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AFC West draft grades: Broncos score with Paxton Lynch pick

Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is performing a division-by-division assessment of the 2016 NFL Draft, spotlighting notable picks and handing out grades for each team. Below is his review of the AFC West. (NOTE: Click on the tabs to see other divisional breakdowns.)


BEST PICK: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Denver Broncos, Round 1, No. 26 overall

The Broncos aggressively moved up the draft board to grab their franchise quarterback of the future. Although Lynch is far from a finished product, he is an upgrade over Brock Osweiler and offers Gary Kubiak an athletic, strong-armed passer to build his offense around. With at least one other team trying to trade up on Day 1 to select the ultra-talented playmaker, the Broncos deserve credit for doing what it took to land their guy.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
Oakland Raiders, Round 1, No. 14 overall

There isn't any disputing Joseph's game-changing potential as an MOF (middle of the field) playmaker, but it's always a risky decision to grab an injured prospect with an early selection. Joseph is still recovering from an ACL injury that prematurely ended his senior season. While it is possible that the West Virginia standout will fully return to form following a grueling rehab, the risk-reward scenario could backfire if Joseph fails to display the athleticism and playmaking prowess he flashed as the monster in the middle of the Mountaineers' defense.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Devontae Booker, RB, Utah
Denver Broncos, Round 4, No. 136 overall

The marriage between the silky smooth-running Booker and the Broncos' zone-based system could produce fireworks for Gary Kubiak's squad in 2016 and beyond. The Utah standout is an Arian Foster-like playmaker capable of creating splash plays as a runner-receiver out of the backfield. In a zone-based scheme that emphasizes stringing together positive runs, Booker could become a 100-yard machine for a Broncos team that will rely heavily on the running game this season.


NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

» Round 1: (No. 3 overall) Joey Bosa, DE.
» Round 2: (35) Hunter Henry, TE.
» Round 3: (66) Max Tuerk, C.
» Round 4: (102) Joshua Perry, ILB.
» Round 5: (175) Jatavis Brown, OLB.
» Round 6: (179) Drew Kaser, P; (198) Derek Watt, FB.
» Round 7: (224) Donavon Clark, OG.

The Chargers surprised the football world when they selected Bosa with the third overall pick, but the move is sensible when considering the team spends 70 percent of its snaps in the nickel defense. Boss is a polished pass rusher with impressive hand skills, and he is capable of attacking the quarterback from a defensive end or defensive tackle position. With the Chargers intent on dialing up the pressure on passing downs, Bosa's presence could help the defense deliver more impact plays.

Joshua Perry and Jatavis Brown both add depth to the linebacker corps. Both should push for time within the rotation while making immediate contributions on kick coverage units. Hunter Henry not only gives the team a successor to Antonio Gates at Y, but the Arkansas product could quickly emerge as Philip Rivers' favorite target on third down because of his polished route-running skills and strong hands. Max Tuerk should upgrade the center position with his athleticism and mobility. GRADE: B+

» Round 1: (No. 14 overall) Karl Joseph, S.
» Round 2: (44) Jihad Ward, DE.
» Round 3: (75) Shilique Calhoun, DE.
» Round 4: (100) Connor Cook, QB.
» Round 5: (143) DeAndre Washington, RB.
» Round 6: (194) Cory James, OLB.
» Round 7: (234) Vadal Alexander, OG.

The Raiders continue to add weapons to a defense that's beginning to look like a monster on paper. The additions of a hard-hitting safety and a couple of big-bodied defensive linemen should help Khalil Mack and his cohorts wreak havoc on opponents in 2016. Joseph was unquestionably one of the top defensive playmakers in the draft, exhibiting outstanding hands, ball skills and instincts as a deep-middle player. In addition, he adds some toughness to the secondary with his penchant for delivering big hits between the hashes. Although his knee injury does give some cause for concern, there's no disputing his potential as a game changer when healthy.

» Round 1: (No. 26 overall) Paxton Lynch, QB.
» Round 2: (63) Adam Gotsis, DT.
» Round 3: (98) Justin Simmons, FS.
» Round 4: (136) Devontae Booker, RB.
» Round 5: (144) Connor McGovern, OG.
» Round 6: (176) Andy Janovich, FB; (219) Will Parks, S.
» Round 7: (228) Riley Dixon, P.

John Elway has done a masterful job of building a perennial contender in Denver since coming on board in 2011, cleverly using the draft and free agency to constantly upgrade the roster. Faced this year with the daunting task of retooling a team while still making a run at a repeat title, Elway made a bold move to nab a franchise quarterback in Round 1. Although most observers believe Paxton Lynch needs at least one season before he can seriously compete for the starting job, the Broncos could view the young gunslinger as a potential Day 1 starter based on his exceptional arm talent and natural fit within the scheme. Devontae Booker, with his knack for finding creases between the tackles, could emerge as a surprise starter in the backfield by the end of training camp.

On defense, Adam Gotsis and Justin Simmons could carve out roles as situational players on a star-studded defense. Simmons, in particular, could thrive as an MOF playmaker behind one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. GRADE: B

» Round 2: (No. 37 overall) Chris Jones, DT.
» Round 3: (74) KeiVarae Russell, CB.
» Round 4: (105) Parker Ehinger, OG; (106) Eric Murray, CB; (126) Demarcus Robinson, WR.
» Round 5: (162) Kevin Hogan, QB; (165) Tyreek Hill, WR.
» Round 6: (178) D.J. White, CB; (203) Dadi Nicolas, DE.

General manager John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid take a workmanlike approach to the draft, preferring prospects with prototypical physical dimensions and athletic traits. Chris Jones was a nice addition as a rugged five-technique (defensive tackle) in Round 2. He has big upside, but the coaches will need to rev up his motor to help him maximize his potential. KeiVarae Russell and Eric Murray add depth to the secondary as athletic cover corners with solid instincts. If they can quickly master the playbook, both players could carve out roles as sub-defenders.

On offense, the Chiefs are hoping gambles on Demarcus Robinson and Tyreek Hill on Day 3 reap big rewards. Each pass catcher flashes big-play potential, but both carry character concerns that make them risky selections. GRADE: C+

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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