2019 NFL Draft: The AFC West could become stocked with rookie quarterbacks

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 03: Daniel Jones #17 of the Duke Blue Devils warms up before the game against the Miami Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 03: Daniel Jones #17 of the Duke Blue Devils warms up before the game against the Miami Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

If the dominoes fall right in the NFL Draft, the landscape of the AFC West could dramatically change with new rookie quarterbacks looking to take over.

There are four quarterbacks, at this point, with reasonable expectations to be labeled a first round pick when the dust settles on the 2019 NFL Draft. That’s not that this class is filled with can’t miss prospects, but analysts like a few quarterbacks available enough to believe in their ability to develop. And at the game’s most important position, belief is more than what some teams already have.

While there are QB-needy teams scattered throughout the NFL, the AFC West in particular has the potential of bringing in three of those four quarterbacks early in the draft. That’s not to say it will happen for any team, and there’s even reason to believe that all three—the L.A. Chargers, the Denver Broncos, the Oakland Raiders—will actually pass on taking a quarterback early. But the potential is also definitely there for franchise-altering decisions for each on Day One.

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For the Oakland Raiders, Derek Carr is a passable option that many other teams would enjoy as an upgrade, especially given his contract. That said, Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have both made it clear that they’re open to changes under center, and Carr has failed at every recent attempt to rule the West. He potentially deserves one more chance with greater talent around him—hello, Antonio Brown—but it looks like we largely know who Carr is as a pro quarterback at this point.

It’s important to note here that the Raiders have all the draft assets to do what they please in late April. It’s likely true that if they like any of the rookie QBs—from Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins to Drew Lock or Daniel Jones—Mayock and Gruden will be able to maneuver for them (or just select one at No. 4 overall). As much help as the Raiders need at multiple positions, if you can raise the ceiling at quarterback, it’s a move you make every time.

As for the Chargers, they are expected to compete for a Super Bowl this season and likely as long as Philip Rivers is commanding the offense for Anthony Lynn‘s team. That said, the Chargers have met with Jones already, and given Rivers’ age, it’s natural for Tom Telesco to start to think about a plan of succession. They pick in the bottom of the first round, but that might be a prime time for Jones to step in as a first round quarterback without costing them anything else. It would allow the Duke product to learn from Rivers just as he learned from Drew Brees when entering the NFL.

The Broncos are the most needy under center, an interesting reality because they’re also the franchise that seems most stubborn about bringing in a young quarterback. John Elway traded for Joe Flacco when it was clear that Case Keenum wouldn’t work. Two consecutive veterans have been brought in ever since Elway got burned by his last first-round QB in Paxton Lynch. Is he now risk-averse? Is he questioning his own ability to judge the role? If so, why is he in power.

The reality is that Flacco is aged/damaged goods in a division that is as competitive as any, and Elway is silly if he wants to avoid taking a quarterback because the team is set. If Elway and his staff simply don’t like the options, that’s well and good. But to avoid Drew Lock or Dwayne Haskins at No. 10 because Flacco is on the roster makes zero sense.

Given their draft positions (Raiders at No. 4, Broncos at No. 10, Chargers at No. 28), it’s very possible that the Raiders come home with Haskins, the Broncos end up with Lock, and the Chargers stake their future in Jones. If so, it will mean significant change within the division top to bottom all in one draft class, while the division leader looks on with Patrick Mahomes in tow.