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Around the AFC West: Two emerging WRs and big-name signings

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The Broncos don’t get back to work until mid-July, so now is a down time for most news about the team. There are a few things to keep track of with the Broncos players here and there, but for the most part, this is a slow time of year with the players away on break.

The rest of the AFC West has actually kept busier this time of year. This week in the division there have been key players signed, breakout players to watch out for and a rising star who could be getting much more opportunity this season.

Let’s take a spin around the AFC West to see what the competition is up to.

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Kansas City Chiefs

The biggest surprise of Chiefs camp is a player most of you have never heard of. According to Adam Teicher of ESPN, wide receiver Byron Pringle has been the surprise offseason standout for the Chiefs.

Pringle came into the NFL in 2018 as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State. His final season for the Wildcats, Pringle averaged a whopping 24.1 yards per catch – clearly showcasing the speed and ball-tracking ability as his best traits. Pringle has good speed, but is considered raw at the position in terms of route-running and nuance for playing wide receiver.

He was making plays last year in minicamp, training camp and the preseason for the Chiefs. A hamstring injury suffered in the final preseason game of 2018 cost Pringle his entire rookie season. The Chiefs have playmakers we all know like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, but watch out for Pringle as he looks to breakout in 2019.

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Los Angeles Chargers

Mike Williams, the Chargers 2017 first-round pick out of Clemson, is set for an expanded role in 2019, according to the team’s official website. Williams was selected No. 7 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he struggled through injuries during his rookie season. Last year, Williams caught a team-high 10 receiving touchdowns and looked to be a player on the rise.

This season, Williams could be truly dominant for the Chargers offense.

Last year, Williams was only targeted 66 times and caught 43 passes for 664 yards. In 2019, we could see him targeted almost twice as much. Williams is huge, fast and physical – especially in the red zone. Last year, Williams scored on seven of the 14 targets he got inside the 20-yard line.

Projecting Williams for double-digit touchdowns this season is not outlandish whatsoever. However, Williams might get many more opportunities to move the chains. He could catch 60 or more passes this year which could translate into a 1,000-yard season for the young receiver. His size and speed will make him a tough matchup for any defender tasked with covering him this season.

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Oakland Raiders

The Raiders were busy this week signing some key draft picks. Armed with three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, Oakland did their best to add key talent to their young core. Two of those key additions signed their rookie contracts this week.

Raiders first-round defensive end Clelin Ferrell signed his four-year contract on Tuesday. He’s a good player who everyone had a first-round grade on, but it was a surprise to see him go off the board with the No. 4 overall pick.

Ferrell is a stout defensive end who uses strength and length to control and get around his blocker. He can set the edge against the run and has good burst to the quarterback. He should help the Raiders find answers for rushing the quarterback.

Also on Tuesday, Raiders safety Johnathan Abram signed his rookie contract. Abram was the team’s third first-round pick, selected at No. 27 overall. He’s a playmaking safety from Mississippi State that is a “big nickel” defender who can play close to the line of scrimmage.

When Abram is on patrol, opponents should be on alert. He’s a big hitter who plays with little regard for his personal safety. Abram loves to hit and does a good job of separating the ball from the ball-carrier.

Both Ferrell and Abram should be impact players for a much-improved Raiders defense in 2019.