Projected Starters  

 

AFC West projected starters: Chargers build around veteran QB

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Gregg Rosenthal will project post-draft starting lineups for all 32 teams in lieu of connecting with other humans. The AFC West is below:

Denver Broncos

QB: Trevor Siemian
RB: C.J. Anderson
WR: Demaryius Thomas
WR: Emmanuel Sanders
WR: Carlos Henderson
TE: Virgil Green
LT: Garett Bolles
LG: Ronald Leary
C: Matt Paradis
RG: Max Garcia
RT: Menelik Watson

DE: Derek Wolfe
DT: Domata Peko
DE: Adam Gotsis
OLB: Von Miller
ILB: Brandon Marshall
ILB: Todd Davis
OLB: Shane Ray
CB: Aqib Talib
CB: Chris Harris
S: T.J. Ward
S: Darian Stewart

» Trevor Siemian is barely a favorite to win the starting quarterback job over Paxton Lynch. Anything close to a tie in the open competition will go to Lynch -- the spoils of being a first-round pick. Siemian is still my pick because he proved last season he can be an above-average starter without a lot of support. Lynch only showed he wasn't ready.

» John Elway has struggled to fix the Broncos' offensive line for years and was aggressive spending resources on it this offseason. The team expects to have three new starters (Garett Bolles, Ronald Leary and Menelik Watson), with Max Garcia moving from left to right guard.

» Even in a best-case scenario, the Broncos will look to use Jamaal Charles as a complement to C.J. Anderson. Charles has to make the roster and beat out Devontae Booker before worrying about a starting job.

» Keep an eye on third-round receiver Carlos Henderson. He landed in a perfect scenario to earn snaps right away in the slot over holdovers like Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer. The Broncos are lacking quality depth at wideout and have one of the most uninspiring tight end groups in football.

» The secondary is as strong as ever, with No. 3 cornerback Bradley Roby better than starters on most teams. But the defensive line has grown stale, and it's unclear whether Elway has done enough to fortify the unit. Competition for snaps at defensive end opposite Derek Wolfe should be wide open.

» If games are truly won in the trenches, the Broncos could wind up in last place in this loaded division.

Kansas City Chiefs

QB: Alex Smith
RB: Spencer Ware
WR: Jeremy Maclin
WR: Tyreek Hill
WR: Chris Conley
TE: Travis Kelce
LT: Eric Fisher
LG: Parker Ehinger
C: Mitch Morse
RG: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
RT: Mitchell Schwartz

DE: Chris Jones
DT: Bennie Logan
DE: Allen Bailey
OLB: Justin Houston
ILB: Derrick Johnson
ILB: Ramik Wilson
OLB: Dee Ford
CB: Marcus Peters
CB: Steven Nelson
S: Eric Berry
S: Ron Parker

» The Chiefs return their entire starting offense. This was one of the easier starting lineups to fill out because of that continuity, and the Chiefs have quality depth at most positions. This is an adult roster.

» There is a risk, however, that other areas of the team are analogous to Alex Smith's status as a franchise quarterback. The Chiefs' running back group and offensive line aren't problem areas, but they aren't really difference makers, either. Andy Reid doesn't want the NFL Films Yearbook to be titled "Good, Not Great (Again): The 2017 Chiefs."

» Rookie running back Kareem Hunt, a third-round pick, is bound to be a fantasy football sleeper with a real chance to take the starting job from Spencer Ware.

» The difference makers are on defense. Few NFL teams could match the pure talent of Kansas City's best five defenders: Justin Houston, Eric Berry, Marcus Peters, Chris Jones and Dee Ford.

» The Chiefs appear to be counting heavily on linebacker Derrick Johnson returning from Achilles surgery good as new. The cornerback depth chart after Marcus Peters is also mostly up in the air.

Los Angeles Chargers

QB: Philip Rivers
RB: Melvin Gordon
WR: Keenan Allen
WR: Tyrell Williams
WR: Mike Williams
TE: Hunter Henry
LT: Russell Okung
LG: Forrest Lamp
C: Matt Slauson
RG: Dan Feeney
RT: Joe Barksdale

DE: Joey Bosa
DT: Brandon Mebane
DT: Corey Liuget
DE: Melvin Ingram
OLB: Jatavis Brown
MLB: Denzel Perryman
OLB: Kyle Emmanuel
CB: Jason Verrett
CB: Casey Hayward
S: Dwight Lowery
S: Jahleel Addae

» Antonio Gates is one of the greatest tight ends of all time, coming off a 548-yard, seven-touchdown season. Travis Benjamin is a speedster with more than 1,500 yards over the last two seasons who will earn $4.5 million in 2017. Neither one of them cracked my starting lineup above, which perhaps surpasses any in football for talented receiver depth.

» Calling Benjamin a starter or a reserve probably misses the point. The three receivers above and Benjamin will all play plenty and move around the formation. Throw in Melvin Gordon, an excellent pass-catching running back, and two quality tight ends, and the Chargers will be impossible to match up against.

» This skill-position group could stick around with Philip Rivers for a while. The projected starters at running back, wide receiver and tight end are all 25 or under.

» Drafting rookie guards Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney allowed the team to cut ties with Orlando Franklin, who has been a free-agent bust for general manager Tom Telesco.

» The Chargers couldn't address everything in the draft. Safety is a weak spot unless one of the team's Day 3 draft picks step up.

Oakland Raiders

QB: Derek Carr
RB: Marshawn Lynch
WR: Amari Cooper
WR: Michael Crabtree
WR: Seth Roberts
TE: Jared Cook
LT: Donald Penn
LG: Kelechi Osemele
C: Rodney Hudson
RG: Gabe Jackson
RT: Austin Howard

DE: Khalil Mack
DT: Justin Ellis
DT: Jihad Ward
DE: Denico Autry
OLB: Bruce Irvin
MLB: Cory James
CB: Sean Smith
CB: David Amerson
CB: Gareon Conley
S: Karl Joseph
S: Reggie Nelson

» Marshawn Lynch's contract indicates the Raiders' plan for him to start. Nothing would surprise when it comes to Lynch, from a Comeback Player of the Year award to a mysterious tweet announcing his re-retirement before Week 1. Second-year pros Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington have shown too much juice to idle on the sidelines this season, especially Richard. The team will rotate at the position.

» Oakland had one of the best pass-blocking lines in football last year and return all five starters. General manager Reggie McKenzie deserves a ton of credit for building this group from scratch, wisely spending Mark Davis' money.

» Cordarrelle Patterson, not listed above, figures to be used as a returner and No. 4 receiver in special packages.

» The Raiders still haven't solved their middle linebacker problem, one year after they needed street free agent Perry Rile to stabilize their season.

» There isn't a bigger, more physical trio of corners in football than Sean Smith, David Amerson and Gareon Conley. Al Davis would be proud.

» It's hard to categorize the Raiders' defensive linemen. They like to rotate players who can move inside and out, although the group disappointed last year. A healthy Mario Edwards and third-round pick Eddie Vanderdoes will be key contributors.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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