Change is constant in the NFL and that rule is especially true in the AFC West for 2014. The Denver Broncos won their third division title in a row, but a poor performance in the playoffs brings a surprising major overhaul for the coaching staff. Overcoming their early-season struggles with injuries to be a playoff threat, the Chiefs were ultimately at home in the postseason while the San Diego Chargers may have been the league's hottest team at one point, but couldn't keep the momentum going. The Raiders endured yet another coaching change in 2014, but the good news is that their rookies showed signs of being reliable factors.
Each of them, though, saw players post seasons to boast about. Our division-by-division tour of the standouts at each position continues here with the AFC West's best.
Quarterback: Philip Rivers (SD)
Despite taking snaps from five different centers, this was the seventh year Rivers finished with a PFF QB Accuracy Rate of over 74%. He also had the highest NFL QB rating on play action passes.
Running Back: C.J. Anderson (DEN)
His emergence in the second half of the season was a pleasant surprise in a seemingly pass-happy league. Since Week 10, he played the most snaps and earned highest grade for running backs.
Fullback: Anthony Sherman (KC)
Sherman finished as the best run-blocking fullback for 2014. His five missed tackles forced on receptions (albeit on only 10 catches), was also best for fullbacks.
Wide Receivers: Demaryius Thomas (DEN) and Malcom Floyd (SD)
One of only nine receivers with double-digit touchdown receptions on the year, Thomas had the second-best Yards Per Route Run (YPRR). Floyd doesn’t have the numbers that Thomas might have, but was the Chargers' deep threat all year. Floyd had the third-highest target rate on deep passes.
Slot Wide Receiver: Emmanuel Sanders (DEN)
Sanders had the highest catch rate and second-highest YPRR for slot receivers.
Tight End: Travis Kelce (KC)
After Rob Gronkowski, Kelce had the second-highest YPRR for TEs. Also had a 0.0 Drop Rate when lining in the slot on 30 targets.
Tackles: Donald Penn (OAK) and Ryan Harris (KC)
Penn did a solid job protecting Carr all year, finishing fifth in pass block grading for LTs. Harris had a volatile year but to his credit he almost always bounced back with a green grade after bad games.
Guards: Orlando Franklin (DEN) and Louis Vasquez (DEN)
Franklin played the second-most snaps for left guards this year yet he only allowed eight QB hurries. Vasquez only played eight games at right guard before moving to right tackle in the second half of the season. Considering he split time, his combined 13 hurries are quite impressive.
Center: Rodney Hudson (KC)
Hudson ended the year with the third-highest grade for centers and second-best Pass Blocking Efficiency allowing only 11 pressures.
Edge Defenders: Justin Houston (KC) and Von Miller (DEN)
The runner up to our Defensive Player of the Year award, Houston blew away his fellow 3-4 outside linebackers, nearly doubling the overall grade of Pernell McPhee. Accolades include leading in in QB hurries (85), stops (50), and the second best Pass Rush Productivity (PRP). Miller more than quadrupled the next 4-3 outside linebacker pass rushing grade, producing 71 total QB pressures.
Defensive Interior: Malik Jackson (DEN) and Terrance Knighton (DEN)
Jackson finished third in run and overall grading for 4-3 defensive ends. He also had the best Stop Rate, making 21 on only 149 run snaps. Knighton did not have eye-popping stats but was consistently productive week in and week out.
Defensive Interior – Nose: Dontari Poe (KC)
The ironman of the defensive interior, Poe played 90 more snaps than the next interior lineman. His 31 defensive stops were fifth-best.
Linebackers: Brandon Marshall (DEN) and Khalil Mack (OAK)
While his teammate Miller was the pass-rush specialist, Marshall found success dropping into coverage. He and Thomas Davis tied for the best coverage grade for 4-3 linebackers. Mack showed that not only can he rush the QB but he can also defend the run, making the third-most run stops this year.
Cornerbacks: Sean Smith (KC) and Brandon Flowers (SD)
Smith finished with third-highest coverage grade for corners. Of corners who played 1,000 snaps, he’s the only one who wasn’t called for a penalty. Flowers was an above-average corner and did his best work in the slot, ranking second in Coverage Snaps Per Reception.
Slot Cornerback: Chris Harris (DEN)
Harris ended the year with the best coverage grade and third-best NFL QB rating when targeted. When playing as the slot corner, he allowed a microscopic 0.57 Yards Per Coverage Snap (second-best).
Safeties: T.J. Ward (DEN) and Eric Weddle (SD)
Eric Weddle led the way for all safeties with the best coverage grade. He was also solid against the run, grading fifth. Ward was more of an in-the-box safety, earning the second-best pass rush grade and PRP for safeties.
Kicker: Sebastian Janikowski (OAK)
Janikowski finished sixth in overall grading among double-duty kickers (kickoffs and field goals)
Punter: Dustin Colquitt (KC)
Colquitt finished with the best AFC West punter grade as well as the best net yards for a punter in 2014.
Returner: De’Anthony Thomas (KC)
Overall, he graded as the fourth-best returner on the year. Of returners that played at least 10 games, Thomas ranked in the Top 4 in both kickoff and punt return yardage gained.
Special Teamer: Josh Martin (KC)
Only played 52 defensive snaps but finished with the best overall grade for special teamers. He also led kickoff coverage grading.