Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Sports Central 2016 NFL All-Pro Team

By Brad Oremland

With the 2016 regular season over, it's time to honor this season's most outstanding players. This column exists to explain the reasons I chose certain players, or didn't take others, and to give recognition to those who just missed the cut. If all you care about is who made the team, skip to the end and you'll find a list.

We name 12 players on offense and 13 on defense. Instead of a fullback, we name a third wide receiver and second tight end, both of which are more common formations. On defense, we accommodate all three base defenses (3-4, 4-3, and nickel) by listing three cornerbacks and two each of defensive tackles and inside linebackers. Our choices are listed in order, so you'll know which receiver is third, which tight end is second, and so on.

Please note that when I mention a defender's tackles, I am referring to solo tackles. It is the official position of this column that "assists" are baloney.

Quarterback: Matt Ryan (ATL)
Last Year: Cam Newton (CAR)

I think Tom Brady's (NE) four-game suspension was ridiculous, and without it, he might be my all-pro QB. But he did miss four games, which makes Ryan the best choice. Ryan led the NFL in passer rating (117.1), yards per attempt (9.3), net yards per attempt (8.2), yards per completion (13.3), first down percentage (41.7), and touchdown percentage (7.1). He was the most efficient passer in the league this year, with no one except Brady even close. Ryan ranked 2nd in passing yards, TDs, and TD/INT differential — even though 16 QBs threw more passes than he did.

Even in the two games Julio Jones missed, Ryan threw 5 TDs and no picks, with a 134.7 rating and 9.4 NY/A, and the Falcons scored over 40 points both weeks. The Falcons led the NFL in scoring, actually the 8th-highest scoring team in history (540), and more than half of their offensive possessions led to points, the only such team in the league.

Running Back: David Johnson (ARI)
Last Year: Adrian Peterson (MIN)

A two-way race, between Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) and Johnson — though as with QB, Le'Veon Bell (PIT) might have been the front-runner if not for a suspension to begin the season. Elliott had more rushing yards than Johnson, and a better average. Johnson had more yards from scrimmage and more touchdowns.

Elliott has excellent vision and decision-making, and he's probably the fastest lead back in the NFL. Once he gets into the open field, he's gone. He's a good receiver and solid in pass protection. Johnson is an outstanding receiver and a shifty open-field runner, and he gets less help from his offensive line. Zeke would be great no matter who was blocking, but it's a lot easier to run through holes than to make your own. Last year, Darren McFadden was the fourth-leading rusher in the NFL behind the Cowboys' offensive line, and the year before that, DeMarco Murray rushed for even more yardage than Elliott. I think Johnson, who gained 2,118 total yards and quietly led the league in TDs (20), created more on his own.

Wide Receiver: Mike Evans (TB), T.Y. Hilton (IND), Odell Beckham (NYG)
Last Year: Julio Jones (ATL), Antonio Brown (PIT), DeAndre Hopkins (HOU)

Five players had excellent seasons, way ahead of anyone else, and there was very little separation among them: Evans, Hilton, Beckham, Jones, and Brown. Jones and Brown are probably the best receivers in the NFL right now, but for this season specifically, I have them 4th and 5th. Jones is the premier target on the league's best offense, probably the most amazing and impressive WR to watch. Brown gets open and catches everything, and he's dangerous with the ball in his hands.

Jones was a lock before he missed two games. The Falcons topped 40 points in both games, which helps Matt Ryan's MVP case but hurts Julio's argument. Julio's 6 TDs are also a red flag for someone on the league's highest-scoring offense. Jones tied for 3rd in touchdowns on his own team, behind two running backs and equal with Taylor Gabriel. Brown ranked 5th in receiving yards, and was 4th even before he sat out Week 17.

Evans made 81 first downs, 23% ahead of second-place Hilton (66), and 84% of his receptions produced first downs, by far the highest mark in the league. He's probably the best red zone target in the league right now. Hilton led in receiving yards (1,448) and receptions of 20+ yards (28). His three biggest games came in close wins, including two lead-changing long TDs late in the fourth quarter. Beckham ranked 3rd in receptions, yards, and first downs, 4th in TDs, and he gained 524 yards after catch, on pure speed. No top WR has better hands, and none is faster. He was the only offensive weapon on the 11-5 Giants.

If there's anyone else who deserves consideration, it would be Jordy Nelson (GB), who led in TDs (14). Nelson ranked 6th in yardage and padded his stats in some big losses. During Green Bay's four-game losing streak, Nelson had 26 receptions for 342 yards and 4 TDs — all above his season averages. I like Jarvis Landry (MIA) a lot, but he's not there yet.

Tight End: Greg Olsen (CAR), Travis Kelce (KC)
Last Year: Rob Gronkowski (NE), Greg Olsen (CAR)

Olsen and Kelce had the most receiving yards of any tight end, by quite a lot. Jimmy Graham is the only TE whose stats are remotely close, and while Graham increased his contributions as a blocker this year, he lags far behind Olsen and Kelce.

Center: Travis Frederick (DAL)
Last Year: Ryan Kalil (CAR)

A two-man race, between Rodney Hudson (OAK) and Frederick. It's hard to separate Frederick's greatness from that of Zack Martin and Ronald Leary — and to some extent, Ezekiel Elliott — but he's probably the most sound center in the league, and he's athletic, maneuvering to set up lanes for Elliott.

If anyone challenges Frederick and Hudson on the AP ballot, I imagine it would be Alex Mack (ATL) or Maurkice Pouncey (PIT). I didn't see a lot of Atlanta games this year, but I thought Andy Levitre was their best offensive lineman. Pouncey, like Frederick, plays on a great line where it's not always obvious how to divide credit. Pouncey didn't play at all last year, when the Steelers gained more yards and scored more points.

Guard: Zack Martin (DAL), David DeCastro (PIT)
Last Year: Marshal Yanda (BAL), Richie Incognito (BUF)

Yanda and Incognito played well again, close behind DeCastro for the last spot. Yanda's injury — he missed three games, and didn't play at the same level when he came back — probably cost him a spot alongside Martin. I frequently select two left guards, or two left tackles, or whatever. This is the first time I've chosen two right guards. I don't care too much about that, but I know some people do. Incognito would be my top left guard if you insist on one.

Offensive Tackle: David Bakhtiari (GB), Marcus Cannon (NE)
Last Year: Tyron Smith (DAL), Kyle Long (CHI)

My least-favorite position to select, because there aren't any real standouts right now. This is also a difficult position to evaluate without dedicated film study, because so much of a tackle's responsibility is pass-blocking. Run-blocking is comparably easy to evaluate: you can see if a guy sealed his man, or got to the second level or whatever. A good run block is impressive. A good pass block seldom is: you notice negatives more than positives, so it's hard to really distinguish the top players unless you see a lot of them. Am I guessing at this position? Somewhat, yeah. More than I'm comfortable with.

I also considered Smith, Zack Strief (NO), Donald Penn (OAK), Alejandro Villanueva (PIT), Jack Conklin (TEN), Taylor Lewan (TEN), and Andrew Whitworth (CIN).

Defensive Tackle: Aaron Donald (LA), Calais Campbell (ARI)
Last Year: Aaron Donald (STL), Geno Atkins (CIN)

With J.J. Watt out, Donald is the most disruptive lineman in football. He made 17 tackles for loss this season, by far the most of any DT (Atkins, 13), and tied for the most at any position. Campbell, who is really a 3-4 defensive end — you could reasonably list him at either position — made more big plays than any other interior lineman: 12 TFL, 8 sacks, 6 batted passes, 2 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries, an interception, a safety, and a touchdown. You just don't see that kind of statistical production at this position.

If you prefer to list Campbell as a DE, you might look at Damon Harrison (NYG), Linval Joseph (MIN), Gerald McCoy (TB), Kawann Short (CAR), Ndamukong Suh (MIA), or Atkins. McCoy is probably the one who does the most by himself; he and Atkins are the only ones on the list who led their team in sacks. Atkins had the most sacks (9) of any DT, Harrison made the most tackles (55), and Joseph forced the most fumbles (3). I suppose McCoy might be my third choice.

Defensive End: Khalil Mack (OAK), Cameron Wake (MIA)
Last Year: J.J. Watt (HOU), Fletcher Cox (PHI)

Mack is obvious. He had 11 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, an interception, and a touchdown. He drew double-teams and penalties and disrupted opposing backfields.

The other spot was a mess. Cliff Avril (SEA) had 9 sacks in the first eight games, but only 2.5 in the last eight games. Wake was the opposite. Coming off a torn Achilles', Wake played sparingly the first five weeks of the season, and the Dolphins went 1-4. Wake returned to the starting lineup in Week 6 and recorded 10.5 sacks in 11 games — the highest in the NFL over that time — as the Dolphins finished 9-2 and made the playoffs. Mack, Avril, and Wake each forced 5 fumbles, the most for a defensive lineman this year.

Joey Bosa's (SD) story is similar to Wake's. He missed the first three weeks, then got 10.5 sacks and 17 TFL (tied for the league lead) in 13 games, including at least one sack for the last five games in a row. Olivier Vernon (NYG) and Cameron Jordan (NO) tied Bosa for the TFL lead. Among the three, Vernon had the most tackles, Bosa the most sacks, and Jordan the most pass deflections.

Danielle Hunter (MIN) led all defensive linemen in sacks (12.5), but he might have been the third-best defensive lineman on his own team, behind Everson Griffen (MIN) and Linval Joseph. Mario Addison (CAR) was a pass-rush specialist, who only started 1 game. But he had 9.5 sacks, and while he was out with injury, the Panthers went 0-2, allowing 35 and 40 points. Addison showed up on the stat sheet in 12 games. In those 12, Carolina went 6-6 and allowed 21.5 points per game. In the other four games, Carolina went 0-4 and allowed 33.5 ppg.

Carlos Dunlap (CIN) only had 8 sacks, but he batted down 15 passes — twice as many as any other defensive lineman. That's 15 plays disrupted, and probably many more on which he prevented or altered a throw. Jadeveon Clowney (HOU) only had 6 sacks, but with 16 TFL. J.J. Watt went down, and Clowney stepped in, as the Texans led the NFL in fewest yards allowed. Brandon Graham (PHI) had 5.5 sacks, but he was always in the backfield.

Avril, Wake, Bosa, Vernon, Jordan, Hunter, Griffen, Addison, Dunlap, Clowney, Graham ... that's 11 names I considered to join Khalil Mack. They're all reasonable choices, but I think Wake's impact, when he was in the lineup, was highest.

Outside Linebacker: Von Miller (DEN), Thomas Davis (CAR)
Last Year: Khalil Mack (OAK), Thomas Davis (CAR)

This category really encompasses two distinct positions: pass rushers and space players. Most 3-4 OLBs are pass-rush specialists, comparable to defensive ends. Most 4-3 OLBs have a wider set of responsibilities, similar to those of inside linebackers. In selecting an all-pro team, I usually (but not always) look for one of each.

Ten linebackers had double-digit sacks this year, but the choice really came down to Miller against Vic Beasley (ATL), who led the NFL in sacks (15.5) and tied for the lead in forced fumbles (6). Miller is more well-rounded and fights through more chips and double-teams.

Davis does everything. He led Carolina in tackles, with 2.5 sacks, 3 INTs, a forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, 81 return yards, and a touchdown. No one finished the season stronger than Lavonte David (TB). In the last five games, he had 23 tackles, 6 TFL, 4 sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown. His 17 TFL were the most for any linebacker, and he's as good in coverage as any LB.

Inside Linebacker: Bobby Wagner (SEA), Kwon Alexander (TB)
Last Year: Luke Kuechly (CAR), Derrick Johnson (KC)

I used cheap tiebreakers to get around tough choices. Wagner locked up a spot with his sensational Week 17: his performance probably saved the game in Seattle's 2-point victory, earning them the third seed in the NFC — and a matchup with the Lions — rather than the fourth seed and the Giants. Alexander led the league in tackles (108).

Both players have more to recommend them than that — Alexander has 12 TFL, 7 PD, 3 sacks, an INT, FF, FR, and TD — but at a certain point it gets tough to sort out. Zach Brown (BUF) had 97 tackles and 4 sacks. Deion Jones (ATL) had 11 PD and led the NFL in interception return yardage (165). Jordan Hicks (PHI) had 5 INT. Vontaze Burfict (CIN) and Kuechly might have been best of all, but Burfict only played 11 games, and Kuechly 10.

Cornerback: Malcolm Butler (NE), Aqib Talib (DEN), Chris Harris (DEN)
Last Year: Josh Norman (CAR), Patrick Peterson (ARI), Aqib Talib (DEN)

There are five cornerbacks I really, really like, and I'm upset I can't take all of them: Butler, Talib, Harris, Marcus Peters (KC), and Xavier Rhodes (MIN). Butler is the best player on the league's top scoring defense. He shuts down opposing receivers, and makes plays when the ball comes to him. Talib and Harris are contrasting, complementary teammates. Talib plays outside. He blankets opposing receivers, he's aggressive with the ball, and he hits hard. Harris mostly plays the slot. He's more of a shutdown corner, less of a ballhawk, and he keeps everything in front of him, probably gets burned less than any regular CB in football.

Peters is a gambler, and he gets burned sometimes. He also had 6 INT and 3 FR this year, 2 more takeaways than anyone else in football. I think the people who rate Peters low massively underestimate the importance of his play-making. Rhodes had 5 INT for 133 yards and a touchdown, and he shut down some really tough receivers.

Free Safety: Eric Berry (KC)
Last Year: Tyrann Mathieu (ARI)

The line between strong safety and free safety is pretty blurry on many teams, which I've used as an excuse to select Berry as a free safety. He flies around the field like a free safety, and he covers the pass like a free safety. This season, he had 9 PD, 4 INT, and 2 TDs, plus a game-winning 2-point conversion on a 100-yard interception return, which doesn't count toward the stats.

If you absolutely insist on a pure free safety, Reggie Nelson (OAK) had 7 takeaways in his first season with the Raiders. Eric Weddle (BAL), listed at strong safety but still playing like a free safety, had 13 PD and 4 INT.

Strong Safety: Landon Collins (NYG)
Last Year: Reshad Jones (MIA)

Collins had 100 tackles, most of any defensive back, with 9 TFL, second-most. He had 4 sacks, most for a DB, and 13 passes defensed, tied with Weddle for the most by a safety. He had 5 interceptions, just two off the league lead, plus a fumble recovery, 78 return yards, and a touchdown. There are a lot of good strong safeties right now, but no one else deserves serious consideration.

Kicker: Justin Tucker (BAL)
Last Year: Stephen Gostkowski (NE)

Another slam dunk. He led the league in field goals, 40+ yard field goals, and 50+ yard field goals. His only miss was blocked, while every other regular kicker missed at least four times.

Punter: Johnny Hekker (LA)
Last Year: Marquette King (OAK)

I wish Hekker were more aggressive near the goal line. He only had two punts down inside the 5-yard line this season, and only nine down inside the 10. Balancing that out, however, he led the league — by almost 50% — in punts down inside the 20, against only one touchback. That's a 50-to-1 ratio of I20-to-TB, which is nuts.

Hekker also led the league by wide margins in net average (46.0), fair catches (40), and lowest return average allowed (4.3). Hekker punts really deep, but he also has great hang time and directional kicking. Bryan Anger (TB) would be my runner-up.

Return Specialist: Tyreek Hill (KC)
Last Year: Cordarrelle Patterson (MIN)

Working mostly a punt returner, Hill gained 592 yards with 2 TDs, with a 15.2 average that he didn't protect with fair catches (39 PR, 8 FC). Compare Hill to Tavon Austin, who gained the second-most PR yardage this season:


Jamison Crowder (WAS) was the only player to gain half as many PR yards as Hill and also score a touchdown, but his average (12.1) was three points lower, despite that he usually fair caught when there were defenders nearby (27 PR, 15 FC). Hill was also a good kickoff returner: 14 KR, 384 yds, 27.4 avg, TD.

Special Teamer: Josh Robinson (TB)
Last Year: Matthew Slater (NE)

Everyone knows about Matt Slater, but not many fans have heard of Josh Robinson. Let me walk you through four particular games.

Week 8, vs OAK: downs a punt at the 1-yard line, tackles Jalen Richard for no gain on a punt return.

Week 10, vs CHI: tackles Deonte Thompson at the 10-yard line on a kickoff, and Eddie Royal at the 2-yard line on a punt return.

Week 12, vs SEA: downs a punt at the 4-yard line, tackles Tyler Lockett for no gain on a punt return.

Week 14, vs NO: tackles Tommylee Lewis at the 17-yard line on a kickoff, downs a punt at the 3-yard line.

Those are the highlights, obviously, but they're pretty awesome. Justin Bethel (ARI), Nate Ebner (NE), Dwayne Harris (NYG), Darrell Stuckey (SD), and Michael Thomas (MIA) also merit consideration. A special honorable mention for Margus Hunt (CIN), who blocked three kicks.

Five players repeat from my 2015 All-Pro team: Greg Olsen, Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, Thomas Davis, and Aqib Talib.

Offensive Player of the Year: Matt Ryan (ATL)
Last Year: Julio Jones (ATL)

Ezekiel Elliott (DAL) will probably win this, because most of the voters are under the impression that they must select a running back. Zeke's not a bad choice. His 1,631 yards led the league by over 300. He's an exciting player, and his playmaking talent is unmistakeable. But Ryan had the most outstanding season of any offensive player this season. His team went 11-5 and led the NFL in scoring, and he led all quarterbacks in nearly every rate stat. David Johnson (ARI) would probably be my second choice.

Defensive Player of the Year: Landon Collins (NYG)
Last Year: J.J. Watt (HOU)

No other player was so far ahead of his peers. New additions like Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins deserve recognition for the boost they gave New York's defense, but Collins' development was — pardon the pun — gigantic. He led or was near the league lead, among DBs, in every major defensive stat.

Special Teams Player of the Year: Justin Tucker (BAL)
Last Year: Stephen Gostkowski (NE)

This is the third year in a row I've gone with a kicker, and I'm not thrilled about it. You could make a reasonable argument for Johnny Hekker (LA) or Tyreek Hill (KC). I don't officially name a Special Teams Rookie of the Year, but if I did, it would obviously be Hill.

Most Valuable Player: Matt Ryan (ATL)
Last Year: Cam Newton (CAR)

Over the last couple weeks, I think this became pretty clear. Part of the problem with our media culture is their incentive to make the MVP race larger than it is. When they're hyping a game, they want to feature a superstar. Monday Night Football was more noticeable about this than anyone else. Two weeks ago, Sean McDonough referred to Matthew Stafford as an MVP candidate. The week before featured a quarterback named, "MVP candidate Kirk Cousins." These are two QBs who didn't make the Pro Bowl, and McDonough's treating them like Joe Montana. I understand marketing, and there's nothing wrong with calling attention to players like Stafford and Cousins, but you can do that without misleading viewers. This race seems more wide-open than it really should be.

Tom Brady (NE) played brilliantly but missed four games. Aaron Rodgers (GB) emerged as an MVP candidate in the last few weeks, but he began the season showing some of the same struggles as last year. Rodgers played great in the red zone, but his yardage numbers are way down. This is his net yards per attempt, from 2008 to present, with the MVP years bolded: 6.7, 7.0, 7.4, 8.2, 6.6, 7.8, 7.7, 5.7, 6.5. By average yardage, this was the second-worst year of Rodgers' career, about a yard and a half below his MVP seasons. His first down percentage (34.4%) ranked 11th this year. Rodgers played at MVP level for the last month of the season, not the length of the season.

Some people will want to support Dak Prescott (DAL) or Ezekiel Elliott (DAL). My interpretation of "Most Valuable" makes it hard for me to support someone from a team with another MVP candidate, and I don't think either of them is a good choice. Between the two, I prefer Elliott. Prescott was a real good quarterback this year, and Elliott was an exceptional running back. I think QBs are more important than RBs, but Prescott was solid more than amazing. Zeke was amazing more than solid.

Okay, last item here. Two quarterback seasons:

QB A — 341/520 (65.6%), 4381 yds (7.7 NY/A), 38 TD, 5 INT, 112.2 rating, 269 rush yds, 2 TD, 10 fmbl

QB B — 373/534 (69.9%), 4944 yds (8.2 NY/A), 38 TD, 7 INT, 117.1 rating, 117 rush yds, 0 INT, 4 fmbl

Both great seasons, but QB B looks a little better, right? QB A has two fewer interceptions, but QB B has six fewer fumbles. QB A has 152 more rushing yards and 2 extra TDs, but QB B has 563 more yards on basically the same number of attempts. QB B is Matt Ryan. QB A is Aaron Rodgers two years ago, when he got 44 of 50 all-pro votes and 31 of 50 MVP votes.

I think a lot of us having trouble wrapping our heads around Ryan as MVP because he wasn't on TV throwing for 5000 yards and 38 TDs. The Falcons only had two nationally televised games all season. The Patriots had four. The Packers had six. The Cowboys had seven. That doesn't even include the featured mid-afternoon games, where I bet you saw a lot more of New England and Dallas than you did of Atlanta. It's hard to give Ryan full credit for what he did, when we didn't see most of it — but he did it.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)
Last Year: Todd Gurley (STL)

Man, were there a lot of good offensive rookies this season. Dak Prescott (DAL) exceeded all expectations. He threw 23 TDs and 4 INTs, breaking Robert Griffin's rookie record for passer rating (104.9). That's an Offensive Rookie of the Year-type season.

Jordan Howard (CHI) rushed for 1,313 yards — 2nd-most in the NFL — breaking Matt Forte's franchise rookie record, and averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Tyreek Hill (KC) gained 860 yards from scrimmage, with 3 rush TDs and 6 TDs as a receiver, plus 976 yards and 3 TDs as a returner. He was a dynamic offensive weapon for a 12-4 division winner, and the best returner in the league. Any of those three would be a worthy choice in another year.

But Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 1,631 yards, with a 5.1 average and 15 TDs. He added 363 yards and another TD receiving. He was as exciting as any offensive player in football, he was the most productive rookie in football, and I think he meant more to the Cowboys than Prescott.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Deion Jones (ATL)
Last Year: Marcus Peters (KC)

If I had to predict which defensive rookie is most likely to be a star in the future, I'd probably go with Joey Bosa (SD). He tied for the league lead in tackles for loss despite missing three games, and tallied at least one sack for the last five games in a row. But Jones, one of those new linebacker-safety hybrids, made more impact this season. He had 75 tackles (to Bosa's 29), and led the NFL in INT return yards (165), with 2 TDs.

It's hard to evaluate DeForest Buckner (SF) on the league's worst defense, but he tied for the team lead in sacks, at a position that doesn't normally produce great stats. Yannick Ngakoue (JAC) had 8 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. Leonard Floyd (CHI) might have been a DROY contender if not for injuries. Jalen Ramsey (JAC) had 14 PD and played his best football in December.

Coach of the Year: Jack Del Rio (OAK)
Last Year: Ron Rivera (CAR)

The Raiders hadn't had a winning record for the last 13 seasons in a row, and Del Rio led them, not to 9-7 but 12-4. They're unlikely to make a playoff run without QB Derek Carr, but they had a great season. Del Rio deserves credit not only for overseeing a successful team, but changing the culture of an organization going nowhere.

Adam Gase (MIA) pulled a similar turnaround for a team that hadn't made the playoffs since '08, and Dan Quinn (ATL) deserves credit for Atlanta's fine season. I don't know if I have some lingering bias that makes me reluctant to extend the same credit to Jason Garrett (DAL). He's been a head coach for 6½ seasons, and I've always thought of him as pretty middling. I'm more inclined to believe the Cowboys drafted two great rookies and stayed mostly healthy than that Garrett has become a great coach.

Bill O'Brien (HOU) got stuck with Brock Osweiler, lost J.J. Watt, and pulled a 9-7 division title out of a hat, his third winning season in three years. Andy Reid (KC) has four winning records during his four seasons in Kansas City. John Harbaugh (BAL) did a pretty good job getting the Ravens to 8-8. There's not a lot to work with there. Likewise Mike Mularkey (TEN) and the 9-7 Titans.

My second choice, behind Del Rio, would be Bill Belichick (NE), who consistently overcomes suspensions, injuries, distractions, and whatever else can be thrown at him. The Pats went 14-2, and they're just about even money to give Belichick his fifth Super Bowl as head coach.

Assistant Coach of the Year: Kyle Shanahan (ATL)
Last Year: Mike Shula (CAR)

Shanahan oversaw the 8th-highest scoring offense in NFL history, a team that succeeded on the ground and through the air. Scott Linehan (DAL) also deserves credit for getting his rookie starters to gel so quickly, with additional nods to quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson (DAL) and offensive line coach Frank Pollack (DAL). Speaking of OL coaches, young tackles Jack Conklin and Taylor Lewan have blossomed under Russ Grimm (TEN).

Defensively, I like old standbys Wade Phillips (DEN) and Romeo Crennel (HOU), as well as head coaching candidates Vance Joseph (MIA) and Matt Patricia (NE). I'm not sure why we haven't heard more about Steve Spagnuolo (NYG).

2016 All-Pro Team

QB Matt Ryan, ATL
RB David Johnson, ARI
WR Mike Evans, TB
WR T.Y. Hilton, IND
WR Odell Beckham, NYG
TE Greg Olsen, CAR
TE Travis Kelce, KC
C Travis Frederick, DAL
G Zack Martin, DAL
G David DeCastro, PIT
OT David Bakhtiari, GB
OT Marcus Cannon, NE

DT Aaron Donald, LA
DT Calais Campbell, ARI
DE Khalil Mack, OAK
DE Cameron Wake, MIA
OLB Von Miller, DEN
OLB Thomas Davis, CAR
ILB Bobby Wagner, SEA
ILB Kwon Alexander, TB
CB Malcolm Butler, NE
CB Aqib Talib, DEN
CB Chris Harris, DEN
FS Eric Berry, KC
SS Landon Collins, NYG

K Justin Tucker, BAL
P Johnny Hekker, LA
RS Tyreek Hill, KC
ST Josh Robinson, TB

Off POY — Matt Ryan, ATL

Def POY — Landon Collins, NYG

ST POY — Justin Tucker, BAL

MVP — Matt Ryan, ATL

Off Rookie — Ezekiel Elliott, DAL

Def Rookie — Deion Jones, ATL

Coach — Jack Del Río, OAK

Assistant — Kyle Shanahan, ATL

Contents copyright © Sports Central 1998-2017