2023 NFL Draft Preview: AFC West
Could edge rusher Lukas Van Ness fall to KC at No. 31? (Last Word on Sports)
With the NFL Draft now just a few weeks away, it’s time to switch our focus. This year’s draft class is very talented, featuring a trio of superb quarterback prospects, an intriguing group of wide receivers and some possible generational talents on defense.
Today, let’s take a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of each AFC West team and try to determine which direction each will head in the draft. We list the teams in order of how they finished in the standings last season.
Kansas City Chiefs
2022 record: 14-3, Super Bowl champions
Strength: Pass attack (the Chiefs had 476 more yards passing than any other team)
Weakness: Rush defense, which ranked 20th in the NFL
Top pick: No. 31
Draft needs: Offensive line, wide receiver
Possible draft target: Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa Hawkeyes
Skinny: KC is hosting the draft this season, so will definitely want to nail this pick, even if it’s at the end of the first round. The Chiefs have a big need for edge help, so grabbing Van Ness (who can really wreak havoc — see video below) would be a very good start. Having said that, many mocks project him going earlier. Protecting Patrick Mahomes (and keeping him healthy) with offensive line upgrades will also be a big focus for KC this draft.
Los Angeles Chargers
2022 record: 10-7, made the playoffs for the first time since 2018, but blew a huge lead in losing to Jacksonville in the Wild Card game
Strength: Passing yards per game: 269.6 (third highest in the NFL)
Weakness: Rush yards per game: 89.6 (30th)
Top pick: No. 21
Draft needs: Tight end, edge rusher, more speed at wide receiver, defensive line
Possible draft target: Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh Panthers
Skinny: As you can see above, the Chargers really struggled against the run, so adding Kencey makes sense. Currently +2000 to win the Super Bowl next season according to FanDuel’s Futures, the Chargers have some work to do this offseason — especially given their cap issues, which will hamper any big money additions. Fortunately, the team has all seven of its draft picks.
Las Vegas Raiders
2022 record: 6-11, missed playoffs for the second straight season
Strength: Rushing efficiency (tied for fifth with 4.8 yards per play)
Weakness: Defensive playmakers (last in turnovers forced)
Top pick: No. 7
Draft needs: Quarterback (assuming they want one for the long term), defensive line, running back (if Josh Jacobs leaves)
Possible draft target: One notable prognosticator has the Raiders trading up to No. 4 and selecting QB Anthony Richardson from the Florida Gators.
Skinny: The Raiders need a ton of work on both sides of the ball, but especially on D. Derek Carr is gone, hence the need for a QB (which they reportedly addressed with the unofficial signing of Jimmy Garoppolo), but the team doesn’t believe reaching for one in the draft is the right call, so unless they trade up, they’ll have a tough decision to make. At any rate, there are a lot of holes to fill on this team, so the extra draft capital Las Vegas owns (11 in total) will come in very handy. It’s not inconceivable that Richardson falls to the Raiders at No. 7 anyway, but it’s not clear this team has the luxury of just allowing the chips fall where they may.
2022 record: 5-12, missed playoffs for seventh straight season
Strength: Team defense (seventh in NFL in yards allowed per game)
Weakness: Protecting the QB (dead last with 63 sacks allowed)
Top pick: No. 67
Draft needs: Edge, offensive line, cornerback
Possible draft target: Daiyan Hensley, LB, Washington State Cougars
Skinny: The huge trade for Russell Wilson sure hasn’t worked out as planned, has it? Not only did they lose their top two 2023 draft picks in the deal, but the expected trip to the playoffs never materialized. New Head Coach Sean Payton needs to work some miracles here but getting a playmaker on D that can create turnovers like Hensley can help if he lands to the Broncos with one of their back-to-back third round picks. Expect Denver to also address its offensive line, pass rush and pass D.
RotoRob Tune of the Day
Young Aborigines changed their name to Beastie Boys in 1981 when bass player Jeremy Shatan left and was replaced by Adam Yauch. Here’s another track from Beastie Boys’ 1999 compilation album Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science, this time with “The Biz vs. the Nuge,” originally from the 1992 album Check Your Head.