Following up on part one of this two part article, here is what the All-Decade team of the 2010’s currently looks like on the other side of the ball, based on which players have accomplished the most during the current decade.
Quick comment: If you missed part one, note that 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 (3), Defensive Tackles (4); 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)
Starting Defensive Ends
J.J. Watt, Houston
Cameron Wake, Miami
Fitting that we start with Watt considering he has been the most dominant player of the decade. Need proof? Despite lining up occasionally at defensive tackle, Watt has accumulated the most sacks in the NFL (76) since he entered the league in 2011. Makes sense why he’s got three Defensive Player of the Year awards (2012, 2014, 2015) to show for it as well. Even more impressive, though, is that Watt has the single highest Approximate Value (also known as AV; explained here) of all players since ’11. Regardless of whether the Texans star returns to his old form following back surgery, Watt has already assured his place in Canton.
Alongside Watt is the underrated Cameron Wake, who has quietly appeared in five Pro Bowls since 2010. That’s more than any other defensive end this decade, including Watt. And speaking of Watt, did you know that Wake also has the same sack total (76) as the league’s most dominant defensive player this decade? I’m certainly not arguing that the former undrafted free agent is better, but Wake’s consistent excellence–he’s tallied at least 8.5 sacks in every full season he’s played in this decade–earns him a spot on the All-2010’s squad.
Julius Peppers, Chicago/Green Bay
One of the NFL’s elite defensive stars from last decade surprisingly find his way onto this year’s All-Decade team as well. With each passing year, the thirty-six year-old Peppers continues to add to his Hall of Fame-caliber resume. In addition to not missing a game this decade, the former Panthers legend has tallied at least seven sacks in all but one of his fifteen seasons. Fun fact, he also has five interceptions this decade too, which is practically unheard of for an edge rusher.
Starting Defensive Tackle: Ndamukong Suh, Detroit/Miami
Among an unbelievably deep crop of deserving defensive tackles, Suh has been the most dominant of the bunch since 2010. A consistent force since entering the league, the former Nebraska star has registered the highest approximate value (84) among defensive tackles this decade, and his 47 sacks are the second most. He also was recognized as a first team All-Pro three times during his tenure with the Lions, although he has yet to reach those same heights in Miami.
Haloti Ngata, Baltimore/Detroit
Geno Atkins, Cincinnati
Aaron Donald, St. Louis/Los Angeles
Initially I planned on only selecting three defensive tackles in total. But I included four because, as mentioned, there were too many worthy players to choose from, particularly when compared to a relatively thin group of All-Decade-caliber defensive ends. I mean, some of the DT’s I left off this roster–Vince Wilfork, Gerald McCoy, Justin Smith, Kyle Williams–have been perennial Pro Bowlers.
These three reserves earn the nod, though, because they have been slightly more dominant than those four. Ngata was the anchor of Baltimore’s terrific defense before he was shipped to Detroit to replace the departed Suh. In all, his approximate value this decade ranks second among all defensive tackles. As for Atkins, his 52 sacks pace the bunch, while his five Pro Bowl appearances are tied for the most this decade, along with Gerald McCoy and Kyle Williams (see what I mean about the quality of defensive tackles?).
And with regard to Donald, who only has been in the league for three years, his outstanding play since entering the league was too great for me to ignore. He may be rather unheralded, considering he plays for a mediocre Rams team, but with two consecutive All-Pro selections, he is now arguably the top defensive player in football. After all, his approximate value on a per-year basis is second only to Watt among all defensive players.
Starting Outside Linebackers
Von Miller, Denver
Clay Matthews, Green Bay
Miller has undoubtedly been the best outside linebacker of the decade. After all, he leads all players at his position in the following categories: First team All-Pro appearances (with three), sacks (on a per-year basis), and approximate value (by a mile). I suppose it helps that he essentially led Denver to a Super Bowl title as well, taking home MVP honors along the way.
As for Matthews, he absolutely deserves a spot on the All-Decade team for being one of the NFL’s premier playmakers. Aside from his impressive sack totals–he’s got 62.5 this decade, and that’s despite a recent move to inside linebacker–Matthews also has the most interceptions among players at his position since 2010.
DeMarcus Ware, Dallas/Denver
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore
However, choosing Matthews over DeMarcus Ware was difficult because they have both made the same amount of Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams this decade. Not only that, but Ware has the most sacks of all outside linebackers since 2010–even more than Von Miller (well, he’s got him beat by only 0.5 of a sack). I ultimately went with Matthews, though, because he has the higher approximate value. Short story long, both guys are still eminently deserving of a starting spot.
Meanwhile, Suggs did more than enough early in the 2010’s to secure his spot as well. His best days may be behind him, but the Ball So Hard University alum was a force for most of the decade, as evidenced by when he received Defensive Player of the Year in 2011.
Starting Inside Linebackers
Luke Kuechly, Carolina
NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco
Headlining the inside linebacking corps is Kuechly. Since entering the league in 2012, the former Boston College product has arguably been the league’s most dynamic defensive player: In addition to his average of 144 tackles per season, Kuechly also has nine career sacks and a remarkable twelve interceptions. He’s also the only inside linebacker this decade to win Defensive Player of the Year.
Aside Kuechly is Bowman, and his inclusion shouldn’t surprise anyone. He has suffered through two injury-plagued seasons in recent years, including when he missed all of the 2014 season after suffering a devastating leg injury in the previous year’s NFC Championship game. But when Bowman’s been healthy (2011-2013, 2015), he’s been a first team All-Pro every season. Somehow, he’s even got more All-Pro selections than Pro Bowl appearances! Just goes to show how quietly outstanding the former third round pick has been.
Bobby Wagner, Seattle
Bowman’s former teammate, Patrick Willis, seemed destined to be a part of the All-2010’s team as well, until he called it a career after the 2014 season. But that’s only part of the reason why I gave Wagner the slight edge over Willis. Given all the attention received by the Legion of Boom, people don’t seem to realize that Wagner is on an inside track to the Hall of Fame. The 26-year-old has piled up just as many tackles as Kuechly since they both entered the league in 2012. Plus, in addition to his two first team All-Pro selections, he also has nearly the same approximate value as Kuechly (67 compared to 66 for Wagner). In short, don’t sleep on Wagner’s greatness.
Richard Sherman, Seattle
Patrick Peterson, Arizona
Arguably the cornerstone of Seattle’s stretch of dominance this decade, Sherman has the most interceptions (30) of any player since he entered the league in 2011. He also has posted five consecutive seasons with an approximate value of over 10; and in two of those seasons in particular–2012 and 2013–he finished in the top three of that category among all players in the NFL. Meanwhile, his NFC West counterpart has been just as good. Peterson has made the Pro Bowl in each of his six seasons, intercepted 20 passes, and has an approximate value over that same time frame which ranks second only to Sherman among cornerbacks.
Darrelle Revis, New York/Tampa Bay/New England
Aqib Talib, Tampa Bay/New England/Denver
Revis certainly has a case to be a starter, given that he’s made five Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. Yet as explained above, both Sherman and Peterson are highly accomplished this decade as well. Revis still makes this team with ease, but he slides in as a reserve due to a couple of lackluster seasons (the likes of which probably will continue). In contrast, Talib continues to get better as he matures. He’s coming off a season in which he was named an All-Pro for the first time. Fitting that Talib was finally recognized as one of the game’s elite corners, seeing as he has the second most interceptions this decade after Sherman.
Earl Thomas, Seattle
Eric Berry, Kansas City
Thomas and Berry earn starting spots because they are the only two safeties this decade to each appear in five Pro Bowls and be selected to three first team All-Pro squads. Thomas also leads his position group with 23 interceptions and a total approximate value of 73. Without a doubt, Thomas is this generation’s Ed Reed. As for Berry, he’s been almost as good when healthy, as his approximate value on a per-year basis is second only to Thomas’.
Eric Weddle, San Diego/Baltimore
Charles Woodson, Green Bay/Oakland
Either of these names ring a bell? Weddle continues to impress even into his early thirties, as he earned his fourth Pro Bowl appearance this decade this past year with the Ravens. As for Woodson, the All-2000’s honoree had another terrific run from 2010 until he called it a career after the 2015 season. Not only did the former Heisman winner lead the league in interceptions during the 2011 season, but he remarkably made the Pro Bowl in his final season–at age 39–after a five pick campaign.
Kicker: Justin Tucker, Baltimore
The most accurate kicker in NFL history gets the nod over the second most accurate kicker in NFL history, Dallas’ Dan Bailey.
Punter: Johnny Hekker, St. Louis/Los Angeles
Maybe it’s because he punts more often than everyone else (seeing as he plays for the Rams). But no punter this decade has been more of a weapon than Hekker. Last year, for instance, he downed thirteen more punts inside than 20 than anyone else in football.
Kick Returner: Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota
In three out of Patterson’s four seasons, he has led the NFL in both kickoff return touchdowns and yards per return. Case closed.
Punt Returner: Devin Hester, Chicago/Atlanta
Can’t exclude the GOAT for returns from this roster, though, right?
Special Teamer: Matthew Slater, New England
Slater’s been named to the Pro Bowl as a special teamer six times, yet 2016 marked his first selection as a first team All-Pro. What took so long?
Here is the final roster:
Starting Offense Starting Defense
QB: Tom Brady, New England DE: J.J. Watt, Houston
RB: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota DE: Cameron Wake, Miami
WR: Calvin Johnson, Detroit DT: Ndamukong Suh, Detroit/Miami
WR: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh OLB: Von Miller, Denver
WR: Julio Jones, Atlanta OLB: Clay Matthews, Green Bay
TE: Rob Gronkowski, New England ILB: Luke Kuechly, Carolina
OT: Joe Thomas, Cleveland ILB: NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco
OT: Jason Peters, Philadelphia CB: Richard Sherman, Seattle
OG: Marshall Yanda, Baltimore CB: Patrick Peterson, Arizona
OG: Jahri Evans, New Orleans S: Earl Thomas, Seattle
C: Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh S: Eric Berry, Kansas City
K: Justin Tucker, Baltimore
P: Johnny Hekker, St. Louis/Los Angeles
KR: Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota
PR: Devin Hester, Chicago/Atlanta
ST: Matthew Slater, New England
QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay; QB Peyton Manning, Indianapolis/Denver; RB Marshawn Lynch, Seattle; RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia/Buffalo; FB Mike Tolbert, San Diego/Carolina; WR A.J. Green, Cincinnati; WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona; WR Brandon Marshall, Miami, Chicago, New York; TE Jason Witten, Dallas; TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans/Seattle; OT Tyron Smith, Dallas; OT Trent Williams, Washington; OG Logan Mankins, New England/Tampa Bay; OG Josh Sitton, Green Bay/Chicago; C Nick Mangold, New York
DE Julius Peppers, Chicago/Green Bay; DT Haloti Ngata, Baltimore/Detroit; DT Geno Atkins, Cincinnati; DT Aaron Donald, St. Louis/Los Angeles; OLB DeMarcus Ware, Dallas/Denver; OLB Terrell Suggs, Baltimore; ILB Bobby Wagner, Seattle; CB Darrelle Revis, New York/Tampa Bay/New England; CB Aqib Talib, Tampa Bay/New England/Denver; S Eric Weddle, San Diego/Baltimore; S Charles Woodson, Green Bay/Oakland
Teams with Most Representatives (* indicates starter)
New England: 6 (*Brady, *Gronkowski, *Slater, Mankins, Revis, Talib)
Seattle: 5 (*Sherman, *Thomas, Lynch, Graham, Wagner)
Baltimore: 5 (*Yanda, *Tucker, Ngata, Suggs, Weddle)
Green Bay: 5 (*Matthews, Rodgers, Sitton, Peppers, Woodson)
Denver: 4 (*Miller, Manning, Ware, Talib)
And the teams with no representatives…
Jacksonville, Tennessee, & New York (Giants)