The Oakland Raiders got a pretty impressive one-two punch in the 2014 draft.
Oh yeah, and each is set to begin his fourth NFL season, meaning each star is entering his prime. If the Raiders can figure out a way to pay both of them while keeping their supporting casts competitive, the combo of Mack and Carr will likely mean many restless nights for division opponents and rival coordinators for years to come.
So is Oakland's Carr-Mack combo the best one-two punch in the AFC West in terms of offensive and defensive players?
Jeff Legwold, Denver Broncos reporter: In terms of age, experience level and room to grow on the league’s learning curve, Carr and Mack -- both 26 years old -- seemingly hold boundless potential at two of the most important positions on any team's roster. Given that Carr is on the brink of becoming a franchise quarterback -- he's already there in terms of contract -- the duo may be one season away from making this question a no-brainer.
In terms of overall achievement through 2016, however, Denver Broncos pass-rusher Von Miller has been a Super Bowl MVP and one of the league’s best defensive players, while wide receiver Demaryius Thomas helped power the highest-scoring offense in league history in 2013 and has been a key piece for two Super Bowl teams. Entering his eighth season, Thomas will look to reestablish himself as a top-tier receiver after battling a hip injury in 2016. Miller, meanwhile, wants to top his career high in sacks for a single season -- 18.5 -- and believes Denver's defense is built for him to make a run at it, even with the double- and triple-teams he routinely faces.
Adam Teicher, Kansas City Chiefs reporter: Before I answer that, let’s look at the alternatives. Denver can counter with Miller and, let’s say, Thomas. While Miller is comparable and perhaps superior to Mack, Thomas is no match for Carr. Thomas had some great seasons when Peyton Manning was the Broncos' quarterback, but the receiver looks to be on the downhill slide. Kansas City has any number of defensive players to choose from. I’ll go with cornerback Marcus Peters. On offense, I’ll choose wide receiver Tyreek Hill over tight end Travis Kelce. Peters is perhaps the best playmaking corner in the NFL. Hill is a game-changer at wide receiver and running back and as a kick returner. Tough choice here, but I’ll go with the Oakland duo because Carr is a QB. Los Angeles has QB Philip Rivers and defensive end Joey Bosa. At this point in their respective careers, Carr is a better player than Rivers. So if I have to choose, I’ll take Carr and Mack.
Eric Williamson, Los Angeles Chargers reporter: Rivers and Bosa should be part of the conversation, but it’s hard to argue against Carr and Mack being the most lethal combination of offensive and defensive players in the AFC West. Carr continues to evolve and develop his game. The Fresno State product has been particularly impressive in the clutch. His fourth-quarter passer rating of 109.2 was No. 4 in the NFL in 2016, a dramatic improvement over his previous two seasons. So Carr is playing better for the Raiders when the games matter the most. Mack has 26 sacks over the past two seasons, most in the NFL. Combine that with his impact on opponents' running games, and it’s easy to see why Oakland’s talented duo is the best in the AFC West.