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:
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.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City
Thomas Jones, Kansas City
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kris Dielman, San Diego
Why: A strong, steady force. A quiet player who is one of the best in the business.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland
Why: Best in the biz. Period.
Champ Bailey, Denver
Why: Hall of Famer. Period.
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.
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.
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.
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.