Bryan’s 2019 All Pro Team

The Super Bowl is over, and the offseason is underway, which means it’s time for my annual All Pro Team. As usual, this is the latest all pro squad of them all because it takes the postseason into account. Including the playoffs doesn’t usually change too much for most positions, but it will often move a guy or two into the honorable mention slot. My all star team and awards articles also tend to be late because I like to put more than the necessary amount of time and thought into them, look at them from both an analytics and film-based perspective, and reevaluate what I value or what I want to highlight at each position.

As I have stated before, I have a general disregard for rules or structure, so if I feel like cheating a little to get the players I want on the team, I will do so unabashedly.  I have also expanded the roster to try to reflect both traditional and modern personnel.

PosFirst TeamTeamSecond TeamTeamHonorable MentionTeam
QBLamar JacksonBALRussell WilsonSEAPatrick MahomesKC
RBChristian McCaffreyCARNick ChubbCLEAustin EkelerLAC
RBDerrick HenryTENJosh JacobsOAKDalvin CookMIN
WRMichael ThomasNORDeAndre HopkinsHOUKenny GolladayDET
WRJulio JonesATLMike EvansTBAllen RobinsonCHI
SRChris GodwinTBKeenan AllenLACCooper KuppRAM
TEGeorge KittleSFMark AndrewsBALZach ErtzPHI
TETravis KelceKCDarren WallerOAKAustin HooperATL
LTRonnie StanleyBALDavid BakhtiariGNBAnthony CastonzoIND
LGQuenton NelsonINDJoe ThuneyNEJoel BitonioCLE
CBen JonesTENRyan JensenTBRodney HudsonOAK
RGBrandon BrooksPHIZack MartinDALMarshal YandaBAL
RTMitchell SchwartzKCRyan RamczykNORLa'el CollinsDAL
ERT.J. WattPITNick BosaSFJoey BosaLAC
ERZa'Darius SmithGNBCameron JordanNORChandler JonesARI
ILAaron DonaldRAMGrady JarrettATLKenny ClarkGNB
ILCam HeywardPITChris JonesKCFletcher CoxPHI
LBLavonte DavidTBDarius LeonardINDJamie CollinsNE
LBDemario DavisNORLuke KuechlyCARDeion JonesATL
LBEric KendricksMINCory LittletonRAMJayon BrownTEN
CBStephon GilmoreNECasey HaywardLACJ.C. JacksonNE
CBTre'Davious WhiteBUFMarlon HumphreyBALMarcus PetersBAL
CBRichard ShermanSFShaquill GriffinSEABrian PooleNYJ
SJustin SimmonsDENDevin McCourtyNEEarl ThomasBAL
SAnthony HarrisMINMarcus WilliamsNORMicah HydeBUF
SJamal AdamsNYJHarrison SmithMINTre BostonCAR
KJustin TuckerBALJosh LamboJAXWil LutzNOR
PBrett KernTENLogan CookeJAXBryan AngerHOU
KRCordarrelle PattersonCHIBrandon WilsonCINAndre RobertsBUF
PRDiontae JohnsonPITDeonte HarrisNORNyheim HinesIND
STJ.T. GrayNORMatthew SlaterNEDerek WattLAC
HCJohn HarbaughBALSean PaytonNORBill BelichickNE
ACGreg RomanBALRobert SalehSFDarrin SimmonsCIN

All Pro Offense

Quarterback:

Lamar Jackson is the obvious choice, and sometimes you have to make the obvious choice. His ability as a passer improved significantly from what we saw in his rookie season, and his threat as a runner was more dangerous than ever. The unique skill set he possesses, in concert with an offense actually designed to play to his strengths, constantly put defenses in lose-lose situations.

Russell Wilson was the best pure passer in the NFL this year, among quarterbacks who played the full season.1 Without a great deal of help from his surroundings, Wilson continued his annual tradition of bailing out his offense and saving the team from themselves. Patrick Mahomes missed time in the regular season, but he more than made up for it in the playoffs. With championship leverage taken into consideration, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to put him in the full-season MVP conversation.

Running Back:

Christian McCaffrey did his best Roger Craig impression, eclipsing a thousand yards by land and by air. He led the league in touchdowns and was one of the few glimmers of hope in the desolate wasteland that is the Carolina offense. Derrick Henry is a big strong man, reminiscent of Cookie Gilchrist running roughshod over hapless AFL defenders. He earned much of his production the hard way, facing heavy fronts and picking up big yardage after contact. For a moment, he had us wondering is running backs mattered.

Nick Chubb was a breakaway threat and dangerous after taking an initial hit from a defender. Were it not for the consistently light boxes he faced, he may have made the first team. Josh Jacobs was an inspiration, picking up rookie of the year honors after a youth that would have broken a lesser man.

Austin Ekeler gets the honorable mention for his receiving skill, which is the most important part of modern running back play. Dalvin Cook looked like the best back in the league early in the year before slowing down late in the season.

Wide Receiver:

Michael Thomas was chalk. He broke the record for receptions in a season, and his 1725 receiving yards ranks 7th in history (and 6th among players not facing early AFL defenses). When the most prolific passer in history went down, Thomas maintained his production, which hasn’t always been the case for elite receivers who catch passes from elite quarterbacks. Julio Jones remains Julio Jones. He is at the point in his career when 99 catches and 1394 yards in 15 games feels like a down year.

DeAndre Hopkins reminds me of a mix of all the best parts of Brandon Lloyd, Chris Chambers, and Cris Carter. He is a joy to watch, and, as a fan of the game, it pleases me to see him with a good quarterback. Mike Evans is what I call an inaccuracy eraser: with a big frame and incredible range, he can catch balls thrown well off target, which comes in handy in Tampa.

Kenny Golladay‘s career continues on its upward trajectory. With a healthy and revitalized Matthew Stafford, I hope to see big things from him in 2020. Allen Robinson has been a talented and inconsistent player, plagued with bad quarterback play for his entire career. The bad QB play didn’t change this season, but Robinson reminded us why we thought he was the next big thing in 2015.

Slot Receiver:

Chris Godwin benefited from Evans drawing coverage, but he was nonetheless fantastic in his role. He isn’t a “pure” slot receiver in the Wes Welker mold, but he ran nearly 60% of his routes there, ranked second in slot yards, and was well ahead of the slot yardage leader in total receiving yards.

Keenan Allen may seem like a cop out choice, given that he didn’t even run half of his routes from the slot, but his 308 slot snaps ranked 19th among all receivers. He narrowly led Cooper Kupp in yardage and trailed him by four touchdowns, but I still think he played better football. His ability to play in the slot or the outside makes him more valuable schematically, and his penchant for moving the chains is an underrated asset. Cupp led all receivers in receptions and yards from the slot while spending 75% of his time there.

Tight End:

From a value-agnostic perspective, George Kittle was perhaps the best player in football this year. He gets open, he has soft hands, he manhandles tacklers, and he is a terrific run blocker. Kelce may be a better pure receiver than Kittle, and he’s probably better at pass blocking too. I value pass blocking over run blocking for offensive linemen, but I have the opposite view when it comes to tight ends.

Mark Andrews didn’t have eye-popping numbers, given how infrequently the Ravens threw the ball, but he made the most of his opportunities, trailing only Kittle in yards per route run. That includes wide outs. Darren Waller is in the mix for comeback player of the year, having a breakout season after surviving a battle that takes too many souls.

Zach Ertz continues to be the same player as always: a dependable receiver with great hands and a lack of blocking prowess. Sometimes that’s good enough to make an all pro honorable mention. The last spot came down to Tyler Higbee and Austin Hooper. Hooper was more productive in fewer games, while Higbee was more productive on fewer routes. Given that Higbee played for a more talented team with a better scheme, not to mention being a racist turd, I went with Hooper.

Left Tackle:

Ronnie Stanley was the best pass protector in the league this year, and it wasn’t particularly close. He missed a few games, but he protected his young QB’s blindside in an offense that needed to make the most of its low number of pass attempts. Stanley was also pretty good as a run blocker but may have been made to look a little better by Jackson’s running ability.

Were it not for Stanley, David Bakhtiari would have continued his run as the premier pass blocker in the world. That he posts such good numbers despite blocking for a guy who holds the ball too long and seems indifferent to taking sacks is a testament to his prowess. Anthony Castonzo, one of the most consistent pass blockers in recent history, takes the honorable mention.

Left Guard:

I didn’t think Quenton Nelson‘s play matched his hype his rookie year, but it sure did in 2019. Despite his reputation as a mauler, his inconsistency offset his highlight reel blocks last season. This year, he took a huge step froward from a consistency standpoint, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him make this team for years to come.

Joe Thuney tore up the combine, demonstrating he is among the finest athletes to play the position. However, his technical prowess is so advanced that it seems to have caused most of us to overlook that. Watch him play; he is magician. Joel Bitonio once again shows up on one of my all pro teams. Maybe I’m biased, or maybe he really has been one of the best, most consistent pass blocker at the position for years.

Center:

This was perhaps the most difficult position to choose, because there wasn’t a standout season like we’ve seen from guys like Nick Mangold, Jeff Saturday, and Jason Kelce. This year, I felt Ben Jones had the best combination of run and pass blocking, though I am not as confident in that opinion as I am regarding the guards and tackles.

Ryan Jensen looked about equal to Jones, and I went back and forth between the two.  I do appreciate Jensen’s knack for pass pro in a vertical offense with a quarterback who looks to eat yardage in torrents. Once again, I have put Rodney Hudson on the squad. He was pretty bad in the run game this year, but he is just so talented in pass protection that I can’t bear to leave him off the list.

Right Guard:

There is an argument to be made that Brandon Brooks was the best football player on earth this year. I certainly wouldn’t disagree if you made that claim. He was very good protecting the inside, and he was the best run blocker around. Brooks is an incredible athlete who has been great for a long time. It’s unfortunate he doesn’t get the love he deserves.

Zack Martin is one of the best run blocking guards in the hundred year history of the NFL, but it was his pass pro that caught my eye this year. Marshal Yanda will have a bronze bust in Canton one day if there is any justice in the world. He has no weaknesses in his game.

Right Tackle:

I had Mitchell Schwartz penciled in as a second teamer. Then the playoffs happened, and he went the entire postseason allowing just one pressure. That, combined with the fact that he didn’t allow a sack all season, puts him on top.

Though I prefer the pass blocking specialists, I give credit when it’s due for great run blocking. This season, that credit goes to Ryan Ramczyk. He was pretty good when Brees or Teddy Bridgewater dropped back, but he was on another plane when the Saints needed to run the ball.2 Honorable mention was a tossup between La’el Collins and Taylor Moton. Ultimately, I thought Collins was just too solid in all facets of play to knock off the team.

All Pro Defense

Edge Rusher:

T.J. Watt and Za’Darius Smith were both forces of nature off the edge this year. Smith led all players with 104 pressures, and he also led in pressures per game (5.8), showing he didn’t just get there because of a few playoff games.3 Watt was no slouch, creating pressure 5.1 times per game. Both men were in on 18 sacks apiece, while Watt led all edge players in batted passes (6), forced fumbles (8), and interceptions (2).

Nick Bosa came off the edge like he was shot out of a cannon and was a few missed holding calls away from robbing Andy Reid of his first ring. He seemed to get better as a pass rusher in the postseason. Cameron Jordan may be the most complete edge defender in football, equally adept at penetrating on passing plays and destroying his side of the line on running plays.

Joey Bosa is on the shortlist for comeback player of the year, working his way back from injury to be the second best edge defender in his family. Chandler Jones was a popular contender for defensive player of the year, notching his fifth straight season with double digit sacks. Generally, I think of high-sack/low-pressure guys as big regression candidates, but his consistent presence in this category makes me think he just might be the anti-Howie Long (i.e., he doesn’t create a ton of pressure, but he finishes the job when he does).

It was hard to leave Calais Campbell and Danielle Hunter off the team, but the quantity and quality of high end edge defenders has just been insane in recent years.

Interior Linemen:

Aaron Donald continues to show the world why he is one of the greatest defensive tackles in history. Despite facing double teams at a historically high rate, he consistently generates as much pressure as elite edge defenders. Donald is also one of the finest interior guys against the run. Cameron Heyward doesn’t get much love outside of Pittsburgh, but he has been a steady producer for years. He puts pressure on quarterbacks and bats down their passes if he doesn’t finish the rush, and he just completed his best year against the run.

The Falcons defense was an embarrassment, but Grady Jarrett was the player equivalent of a moral victory. He and Chris Jones are two of the best interior pass rushers in the league, and they’re decent against the run as well. Jones was awesome in the Super Bowl, with his two batted passes coming on crucial plays. Mahomes deserved the MVP award, but the fact that Jones had people arguing for him speaks to his performance on the biggest stage.

Kenny Clark has been great since day one, and his interior push is a valuable asset to the Packers defense. If Donald didn’t cast such a large shadow, Clark may be a superstar.  Fletcher Cox is probably the second biggest name in the game among interior defenders, and for good reason. He has spent the last half decade playing at a Hall of Fame level, including 2019 when his low sack totals belied his pass rushing prowess.

Linebacker:

Lavonte David may end up as the best linebacker not in the Hall of Fame, based almost entirely on Pro Bowl and All Pro voters giving linebacker spots to guys who play with a hand in the dirt on passing downs. He has attacked the line of scrimmage like a more athletic Dave Wilcox, but this season saw him take his coverage to a new level. Demario Davis and Eric Kendricks were also excellent in coverage, both for the first time in their careers. Since joining the Saints, Davis has seen his play continue to improve, while Kendricks stepped it up in nearly every facet of his game and was a delightful surprise.

Darius Leonard is a habitual playmaker who I believe needs to improve on down-to-down consistency to reach the first-team level. Luke Kuechly is, to me, one of the top dozen inside linebackers in history. he just retired after posting his worst season in half a decade. The fact that his down year is enough to make the second team demonstrates just how amazing he has been. Cory Littleton was a happy surprise. After spending time as one of the top special teamers and a pure coverage specialist who struggled against the run, he put it all together for a career year.

After watching the round trip flight of Jamie Collins‘s career, it’s evident he should probably stay in New England if he wants to produce on the field. Deion Jones put up his fourth excellent coverage season in his four-year career, and he may be the prototype for the future of the MLB position. Jayon Brown isn’t big or fast or particularly great at any one thing, but he is solid in all areas (as long as he’s not facing an elite quarterback). That’s good enough in 2019.

Cornerback:

Stephon Gilmore was the consensus defensive player of the year, and for good reason. Playing the most valuable position on defense, he showed he could cover both outside and in the slot, act as a lock down corner or a playmaker, and lead a defense that looked historically great for most of the season. Tre’Davious White co-led the league in CB interceptions (with Gilmore). Richard Sherman allowed just 34 catches for 373 yards in 18 games. Both were pretty strictly outside corners, and both anchored incredible pass defenses.

Casey Hayward showed that you can play the most valuable position on defense at a high level and still have a bad pass defense. Since entering the league as a nickel in 2012, he has never had a down year, even after switching teams or switching roles. Marlon Humphrey was the less heralded but most consistent and versatile corner on a strong Ravens defense. Shaquill Griffin plays in the shadow of the Legion of Boom. While he hasn’t matched the play of his predecessor, he has been very good against both the pass and the run.

J.C. Jackson and Brian Poole spent plenty of time in the slot and played well there. Poole surrendered just 0.57 yards per snap from the slot, while Jackson boasted a handful of picks while playing a ton of dime. Marcus Peters has long been the most exciting corner in football, because you never knew if a pass was going for a pick six or a long touchdown reception. This year, he still gave up some big plays, but he made enough big plays of his own to land a place on the list.

Safety:

Justin Simmons was versatile and played well in a number of roles. Whether you need him to play high, in the box, or as a slot man, he can do it with aplomb. Anthony Harris played his first season as a regular starter and seemed to get better and better as the year progressed. Including playoffs, he led all players in interceptions, and he allowed just 14 catches all season. Jamal Adams is the ideal modern box safety. He is a force against the run, he is a sublime blitzer, and he can actually cover. A modern day LeRoy Butler.

Devin McCourty continues to play at a high level for a marquee franchise and somehow remains under the radar. Playing in a complex scheme, McCourty is seemingly always in the right place at the right time. Marcus Williams is unfortunately remembered for a fluke bad play, but he was a good safety then and is a good safety now. Solid against the run, along with 139 yards allowed in his coverage.  Harrison Smith has spent most of his career at a top flight safety, but this season was one of the few in which he actually excelled in coverage and seemed to lose a step against the run.

Earl Thomas is Earl Thomas, except when tackling Derrick Henry. Micah Hyde has long been a great cover man. This wasn’t his best season, but it was solid in all areas and pretty consistent throughout the year. Tre Boston returned to the Panthers and posted the best coverage season his career. He was pretty terrible against the run, but coverage is king, and he allowed just eight completions for 125 yards on nearly 700 snaps in coverage.

All Pro Special Teams

Kicker:

Justin Tucker needs no explanation.

Josh Lambo was perfect from beyond 50. When looking at field goal rate adjusted for depth, Lambo was the most accurate in the league. When factoring in weather and stadiums, he falls behind Tucker.

Wil Lutz is reminiscent of Jeff Wilkins: a great field goal kicker who is also excellent on kickoffs. You love to see it.

Punter:

Brett Kern boasted a very good net average but really made his mark with accuracy. He put 51 kicks inside the 20 while only driving six into the end zone (four of which came in one game).

Logan Cooke was the foot behind the best punt unit in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders metrics. He had the league’s highest net average and boasted an excellent 31:2 I20 to TB ratio.

Bryan Anger may have been the best punter on a per-kick basis, but he missed too much time to earn a higher place on the list.

Kick Returner:

Cordarrelle Patterson may be the best kickoff returner in history, hampered by rules that seek to eliminate his forte. He had the second best return average,4 scored a touchdown, and was a solid special teamer as a bonus.

Brandon Wilson led the league in yards per return and scored a touchdown. He missed four games, which bring him down a step.

Andre Roberts beats out Deonte Harris for the honorable mention spot because I wanted more diversity in my selections, but Harris was probably the superior player.

Punt Returner:

Diontae Johnson only returned 20 kicks, but he had a great average, put points on the board, and didn’t put the ball on the ground. That’s good enough for me.

Deonte Harris may be the preference of the Bayesians, as he put up his solid average 40 returns. I would have given him the first team nod had he not muffed three punts. Nyheim Hines breaks my rule of not including guys with too few attempts. In just nine returns he picked up 281 yards and scored two touchdowns. That’s really good, folks.

Special Teamer:

J.T. Gray led all players in special teams tackles (16) and added a blocked kick for good measure.

Matthew Slater did what he always does, playing well in nearly every facet of special teams play, but this time he threw his his first career blocked punt. Derek Watt had 15 tackles and was generally solid in all areas. We were a J.J. Watt injury away from having all three Watt boys on my all pro team.

All Pro Coaches

Head Coach:

John Harbaugh bought in to building an offense around the unique and abundant skills of his young quarterback. He made use of a run-heavy attack in a pass-happy league, but he did it intelligently, putting the ball in the hands of Lamar Jackson and his otherworldly running ability. Harbaugh also bought into the numbers, keeping his offense on the field by converting fourth down after fourth down. The result? Just the third team in history to average more than three points per drive. The Ravens also fielded a great defense that feasted on opposing passers, but it’s Harbaugh’s attention to his star QB that gets him to the top of this list.

Sean Payton lost his superduperstar quarterback for five starts and was finally able to build a team resilient enough to withstand Brees’s absence. Bill Belichick ended up with flotsam and jetsam playing wide receiver, but he crafted a defense that could withstand offensive ineptitude after years of putting the team on the back of the offense.

Assistant Coach:

Greg Roman has a knack for bringing the best out of mobile quarterbacks, and Jackson may be his Sistine Chapel. He crafted a scheme that gave his quarterback easy options on running plays and wide open receivers on passing plays, knowing the threat of Jackson himself would itself become part of the design.

Shanahans are always going to get attention for their offenses, but Robert Saleh did incredible work with the 49ers defense, turning them into arguably the best defense in the league. Darrin Simmons built a great special teams unit that was solid in most areas of ST play.

 

  1. Drew Brees and, somehow, Ryan Tannehill were better in abbreviated action.
  2. Lane Johnson was as good or better, I think, but he didn’t play enough for my liking.
  3. J.J. Watt actually generated 6.1 pressures per game, but he once again finished an abbreviated season in street clothes.
  4. Which is incredible when you consider that he is a risk taker and will return kicks many others will not attempt.