AFC West draft grades: Rich get richer, Broncos take big gamble to land franchise quarterback

In the AFC West, the rich got richer. Denver took a big gamble to find a franchise quarterback. Las Vegas landed an offensive playmaker instead of addressing a glaring need, and the Chargers continue to mold their roster in new coach Jim Harbaugh’s vision.

Here is how each team in the division graded out after the NFL draft.


Grade: B

Broncos head coach Sean Payton’s legacy might be on the line. He and general manager George Paton passed on the top three edge rushers, top two cornerbacks and Georgia tight end Brock Bowers to take Oregon quarterback Bo Nix at 12th overall. Even though Nix has the potential to start right away, given his experience and accuracy, this pick feels like a reach.

Nix was considered a late first- or early second-round draft pick, and Denver could’ve traded back and still gotten its quarterback and maybe another Day 2 pick. However, Denver is desperate for a quarterback, and Payton remains haunted by the memory of the Chiefs leaping over the Saints to draft Patrick Mahomes in 2017.

Day 3 was arguably Denver’s best. The Broncos added two potential starters on offense in Oregon wide receiver Troy Franklin and Notre Dame running back Audric Estime. Franklin, who was projected to be a Day 2 pick, gives the Broncos more speed on offense. Estime is a strong and physical player whom Payton envisioned being a first- and second-down running back. They also traded for Jets defensive end John Franklin-Myers, a durable pass rusher who can improve Denver’s defensive line, which was inconsistent in 2023.

Kansas City Chiefs

Grade: A

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Kansas City gave Mahomes the fastest wideout in the draft by taking Texas’ Xavier Worthy with the 28th overall pick. Worthy — who completed the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in a record-breaking 4.21 seconds — has top-end speed that will allow him to be a deep ball threat. In the fourth round, the Chiefs added Travis Kelce 2.0 in TCU tight Jared Wiley, a solid blocker with good ball skills. He had 520 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2023.

Meanwhile, offensive tackle Kingsley Suamataia, a second-round pick, can be a quality backup with the potential of being a starter in the future.

Las Vegas Raiders

Grade: B-

The Raiders would have benefited from adding cornerbacks Terrion Arnold or Quinyon Mitchell. Instead, they took the best player available in Bowers. Las Vegas will benefit from Bowers’ ability to generate yards after the catch and line up anywhere on the field. Still, the team might’ve been better off adding a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback. Adding center Jackson Powers-Johnson in the second round was a solid pickup. The Raiders missed the opportunity to take quarterback Spencer Rattler, who was drafted by the Saints in the fifth round. With good coaching, Rattler can become a starter in the league and one of the draft’s biggest steals.

Los Angeles Chargers

Grade: B

Harbaugh showed that offensive linemen are weapons too by taking Notre Dame left tackle Joe Alt with the fifth pick of the draft. Alt has the talent to have decade-long success, but Los Angeles already had a Pro Bowl left tackle in Rashawn Slater. And without a true No. 1 wide receiver, it’s a bit surprising that the Chargers didn’t take LSU’s Malik Nabers, who landed with the Giants. Perhaps, Los Angeles’ second-round pick Ladd McConkey can turn into that go-to target for quarterback Justin Herbert. But overall, Los Angeles had a solid draft. Harbaugh reunites with top Michigan linebacker Junior Colson. The team also addressed its need for a cornerback, taking Notre Dame’s Cam Hart and Maryland’s Tarheeb Still. Alabama’s Justin Eboigbe is a solid rotational player up front.

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