Now that we’re nearly three-quarters through the 2010’s, I started wondering about what the NFL’s current All-Decade team, as it stands now, might look like. And with football in an intermission post-Super Bowl, I figured that now is the perfect time to write an article that is larger in scope.
Note that the following players included in my version of the current All-Decade team are based on if the 2010’s suddenly ended today. Considering that much could change from now until 2020, I’ll be sure to share a few ideas as to players who might crack this roster by the end of the decade.
But without further ado, here is what the All-Decade team of the 2010’s looks like now, based on which players have accomplished the most during the current decade. One final comment: I’m choosing to do things my own way, rather than follow the Hall of Fame Selection Committee’s traditional format of selecting a first and second-team. Instead, I’ll be filling out a 53-man roster, the composition of which is similar to how a modern-day NFL roster is assembled.
Roster Breakdown- Offense (26 total)
Quarterbacks (3); Running Backs (3); Fullback (1); Wide Receiver (6); Tight Ends (3); Offensive Lineman (10)
Roster Breakdown- Defense/Special Teams (27 total)
Defensive Lineman (7) — Defensive Ends (4), Defensive Tackles (3); Linebackers (7) — Outside Linebackers (4), Inside Linebackers (3); Defensive Backs (8) — Cornerbacks (4), Safeties (4); Kicker (1); Punter (1); Kick Returner (1); Punt Returner (1); Special Teamer (1)
So without further ado, here is what the All-Decade team of the 2010’s looks like now on the offensive side of the ball. Part 2, with my defense and special teams picks, will be released later this week.
Starting Quarterback: Tom Brady, New England
Brady earns this honor for number of reasons. For starters, he’s the only quarterback this decade to win two Super Bowls and appear in three. He’s also led the Patriots to six consecutive AFC Championship appearances and a staggering thirteen more regular season wins than any other franchise. On an individual level, Brady became the league’s first unanimous MVP in 2010 and has earned Pro Bowl nods in every season this decade. He’s also finished in the top three in Total QBR in five of the past seven years. That includes this past season, when he posted one of the single greatest TD/INT ratios in NFL history (28 touchdowns compared to only 2 picks).
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis/Denver
Despite Brady’s excellence, Rodgers has a case to be the decade’s most prolific passer. In 2011, he set the single-season record for quarterback rating en route to winning his first of two MVP awards this decade. Rodgers also has four seasons where he has thrown at least 38 touchdown passes, including this past year when he led the NFL with 40. His most unexceptional statistical season in which he played at least fifteen games, ironically, is the year he led Green Bay to their fourth Super Bowl title in 2010, where he casually posted a 109.8 quarterback rating during the playoffs and came away with Super Bowl MVP.
Manning’s case to be a part of the 2010’s All-Decade team is tenuous. Of course, he’s retired now, so he’s in clear danger of losing his spot by the end of 2019. Yet, as it stands now, Manning still is one of only three quarterbacks to appear in multiple Super Bowls this decade, along with Brady and Russell Wilson. We also can’t ignore the fact that the future Hall of Famer tossed for a record 55 touchdowns and 5,477 passing yards during his extraordinary 2013 season. Though he will only play five full seasons this decade, Manning’s stellar stint in Denver may be just enough for him to ultimately make this roster.
Starting Running Back: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
Peterson gets the nod here primarily because he had one of the greatest seasons for a running back in NFL history during his MVP-winning 2012 season. AP topped the vaunted 2,000 yard mark by averaging a staggering 6.0 yards per carry while leading Minnesota to the playoffs. Those numbers simply haven’t been touched this decade. Though he has struggled to stay on the field at times, Peterson has clearly been the decade’s most dominant running back when healthy, as evidenced by the fact that he’s the only back to capture multiple rushing titles since 2010.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia/Buffalo
Lynch is well-deserving for this honor because he had a four-year stretch in which he had at least 1,200 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns as Seattle’s primary offensive weapon during their reign atop the NFC. Though he won’t be able to pad his resume now that he’s retired, Lynch’s reputation as one of the most feared running backs in recent memory should still hold up. Plus, we can’t discard how he had the greatest individual run of the decade, either.
Choosing the other reserve running back was far more difficult. I had six players in mind initially: Frank Gore, Le’Veon Bell, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Arian Foster, and Jamaal Charles. I then compared their respective resumes since 2010, with a particular emphasis on Pro Bowl and All-Pro appearances, total rushing yards, yards from scrimmage, and approximate value (as measured by Pro Football Reference). On a per year basis, Bell has been the best; but he doesn’t have the body of work to crack the All-Decade team just yet. That’s why McCoy ultimately came out on top, as he has the most Pro Bowl appearances (5), rushing yards (8,317), yards from scrimmage (10,939), and the highest approximate value (75) of all those other backs.
Fullback: Mike Tolbert, San Diego/Carolina
This was another tough call, primarily because Tolbert is listed on some depth charts as a running back. Nonetheless, he has been to three Pro Bowls and named a first team All-Pro twice as a fullback. That alone wasn’t necessarily enough for him to beat out other three-time Pro Bowlers at the position this decade, such as Green Bay’s John Kuhn, Oakland’s Marcel Reece, and Baltimore’s Vonta Leach. But the fact that Tolbert has practically as many touchdowns (40) as the other three combined earns him the honor.
Starting Wide Receivers
Calvin Johnson, Detroit
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh
Julio Jones; Atlanta
No questioning who the three most accomplished receivers are from the 2010’s. Johnson leads the pack, as he made the Pro Bowl in every year he was active this decade and set the NFL’s receiving yards record during his sensational 2012 season. Brown, meanwhile, is tied with Megatron for the most first team All-Pro appearances this decade (three) and has the highest approximate value (AV explained here) among receivers in the 2010’s. On a per-year basis, though, Jones might even be the best. With four Pro Bowls and two first team All-Pro nods, his approximate value per season (12.33) is the highest of the bunch.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona
Brandon Marshall, Miami/Chicago/New York
There have been plenty other worthy receivers this decade. Green is perhaps the most underrated of the group, as he has quietly made the Pro Bowl in each of his first six seasons. Fitzgerald also has an impressive six Pro Bowl appearances despite having mediocre quarterbacks throwing to him during parts of the decade (Kevin Kolb, anyone?).
Adding Marshall as a reserve might raise a few eyebrows, particularly when other candidates such as Dez Bryant, Andre Johnson, and Odell Beckham are on the table. But let me explain. For starters, Marshall’s 8,042 receiving yards this decade are third among all receivers, trailing only Megatron and Brown. He also has one first team All-Pro selection, which is more than Green and Fitzgerald have since 2010, for instance. Plus, he’s been productive in every one of his stops, no matter if Chad Henne or Ryan Fitzpatrick are his quarterbacks. Simply put, Marshall has better overall numbers than Bryant and Johnson, and he gets the slight edge over Beckham because he has been around for the entire decade.
Starting Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, New England
No contest: Gronk has a case to go down as the greatest tight end in history, let alone the best one of the 2010’s. His three first team All-Pro appearances and 68 receiving touchdowns are the most by far for a tight end this decade. The crazier part, though, is the fact that he has only played at least twelve regular season games twice in his career!
Jason Witten, Dallas
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans/Seattle
Witten cracks this squad because of his consistency. The future Hall of Famer has not missed a game this decade for the Cowboys; and despite being past the age of thirty for most of the 2010’s, he has managed to appear in four of his ten Pro Bowls during this time. Simply put, there are few players in NFL history as reliable as Witten.
In contrast, Graham produced some unbelievable statistical seasons while playing with Drew Brees down in New Orleans, but he’s been rather quiet since he joined the Seahawks. Nonetheless, Graham was one of the lone tight ends this decade to come close to Gronkowski’s dominance. For now, his standout seasons for the Saints are just enough to earn him a roster spot.
Joe Thomas, Cleveland
Jason Peters, Philadelphia
There’s less to analyze when it comes to the offensive lineman, so I’ll use Pro Bowls and All-Pro appearances as the main measuring stick. No matter the metric, though, Thomas has unequivocally been the best lineman in football since he entered the league. Similar to Witten, he hasn’t missed a snap, let alone a game, in his entire career. Of course, that includes this decade, one in which arguably the NFL’s most under-appreciated legend has made five first team All-Pro appearances. While Peters’ resume doesn’t match Thomas’, Philadelphia’s blind side protector still has six Pro Bowl selections since 2010 to his credit as well.
Tyron Smith, Dallas
Trent Williams, Washington
Since emerging in 2013, Smith–who has two All-Pro nods in the past three years–has played an integral role in allowing Dallas to consistently have one of the league’s best offenses. Williams, meanwhile, has been a stalwart for the Redskins. Along with Thomas, Williams is one of the only players in the NFL that has made fix consecutive Pro Bowl appearances.
Marshal Yanda, Baltimore
Jahri Evans, New Orleans
After a relatively slow start to his career, Yanda has been the NFL’s premier guard over the past few seasons. Not only has he made six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances, but he has been named either first or second team All-Pro by the Associated Press in five of those seasons. Choosing who to place aside Yanda was tough, but I went with Evans. He’s tailed off a bit over the past couple of seasons, but his brilliant five-year stretch from 2010 to 2014, in which he was named first team All-Pro at guard three times, can not be ignored. Remarkably, he also has the highest approximate value of all lineman during the 2010’s, according to Pro Football Reference.
Logan Mankins, New England/Tampa Bay
Josh Sitton, Green Bay/Chicago
I thought initially that Mankins would be one of the starting guards; but despite five Pro Bowl appearances and one first team All-Pro nod, his resume places him just short of Yanda and Evans. As for Sitton, the former Packer has made four Pro Bowls in the past five years and is second among guards in approximate value since 2010.
Starting Center: Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh
Pouncey is tied among centers with five Pro Bowl appearances since he entered the league in 2010. What sets the twenty-seven year-old apart, though, is that a) he has been named first team All-Pro twice and b) he leads all centers in approximate value, which is impressive considering he missed all of the 2013 season.
Nick Mangold, New York
Mangold is the other center with five Pro Bowl appearances this decade, and with a total of seven in his career, the potential Canton-bound Jet’s spot is safe, for now, on the All-Decade team of the 2010’s.
Who could make the squad by the end of the decade?
There are a few possibilities. For starters, there are a few younger players who have emerged over the past few years as some of the most impressive players of the 2010’s. Odell Beckham and Le’Veon Bell stand out in particular, as the former immediately became one of the best receivers upon entering the NFL in 2014. The later, meanwhile, has undoubtedly been one of the most outstanding players at this position as well. Neither has enough of a body of work to make the squad now; but at this rate, expect both players to make the actual All-Decade team by the end of 2019.
Two Cowboys linemen have a legitimate chance as well. In just three years, tackle Zack Martin has already been named a first team All-Pro twice, while center Travis Frederick has made three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances of his own. If each sustains their current level of play, it looks like fellow lineman Tyron Smith, who has a spot on this roster locked up, won’t be the only Cowboy on this roster. Speaking of which, what are the odds Ezekiel Elliott ends up as one of the most accomplished backs of the 2010’s, despite only playing for, at most, four seasons? Might Dez Bryant be able to crack the squad, too?
Lastly, at the quarterback position, it’s likely that someone ultimately takes Peyton Manning’s spot. The player most likely to do that is Russell Wilson. Like Manning, he has already captured a Super Bowl title this decade and appeared in another. The former third-round pick is also continuing to rise the ranks statistically. You could certainly argue that Wilson’s resume this decade isn’t as strong as Drew Brees or Ben Roethlisberger’s right now; but with something that those two lack this decade (a Super Bowl title) and a brighter future ahead of him, Wilson is a good bet to join Brady and Rodgers as the defining quarterbacks of the 2010’s.