NFL Draft 2015: AFC West Analysis

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Oakland Raiders

Coming into the 2015 offseason, the Raiders had a ton of cap money to burn. Unfortunately, they also had a ton of ground to make up on their AFC West rivals. They had a productive offseason, signing the Chiefs’ own Rodney Hudson, and Michael Crabtree, among others, yet still had major holes in their roster (as most 3-13 teams do), from cornerback to wide receiver.

With the amount of holes in the Raiders roster, they could effectively employ BPA and still fill their various needs through the draft. Their draft picks are as follows:

1 4 Amari Cooper WR 6’1″ 211 Alabama
2 35 Mario Edwards Jr. DT 6’3″ 279 Florida State
3 68 Clive Walford TE 6’4″ 251 Miami
4 29 John Feliciano OG 6’4″ 323 Miami
5 140 Ben Heeney ILB 6’0″ 231 Kansas
5 161 Neiron Ball OLB 6’2″ 236 Florida
6 179 Max Valles OLB 6’5″ 251 Virginia
7 218 Anthony Morris OL 6’6″ 290 Tennessee State
7 221 Andre Debose WR 6’0″ 190 Florida
7 242 Dexter McDonald CB 6’1″ 200 Kansas

Of the four teams in the AFC West, I actually think GM Reggie McKenzie did the best job. Amari Cooper is the closest to a guarantee at wide receiver you’ll find in any draft. Clive Walford is an underrated tight end, and if the Raiders believe in running back Latavius Murray, then they filled as many needs as the most optimistic fan could have hoped for going into the draft.

Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Passing up on Leonard Williams at the fourth pick was a major surprise, but Cooper is a top-class player, and providing promising quarterback Derek Carr with some weapons had to be the priority for the Raiders. I was particularly frustrated when the Raiders took Heeney in the fifth. I think Heeney was a great mid-to-late round pick, and one that disappointingly slipped through the Chiefs’ fingers.

All this having been said, will the Raiders challenge for the AFC West? No. Their roster is greatly improved through free agency and the draft, and they will most certainly do better than last season, but they are not yet on par with the Chiefs, Broncos or Charges.

So… Where does this leave the AFC West? I believe that the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos are all on roughly a level playing field. The Chiefs drafted well, although the offensive line still troubles me (here’s hoping Derek Sherrod becomes the steal of the century), and they are in a position to challenge. With a potentially elite pass defense and improved wide receiver corps, the Chiefs are more than within a shot of winning the AFC West and making the postseason. The only issue? The same one for the last three seasons: Peyton Manning.