The AFC West has a slew of superstars in their division.
Every team seemed to make a splash during the offseason that included blockbuster trades and high-profile free-agent signings. But which team has the most superstars and rising stars in the AFC West?
Los Angeles Chargers
- QB Justin Herbert
- RB Austin Ekeler
- WR Keenan Allen
- WR Mike Williams
- LT Rashawn Slater
- C Corey Linsley
- OLB Joey Bosa
- OLB Khalil Mack
- CB JC Jackson
- SS Derwin James
Rising Stars: 1
- CB Asante Samuel Jr.
Justin Herbert might be one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the NFL. He could be in the running for a Most Valuable Player Award with one of the hottest starts by a quarterback in NFL History. Austin Ekeler had over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns last year. Keenan Allen has been a reliable target monster his entire career, while Mike Williams has developed a knack for catching game-winners in gotta-have-it moments. Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley are two All-Pros on a single offensive line unit.
The Chargers have four players on the defensive side of the ball that have top-20 odds to win Defensive Player of the Year. Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack might be the most dangerous edge rush duo since Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Derwin James is already the most versatile defender in the league, and he brought over a former high school friend in JC Jackson who has earned the nickname Mr. INT. Jackson has 25 interceptions over four seasons, the most of any player in that time frame.
Asante Samuel Jr. had a hot start to his career and was named AFC Defensive Rookie of the Month after recording interceptions off Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes to start the season. Former 1st-round pick, Kenneth Murray, has the potential to become a rising star, but he showed regression last year and had late offseason surgery to his ankle that could set him back even further.
Kansas City Chiefs
- QB Patrick Mahomes
- WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
- TE Travis Kelce
- LT Orlando Brown Jr
- LG Joe Thuney
- C Creed Humphrey
- DT Chris Jones
Rising Stars: 3
Many consider Patrick Mahomes the greatest player in the NFL. Last season, he didn’t play up to his MVP caliber of play, but he has two back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and is so exciting to watch. JuJu Smith-Schuster won’t be able to fill the hole that Tyreek Hill left, but he has a 1,400-yard season to his resume. Travis Kelce just added a 6th consecutive season with over 1,000 yards receiving, and he might be the best tight end in the NFL, even at 32 years old.
The strength of the Chiefs really starts up front. Orlando Brown fought his way out of Baltimore to play left tackle, and is now sitting on a franchise tag while set to receive a long-term contract extension. Joe Thuney is currently the highest-paid offensive guard, and Creed Humphrey was PFF’s highest-graded center in the NFL last year.
Chris Jones is the lone star on the Chiefs’ defense with Tyrann Mathieu leaving in free agency. That said, the Chiefs have Nick Bolton and L’Jarius Sneed on the cusp of stardom should they continue their upward trajectory in their development.
Las Vegas Raiders
Rising Stars: 1
- CB Nate Hobbs
The Raiders traded for Davante Adams and briefly made him the richest wide receiver in the NFL for good reason. No wide receiver has been quite as dominant, while also drawing double and triple teams, yet Adams still keeps finding a way to win in those situations! Hunter Renfrow has turned into one of the most elite route runners from the slot. Many consider Darren Waller one of the top four receiving tight ends in the NFL when healthy.
According to PFF, LT Kolton Miller was graded as the fifth-highest offensive tackle in 2021. He allowed just four sacks and 26 total pressures last season. Maxx Crosby took a step into superstardom last year with 108 pressures, trailing only Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald‘s 109. At 32 years old, Chandler Jones is still wreaking havoc in the opponent’s backfield. Last year, he got to the quarterback with 11 sacks.
Slot corners in Gus Bradley’s defense always seem to excel, and CB Nate Hobbs was able to showcase some ability in that role last season for the Raiders. Hobbs was the ninth highest-graded cornerback in the NFL last year.
Rising Stars 6
- RB Javonte Williams
- WR Courtland Sutton
- WR Jerry Jeudy
- OG Dalton Risner
- LB Josey Jewell
- OLB3 Bradley Chubb
The Broncos have been searching for a reliable quarterback since Peyton Manning retired. Russell Wilson has been among the league’s elite for years. The only other bonafide star on the offensive side of the ball for them is offensive tackle, Garett Bolles. He allowed five sacks and 22 pressures last year, but in 2020 he didn’t allow a single sack, which shows his potential.
In the secondary, Justin Simmons and Patrick Surtain Jr. are absolutely dominant. Simmons has had 14 interceptions and 36 pass deflections in the past three seasons. Surtain added four interceptions and 14 pass deflections himself last year. These players excel at playing the ball and forcing incompletions.
While the Broncos may lack bonafide superstars, they have one of the youngest cores with many players set for breakout years. Javonte Williams, Courtland Sutton, and Jerry Jeudy may just need a competent quarterback to unlock their true talent. Now that they have one, they could easily enter their names among the league’s elites. Dalton Risner has quietly been an above-average guard, and as he enters a contract year, he could make himself a lot of money this season.
Josey Jewell sat out almost all of 2021 due to a torn pectoral, but he has a PFF grade over 70.0 in every season as a pro. Finally, Bradley Chubb’s most dominant season was as a rookie where he had 12 sacks, but he hasn’t quite lived up to the hype that saw him drafted fifth overall in 2018. If he can get over injuries and play a full season, he could return to his upward trajectory from a hot start as a rookie.
Fact: the AFC West is loaded with superstars and rising stars! Stay tuned as we continue to look at other divisions in the NFL.