AFC West power rankings: Broncos, Chargers climbing after 2024 NFL Draft

Is anyone even coming close to the Chiefs in the AFC West in 2024?
AFC West, Chargers, Broncos
AFC West, Chargers, Broncos / Kevin Winter/GettyImages

It might be an arm's race in the AFC West...but for second place. The Kansas City Chiefs are the reigning division champions since the Broncos won Super Bowl 50, and their stretch of dominance doesn't appear to be fizzling anytime soon.

After what we've seen this offseason, is anyone else coming close in the AFC West this year? It feels like every other team besides Kansas City is simply scaling a mountain, and they're not even a quarter of the way up yet. Let's do our best to rank each team in this division and highlight some of the important moves each franchise has made this offseason that could have them inching closer to Kansas City.

AFC West Power Rankings: Raiders dropping to last place?

4. Las Vegas Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders were a fascinating mixed bag last season, firing head coach Josh McDaniels and replacing him with former NFL linebacker Antonio Pierce as the team's interim head coach. Pierce and the Raiders were a tough out for almost everyone they played throughout the course of the season, and they wound up finishing in second place in the AFC West.

That wasn't exactly decided in a landslide, however.

The Raiders were 8-9 last year (as were the Broncos) and they bought into Antonio Pierce and what he brought to the table as the head coach of the team. Tom Telesco was hired as GM, Pierce was brought back on a full-time basis as the head coach (after some online blackmailing from Raiders players...), but the Raiders failed to land a quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft.

How big will that factor for this team in 2024? The Raiders had some extra juice last year after letting go of Josh McDaniels, but they no longer have the benefit of that in-season push to prove people wrong. This team has gotten better in some areas, but they are relying heavily on player development (a good thing) and Gardner Minshew (maybe not a good thing).

3. Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers were 5-12 last season, the worst record in the division, but I don't know that you can really base what this team is going to be this coming season on what we saw last year.

The Chargers hired Jim Harbaugh as their head coach in 2024, a move that could be worth at least 2-3 wins in itself. They had to move on from some big contracts, specifically receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, but they're also changing the identity of this team to be much more based in running the football. Adding Joe Alt in the NFL Draft gives Jim Harbaugh an enviable duo of bookend tackles, and it's not hard to see the Chargers being much better defensively if they can just stay healthy.

What kind of magic can Jim Harbaugh work with Justin Herbert? Harbaugh's philosophy of running the ball and playing elite defense has often benefitted his quarterback greatly, and Herbert could take a massive step forward if Harbaugh is able to right the ship in those other areas, even without his two top targets at receiver.

2. Denver Broncos

The Chargers may have more pieces on their roster right now than the Broncos do, but the Broncos also won eight games last year and haven't gotten worse in many areas in 2024.

Sean Payton seems to be getting devalued way too much by the media these days, which is odd, because before he got to Denver and benched Russell Wilson late last year (the right move), Payton was revered by almost everyone, and folks were eager to see him back in the league.

Payton took the Broncos from a 5-12 joke of a team in 2022 to an 8-9 team that beat the likes of Kansas City, Buffalo, and Cleveland last year. The Broncos added Bo Nix in the 2024 NFL draft, and while people are clowning them for that, Nix could be a really great fit for Sean Payton's offense.

Russell Wilson was really good last year in some clutch moments for the Broncos, but most of the year, the Denver offense took way too many sacks (not the fault of the offensive line), couldn't pass the ball consistently, and had poor balance in the run game as a result. The Denver defense started off last year historically bad and then went on a nine-game stretch of flat-out dominance.

There are some wild card elements to this team, but Sean Payton has this program trending in the right direction.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are the elite among the elite. They are the modern-day New England Patriots in terms of their consistency, roster carryover, dominance, and elite brain trust.

The Chiefs draft well, they are built well, they know when to let guys go, and they know when to bring guys in. After re-signing Chris Jones in the offseason, Kansas City has solidified one major question area.

With Patrick Mahomes on the roster, how much does this team even really have to worry about? Nobody is even talking about the team's loss of L'Jarius Sneed, who was traded to the Titans. Other AFC West teams are perhaps hoping that can be an area of breakthrough, but you're still going to have to get lucky to get to the 4th quarter of games against Kansas City with the score even close, and then when that happens, you're going to have to hope to outlast Mahomes.