This week, we here at Last Word On Pro Football will be selecting starting lineups consisting of the best players from each division. In this article, the AFC west offense is the focus.
2017 AFC West All-Division Team: The Offense
Quarterback: Derek Carr
It won’t be a surprise to anyone that frequents Last Word that Derek Carr is the quarterback instead of Philip Rivers. There’s an entire article about it, after all. Carr is on the way up, and Rivers just led the NFL in interceptions. Alex Smith and Trevor Siemian have no place in this conversation.
Running Back: Melvin Gordon
Melvin Gordon only started 11 games in 2016, but he still managed to rush for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns, adding 419 yards and two touchdowns through the air. After a rocky star, Gordon is finally finding his footing in the NFL. The Los Angeles Chargers are going to be a fun team to watch in 2017, and Gordon is a big reason why.
Wide Receiver: Amari Cooper
Amari Cooper is the best receiver in the AFC West. Yes, he plays with the division’s best quarterback, but Jerry Rice played with Joe Montana, and we still call him the greatest ever. Cooper effortlessly adjusted to the pro style as a rookie, and improved dramatically in his second season. As Derek Carr’s number one target, Amari Cooper is set to make waves in 2017.
Wide Receiver: Demaryius Thomas
Poor Demaryius Thomas. He’s had absolutely no help from quarterbacks in recent years. He went from Peyton Manning to Peyton Manning’s ghost to Brock Osweiler to Trevor Siemian. And his production hasn’t suffered a bit. Thomas has had at least 90 catches and 1,000 yards in each of the last five seasons, even when his quarterbacks weren’t helping. Who knows what his numbers would be like if he played with Carr or Rivers.
Slot Receiver: Michael Crabtree
Despite the fact that he dropped more balls than New York City on January first last year, Michael Crabtree is still one of the best receivers in the division. He actually had more catches and touchdowns than his teammate last season, and if the rumors about a supposed injury are true, he’ll return to form in 2017.
Tight End: Travis Kelce
Travis Kelce manages to have good numbers and dominate despite catching passes from Alex Smith, that’s saying something. Kelce had his first 1,000 yard season in 2016, and if Rob Gronkowski continues to struggle with injuries, he may start throwing his name into the “best tight end in the NFL” conversation. He’s not a particularly great athlete, but he’s so good on tape that you don’t even notice.
Left Tackle, Left Guard, Center, and Right Guard: The Rowdy Raiders
It’s unnecessary for four of the five members of the All-AFC West offensive line to have different sections because they’re all part of the same line. Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson are the strength of Oakland’s offense. That pesky right tackle position prevents them from having the NFL’s best offensive line, but they’re pretty dang close. Osemele and Jackson were the only guard duo in the NFL to go all of last year without giving up a sack, and they helped the likes of Latavius Murray, DeAndre Washington, and Jalen Richard rush for a combined 1,922 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Right Tackle: Joe Barksdale
Lonely Joe Barksdale is the only non-Raider on the offensive line, and he’s one of the NFL’s most underrated players. Barksdale does a solid job protecting Rivers and paving the way for Gordon, but he rarely gets any praise. It’s hard to shine on a team that just kept finding hilarious ways to lose last year.