Best in the AFC West

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
12:01
PM ET
Rivers/Asomugha/Dumervil US PresswirePhilip Rivers, Nnamdi Asomugha and Elvis Dumervil all rank among the best at their position.
Now that most of the signing, releasing and trading and all of the drafting is complete in the AFC West, we now have a better feel for the talent in the division.

Once again, there has been major change. Let's catch up with an early projection for our preseason all-AFC West team.

We have a few ground rules: Rookies are eligible. We’re using a 3-4 defense because three teams in the division use the 3-4 as its base and Oakland will use the 3-4 more this year. We took some liberties at some positions. For example, we aren’t taking a fullback but we are using the two best running backs.

Without further ado, here is our all-AFC West team as it stands now:

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Philip Rivers, San Diego

Why: It wasn’t even close. Rivers is a premier player in the NFL. He’s the best player in the division, and, at 28, is getting better.

Running backs

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City

Thomas Jones, Kansas City

[+] EnlargeThomas Jones
Don McPeak/US PresswireThomas Jones rushed for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Jets last season.
Why: The Chiefs have the two best running backs in the division. It’s a strong division for running backs, but the Chiefs have something special. This is the strength of the team. Charles is a third-year game-breaker and Jones, who will be 32 this summer, is a savvy veteran who ran for more than 1,400 yards last season. This is a powerful combination.

Receivers

Vincent Jackson, San Diego

Malcom Floyd, San Diego

Why: With Brandon Marshall traded to Miami, Jackson is by far the best receiver in the division. He is big and fast and has great hands. He's a rising star. I had a difficult time deciding on my second receiver. The division has several intriguing receivers including Dwayne Bowe, Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy and Eddie Royal. But all of these other players are big question marks heading into the season. Floyd seems like the safest bet.

Tight end

Antonio Gates, San Diego

Why: This was another easy one. Gates is at the top of his game. He is coming off a season in which he had 79 catches and a career-high 1,157 yards. Gates turns 30 next month, but he is one of the best tight ends in the league.

Left tackle

Ryan Clady, Denver

Why: Clady is one of the best left tackles in the NFL as he enters his third season. Of course, it will be interesting to see how he bounces back from a partially torn patella tendon injury that required surgery. He was injured while playing basketball. The Broncos hope Clady can return by the start of the season.

Left guard

Kris Dielman, San Diego

Why: A strong, steady force. A quiet player who is one of the best in the business.

Center

Nick Hardwick, San Diego

Why: Hardwick had battled injuries, but he remains at the top of his game. He needs to stay healthy. The Chargers’ offense misses him when he is out. He is a stout anchor.

Right guard

Chris Kuper, Denver

Why: Kuper is an underrated player. He is a mauler who will help make Denver’s transition from a zone-blocking scheme to a more traditional unit easier.

Right tackle

Ryan Harris, Denver

Why: The Broncos’ offense went south when Harris suffered a toe injury last year. He’s big and athletic. He and Clady make great bookend tackles.

DEFENSE

Defensive end

Richard Seymour, Oakland

Why: Seymour can still be a top player. He is versatile and plays with a mean streak. When he’s on, he’s a terror.

Nose tackle

Jamal Williams, Denver

Why: This was a tough one, because there are few established nose tackles in the division. There is talk that Glenn Dorsey may play the position in Kansas City, but we’ll have to see how that works. Although Williams is declining and he missed all but one game last season, the first-year Bronco and former Charger All-Pro has to be considered the best nose tackle in the division at this point

Defensive end

Luis Castillo, San Diego

Why: Castillo is a good, steady player. He doesn’t get a lot of numbers. But he is a solid player.

Outside linebacker

Elvis Dumervil, Denver

Why: Dumervil is just scratching the surface of his ability. He led the NFL with 17 sacks last season. He’s a star.

Shawne Merriman, San Diego

Why: People get on Merriman because his sack numbers have dropped. But he is always around the play. Expect him to have a strong year in 2010 as he continues to improve from a 2008 knee injury.

Inside linebacker

D.J. Williams, Denver

Why: Williams is a very good player. He is smart and athletic. He makes a defense better.

Rolando McClain, Oakland

Why: I’m taking a shot here. I could go with San Diego’s Stephen Cooper or even young, exciting Charger Brandon Siler. But I just have a feeling McClain is going to be an instant star. He has all the intangibles. He had Oakland’s playbook sent to him the morning after he was drafted. I think he is going to be special.

Cornerback

Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland

Why: Best in the biz. Period.

Champ Bailey, Denver

Why: Hall of Famer. Period.

Safety

Brian Dawkins, Denver

Why: I was impressed with how well Dawkins played last year, his first in the division. Dawkins may be 36, but he is still a big-league playmaker.

Eric Berry, Kansas City

Why: Like McClain, I’m taking a flier here. But I expect Berry, the No.5 draft pick in the draft, to make an instant impact. The Chiefs are going to unleash him right away.

Special teams:

Punter

Shane Lechler, Oakland

Why: This was a tough call. San Diego’s Mike Scifres is an unbelievable punter just like Lechler. But a slight edge goes to Lechler because he is just so powerful.

Kicker

Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland

Why: Another tough, tough call. I gave Janikowski a slight edge over San Diego’s Nate Kaeding. Truthfully, I gave Janikowski the edge because Kaeding struggled in his last game. Janikowski seems to be getting better.

Returner

Darren Sproles, San Diego

Why: Not a tough call at all. Sproles is magic in the open field. He can return a kick for a touchdown any time he touches the ball.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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