After being released by the Kansas City Chiefs, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin won’t be out of work for very long.
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.
When Andy Reid became the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999, he took a lump of clay and molded it. Reid inherited an Eagles team that went 3-13 in his previous year, and by 2000, he had them in the playoffs as a wild card. The next four years would see the Eagles make the NFC Championship Game with them appearing in Super Bowl 39 to conclude the 2004 National Football League season. The Eagles would continue to be a perennial playoff team under Reid, but after consecutive years without a postseason appearance in 2011 and 2012, he was fired. And in 14 seasons as the Eagles head coach, Reid’s record was 130-93-1, while he was 10-9 in the playoffs.
It didn’t take Reid that long to land on his feet as less than a week after his firing in Philadelphia, he was named as the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. And in Kansas City, the same magic that Reid had displayed in Philadelphia was put on display rather quickly.
Reid took over a Chiefs team that only won two games in the previous year. But in Reid’s first year in Kansas City, the Chiefs went 11-5 en route to the postseason. Under Reid the Chiefs have never had a losing season and this past January saw them win their first postseason game since January 1994. And what made 2015 so unique for the Chiefs is that they became the first team in National Football League history to reach the playoffs after beginning the season with a record of 1-5 as they would win their final 10 games.
Here in the 2016 National Football League season, the Chiefs haven’t skipped a beat as their 12-4 record saw them win the AFC West for the first time since 2010, while securing a first-round bye for the first time since 2003. The Chiefs also swept the AFC West this season for the first time since 1995 as Reid has the folks in the Heartland thinking about the Super Bowl for the first time in a long time.
Reid’s first order of business upon taking over the Chiefs was to find himself a quarterback. Reid’s search took himself to Northern California as he acquired quarterback Alex Smith from the San Francisco 49ers which would cost the Chiefs a pair of draft picks, but it was well worth it.
Smith was the first overall pick of the 2005 National Football League Draft by the 49ers and the majority of his time in San Francisco was plagued by injuries and playing on poor teams. Smith’s best season in San Francisco came in 2011 when he was under the tutelage of Jim Harbaugh who had just taken over as the head coach of the Niners. Smith would pass for 3,144 yards which was a career-high as he helped the 49ers reach the NFC Championship Game. But in 2012, an injury to Smith opened to the door for Colin Kaepernick to become the Niners starting quarterback. And as Kaepernick was able to help the 49ers reach the Super Bowl that season, Smith became expendable in San Francisco.
However Smith was able to land on his feet with the Chiefs as like Harbaugh, Reid has a reputation as far as being a quarterback guru.
Smith is not known for having a strong arm, and Reid has not asked him to win games passing, but more with efficiency, along with smarts. Smith’s record as the Chiefs starting quarterback is 41-20 while he has completed nearly 65% of his passes. Smith is typically been near the bottom of interceptions as during his four seasons in Kansas City as he has only thrown 25 picks. Smith is a mobile quarterback and Reid uses that to benefit the Chiefs offense as Smith has been known to take off pick up yardage with his legs if a play breaks down which takes him back to his collegiate days when he operated in the spread offense for the Utah Utes.
The Chiefs have dealt with injuries this season; especially at the running back position, but they have depth there. Knee injuries have gotten the best of running back Jamaal Charles, but Reid has been able to lean on Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West coming out of the backfield. Ware led the Chiefs in rushing this season with 921 yards, but the fact that neither he or Ware have carried the football 250 times this season should help Kansas City’s chances in the playoffs as both running backs should be fresh.
Injuries this season limited wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to just 12 games this season, but the Chiefs passing game didn’t skip a beat as Travis Kelce has emerged as one of the best receiving tight ends in the National Football League. This season Kelce had 85 receptions for 1,125 yards and his ability to keep safeties honest will be big in the postseason if the Chiefs expect to advance.
The Chiefs defense was 24th in the National Football League this season as they allowed 368.5 yards per game, but their 19.4 points per game average was seventh in the league as they had a bend but don’t break philosophy. The Chiefs have a pair of Pro Bowlers in their secondary in the form of free safety Eric Berry and cornerback Marcus Peters. Berry possesses some of the best range in the NFL at his position, while in just two years in the league, Peters has already accumulated 14 interceptions as quarterbacks must think twice before they throw to his side.
The Chiefs ability to run and the football, while having a quarterback in Smith that doesn’t force the football into coverage, along with a defense that creates turnovers is why they were plus-16 in the turnover margin this season which led the National Football League and that will be a factor for them in the playoffs.
The bye week came at the right time for the Chiefs as it has given them the chance to get players such as outside linebacker Tambi Hali and Maclin healthy for the playoffs. The Chiefs unconventional way of wreaking havoc on both sides of the football is a big reason why some football pundits believe that they have a shot to get a road victory against the New England Patriots this month in order to advance to the Super Bowl.
But the Chiefs still have a huge hurdle to clear as they have never won a playoff game after they had a first-round bye. However this week is the best time to break that hex as they are set to host the Pittsburgh Steelers whom they lost to earlier this season. And if Reid can get the Chiefs to the Super Bowl, he will join an elite list of head coaches to lead two teams to the National Football League’s Championship Game, while joining Hank Stram as the only men to take Kansas City there. The move to hire Reid by Chiefs owner Clark Hunt a few years ago is looking better by the day as he has found a coach who has turned his franchise into a contender.