Today's question: Who is the rising star in this division?
Jeff Legwold, Denver Broncos reporter: Von Miller is set to enter his sixth year in the league and has spent most of the offseason locked in contract negotiations with the Broncos. Though he has been named to four Pro Bowls, it was clear he unlocked an entirely new level of play during the Broncos' postseason run, particularly in wins against the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers (Miller was MVP of Super Bowl 50). In that sense, Miller is still a rising star if he can recapture what he did this past postseason in the wake of the inevitable wrestling match that is contract negotiations. However, beyond Miller the youngest players poised to make leaps on the developmental curve are also edge rushers. The Raiders' Khalil Mack, with a 15-sack season in 2015 that included a five-sack day against the Broncos, has the look of being a dynamic, impactful player. Mack’s athleticism is rare, and his coaches have raved about his day-to-day approach, which should serve him well in the inevitable battle with complacency that can come with success. And simply because of opportunity, Broncos outside linebacker Shane Ray, who will get more playing time since DeMarcus Ware is expected to go more to a specialty role, will have more chances to show why the Broncos used their first-round pick on him in the 2015 draft.
Adam Teicher, Kansas City Chiefs reporter: Maybe it’s a stretch to call Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters a rising star. His star was rising during a spectacular rookie season in 2015. His teammates voted quarterback Alex Smith and safety Eric Berry as co-MVPs for the Chiefs last season, but Peters was the true MVP. Peters was the difference-maker on a defense that went from being starved for turnovers in 2014 to one that was second in the league in interceptions the following season. Peters has some things to clean up from last season, because he allowed a lot of catches and a lot of yards. Peters won’t allow as many plays this season. He won’t see the ball as often as he did last season. Opposing quarterbacks will quit testing him as much as they did when he was a rookie.
Paul Gutierrez, Oakland Raiders reporter: I’ll answer this question with one of my own -- can you really be a rising star if you’ve already made history? Yes, if your name happens to be Khalil Mack. The face of the Oakland Raiders' defense is what we’ll call a "silent superstar" in that he has not received much national pub ... yet. Even as he was named All Pro at both outside linebacker and defensive end last season after almost quadrupling his sack total -- from four as a rookie to 15 last season, second most in the NFL. Mack was able to take a back seat, so to speak, on Oakland’s defense, to the likes of veterans Charles Woodson and Justin Tuck and Aldon Smith, but with their respective retirements and suspension, all eyes are on Mack. Which is fine by him, especially with Bruce Irvin signed to be his bookend and Smith not eligible to return until mid November. Quietly, Mack’s 62 tackles on plays that gained no yards or negative yardage are the second-most over the past two seasons, tied with Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and second only to Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt’s 91 such tackles, per ESPN Stats & Info. Yes, Mack is the player opposing AFC West offenses must gameplan for now, which is a far cry from this time last summer.
Eric Williams, San Diego Chargers reporter: Fresh off signing a four-year, $45 million contract extension this summer, San Diego Chargers receiver Keenan Allen should live up to the deal and make his first Pro Bowl in 2016. Allen was well on his way to making the annual NFL all-star game last season. Through eight games, Allen had 67 catches for 725 yards and four touchdown catches before suffering a lacerated kidney in a Week 8 contest against the Baltimore Ravens and missing the rest of the season. Allen dropped more weight this offseason so he can play even faster in 2016, and should benefit from the addition of speedy receiver Travis Benjamin, serving as a vertical threat for San Diego’s offense and opening up the middle of the field for Allen.