For every team, in every season, there’s a new guy that can make a huge difference. Here are my picks to change the fortunes of all thirty-two teams…well, here are my picks for the AFC West
Impact Addition: Running Back Melvin Gordon III
Denver Arrival: Free Agency- Los Angeles Chargers
If one thing is certain, it’s that Melvin Gordon needed a change of scenery. The combination of a reduced role due to the success of pass-catching back Austin Ekeler and the financial wrangling with the Chargers brass left Gordon in the cold. Here’s a cat who’s put up an average of twelve touchdowns a year over the past four years, and he has a legit gripe that he’s being both underused and disrespected.
Well, now he’s got the chance to show the Chargers how badly they messed up twice per year.
The veteran back will bring a new element to Denver’s rushing attack, and he’ll command more men in the box from opposing defenses, opening up the flat and the sidelines for Drew Lock and his various weapons. It’s never a sure thing to know how players, running backs especially, are going to handle playing in the altitude in Colorado, but I have my money on Gordon and the Broncos getting the better of the Chargers a lot over the next few seasons.
Kansas City Chiefs
Impact Addition: Offensive Lineman Mike Remmers
Kansas City Arrival: Free Agency- New York Giants
You were expecting some huge flashy name for the reigning champs?
The Chiefs are staying conservative atop the heap, and you can’t really blame them. Their ho-hum draft was more about depth than improvement and free agency was more about retaining talent than going out to get more. But I like this addition for two reasons:
First, the Chiefs parted ways with Cam Erving and Stefan Wisniewski in the offseason, leaving the cupboard pretty bare along the offensive line. Problems in that area can be insurmountable, even for the best teams, so I like the move to create some stability.
Secondly, Remmers is versatile. He can play anywhere along the line except center, so if the Chiefs need to move some big bodies around as the season drags on and injuries mount, they have a Swiss Army knife to deploy. It’s not a signing that will make a ton of headlines, but it’s the sort of move that could potentially keep the Chiefs in contention if disaster strikes.
Las Vegas Raiders
Impact Addition: Wide receiver Henry Ruggs III
Las Vegas Arrival: Draft, 1st Round- Pick 12
Speed. Speed. Speed. Historically speaking, these are the three most important traits that Raiders management has looked for when making draft selections. That’s why the Raiders passed up Jerry Jeudy, Alabama’s number one target to take Henry Ruggs III as the first receiver off the board in this absolutely loaded draft class.
The Raiders have seen first-hand what Tyreek Hill’s speed has done to opposing defenses, rendering man coverage impossible and zone schemes marginally effective at best. The Raiders will look to create some of that electricity in their first season in Las Vegas with Ruggs. There will need to be more evolution of the Raiders offensive scheme to bring that to life, mind you, but for the first time in a while, I don’t hate where the Raiders are headed.
Coach Jon Gruden is seen as a bit of an old timer, set in his ways, but if he can pull off this offensive evolution, we might be seeing these new Raiders in a brand-new way. Is it enough to get the Silver and Black back into the mix in the AFC West? That’s a big, big stretch.
Los Angeles Chargers
Impact Addition: Quarterback Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Arrival: Draft, 1st Round- Pick 6
Before I even start, can you imagine how weird it is to be a young quarterback getting drafted with pick 6? I mean, you’re in the top ten, so that’s cool. But you’ll forever be associated with the literal and actual worst (non-injury) thing that can happen to a quarterback on a football field.
Welcome to L.A. Justin Herbert, you have big shoes to fill.
It’s been about fifteen years since anyone but Philip Rivers has played quarterback for the Chargers, and while there’s some scuttlebutt that Tyrod Taylor might start the season as QB1, we all know that the Los Angeles views Herbert as the future of the franchise.
I’m not sure that a half, or even a full season of Tyrod helps Herbert adjust any better to the NFL, and we all know that if the Chargers start slow under Taylor, the fans will be chanting for the rookie and turning local sports talk radio into the church of the unseen quarterback. But seriously, I like Herbert’s chances to become the next standard bearer for the Chargers, hopefully he can have a career as long and successful as Philip Rivers, but maybe, just maybe, get a shot at a title.
For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.
Image Source: AP Images