Who's the Best in the AFC West: Position Rankings

Heneli IongiAnalyst IJuly 9, 2010

Who's the Best in the AFC West: Position Rankings

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    I've read many articles about who's the best team in the AFC West and who will beat who.


    I decided to break down the positions a bit and also put in some interesting rankings that will maybe make some of you fans stop the bickering about who's the best. Let the debate begin as I'll try to be as non-bias as I possibly can.

    I hope you enjoy this.

Who's got the best QB's?

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    1. San Diego Chargers (Rivers & Volek): It's hard to argue against the Chargers having the best QB in the division, and arguably the best in the conference, the past two years.

    Rivers has consistently put the team on his back the past two years and has done a outstanding job proving he can carry the team. Not to mention, he helped take the team to the playoffs every season he's started and threw for 4,254 yards, 28 TD's, and only 9 int's last year.

    That's not bad.

    Volek is a outstanding backup player that can be a starter for another team with his experience ability as a passer.

    2. Denver Broncos (Orton, Tebow, and Quinn): Orton surprise many people with his career season. Another year under Josh McDaniels system should only help increase his passing yards and TD's in 2010.

    With quality players like Tebow and Quinn in the mix, one thing is for sure: if Orton goes down, there is another QB that can pick it up and keep the passing game going.

    3. Oakland Raiders (Campbell & Gradkowski): Campbell is a quality pickup for a Raider team that was badly in need of a QB in the past couple of years. Campbell will be able to bring some stability to the Raider passing game, but he has yet to prove himself to take a team to a winning record in a 16 game season.

    He is young and will continue to progress as he has very similar statistics to Orton.

    4. Kansas City Chiefs (Cassel & Croyle): The Chiefs struggled with Cassel at the helm. But you can't entirely blame Cassel for his struggles, as he just started his second year as a starting QB after starting his first full season as a QB for a different team.

    One thing is certain, he'll improve after a second season with the Chiefs. The only question remainining is how much will he improve?

Who's got the best RB's?

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    1. Kansas City Chiefs (Jones & Charles): It's hard to argue against the Chiefs having the best tandem in the league.

    Jamaal Charles showed plenty of promise towards the end of the season, averaging a ridiculous 5.9 yards a carry for over 1,000+ yards rushing. With the Chiefs ranking 11th in the league in rushing, it seems they'll only get better at running the ball as they just added Thomas Jones to their team.

    Jones had a career season as he rushed for over 1,400+ yards for the top rushing ranked team in the league, the Jets, last season.

    2. Denver Broncos (Moreno & Buckhalter): Knowshon Moreno did good things last season, but didn't eclipse the 1,000 yard rushing mark as he shared some carries with Buckhalter.

    In a offense that loves to pass the ball, they did pretty well moving the ball on the ground when they didn't have many individual opportunities to do so.

    3. Oakland Raiders (McFadden & Bush): Both players didn't do much in 2009.

    Darren McFadden needs to prove that he was worthy of being a top 10 pick in the draft, as he hasn't lived up to his potential. Michael Bush, on the other hand, showed that he can be a starter and can move the ball on the ground when he gets the opportunity.

    Bush averaged 4.8 yards per carry last season. If given more opportunities on the ground, Bush should be able to get the Raiders to the top 15 of the league in rushing.

    4. San Diego Chargers (Mathews & Sproles): If there is one thing that's a question mark in San Diego, it is how well will Ryan Mathews adapt to being the player to get the Chargers running game going after LT was shown the door after a sub-par season.

    Darren Sproles is a great complimentary RB that not only can run, if he has a good number one RB to play behind, but can catch the ball out of the backfield probably better than all the RB's on this list. No back in the NFL can run screens better than Sproles.

    The Chargers rushing attack should improve this year as Norv Turner publicly stated that Mathews will get over 300+ carries. The question is, how much will the Chargers improve from being 31st in the league in rushing?

Who's got the best receiving corps?

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    1. San Diego Chargers (Jackson, Floyd, Naanee, and Gates): Even without Chargers RFA holdout WR Vincent Jackson, the Chargers still have more than enough firepower to be the best receiving corps in the league.

    Antonio Gates proved that he can still be dominant and Malcolm Floyd had a breakout year after only starting nine games with over 700+ receiving yards.

    Legedu Naanee will have to prove his worth if he is going to be a starter, especially if the QB throwing to him just so happen to be Rivers.

    2. Denver Broncos (Royal, Lloyd, Decker, Thomas, and Gaffney): They may have lost big time WR Brandon Marshall, but the Broncos have brought in some tall rookies in Eric Decker and first round pick Demaryius Thomas to give the WR corps some quality depth. Not to mention, they already have some pretty decent proven WR's with Eddie Royal, Brandon Lloyd, and Jabar Gaffney. T

    The Broncos sure have the WR's to fit their spread offense. This will be a good year for the ball to be spread out more around the field instead of just one player.

    3. Oakland Raiders (Miller, Murphy, Heyward-Bey, and Schilens): This receiving corps has so much talent and promise. The problem may stem from having a terrible QB the past couple of years.

    This will definitely be a good year as they have a stable QB in Campbell. But there is too much unknown to put this team above the top two teams. One thing is for sure: Zach Miller is an absolute beast and should have a better year with a better QB at the helm.

    4. Kansas City Chiefs (Chambers, Bowe, and McCluster): The Chiefs didn't show to much promise last year from the receiving corps, but management have brought in some rookies to help the offense move the ball through the air with Dexter McCluster and TE Tony Moeaki.

    The Chiefs have some playmakers, but for some reason just can't gel together like the Chargers and Broncos receiving corps can play in the passing game.

Who's got the best offensive line?

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    1. San Diego Chargers (McNeil, Dielman, and Hardwick): This is a tough category to judge but one thing is for sure, no team in the AFC West has more quality depth on the offensive line than the Chargers.

    They had injuries amongst the line and backup players like Scott "Mooch" Mruczkowski and Brandyn Dombrowski came into the game and played outstanding.

    With all the injuries along the line, the Chargers were ranked sixth in the least amount of sacks given up. Sure, McNeil still is sitting out as of now, but the Chargers addressed the blind side with veteran OT Tra Thomas.

    2. Kansas City Chiefs (Albert, Waters, Lilja, and Wiegmann): The Chiefs improved their line with the signing of veterans Ryan Lilja and Casey Wiegmann to their line.

    This will definitely improve their passing game, as the Chiefs gave up 45 sacks last season. Their running game should continue to get better if they continue to run the ball next season.

    3. Denver Broncos (Clady, Olsen, and Beadles): The Broncos offensive line did pretty well in the passing game and in the running game.

    They upgraded their line with some power guys in Seth Olsen and Zane Beadles, players who are sure to make things a bit interesting in the running game.

    The reason why I rank the Broncos third instead of second place is due to the loss of Wiegmann and the fact they might star two rookies.

    4. Oakland Raiders (Campbell, Gallery, and Satele): The Raiders gave up 49 sacks last season and all they did to patch up the line was draft a late round OT in Campbell, who's supposedly converting to OG.

    It's a tough call as the Raiders will need to improve that pass blocking in order to help them move forward in the passing game. This will be a good year to see if this line will be able to move the ball on the ground consistently.

Who's got the best defensive line?

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    1. Oakland Raiders (Seymour, Kelly, and Henderson): Without a doubt, the Raiders have the best quality defensive line in the AFC West.

    A lot of that is partly due to the fact they run a 4-3 defense that puts a huge emphasis on the D-line getting pressure and tying up blockers in the run defense. With the addition of John Henderson, Lamarr Houston, Quentin Groves, and Kamerion Wimbley, the Raiders should be able to do a adequate job of containing the run game in which they weren't able to do last season.

    2. Denver Broncos (Williams, Green, and Reid): Out of the 3-4 defenses in the AFC West, the Broncos probably have the best starting three linemen in that defense.

    The only problem I'd see is if those starters get hurt. If Jamal Williams stays injury free, the Broncos will be able to free many players to get one on one situations to pressure the QB. Jarvis Green had a great season with the Patriots last season and is a outstanding pickup for the Broncos, as he'll occupy blockers like he did at New England.

    3. San Diego Chargers (Castillo, Cesaire, and Nwagbuo): The Chargers may not have the better three down linemen out of the 3-4 defensive teams in the AFC West, but the Charger have something that neither the Chiefs or the Broncos have—quality backups.

    The Chargers use a rotation in their D-line to keep players fresh at all times. Travis Johnson, Vaughn Martin, Cam Thomas, Alfonso Boone, and Antonio Garay are all quality players that go into the Chargers heavy rotation of D-linemen in the past year.

    4. Kansas City Chiefs (Jackson and Dorsey): The Chiefs have the perfect DE's to play in a 3-4 defense. Only one problem—DE's don't matter much in a 3-4 defense, as it is the NT that is the most important position in that defense.

    The Chiefs struggled horribly in the run game because of the lack of a NT. They also struggle in the pass due to the lack of a NT. The reason why I say this is because neither Tyson Jackson or Glenn Dorsey can take up space or occupy multiple blockers to help blitzers in the pass defense or LB's to stop the run.

    The Chiefs still need to address this position, and moving Dorsey to NT ain't going to help.

Who has the best linebacking corps?

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    1. Denver Broncos (Williams, Dumervil, Davis, and Ayers): If there is one certainty that the Broncos proven last year, it's that they have a oustanding group of LB's in their 3-4 alignment.

    Elvis Dumervil led the league with his 17 sacks, and the starting linebacking corps as a whole was responsible for 25 sacks last season.

    They did a very good job getting to the QB. If there is one thing that may be questioned here is the quality of backups behind them in case of injuries.

    2. San Diego Chargers (English, Cooper, Siler, and Phillips): The Chargers are bringing back a capable group of LB's that will be able to do enough damage, even without Shawne Merriman on the field.

    If there is one quality that the Chargers have is that they are able to rotate backup players in without missing a beat like Jyles Tucker, Kevi Burnett, Marques Harris, and Donald Butler.

    3. Oakland Raiders (Wimbley, Howard, McClain, and Scott): The Raiders LB's sure do fit the 4-3 hybird "elephant" scheme. At least that's how it looks on paper.

    Rolando McClain is a promising rookie that can make a immediate impact if he's able to make that transition from a 3-4 ILB to a 4-3 MLB. Thomas Howard is a good player in the passing game but have shown in the past that he struggles against the run.

    Depth doesn't seem to be a problem for the Raiders at this time.

    4. Kansas City Chiefs (Johnson, Hali, Williams, and Vrabel): The Chiefs have a mix of talented players mixed with some veteran players.

    If there is one thing that I took into consideration in ranking the Chiefs last in the fact that they were bad in the run and pass defense. Derrick Johnson didn't play much last season but when he's playing, he makes plays. Tamba Hali is doing a great job at getting pressure last season but he can't do it all on his own.

    The Chiefs LB's need to play up to their potential cause' as of right now, they aren't doing much to prove me wrong, as they were terrible last year.

Who's got the best secondary?

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    1. Oakland Raiders (Asomugha, Huff, and Branch): It's tough to argue against their 7th ranked pass defense. That has more to do with their secondary doing their job than it is with the front seven getting pressure.

    NNamdi Asomugha is the league's TOP shutdown CB. He's a absolute beast. The rest of the defense may not show off big names, they showed that they were able to get the job done and in the end, that's what matters.

    2. Denver Broncos (Dawkins, Bailey, Hill, and Goodman): The Broncos feature two top individuals in the secondary that is none in the league as outstanding players.

    Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey may be getting old, but their production is still better than a lot of younger CB's/ S's in the league. With their front seven getting pressure, the secondary should continue to do well defending the pass.

    3. San Diego Chargers (Weddle, Jammer, Cason, and Gregory): Besides Quentin Jammer, the Chargers don't have many big name players in the secondary. But this is a defense that was 11th in the league in pass defense.

    The Chargers are more than likely to improve as they added Donald Strickland to play the nickel and Nathan Vasher as a insurance policy in case Antoine Cason struggles as a starter. I

    Jammer and Cason will bring certainly some hard hitting swagger to a defense that has CB's for run support.

    4. Kansas City Chiefs (Flowers, Carr, and Berry): The Chiefs have a very talented, but young, group of CB's/ S's.

    The problem I see is how much will a poor pass defense improve with young players in the secondary? It's a tough call.

    Many of the Chiefs secondary players are short CB's and if you look at teams like the Chargers and Broncos, they have towering 6'3" plus WR's that will be hard to deal with.

Who has the coaching advantage?

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    1. San Diego Chargers (Norv Turner): If there is one thing that made the Chargers successful for so long in the AFC West it's simple—consistency.

    That starts with the managements and moves to the coaching, all the way to the players that have played with each other for so long.

    Turner has been blessed to be able to take full advantage of what is at his arsenal a lot longer than the other coaches that haven't had much time with their players in the division.

    Turner is still the coach to beat in the AFC West. With Turner running the offense and Ron Rivera coaching the defense, it's tough to see a better staff than the Chargers.

    2. Kansas City Chiefs (Todd Haley): The main reason why I put Haley up here is the fact that the Chiefs now have Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel as OC and DC for the Chiefs.

    Haley, Weis, and Crennel have all been great coordinators and haven't done much as HC's in their careers but when you have all these minds together, you're bound to see some great things happen.

    3. Oakland Raiders (Tom Cable): The Raiders did a outstanding job of bringing in Hue Jackson for OC as he'll be able to shape Jason Campbell into a better QB.

    John Marshall may very well have the right personnel to run his 4-3 hybrid "elephant" defense.

    4. Denver Broncos (Josh McDaniels): It's McDaniels show in Denver.

    He ran successful DC Mike Nolan out of Denver from what I hear. As of right now, the Broncos have a rookie DC calling the shots now and it's up in the air in how well he'll do. But Nolan left that defense in a good position for any DC to come in and succeed.

Who's personnel fits their coaching scheme and philosophy best?

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    1. San Diego Chargers: If there is one thing I know without a doubt, it's that the Chargers have the most stable personnel in the AFC West.

    The Chargers were able to transition from a "attack" style defense under Wade Phillips/ Ted Cottrell to Ron Rivera's "bend but don't break" defense.

    The proof is in the consecutive AFC West titles the Chargers have in the past four years as their personnel haven't changed to much and have been able to win consistently. The Chargers don't have many question marks about players not fitting in the scheme or philosophy the Chargers currently have.

    2. Oakland Raiders: From what I hear so far from media outlets and whatnot, the Oakland Raiders will be running the ball a lot more to set up the vertical game offensively.

    That will be a offense that Jason Campbell is almost guaranteed to succeed in, as he was drafted as a first round QB because of his successes in a similar offense in college where he had Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown.

    With the Raiders, he'll have McFadden and Bush to help him. The Raiders have the speed WR's to make plays so scheme and philosophy fits the personnel the Raiders currently have.

    As for defense, with free agents Wimbley, Groves, and Henderson and rookies Houston and McClain in the mix, they will definitely help Marshall run his 4-3 hybrid "elephant" defense.

    3. Denver Broncos: The reason why I have the Broncos in at third is because of their first two first round picks.

    How are Demaryius Thomas and Tim Tebow suppose to make a immediate impact on a offense that runs the spread which none of the truly ran in college?

    Also, no one is really sure what type of defense the new DC will run but he will more than likely run the same aggressive defense that Nolan did last year. Even without Thomas and Tebow, the Broncos have decent personnel to fit their scheme and have found the right linemen to get their power running game going.

    4. Kansas City Chiefs: The reason why I have the Chiefs last is because they may have great coaches, but their scheme and philosophy don't fit the Chiefs personnel.

    If you look at the offensive roster, it looks like a team built to run with Thomas and Charles. How is that going to happen if the coordinator is the pass-happy Weis?

    Crennel may have the LB's and secondary to run his "bend but don't break" 3-4 scheme like the one the Patriots use, but the Chiefs don't have the D-line to play the two gap system. Neither Dorsey or Jackson are proven enough to clog up blockers the way the scheme is meant to work.

In conclusion...

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    In conclusion, using a point base system to rank the teams with the top team scoring three points, the second team scoring two points, the third team scoring only one point, and the last place team scoring only zero points in each category, I've came up with this ranking system.

    The only category that is different in the point system is "personnel fitting scheme and philosophy". The scoring is five points for first place, three points for second place, one point for third place, and zero points for last place. The reason why I have this is because you can have the best players in the league but without these players fitting a good scheme, then they won't play to their best potential.

    So this is the rankings that I've come up with.

    1. San Diego Chargers (21 points): The Chargers are the realistic choice to take the division again. The Chargers have been consistent and even with the amount of players they lost, they have a answer for every person that is either gone or not with the Chargers due to hold-outs.

    While teams are getting better in the AFC West, I have a tough time seeing the Chargers losing their grip on the division in 2010.

    2. Denver Broncos (17 points): The Broncos still have the same team, minus Brandon Marshall and a couple of linemen on the offense.

    The Broncos shouldn't get any worse than 8-8, but I have a tough time seeing them moving forward to a 10+ win season due to not many immediate additions that could contribute right away like Demaryius Thomas and Tim Tebow.

    The defense should be able to play at the top of their game, but they need to tighten up in giving up too many points towards the end of the season.

    3. Oakland Raiders (14 points): The Raiders had a great offseason. honestly believe they'll be better than the Broncos, but there are too many changes to the team to make a realistic guess on how well they'll do.

    The Raiders do have, in my opinion, the right players to fit their scheme and philosophy. That will prove very interesting as they'll more than likely have a 10+ win season.

    4. Kansas City Chiefs (7 points): The Chiefs haven't done a good job in getting the right coaches to fit their personnel roster in my opinion.

    Theyalso haven't upgraded the front seven on defense which was the reason for the Chiefs not having a good run or pass defense.

    They can prove me wrong this season but realistically, I have a tough time seeing them getting pass the Chargers, Broncos, or the Raiders this season.

    I hope you enjoyed this article. Let the debate begin.