C.J. Anderson AFC West
Who is ready to breakout in 2017 from the AFC West? (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

Guys, we’re finally here. This is bigger than the time LeBron announced he was going to Miami, well to me anyways. We’re looking at division eight of eight today! It’s been a fun ride, and I have just enough gas in the tank to get us to the end. Let’s check out the AFC West.

AFC WEST

DENVER BRONCOS

C.J. Anderson AFC West
C.J. Anderson is my breakout candidate for the Denver Broncos. (Chris Humphreys / USA TODAY Sports)

Player — RB C.J. Anderson, 5th season, age 26

If you look at Anderson’s numbers over his career, you may question why I’m picking him to be a breakout player. I’m choosing him because it’s now or never for Anderson. If he wants to stay in Denver, this year HAS to be his year. I think it will be.

Anderson is coming off a disappointing season after suffering a torn meniscus in late October that sat him on the sideline for the rest of the season.

Why should we expect a breakout year from Anderson in ’17? Because NFL Insider Benjamin Allbright thinks his team is giving up on him.

“C.J. has kind of fallen out of favor here with these coaches. This will be his last year here either way. Showing up overweight, his work ethic maybe not where it should be.”

That report came out today. That may lead you to think, “Dustin, that means Anderson is going to lose his starting role and get dumped to free agency after next season!”

You may be right, but don’t you think Anderson will give it his all in a year where everyone is doubting him? Of course you do.

Anderson has yet to play a full 16 game season in his career. If he can stay healthy this year, anything can happen. In ’14, he posted 849 yards rushing with eight touchdowns in 15 games. Those are solid numbers.

He’s participated in road cycling with RBs coach Eric Studesville and hired a personal chef this offseason to try to lower his body fat percentage. He’s trying not to be “overweight” okay give him a chance.

Hopefully, Anderson can reach his goal this year.

“The goal is this year to play consistently well for 16 games. Or 16-plus.”

Believe what you want, but Anderson’s career is essentially on the line in ’17 and I think he will perform at a high level to stay in Denver.

Every athlete loves proving doubters wrong.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Chris Jones AFC West
Chris Jones is my breakout candidate for the Kansas City Chiefs. (Scott Winters / Icon Sportswire)

Player — DE Chris Jones, second season, age 23

This is an exciting pick. It’s okay if you don’t know who Chris Jones is, I don’t blame you. But once you read these stats, you’ll want to watch for him in ’17.

Drafted at #37 by the Chiefs in the ’16 NFL Draft, Jones seemed to perform at a higher level than those taken before him.

Along with that, PFF had Jones the fifth-highest pass-rushing productivity mark among interior players last year. He had 42 pressures on 368 pass-rushing snaps.

Pretty impressive for a guy that only played in 51.3 percent of the snaps last season. Good news, that number is going to shoot up in ’17.

The Chiefs saw their defensive line lose Dontari Poe and Jaye Howard to NFC teams, making room for Jones to take over.

Veteran teammate Bennie Logan sees greatness in Jones.

“I always tell him every day, ‘You really don’t understand how scary you can be.’ Chris being a young guy and everything, he’s got a chance to be something special. I stay on him to push him to peak. He’s a guy who can really establish himself as being a dominant defensive tackle and end in this league if he continues to work hard.”

Expect big things from Jones in his sophomore season. If things don’t work out, he can always try the QB position.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS 

Jason Verrett AFC West
Jason Verrett is my breakout candidate for the Los Angeles Chargers. (Jake Roth / USA TODAY Sports)

Player — CB Jason Verrett, 4th season, age 26

Quarterbacks are going to have a hard time getting passes to their wide receivers when playing the Chargers next season.

After a breakout year from CB Casey Hayward, Verrett’s return to the field becomes a whole lot more interesting.

Verrett entered his third season with high hopes. PFF jumped on the Verrett hype train and said he could’ve been the best CB of 2016. But of course, injuries got in the way.

Verrett suffered a partially torn ACL in October. He only appeared in four games, posting 11 tackles and one interception. But it’s okay, there’s always next year!!

For 2017, he’s expected to join Hayward, forming one of the deadliest CB duos in the league. Why do I think this? Because his numbers don’t lie.

Verrett also posted a coverage grade of 90.5 in his ’15 season, finishing second among all cornerbacks that year. The guy has been elite when on the field.

If Verrett can stay healthy and play in all 16 games for the first time in his career, expect more big time plays like this one.

He doesn’t even look that fast…..

OAKLAND RAIDERS 

Mario Edwards Jr. AFC West
Mario Edwards Jr. is my breakout candidate for the Oakland Raiders. (Brian Bahr / Getty Images)

Player — DE Mario Edwards Jr., 3rd season, age 23

Like many of my other breakout selections, Edwards has battled injuries over his short career. He had a solid rookie campaign, posting 33 total tackles with two sacks. In year two, he suffered a hip injury in the preseason that forced him to sit out 14 games.

Finally healthy, Edwards seems ready to have a big year in ’17.

“I’m ready to be a dominant player and pick up where I left off before I got hurt.”

Why will Edwards be more dangerous this year? Because he’s working on his pass rushing game.

“I’m really just trying to get more pass rush, get off the ball and penetrate, things of those nature. I think I play the run pretty good, but just focusing on the other side with pass rush.”

His run play? Yeah, I’d say it’s “pretty good”.

Why else should you expect a big year from Edwards? Because Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio is expecting one. Coaches know best, right?

“He loves the game. Mario loves to play football. For him to be healthy right now and be with his buddies, his teammates, I think is huge for him. We missed him last year. He’s an impactful player. He’s getting himself ready to have a really big year for us.”

Entering ’17 healthy, this Mario won’t need a Luigi to post career-high numbers.

Yeah, I cringed at that Luigi reference too.

LAST STOP

Thank you so much to everyone that saw this through to the end.

Can’t wait to go 32/32 on my picks this year!

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