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AFC West Rundown: 2015 NFL Draft, first round


AMARI COOPER, No. 4 overall

The Raiders didn't shock anyone with this pick, but Cooper is one of the most NFL-ready prospects in the 2015 draft class and Oakland needed some help in their receiving corps to help out quarterback Derek Carr.

Cooper had a stunning year in 2014 with 1,727 receiving yards on 124 receptions with 16 touchdowns, good for second in season receiving yards, touchdowns and first in receptions in the NCAA FBS division. Alabama ranked 17th in passing yards in 2014 and Cooper accounted for half of their receiving touchdowns.

Oakland's put a lot of confidence in Carr as their quarterback for the future and a lack of receiving threats didn't help as the team struggled deep into the regular season searching for its first win. Ultimately the Raiders would rank 26th in passing yards per game but dead last in passing yards per play. Their leading receivers were James Jones with 666 receiving yards and six touchdowns and Andre Holmes with 693 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Cooper should be able to give Carr a legit No. 1 target as their receiver depth improves.


MELVIN GORDON, No. 15 overall (via trade with 49ers)

The running backs finally returned to the first round of the draft this year having been absent from the draft's first day for a few years. Georgia's Todd Gurley was the first to go off the board from the position at No. 10 overall to St. Louis and then Melvin Gordon remained as the next-best prospect, but not for long.

Knowing there was a chance Gordon might not last past Houston to 17th overall, San Diego decided to move up a couple spots to make sure they got the man they wanted.

San Diego desperately needed help for the rushing attack, and it looks like they're investing heavily in moving the needle. Orlando Franklin's signing should help, in addition to their interior linemen simply being healthy after last season's troubles at center. The Chargers ranked 30th in rushing yards per game and 31st in rushing yards per play, though injuries plagued their depth at running back, too.

For a team needing rushing production—especially after Ryan Mathews signed with Philadelphia in free agency—Gordon certainly offers that. In addition to setting the FBS record for single-game rushing yards with 408, Gordon finished with 2,587 rushing yards and 29 rushing touchdowns in 2014, good enough to place himself pretty high in the FBS record books. Being able to help San Diego's offense should be a big help for Philip Rivers.


MARCUS PETERS, No. 18 overall

Though the Chiefs had a top-five passing defense in 2014 (2nd overall in passing yards per game allowed, fourth in passing yards per play allowed), they felt they couldn't pass up on Peters, whom Andy Reid said he had ranked as the top cornerback in the draft.

Peters is an aggressive, physical corner who can disrupt routes. His skills probably can't hurt when your division includes Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, right?

Looking to the next days of the draft, Kansas City is expected by analysts to address wide receiver needs, offensive line or some spots on defense between the hash marks.


SHANE RAY, No. 23 overall (via trade with Detroit)

Like Kansas City, the Broncos bucked expectations that they'd draft an offensive lineman and instead went with the best player available on the board in Shane Ray.

Though Ray's likely to simply factor into the rotation with DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller on the edges, Head Coach Gary Kubiak said they see him as a starter even with that in mind. "You look at him as a starter. Even though we talk about rotations, you look at him as a starter," Kubiak said.

And like San Diego, the Broncos felt that they couldn't simply wait at their original draft spot and count on a player they had rated highly continuing to fall to them. So they traded up a handful of spots and got their guy.

For more analysis on Shane Ray and how he'll fit on the Broncos, see Andrew Mason's column.

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