• Kevin Sayer

2021 NFL Draft: Reviewing the AFC West

Updated: 5 days ago

Today, we take a look at the 2021 NFL Draft hauls in the AFC West. We covered the AFC East yesterday, so be sure to take a look at that here.

By Kevin Sayer from the NFL Draft Punk Podcast.

Listen to the NFL Draft Punk Podcast.


As part of the 35 episode journey we started on the NFL Draft Punk Podcast we covered a lot and it only feels fitting to give my own opinions on this year's picks per division in a staggered article that will be regularly updated. There will be no grades here, they can only realistically be evaluated further in the future, but we can all have opinions, right?


So, without further ado let's run through by division in order of draft hauls I liked, taking into account the UDFA market also...let’s get into it.


AFC EAST | AFC WEST | AFC NORTH | AFC SOUTH | NFC EAST | NFC WEST | NFC NORTH | NFC SOUTH


Editor’s note: Links above will become active as divisional articles are published.


AFC WEST

Rashawn Slater of Northwestern during a college football game. Slater was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers during the 2021 NFL Draft.
Rashawn Slater will be an instant upgrade for the Bolts on the O-line.

Los Angeles Chargers


R1 (13): T Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

R2 (47): CB Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State

R3 (77): WR Josh Palmer, Tennessee

R3 (97): TE Tre’ McKitty, Georgia

R4 (118): EDGE Chris Rumph II, Duke

R5 (159): T Brenden Jaimes, Nebraska

R6: (185): LB Nick Niemann, Iowa

R6 (198): RB Larry Rountree III, Missouri

R7 (241): CB Mark Webb, Georgia


Fave Pick: Rashawn Slater; Could the Chargers have played this any better? They came into the draft with a definitive need to address the tackle position and sat precariously at a spot where they may need to trade up to get one of the two stellar prospects. Well they stayed patient and got their man, Slater was considered by NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah as his top tackle prospect. Whilst he may not have the crazy movement skills or physical upside of Penei Sewell, Slater’s footwork, initial punch and quick feet may be the best in this tackle class. A 3-year starter giving up two sacks combined in 2018 & 2019 and versatility all over the line made this pick a priority for the Chargers protecting their prized asset.


Least Fave Pick: Tre’ McKitty; The loss of Hunter Henry meant another specific need in a certain positional group. McKitty had a disappointing career at Georgia as far as production is concerned but, was potentially picked on his excellent Senior Bowl campaign grading the best of any tight end during the receiving drills. Only time will tell whether they could’ve picked a higher graded tight end at pick 77 instead of Josh Palmer and selected a receiver with the next pick which was a positional of considerable depth unlike tight end.


Late Round Steal: Chris Rumph; The Duke pass rusher was a difficult evaluation weighing in at 244lbs and 6’2 with 33inch arms. He lacks the ideal height and weight to play as a 4-3 hand down player and has zero experience playing off ball. However, he is an intriguing prospect with a quick first step and ability to shorten the edge with genuine bend and dip in a class of rushers that lack exactly that. Melvin Ingram lacked ideal length coming out of South Carolina and under new coach Brandon Staley who worked wonders with the Rams Defense I think the fit could be a perfect match to find the role to compliment Rumph’s assets.


UDFA To Make The Roster: Hunter Kampmoyer; This selection is more a swing on continuity teaming up the former Oregon tight end with his Eugene based QB, Justin Herbert. The Chargers lost Hunter Henry in Free Agency and signed Jared Cook along with drafting McKitty but I’m betting on Kampmoyer being one of those players that has a better NFL career than college career.


Summary: It’s difficult to be critical of the Chargers 2021 NFL Draft as I thought they hit every need at some point in the draft. The Asante Samuel Jr pickup was a tremendous value pick as he was heavily talked about at the end of the first round with the Packers especially being keen. He’ll look to get playing time outside, learning under Chris Harris to potentially fill inside as the Nickel, he’s scheme diverse, and teamed with Slater makes a pair of great rounds one and two selections. If I am being critical, it is of round three where you’ve banked on the upside of both players but I’m a fan of Josh Palmer’s days in Tennessee under some poor QB play. Watch the film versus Alabama last year and you’ll see him give Patrick Surtain some good competition. Brendan Jaimes was highlighted on the NFL Draft Punk Pod as someone who could go earlier than expected due to his athletic traits and Nick Niemann is a player to watch with his athletic scores following his pro day….if I could I’d give the Chargers an A, but I’m not grading am I…..

Cornerback Patrick Surtain II pictured during a college football game for Alabama Crimson Tide in 2020.
Patrick Surtain II offers the highest floor of all the cornerbacks taken in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Denver Broncos


R1 (9): CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

R2 (35): RB Javonte Williams, North Carolina

R3 (98): IOL Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater

R3 (105): LB Baron Browning, Ohio State

R5 (152): S Caden Sterns, Texas

R5 (164): S Jamar Johnson, Indiana

R6 (219): WR Seth Williams, Auburn

R7 (237): CB Kary Vincent Jr., LSU

R7 (239): EDGE Jonathon Cooper, Ohio State

R7 (253): EDGE Marquiss Spencer, Mississippi State


Fave Pick: Baron Browning; In the draft build up I bought into the Baron Browning hype, a difficult evaluation in the Ohio scheme that saw constant rotation in personnel at the position. Browning shone in his final season with The Buckeyes, he is a natural athlete on the move and shows real pass rush potential combined with hand technique to swat opponents’ arms away making space for himself. He covers short zones well in the passing game but needs refinement and coaching in run diagnoses often overplaying the QB’s first read. Browning at pick 105 gives Denver something they don’t currently have with his versatility at linebacker.


Least Fave Pick: Not addressing the QB situation; It feels completely wrong to put Patrick Surtain here as a bad pick. Surtain’s all-round skills at the position will be a fine addition to the Broncos’ secondary as will Javonte Williams (my personal RB1) power back running style. Yet it was surprising to see Denver not address the QB situation unless they know something we don’t with whatever is happening in Wisconsin. They claim Drew Lock is the answer and needs time to develop. If that was the case, why bring in Bridgewater? In a division where you’re going to be battling for second place and half the division has their answer at the most important position in sports there must’ve been a good reason for passing on Justin Fields.


Late Round Steal: Jamar Johnson; I felt the Indiana safety was overhyped in the process gaining a lot of exposure from his (college) career day against Justin Fields and Ohio State. However, in round five with the ball skills Johnsons possesses this seems a steal. Denver’s secondary and safety room is full but it seemed even to them that this is a player they didn’t expect to be there. He reads the QB’s eyes well and is fluid in his movement and with 13 interceptions in his last four seasons he shows the instincts needed in a QB heavy division.


UDFA To Make The Roster: Andre Mintze; Finished second on the Vanderbilt team in sacks behind Dayo Odeyingbo, he lacks the size and length but may compete for a roster spot rushing on obvious passing downs with his speed.


Summary: Denver seems to be sticking to an age-old mantra of defense wins championships. The Surtain pick gives them an easy day one starter with his experience and solid technique. Williams will be a huge success especially in cold weather football later in the season and Senior Bowl fan favourite Quinn Meinerz will push last year's center draftee Lloyd Cushenberry for a spot along the line. Caden Sterns will be an addition on Special Teams whilst Kary Vincent and the Ohio Edge prospect Jonathan Cooper will provide depth behind established starters. Denver added quality prospects to their roster but under a new regime you wonder when the QB selection will come?

Nick Bolton of Mizzou, drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Can Nick Bolton make the MIKE spot his own?

Kansas CIty Chiefs


R2 (58): LB Nick Bolton, Missouri

R2 (63): C Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma

R4 (144): Edge Joshua Kaindoh, Florida State

R5 (162): TE Noah Gray, Duke

R5 (181): WR Cornell Powell, Clemson

R6 (226): G Trey Smith, Tennessee


Fave Pick: Creed Humphrey; I’m a big fan of Humphrey who was a 3-year starter at center at Oklahoma. A smart, savvy player with a wrestling background he uses and understands leverage well, he’s also an excellent communicator and leader along the line. His best asset is in his pass sets rather than being a people mover but that suits Kansas fine, and I expect him to win the starting spot day one.


Least Fave Pick: Nick Bolton; The Missouri Mike linebacker is a whole lot of fun to watch, a forceful downhill tone setter who plays his best football when it’s in front of him. He’ll be an asset to any team but having signed Anthony Hitchens in Free Agency to pair with Willy Gay whom they drafted last year I feel they had more pressing needs at cornerback depth, unless you believe the free agent signing of Giants cast off Deandre Baker fills the need.


Late Round Steal: Trey Smith; In a year of uncertainty any player with medical flags dropped dramatically on draft day, among them the big Tennessee guard Trey Smith. He may be the best power run blocking player in the entire draft when fit but a down year in Tennessee plus historical issues involving blood clots certainly hampered his stock. However, the power and size and close quarters hand fighting are more than worthy of a 6th round selection if you can coach a little more control.


UDFA To Make The Roster: DiCaprio Bootle; As mentioned the cornerback room was not provided any depth so I’ve gone for the Nebraska corner as an outside chance at a practice squad member with his rapid straight line speed.


Summary: Let’s take the Orlando Brown trade into this and say the Chiefs have certainly been stung by the Superbowl loss watching their prized asset throwing gravity defying incompletions. Brown will book end a transformed O-line but it still feels as though there is a need at right tackle as Mike Remmers feels more a journeyman than an established starting option. Like other teams picking late, their needs are few and I’ll watch with interest on the development of Florida State edge Joshua Kaindoh, originally a 5 star recruit but constant injuries in his college career stunted his progression. The Humphrey pick is a home run and the late addition of Cornell Powell as a powerful physical downfield threat and team player in the run game will mean more pieces for a loaded roster.

Alex Leatherwood of the Alabama Crimson Tide plays during the 2020 college football season. He has been drafted by the Las Vegas Raiders and will start immediately.
Alex Leatherwood was a surprise pick to many, but has the potential to be a long term starter in Vegas.

Las Vegas Raiders


R1 (17): T Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

R2 (43): S Trevon Moehrig, TCU

R3 (79): EDGE Malcolm Koonce, Buffalo

R3 (80): S Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech

R4 (143): S Tyree Gillespie, Missouri

R5 (167): CB Nate Hobbs, Illinois

R7 (130): C Jimmy Morrissey, Pittsburgh


Fave Pick: Trevon Moehrig; How Moehrig wasn’t the first safety drafted I’ll never know. There’s him and a considerable gap to anyone from a deep field coverage perspective and he will combine to help in the run game. He has fantastic instincts and hip to hip coverage abilities and high points the ball like a receiver. His ball production in college was one of the best among all FBS defensive backs.


Least Fave Pick: Malcolm Koonce; According to The Athletic Consensus Big Board the Buffalo edge player was one of the biggest reaches in the draft. With a lean frame and ‘tweener’ size Koonce lacks the power to set an edge. Whilst his hand work is advanced and he does possess good dip and bend I fear competing one on one against an NFL calibre tackle will reduce him to a limited role, hence why take him so early?


Late Round Steal: Jimmy Morrissey; A 4-year starter at Pittsburgh and a high character player all tick the boxes for Mayock. He’s quick out of his stance and displays the ability to get to the next level. His challenge will be gaining weight and strength at the point of attack else he’ll be a liability against nose tackles at the next level.


UDFA To Make The Roster: Darius Stills; A position of need that was surprisingly not addressed on draft day. Stills offers genuine interior pass rush ability on obvious passing downs. His size and weight are not big enough for the true nose position despite playing there the majority of time in college and he lacks experience at 3-tech. However, the violent aggressive traits are something to work with.


Summary: It’s difficult to know the overall strategy of the Raiders: they demolished their offensive line and replaced it with lesser players. I didn’t hate the Leatherwood pick and feel the process was unkind to him. I think he’ll be a good starter at the next level; playing as a 3-year starter for Alabama with the length, consistency and strength must mean you’re doing something right. The Moehrig pick was an opportunistic trade and felt like pairing him and Johnathan Abram was be a good move, then they drafted Divine Deablo and Tyree Gillespie – both safeties. Deablo will more likely move to linebacker due to his size but it begs the question: what was the plan coming into this draft? What area of your team were you looking to improve on? The Mayock and Gruden tenure has produced nothing more than mediocrity and it’s difficult to see beyond that next season.


Check out Kev’s article reviewing the 2021 NFL Draft classes of the AFC East here. The AFC North here and the AFC South here.

#ChiefsKingdom #BoltUp #RaiderNation #BroncosCountry