Through the rest of this week, we will continue unveiling our preseason All-Division teams, as is our annual tradition around this time of year. As always, the rosters were compiled largely by a panel of one, though there was significant input from the writing and editorial staff at CBSSports.com after I took an initial run at the rosters on my own.
We began last this week with the NFC, moving through the NFC East, NFC North, NFC South, and finally NFC West. We worked our way through the AFC this week, hitting the AFC East, AFC North, and AFC South. Today, we conclude the exercise by unveiling our preseason All-AFC West team...
Offensive skill positions
QB: Patrick Mahomes (KC)
RB: Austin Ekeler (LAC)
TE: Travis Kelce (KC)
FLEX: Darren Waller (LV)
Mahomes is the best quarterback and arguably best player in the NFL. There was no chance the quarterback of this team was going to be anyone else. Ekeler isn't a traditional running back, but he's a really good one. The chemistry he developed during the few games he played with Justin Herbert last season was terrific -- he was on a 99-catch pace during those six contests. New offensive coordinator in Joe Lombardi, who spent much of his career with the Saints, should be able to use Ekeler in a similar fashion to Alvin Kamara. Big things are in store.
What a group of pass-catchers this is, huh? Hill is the league's most explosive receiver, having connected with Mahomes on a league-high 45 pass plays that gained 25 yards or more over the last three seasons. (The next-closest players are Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins with 37 apiece.) With Sammy Watkins moving on, Hill may seen an even larger target share this season. He's going to be a monster. Allen was less efficient (in terms of yards per catch) last season than in previous years, but much of that can be attributed to Ekeler being out and the offensive line being a disaster in L.A. With the short-game target back in the fold and an upgraded line, Allen can work a bit a bit farther down the field again. Jeudy struggled with drops as a rookie, but the dude got open all the time. With Teddy Bridgewater under center, Jeudy should emerge as the team's No. 1 target due to his ability to get open quickly after the snap.
Kelce and Waller are likely to finish first and second in the NFL in receptions among tight ends, considering their places in their respective teams' pecking orders. It would be a shame not to include Waller on this roster, but the flex spot thankfully gives us the ability to do so. He deserves it.
C: Corey Linsley (LAC)
Yes, pass-blocking more often will be a change of pace for Brown. But he's already made the much more difficult move from the right side of the line to the left, and he has Andy Reid calling plays and Patrick Mahomes behind him. He'll be just fine. Bulaga gets the spot on the right side here, because the other teams in the division are much weaker on the right side than the left. Thuney just became the NFL's highest-paid guard, and with good reason. He and Brown should be excellent together on Mahomes' blind side. Glasgow fared somewhat well during his first season in Denver but has also shown he can be even better than that. Linsley just spent eight years with Aaron Rodgers and now gets to go help Herbert in L.A. He should be a huge addition for that offensive line, and was arguably the most impactful offensive lineman free-agent signing of the offseason.
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LB: Alexander Johnson (DEN), Nicholas Morrow (LV)
Bosa, as we wrote in our edge rusher rankings, "has had injury issues during his career but when he is on the field, he is just outrageously productive. Last season, he led all edge rushers in Weighted Overall Win Rating (WOW Rtg), which measures how often a player makes plays in the backfield in comparison to the average player at his position." With Brandon Staley calling the defensive plays, it's possible Bosa could get even better. Miller missed all of last season due to injury but A. he is still Von Miller; and B. the last time he missed an extended stretch, he came back with 14 sacks the following season.
If Aaron Donald did not exist, Football Twitter would be constantly having arguments about which of Chris Jones and DeForest Buckner was the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL. Unfortunately, people don't care quite strongly enough to spend their time arguing over who is second-best. Joseph is getting up there in age but he remains a force on the interior defensive line. He matched a career high by playing 70 percent of defensive snaps last season, and his ability to eat up space should be extremely beneficial in Staley's scheme.
Johnson had a strong 2019 season and an even better 2020. He's already 29 years old despite heading into just his fourth NFL season, but he's a really good player and worthy of a spot on this roster. Morrow, meanwhile, worked his way into the starting lineup over the course of the last four years and has proven himself a solid coverage player. That's a nice role for a former undrafted free agent heading into his age-26 season.
FLEX: Justin Simmons (DEN)
Fuller is reuniting with Vic Fangio in Denver, and given his age he should be able to get back to the top level of play he demonstrated when they were together with the Bears. Callahan followed Fangio to Denver already, and had another excellent year in the slot. There's no real reason not to expect that to continue. Sneed turned into a tremendous find in the fourth round for the Chiefs, allowing a passer rating of just 53.4 on throws in his direction, per Pro Football Focus. He should take a step forward as a surefire starter this year.
This division is loaded at the safety spot, with three of the very best making the roster. Mathieu and James bring nearly unmatched versatility at the position, as they are able to play in the box, up high, in the slot, or even out wide. Simmons is not quite that versatile, but he has been excellent on the back end of the Denver defense.
K: Harrison Butker (KC)
P: Sam Martin (DEN)
RET: Mecole Hardman (KC)
I won't lie, I deferred to our resident expert, John Breech, when it came to the kickers and punters. He told me that Butker was the best kicker and Martin the best punter in this division, and I believe him. Hardman was again one of the NFL's top punt returners last season, and though he did not return kicks as often as he did during his rookie year, he maintains the capability to do so. He doesn't necessarily look like the full-time No. 2 wideout, so we expect he'll still get some shots at returns this year.