In an odd coincidence, the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos only had 6 draft picks each (Oakland had 7) in the 2014 NFL draft. As a result, the AFC West may have added fewer players than other divisions in the NFL. This makes some sense as San Diego, Kansas City and Denver all made the playoffs last year, the only division with more than 2 teams making the playoffs, and they probably did not have as many holes to fill on their rosters. What was once considered a weak division could now be considered the best! Previously, I looked at the Broncos’ draft. Below is a look at the Chargers draft picks and how the Chiefs might fare against them.
I predicted the Chiefs would split their two games against the Chargers in 2014. In all honesty, I did not know much about the Chargers needs coming into this draft as I expected them to be a much worse team last year, but I will make sure you are properly informed about their team in 2014.
In the first round, the Chargers selected corner Jason Verrett from TCU. Verrett is small (5’9” and 189 lbs.) but led the FBS in passes defensed. He also had 8 interceptions and 30 break ups, and was voted the Big 12’s co-defensive player of the year in 2013. He ran a 4.36 40-yard dash (which is 0.02 seconds faster than the Chief’s third round pick Phillip Gaines). As a Big 12 fan, I saw plenty of Verrett last year. He was a solid defender who is very fast, but the obvious concern is his size. The Chiefs can easily exploit that as Dwayne Bowe and Junior Hemingway will tower over him. Many sportswriters have lauded this pick saying that Verrett fits the Chargers’ defensive scheme well due to his quickness and instincts (while also providing some tenacity that is otherwise lacking in their DB’s), and he will likely challenge for a starting spot. Interestingly, his family are all Raiders fans (including a brother who works for the organization), which might provide a nice storyline when he plays Oakland.
In the second round, the Chargers traded up to select linebacker/defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu from Georgia Tech. He fits a need as an edge-rusher. The Chargers only had 35 sacks last year, which ranked #23 in the NFL. Attaochu will likely provide depth in 2014 behind Melvin Ingram and Dwight Freeney unless he can move ahead of one of them on the depth chart. I do not think the Chiefs need to worry much about Attaochu, who hails from Nigeria. Eric Fisher and Donald Stephenson are solid on the O-line, and I think Fisher will vastly improve from last year now that he is on his natural side as a left tackle. I am more concerned that if he makes any impact in 2014 he might steal Christian Okoye’s nickname. That would not be cool.
In the third round, the Chargers selected guard Christ Watt from Notre Dame. The Chargers have some older players at guard, and were looking to add some youth there. Watt is 6’3” and 321 lbs., has a wide stance, and is known to “finish” plays by playing through the whistle. Most scouting reports indicate that he is better at run blocking than pass protection, but has a lot of intelligence and might possibly be asked to play center. In addition to being weak on pass protection, his body is falling apart (2 knee injuries and he pulled a muscle at the NFL combine). He seems likely to be a developmental prospect that could earn a starting role in a few years. Rather than sugarcoat things, I will simply mention that the Chiefs defense will tear him up.
In the fifth round, the Chargers grabbed Ryan Carrethers, a defensive lineman from Arkansas State. I did not know who he was either. It appears he was drafted to play nose tackle. He blocked 2 kicks and had 4 sacks in 2013. He is 6’1’ and 337 lbs. (in comparison, the Chiefs’ Dontari Poe is 6’3” and 346 lbs) and is projected to challenge for a starting role. If he makes the starting lineup, I think the Chiefs will not have a problem keeping him busy. Rodney Hudson is coming into his own as a starting NFL center and I think Andy Reid will devise plays to avoid Carrethers if he becomes dominant. In a few years, Carrethers might be their starter but it is unlikely he has an impact like Poe.
In the sixth round, the Chargers selected RB Marion Grice from Arizona State. This was a curious pick as the Chargers already have Danny Woodhead, Ryan Matthews, and Donald Brown on their roster. The knock on Grice is he lacks breakaway speed. Also, I personally am not sure why the Chargers needed another running back, especially with two former first round picks on their roster (Matthews and Brown). If Grice sees the field outside of special teams in 2014, I think this will be a good thing for the Chiefs, as it will indicate that Woodhead/Matthews/Brown are either hurt or playing terrible. Grice might be a decent player in passing situations as he is known to have great hands in the backfield, but Dontari Poe, Eric Berry and the Chiefs’ linebackers should not have a problem stopping him.
In the seventh round, the Chargers selected WR Tevin Reese from Baylor. I also saw a lot of Reese in the Big 12 the past two seasons, and he is a fast receiver but very small (5’10” and 165 lbs.). Outside of Keenan Allen, the Chargers have no dangerous receivers (and Malcom Floyd gets hurt too often), so Reese could provide some depth there if he makes the team. He could provide problems for the Chiefs if he gets behind the secondary (especially if Hussain Abdullah or Sanders Commings is weak at free safety), but with the addition of Phillip Gaines, I think Bob Sutton’s press man coverage will be sufficient to jam the undersized Reese at the line of scrimmage should he ever see the field. In addition, Reese is probably too small to block NFL DB’s in the running game, and could create a liability where his only value is on obvious passing downs.
Similar to the Broncos, the Chargers selected 3 offensive and 3 defensive players. I can see Verrett having an impact, with Attaochu, Watt, Carrethers and Reese seeing some limited playing time. The Chargers will likely need another “Comeback Player of the Year” season from Phillip Rivers to have any prayer of finishing ahead of Kansas City or Denver in 2014.