by Rob Weintraub
Nearly forty percent of every team's schedule is made up of division games. Every coach and player talks about the importance of winning games against division foes. Schemes and personnel are very often tailored to matching up with division opponents. Yet when it comes to naming the best players at season's end, we never classify them by division. Where are the All-Division teams? This has always mystified me. Colleges name All-Conference teams, why not do likewise for the professional ranks?
Well rest easy, I've done it for you, this time with the AFC West. Naturally, this being Football Outsiders, our stats are used to justify selections whenever necessary.
QB: Patrick Mahomes, KC
Patty Ice finished with a 40.1% DVOA, 15th-best rating for any quarterback since 1989, displacing Matty Ice's MVP season from two years ago. Needless to say, it was the best debut season (he's not a rookie, remember) we've ever tracked. Kurt Warner in his magical 1999 put up a 36.1%, but his 1,586 DYAR paled in comparison to Mahomes' 2,039. Ben Roethlisberger had a 31.7% in his rookie campaign of 2004 as well, the only other passer within sniffing distance. Tough break for Philip Rivers, who was third in DYAR/DVOA but needed binoculars to find Mahomes.
RB: Phillip Lindsay, DEN
RB: Melvin Gordon, LAC
Kareem Hunt removed himself from consideration, opening the slots for two other guys with good years. Lindsay may not have been Priest Holmes in the annals of undrafted running backs, but his excellent season easily put him on the All-Div squad. Gordon finished fifth in DYAR despite his injuries.
No surprises here, and more evidence for why the Chiefs and Chargers were the best two teams in the AFC.
Once Ronald Leary tore his Achilles tendon, the guard spot was wide open. At least there was a quality center to replace Denver's Matt Paradis, who would have been a shoo-in for the All-Div before breaking his leg. Mitchell Schwartz was a mensch all season at tackle, and a big reason for the Chiefs' offensive success.
I used to call Ingram "The Octopus" when he was a do-it-all defender at South Carolina. Now he's more like "The Architeuthis." (That's a giant squid, people, turn off the football once in a while…)
Lots of mixing and matching of positions in the AFC West, which is why Bradley Chubb and his 12 sacks were "edged" off the team.
Harris only played a dozen games but was still good enough to crack the All-Div squad. Between rookies James and King, the Chargers are poised to establish the new "No-Fly Zone" in the AFC West, however.
Colquitt, of the punting Colquitts, had a strong season, but was aided by the fact that the other AFC West squads featured three of our bottom five punters. Butker scored 65 points on extra points, more than eight teams scored on field goals. Had he made all 69 he attempted, that number would have risen to 14. With San Diego's and Oakland's kicking carousels in the division, Butker didn't face much competition. The K.C. combo of Tyreek Hill (punt) and Tremon Smith (kick) were the better unit, but we prefer the double-duty men here at FO. Harris bests Desmond King of L.A. in that regard.