We are analyzing the four teams in the AFC West on a position-by-position basis. We used about a half-dozen sources for our evaluation, relying on pro personnel scouts around the league who get paid to evaluate NFL players. As we go along through positions, we’ll keep a scoreboard and find out which of the four teams has the most talented roster (on paper); in this case it will be the team with the fewest points. Points match where they are listed; example, the No. 3 spot means 3 points.
AFC WEST 2012 SCOREBOARD (thru FB) β Chargers 33, Chiefs 35, Raiders 40, Broncos 42.
1. Marcel Reece, Oakland
6-3, 240 pounds, born 6/23/1985, 5th NFL season, signed as UDFA ’08 by Miami, signed as FA ’08 by Raiders, in 30 games he’s run for 234 yards on 47 carries, catching 54 passes for 654 yards and a total of 6 TDs, in the ’11 season he had 654 offensive yards on 54 TDs with 5 scores.
Reece has been most effective for the Raiders as a blocker and a receiver, catching 5 TD passes in his time with the Raiders. Like most of the Raiders, he’s had some injury problems over the years and his availability has been in question; he missed 4 games last season. He was tendered in the off-season as an ERFA and missed mini-camp and most of the Raiders OTA sessions. Coaches say they want to get him even more involved in the team’s passing attack this season.
2. Le’Ron McClain, San Diego
6-0, 260 pounds, born 12/27/1984, 6th NFL season, drafted 4th-round ’07 by Baltimore, signed as FA ’11 by Chiefs, signed as UFA ’12 by Chargers, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, he played in 79 games, with 1,236 rushing yards and 535 receiving yards and a total of 16 TDs, with the Chiefs in the ’11 season he had 29 touches for 133 yards and 2 TDs.
McClain was a disappointment last season in the Chiefs offense, and the question was were his limited touches due to coaching decisions, or because he couldn’t bring the type of play the offensive staff wanted. With just 29 touches he wasn’t used often enough to make a difference in any one game. McClain showed up for training camp out of shape and appeared to be overweight most of the season. If he can return to his Pro Bowl form, he’ll be a nice addition for RB Ryan Mathews and the run game.
3. Austin Sylvester, Denver
6-1, 248 pounds, born 4/15/1988, 1st NFL season, UDFA ’11 by Denver; did not play last season, spent most of the season on the Broncos practice squad.
Sylvester is the only fullback on the Broncos roster after last year’s starter Spencer Larsen signed as a UFA with New England. Sylvester did not play in a regular season game last season, bouncing back and forth between the active roster and practice squad. He went undrafted out of the University of Washington.
4. Shane Bannon, Chiefs
6-3, 250 pounds, born 4/20/1989, 1st NFL season, 7th-round choice ’11 by Chiefs, spent ’11 on practice squad and injured reserve.
Bannon is one of two fullbacks on the Chiefs roster heading into training camp. The other is UDFA Taylor Gentry out of North Carolina State. Bannon did not display much in the ’11 pre-season and will have to provide special teams play.