Wednesday, December 7, 2022

2022 preseason All-AFC West Team: NFL’s strongest division puts forth loaded roster on both sides of the ball

Over the next two weeks, we will unveil our preseason All-Division teams, as is our annual tradition around this time of year. As always, the rosters were compiled largely by a panel of one, though there was significant input from the writing and editorial staff at CBSSports.com after I took an initial run at the rosters on my own. 

We began on Tuesday with the AFC East, continued Wednesday with the AFC North and Thursday with the AFC South. Today, we finish up the conference with the AFC West. Next week, it’s on to the NFC. Without further ado …

Offensive skill positions

QB: Patrick Mahomes (KC)

RB: Austin Ekeler (LAC)

WR: Davante Adams (LV), Mike Williams (LAC), Keenan Allen (LAC)

TE: Travis Kelce (KC)

FLEX: Darren Waller (LV)

One of the most difficult choices of this entire exercise was the one between Mahomes and Justin Herbert. It’s entirely possible that by the end of this season, they are considered the two best quarterbacks in the NFL. We gave the slight nod to Mahomes here, owing to his longer track record and his partnership with Andy Reid, who is the best offensive mind in the sport. 

Ekeler edges out Javonte Williams, owing mostly to his firmer hold on the No. 1 job in his own backfield. Melvin Gordon figures to be more of a factor in Denver than either Isaiah Spiller or Joshua Kelley in L.A. Even without Tyreek Hill, the pass-catchers in this division are a loaded group. Adams is the best receiver in the NFL at the moment, and he shouldn’t slow down enough in the move to the Las Vegas Raiders to keep him off this list. After that, a whole bunch of receivers have excellent arguments to make this team: Both Williams and Allen in Los Angeles, along with Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton in Denver, and even Hunter Renfrow in Vegas, are worthy of consideration. The connection Herbert has already shown with his two top targets, though, tilted things in their direction. 

Then, Kelce and Waller are two of the small handful of best tight ends in the NFL, and expected to serve as either the No. 1 option (Kelce) or top complementary option (Waller) in their teams’ passing games. We expect big seasons from them both. 

Offensive line

OT: Rashawn Slater (LAC), Garett Bolles (DEN)

G: Joe Thuney (KC), Trey Smith (KC)

C: Creed Humphrey (KC)

Slater stepped into the lineup and was an immediate start. He should be a fixture on this list for years to come. Bolles no longer has Mike Munchak as the Denver Broncos‘ offensive line coach, but he’s become a good enough player that he’s worthy of a spot here, though you could easily swing over to Kolton Miller as the other tackle. Kansas City’s offensive line is now one of the best in the NFL, and the interior trio of Thuney-Humphrey-Smith is a huge reason why. It’s hard to go away from that group here.  

Defensive front

EDGE: Joey Bosa (LAC), Maxx Crosby (LV)

IDL: Chris Jones (KC), Sebastian Joseph-Day (LAC)

LB: Nick Bolton (KC), Denzel Perryman (LV)

FLEX: Chandler Jones (LV)

Bosa was an easy choice at one edge spot, but after that, there were a ton of worthy candidates. Crosby and Jones in Vegas. Khalil Mack in L.A. Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb in Denver. We went with the best bets to stay both healthy and productive, though it’s easy to imagine Mack, in particular, making this look silly at the end of the season. 

Jones remains one of the best interior rushmen in the NFL, and the Chiefs keeping him on the inside all year rather than flexing him out to the edge as they did early last season should lead to an even better season than he had a year ago. Joseph-Day was a high-priority target for the Chargers this offseason for a reason — he’s going to help Brandon Staley unlock his style of defense up front. 

Bolton had a strong rookie season for the Chiefs and should remain a tackle machine going forward. Perryman is always an injury risk, but he’s coming off a Pro Bowl season and makes a lot of sense in the middle of new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s scheme. 

Defensive backfield

CB: Patrick Surtain II (DEN), J.C. Jackson (LAC), K’Waun Williams (DEN)

SAF: Derwin James (LAC), Justin Simmons (DEN)

Surtain is basically the defensive back equivalent of Slater. He was a star right away and he will be one for years. He might already be a top 10 corner. Jackson is going to miss some time after surgery, but his coverage skills are so good that we expect him to perform at an extremely high level once he gets back on the field. The final corner spot came down to Williams and Asante Samuel Jr., and the veteran’s experience — specifically in the style of defensive system he’s working in under new coordinator Ejiro Evero — carried the day here. James and Simmons were absolute no-brainers here as two of the best safeties in the NFL. 

Specialists

K: Harrison Butker (KC)

P: A.J. Cole (LV)

RET: DeAndre Carter (LAC)

I won’t lie … I asked our resident kicking expert (John Breech) who he thinks are the best kickers and punters in each division, and copy/pasted those names onto each All-Division team. Carter had the best kick return season of his career last season and another productive year as a punt returner. Even in special teams-challenged Los Angeles, we’re betting on another solid year. 

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