Change has brought good things to the AFC West in recent seasons.
Peyton Manning’s arrival helped turn the Broncos back into Super Bowl contenders. Andy Reid helped bring the Chiefs back from a miserable low point in 2012. A new-look offense breathed life into Philip Rivers and the Charger offense. And the Raiders, well, the Raiders have gotten their cap issues sorted for the first time in forever.
For three of these teams, 2013 was a year to celebrate playoff berths and for one of them, that ride isn’t over yet.
This All-Division team is headed by our choice for league MVP and features a Bronco-dominated offense and a Chief-controlled defense. You’ve seen the All-Division lineups for the AFC East, North and South already. Here is the 2013 PFF All-AFC West Team:
Quarterback: Peyton Manning (DEN)
After breaking more major passing records and cleaning up during PFF Awards Week (MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, First Team All-Pro, Stephenson Award runner up), it’s no surprise that Manning finds himself under center for the AFC West squad. Among some of his highlight numbers on the season, his 38 deep completions led the league and his NFL-best 2.36-second average time to throw was a big factor in him seeing pressure on just 22.7% of his drop-backs, another a top mark.
Running Back: Jamaal Charles (KC)
Paired with Manning in the AFC West backfield, Charles was a runner up in the MVP and OPOY races and finished second to LeSean McCoy in our overall halfback rankings. Only three runners topped his 63 forced missed tackles and his work as a receiver produced nearly 700 yards, the best of the backs.
Tight End: Julius Thomas (DEN)
Thomas finished just behind Graham and Gronkowski with a +10.7 receiving grade, but his run blocking dragged down his overall rating. His 111 snaps operating as a pass blocker, however, helped set things straight as only one tight end bettered the 97.7 Pass Blocking Efficiency score he produced. Finding the end zone 12 times while dropping only four of 69 catchable balls all helped Thomas secure this spot.
Wide Receivers: Demaryius Thomas (DEN), Eric Decker (DEN) and Keenan Allen (SD)
More from the Denver passing machine and our first rookie sighting, all three of these standout wideouts ended with WR Ratings in the Top 10, Thomas leading the way with a 122.6 on passes his way. While OROY runner up and All-Rookie Team member Allen’s receiving grade was the best of the three here, the Bronco pair flashed run blocking skills that can be key on the edges and each of the three finished among the 20 best in Yards Per Route Run. Opting for the three-wide set, we’ll forego the use of a fullback, but had we gone that direction, KC’s Anthony Sherman and his fine year of lead blocking would have taken the spot.
Left Tackle: King Dunlap (SD)
Despite missing stints of action along the way, Dunlap earned a spot in the Top 10 of our left tackle ranks and gave the Chargers a solid figure on Rivers’ blindside. Most of his positive grade came from work as a run blocker, but Dunlap gave up just 19 total pressures on 333 pass-blocking snaps for a 95.5 Pass Blocking Efficiency that landed in the Top 20 of all tackles.
Left Guard: Geoff Schwartz (KC)
Schwartz’s return to a regular starting gig in the season’s second half saw him do more of what he does… put up green grades. Top-20 ratings as both a pass blocker and as a run blocker added up to the league’s eighth-best overall mark for a guard as the versatile performer got time in on both sides of the line.
Center: Manny Ramirez (DEN)
Anchoring this All-Division line and framing an all-Denver right side, Ramirez earned Top-10 standing in every graded facet of center play after making the switch from guard. His +14.9 overall mark was by far the best we’ve seen from him in our time grading.
Right Guard: Louis Vasquez (DEN)
A key free agent signing last offseason, Vasquez finished third among guards with a +31.1 overall grade built on his second-best +16.1 rating as a pass blocker. With no sacks allowed and just 14 total pressures given up on 643 passing snaps, he rightfully landed a spot as a first-teamer on the PFF All-Pro roster.
Right Tackle: Orlando Franklin (DEN)
Franklin followed the lead of his Bronco brothers just mentioned, excelling as a pass blocker in the quick-fire Denver offense and finishing with the league’s fourth-best overall grade for a right tackle. The +19.2 overall he posted nearly duplicated his 2012 grade and his consistent performance helped take the Denver group to the top of our O-line rankings.
Defensive Interior: Terrance Knighton (DEN), Mike DeVito (KC)
Knighton has taken his stellar season on into the playoffs as he shifted gears in Week 15, putting together a combined +21.0 overall grade in the five games since. In elite company at the position, he was one of the rare defensive tackles to finish over +10.0 as a run defender and as a pass rusher. As Knighton’s play offers balance, DeVito chips in as a dominant run defender for this AFC West line. His play didn’t miss a beat as he jumped to Kansas City from the Jets and was once again in the conversation when looking at the league’s top run-stopping interior linemen.
Nose Tackle: Dontari Poe (KC)
Fortifying the middle is Poe. A second-year breakout defender and second-team All-Pro for us, he logged positive grades in 13 of his 15 regular season games and saved one of his best efforts (a +4.3) for the playoffs. One of only seven NT/DTs to finish with a +15.0 or better grade in run defense, he came in a respectable 14th with 36 total pressures as well.
Edge Defenders: Justin Houston (KC), Tamba Hali (KC)
With a nod to Von Miller and his dominant play in a shortened season, the combined 136 total pressures of the Chiefs’ duo earns them the edge spots here. On his way to earning second-team PFF All-Pro honors, Houston led all 3-4 OLBs with a +31.8 overall grade and his 14.1 Pass Rushing Productivity mark was fifth-best for the group. A Run Stop Percentage of 8.7, again fifth-best, further demonstrated his all-around excellence. Hali’s 58 hurries and 77 total pressures were Top-5 figures league-wide regardless of position and his resulting 12.2 PRP slotted in just behind his teammate.
Linebackers: Derrick Johnson (KC) and Danny Trevathan (DEN)
Finding Johnson in this spot is nothing new as he simply produces year in and year out – holding down a position among the Top-5 inside linebackers for four straight years now. However the newcomer Trevathan, in his first year as a starter, turned in a solid effort as well. At season’s end, Johnson, the fifth Chief in this AFC West front-seven, found himself ranked third overall at his position (in behind the San Francisco pair) and first in coverage grade. Trevathan’s 963 snaps saw him grade out positively in every facet while putting up a Pass Rushing Productivity score in the Top 10 and the second-best Run Stop Percentage among 4-3 OLBs.
Cornerbacks: Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie (DEN), Chris Harris (DEN)
The Bronco tandem of Harris Jr. (a second-team PFF All-Pro) and DRC each took home Top-10 overall grades as they held opposing QBs to sub-70 passer ratings (67.8 against Rodgers-Cromartie and 64.9 against Harris). They each picked off three passes and DRC’s 10 PDs edged his running mate by one. While the league’s most generous corners approached or surpassed 1,000 yards allowed as individuals, they combined to just barely eclipse that figure despite facing opponents desperate to keep up with the Denver offense.
Free Safety: Eric Weddle (SD)
Another staple of this team, Weddle couldn’t quite match his 2012 season where he finished as our top-rated safety overall, but he still managed to secure his fifth straight season in the Top 10. His 103 total tackles tied for fourth among safeties and he even flashed some skill as a blitzer, generating 11 total pressures on 50 pass rush attempts.
Strong Safety: Eric Berry (KC)
Targeted more often than any other safety, 18 others gave up more passing yards and only two finished with better coverage grades than Berry’s +12.5. Add in his 37 defensive stops (second to TJ Ward’s 45) and 17 QB disruptions (best among safeties) and you have a picture of the all-around play that got him a starting spot on our All-Pro team.
Kicker: Matt Prater (DEN)
Prater topped our kicker grades by put a league-leading 81 kickoffs in for touchbacks and hitting on over 96% of his field goal tries.
Punter: Mike Scifres (SD)
On 56 punts, Scifres dropped 32 inside the 20 while sending only one in for a touchback; an impressive ratio.
Returner: Quintin Demps (KC)
Our second team All-Pro returner, Demps averaged over 30 yards on 33 returns.
Special Teamer: Akeem Jordan (KC)
Graded as a Top-15 special teamer on both kickoffs and punts, Jordan edged out Denver’s David Bruton for this spot.
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