AFC West Defensive Line Rankings
As Steven mentioned in his previous article ranking the secondaries across the AFC West, he and I will be going through the different positions and ranking them against the teams within their division. So far, we have ranked the wide receivers, the secondary, and this time, I will be getting into the defensive line groups of the division.
I decided to go and do the defensive line as a whole. So, these rankings will be compiled of the interior defensive lineman and the edge rushers. Some teams run a 3-4 defense, and some run a 4-3, so positions and rankings can be subjective. I am just trying to keep this simple and go over the players that primarily play along the defensive line on a consistent basis.
There is some phenomenal talent across the division here. You have arguably 2 of the 3 best edge-rushing tandems in the NFL, some very high-end interior lineman, and quality depth around.
I value edge rushers more in rankings like this but want to be as even across the board as possible. The way that I will rank this is by taking the 2 main interior linemen, 2 main edge rushers, and then my choice of the next best player between both groups.
With that being said, let’s get into it and start with #4.
#4: Denver Broncos
This one was the easiest choice for me. The Broncos took a major hit on their defensive line losing Shelby Harris this offseason. Every team in this division has at least 1 superstar-level player. The Broncos are severely lacking in that department. I know, Bradley Chubb is a great player, but he was injured quite a bit last season missing 10 games. Talent doesn’t do too much when it isn’t consistently on the field.
After Chubb, it is relatively average/below-average players that don’t move the needle much at all or provide legitimate depth. Again, losing Harris to Seattle was a major loss that is going to hurt the interior of this defense. Randy Gregory is a wild card, if he plays up to his potential, I can see the Broncos rising up in this group.
#3: Kansas City Chiefs
Upon going through this, I realized that the difference between the Chiefs and Broncos defensive line is smaller than I originally thought. The main reason I am keeping the Chiefs above the Broncos is because of 1 player only, and that is Chris Jones. Last season, the Chiefs in an effort to get some pressure from the edges, kicked Jones out to rush the passer from the outside. Their defense struggled big-time during this time because they had no playmakers around him at all. Once he was finally able to kick back inside is when their defense started to perform at a higher level.
I really liked Geroge Karlaftis coming out this previous draft, and I hated that the Chiefs were able to get him. He will be an excellent player coming off the edge with how much attention Jones is going to take away. A wild card here is Frank Clark, who surprisingly restructured his contract this offseason to stay with the Chiefs. Clark’s time with the Chiefs has been disappointing, to say the least, having another solid pass rusher on the opposite side can immensely help Clark.
Again, the Chiefs as a whole have a fairly average line. Chris Jones is one of the best linemen in the NFL and is the primary reason the Chiefs come in at #3 over the Broncos. The lack of proven talent around him is why the Chiefs aren’t higher up.
#2: Las Vegas Raiders
A huge part of the NFL is having quality depth and high-level contributors across the team. More importantly, is how many superstar-quality players a team has. That is this Raiders defensive line. They lack depth and anyone that will scare you outside of the top 2 players. Their top two players are precisely why they rank #2 on the list.
Maxx Crosby made the Pro Bowl this past season and earned a well-deserved extension. Crosby has a high motor that is constantly working, he didn’t have the highest sack total last year but is able to constantly get pressure on the quarterback.
The player opposite is free-agent addition, Chandler Jones. Jones comes from the Cardinals where he put together a 10.5 sack season. Essentially half of them did come in the first game of the season, but Jones is a known, legit edge rusher. There isn’t anything really to write home about after those 2, but those 2 are great players that will be able to elevate this defense.
#1 Los Angeles Chargers
A few weeks ago I had a difficult time ranking the wide receivers, eventually deciding the Chargers were #2 in the division. This decision was a bit easier than that one. I have the Chargers with the best defensive line in the division. I try to not have too much bias as a Chargers fan, but I felt this one was fairly obvious.
I believe that Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack are the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL, and if they can stay healthy, will be able to do some incredible things together. Both players are great against the run as well which will be a benefit to a team that was one of the worst in the NFL last season.
The Chargers knew their biggest problem was the interior of the defensive line last year. So, they decided that they will add talented players in Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson to improve the middle of the defense. Those players along with them getting Kyle Van Noy, drastically change the outlook of their defensive line.
As I mentioned with the Raiders, superstar talent is crucial, after that is quality depth. This is why I have the Chargers above the Raiders. They have two superstar-caliber players in Bosa and Mack while having quality depth around them if one was to get injured.