Even with teams staying at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have haven’t seen things slow down that much in the NFL. The draft is still set to occur from April 23-25, so teams are feverishly working though their draft grades to finalize the draft board. Here in about a week, teams should go through mock draft exercises as the final piece before they declare themselves ready for the draft.
The Broncos have a ton of competition within the division and things aren’t slowing down in these parts either. In fact, the Chiefs were quite active this week which is interesting considering how little money they have to still do moves in free agency. They’ve kept most of their team together from the Super Bowl, and the rest of the teams in the division are just trying to play catchup.
Let’s take a spin around the AFC West to see what the competition is up to.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs don’t have a ton of salary cap room, as highlighted in last week’s article, but that hasn’t stopped them from making moves this week.
Late last week, free-agent tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (Browns) agreed to terms on a one-year contract with Kansas City. Seals-Jones came into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2017 for the Cardinals coming out of Texas A&M. He was a two-sport star in high school and has a basketball skill set that teams covet in the NFL.
During the last few years, Seals-Jones has rarely done much with a couple of different teams. He did catch four touchdowns last year with the Browns and is an interesting backup tight end now behind Travis Kelce.
On Wednesday, free-agent running back DeAndre Washington (Raiders) agreed to terms on one-year contract. I really wish the Broncos had looked at Washington in free agency because he would’ve been a nice fit as a backup to Phillip Lindsay. Instead, they chose to uproot Lindsay as the top back with Melvin Gordon. I digress, but the Chiefs got themselves a heckuva running back here in Washington.
A fifth-round pick for the Raiders in the 2016 NFL Draft, Washington was a star at Texas Tech. He never really got much of a chance with the Raiders, but he did start three games for them last year when Josh Jacobs was banged up. Washington is a compact runner who can make plays as a receiver out of the backfield too. Now with the Chiefs, he’ll compete for a spot on the depth chart behind Damien Williams. In their offense, Washington could be a star if he was ever thrust into a featured role.
Then on Thursday, unrestricted free-agent cornerback Bashaud Breeland (Chiefs) agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $4.5 million with the Chiefs. Breeland was free to sign anywhere else when the new league year began, and he did have a couple of teams showing interest. Last year with the Chiefs, Breeland started 15 of 16 games for them and finished the year with 48 tackles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions. He’ll return with a similar role and keeps another part of the Chiefs defense intact for the 2020 season.
Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr’s days as the Raiders starter are most certainly numbered. He’s been okay as a starter for years, but has never really blossomed into the top-tier franchise quarterback the team thought he could be when the selected him out of Fresno State in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
His shortcomings have not all been his fault. In fact, I ran across some interesting data that makes me look at Carr in a different light. Carr has seen his teammates drop 216 passes during the course of his six-year career – the most drops a quarterback has witnessed over that span. Just look at his wide receiving corps last year with Tyrell Williams, a clear No. 2 receiver, as the top target.
The Raiders should have done a better job of putting quality weapons around Carr and then perhaps he would’ve performed as expected. Instead, the team is looking to move on from Carr and this is one reason why they signed Marcus Mariota in free agency. In fact, don’t be surprised if the Raiders select a quarterback with a premium pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Carr’s time as the starter with the Raiders is going to be largely seen as a failure. However, looking closer you can see how he wasn’t given the best chance to succeed.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers keep getting brought up in conversations, blogs, TV reports, etc. when it comes to potential landing spots for Jameis Winston or Cam Newton. Even though Tyrod Taylor is now at the top of the depth chart, that may not keep the Chargers from getting one of these seasoned veterans to start. Both Winston and Newton would be upgrades from Taylor, but just how much is a question mark.
As we get to the NFL Draft, we’ll see if the Chargers select a quarterback with a premium pick. If that’s the case and they pick up someone like Justin Herbert (Oregon), then Winston and/or Newton will not be joining the team. If the Chargers go in a different direction in the first round, then perhaps Winston and/or Newton could become an option after the draft. Taylor would be a decent starter if he’s the guy for the Chargers in 2020, but I would not yet lock him into that role just yet.
No matter who lines up at quarterback for the Chargers, they’ll be happy to have a receiving weapon like Austin Ekeler to use early and often. Looking over the advanced data this past week revealed another stat to highlight about their lead back. Ekeler had an 85.2 percent catch percentage last season, which was the best rate of anyone with 45 receptions.
Simply put, Ekeler doesn’t drop hardly anything you throw his way. He’s a dangerous weapon who can make defenders look silly in the open field. With Melvin Gordon moving on in free agency to join the Broncos, the backfield almost wholly belongs to Ekeler. We’ll see what kind of lead back he can be now that he’s atop the Chargers depth chart.
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