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AFC West Positional Rankings: Chiefs top division with diverse stable of RBs

Despite Austin Ekeler’s 18 TDs in 2022, the group behind him offered little to no production all year long.

NFL: Super Bowl LVII-Kansas City Chiefs vs Philadelphia Eagles Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Training camp is right around the corner and soon enough we’ll be taking in the three-game exhibition slate of the preseason next month.

Ahead of the stampede to the regular season that commences with the start of training camp, let’s take a look at some of the position groups within the divisions and have some fun ranking them along the way.

Fist up, the running backs. Here’s all four teams ranked from the basement to the penthouse. Let’s dive right it.

4.) Broncos: Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine, Tony Jones Jr., Tyler Badie

2022 cumulative statistics: 622 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, 60 receptions, 417 receiving yards, five receiving touchdowns

I think the entire league knows that when Williams is healthy, he’s one of the best young backs in the NFL. However, is there a chance we get robbed of actually seeing his come to fruition is injuries continue to linger. This offseason, the Broncos added Perine from the Bengals who is coming off a career year as a receiver (287 yards, four TDs) and his second-most rushing yards in a season (394). If both him and Williams can stay healthy together, they have a chance to be the best tandem in the division, but for now, they sit at the bottom backed up by a pair of young players with little to no experience.

3.) Chargers: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Larry Rountree

2022 cumulative statistics: 1,423 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns, 126 receptions, 850 receiving yards, five receiving touchdowns

It hurts to put the Chargers this low on any type of rankings list, but they unfortunately deserve this placement based on lack of depth behind Austin Ekeler and a lack of proactiveness to make some changes. The team spent a day-three pick on a running back in three-straight drafts starting in 2020 with Joshua Kelley. Kelley finally showed a semblance of progression in year three but the team still has high hopes of 2022 fourth-rounder Isaiah Spiller. Overall, all three players behind Ekeler are unproven and 2023 could be a big year for all three of them, especially if it ends up being the final season Ekeler wears the powder blue. If that’s the case, someone will have to step up or the Chargers might head right back to the draft to find their next head ball carrier.

2.) Raiders: Josh Jacobs, Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden

2022 cumulative statistics: 1,803 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, 87 receptions, 668 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown

Jacobs became the first Raider to lead the league in rushing since Marcus Allen in the mid-1980s. Unfortunately, the group did not produce much outside of him in 2022. In fact, no other rusher topped 100 yards for the season. However, the hype is still there for Zamir White to turn into a decent complement to Jacobs going forward. This group would be much lower if Jacobs didn’t have his best year to date, but leading the league in rushing on a not-so-good team should be given it’s due respect. Essentially, Jacobs’ 2022 season is worth Ekeler and Kelley’s 2022 seasons combined and then it’s a wash from there.

1.) Chiefs: Isiah Pacheco, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerick McKinnon, La’Mical Perine

2022 cumulative stats: 1,423 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns, 86 receptions, 793 receiving yards, 12 receiving touchdowns

It hurt to put the Chargers in third place and it certainly hurts to put the Chiefs in the number one spot, but this is just reality to me. They deploy three backs that all can find success on the ground and through the air. What makes it more impressive is that their leading rusher from a season ago was a rookie who was selected in the seventh round. The fact that — despite recently using a high-draft pick on Clyde Edwards-Helaire just two seasons ago — the Chiefs went and found an even more promising player at the position so much lower in the draft, will never not be crazy to me.

Overall, the Chiefs are the best at scheming their players open and putting them in the best positions to succeed and that becomes a whole lot easier when you’ve got the skillsets of these top three backs at your disposable.