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Assessing the speed of the AFC West

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The Chargers may be a step behind in the AFC West foot race.

Alabama v Auburn Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If there was one thing to take away from the picks made by the AFC West in this year’s draft, it’s that there is an obvious offensive arms race going on between the four teams. The Chargers, Broncos, and Raiders all got to sit at home and watch as the speed and talent on the Chiefs’ offense carried them to and through the 49ers in Super Bowl 54 which, evidently, set in motion a movement to outfit their rosters in the same light.

Denver and Las Vegas both spent three picks on wide receivers while KC invested in a dynamic, dual-threat running back to pair with their already explosive skill players. With their second pick in the first, the Chargers grabbed a linebacker they hope will be able to slow down the track meet in the division.

Offensively, though, the Bolts went after some playmakers like the other two, they just weren’t the same elite athletes taken by the others. Are they dynamic in their own right? Yes. But they also win in different ways apart from running by the opponent.

In this article, I’m simply going to be comparing the the speed across the entire division at all offensive skill positions (RB,WR, TE) and each team’s secondary (CB,S) to paint a general picture of what type of speed and talent will exist in the AFC West this season.

Chargers

Offense

  • WR Keenan Allen - 4.71 (Pro Day)
  • WR Mike Williams - 4.53 (Pro Day)
  • WR Joe Reed - 4.47 (Pro Day)
  • RB Austin Ekeler - 4.43 (Pro Day)
  • RB Joshua Kelley - 4.47 (Combine)
  • TE Hunter Henry - 4.67 (Combine)

Defense

  • CB Casey Hayward - 4.57 (Combine)
  • CB Chris Harris Jr. - 4.48 (Combine)
  • CB Desmond King - 4.50 (Pro Day)
  • CB Michael Davis - 4.43 (Pro Day)
  • S Derwin James - 4.47 (Combine)
  • S Rayshawn Jenkins 4.51 (Combine)

Broncos

Offense

  • WR Courtland Sutton - 4.54 (Combine)
  • WR Jerry Jeudy - 4.45 (Combine)
  • WR KJ Hamler - 4.36 (EXOS Training session)
  • RB Phillip Lindsay - 4.39 (Pro Day)
  • TE Noah Fant - 4.50 (Combine)

Defense

  • CB AJ Bouye - 4.55 (Combine)
  • CB Kareem Jackson - 4.48 (Combine)
  • CB Isaac Yiadom - 4.52 (Combine)
  • S Justin Simmons - 4.61 (Combine)
  • S Bryce Callahan - 4.40 (Pro Day)

Raiders

Offense

  • WR Tyrell Williams - 4.42 (Pro Day)
  • WR Henry Ruggs III - 4.27 (Combine)
  • TE Darren Waller - 4.46 (Combine)
  • WR Nelson Agholor - 4.42 (Combine)
  • RB Josh Jacobs - 4.60 (Pro Day)

Defense

  • CB Damon Arnette - 4.56 (Combine)
  • CB Trayvon Mullen - 4.46 (Combine)
  • CB LaMarcus Joyner - 4.55 (Combine)
  • S Johnathan Abram - 4.45 (Combine)
  • S Damarious Randall - 4.46 (Combine)

Chiefs

Offense

  • WR Tyreek Hill - 4.29 (Pro Day)
  • WR Mecole Hardman - 4.33 (Combine)
  • WR Sammy Watkins - 4.43 (Combine)
  • TE Travis Kelce - 4.63 (Combine)
  • RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire - 4.60 (Combine)
  • RB Damien Williams 4.48 (Combine)

Defense

  • CB Chavarious Ward - 4.44 (Combine)
  • CB Bashaud Breeland 4.62 (Combine)
  • CB Rashad Fenton - 4.52 (Combine)
  • S Tyrann Mathieu - 4.50 (Combine)
  • S Juan Thornhill - 4.42 (Combine)

My immediate takeaways from this:

  • There is a bit more speed on everyone’s defense compared to the speed of their offensive players.
  • The Chargers are the only team with no one under a 4.40 forty.
  • Chargers lack speed at the WR1 and WR2 spots and the fastest guys are mostly depth players.

When you take a step back and soak all of this in, it’s hard not to come to the realization that the Chargers are going to have to play a different type of football than what the other three teams are able to do. Each team has an absolute burner that they can use to influence certain coverages and stretch the defense vertically and horizontally. The Chiefs have essentially three guys who can do that, alone.

The Bolts will more than likely have to utilize a more methodical approach to moving the football up and down the field. It looks like it’s going to be short passes, maximizing YAC opportunities, and banking on the run game that they seem to have invested in this offseason.

Defensively for the Chargers, the fastest cornerback on the team is Davis, and he’s CB4 even though he’s the team’s second outside corner after Hayward. Derwin is the fastest safety on the team, but he’s better used as a box player on top of just moving around constantly. My hope is they find a way to get Nasir Adderley back there in some capacity. If there isn’t going to be elite speed at the third level, you might as well put the guy with the best instincts back there.

Also, in a recent note from Gus Bradley, it sounds like they’re banking on Kenneth Murray’s speed (4.52) to be able to cover running backs out of the backfield which, in turn, frees up James and other defensive backs to stay back from the line of scrimmage.

At the end of the day, the Chargers are going to have to utilize other parts of their team’s skill-sets aside from pure speed in 2020. I’m not saying it’s a “tortoise and the hare” situation, but they’re definitely not the hare right now.