NFL Preview 2019: Ranking each AFC West team's most impactful rookie


NFL Preview 2019: Ranking each AFC West team's most impactful rookie

The AFC West didn't add a lot of sexy rookies in the 2019 NFL Draft, but they added several players that should make an immediate impact.

The Raiders, with three first-round draft picks, should get the most bang for their buck. After finishing with a 4-12 record last season, they will need all of their draft picks to contribute right away. None more so than running back Josh Jacobs.

As for the Chargers and Chiefs, they have holes that need to be filled. In Denver, the Broncos are just trying to find a reliable target for veteran quarterback Joe Flacco.

Here's a look at the best rookies for each of the AFC West teams:

1. Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs

Jacobs was the highest ranked running back in the 2019 draft class, and has already been slotted in as the Raiders' feature back ahead of veteran Doug Martin and incumbents Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington and Chris Warren III. The expectations are high for the Alabama product, but he has the size and power to carry the load for head coach Jon Gruden.

While defensive end Clelin Ferrell was taken 20 spots higher than Jacobs, all eyes will be on the No. 24 overall draft pick when the 2019 season starts,

Former Chargers great LaDanian Tomlinson believes Jacobs should win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. That's high praise from one of the best running backs to ever play.

The Raiders are hoping Jacobs lives up to the hype.

2. Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Jerry Tillery

With the Chargers losing defensive lineman Darius Philon and Corey Liuget in free agency, Tillery will have a chance to step in and take over at nose tackle.

Los Angeles will benefit from Tillery's ability to get to the quarterback. He finished his senior season at Notre Dame with eight sacks. Melvin Ingram led Los Angeles with seven sacks last season.

3. Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman

The Chiefs lacked a first-round draft pick and used the No. 56 overall pick on the Georgia wideout. With the team suspending Tyreke Hill, Hardman should have a chance to play quite a bit early in the season.

ESPN's Chris Sprow wrote this about Hardman after Kansas City selected him: "Hardman runs a 4.33 40-yard dash and is raw as a pass-catcher but is an angle-destroying nightmare with the ball in his hands."

[RELATED: Previewing AFC West rushing attacks]

4. Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant

Because the Broncos used the No. 20 overall pick on the Iowa tight end, Fant should get an opportunity to play right away. But with Jeff Heuerman re-signing and Jake Butt on the roster, the rookie will have competition.

Fant is an understudy of 49ers' Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle, so Broncos president of football operations John Elway is hoping the 2019 first-round draft pick can follow in Kittle's footsteps.

Raiders report card: Grades for offense, defense in loss to Chiefs

Raiders report card: Grades for offense, defense in loss to Chiefs

OAKLAND – The Raiders’ hot start cooled off quickly and eliminated hopes of upsetting the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Oakland Coliseum.

MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes put things out of reach with 28 unanswered points in the second quarter to lock down a 28-10 victory over the Raiders.

The Silver and Black split a two consecutive home games and head into a long road stretch at 1-1, following a disappointing performance that proved they don’t match up with the NFL’s elite.

“I tip my hat to the Chiefs,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “They made some great plays, a barrage of plays, in about a five-minute period that really turned this game around. It was a difficult game on a short week for us. I’m proud of our team. We did not quit. We turned the ball over a couple of times in the second half. We had some pre-snap penalties on both sides that are inexcusable.”

Here’s the Raiders report card following a Week 2 loss to an old AFC West rival.

Rushing offense

Josh Jacobs is an excellent player. That much is clear through two games, with the first-round draft pick showing great burst, vision and toughness despite being a defensive focal point. The Chiefs worked hard to slow him down and he still churned out 99 yards on just 12 carries, buoyed by a 51-yard jaunt in the second half.

The run blocking proved solid on the right side, anyway, and should be used consistently to help move the chains and keep the Raiders on schedule. Jacobs cramped up during the second-quarter, and might’ve generated some offense during a key moment in this game. The attack fell flat then while the Chiefs surged ahead.
Grade: B

Passing offense

Quarterback Derek couldn’t sustain his hot start, and sputtered some with Jacobs out and Tyrell Williams missing some time with a hip issue. While the Raiders long to move on completely from Antonio Brown, his loss can still be felt in the air attack. The Raiders don’t have a capable No. 2 receiver at this point, with Ryan Grant struggling in a starting role. Tight end Darren Waller had six catches for 63 yards but should’ve been targeted even more. Hunter Renfrow made some rookie mistakes, and the backs aren’t involved much in the passing game.

Carr’s interception in the end zone, on first-and-goal no less, was a case of the quarterback trying to do too much. The second was a bad pass interference call that was less Carr’s fault. The quarterback must be better, however, over the course of four quarters. After the first quarter, Carr was 17-for-26 for 127 yards and two picks. That’s not good enough.
Grade: D-plus

Rushing defense

It’s hard to find fault with this effort, which looks far better than last season. The Raiders allowed just 32 yards on 22 carries, a 1.5-yard average. Johnathan Hankins is anchoring that effort, with help from Josh Mauro and Maurice Hurst. The Chiefs ran a lot and didn’t get much from it. That’s a good thing that bodes well for the defense if it can eliminate big plays that plagued them in this contest.
Grade: A

Passing defense

This was a disaster in the second quarter. The secondary wasn’t on the same page often enough. The pass rush couldn’t affect Mahomes, and gave him time to make magic happen down the field. The Raiders couldn’t stop anything during a game deciding stretch, and still have major problems covering tight ends. Part of that is Kansas City being an offensive juggernaut, but the Raiders must do better at cornerback and safety after giving up so much so quickly against the Chiefs.
Grade: F

Special teams

The return game will suffer if Dwayne Harris (ankle) is out for any length of time. A.J. Cole put two punts inside the 20 and had a 60 yarder. Daniel Carlson hit his only field goal attempt. Allowing a 20-yard punt return is never good, but it’s hard to blame special teams for this outcome.
Grade: B


Kansas City brought the hammer down in the second quarter, all the time required to put this game out of reach and expose some shortcomings the Raiders must shore up before facing Minnesota next week. Head coach Jon Gruden came up with a solid game plan, but Cheifs counterpart Andy Reid made better adjustments and found ways to create favorable matchups exploited for big gains. The Raiders don’t have the talent required to make up for big mistakes. They must play sound over four quarters, and didn’t do that Sunday afternoon at Oakland Coliseum.
Grade: F

What went wrong in Raiders' second-quarter meltdown against Chiefs

What went wrong in Raiders' second-quarter meltdown against Chiefs

OAKLAND – The Raiders scored twice on as many first-quarter drives. They forced Kansas City to punt on both of their series, taking a firm two-score lead into the second period.

That’s when the wheels came off.

Kansas City turned the game on its head during the second quarter, with 28 unanswered points and a Raiders run of three-and-outs.

That disastrous combo sunk the Raiders’ upset bid and set Sunday’s 28-10 loss in motion.

The Raiders were left to identify what went wrong during a pivotal period that ended any shot of a realistic upset chance.

Well, a lot.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes took yards in massive chunks, including four touchdowns from at least 27 yards out. The reigning NFL MVP was 12-for 17 for 278 yards and four touchdowns in the second quarter alonne, averaging 16.3 yards per attempt over that stretch. 

Slot cornerback and team captain Lamarcus Joyner believes there was a recurring theme in the deep-shot onslaught, one that gave two scores away without resistance.

"I think it was just a communication thing,” Joyner said. “I think the guys in this room, one, you look at the one-on-one matchups you want for the most part. We had two plays that we gave to them by miscommunication. Got a lot of new guys in the system, we just have to communicate and we're going to get better.”

The first touchdown of this stretch was a blown coverage, plain and simple. Demarcus Robinson was wide open for a 44-yard touchdown strike, with no one in his vicinity until Gareon Conley came off his man to make a tackle.

The second touchdown drive was the backbreaker, a 14-play, 95-yard drive that ended with a 42-yard strike to Mecole Hardman on, I joke you not, third-and-20. That’s not a typo. The Raiders forced a third-and-long thrice on that drive and gave up big plays each time. There was a third-and-4 early in the drive where Clelin Ferrell’s neutral-zone infraction gave K.C. an automatic first down.

Mahomes had all day to throw during this stretch, including the 3rd-and-20 debacle, leaving the defensive front to shoulder blame for that play and an entire quarter gone wrong.

“We just have to get home. That’s basically it,” edge rusher Maxx Crosby said. “The back end can only hold up so long. We had to keep getting pressure and, in that second quarter, they started throwing the ball deep and winning some 50-50 balls. That’s on us up front. We just have to get home.”

The third score came courtesy of Andy Reid creating a matchup the Raiders tried to avoid like the plague. The Raiders had Daryl Worley shadow tight end Travis Kelce, with him playing deeper than ever in certain packages with four cornerbacks and a single-high safety. On touchdown No. 3, Kelce shifted outside and got locked up one-on-one with shorter safety Karl Joseph. The Chiefs smelled blood, and threw an easy score to Kelce down the left sideline.

Momentum shifted irrevocably at that point and the downtrodden Raiders were ripe for another haymaker. The offense went three and out, and Mahomes went deep again. Robinson was wide open again for a 39-yard score that concluded the scoring.

Raiders execution was a major part of that disaster, but the reigning MVP had something to do with it.

“Well, we had a breakdown in one coverage, I know that, but a couple of those were just incredible throws and catches also,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “You have to tip your hat to them. We didn’t get enough pressure. We let Mahomes move around back there and cock his arm, and when he gets an opportunity to do that he can drop them in there no matter where they are. I tip my hat to them and we have to do a better job next time.”

[RELATED: Carr expresses frustration after loss]

This stretch didn’t deflate the Raiders defense, which took confidence from shutting the Chiefs out in the second half. Joyner pushed against the notion Kansas City went into cruise control, saying a few plays led to big problems.

"We eliminated the mistakes in the second half. I didn't see them back off at all,” Joyner said. “I felt like they were doing the same plays. I mean, if you look at the film, they really scored two big touchdowns off miscommunication. If you look at the film, there's other than a few plays when they beat us while we were in man-coverage and we were on our stuff, so I wouldn't take anything away from my defense. Because if they can put 50 on you, they will."