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Chargers should follow AFC West rivals lead in 2020

CARSON, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 22: Hunter Renfrow #13 of the Oakland Raiders runs for a first down after his catch in front of Adrian Phillips #31 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the second quarter at Dignity Health Sports Park on December 22, 2019 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
CARSON, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 22: Hunter Renfrow #13 of the Oakland Raiders runs for a first down after his catch in front of Adrian Phillips #31 of the Los Angeles Chargers during the second quarter at Dignity Health Sports Park on December 22, 2019 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Chargers were swept by the entire AFC West with a loss in Week 17. Here are a few things they could learn from their division rivals.

Many expected a 3-3 or 4-2 division record for the Chargers, as two games against the Chiefs and an always difficult Broncos game could have been predicted to be losses. The last possible expected result: An 0-6 record.

What has the AFC West done that the Chargers have not?

The Chiefs had Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce. So, naturally, they took wide receiver Mecole Hardman in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, which was their first pick in that draft.

Hardman only caught one pass for 30 yards against the Chargers on Week 17, but made his presence felt on a 104-yard kick return for a touchdown. On the season, Hardman has 508 yards and six touchdowns. Dontrelle Inman, Andre Patton, Jason Moore, Geremy Davis, and Travis Benjamin have 299 yards and zero touchdowns.

The big investment, and massive change for the organization, came with the selection of Patrick Mahomes in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Chargers could use some of that magic at quarterback, even if it means moving on from a team icon.

In 2018, the Raiders selected Kolton Miller in the first round of the draft. This past offseason, they signed left tackle Trent Brown. The Chargers have signed high-end talent along the offensive line before, most recently Russell Okung in 2017. It helped, quite a bit. But they could use more of it, as an over-drafted third-round pick, an undrafted free agent, and a sixth-round pick were all playing tackle this season.

The Raiders, at one point, netted themselves Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, and Hunter Renfrow via trade, free agency, and the draft. Renfrow, in particular, was someone the Chargers had every opportunity to invest in throughout the draft. Instead, the Raiders grabbed him in the fifth round, and has notched 43 receptions for 503 yards prior to his Week 17 game against the Broncos.

Speaking of the Broncos, it looks like there is quite a bit of positive outlook coming from the organization now that rookie Drew Lock has won three of his first four starts, including one against the Chargers a few weeks ago. Though, anything for the Broncos would have been better than the mess at quarterback they’ve had at this point.

The team also took Dalton Risner in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, who outside of one awful three sacks given up against the Bills has not allowed a sack all season (prior to Week 17). On the year, he’s given up 20 pressures. Compare that to left guard Dan Feeney, who in his third year has given up 39 pressures and five sacks this season.

Who should return in 2020?. Next

Receiver, offensive line, and quarterback: Three areas the Chargers have struggled this season. As they (mostly) neglect those areas of need, the rest of the AFC West has added not just depth players, but high-end talents at multiple positions. It’s paid off for them, and the Chargers should follow.

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