2022 AFC West Breakdown by Position: The Offense

AFC West Offense Breakdown

During the month of August, the Last Word on Sports NFL department will be breaking down every division in the league by position. This article contains a breakdown of each AFC West offense position group. The breakdown will contain “the best” at each unit followed by “the rest” in descending order.

2022 AFC West Offense Breakdown by Position

Quarterbacks

The Best: Kansas City Chiefs

The Rest: Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders

An early testament to how absurdly stacked the AFC West is in 2022: there are three top-ten quarterbacks in this division. Of that group, Patrick Mahomes remains the top dog for now; while he took a bit of a step back early in 2021, he smoothed out down the stretch and reminded us why he is one of (if not the most) dangerous quarterbacks in the league.

The decision between Russell Wilson and Justin Herbert is quite close and one could be forgiven for going either way. Herbert has had an outstanding first two seasons and looks to have a higher ceiling. However, Wilson is more well-tenured and had a 40-touchdown-pass-season in 2020 – a number which Herbert hasn’t quite yet reached. Herbert may very well get higher on this list if he continues to grow, but for now, we will give the nod to Wilson.

It says a lot when Derek Carr is the “worst” quarterback in your division. While the stats show 23 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2021 – which sound rather pedestrian – he was often quite clutch and a big part of why the Raiders managed to scrape into the playoffs. Nevertheless, his feats are not on the level of Mahomes, Wilson, and Herbert; therefore he remains at the bottom of this list.

Running Backs

The Best: Denver Broncos

The Rest: Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs

The Broncos don’t have a lot of overall depth, but they have Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, who easily make up the best running back duo in the West. Both of them got just over 900 rushing yards in 2021, which gives them the best running attack overall. Williams is the future on that team, but for now, he and Gordon will remain a strong duo.

The Chargers have the best halfback in the West with Austin Ekeler, who had over 900 rushing yards and over 1,550 total yards from scrimmage, as well as 20 total touchdowns. However, they have basically no depth. Their best second option right now looks to be the rookie Isaiah Spiller. The options after that (Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree) would probably have no chance of making a 53-man roster on most other teams. If the Chargers had a proven change-of-pace option to Ekeler, they could take the top spot, but for now, they remain in second.

The Raiders have Josh Jacobs, but he strangely got less usage in 2021, only racking up 872 rushing yards. This could perhaps be partially attributed to the team playing from behind a lot, but his first two seasons weren’t that different in that regard and he had much better seasons then. A better season from him in 2022 would probably push the Raiders back up a notch at this position. Ameer Abdullah looks to be the main backup option this year.

The Chiefs have a fair number of options but a lot of questions. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was their top halfback last year, but he was underwhelming and did not take the step forward that some hoped. They signed Ronald Jones, but he does not appear to be in the running for the starting job and isn’t even a roster lock. There has been buzz around seventh-round rookie Isiah Pacheco, but we will have to wait and see how that plays out.

Wide Receivers

The Best: Los Angeles Chargers

The Rest: Las Vegas Raiders, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs

Picking between the Chargers and the Raiders was quite difficult. The Raiders undeniably have the best receiver in the division now with Davante Adams – as well as the slot receiver Hunter Renfrow that just had a 100-reception season – while the Chargers have Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. The depth is fairly even with the Raiders having Keelan Cole and Demarcus Robinson for backups, and the Chargers having Josh Palmer and Jalen Guyton. The very slight edge goes to the Chargers because while Renfrow is a strong slot receiver, he is ultimately just that – which leaves the Raiders lacking another strong option on the outside besides Adams. Both Allen and Williams could be a WR1 if they were on separate teams; Renfrow’s ceiling is a high-end WR2/slot.

The Broncos wide receiver corps did take a bit of a hit with losing Tim Patrick for the season, but they still have Courtland Sutton (who should have a bounce-back season this year) and Jerry Jeudy. They’ll also be hoping for K.J. Hamler to step up this year. They don’t have much proven depth after that, though.

After losing Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs are lacking a clear WR1 in general. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the closest one they have, but he hasn’t been the same since his breakout 2018 season and is coming off a season marred by injury. Right now he’s likely a rather low-end WR1 at best. After that, the only other receiver that’s had 500+ yards in a season (not including Josh Gordon, because he’s essentially irrelevant at this point) is Mecole Hardman – who could potentially step into the role that Hill once had, but this remains to be seen. A lot of hope seems to be resting on the rookie Skyy Moore. Without much proven talent, this leaves the Chiefs at the bottom of the list for wide receiver corps in the West.

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Tight Ends

The Best: Kansas City Chiefs

The Rest: Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos

Travis Kelce remains the best tight end not only in the AFC West but possibly the whole AFC (though Mark Andrews is making a run for the money). Kelce has 2,500+ receiving yards and 20 touchdowns over the last two seasons and remains an elite threat at the position. The Chiefs do not have much depth after Kelce, but so long as he doesn’t get hurt, they don’t have much to worry about.

Darren Waller got bogged down by injury part of last year but is just a couple of seasons removed from a 100+ reception season, and he remains easily the second-best tight end in the division. The Raiders also have the best depth at the position, as Foster Moreau filled in and was fairly serviceable when Waller was hurt last year. Jacob Hollister isn’t too shabby as a red zone threat either.

The Chargers brought in Gerald Everett this off-season, and while he has never had over 500 receiving yards in a season, he has been held back a little by either being in offenses that did not emphasize the tight end position or having to share targets at tight end. Their depth is limited to Donald Parham, who is a red zone nightmare – but only that so far.

After trading Noah Fant in the Russell Wilson trade, the Denver Broncos now have Albert Okwuegbunam as their presumed starting tight end. He had a few decent games last year when Fant was injured, but it remains to be seen what his ceiling is as a starting tight end. Their main other likely contender at tight end is rookie Greg Dulcich.

Offensive Line

The Best: Kansas City Chiefs

The Rest: Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders

While none of the teams in the West right now have a complete o-line (there’s at least one hole or question mark for every team), the Chiefs are the closest to being there. They have Pro Bowl/All-Pro players Orlando Brown and Joe Thuney on the left side – plus Creed Humphrey at center and Trey Smith at right guard, both of whom did pretty well as rookies. That means their biggest question mark is at right tackle, where it looks to be either Andrew Wylie (who is normally a guard but has been a backup before at right tackle) or fifth-round rookie Darian Kinnard.

The Chargers have All-Pro’s at both left tackle and center with Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley, respectively. Solid run-blocker Matt Feiler remains at left guard. First-round rookie Zion Johnson appears set to start at right guard. Thus, their question mark is at right tackle as well – where it comes down to Trey Pipkins or Storm Norton. Still, on paper, the Chargers o-line is pretty close to the Chiefs – the main thing keeping them in second place is the fact that Johnson is a rookie and therefore unproven, despite his high draft-pick status.

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The Broncos have one former All-Pro player of their own in Garrett Bolles at left tackle. After that it goes a bit downhill – they have Dalton Risner and Lloyd Cushenberry returning at left guard and center, but neither of them are anything special. The same goes for Graham Glasgow (coming off a season-ending injury) and the new acquisition Billy Turner on the right side of the line, who merely fall into the realm of serviceable.

The Raiders, meanwhile, are generally a mess at the o-line. Kolton Miller at left tackle is their best starter there. Alex Leatherwood is probably the starter at right tackle again, but he struggled quite a bit in his rookie season, and even him being the starter isn’t guaranteed. Currently the projected starters at left guard, center, and right guard – respectively – are John Simpson, Andre James, and Lester Cotton. You can be quite forgiven if you have never heard of any of those names before. Their best hopes otherwise are that rookies Dylan Parham or Thayer Munford impress right out of the gate.

AFC West Defense Breakdown

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