hollywood. Now the Chargers are in Los Angeles which is the city that they came into existence in 1960 as members of the American Football League. However times have changed in Los Angeles as this is a city that only supports winners which means that the Chargers who lost a combined 23 games over the last two years must find a way to get things turned around in a hurry.
Upon making the journey to Los Angeles, the Chargers decided to hire a new head coach in Anthony Lynn. Lynn played in the National Football League for six years which included winning a pair of Super Bowl Championships with the Denver Broncos. Lynn has spent the last 17 years as an assistant coach in the NFL for six different teams, but now he has his opportunity to be the man in charge (no pun intended).
Lynn can sleep a little bit easier at night knowing that he has a quality veteran quarterback that he can rely on. Philip Rivers has been the Chargers starting quarterback for the last 12 years and in the process he has become the most prolific quarterback in franchise history. Rivers found a way to do the impossible as he has broken the major passing records that were set by Dan Fouts with the franchise as he has thrown 314 career touchdowns passes, while also throwing for 45,833 yards heading into this season. Eight of the last nine years have seen Rivers pass for at least 4,000 yards, and now he is closing in on being the only player in franchise history to pass for 50,000 yards. And even at the age of 35, Rivers can still sling the football around with the best of them.
Rivers’ go-to-guy throughout his career with the Chargers has been tight end Antonio Gates. Gates is set to begin his 15th season with the Chargers and although that he no longer has the physical tools that he had a decade ago, he is still a leader for this club. Gates is 37-years of age, and all signs point to this being his last year in the National Football League. Gates has clearly lost a step, but if Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is able to use him properly which means getting him consistent action in the red zone, he can still be effective.
Injuries have forced wide receiver Keenan Allen to miss a combined 38 games over the last three years which includes him dealing with a kidney issue over the past two seasons. Allen still possesses explosiveness while giving Rivers a big target to throw to, but it doesn’t help if he is consistently not available.
Allen’s absence has given wide receivers Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman the opportunity to become impact players in the Chargers passing game. Like Allen, Inman and Williams are big wide receivers who generally have a size advantage versus most defensive backs that they face which gives Rivers an advantage when throwing the football up for jump ball situations.
But whereas Rivers has shown the ability to put the Chargers offense on his back, he cannot do it all by himself as Los Angeles needs to improve the running game. Last year the Chargers were 26th in the National Football League in rushing which includes them not having a running back gain at least 1,000 yards in a season since 2013. In 2015, the Chargers used a first-round pick on running back Melvin Gordon who has failed to live up to the hype due to the fact that he has been unable to remain healthy. When healthy Gordon is supposed to be an explosive player that can provide the Chargers with speed as a ball carrier along with being a pass receiver coming out of the backfield. And hopefully 2017 is the year where Gordon is able to put it all together.
The Chargers offensive line has been a burdensome group for this organization for the past few years which can illustrated by seeing Rivers run for his life at times. The Chargers attempted to remedy that during the off-season by signing offensive tackle Russell Okung. Okung is a former Pro Bowler who is a solid left tackle which will be relief for Rivers as he needs someone to protect his blindside.
Things didn’t work out for Gus Bradley during his tenure as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars as he was 14-48, however things could be different for him as the defensive coordinator of the Chargers. The Chargers have a stout defensive line which is led by defensive end Joe Bosa. Last year Bosa was named as the National Football League in spite of the fact that he only appeared in 12 games. Bosa tallied 10.5 sacks and he has the makings of being a poor man’s J.J. Watt. Aside from Bosa, the Chargers have defensive end Melvin Ingram, along with defensive tackle Corey Liuget as Los Angeles will be a much tougher team in the trenches this season.
The transition from San Diego to Los Angeles will not be an easy one for the Chargers as this season will be full of growing pains for them.
Kansas City Chiefs
First-Round Pick: Patrick Mahomes-Quarterback-Texas Tech
Best Pick: Patrick Mahomes
It didn’t take the Kansas City Chiefs that long to make a splash at the 2017 National Football League Draft when they moved up 17 spots in the first round to select Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes II. During Andy Reid’s four-year tenure as the Chiefs head coach, Kansas City has made the postseason three times, but they’ve been unable to get past the second round. A big reason for the Chiefs inability to advance has been the fact that quarterback Alex Smith cannot propel this club. Smith has been a solid game manager for the Chiefs, but his lack of arm strength, along with his inability to make the big play in the passing game has hurt the Chiefs. Mahomes gives the Chiefs a quarterback with a big arm, but he is still raw.
At Texas Tech, Mahomes put up jaw dropping statistics in the wide open offense of head coach Kliff Kingsbury, but he must learn how to conform to a pro-style offense. And who better to groom Mahomes for a career in the National Football League than Reid who is one of the better quarterback gurus in the league. The main thing for the Chiefs is to bring Mahomes along slowly and not rush him. However since the Chiefs still have a solid starting quarterback in Smith, Reid can take his time in order to show Mahomes the nuances of the position.
The Chiefs struck it big in drafting Mahomes, but they still missed out on upgrading the wide receiver position. Last season the Chiefs leading wide receiver was Tyreek Hill with just 593 which simply isn’t going to cut in regards to producing a Super Bowl team. The Chiefs also failed to find a replacement for nose tackle Dontari Poe who joined the Atlanta Falcons in free agency as he paved the way for Kansas City’s linebackers.
The Chiefs were able to peg their quarterback of the future in Mahomes, but it takes more than one player to make a team, or in this case a draft class.
First-Round Pick: Gareon Conley-Cornerback-Ohio State
Best Pick: Round Four-David Sharpe-Offensive Tackle
In 2016, the Oakland Raiders went 12-4 for their first playoff appearance since 2002. But when quarterback Derek Carr suffered a fractured fibula late in the regular season, it took the wind out of the sails of the Raiders, while exposing some of the team’s flaws. The Raiders were 26th in total defense last season, and they were 24th versus the pass as Carr and the offense consistently bailed them out. The Raiders issues on defense showed up in the playoffs where the Houston Texans easily got passed them. And with Oakland issues in the secondary, you knew what the plan of attack was going to be for Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie heading into the 2017 National Football League Draft.
Five of Oakland’s first six picks in the draft were used on defense which included the first two focusing on the secondary.
In the first round, the Raiders selected Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Gareon Conley. Conley had the potential to be taken earlier in the first round, but with allegations of rape being hurled in his direction just prior to the draft, it scared teams off. However that was not the case for the Raiders who decided to take a chance on him in the hopes of solidifying their secondary.
The second round would see the Raiders select Connecticut Huskies safety Obi Melifonwu. Last year Melifonwu led Connecticut in tackles (118) as well as interceptions (4), and now he’ll be expected to become an impact player rather quickly in Oakland.
This draft for the Raiders had the fingerprints of McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio written all over it as after the first two picks, Oakland focused on the offensive and defensive lines, as well as linebacker which included selecting Florida Gators guard David Sharpe in the fourth round, and Wake Forest Demon Deacons outside linebacker Marquel Lee in the fifth round. McKenzie enjoyed a career in the National Football League on the offensive line, while Del Rio was a linebacker. And the Raiders need bring in players that have a “lunch pale” mentality in order for them to take that next step.
First-Round Pick: Garett Bolles-Offensive Tackle-Utah
Best Pick: Round Two-DeMarcus Walker-Defensive End-Florida State
The Denver Broncos are in the midst of a transition which means that it is up to the team executive vice president of football operations in John Elway to get this club back to the Super Bowl form that they possessed two years ago. Elway knows where his bread is buttered as when the Broncos won the Super Bowl two years ago they possessed one of the better offensive and defensive lines in football. And the early stages of the 2017 National Football League Draft saw Elway focus on that.
In the first round the Broncos drafted Utah Utes offensive tackle Garett Bolles. Bolles was one of the better offensive linemen that was available at any position coming into the draft and he is a player that the Broncos could plug in as a starter from his first day on the job.
The second round saw the Broncos select Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker and in the process they may have gotten one of the top steals in the draft. Walker enters the National Football League as the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year after he tallied 16 sacks last year. Walker has a good motor and he should be able to thrive in the Broncos defense as he plays alongside players such as outside linebackers Von Miller and Shane Ray.
With the first pick of the fifth round, the Broncos pegged Michigan Wolverines Jake Butt. Last year at Michigan, Butt won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end and he was on pace to be a first-round pick until he suffered a torn ACL in the Orange Bowl. It’s not a guarantee that Butt will be ready when the regular season rolls around, but he is a low risk, potentially high reward for the Broncos. When healthy Butt has the ability to stretch the field, while the Broncos could also use him as an H-back.
It didn’t take Elway that long to make the Broncos a Super Bowl Champion, and this draft class should help to get Denver back on track after they missed the postseason last year.
Los Angeles Chargers
First-Round Pick: Mike Williams-Wide Receiver-Clemson
Best Pick: Round Two-Forrest Lamp-Guard-Western Kentucky
As the Los Angeles Chargers have bid farewell to San Diego after more than 50 years there, it’s all about developing a winner which starts at the draft. Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers is still the guy for the Chargers which means that general manager Tom Telesco must put a quality team around him if Los Angeles wants to be a playoff team.
The Chargers typically have one of the better passing offenses with Rivers under center and they gave him another quality wide receiver to get the football to. In the first round the Chargers selected Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams who at 6’4″, 218 lbs., gives Rivers a big target to get the football to in the red zone. The Chargers have Keenan Allen at wide receiver, but he has been bitten by the injury bug throughout his career and Williams gives Los Angeles more depth at the position.
Ironically the second round saw the Chargers select a player whose name fits their franchise. The Chargers selected Western Kentucky Hilltoppers guard Forrest Lamp who should be a starter from his first day with the team, while he will provide the team with versatility on the offensive line.
The Chargers continued to beef up on the offensive line as they selected Indiana Hoosiers guard Dan Feeney in the third round, while their fifth round selection of Iowa Hawkeyes cornerback Desmond King should give them some much needed depth in the secondary.
One way or the other this will be a historic draft class for the Chargers being that it went down with the team now based out of Los Angeles.