When it comes to highlighting top NFL talent, league-wide evaluations are the norm -- meaning some of the better players in each division are often overlooked. With his divisional all-star series, Dave Dameshek is taking a deeper dive into the NFL's elite, putting together the best squad possible from each division -- concluding with the All-AFC West Team below.
For additional analysis on this topic -- and a whole lot more -- listen to The Dave Dameshek Football Program.
The future Hall of Famer means as much to his team's offense as any non-QB in the league; he's even more important than his quarterback, the underrated Alex Smith.
For all the historic production that Peyton and Co. have managed over the last few years, having a healthy Thomas man the No. 1 receiver spot is now all that stands between Denver's offense and mediocrity in 2015.
He's unlikely to produce like he did as part of the Chip Machine in 2014 (85 receptions, 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns with the Eagles), but Maclin was no slouch in his first go-around with Andy Reid in Philly, highlighted by a 70-catch, 964-yard, 10-touchdown campaign in 2010. I even feel optimistic enough to predict he'll catch a touchdown pass as a Chiefs receiver!
The potential the Steelers saw in Sanders during his time in Pittsburgh didn't fully blossom until the former SMU burner joined The Sheriff in Denver. Of course, as good as he was in 2014 -- 101 catches for 1,404 yards and nine scores -- I couldn't see the 5-foot-11 Sanders carrying the load by himself for the Broncos.
The bad news is, the 35-year-old veteran is on the downside of his career. The good news is, people were saying he was finished three years ago ... two years before he caught a team-high 12 touchdown passes.
He's gone from being a part-timer in Philly to being one of the best O-linemen in San Diego. The financially secure tackle (Dunlap landed a new deal this offseason for four years and $28 million) can help make rookie back Melvin Gordon a star from Day 1.
The former Raven and Saint will be counted upon to steady an otherwise questionable gang of linemen in K.C.
The former 'Nole and Chief is now a rich Raider; in fact, he's now one of the richest centers in the whole NFL.
With Ryan Clady already out for the year with a torn ACL and Orlando Franklin playing for the enemy in San Diego, Vasquez is now the only proven above-average talent tasked with protecting No. 18.
There's always been talk about Fluker being better suited to play guard (though he's never played there, even in college), but the 24-year-old is rounding into shape at tackle.
He's found a second life since trading the star on his hat for a horse. Soon enough, he'll get a gold jacket.
One of the best run stuffers in the biz, Poe separates himself from his peers by also providing the much coveted "inside pressure" no opposing human quarterback likes to deal with.
Like Ware, Ingram probably isn't best suited to be up front with a hand on the ground in the 3-4 we're building here, but since our All-AFC West Team doesn't have any actual games upcoming, we'll take the explosive South Carolina product, whose rise to stardom has so far been slowed by injury.
He's more than just an essential piece of the Chiefs' defense and one of the game's most dominant pass rushers -- his 22 sacks (!) last season forever make him the answer to this trivia question: In J.J. Watt's all-time great 2014 season, who won the sack crown? For reals, though, K.C.: What's the hold-up on a new deal?
It's remarkable that the Chiefs' defense finished second in points allowed (17.6 per game) last season with Johnson and defensive end Mike DeVito missing all but one game and safety Eric Berry missing 10. With Johnson and DeVito back and ready to go for 2015, look out.
Like his pal Danny Trevathan, Marshall will be crucial to the success of new Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' star-laden defense.
Remember how good he was supposed to be coming out of A&M in 2011? He's been even better. In his three healthy/suspension-free seasons, he's averaged 15 sacks. Side note: Take a look at the first 11 picks of the 2011 NFL Draft:
Leaving aside the two quarterback bombs, how 'bout that group? Six future Hall of Famers there? I'll take the over. Oh, and don't be angry at me, Khalil Mack; it's not me blocking you from being on this list, it's Miller and Houston.
Harris might need to hire a publicist who specializes in promoting shutdown corners, because his work on the field stacks up with those higher-profile guys Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis.
Last offseason, when the regime in K.C. decided it had no more use for the former Pro Bowler, Flowers decided to go to San Diego. Having re-upped for another four years, he can continue to haunt the Chiefs twice a season. Killer move.
The NFL's reigning best beard looks destined to hit the open market after 2015. In the meantime, his presence is essential to any plans the Chargers may have for taking a division title.
He's the highly paid hammer of John Elway's all-star unit. My concerns about the Denver offense are moot if the Broncos' defense reaches its potential.
He's making the jump to wide receiver in hopes of taking further advantage of the electricity he showed on special teams last year.
His 40.5 net punting average was tops in the division last year.