- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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With our position-by-position AFC West rankings done, we present our annual top 40 list.
These are, in my opinion, the top 40 players in the division regardless of position. If you are on this list, you’re a pretty nice player. If you are No. 41, you're pretty good as well. Yes, this is a look at the elite players in the division.
I based my opinion on past performance, projections and discussions with scouts.
All four teams in the AFC West are pretty fairly represented. Denver has 12 players, Kansas City has 11, San Diego has nine and Oakland has eight. Denver boasts five of the top eight players and Kansas City has nine of the top 18.
There are 20 defensive players, 19 offensive players and one kicking specialist on the list. Without further ado, your (again, mine; I’m sure you will have plenty of opinions expressed in the comment section below) 2013 top 40 players in the AFC West:
1. Peyton Manning, quarterback, Denver: No suspense here. Manning was dominant last year, his first in the division. Yes, he is still a superstar.
2. Von Miller, linebacker, Denver: The third-year player is becoming one of the best defensive players in the NFL. An elite talent.
4. Ryan Clady, tackle, Denver: Blocking for Manning gave Clady a boost, and Manning appreciated every minute of it.
5. Demaryius Thomas, receiver, Denver: He is not a product of Manning. The kid has rare skills.
6. Philip Rivers, quarterback, San Diego: Yes, he hasn’t been great for the past two years, but he is still a strong player.
7. Eric Weddle, safety, San Diego: One of the more underrated players in the league. Scouts love the way he plays.
8. Wes Welker, receiver, Denver: The free-agent prize of the division will make Manning even more lethal.
9. Dwayne Bowe, receiver, Kansas City: The league is waiting to see how Bowe responds to his big-money deal.
10. Eric Berry, safety, Kansas City: Healthy again, he is one of the most exciting young defenders in the game.
11. Tamba Hali, linebacker, Kansas City: He is a top pass-rusher. A very disruptive force.
12. Justin Houston, linebacker, Kansas City: Watching Houston and Miller grow together in the same division will be a treat.
13. Corey Liuget, defensive end, San Diego: He has a chance to become a top player at his position. Big second season.
14. Champ Bailey, cornerback, Denver: He’s near the end, but he is a still a plus player.
15. Branden Albert, tackle, Kansas City: He has improved steadily, and that’s why the Chiefs franchised him.
16. Derrick Johnson, linebacker, Kansas City: Simply a tackle machine. He’d help any team.
17. Brandon Flowers, cornerback, Kansas City: A scout favorite. A fundamental gem.
18. Alex Smith, quarterback, Kansas City: Not an elite quarterback, but he has proved he can win games.
19. Darren McFadden, running back, Oakland: Talent isn’t the issue. Health always has been.
20. Eric Decker, receiver, Denver: A steady, smart producer who fits Manning well.
21. Antonio Gates, tight end, San Diego: His production is slipping, but he is still a weapon.
22. Donald Butler, linebacker, San Diego: He is one of the reasons for excitement about the Chargers’ defense.
23. Sean Smith, cornerback, Kansas City: Big, athletic free-agent cornerback will help Kansas City.
24. Lamarr Houston, defensive end, Oakland: Highly talented player will be counted on to set the tone defensively.
25. Zane Beadles, guard, Denver: Talented youngster emerged as a Pro Bowler in 2012.
26. Stefen Wisniewski, center, Oakland: He could soon become a Pro Bowler himself. Some scouts think he’s a better guard.
27. Jared Veldheer, tackle, Oakland: He is simply massive. He also has ability. He has a bright future.
28. Tyvon Branch, safety, Oakland: Solid safety should benefit from improvements around him.
29. Derek Wolfe, defensive end, Denver: He was tremendous as a rookie. He could shoot up this list in coming years.
30. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, cornerback, Denver: Denver thinks this free-agent pickup has a chance to make the defense special.
31. Kendall Reyes, defensive end, San Diego: Second-year player has a chance to make big strides. Terrific pass-rush skills.
32. Dwight Freeney, linebacker, San Diego: He is aging, but if he can stay healthy, he can still make an impact.
33. Wesley Woodyard, linebacker, Denver: Former special-teams ace is now a standout position player.
34. Dunta Robinson, cornerback, Kansas City: Versatile free agent will make his presence felt.
35. Ryan Mathews, running back, San Diego: Talent is there. Chargers are waiting for him to have some health.
36. Derek Cox, cornerback, San Diego: Underrated free-agent pickup. A scout favorite.
37. Marcel Reece, fullback, Oakland: He helps Oakland in every way imaginable. A fine player.
38. Jacob Tamme, tight end, Denver: Came over from Colts as a Manning security blanket. It paid off.
39. Charles Woodson, safety, Oakland: This may be his swan song, but he can help Oakland in 2013.
40. Sebastian Janikowski, kicker, Oakland: A kicker? Yep. That’s right. A sublime weapon.