The AFC has undergone major changes over the past few months. A lot of which have led to an increase in playoff contenders. Two top level quarterbacks, Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson, landed at two quarterback-hungry teams. Two of the best receivers in the league, Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams, found new homes in the conference. Even with those major acquisitions, the AFC actually got better in the draft as well.
Teams like the Jets, Texans, and Jaguars added a bunch of talented players that are likely to help turn those franchises around. Likewise, the contenders at the top of the conference also added significant talent, which should increase their championship hopes. The two notable draft hauls came from two teams who have been at the forefront of the conference for a handful of years now, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens.
The Chiefs came into the draft with a handful of glaring holes on their roster. The losses of Tyreek Hill, Tyrann Mathieu, Melvin Ingram, and Charvarius Ward, left Kansas City desperate for talent to put around Patrick Mahomes. Their desperation turned into jubilation after the first two days of the draft. The four positions they took the biggest losses on were the four positions they addressed first and surprisingly not having to reach on talent to fill those needs. The Tyreek Hill trade netted Trent McDuffie, Skyy Moore, and Darian Kinnard from the acquired draft picks . McDuffie and Moore will likely be starters right away, while Kinnard has a good chance to compete for the starting right tackle spot. George Karlaftis joined McDuffie as the other first round selection, and will almost definitely slot in across from Frank Clark to open the season. Safety Bryan Cook and linebacker Leo Chenal rounded out the Chiefs’ day two selections. Both of those guys should see ample playing time in the coming season.
Day three was spent on athletically gifted upside players, as the Chiefs took two cornerbacks, a running back, and a safety to go along with Kinnard. The front office was clearly not happy with their secondary and are hoping to steal some snaps in the late rounds. Whether or not day three picks see the field and contribute, especially right away, is almost always a non-factor in my eyes for the effectiveness of a draft class. The Chiefs absolutely crushed that area of their draft in the 1st three rounds.
The Ravens must have found a magic genie lamp a handful of years ago. For some time now, the Ravens have feasted on immense talent falling right into their laps during the draft. This year was no different, as they got multiple players who were ranked higher than where they got them. Kyle Hamilton, who a lot of people had as a top 10 player and was once thought of as a top 5 talent, fell to them at pick 14. Safety wasn’t a position of need for Baltimore, as they added Marcus Williams before the draft. However, with Hamilton’s versatility and ability to play all over the field, the talent was simply too good to pass up on. The same could be said for their next pick. Tyler Linderbaum was far and away the best center in the class, and was arguably the best interior offensive lineman period. With the way the Ravens like to run the ball, he was an easy selection at pick 25.
Their third pick may have been even more of a steal than those two. David Ojabo was a surefire early first rounder until a torn achilles ended his pro day workout a month and a half prior to the draft. There were thoughts that a team might take him towards the end of the first round if they didn’t need him to produce right away. That didn’t happen. Instead, he fell all the way to the middle of the second round, where the Ravens were waiting for him with open arms. With guys like Calais Campbell, Odafe Oweh, and Derek Wolfe already on the roster, the Ravens can afford to let Ojabo work back to full strength, ideally for a playoff push.
Travis Jones rounded out the ridiculous first two draft days for the Ravens. After that, they had a whopping six picks in the fourth round. The first three, Daniel Faalele, Jalyn Armour-Davis, and Charlie Kolar, all have a chance to make an impact in their first year. Penn State punter Jordan Stout was their next selection, and he may also find himself as an immediate starter if the team chooses to move on from their long-time punter Sam Koch. Rounding out their fourth round haul was Isaiah Likely, who was drafted as a tight end but may end up seeing time more as a receiver, and cornerback Damarrion Davis. Missouri running back Tyler Badie was their last selection, and even he may be able to see the field with how the Ravens like to utilize multiple backs. Like I said with the Chiefs, if the last handful of picks don’t pan out, so be it. What really matters is that the Ravens once again got immense value on the first two days of the draft.
The AFC’s biggest powerhouses just happened to get more powerful. But how will it play out with emerging teams such as the Chargers, Broncos, and Browns getting better as well? No matter what, the Chiefs and Ravens have done their part to sustain a winning culture.