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NFL Draft

Ranking AFC West’s 2020 Supporting Casts

  • The Draft Network
  • May 2, 2020
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The AFC West is quietly shaping up to be one of the most fun divisions in the NFL. 

The reigning Super Bowl champions reside in Kansas City, an upstart Denver team has pieced together one of the league’s more intriguing rosters, the mad scientist known as Jon Gruden enters Year 3 of his experiment as the team moves to Las Vegas and the Chargers nabbed one of the 2020 NFL Draft's top rookie quarterbacks and have some pretty impressive talents in tow as well. 

While there's plenty of defensive talent to be found in this division, make no mistake about it: There will be track meets. There will be offensive outbursts and there will be shootouts.

The quarterback landscape in the AFC West is pretty cut and dry. There's Patrick Mahomes and then there's everyone else. But much to the credit of each of the four teams in the division, the supporting casts for Mahomes, Derek Carr, Tyrod Taylor/Justin Herbert and Drew Lock provide some of the most fun combinations you'll find across the entire league.

How do they stack up to one another? It's time for a little tale of the tape before we decide.

Kansas City Chiefs

Running backs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (R), Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson

Wide receivers: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, DeMarcus Robinson

Tight ends: Travis Kelce, Deon Yelder, Ricky Seals-Jones

Denver Broncos

Running backs: Melvin Gordon III, Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman

Wide receivers: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy (R), K.J. Hamler (R), DaeSean Hamilton

Tight ends: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Nick Vannett, Albert Okwuegbunam (R)

Las Vegas Raiders

Running backs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, Lynn Bowden (R)

Wide receivers: Henry Ruggs III (R), Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Nelson Agholor, Zay Jones, Bryan Edwards (R)

Tight ends: Darren Waller, Jason Witten, Foster Moreau

Los Angeles Chargers

Running backs: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley (R)

Wide receivers: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joe Reed (R), Andre Patton

Tight ends: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green

There's plenty of points to be had with these supporting casts. Of course, quarterback play will have a large part in how many points are actually scored so, too, will offensive line play. But strictly from a supporting cast perspective, how do these teams stack up?

To break things down segmentally, I'll rank each of the three sub-groups before aggregating their rankings into a final breakdown.

Tight Ends

The Chiefs have arguably the NFL's best tight end. They also have arguably the worst depth at the position. The injury history of Henry is hard to ignore despite his physical talent and is a big setback for Kansas City’s standing amid its peers in the division. While the Broncos do have the most promising young talent of the West's tight ends in Fant, the Raiders have 2019 breakout star Waller, who forced plenty to eat crow last season (myself included) with his starring role in their passing offense.

Rankings:

  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Las Vegas Raiders
  • Denver Broncos
  • Los Angeles Chargers

Wide Receivers

The Raiders have a lot of promising young talent between Ruggs, Renfrow and Edwards, but they're also the least accomplished of the group. Meanwhile, the Broncos can be technically slotted in the same category, although young receiver Sutton enjoyed a big breakout role in 2019. Denver’s two rookies (Jeudy and Hamler) combine to give the team a high ceiling receiver room than Los Angeles if a seamless transition to the NFL materializes for both, but the Chargers have the most accomplished receiver between the two teams in Allen and the light bulb appeared to come on for Mike Williams this past year. He averaged 20.4 yards per reception on 49 catches. The NFL accomplishments of the Chargers' receivers are enough to edge them over the Broncos, but they aren't enough to match the lethal speed of the Chiefs' standout receivers.

Rankings:

  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Los Angeles Chargers
  • Denver Broncos
  • Las Vegas Raiders

Running Backs

Ekeler enjoyed a big breakout season in 2019 and logged nearly 1,000 yards receiving. But his ability to tout the rock as the featured runner is going to be tested this season. For as good as Ekeler is in the passing game, the Chiefs' 2020 first-round pick in Edwards-Helaire can be just as good — and he's got a better ceiling as a rusher. Add in the physical style of Damien Williams and Kansas City has enough to edge out Los Angeles. The Chargers don't however, have enough to edge the Raiders, who tout a one-man wrecking crew in Jacobs. But the Broncos' addition of Gordon to complement Lindsay gives them the deepest and most accomplished group of the division.

Rankings:

  • Denver Broncos
  • Las Vegas Raiders
  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Los Angeles Chargers

Final Rankings

The Chiefs' superiority at tight end and receiver help them mask for the modest presence of Damien Williams and the unproven Edwards-Helaire. It's difficult to envision him not thriving with so many other weapons, much like his time in 2019 at LSU. The Broncos have the most exciting potential from the remainder of the division; Sutton's size, the speed of Jeudy and Hamler and the mismatch ability of Fant blend well with the division's deepest running back corp. The Raiders' 2019 breakout stars in Jacobs and Waller help them edge out the Chargers for third, as Ekeler will need to prove he can provide the same results as the team's top option and Henry will need to prove he can stay healthy in 2020.

Rankings:

  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Denver Broncos
  • Las Vegas Raiders
  • Los Angeles Chargers

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