By: Keaton Henry
NFL Draft month is upon us, however, there is only one team in the AFC West that might make a push to solidify their quarterback position on April 26th. The Denver Broncos signed Case Keenum to a two-year, $36 million deal last month, but don’t expect Denver VP John Elway to settle at the NFL’s most important position for another season.
The Chargers’ Phillip Rivers, Raiders’ Derek Carr and Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes look set as starters for their respective teams, but which quarterback leads the pack in the AFC West?
4. Case Keenum, Denver Broncos
As mentioned before, Keenum could possibly have a rookie join his QB room following the draft. With that being said, no one should discount the achievement Keenum had this past year in Minnesota.
With Keenum at the helm, the Vikings made it to the Conference Championship; a game that led to the Vikings defeat to the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles. The dismal championship performance by the Vikings should not cover the productions of an offense that ranked 10th in the NFL for points scored and top-15 in rushing, passing and overall yards per game.
Whether is it Keenum or a rookie quarterback leading the Broncos offense in 2018, the team is less solidified offensively around this position at this point to help their quarterback replicate the success that Keenum’s Vikings had last season.
3. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs second-year QB Patrick Mahomes could easily jump the list by one or two spots depending, of course, by his comfort level with receivers Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley and new-comer Sammy Watkins.
Mahomes showed some unmatched arm strength at Texas Tech and in his lone start vs Denver last season, but arm strength can only go so far. Former Chief and current Redskins quarterback Alex Smith was a staple for consistency and accuracy in all fazes of the game, but Kansas City’s quarterback heir is a completely different style of quarterback.
This season will tell Kansas City fans and NFL fans alike what Mahomes can/will become. Many use Aaron Rodgers/Brett Favre as comparisons for the potential and arm talent that Mahomes possesses, but the gunslinger will need to channel some of his inner Smith in order to reach those heights.
2. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
New Head Coach John Gruden is inheriting an explosive, yet injury-prone cast this offseason, some of whom he has already jettisoned. The Raiders moved on from receiver Michael Crabtree, just before adding receiver Jordy Nelson, formerly of the Green Bay Packers. This would then be followed by the release of punter Marquette King.
Crabtree and King have been known to have big personalities. Personalities that possibly conflicted with Gruden’s, but why does this matter?
It matters because Carr, a 2015-17 Pro Bowl quarterback, is coming off of a 22 touchdown season and eight of those were received by Crabtree. While it could be completely feesable that Gruden’s scheme could help the likes of Amari Cooper and Nelson may be able to take on that load.
Carr is a top-10 NFL quarterback on a yearly basis, but a lot of his production can be hindered by a consistent lack of consistency and health around him. The team will need to hope that newly signed runningback Doug Martin can return to his 2015 level of production when he amassed over 1,400 rushing yards.
1. Philip Rivers, LA Chargers
Rivers has been a passing machine throughout his career and deserves credit for the successes of the San Diego/Los Vegas Chargers over the past decade-plus. With that being said, he has never been able to carry his team over the biggest of hurdles in the playoffs.
In 2017, Rivers landed a grade of 85.5 according to Pro Football Focus, which landed him as the eighth best passer. Despite a lack of defensive constancy for the Chargers and an absence of a running game for several years between the retirement of Hall-of-Famer Ladainian Tomlinson in 2012 and the drafting of 2015 first-round runningback Melvin Gordon.
Overall, Rivers has accomplished and developed into a top-flight NFL quarterback. As a professional, the rest of the quarterbacks in the AFC West should look to him as a model NFL quarterback.
Keaton Henry is a contributor on NFLUpdate.co covering the Kansas City Chiefs. You can follow him on twitter @KeatonHenryNFL