Ah, the offseasonâ€”the staff changes, free agency, and the annual NFL draft. These beloved festivities make up a time where teams league-wide focus on bettering their roster, whether through the open market or by way of the draft. This is a time to improve your squad, and no division benefited more from the offseason than the AFC West.
For the Los Angeles Chargers, the Pro Bowl pair of Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson took center stage in the team’s transactions. Denver got to cooking this offseason when they traded for nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson. And the Silver and Black? Well, I don’t think I need to talk about No. 17 at all. After all, Davante Adams already stole all the headlines.
These stars collected all the attention in the AFC West this offseason, and rightfully so. However, in the shadow of those household names lie overlooked pickups who can help their team in major ways as well. Those are the players who I’ll be giving love to today; one for each team in the AFC West.
Overlooked Pickups From the 2022 Offseason – One Per AFC West team (either trade or signing)
Kansas City Chiefs – Marquez Valdes-Scantling
The Chiefs were the outliers in the AFC West, not having a superstar pickup this offseason. Actually, they were on the wrong end of a superstar pickup, as Kansas City traded All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill to Miami.
Hill is irreplaceable; let’s get that out of the way early. However, if you’re going to replace Hill, Valdes-Scantling is a great start. For one, MVS is fast, like really fast. He’s not quite on Hill’s level, but his 4.37 40-time has proved to be a great strength. Hill is as good of a deep threat as anyone, but so is Valdes-Scantling with the right pieces around him.
How do we know if the Chiefs have those pieces for MVS? Let’s quickly touch on that.
In 2020, MVS led the NFL in yards per reception, logging an outstanding mark of 20.9. He did this while paired with Adams, while Aaron Rodgers was throwing him the football.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The Chiefs might not have a Davante since Adams is a wideout and Kansas City’s No. 1 wideout post-Hill is JuJu Smith-Schuster and MVS (with Skyy Moore potentially overthrowing both in the near future), but the team does have a pass catcher just as dominant as Adams. Of course, I’m talking about Travis Kelce.
Kelce can, and does, command attention just like Adams did in Green Bay. If MVS can feast off of this like he did on his former team, the Chiefs will continue to dominate offensively, courtesy of Valdes-Scantling.
There’s still more to digest here. Most fans can agree that Rodgers is the most talented thrower in the NFL. He is the reigning back-to-back MVP, after all. However, a good number of fans will tell you that Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes has the second-most talented arm. There’s not much of a drop off there, especially going deep.
MVS with Kelce and Mahomes in Kansas City feels very similar to him being paired with Adams and Rodgers in Green Bay. 20.9 yards per reception? Yikes.
Los Angeles Chargers – Kyle Van Noy
I’m a fan of Kyle Van Noy. I had actually been hoping Las Vegas kicked the tires on him prior to signing Jayon Brown. Considering the number of former Patriots residing in Vegas now, Van Noy just seemed to make sense.Â Well, Van Noy did end up coming to the AFC West, but not the Raiders. Instead, he joined the Chargers.
Van Noy is a very versatile linebacker, and if that linebacker core in L.A. needs anything, it’s versatility.
Since 2016, the veteran linebacker has recorded three interceptions with 26 additional pass breakups, nine forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, and 26.5 sacks. This is truly a jack of all trades at linebacker. What’s more, Van Noy has spent time in both a 4-3 and a 3-4, playing every different linebacker position there is, and has excelled.
At this stage in his career, there’s no telling if the 31-year-old will be a full-time starter. He doesn’t need to be, though.
Van Noy can effortlessly rotate at every linebacker position, ensuring the Chargers don’t fall behind. Honestly, when you think about it, he’s almost best served as a rotational player given he can rotate anywhere instead of being glued to one specific spot.
This move should really help keep a rather weak linebacker unit above water, or at least at sea level.
Denver Broncos – Melvin Gordon
Does Gordon really count? He was a Bronco in ’21 but didn’t agree to return to Denver until late April. That’s why I’m counting him.
I just love Gordon with Russell Wilson in this offense. The Broncos gave Wilson a five-year, $245 million deal on Thursday, so there’s little question the offense will revolve around him. You don’t give a guy $49 million per year to underutilize him.Â With that in mind, we have to start thinking about using running backs in the passing game. That’s Melvin Gordon’s bread and butter.
Through his career, Gordon has hauled in 284 passes for 2,244 yards and 14 touchdowns. Check out Gordon’s ability to make things happen as a receiver, even smothered in coverage.
Con este TD de Jeff Driskel a Melvin Gordon, Denver vuelve acortar distancias.#BroncosCountry pic.twitter.com/p1BNEZVpoG
— We Want Sports! (@WWS_MX) September 20, 2020
In Denver, Javonte Williams will be the RB1, but the two-time Pro Bowler in Gordon should be a legitimate weapon for Russell Wilson out of the backfield. Great job by Denver to retain their pass-catching halfback.
For the record, if you decided Melvin Gordon shouldn’t count, versatile O-lineman Billy Turner would be the guy.
Las Vegas Raiders – Rock Ya-Sin
You want to talk about underrated pickups? Rock Ya-Sin is the definition of that. This offseason, the Raiders sent ’21 Pro Bowl alternate Yannick Ngakoue to the Indianapolis Colts. The compensation? It was Ya-Sin.
Why was Las Vegas so content in trading Ngakoue, who was fresh off of a double-digit sack performance one season ago, for Ya-Sin? There’s a good reason. For one, Ya-Sin is a great man-coverage cornerback. Actually, there may not be a better cornerback in man-coverage league-wide than the Raiders’ newcomer. At least, that stands true for the ’21 season.
In 2021, no cornerback allowed a lower completion percentage in man-coverage than Rock Ya-Sin. He allowed only 26.7 percent of passes his way to be completed, getting bested only four times on 15 throws. Want to hear an almost unreal stat? In man coverage, Ya-Sin allowed one catch every 25.5 snaps.
As a result, Ya-Sin finished with the third-highest rating when lined up in man, per Pro Football Focus.
Raider Nation, this is your cornerback. The 26-year-old will sport the iconic Silver and Black colors this season, as he hopes to eclipse a mere fraction of his phenomenal 2021 season.
*Top Photo: Official Raiders Website