I provided a look at Dee Ford and the other Chiefs’ draft picks here and here, but one thing that I have not seen written about yet is how the Chiefs may stack up against the draft picks of their divisional rivals. I aim to examine each of Kansas City’s AFC West opponents and their new draft picks, team-by-team. Let’s start with the Denver Broncos. Like the Chiefs, they ended up with only 6 draft picks.
With the next to last pick of the 2014 NFL draft, the Broncos selected Ohio State corner Bradley Roby. The 2013 Denver defense actually ranked in the top 10 in passing yards allowed per game, but they were exposed in the Super Bowl as Seattle did whatever it wanted offensively. Roby offers a lot of flexibility after tying the OSU record for pass break ups and scoring touchdowns off of blocked kicks and interceptions in his career. Denver signed corner Aqib Talib in the offseason but might need another starter and Roby might fill that role next season. Unless the Chiefs add some receiving threats, they will need to worry about Denver’s secondary. Kansas City’s best hope against the Broncos offensively next season might be Jamaal Charles.
Denver’s second pick was WR Cody Latimer from Indiana, who many experts had the Chiefs picking. Denver traded up to get him. Latimer was Indiana’s go-to player in 2013 since they are not exactly a football powerhouse. In that role last season, he had over 1,000 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. Latimer, known as a “jump-ball” receiver (basketball was his main sport in high school), also played as a defensive back and kick returner and will likely start his career on special teams due to Denver’s crowded receiving corps and their need for a kick returner after Trindon Holliday signed with the Giants this offseason. Latimer could also replace Wes Welker in a year or two. Denver is doing a nice job of stockpiling offensive weapons for Peyton Manning, which is not good news for the Chiefs until Manning retires. However, if new Chief Dee Ford can get in Manning’s face, the Chiefs secondary might have an easier job defending their weapons.
In the third round, the Broncos selected OT Michael Schofield from Michigan. He is huge (6’6” and 301 lbs) and a pretty solid lineman. He played guard and tackle for the Wolverines and could provide offensive line depth until he earns a starting role. He will certainly have a chance at earning the starting role in training camp, especially at guard, where the Broncos are thin. I am not worried about Schofield as I think the combination of Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Dontari Poe, Eric Berry and Dee Ford will terrorize offensive lines in 2014. In addition, the Broncos do not have a running back that can punish defenses, even with a solid offensive line.
In the fourth round, the Broncos traded their pick (and a seventh round pick) to Chicago for a fifth rounder and a fifth round pick in 2015. Many have viewed this trade as an indication that the Broncos had no one on their draft board in the fourth round.
In the fifth round, the Broncos selected Lamin Barrow, a linebacker who captained LSU’s defense in 2013. Linebacker was a big need for Denver coming into the draft, and Barrow could challenge for a starting spot right away. I have seen Denver sportswriters suggest he will be an inside and outside linebacker, so it remains to be seen where he ends up on the field. He will also likely play on special teams. Again, there is not much concern with this pick as Dave Toub is a Special Teams Magician, plus De’Anthony Thomas has crazy speed and insane juke moves.
In the sixth round, Denver selected center Matthew Paradis from Boise State. Like Schofield, he is also huge (6’3” and 306 lbs.). He started every game at center his last two years. I think Paradis is viewed as a developmental pick and could provide decent depth in 2014. Denver allowed the fewest sacks (20) in the NFL in 2013, and it is clear they have put a premium on protecting Manning. With Schofield and Paradis, they have added depth and the potential future of their line when Manning retires. If Schofield and/or Paradis reaches the field in 2013, I hope that Houston/Hali/Ford/Poe can create some havoc and disrupt the Broncos’ offensive rhythm.
With their final pick, the Broncos selected outside linebacker Corey Nelson from Oklahoma in the seventh round. Nelson missed over half of last season with a torn pectoral muscle, but if he is fully healed, he should also challenge for a starting spot on Denver’s defense.
Most sportswriters have graded Denver’s draft as a B or C, with the most favored pick being Roby at cornerback. I think the Broncos draft was similar to the Chiefs in the sense that they drafted a few players who will have an impact in 2014, and a few players who were chosen to provide depth. Overall, Denver selected 3 offensive players (2 of whom may be developmental) and 3 defensive players (all of whom could become starters in 2014). Denver fans may have been disappointed that they did not try to fill their linebacking needs earlier in the draft. The two linebackers they chose are athletic but nothing of Justin Houston’s or Derrick Johnson’s caliber.
Denver might have also been looking for help at running back since Knowshon Moreno signed with Miami this offseason. Currently, Denver has Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman and could have used another player in the backfield. It looks like the 2014 Broncos will be relying on those short, quick passes from Peyton Manning again, so let’s hope Bob Sutton adequately prepares for that. It’s worth noting that Denver is going “all-out” in an attempt to win a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning at the helm. Personally, I think they could have done more to go “all-out,” but I am fine with their draft since I think the Chiefs can handle their new additions. I predicted the Chiefs would split their two games with Denver in 2014, and see no reason for that to change now that the draft has occurred.
I will cover San Diego’s and Oakland’s drafts in future posts.