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Ranking AFC West LBs: Does Divine Deablo crack the Top 5?

A not so strong position group for LV...

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders
Divine Deablo
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Finding a quality linebacker has been a painstaking problem for the Las Vegas Raiders over the last several years. They did pick up a Pro Bowler in Denzel Perryman a couple of seasons ago, but Perryman is now suiting up for the Houston Texans, paving the way for Divine Deablo in Las Vegas.

Still, the Raiders’ collection of backers is very weak heading into the fall even compared to the other teams in the AFC West who also lack depth in the position group.

1) Nick Bolton

Somewhat quietly, Nick Bolton has been a quality linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs ever since he was drafted two years ago. All he’s done is rack up 292 total tackles during those campaigns, including 180 in 2022 which was the second-most in the entire league. Bolton also was the second-highest-graded linebacker (75.7) in the division last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and collected 55 defensive stops. His coverage skills are still a work in progress but the 23-year-old is one of the best young linebackers in the NFL.

2) Drue Tranquill

Drue Tranquill won’t be playing for the Los Angeles Chargers anymore, but he is staying in the AFC West after signing a one-year deal with the Chiefs during free agency. He’s the opposite of his new running mate, as the Notre Dame product has posted the top PFF coverage grade among linebackers in the division in back-to-back seasons—74.6 and 76.7, respectively. He also racked up five sacks last year, adding another layer to his ability to impact the passing game. Injuries have hampered Tranquill’s development in the past as 2022 was the first time he played a full season. But if he can stay healthy, he’ll help form a dangerous linebacker corps in Kansas City.

3) Alex Singleton

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers
Alex Singleton
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

No one on this list has persevered through more adversity as a professional football player than Alex Singleton. In 2015, he signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent out of Montana State but failed to make the roster and was a practice squad guy before spending three years in the CFL. He was an All-Star and won a Grey Cup with the Calgary Stampeders and earned a spot with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018, where he struggled for two seasons.

This past year, Singleton played on a one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum with the Denver Broncos and enjoyed a breakout campaign, accumulating 163 total tackles and the highest PFF grade (79.1) among AFC West linebackers. Who knows how much of a future the 29-year-old has in the league, but Denver did reward him with a three-year, $12 million contract this offseason. Not bad for a guy whose NFL career was nearly over before it really started.

4) Eric Kendricks

There’s no doubt that Eric Kendricks’ prime is behind him as he’s posted back-to-back seasons with his lowest PFF grades since his rookie season. However, Kendricks still can be a force against the run. Last year, he tied for 10th among all linebackers with an 81.1 run defense grade while logging 24 defensive stops and eight tackles for loss. The Fresno native returned home (kind of) this offseason to play for the Chargers on a two-year, $13.25 million deal where he’ll likely serve as a two-down backer to close out his career.

5) Josey Jewell

Injuries have kept Josey Jewell from reaching his full potential after suffering three in the last two years, including a season-ending torn pec in 2021. But, despite missing four games a year ago, he still managed to accumulate 128 total tackles for an average of nearly 10 per game. Jewell also racked up 40 defensive stops last fall, tied for the fourth-most among AFC West linebackers.

Addressing the elephant...

I’m sure some people reading this are shocked/disappointed to not see any Raiders make the cut, so I figured I’d wrap up by addressing the elephant in the room as to why Deablo and Robert Spillane were left off.

Deablo has shown promise as a run defender during his first two years in the league, but he’s only played in 16 games as a linebacker so the sample size is just too small for me to justify putting him ahead of Singleton, Kendricks or Jewell. As for Spillane, he’s only logged 16 career starts in five seasons and has been rather pedestrian in the limited action.

Honestly, there were probably a couple of other linebackers in the AFC West who I’d put in the Top 5 before the Raiders’ duo. Hopefully that changes at the end of the season.