Ranking the AFC West: Quarterbacks
The AFC West has always been one of the most competitive divisions on a year-to-year basis since the NFL-AFL merger, and 2020 figures to continue the tradition.
Home of the reigning Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs, a pair of teams dripping with potential in the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders, and a team with one of the most well-rounded defensive units in the Los Angeles Chargers, the AFC West might push a pair of teams into the playoffs this year.
The Chiefs are the easy front runner for the AFC West crown seeing as they've won the division for five consecutive years and are returning 19-of-22 starters from a championship roster.
But the Broncos and Raiders have tried to mimic the blueprint the Chiefs laid out in 2019, bringing in a ton of explosive play-makers to try to keep up with one of the most dynamic offenses the league has ever seen. The Chargers still have a ways to go in order to light up the scoreboard, but the upgrades they've made to an already stellar defense could keep them competitive in these heated rivalries.
Every year, we at Mile High Huddle dive deep to break down the Broncos' division rivals. This time around, we're going to rank each team by position group in order to determine who has the best roster in the division.
Today we're looking at the most important position in all of sports — the quarterback.
4: Tyrod Taylor/Justin Herbert | Los Angeles Chargers
Heading into training camp, Los Angeles has chosen to give the reins to Taylor, a career journeyman and a guy that hasn't seen consistent starting time since his stint with the Buffalo Bills ended following the 2017 season.
Despite posting an efficient completion percentage in his time in Buffalo, Taylor struggled to hold off rookie Baker Mayfield in Cleveland in 2018 and has been riding pine after going 1-1-1 in his only three starts.
Much like his one year in Cleveland, the Chargers also invested a top-10 selection at quarterback by taking Herbert, the Oregon product. Although Herbert has all of the tools of a franchise quarterback, it remains to be seen whether he can put all of the pieces to the puzzle together to truly become one.
Herbert was a highly-touted prospect going back to his junior year, but failed to make the growth you like to see out of a player with top-10 potential. This leads to questions whether he can take that next step and the games ultimate level.
Having a career journeyman who's struggled the majority of his career and a rookie with no clear answers as to how the battle will shake out makes this the worst quarterback situation in the AFC West.
3: Drew Lock | Denver Broncos
Heading into Year 2 as the clear-cut starter, Lock is looking to build off of what was a very promising five-game debut in 2019. His poise and natural traits galvanized the Broncos down the stretch last year en route to a 4-1 finish.
But a small sample size does not a franchise quarterback make. Lock has all of the tools and flashed multiple times in 2019, but there were still rookie mistakes that need to be ironed out.
The Broncos did everything in their power to help smooth the wrinkles and flatten Lock's learning curve by hand-delivering him a plethora of receiving weapons. Lock just has to grab the reins and take the next step for himself.
He has a chance to pump his way up this list with a solid sophomore campaign, but until he actually proves it on the field, Denver fans would be wise to remain cautiously optimistic about his chances.
2: Derek Carr | Las Vegas Raiders
One could easily switch Lock and Carr in these rankings, but the reason I have Carr here is simple.
Carr has six years of NFL experience, including an MVP-caliber season back in 2016, and is a three-time Pro Bowler. Highly efficient, conservative, and safe, Carr isn't the kind of guy that will win you games by himself.
He may not be the flashiest quarterback in the NFL, but if he has talent surrounding him he has enough ability to win a lot of football games. Carr understands his strengths and exploits them at a high level.
Now, Carr isn't the same player on a meteoric ascension that he was in 2016, but being a proven commodity has him higher on this list. For now. Ever since he broke his leg late in 2016, Carr has seen ghosts in the pocket and has taken quick and easy throws rather than push the ball down the field.
With a retooled receiver room, a great dual-threat runner behind him, and a solid offensive line in front of him, Carr could easily lead the Raiders to the playoffs should the defensive front be able to stand their ground in this track-meet division.
1: Patrick Mahomes | Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes is not only the best QB in the AFC West, he is the best in football. Wildly talented, charismatic and supremely confident, Mahomes is changing the way the QB position is played.
He can make any throw imaginable off of any platform. And he makes it look easy.
After posting over 5,000 passing yards and 50 touchdown passes in his 2018 MVP season, Mahomes was well on his way to another monster season until he dislocated his kneecap against the Broncos last October. Despite missing time, Mahomes was still in the discussion for MVP at season's end.
Following three massive comeback victories in the playoffs, including a miraculous Super Bowl performance, Mahomes signed a 10-year contract extension, so his reign of terror on the AFC West isn't going anywhere any time soon.
Mahomes has the perfect set of complementary weapons that accentuate what he does so well, but he doesn't really need them. His ability to play on- or off-schedule, manipulate defenses with his eyes, and throw to every level and section of the field makes him scheme and weapon transcendent.
There's no stopping Mahomes. You can only try to keep up.
Do you agree with our rankings? Sound off in the comment section below!