With the regular season essentially over, I figured I’d share my 2017 All-Pro team.
Quarterback: Tom Brady, New England
Stats: 67.5% completion pct (3rd in NFL), 8.06 yards per attempt (2nd), 104.2 quarterback rating (2nd)
Brady is the only quarterback this season to rank in the top three in the following categories: completion percentage, yards per attempt, passing yards, touchdowns, and quarterback rating. Moreover, with respect to Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) advanced analytics, Brady’s campaign has been superior to every other quarterback by a wide margin. He’s a no-brainer choice for first-team All-Pro.
Honorable Mentions: Carson Wentz, Philadelphia; Drew Brees, New Orleans
Running backs: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams & Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh
Gurley stats: 1,305 rushing yards (1st), 19 total touchdowns (1st)
Bell stats: 1,291 rushing yards (3rd), 85 receptions (8th in NFL; 1st among running backs)
The fact that Gurley is closing in on 20 total touchdowns in a possible MVP-winning season is all the evidence needed as to why he is a first-teamer. As for Bell, he doesn’t measure as one of the most efficient running backs in the league this year, but — like Gurley — his excellence as both a runner and receiver are enough to give him the nod over backs like Kareem Hunt and Mark Ingram.
Honorable Mentions: Hunt, Kansas City; Ingram, New Orleans; Alvin Kamara, New Orleans
Wide Receivers: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh & DeAndre Hopkins, Houston
Brown stats: 101 receptions (t-1st), 1,533 receiving yards (1st), 27 20+ yard receptions (1st)
Hopkins stats: 13 touchdowns (1st), 96 receptions (5th), 1,378 receiving yards (2nd)
Despite missing the last two-and-a-half games, Brown will pace the NFL in receiving yards for the second time in his career and finish near the top in a number of other categories, such as receptions and yards above replacement. Hopkins’ numbers, meanwhile, are nearly as good, but what makes his season arguably even more impressive is how he has had below-average quarterbacks like Tom Savage and T.J. Yates throwing to him for half the season.
Honorable Mentions: Julio Jones, Atlanta; Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers; Adam Thielen, Minnesota
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, New England
Stats: 1,084 receiving yards (1st among tight ends), 83.4 yards per game (5th in NFL)
Gronk’s numbers are practically even with Travis Kelce’s. The Kansas City tight end has an edge in receptions (83 vs 69); Gronkowski has more receiving yards; and they’re both tied in touchdown receptions (8). But I’m giving Gronkowski the nod because his numbers are just as good despite playing two fewer games.
Honorable Mention: Kelce, Kansas City
Offensive Tackles: Lane Johnson, Philadelphia & Andrew Whitworth, Los Angeles Rams
Both Johnson and Whitworth anchor the edges for their respective teams. The Eagles’ right tackle (along with another member of the offensive line that will be discussed shortly) was quietly one of the main reasons why Carson Wentz was able to enjoy a breakout season: according to PFF, Johnson ranks as the sixth best pass-blocker in the NFL. As for Whitworth, the 36-year-old’s addition to LA’s offensive line has sparked the resurgence of Todd Gurley, the league’s leading rusher. He has also only allowed 21 pressures over 443 pass-blocking snaps.
Honorable Mentions: David Bakhtiari, Green Bay; Alejandro Villanueva, Pittsburgh
Offensive Guards: David DeCastro, Pittsburgh & Zack Martin, Dallas
These two young guards have been named to the Pro Bowl in every season of their careers. And after paving the way for two of the best rushing offenses in football yet again, DeCastro and Martin are highly likely to be named to their second and third first team NFL All-Pro rosters respectively.
Honorable Mentions: Brandon Brooks, Philadelphia; Josh Sitton, Chicago
Center: Jason Kelce, Philadelphia
Kelce is one of the main reasons why I felt the urge to write this article. Despite ranking as the highest-graded offensive lineman in football this season according to PFF, Kelce was somehow left off the NFC Pro Bowl roster. His consolation prize, though, is that he makes the Check Down All-Pro team!
Honorable Mention: Alex Mack, Atlanta
Defensive Ends: Calais Campbell, Jacksonville & Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers
Campbell stats: 14.5 sacks (2nd in NFL), 12.8 pass-rush productivity rating (5th in NFL)
Bosa stats: 60 Total QB pressures (2nd in NFL), 11.5 sacks (8th in NFL)
This is easily the toughest position to identity two All-Pro representatives. Campbell and Bosa are both having tremendous seasons, as the former has been the main reason why the Jaguars are now known as “Sacksonville,” while the former Ohio State star has continuously harassed quarterbacks to the tune of 60 total pressures and an edge-defending ranking that ranks 6th in the NFL. However, players like Dallas’ DeMarcus Lawrence (14.5 sacks), Minnesota’s Everson Griffen (13 sacks), New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan (12 sacks), and Bosa’s teammate, Melvin Ingram (61 total pressures — most in the NFL) are all deserving.
Honorable Mentions: Lawrence, Dallas; Griffen, Minnesota; Jordan, New Orleans; Ingram, Los Angeles Chargers
Defensive Tackle: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams
Stats: 11 sacks (1st among DT’s), 70 total QB pressures (most in the NFL)
Is it even a debate? Donald is clearly the most disruptive defensive player in the NFL. And I’m not the only one who thinks so: the LA defensive tackle will not only be named to his third consecutive All-Pro team in just his fourth season, but he’ll likely be given this year’s Defensive Player of the Year award, as well.
Honorable Mention: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati
Outside Linebackers: Chandler Jones, Arizona & Von Miller, Denver
Jones stats: 15 sacks (most in the NFL)
Miller stats: 10 sacks (15th in NFL), highest-graded edge defender (Pro Football Focus)
Jones has been one of the lone bright spots for Arizona, as his 15 sacks may be enough to claim the NFL’s sack title. As for Miller, his numbers may not reflect his true dominance, but Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the NFL’s most efficient pass-rusher based on his ability to generate hurries and knockdowns. The Super Bowl 50 MVP continues to set the standard at outside linebacker.
Honorable Mentions: Khalil Mack, Oakland; Ryan Kerrigan, Washington
Inside Linebackers: Bobby Wagner, Seattle & Luke Kuechly, Carolina
Wagner stats: 130 tackles (5th in NFL), 1.5 sacks, 2 interceptions
Kuehcly stats: 115 tackles (11th in NFL), 3 interceptions
Despite being called out by Earl Thomas after Seattle’s recent loss to the Rams, Wagner has been the NFL’s best inside linebacker in 2017, as he is the only ILB to rank in the top five in both run-stop percentage and pass-rush productivity. Kuechly, meanwhile, has been his usual self. He continues to be the anchor of a Carolina defense that ranks 7th in yards against.
Honorable Mentions: Lavonte David, Tampa Bay; Telvin Smith, Jacksonville
Cornerbacks: A.J. Bouye, Jacksonville & Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville
Bouye stats: 6 interceptions (t-2nd in NFL), 38.0 passer rating when targeted (1st in NFL)
Ramsey stats: 48.8% receptions allowed (5th in NFL), 92.7 PFF grade (2nd among CB’s)
The dynamic duo of Bouye and Ramsey have helped make Jacksonville the league’s most difficult team to pass against. They’ve combined for a total of ten interceptions and a passer rating against of 38.0 and 61.2 respectively. These numbers are a tad better than some of the other outstanding cornerbacks mentioned below.
Honorable Mentions: Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans; Casey Hayward, Los Angeles Chargers; Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota
Safeties: Harrison Smith, Minnesota & Kevin Byard, Tennessee
Smith stats: 5 interceptions (t-5th in NFL); 5.9 opponent yards per pass attempt (2nd in NFL)
Byard stats: 6 interceptions (t-2nd in NFL); 14 passes defended
Smith is the best player on a Minnesota defense that ranks 2nd against the pass and 1st in total defense. Byard, meanwhile, has been a big surprise for Tennessee, as he is second in the NFL in interceptions.
Honorable Mentions: Jahleel Addae, Los Angeles Chargers; Eric Weddle, Baltimore
Kicker: Greg Zuerlein, Los Angeles Rams
Stats: 38/40, 95% (2nd in NFL)
Zuerlin has been the most valuable special teamer in the NFL, as his 38 made field goals and 44 extra points are the most in the NFL. Plus, he’s been the league’s second most accurate place kicker. He’ll be a big loss for the Rams moving forward, as he was placed on IR last week with a back injury.
Honorable Mention: Justin Tucker, Baltimore
Punter: Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams
Stats: 44.3 net punting average (2nd in NFL)
Though he hasn’t been used often thanks to the Rams’ high-scoring offense, Hekker continues to be the league’s most outstanding punter.
Honorable Mention: Thomas Morstead, New Orleans
Returner: Pharoah Cooper, Los Angeles Rams
Stats: 27.4 kickoff return average (1st in NFL), 13.1 punt return average (2nd)
Cooper has been consistently excellent as the Rams’ primary returner. His kickoff and punt return averages rank 1st and 2nd in the NFL respectively.
Honorable Mention: Tarik Cohen, Chicago
Special Teamer: Budda Baker, Arizona
Baker leads the NFL in special teams tackles with 12. So with all due respect to the respected Matthew Slater, who has played only eight games this season, someone like Baker should’ve been selected to the Pro Bowl.
Brady photo courtesy of AP/Michael Dyer; Gurley photo courtesy of USA Today/Christopher Henewickel; Hopkins photo courtesy of AP/Michael Wykes; Gronkowski photo courtesy of The Boston Globe; Whitworth photo courtesy of USA Today Sports; Robert Hemishiro; DeCastro photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Steelers; Kelce photo courtesy of USA Today/Eric Hartline; Bosa photo courtesy of Orlando Ramirez; Donald photo courtesy of SI; Jones photo courtesy of FanSided; Wagner photo courtesy of Getty Images; Ramsey photo courtesy of Getty Images/Maddie Meyer; Smith photo courtesy of Pioneer Press; Zuerlein photo courtesy of Getty Images