Year after year the NFL Media “elite” at the Associated Press (AP) put their big boy pants on to vote on the All-Pro teams, and they almost annually screw the whole thing up. The clout behind a players name seems to overshadow any recency bias from what they actually did that given year, so you see undeserving veterans make the cut over and over. Here are your Woodcock X’s & O’s for the All-Pro First team selections.
- QB- Tom Brady (New England Patriots): An absolute no brainer even given my homer outlook. 4577 yards, 32 TD’s to 8 INT’s and so clearly the best quarterback in the NFL. Had Wentz played the full year and stayed on pace I could see an argument, but after the injury a second place trophy will have to do. Three first team selections over his career seems low for the GOAT though.
- RB- Todd Gurley (Los Angeles Rams): Thank god the AP didn’t blow this one. Le’veon Bell is great but Gurley is a legitimate MVP candidate this year. 2000+ scrimmage yards and 19 TD’s in just 15 games is flat out incredible.
- Flex- Le’veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers): The second year they gave out the flex position and the first of two selections this year for Bell. I’m not an expert here but how can one guy make the first team as a flex and then the second team as RB1? Not my place but clean it up guys. Either way I could’ve seen a case for Kamara but he ended up with the second team flex spot nonetheless.
- Wide Receivers- Antonio Brown(Pittsburgh Steelers) and DeAndre Hopkins (Houston Texans): Antonio Brown was the only player this year to receive all 50 votes as a unanimous selection. Leading the league with 1500+ receiving yards this was another no-brainer. Hopkins’ spot was a decision between Julio and himself. DeAndre had 9 more TD’s and nearly as many yards, landing him the edge.
- Tight End- Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots): In all four of the eight years Gronkowski has been in the league he’s been a first team selection, proving that when he’s healthy there’s not a man in the league who can even think of stopping him. Whether you’re a Patriots fan or not, watching this guy rumble his comedically big frame down the field dragging four DB’s by his quads is slapstick comedy at its best. A perfect 69 catches for another 1000 yard year lands him the spot as the best TE in football, maybe in history.
- Offensive Line: The most under-appreciated position in football is recognized, but not really that appreciated in this blog. Without a lot to say about them the players making the cut are David Bakhtiari (Green Bay), Mitchell Schwartz (Kansas City), Rodger Saffold (LA Rams), Zach Martin (Dallas), and Alex Mack (Atlanta). Minus Joe Thomas who’s a mainstay at LT, this is a relatively well received list with the usual cast of large humans.
- Edge Rushers- Calais Cambell(Jacksonville Jaguars) and Cameron Jordan (New Orleans Saints): With a 13+ sacks each these two tore through offensive linemen week after week. Both veterans on playoff teams, neither of these picks are too offensive. Cambell was the leading man on the “Sacksonville” defense, which was perhaps the worst social media trend in NFL history. Second-teamer Everson Griffen (Minnesota Vikings) also ended the year with 13 sacks on a playoff team but missed the cut by a few votes.
- Interior Defensive Linemen- Aaron Donald (LA Rams) and Cameron Heyward (Pittsburgh Steelers): God only knows how Aaron Donald somehow wasn’t unanimous in the voting. One asshole decided to play the contrarian card and leave possibly the best defensive player in the league off his ballot. The third time All-Pro first teamer notched 11 sacks from the nose of the line, and commanded constant double and even triple teaming for the Rams. Hayward was one of the few constants for an uncommonly shaky defense in Pittsburgh. The days of the Steel Curtain may be over, but his 12 sacks helped take attention away from their edge rushers and allow for easier pressure.
- Linebackers- Chandler Jones (Arizona Cardinals), Luke Kuechly (Carolina Panthers), and Bobby Wagner (Seattle Seahawks): This was almost a perfect group in a few ways. Jones was a force screaming off the OLB spot all year, clocking a ridiculous 17 sacks. His versatility allows him to line up in a number of spots along the front seven creating mismatches with whoever has to block him. Skipping over Kuechly for a second Bobby Wagner was the heart of the Legion of Boom. Patrolling the center of a star-studded defense, he notched 133 tackles and two interceptions. Although the numbers are fantastic, his value comes with his field vision and positioning. Moving onto Luke Kuechly you have an odd situation. Don’t get me wrong I think he very well may be the best linebacker in the league, but his 125 tackles and three picks weren’t the vintage Luke we’re used to. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have been picked, but the defense struggled and I think C.J Mosley had the better year.
- Cornerbacks- Jalen Ramsey (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Xavier Rhodes (Minnesota Vikings): Another position the committee absolutely nailed with this pair. Ramsey was an integral DB that allowed the front seven to record sack after sack in Jacksonville. Rhodes continued his development into an absolute lockdown corner this season. Rhodes was another instance of one player taking up two positions on the All-Pro teams, with a first team corner pick as well as the second team defensive back pick. I mean honestly can’t you just revert to the next highest voted if a player has two selections so another deserving player can receive the recognition? Side note, the fact that Marshon Lattimore (New Orleans Saints) didn’t make a team is unbelievable to me.
- Defensive Back- Darius Slay (Detroit Lions): Three years ago AP introduced a fifth DB slot to the voting allowing for Slay to bring it home this year. With 8 INT’s in the motor city, the corner locked down opposing number ones week after week. If the Lions were any better I’d be inclined to say he should’ve gotten one of the corner slots, but 24 points allowed per game on a team that missed the playoffs just isn’t good enough.
- Safeties- Kevin Byard (Tennessee Titans) and Harrison Smith (Minnesota Vikings): Byard patrolled the Titans’ secondary with the look of a ten year veteran. The second year safety hawked his way to 87 tackles and 8 INT’s. As for Harrison Smith it was more of the same. After being snubbed from what would’ve been his third straight Pro Bowl, he marched on to the tune of 76 tackles and five interceptions. Smith is another player that is worth a whole lot more than his statline. Along with fellow All-Pro member Xavier Rhodes they blanketed opposing receivers all year long.
- Special Teams: Bringing up the rear of this team comes the single-snap warriors. Greg Zuerlein (LA Rams) gets the nod as the first team kicker, and the selection was well warranted. While kicking 95% on both field goals and extra points, he was nearly automatic from 40 or more yards going 18/19. Johnny Hekker (LA Rams) shows you just how efficient this Rams special team unit was, averaging an astounding 44.1 net yards per punt. Pharaoh Cooper (LA Rams) is the kick returner for the first team, as well as the punt returner for the second team and this is just getting ridiculous in LA. The final spot cut out for a special teamer goes to Budda Baker (Arizona Cardinals) for the annual Matt Slater award. Speaking of Slater how did this guy get a second team pick when he only played nine games? I love our ST captain in New England but come on AP.
After what I’m sure was an underwhelming 1200+ words there is your list of the NFL All-Pro First Team. The second team had some big names but I can’t be bothered to run through it.