As the league becomes increasingly reliant on the passing game, the need for players to support or defend passing offenses increases, while run oriented players see a concomitant decrease in necessity. Because of this, I have included a third receiver spot and space for a defensive back in the slot. However, with a hundred years of NFL football in the rearview, it feels right to include some traditional roster spots with a nod to the past. Thus, fullbacks, nose tackles and linebackers also have a home on the GridFe all decade team for the 2010s.1
Here’s the squad.
|Pos||First Team||Second Team||Third Team|
|QB||Tom Brady||Drew Brees||Aaron Rodgers|
|RB||Adrian Peterson||LeSean McCoy||Marshawn Lynch|
|FB||Kyle Juszczyk||Anthony Sherman||Jerome Felton|
|WR||Julio Jones||Larry Fitzgerald||Jordy Nelson|
|WR||Antonio Brown||DeAndre Hopkins||Mike Evans|
|WR||Calvin Johnson||A.J. Green||Demaryius Thomas|
|TE||Rob Gronkowski||Travis Kelce||Jimmy Graham|
|LT||Joe Thomas||Jason Peters||Tyron Smith|
|LG||Evan Mathis||Logan Mankins||Josh Sitton|
|OC||Alex Mack||Jason Kelce||Nick Mangold|
|RG||Marshal Yanda||Zack Martin||Brandon Brooks|
|RT||Mitchell Schwartz||Lane Johnson||Zach Strief|
|ED||J.J. Watt||Khalil Mack||Justin Houston|
|ED||Von Miller||Cameron Wake||Michael Bennett|
|ID||Aaron Donald||Fletcher Cox||Ndamukong Suh|
|ID||Geno Atkins||Calais Campbell||Jurrell Casey|
|NT||Damon Harrison||Vince Wilfork||Haloti Ngata|
|OLB||Lavonte David||Karlos Dansby||Sean Lee|
|OLB||Thomas Davis||Stephen Tulloch||K.J. Wright|
|ILB||Luke Kuechly||Patrick Willis||Navorro Bowman|
|ILB||Bobby Wagner||Derrick Johnson||Dont'a Hightower|
|CB||Richard Sherman||Darrelle Revis||Stephon Gilmore|
|CB||Patrick Peterson||Casey Hayward||Darius Slay|
|SLOT||Chris Harris Jr.||Tyrann Mathieu||Nickell Robey-Coleman|
|FS||Earl Thomas||Eric Weddle||Devin McCourty|
|SS||Kam Chancellor||Eric Berry||Harrison Smith|
|K||Justin Tucker||Stephen Gostkowski||Matt Bryant|
|P||Johnny Hekker||Thomas Morstead||Sam Koch|
|KR||Cordarrelle Patterson||Jacoby Jones||Percy Harvin|
|PR||Devin Hester||Julian Edelman||Marcus Sherels|
|ST||Matthew Slater||Justin Bethel||Michael Thomas|
|HC||Bill Belichick||John Harbaugh||Pete Carroll|
All Decade Offense
Tom Brady is the obvious choice. Three player of the year awards, three more rings, two Super Bowl MVPs, and a string of efficient and productive seasons. The greatest legacy of any player in history. What more can you ask for?
This was a hard choice, but it was hard to overlook Adrian Peterson‘s peak. The last running back to take home an MVP award, he used a rare blend of speed, power, and balance to churn out yards despite often running into loaded boxes.
There have been better blockers in the Moose Johnston mold, but Kyle Juszczyk was the most consistently excellent fullback this decade. He did his job as a lead blocker, kept his quarterbacks upright in pass pro, and added value as a receiver.
Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and Calvin Johnson are three of the most dominant receivers in history, even after accounting for this pass happy decade. Jones and Brown played almost the full decade as dominant starters. Johnson only played six years in the 2010s, but they were dominant seasons that included the single season yardage record.
Rob Gronkowski is the clear pick, and there was never another name in consideration. No tight end in history has boasted a better combination of receiving, blocking, and production. He dominated his position like few players in history have, and he did it without ever playing at full strength.
For 10,363 straight snaps, Joe Thomas put on a pass blocking clinic. Despite being charged with protecting a bevy of completely oblivious quarterbacks, Thomas locked down his side of the line more effectively than all but a handful of tackles in history.2
Evan Mathis played for four different teams and took care of business everywhere he went.3 He was always solid in pass pro, and he is among the finest run blockers of his generation. Rarely making flashy, bulldozing blocks, Mathis nonetheless won a high rate of his battles and did so with technique.
If Nick Mangold‘s career shifted a few years later, he would be the easy choice. However, based solely on 2010-2019, Alex Mack is the top guy. Mack hasn’t demonstrated any glaring weaknesses as a blocker. He can block the pass and the run with aplomb, and he has shown he can do so in different schemes and in front of different passers.
In a fair world, Marshal Yanda would waltz right into the Hall of Fame. He has never had a bad or even average season, and he has thrived on either side and even at tackle. His peak in the middle of the decade included some of the finest guard play in history.
Mitchell Schwartz is a pass pro virtuoso who has aged like fine wine. When finally paired with a quarterback worthy of his talents, people finally took notice. His performance during the Chiefs Super Bowl run will4 be talked about for years to come.
All Decade Defense
J.J. Watt and Von Miller were chalk. At his peak, Watt was the best player in the game, regardless of position. He owns three defensive player of the year awards, and he was a permanent resident in opposing backfields. Miller has one of the greatest first steps of any defenders ever to do it, a talent he has used to become the premier rushbacker of his generation. He’s also the rare edge rusher who excels in coverage.
Aaron Donald took over where Watt left off, staking his claim as the best player in the league several years running. He is the best pass rushing tackle since Alan Page and also destroys rushing games in the backfield. Geno Atkins entered the league without much fanfare, but he quickly established himself as one of the best interior rushers in modern history. Relatively small and compact, both defenders use tremendous leverage and technique to best the opposition.
It would not be a stretch to call Damon Harrison the top run stuffer in history. He held up and disengaged blockers with seeming ease. Snacks was often the first player to the rusher and nearly always brought his man down.
Lavonte David and Thomas Davis were all around stud linebackers who could attack the line of scrimmage or hold their own in coverage. David is among the best in recent history at attacking runners for a loss, and Davis used his experience as a college safety to become one of the better cover backers of the decade.
Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner were easy choices. Both entered in 2012, and both started 118 games. The pair were consistently the top two inside linebackers in the land, combining superb coverage skills with excellent instincts and sound tackling.
Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman are two corners who are markedly different but nonetheless incredible. Peterson was a high pick with uncanny athleticism who tracked top receivers and made his name as a press man specialist. Sherman was an afterthought without blazing speed who used his brain to work his way into the top playmaking corner of the decade.
Chris Harris Jr. almost never has a bad day at the office and has cemented his status as the top slot cornerback in history. Typically playing in space, Harris has shown he can quickly break in or out to take away his man, and he has been a sure tackler when offenses tried to test him on the edge.
Earl Thomas is in the Ed Reed / Nolan Cromwell mold of unparalleled range safeties who can make plays on the ball and erase the deep pass. His ability to patrol sideline to sideline was a vital component to one of the great defenses of the modern era. Although not known as a thumper, he could lay the wood when he wanted to
The third member of the Legion of Boom secondary to make the team, Kam Chancellor was the enforcer of the group. His ability to blow up running backs, receivers, or even linemen often set the tone for the game and provided a noticeable energy boost to his teammates.
All Decade Special Teams
Justin Tucker is the best kicker of all time. In the greatest era for kicking the game has ever seen, Tucker clearly stands out above the rest. Kicking in Baltimore and playing in the cold outdoors of the AFC North, he still boasts the best statistical profile of any kicker and has managed to avoid the rollercoaster ride taken by most at his position.
Johnny Hekker is likely the top punter in history. Several punters have had big legs, while others have had good accuracy. Others still have been able to pose a threat on fakes. Hekker combines all of these at a high level. He has bailed out bad offenses with booming rainbows and bought some time for good offenses with precision drops. If you must punt, Hekker is he guy you want doing it.
Rule changes have made kickoff return specialist less of a commodity than they used to be. In another era, Cordarrelle Patterson may have been discussed reverently as a dangerous weapon who essentially provided his offenses with a free first down. He has led the league in average thrice and only had one season below 28 yards per return. His decade-best seven return touchdowns are a cherry on top.
Devin Hester‘s most legendary work as a punt returner came in 2006 and 2007. This decade doesn’t include those seasons, but Hester nevertheless still ranks first among all punt returners in both average and touchdowns. He may end up as the first player in Canton based on his return skills, and his threat to score and turn the tide of a game is the reason.
Often, special teamers get Pro Bowl nods and postseason honors based on their name rather than their performance.5 However, Matthew Slater is the rare special teams star who actually deserved most of his awards and acclaim. He’s not a playmaker like Ivory Sully, but he has been a consistent and disciplined coverage specialist year after year.
All Decade Coaches
After overseeing the dynasty of the 2000s, Bill Belichick somehow outdid himself in the 2010s. His Patriots have averaged 12.5 wins per season on their way to all ten AFC East titles in the decade. The lone year New England failed to win at least 12 games was 2018, when they won 11 before winning three straight postseason bouts to capture their third Super Bowl win since 2010. Belichick’s squads have also lost two other title games in dramatic fashion and have won at least one playoff game in all but the decade’s bookend seasons.
- Given how long the league fielded 43 and 34 defenses as base personnel, this team will pay homage by including four linebacker slots. ↩
- Anthony Munoz, Walter Jones, Ron Mix, Dan Dierdorf, and Mike Kenn come to mind. ↩
- Okay, he barely played in Arizona, but he was good in limited action. ↩
- should ↩
- When someone preaches to you about the greatest of all time, rarely can that person give you a top ten or even a top five list. ↩