The AFC West is going to be an incredibly unpredictable division this year. The Chiefs offense looks ready to blow up the league, but their defense might get lit up too. The Broncos are a mystery after going 5-11 last season. With Jon Gruden at the helm, who knows what the Raiders are going to do. And the Chargers are going to be somewhere in the middle like they are every year. But as we know, rookies can be very important to a team’s success. Who’s going to step up in the AFC West?
One of the most hyped rookies from this draft from outside the first round, Freeman is going to shoulder a heavy load in his first season. The third round Oregon product is going to see a lot of carries early on in his NFL career. With an aging Demaryius Thomas and question marks everywhere else at wide receiver, Case Keenum is going to have to lean on Freeman a lot. He’s going to be a valuable asset in fantasy football this season.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs traded away their 2018 first rounder in 2017 to move up in the 2017 draft to pick Patrick Mahomes, so Speaks was the team’s first pick in 2018. They’ll be expecting a lot out of him, as the Chiefs couldn’t defend the run or pass very well last season. They were great at forcing turnovers but traded away 19 interceptions over the last three seasons when they traded Marcus Peters to the Rams. Speaks, who some considered a reach, will have to make an instant impact as a pass rusher and run defender.
The third-rounder had top 10 talent before the 2017 season but dropped all the way to the third round. There are questions all over him, and he’ll need to prove himself in training camp because he could be a huge impact player with Khalil Mack on the other side. There were tons of off-field questions around his work ethic and love of football. He has the full package needed to be an elite pass rusher, but he needs to put it all together. If Jon Gruden can make that happen, Key could be a sleeper pick for Rookie of the Year.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have an elite pair of edge rushers, but they need a solid run defense to make their defense even better. They have arguably the best secondary in the league, and teams know that. Jones will need to solidify that run defense next to Brandon Mebane, or Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram won’t be able to have as many opportunities to pin their ears back on third and long. Mebane is also starting to get older, and we might see his career come to an end soon, so having Jones as a long-term replacement will be important for the future of the Chargers run defense.