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AFC West Wednesday: Draft Capital

There’s no question; the AFC West has spent up this offseason. The moves have come fast and furious, fetching headlines across the NFL as the former AFL Rivals, now in the AFC West, look to move the needle and prevent a seventh consecutive division title for the Kansas City Chiefs next season. There’s no question; the Chargers, Broncos, and Raiders are all better than they were a season ago. Better now, but at what future cost?

Zigging And Zagging

The Chargers have acquired Khalil Mack via trade. Russell Wilson was sent off to Denver for a draft picks and players package. Davante Adams, the NFL’s best wide receiver, was sent to Las Vegas for picks. The entire division has “zigged,” acquiring talent as we’ve never seen before (in a collective division) to win now. According to PFF’s offseason Improvement Index, seven teams have improved by 7% or greater this offseason. Three of those seven are the Chiefs’ division rivals.

Updated @PFF offseason Improvement Index for the Dolphins signing Terron Armstead and trading for Tyreek Hill. Dolphins now in the top-4 — Kevin Cole (@KevinColePFF) March 23, 2022

In response, the Chiefs have “zagged.” They traded the best wide receiver in franchise history. Tyreek Hill, a cornerstone of the Chiefs’ historic offensive run, is now a Miami Dolphin. The Chiefs acquired no players, just a major haul of draft picks for the All-Pro wide receiver. While the rest of the division looks to win this season, Kansas City looks to the future. All-Pro Tyrann Mathieu also remains a free agent. The Chiefs instead brought in a younger talent in Justin Reid. The Chiefs are not “rebuilding,” but instead “re-tooling” and getting younger. They’re looking to build a better future, while the rest of the division has decided the time is now.

The results are pretty telling if we rank the teams by the Jimmy Johnson Draft Value method. Under Johnson’s valuation, different draft picks carry different values. For example, the first pick in the draft is worth 3000 valuation points. The 32nd overall pick is worth 590, and so on. Pick values decline exponentially until the later rounds when picks are worth just one point (or less). How does the draft Capital in the AFC West shakeout under this measurement?

Denver Broncos – Draft Capital

The Broncos have been the most aggressive when it comes to trading draft picks for talent. They’ve acquired Russell Wilson this offseason in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. They also acquired some picks for veteran Von Miller last season, which helps lessen the impact of those lost picks. Below is their draft pick status for 2022:

  1. First Round – Traded to Seahawks for Russell Wilson

  2. Second Round – Traded to Seahawks for Russell Wilson

  3. Second Round – Acquired from Rams for Von Miller

  4. Third Round

  5. Third Round – Acquired from Rams for Von Miller

  6. Fourth Round

  7. Fourth Round – Acquired from Seahawks for Russell Wilson

  8. Fifth Round

  9. Fifth Round – Traded to Seahawks for Russell Wilson

  10. Sixth Round – Traded to 49ers

  11. Sixth Round – Acquired from Eagles

  12. Seventh Round – Traded to Vikings

  13. Seventh Round

The Broncos traded away their top two picks in the 2022 draft but still have eight total selections, in part thanks to the Von Miller trade. The 2023 Draft looks much worse for them. In 2023 they’ll have just four picks (as it stands now): a third, fourth, fifth, and seventh. I’m generous here, giving the Broncos’ 2023 Draft Picks a valuation based on their 2021 standings to finish. The Broncos will be much better next season than last, meaning their value could be even lower.

2022 Draft Picks Value: 768.4 | 2023 Draft Picks Value: 313 | Total Value: 1081.4

Las Vegas Raiders – Draft Capital

This offseason, the Raiders made a splash trade, acquiring superstar wideout Davante Adams from the Green Bay Packers for a first and second-round draft pick. The trade makes the Raiders instantly better, as they try to build around quarterback Derek Carr. Here’s what their 2022 Draft Pick Capital looks like today:

  1. First Round – Traded to Packers for Davante Adams

  2. Second Round – Traded to Packers for Davante Adams

  3. Third Round

  4. Fourth Round

  5. Fifth Round – Acquired from Patriots for Trent Brown

  6. Fifth Round

  7. Sixth Round – Traded to Panthers

  8. Seventh Round – Acquired from Panthers for Denzel Perryman

  9. Seventh Round – Traded to Patriots

The Raiders haven’t been as aggressive as Denver in sending away draft picks, but they haven’t acquired many either. This means the Raiders have even fewer picks in the upcoming 2022 Draft, with just five total. Next season, they have just six: a first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and seventh-round pick. If we grade the Raiders using the Johnson Method, their Capital Value is extremely low this season.

2022 Draft Picks Value: 255 | 2023 Draft Picks Value: 1380.8 | Total Value: 1635.8

Los Angeles Chargers – Draft Capital

This offseason, the Chargers acquired Khalil Mack in a trade with the Chicago Bears. Mack will pair with Joey Bosa, forming one of the most elite pass rush duos in the NFL. The trade takes the Chargers, who were already a win away from the playoffs last season, into the next echelon of NFL Contenders. Here’s where the trade leaves the Chargers’ 2022 Draft Capital:

  1. First Round

  2. Second Round – Traded to the Bears for Khalil Mack

  3. Third Round

  4. Fourth Round

  5. Fifth Round

  6. Sixth Round

  7. Sixth Round – Compensatory Pick

  8. Seventh Round

  9. Seventh Round – Three Compensatory Picks

The most impressive aspect of the Chargers’ roster construction lies in how they’ve been able to round out their team without sacrificing too much draft capital. Mack cost the team a second-rounder in this year’s draft and a sixth next season. They still pick 17th overall in the coming draft. Many of their additional acquisitions have come in free agency and the form of highly impactful draft selections over the past few seasons. Next season, the Chargers still own a pick in every round except the sixth.

2022 Draft Picks Value: 1239.8 | 2023 Draft Picks Value: 1620.8 | Total Value: 2860.6

Kansas City Chiefs – Draft Capital

As mentioned before, the Chiefs have gone a much different route this season. The team has traded Tyreek Hill, signed safety Justin Reid to a 3-year contract, signed wideouts Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdez-Scantling to contracts, and franchise-tagged tackle Orlando Brown Jr. While the rest of the division has doubled down and loaded up on talent, the Chiefs have traded away one of their largest assets on the entire roster. Here’s where the trade left them in terms of 2022 Draft Capital:

  1. First Round – Acquired from Dolphins for Tyreek Hill

  2. First Round

  3. Second Round

  4. Second Round – Acquired from Dolphins for Tyreek Hill

  5. Third Round

  6. Third Round – Compensatory Pick

  7. Fourth Round

  8. Fourth Round – Acquired from Dolphins for Tyreek Hill

  9. Fifth Round – Traded to Ravens for Orlando Brown Jr.

  10. Sixth Round – Traded to Steelers for Melvin Ingram

  11. Sixth Round – Traded to Vikings for Mike Hughes

  12. Seventh round (four picks) – Chiefs have four Seventh Round selections; one compensatory pick, two acquired via trade.

The Chiefs boast six selections in the first three rounds this season. Much of this is thanks to the Tyreek Hill trade. They’ve also stockpiled many late-day three picks via numerous trades that should allow the team to either trade up or round out their roster with value picks, hoping to hit on another Trey Smith late in the draft. The draft value is astonishing.

The Chiefs, off of four consecutive AFC Championship games and six straight AFC West division titles, carry the best draft capital in the division over the next two seasons. They also now boast the second-most cap space in the NFL. Of course, they still have Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid in tow.

2022 Draft Picks Value: 2250.5 | 2023 Draft Picks Value: 1189.9 | Total Value: 3440.4

The Pay Off

This offseason, the Chiefs have focused on growing their draft assets, hoping to gain future talent on cheaper rookie contracts. It seems this is Brett Veach’s latest market inefficiency. He wants to focus on the draft while the rest of the AFC West shrinks their draft capital to win now. To this point, he’s succeeded. The Chiefs in 2022 own nearly twice as much value in the draft as the next closest team, the Chargers. In fact, they own as much value as the rest of the division combined.

Will this succeed? It’s risky and relies on the front office finding value in their draft picks. Brett Veach has an up-and-down track record in the draft. If 2022’s class is anything close to 2021, the team should be set up for immediate success and may not see as large a drop-off as the league might expect. However, if the draft proves to be anything like the Chiefs’ 2018 draft class, the Chiefs could be in trouble. Veach and the scouting department need to get it right if their strategy is to pay off.

The rest of the AFC West is better right now than last season. The Chiefs are worse right now than they were last season. It’s impossible to see the payoff right now for the division. Too many variables still exist, including how the draft shakes out and how new acquisitions impact their respective new homes. The true payoff will lie in just one thing: winning.

Where do you think the Chiefs’ will place within the AFC West? Leave a comment down below to join the discussion.

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