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AFC West projected starters for 2024 NFL season: Chiefs even BETTER? Chargers still a year away?

With the 2024 NFL Draft and most of free agency in the rearview, Gregg Rosenthal will project starting lineups for all 32 teams because that's his idea of fun. Check out the AFC West breakdowns below.

Table inside Article
QB Bo Nix Edge Nik Bonitto
RB Javonte Williams DE Zach Allen
WR Courtland Sutton DT D.J. Jones
WR Josh Reynolds DE John Franklin-Myers
WR Marvin Mims Jr. Edge Baron Browning
TE Greg Dulcich LB Alex Singleton
LT Garett Bolles CB Pat Surtain II
LG Ben Powers CB Levi Wallace
C Sam Mustipher CB Ja'Quan McMillian
RG Quinn Meinerz S Brandon Jones
RT Mike McGlinchey S Caden Sterns
  • Don't completely rule out Jarrett Stidham from earning the Week 1 start under center. Sean Payton gave him good money early in free agency last year and coached him up for a season. That said, the Broncos believe Bo Nix is more game-ready than the average rookie, seeing how the No. 12 overall pick made a whopping 61 starts in college. It's only a matter of time before he starts -- and yeah, he's the favorite for the opener.
  • The Broncos have enough different flavors in the backfield. Javonte Williams will be two years removed from ACL surgery in October, Samaje Perine is good on third downs, and Jaleel McLaughlin is an explosive big-play option. Also, keep an eye on fifth-rounder Audric Estimé, who could eventually challenge for the top spot.
  • When it comes to position battles in Denver, I give the tiebreaker to those whom Payton brought in. That's why free-agent pickup Josh Reynolds and rookie Troy Franklin are ones to watch at wideout. Hopefully veteran Tim Patrick can prove he's healthy again after missing two entire seasons due to injury.
  • Greg Dulcich will share the role at tight end with Adam Trautman -- if Dulcich can stay healthy.
  • The offensive line looks set except for center, which will miss Lloyd Cushenberry III. The group performed better than expected last season.
  • The strength of this roster is in the defensive front. That's a fun, talented, diverse starting group above -- with another quality edge available in Jonathan Cooper.
  • I only listed one inside linebacker. Cody Barton and converted edge Drew Sanders are options to play next to Alex Singleton.
  • The Broncos have one of the best cornerbacks in football in Pat Surtain II and one of the worst secondaries overall. They sound hopeful that Riley Moss, a third-round pick in 2023, can make an impact, but there are open snaps at cornerback and safety.
  • Denver fans were annoyed last year when I wrote about the lack of difference-making talent on this roster. Again, the Broncos don't have many position groups which profile as above average. Their best hope is for their line play and coaching to keep them around .500.
Table inside Article
QB Patrick Mahomes Edge George Karlaftis
RB Isiah Pacheco DT Chris Jones
WR Marquise Brown DT Derrick Nnadi
WR Xavier Worthy Edge Mike Danna
WR Rashee Rice LB Nick Bolton
TE Travis Kelce LB Drue Tranquill
LT Wanya Morris CB Trent McDuffie
LG Joe Thuney CB Jaylen Watson
C Creed Humphrey CB Joshua Williams
RG Trey Smith S Justin Reid
RT Jawaan Taylor S Bryan Cook
  • The biggest question on the back-to-back Super Bowl champions' roster is at left tackle, where last year's third-round pick (Wanya Morris) and this year's second-rounder (Kingsley Suamataia) will compete for the starting job, barring a veteran addition. The rest of the line is a strength, so Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City's coaches can work around one developmental spot.
  • Carson Wentz is Mahomes' backup. Just thought you should know.
  • It's a surprise the Chiefs re-signed Clyde Edwards-Helaire, although CEH closed out last season with some juice. I don't love the backfield depth overall. The team could still bring back free agent Jerick McKinnon.
  • First-round receiver Xavier Worthy's development is a huge plotline, especially with Rashee Rice's status uncertain in the midst of offseason legal troubles. Worthy is a more diverse route runner than he was given credit for in the pre-draft process. Like the 40-yard dash record holder, Marquise Brown also adds speed to the mix. If/when Rice gets on the field, this WR corps could be better than the groups with which Kansas City has won the last two Super Bowls.
  • The edge group is solid, but a veteran addition could still make sense. The Chiefs would love for last year's first-rounder, Felix Anudike-Uzomah, to begin making an impact. Charles Omenihu is coming off a torn ACL.
  • Drue Tranquill is getting upgraded to full-time starter status after a fantastic 2023, with Leo Chenal a third linebacker option who can spy speedy opposing quarterbacks.
  • I'm not that concerned about Kansas City trading L'Jarius Sneed. Steve Spagnuolo develops cornerbacks like no other, and the Chiefs have intriguing young depth behind this solid and experienced (for the players' ages) starting trio.
  • Kansas City's similarly deep, young and talented at safety. Defenses are inherently more inconsistent than offenses, but the Chiefs have the continuity to be a top-shelf unit again.
  • On paper, this K.C. team could be better than last season's edition. The challenges inherent in a three-peat attempt are bigger obstacles than roster construction.
Table inside Article
QB Gardner Minshew Edge Maxx Crosby
RB Zamir White DT Christian Wilkins
WR Davante Adams DT John Jenkins
WR Jakobi Meyers Edge Malcolm Koonce
TE Brock Bowers LB Robert Spillane
TE Michael Mayer LB Divine Deablo
LT Kolton Miller CB Jakorian Bennett
LG Andrus Peat CB Jack Jones
C Andre James CB Nate Hobbs
RG Jackson Powers-Johnson S Tre'von Moehrig
RT Thayer Munford Jr. S Marcus Epps
  • It was surprising to hear Antonio Pierce say second-year pro Aidan O'Connell will get the first snaps of the offseason at quarterback. O'Connell was promising as a fourth-round rookie (better than No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young!), but the money speaks louder here, no? The team gave Gardner Minshew $15 million fully guaranteed on a two-year deal.
  • Running back Zamir White was a huge offseason winner, as the Raiders let Josh Jacobs walk and didn't draft anyone high at the position. Alexander Mattison arrives from Minnesota as a likely backup.
  • The first-round selection of tight end Brock Bowers makes sense for a team that wants to run the ball a ton and play out of 12 personnel. Bowers and Michael Mayer complement each other well, with Mayer staying tighter to the formation.
  • The Bowers pick also takes a little pressure off WR3 Tre Tucker, who flashed potential as a rookie.
  • Andrus Peat played well at tackle last year for the Saints, so he adds some versatility to Las Vegas' offensive line. Second-round pick Jackson Powers-Johnson should start as a rookie and could play center. The Raiders' OL profiles as good enough.
  • Christian Wilkins will see fewer double teams playing next to Maxx Crosby and vice versa. Malcolm Koonce also came on strong last year, making this a nasty line -- especially if last year's top-10 pick, Tyree Wilson, produces after a poor rookie season.
  • Pierce loves him some Robert Spillane. Divine Deablo has improved. It makes sense that Pierce is good at coaching up his linebackers.
  • The back end of the defense is concerning. Not only do the Raiders lack a CB1, but CB2 is up for grabs. Jack Jones, who was claimed off waivers last November after being cut by the Patriots, figures to start. Brandon Facyson is another option to start. While the safety group is solid enough, this secondary is one reason not to assume Vegas' defensive improvements under Pierce will stick.
  • Love this defensive line, receiver group and Pierce's energy. Don't love much else. At least second place in the AFC West is up for grabs again.
Table inside Article
QB Justin Herbert Edge Joey Bosa
RB Gus Edwards DT Morgan Fox
WR Ladd McConkey DT Otito Ogbonnia
WR Josh Palmer Edge Khalil Mack
WR Quentin Johnston LB Denzel Perryman
TE Will Dissly LB Junior Colson
LT Rashawn Slater CB Asante Samuel Jr.
LG Zion Johnson CB Kristian Fulton
C Bradley Bozeman CB Ja'Sir Taylor
RG Jamaree Salyer S Derwin James
RT Joe Alt S Alohi Gilman
  • This figures to be a run-heavy offense, yet there isn't overwhelming talent at running back. The Chargers called Gus Edwards a "bell cow" upon his signing, so it's fair to expect J.K. Dobbins will be brought back slowly as he recovers from his second season-ending injury in three years. Dobbins has more upside. Sixth-rounder Kimani Vidal has the advantage of being a new-regime draft pick.
  • This can be one of the best offensive lines in football. That still feels strange to say about a Chargers group.
  • Forcing top-five pick Joe Alt to switch to the right side is a slight concern and something to monitor.
  • Second-round pick Ladd McConkey will get a lot of targets if he can stay on the field after struggling with injuries in 2023. McConkey and Josh Palmer profile as second or third options, and Quentin Johnston is coming off a rough rookie season. Some veteran insurance would make sense here.
  • The cheap free-agent signings of Will Dissly and Hayden Hurst represented a smart strategy to spackle over a trouble spot in the short term.
  • The Bolts' offense is remade, with at least five new starters. New coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Joe Hortiz stood pat more on defense once edge pillars Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack took pay cuts to stay. Edge is the strongest position on the roster, with future star Tuli Tuipulotu already an overqualified third rusher.
  • I like Morgan Fox. I also like Poona Ford as a free-agent flier, although he couldn't get on the field much for the Bills last season. This interior group could still be a weakness for a franchise that has struggled to hold up in run defense.
  • Third-round LB Junior Colson, who starred under Harbaugh at Michigan, has a great chance to start as a rookie at another relatively thin position for the Chargers.
  • Kristian Fulton was one of my favorite value signings in free agency because he's young, experienced and showed a high level of play earlier in his career. Still, this is not a cornerback group that will scare Patrick Mahomes.
  • Derwin James is better when he's asked to be a playmaker, rather than covering for teammates' shortcomings.
  • This roster is a year away from being a true title contender, especially on defense. But a great quarterback, offensive line and coaching staff is a strong foundation to build from.

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