There isn’t a lot to celebrate as far as nose tackles go in the division. Each has glaring areas of concern with each spot simply showing less potential to outplay their position in this ranking.
1. Chargers — Brandon Mebane
Mebane led one of the best run defenses in the league. At least he did for the first ten games before being lost to a torn biceps. The Chargers’ had a top ten run defense, holding opponents to 3.8 yards per carry average (6th) and 97.9 yards per game (10th). Mebane himself had good numbers, with 21 combined tackles and leading all division nose tackles with 17 solo tackles despite just 10 games. Of those tackles, four were for a loss.
The only thing keeping him from being an enthusiastic top choice is the fact that he just turned 32 and has seen his last three NFL seasons cut short by injury. A groin injury cost him a game in 2015 and a hamstring injury cost him the final 7 games of the 2014 season and the Seahawks run to the Super Bowl. The year before that, he didn’t miss a game, putting up 45 combined tackles, and collecting a Super Bowl ring.
2. Chiefs -- Bennie Logan
Gone is two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle, Dontari Poe. He left as a free agent, signing with the Falcons, so the Chiefs opted for former Eagles nose tackle, Bennie Logan. The 6-2, 309-pounder was the man in the middle for a middling Eagles run defense. His numbers were respectable with 24 tackles (16 solo), 2.5 sacks and 5 tackles for loss. No other nose tackle in the AFC West last season had more sacks and tackles for loss than Logan. And at 27, his best football may be ahead of him.
3. Broncos — Domata Peko
No other defensive tackle in this group had more combined tackles than Peko’s 37 last season. Of those, 17 were solo tackles, which is right on par with all the others in the division. The Bengals defense was 21st in yards rushing per game allowed (113.2) and Peko himself didn’t get a single sack. Last season was the worst statistical season of his career. He is unlikely to be poised for a bounce back year as he will turn 33 in November.
4. Raiders — Justin Ellis
As far as AFC West starters go, Ellis had the fewest combined tackles (21), fewest solo tackles (15), and fewest tackles for loss (1) on the worst run defense (25th in yards per carry, 23rd in yards per game). He rotated in and out of the lineup last season as the Raiders were seeking desperately to find a the right combination to stop the bleeding in the run defense. Hard to tell if they feel as if they’ve found that remedy.