AFC West Roster Rankings: Chiefs Reign High Above the Rest

While Kansas City added more firepower to defend their last two titles, the rest of the division boasts rosters in various stages of rebuilds.
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Eight years. That’s how long the ongoing reign has been for the Kansas City Chiefs over the AFC West.

And while the Chiefs are once again prohibitive favorites in every sportsbook to win the division, they’re not infallible. After all, Kansas City traded away star corner L’Jarius Sneed this offseason, while also being relatively quiet in free agency.

But how much has the gap closed in the AFC West, if at all?

The Denver Broncos are in a rebuilding phase, the Las Vegas Raiders have Gardner Minshew II as their starting quarterback and the Los Angeles Chargers are revamping their roster under new coach Jim Harbaugh.

So where does everyone sit in the roster hierarchy of the AFC West? Let’s dive in.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

This was an easy choice.

The Chiefs have won the past two Super Bowls and reached four of the past five. They also employ a trio of future Hall of Famers, including perhaps the best quarterback to roam the planet, in Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Chris Jones. 

This offseason, Kansas City added more firepower for Mahomes as well in first-round receiver Xavier Worthy and speedy veteran wideout Marquise Brown. This to say nothing of running back Isiah Pacheco and an interior line of Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Marquise Brown runs with the football.
Brown gives Mahomes a speedy pass-catching option in 2024. / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, this is a unit that ranked second last year, only to the Baltimore Ravens. While Jones is the best player of the group, he's surrounded by quality including edge rushers Charles Omenihu and George Karlaftis, linebackers Nick Bolton, Drue Tranquill and Leo Chenal, All-Pro corner Trent McDuffie and safeties Justin Reid and Bryan Cook.

In short, the Chiefs are loaded up for a potential three-peat.

2. Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers have had a busy offseason, but they still end up second on this list.

With a new front office, and Harbaugh in place, Los Angeles has reshaped its roster. Out are receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, along with running back Austin Ekeler and retired center Corey Linsley. In are veteran wideout DJ Chark Jr., rookie second-round receiver Ladd McConkey, and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards.

Defensively, the Chargers have a litany of high-end talent but also injury concerns. Their three best players are edge rushers Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa, and safety Derwin James Jr.. However, all three are either aging, oft-injured or both. If the Chargers can finally get some good health, that’ll go a long way toward improving this defense.

With Justin Herbert under center, Los Angeles’s rebuild should be short. But this roster is experiencing massive turnover, and that leads to uncertainty for 2024.

3. Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders have some stars, but the roster is full of question marks. 

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew II looks to pass while under pressure.
Minshew is poised to be the starter under center in Las Vegas after the departure of Jimmy Garoppolo. / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas has All-Pro receiver Davante Adams on the outside, but what else is a certainty on the offensive side? Jakobi Meyers is a quality receiver but not someone to game plan around for a defensive coordinator. Now that running back Josh Jacobs is suiting up for the Green Bay Packers, the backfield is also in flux. 

Then, there’s the quarterback. Jimmy Garoppolo is gone. Minshew was signed on a two-year deal, giving him the upper hand on Aidan O'Connell for the competition this summer. Frankly, it’s not an exciting battle.

Defensively, there’s superstar Maxx Crosby coming off the edge and Christian Wilkins patrolling the middle. However, can second-year man Tyree Wilson step up opposite Crosby, and will the back seven hold up in coverage under coordinator Patrick Graham’s guidance?

For the Raiders to compete for a playoff spot, many of those questions must become affirmative answers.

4. Denver Broncos

The Broncos might have the worst roster in the league.

Denver is in a full-blown rebuild, evidenced by the fact that it’s eating $85 million of Russell Wilson dead money between this year and next. While that’s happening, the Broncos are hoping Bo Nix can win the quarterback job while Zach Wilson and Jarrett Stidham compete for the backup role.

Around the quarterbacks, the offense could be a struggle. While Javonte Williams is a quality back, the receivers are Courtland Sutton and not much else. Denver traded away Jerry Jeudy and will be relying on fourth-round pick Troy Franklin to become an immediate contributor, alongside second-year wideout Marvin Mims Jr.

Defensively, it’s all about corner Patrick Surtain II. Surtain is an All-Pro cover man, but he’s no longer sharing a secondary with star safety Justin Simmons, who was released earlier this offseason. The Broncos are hoping some youth steps up, led by third-round edge rusher Jonah Elliss.


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Matt Verderame

MATT VERDERAME

Matt Verderame is an NFL staff writer for Sports Illustrated. He hosts The Matt Verderame Show on Patreon; previously wrote for FanSided and Awful Announcing; and is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. A proud father of two girls and lover of all Italian food, Matt is an eternal defender of Rudy, the greatest football movie of all time.