2017 AFC West Breakdown by Position: The Offense

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SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 18: Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders talks as he warms up before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 18, 2016 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

During the month of August, the good folks at Last Word on Pro Football will be breaking down every division in the league by position. This article contains a position-by-position breakdown of the AFC West offenses. The breakdown will contain “the best” at each unit followed by “the rest” in descending order.

2017 AFC West Breakdown by Position: The Offense

Quarterback

The Best- Oakland Raiders

The Rest- Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos

As discussed before on multiple occasions, Derek Carr is the best quarterback in the AFC West. Philip Rivers is a close second, but then there’s a steep drop-off to Alex Smith, and Trevor Siemian is hardly even a quarterback.

As far as back-ups are concerned, the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs have unproven projects in Paxton Lynch and Pat Mahomes. There’s nothing particularly impressive about EJ Manuel, Connor Cook, Kellen Moore, or Cardale Jones, so the starters resolve this one.

Running Back

The Best- Oakland Raiders

The Rest- Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs

This one is a little tricky because on paper, the Oakland Raiders do have the best running back group, but it depends completely on which Marshawn Lynch shows up. If he’s the Beast Mode of old, then it’s easily the best group in the division. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are brilliant change of pace guys, but haven’t proven to be starters yet.

In all reality, the Chargers probably have the best running back group in the division, but there’s not as much star power. Melvin Gordon and Branden Oliver make up a solid one-two punch, but they just couldn’t take enough pressure off of Philip Rivers last season to secure the number one spot.

If the Broncos can stay healthy at running back, they’ve got a very interesting little group. C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles, and Devontae Booker could make for a tremendous trio, helping take pressure off of the quarterback situation, but they just can’t seem to stay healthy.

The Kansas City Chiefs are a bit of an enigma at running back. They’ve got Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, and rookie Kareem Hunt, but not a sure fire number one guy. Ware didn’t sniff 1,000 yards last year and only registered three rushing touchdowns. Will someone earn the top spot or will the team run by committee?

Wide Receiver

The Best- Oakland Raiders

The Rest- Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs

The Oakland Raiders have one of the best recieving corps in the National Football League. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree both broke 1,000 yards last year, and Seth Roberts proved to be an explosive, if inconsistent, slot receiver. Throw in a big play machine like Cordarrelle Patterson and Derek Carr’s sitting pretty.

The Denver Broncos were a very close second. A lack of depth and a real quarterback are what really gave Oakland the number one spot. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders also broke 1,000 yards this year, and they did so with Trevor Siemian at quarterback. Unfortunately, they don’t really have a serious slot receiver or a ton of depth at the position.

The Los Angeles Chargers actually have a ton of talent at receiver. Keenan Allen, the rookie Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin, and Tyrell Williams? Stacked! However, the sad reality is that the Chargers just can’t stay healthy. Potential is meaningless until it turns into production.

The Kansas City Chiefs have one of the worst receiving corps in the National Football League. If you combine the numbers of starters Tyreek Hill and Chris Conley, they caught 105 passes for 1,123 yards and six touchdowns. The Broncos starters have Trevor Siemian at quarterback and their numbers are literally almost twice as good. Hill is explosive, but it remains to be seen if he can be a true number one receiver.

Tight End

The Best- Los Angeles Chargers

The Rest- Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raider, Denver Broncos

Why are the Los Angeles Chargers ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs? It’s easy. Depth. Not only do they have a future hall of famer in Antonio Gates, but they’ve got a brilliant up-and-comer in Hunter Henry. If tight end duos are a thing, the Los Angeles Chargers have he best one in the NFL.

Of course the Kansas City Chiefs are the second best because they’ve got the second best tight end in football. Nobody can touch Rob Gronkowski, but Travis Kelce has a stranglehold on that number two spot. Kelce was the team’s number one receiving threat before Jeremy Maclin left, and it’s doubly true now.

The Oakland Raiders have a ton of potential at the position, and if they can turn that potential into production, it could mean big business for the silver and black. Jared Cook is a talented playmaker, and Clive Walford made some big plays last year. Throw in an exceptional blocker like Lee Smith and this group might be onto something next year.

Can you blame Virgil Green for having a mediocre 2016 season? Just look at what he’s playing with. Without a real quarterback, it was hard enough for the receivers to have a good year, let alone the tight ends. However, 22 catches for 237 yards and a touchdown? Great for a game, not a season.

Offensive Line

The Best- Oakland Raiders

The Rest- Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos

Even with Donald Penn holding out, the Oakland Raiders still easily have the best offensive line in the division. Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson are the NFL’s best guard duo, and Rodney Hudson is incredibly underrated. There are still questions regarding the right tackle position, but at the moment, Marshall Newhouse is the favorite, and he has to be considered an improvement over Austin Howard.

The Kansas City Chiefs have a very underrated offensive line. A couple of years after they had to reshuffle the entire group, it seems like they’ve finally found some stability. The real question will be whether Eric Fisher will continue to develop or own that bust label forever.

The Los Angeles Chargers invested a ton of money into the offensive line this off-season, but will the additions of Forrest Lamp, Russell Okung, and Dan Feeney be enough? In an AFC West featuring some of the NFL’s best pass rushers, Rivers will need all the help he can get to stay upright.

The Denver Broncos attempted to improve their offensive line this off-season, but it’ll be interesting to see how it actually plays out. They signed Menelik Watson from the Oakland Raiders, who never really developed into the star tackle they hoped he would be, and spent most of his time in Oakland on the bench, and they drafted Garett Bolles out of Utah, but he’s very raw and not ready for the rabid pass rushers of the AFC West.

But wait! There’s more, be sure to also check out the best position groups in the AFC West on defense and special teams as well!
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