The 2021 NFL Season looms ahead. As such, this series analyzes top talent at each position for each division in the league. Across the AFC West, the talent and athleticism are off the charts at every level of offense and defense. The division arguably boasts the best wide receivers of any division in football. The production at quarterback, running back, and tight end is similarly unparalleled. The 2021 AFC West Offense All-Division team is loaded from top to bottom with some of the best talents you will find in the NFL. The 2021 AFC West All-Division Defense is also full of tremendous athletes capable of having big years for their respective teams.
2021 AFC West All-Division Team: The Offense
Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes II, Kansas City Chiefs
This is the biggest no-brainer possible. Patrick Mahomes II leads all quarterbacks in the AFC West—and the NFL itself—in production since becoming the starter in Kansas City. Capable of making throws from any position without compromising on velocity, Mahomes set the NFL on fire in 2018. Last year, he threw for 4,740 yards, 38 touchdowns, and a mere six interceptions. He set a career-high in completion percentage in the process. With the improvements Kansas City made along the offensive line, Mahomes should have another outstanding season in 2021. He likely will outperform all other AFC West quarterbacks as he has every year he has started for the Chiefs. There is essentially no debate over whether or not Mahomes is the best AFC West quarterback.
Running Back: Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
The only Las Vegas player to make this list, Josh Jacobs is a force of nature toting the rock. Leading the West in rushing yards in 2020, he scored a career-high 12 touchdowns on the ground last season. The passing offense should ideally improve in 2021, which would open up the run game for Jacobs. His success over the last two years came despite a pedestrian passing attack. Yet to accrue less than 1,000 yards rushing in a season, Jacobs enters 2021 as easily the most formidable ball carrier in any AFC West backfield.
Wide Receiver: Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
Consistency is the name of Keenan Allen’s game, as it has been since he entered the league in 2013. Entering 2021, Allen has four 1,000-plus-yard seasons under his belt. He proved an integral facet of the offense in 2020, helping rookie quarterback Justin Herbert earn Rookie of the Year honors. Last year, Allen led Los Angeles in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns, as he had the year prior as well. Tasked with helping Herbert avoid a sophomore slump, Allen will likely post another team-leading season in 2021. His route-running and ability to create separation without top-end speed makes Allen an invaluable receiver for Los Angeles. These traits also make him a lock for the 2021 AFC West Offense.
Wide Receiver: Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos
Returning from a torn A.C.L. in 2020, Courtland Sutton enters 2021 as the undisputed number-one receiver in Denver. Regardless of who is under center this season, Sutton should finish the year leading the team in at least two receiving categories. In his last season of play, Sutton caught passes from a decrepit Joe Flacco and Drew Lock. That year, he boasted 72 catches, 1,112 yards, and six touchdowns. One of the best receivers in the entire AFC in 2019, Sutton looks to return to form in 2021. Should he do so, he would help free up one-on-one opportunities for arguably the best stable of receivers in the league. If Sutton can play as well as he did two seasons ago, the sky is the limit for the talented, big-bodied receiver. In the games he did play with Lock under center, Sutton was Lock’s favorite target, which bodes well for Sutton earning his place on this list.
Slot Receiver: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
Another no-brainer, Tyreek Hill is perhaps the fastest receiver in all of football. He plays all along the formation to create mismatches. That said, his biggest plays seem to come out of the slot. The three-time First-Team All-Pro receiver has made the Pro Bowl every year of his career and for good reason. Last year, Hill accrued 87 receptions for 1,276 yards and 15 touchdowns (the latter-most of which led the team). His 15 touchdowns through the air were second in the league in 2020. Possibly the most dependable receiver in football when it comes to home-run plays, Tyreek Hill is an obvious choice for the top slot receiver on the 2021 AFC West Offense.
Tight End: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
This list addresses 11 personnel. Unfortunately, that means incredibly talented tight end Darren Waller cannot make the 2021 AFC West All-Division Offense’s starting lineup. Travis Kelce, however, is far from a consolation prize in this regard. He is indisputably one of the most athletic pass-catching tight ends in NFL history. Kelce enters 2021 with a league-record five consecutive seasons with 1,000 or more yards, including a team-high 1,416 in 2020. Yes, Kelce will turn 32 during the 2021 campaign— but he has shown no signs of slowing down whatsoever. While Darren Waller is one of the best tight ends in football, neither he nor any other NFL tight end is on Kelce’s level. If Kelce comes even close to replicating his 2020 production, his selection to the 2021 AFC West Offense is as big a no-brainer as his teammates Mahomes and Hill.
Left Tackle: Orlando Brown, Jr., Kansas City Chiefs
Orlando Brown, Jr. arrived in Kansas City this off-season as part of a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. He has made two consecutive Pro Bowls over the last two seasons. What makes this impressive is he did so while playing both offensive tackle positions. Having played 100 percent of offensive snaps for two years running, Brown looks to provide that same availability and consistency in his new home. That said, the Kansas City offense is far more of a passing attack than Baltimore’s run-based offensive. The offensive line is the first line of defense against the defense. As such, Brown must not only play as well and as consistently as he has for the last two seasons, he must also take another step forward in his development. While Garett Bolles was arguably the best left tackle in the division (and the league) last year, one year of good play after an entire career of abysmal production is not enough to make this list.
Left Guard: Joe Thuney, Kansas City Chiefs
Joe Thuney is another off-season acquisition for Kansas City. He arrives boasting five years without missing a start for the New England Patriots. He has never played less than 97 percent of offensive snaps in a season. This constant availability (and therefore stability) was a major focus for general manager Brett Veach when rebuilding the offensive line. With a mere three penalties over the last two seasons combined, Thuney’s discipline pushes him to the top of the list of left guards in the AFC West. He is even in the conversation for the top left guards in the NFL as a whole. If he can provide his new team the stability he was known for in New England, he is yet another Kansas City no-brainer for the 2021 AFC West Offense.
Center: Corey Linsley, Los Angeles Chargers
Corey Linsley spent the last seven years snapping the ball to Aaron Rodgers. His production with the Green Bay Packers makes Linsley the top center in the AFC West without him having even played a single down in the division. Like Brown and Thuney, Linsley offers his new team stability and availability. He started 99 of 112 possible regular-season games in his career. Over the last three years combined, he only had two penalties accepted. After the relative ineptitude of the Los Angeles offensive line cost the team multiple games in 2020, the front office made it a point to rebuild the trenches. Justin Herbert and the rushing attack should prove appreciative of Linsley’s strengths as a blocker. No other center in the division boasts the track record of Corey Linsley, making him a lock for the 2021 AFC West Offense.
Right Guard: Graham Glasgow, Denver Broncos
Right guard is the position most difficult to break down in the AFC West. Inconsistency, pandemic-related opt-outs, and a high volume of injuries to the position contribute to this difficulty. That said, Graham Glasgow is arguably the top right guard in the division. His 2020 campaign was somewhat lackluster, marred by injuries. Outside of last season, Glasgow has been a consistent force on the interior for his entire career. He has started 71 of his possible 80 career games. This availability, like the first three offensive linemen on this list, makes him an important staple of the Broncos offense. Year two under arguably the best offensive line coach in football (Mike Munchak) and, ideally, a healthier season should see him once again at the top of his game. If he plays at the top of his game again, there is no right guard in the division capable of outplaying him.
Right Tackle: Bryan Bulaga, Los Angeles Chargers
Another former Green Bay lineman, Bryan Bulaga started 10 games for Los Angeles in 2020. He did not allow a single penalty or sack in those 10 starts. Entering 2021—his 11th season as a pro—Bulaga boasts double-digit starts in eight of his 10 seasons. The two seasons in which he started less than 10 games, he wound up finishing the year on the injured reserve. There are considerable question marks at the position throughout the division, but Los Angeles does not have to worry about question marks with Bulaga installed. His consistency and discipline make Bulaga a prime candidate for the 2021 AFC West Offense.
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