The AFC West is loaded with young talent. Each and every team has young stars that are ready to blossom into NFL superstars.
For the past couple of years the AFC West has been a joke. All of the teams have been equally mediocre causing for a team with eight or nine wins to win the division. This offseason was a unique one for the division, each team got better and the division as a whole should be a lot tougher next year.
It is like the division is turning a new leaf and each team is hoping that its new generation of stars will be able to take them to a division crown and a deep postseason run. It’s not that each team has completely rebuilt, but the younger players on every team are now ready to step into a dominant role with their teams.
Here is a list of the up-and-coming next generation studs in the AFC West.
Despite missing all of last year with a torn ACL, Eric Berry is a rock at safety for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Berry had a fantastic rookie season in 2010 with the Chiefs; he recorded 92 tackles, two sacks, had four picks and scored one touchdown. With a full year off his knee and studying the game, Berry should come back even stronger in 2012.
He is just 23 years old and a defensive player is able to rebound from knee injuries much better than offensive players, this is because they are the ones that are doing the hitting, which is much easier to control.
Berry lives in a division that loves the pass and has two of the top quarterbacks in the league. Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers are two of the tougher quarterbacks to play safety against but if there was anyone who is up for the test it is Berry.
Berry is solid against both the pass and the run; he is not afraid to come up and help stuff an opposing running back or receiver. Berry also has the help that he needs to succeed around him. The Chiefs have one of the better defenses in the AFC West led by Tamba Hali.
Eric Berry is one of the better safeties in the entire AFC and should be able to dominate the AFC West for years to come.
If Von Miller’s rookie season was any sign of what is what is to come, Miller may be headed to Canton when it’s all said and done. The Pro Bowler comes into his second year with high expectations and should be in the running for AFC Defensive Player of the Year.
In his rookie year, Miller had 64 tackles, 11.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Miller flew off the edge last year with such force and strength that teams were baffled all year on how to slow him down.
Miller’s one obstacle that he will face is his health. If Miller can stay healthy, the Denver Broncos are set at linebacker for years to come. Miller will be under the microscope this year as teams shift their focus to slowing him down. I expect him to see more double- and triple-teams in an attempt to slow him down.
Von Miller made his case as one of the best defensive players in the AFC West in just his rookie year. With a year of experience under his belt, I fully expect Miller to raise his game to an even higher level. He's a dangerous player and every AFC West team should be prepared for torture every snap he's one the field.
The Chargers have found the replacement at running back that they have been looking for since LaDainian Tomlinson left town. Ryan Mathews is a complete running back; he has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and can run between the tackles.
Mathews. who was drafted in the 2010 draft out of Fresno State, is finally ready to become the team's featured back.
Mathews is an extremely hard running back to cover when he catches out of the backfield. He is too fast for linebackers to cover and too big and powerful for a cornerback to cover him. I fully expect the Chargers to use him a lot more in the passing game then they did last year. He grabbed 50 catches last year and I predict his catches to rise between 60-65.
If Mathews can stay healthy for a whole season, he will put up numbers that rival the league's best. When Mathews is healthy he is one of best running backs in the entire league. Mathews has been working out to make sure that his body will be able to handle the hits that he will face.
Mathews not only will be a top running back this year, he has the ability to be one of the best running backs in the AFC West for the next six to eight years.
Here's an extremely talented running back that deals with far too many injuries. The Oakland Raiders will win as many games as Darren McFadden is able to play at a high level. The 24-year-old should be the main focus of the Raiders; the team is not prepared to give the reigns fully to Carson Palmer and his wide receiver corps.
Darren McFadden can dominate games as much as any running back in the entire league. He is so powerful, yet has the speed to blow through the holes and into the secondary.
In 13 games last year, McFadden rushed for 499 yards and 4.4 yards per carry. His yards per carry is what really separates McFadden from the rest of the league. Every time he gets the ball he is a touchdown threat.
The Raiders should not only feed McFadden as much as they can this season but for as long as he suits up in the silver and black. McFadden and Mathews will combine to help form a division with two of the best running backs in the entire league for years to come.