Ranking the linebackers in the AFC West

We are continuing our AFC West position-by-position rankings with the linebackers. It’s a deep, interesting group:

1. Elvis Dumervil, Denver: Dumervil flourished last year in his first season as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. He led the NFL with 17 sacks. He is a premier player.

2. D.J. Williams, Denver: Williams is a very solid player. He is extremely steady.

3. Shawne Merriman, San Diego: Merriman hasn’t been the same since 2007 prior to his knee injury. Still, he is a fine player who could easily regain his pass-rush mojo in 2010.

4. Shaun Phillips, San Diego: Phillips is an active player who always seems to be around the ball.

5. Rolando McClain, Oakland: This is a high ranking for a rookie. But I expect the No. 8 overall pick in the draft to be an instant impact player.

6. Tamba Hali, Kansas City: Hali is a good player. He is one of the better defensive players on Kansas City’s roster.

7. Stephen Cooper, San Diego: Cooper is a tackling machine. He is a very instinctive player.

8. Derrick Johnson, Kansas City: Johnson was in coach Todd Haley's doghouse early last season. Still, he ended the season strong.

9. Brandon Siler, San Diego: This is a young player to watch. He showed very nice play-making ability last season.

10. Larry English, San Diego: English needs to make major strides in his second season. The No. 16 overall pick in last year’s draft was a bit of a disappointment.

11. Kamerion Wimbley, Oakland: Wimbley joins Oakland after a trade from Cleveland. He was an average player in Cleveland, but he does have some decent pass-rush skills.

12. Trevor Scott, Oakland: Scott is an interesting player. He is making the full-time move from defensive end to weakside linebacker as he attempts to replace Thomas Howard. If it takes, I can see him jumping up this list next year.

13. Mike Vrabel, Kansas City: Vrabel’s skills are slipping. But he is such a smart, strong leader that he belongs on this list.

14. Robert Ayers, Denver: Ayers had a very slow rookie season after being the No. 18 overall pick last year. He has to make strides in his second season.

15. Quentin Groves, Oakland: He will likely be a role player after coming over in a trade from Jacksonville.

16. Wesley Woodyard, Denver: Woodyard has to continue to get better but he has solid potential.

17. Andy Studebaker, Kansas City: It will be interesting to see how Studebaker develops. He has some good play-making ability.