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Building the Roster: AFC West

In a new series this week, National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney has broken down the roster of every NFL team in terms of star ratings for players in high school, which conferences have the most players on each team and which states those players come from as well. Below is a breakdown of the AFC West as National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell offers his thoughts and memories on each roster.

MORE: AFC East breakdown | AFC North | AFC South

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State

CLASS OF 2021 RANKINGS: Rivals100 | Position | Team | State



Emmanuel Sanders
Emmanuel Sanders (AP Images)

Denver has no former five-star prospects on the roster, but the Broncos are loaded with 14 four-star recruits. All of Denver’s running backs hail from the Pac-12 with Oregon’s Royce Freeman, Colorado’s Phillip Lindsay and Utah’s Devontae Booker.

SMU does not produce an abundant amount of NFL players but Denver has tapped that program for two of its best receivers in Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton. Sanders was a two-star prospect out of high school and Sutton was a three. There are six players from ACC schools with a focus on Boston College and Florida State, which each have two former players on the roster.

The Broncos are another team that has proven they will go anywhere to get any player - and that Power Five conferences are just one consideration. Denver has players from McNeese State (Diontae Spencer), Chattanooga (Corey Levin), Illinois State (Shelby Harris and DaVontae Harris), Sacramento State (Todd Davis), Pittsburg State (De’Vante Bausby) and other small locales.

Farrell’s take: No former five-stars? That's crazy. This isn't a star-studded lineup by any means, but you'd think there would be one at least. The Broncos don't have many marquee players, but guys like Freeman were big-time talents in high school and went on to great college careers. Joe Flacco is interesting because he was a three-star out of high school and ended up transferring from Pitt to Delaware.


Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes (AP Images)

If one team based on star rankings is poised for a run to the Super Bowl it could definitely be the Chiefs as six five-stars are on the roster in receivers Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins and De’Anthony Thomas, defensive linemen Alex Okafor and Chris Jones and defensive back Kendall Fuller.

There are also 14 four-stars including receiver Tyreek Hill and a host of defensive players like defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and then under-ranked quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce, who was a two-star athlete coming out of high school.

The offensive line is also interesting as only one four-star - Martinas Rankin - is on the team along with two unranked players coming out of high school including Eric Fisher. There is a good spread between the Power Five conferences with a lot of players coming from the power programs in those leagues.

Farrell’s take: The Chiefs clearly took our recruiting rankings into consideration when drafting or on the free agent market, right? But seriously, this is a lot of five-stars and many of them are big-time contributors like Watkins, Okafor, Jones and Fuller.

Mahomes is, of course, the focal point of the team and was a three-star "system" quarterback coming out of high school, or so I thought. I've been as wrong about him as I've been about anyone in my career. The Chiefs have a ton of highly-ranked guys on the roster but also have guys like Kelce, who was a shadow of the player he is now in high school. But this is a loaded roster and they will win a Super Bowl.


Joey Bosa
Joey Bosa (AP Images)

Two of the best players on the Chargers’ roster are quarterback Philip Rivers and linebacker Thomas Davis, but neither player has a profile as Rivals did not exist when they were in high school. There are two five-stars, though, in backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Keenan Allen, a star receiver for the Chargers who was ranked as a defensive back in high school.

If rankings are a good indication of success, then the Chargers should have an excellent defensive line for years to come as there are five four-stars on the roster in Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Isaac Rochell, Justin Jones and Jerry Tillery. Bosa should have easily been a five-star coming out of high school.

And Los Angeles also seems to like high school players from Florida (9) and Georgia (7) as 16 of them are on the roster. ACC programs lead the way with 10 players on the Chargers with three from Miami - receiver Travis Benjamin, linebacker Denzel Perryman and defensive back Rayshawn Jenkins.

Farrell’s take: Allen was super interesting in high school because we had him ranked as a five-star safety and he was a better defensive player than wide receiver back then. Melvin Gordon is also interesting because the first time I saw him I thought he should be a linebacker rather than a running back because he was so upright. Luckily he proved to us he was a legit running back after that first impression and was a four-star.

Bosa should have been a five-star. I won't get into that much further.


Derek Carr
Derek Carr (AP Images)

Non-Power Five schools dominate the Oakland roster as 20 players on the team played at those programs including quarterback Derek Carr at Fresno State, receiver Keelan Doss at UC-Davis and many others. There are guys from not only non-Power Five programs but tiny programs like Western Oregon, Beloit, Mars Hill, North Carolina A&T, Greenville and California (Pa.).

Oakland’s offensive line is also largely made up of former three-star prospects like Trent Brown and Gabe Jackson and in total seven offensive linemen had that ranking. The four-star offensive linemen on the roster are Kolton Miller and Andre James from UCLA and David Sharpe from Florida.

There are three five-stars on the Raiders in running back Isaiah Crowell, suspended linebacker Vontaze Burfict and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner. There are also three players from Clemson in receiver Hunter Renfrow, defensive back Clelin Ferrell and defensive back Trayvon Mullen, who all joined the team this season.

Farrell’s take: This is another roster loaded with non-stars out of high school, but some of the players they have drafted over the years, like Khalil Mack, have been a stroke of genius. Now trading him on the other hand was foolish. Ferrell is a future star and was a four-star coming out of high school who I thought might be a bit soft. He proved me wrong.