Needle’s Offensive All-Pro Teams
With the end of the regular season and time being limited to do a true player breakdown in recent weeks I did an overall view of the teams in the NFL to put together my all-pro team.
1st team:Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
This maybe the easiest choice of each position. Peyton broke a multitude of records that have been discussed ad naseum. When you put up a season that is a top 5 QB season of all-time you take 1st team All-Pro easily.
2nd team: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Now this one was much closer. Rivers and Brees are incredibly close and both are well deserving of mention. Personally I come away more impressed with Rivers season. His accuracy was incredible and this is using a young WR corps and Antonio Gates. I think the Saints offense is overall better but Rivers came back this season and reminded everyone that top 5 QB discussions need to include him.
I would be like to add that the player that impressed me the most this season was Ben Roethlisberger. He put together another very solid season and of the last 7 has been a top half of the league QB for 6 of them and closer to top 5 than top 15. I just wanted to get in how good Roethlisberger has been and with the Steelers finally putting together a strong offensive line expect 2014 to be a big season for Ben Roethlisberger.
1st Team: Lesean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
2nd Team: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
The top two players here are quite easy but the order is where it begins to become iffy. I put McCoy as the 1st team RB for a few reasons. Simple is that a 2.1k yards from scrimmage season is special. More in-depth discussion of McCoy is that he opened up the ability to allow Foles and Vick to run at fairly high level. And if you read my post about the Eagles offense you would see McCoy’s impact on the run game. McCoy also had a stronger yard per carry(slightly, 5.1 to 5.0) and yards per receptions(10.4 to 9.9). Seemingly small numbers but what pushed it over the top was McCoy’s efficiency in his catch rate. Charles caught 73.7% of his 95(wow) targets where McCoy caught 88.1% of his 59 targets. Also for good measure Yards after catch per reception also show McCoy in a better light of 11.9 yards to Charles 9.6.
And for full disclosure neither is good pass blocker. This was especially true for McCoy but Charles is not far behind.
1st Team: Anthony Sherman, Kansas City Chiefs
2nd Team: Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers
Another very close one for me. Tolbert made a bigger impact on the highlight reels and found himself on some desperate fantasy teams. The thing was that Sherman was the most devastating blocker out of the backfield this season. Sherman may have passed by Jones-Drew and Frank Gore as the best backfield blocker in football. Sherman did not run the ball, 2 attempts for 3 yards. He did contribute in the pass game for 18 catches(85.7 catch%) for 155 yards for 8.6 y/r. Sherman’s value was his blocking though.
Which brings us to Tolbert. Tolbert was used much more than Sherman. Tolbert saw over 100 carries and more targets than Sherman. Though he did not impress in y/r or y/c but the yards per carry can be a bit misleading being used in short yardage so much. I wasn’t extremely impressed with his blocking(I think Bruce Miller of San Fran was a better blocker) but Tolbert’s usage and all-around play put him on my second team. Miller was close.
I may overvalue blocking out of the FB position but as the position is so rarely used in the NFL now if you are going to take up a roster spot and take carries from better RB’s the one thing you should do better than anyone on the roster is block out of the backfield and that is why Sherman was my 1st team player.
1st Team: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
It is so hard for me to figure out how to distinguish Graham. Should I grade him against other Tight Ends or should he be graded against WR’s? If it was solely against TEs that catch and block Graham still stands above but his run blocking is so poor that to call him an extra offensive linemen is an insult to linemen. And then if you compare his receiving solely to WR’s he grades out very well just not in the top 4-6 where the all-pro’s are.
With that said Graham is the best TE in football right now. He continues to beat safeties and nickle corners with ease and is a clear mismatch against every OLB in the NFL. with a 63% catch rate and a y/r of 14.1 it was a very impressive year catching the ball for Graham. In the run game he gets beat across his face and is not a good stalk blocker on the edge. If you watched the UCF-Baylor Fiesta Bowl you can see just how important blocking downfield is in the pass game and run game for big plays. Graham does not really add to that. But man, he can catch.
2nd Team: Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
I went back and forth between Davis and Witten. I ultimately went against my offensive line roots and took Davis. He is the better receiver and can block. I think Witten is a better blocker but I think Davis has surpassed Witten as a better all-around player. Davis saw 27 less targets than Witten and put up identical receiving yards. Davis adds a lot for the 49ers though. He, like Witten and Graham, are 9 route TE’s that can run that deep corner and post routes as well as the typical in and stop routes you get from your traditional TEs.
1st Team: Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns ; Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
This is a position that I have struggled with the most. Josh Gordon’s mid-season explosion was historic. Through the season Gordon saw 149 targets but only caught 87 of them for a 58.4% catch rate. His y/r was other worldly though, 18.9, and what pushed him into the first team. Gordon also was the best in the league after the catch averaging 7.3 yards after the catch. I also give Gordon the benefit of the doubt having to work with far to many QBs and an offense that could not figure out what it wanted to do. Gordon is an incredible athlete and if he keeps his head on right we could be watching a very special WR for years. With everything said, it may have been forgotten that Gordon missed the first 2 games of the season and still led the league in receiving.
Brown is a player that I have followed and watched closely all season long. a 70% catch rate on 159 targets ultimately is what sold me. I noted how impressed I was with Roethlisberger earlier, and a major part of that was Brown. Brown came into the season with something to prove, the Steelers lost their #1 WR and were left with a corps of Brown, Sanders and Cotchery. Brown stepped up and took that #1 spot and beat some of the top corners in the game. Joe Haden was torched by Brown, Verner and McCourty had little to no answer for him, Brown worked Cromartie, Brent Grimes could not keep up with Brown and lastly had a respectable day against Aquib Talib(note: Talib was hurt for the game vs Pittsburgh) of New England. Baltimore was the one team with an answer to Brown all season(2 games 11 catches 109 yards for 9.9 y/r and a catch rate of 73%). The slate Brown went against and dominated was the reason I had him as the #2 WR in the NFL this season.
2nd Team: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions ; Desean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
It almost seems ridiculous that Calvin would be put on anyone’s 2nd team. And I’m sure some people that read this are questioning my sanity. And I can’t have it two ways I think Stafford is an average QB so Calvin putting the numbers up that he does should be all that much more impressive. So I’ll take my lumps. But Calvin put up a catch rate lower(56.8) than Stafford completion percentage(58.5). I also get disappointed a bit by the lack of how Calvin is used in the passing game. His route tree almost seems limited. Slants, Fades, Corners, Stops. I blame this on the coaching staff more than anything as everyone that watched Calvin knows he is a true 9 route guy but just isn’t utilized as such. Should that punish him? To a point but his production was still very good this year. Despite missing 2 games he still put up 1489 yards and saw 148 targets. His y/r was also still extremely impressive at 17.7. Another thing to keep an eye on is that this is the second year in a row where Calvin had double digit drops.
Desean Jackson just put up an incredible season. Foles’ emergence this season got a big help from DJax. Having a WR that can run the deep route tree at the level Jackson does helps open up a lot of underneath routes and gives a QB a shot at huge plays. Jackson did not disappoint in that. In 12 of 16 games Jackson had a reception of at least 20 yards. Jackson’s catch rate sat at 68.9% on the season which, even more than Brown, is impressive for a deep receiver. I say more than Brown because Jackson’s y/r was at 16.2. Jackson put up 1332 yards for the season on 119 targets. Jackson also had an impressive 6 yards after catch per reception as well. For a player that I wasn’t even sure if he was the best WR on the roster in the preseason(Maclin) he really shined with both Vick and Foles at the QB position. With all that said I’d be doing a disservice to say that Jackson did have some duds. Brown managed to not have a true dud, same with Gordon. Jackson did have 5 games where he had under 40 yards receiving and that kind of boom or bust makes me a bit uneasy but when was on this year, he was at the top of WRs to be concerned about for defenses.
Honorable Mention: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers ; Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
I won’t get in-depth here but both of these guys put up very impressive seasons. Jordy saw 120 targets and had the best catch rate for WRs in the league at 70.8 for 15.5 y/r. Jordy also had the magnificent trio throwing to him for a number of weeks as well. Alshon Jeffery saw 140 targets for a catch rate of 63.6 at 16 y/r.
1st Team: Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns
2nd Team: Ryan Kalil, Carolina Panthers
Alex Mack very well might be the best pass blocking center the league has had since Saturday was in his prime. Despite having two guards around him that are ok(Greco) and one that makes me wonder if he deserves a NFL roster spot(Lauvao) Mack dominates. The Browns have some pieces to work with and Mack is most definitely one of them. A signal caller in his own right Mack is animate pre-snap pointing and moving around more than most centers in the league. Mack’s true value comes in his feet. They move much like an Offensive Tackle and he slides very well.
Ryan Kalil is the best of the rest. He has shown signs of struggle in the pass game but overall was quite solid and shined when asked to run block, especially on short yardage plays. He edged out Dietrich-Smith of the Packers due to me believing Kalil is a better pass blocker but Dietrich-Smith may have found a home in GB and is on the watch-list of centers for next season.
1st Team: Marshall Yanda, Baltimore Ravens; Louis Vasquez, Denver Broncos
Yanda was the bright spot along the Ravens offensive line. Despite having a quarterback behind him that seemingly forgot how to play the position and a running back that was falling on first contact Yanda continued to produce. At times the only Baltimore Raven that could produce he gets my nod as a 1st team Guard for his overall play in both the run game and pass game.
Louis Vasquez was the premier pass blocking guard in the NFL this season. Having Peyton Manning playing behind you helps obviously but I did not see Vasquez get beat on a bull rush on the games I have watched. A very impressive season and very worth the contract the Broncos signed him to.
2nd Team: Ben Grubbs, New Orleans Saints ; Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles
Grubbs continues to produce and the Saints continue to have the best guard play in the NFL. Grubbs the better of the two(Jahri Evans the other guard)
Evan Mathis was the most dominant run blocker in the NFL this year. Unfortunately his pass blocking is still lacking as his footwork is very slow in the pass game. Against larger, slower DLs Mathis found success in the pass game but struggled against the more agile interior players. But when it came to running the ball I don’t think there was a better guard in football.
1st Team: Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys ; Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
Smith was the best tackle in football this year. Cowboys were one of the highest ranked teams to runs over the left tackle and Smith only allowed 1.5 sacks. A dominate pass protector finally comes back to Dallas and Smith has shown elite abilities in the run game. My highest graded OT by a decent margin on the season. Smith is going to be due a large contract in a year.
I know Thomas comes as a shocker. But he has been a top 2 tackle in the league since he has entered it and this year was no different. The best run blocking tackle in the game and still very reliable in the pass game. Gets some pass for the revolving door behind him but did get beat inside on a number of times, especially in week 17. Thomas has shown no signs of slowing down and starting to get to the hall of fame level of tackles as he is starting to take over for Jake Long as the best tackle of the era.
2nd Team: Jake Long, St. Louis ; Michael Roos, Tennessee Titans
Long shocked me on how well he did this year. I was sure that a regression was imminent with the rash of injuries he has had in recent years. I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised but Long continued to produce in both the run game and pass game. His injury was definitely a painful pill to swallow as going forward Long now has a number of injuries on his plate and it makes you wonder how much longer he will be producing at this level. But, at least for 2013, he was a top tier tackle again.
Michael Roos is an oldie but goodie. An All-Pro in 2008 and is now 5 years and one major injury removed from that all-pro season. As a run blocker Roos has definitely slowed down but his pass blocking and footwork remain to be very good.
Honestly this has gone on too long. I’m going to sort by %:
1st team: Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis Rams
2nd Team: Matt Prater, Denver Broncos
Good Job kickers.
Defense will be tomorrow.