Here at Pro Football Focus, we are in the business of putting the “I” back in team.
Our player ratings, designed around the idea that detailed game reviews can produce individual pictures of all 22 players on the field at any given time, aren’t perfect, but they are certainly a better starting point for analysis than raw numbers or highlight reels. In selecting our All-Pro teams for 2010, we’ve looked beyond our raw grades and put them into context. How consistent was a player? What did he do against top opposition? What impact did he have? How many snaps did he play?
In the end, we came up with a team we’re satisfied with — although many of our readers surely won’t be. The main talking point will surely be that there isn’t a single Patriot on offense (or defense, for that matter), although Logan Mankins would have made it if he played more snaps. They had have a number of players who got into the discussion, and guys that will make our AFC Pro Bowl team, but with limited selections there were just better guys at individual positions.
We’re sure the Patriots will understand, since they know it’s about the sum of the parts — and in that regard they’re an All-Pro franchise. Without any further buildup, the offensive All-PFFers.
Quarterback: Matt Ryan (Atlanta)
Backup: Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay)
Not an easy selection. We have a system that works on the basis that quarterbacks should make good decisions, so while we punish bad ones we don’t reward the good ones. Instead we focus more on what we can see, and that’s making good throws and not making mistakes. Ryan grades out the strongest, and if you watch him on third down or in crunch situations you’ll see why. It’s not always about throwing bombs either, Ryan does a lot of his work throwing sideline balls that only show up for 7 yards on the stat sheet, but are perfect, drive building throws into tight coverage. We’ve written about it many times this year, but for us Tom Brady’s great 2010 season owes much to the system and the play of his receivers — enough that when ranking individual players on what they did at their position, he is more top-five than top-two. Patriots fans, please remember to spell all your curse words right when assailing our sanity.
Running Back: Jamaal Charles (Kansas City)
Backup: Adrian Peterson (Minnesota)
We admired what Charles did in half a season last year, and it was truly a case that the only thing that slowed him down this year was his head coach. It might be a good, sensible plan to keep Charles fresh, but it’s a shame that we as fans don’t get a chance to see just how many yards he can pile up. Charles is the kind of back that makes the most out of any space, and he’s good enough to make yards after contact (only five guys finished with a higher average). Could you want any more? Perhaps the only thing is he doesn’t break as many tackles as our No. 2 choice, Peterson, who continues to overcome substandard blocking.
Fullback: Ovie Mughelli (Atlanta)
Backup: Greg Jones (Jacksonville)
While members of the PFF team lost interest in this debate after the first 10 minutes of a filibuster, there were good arguments for either man. Eventually Mughelli got the nod on the back of a more consistent season and his bigger impact with the ball in his hands.
Tight End: Jason Witten (Dallas)
Backup: Marcedes Lewis (Jacksonville)
I admit it. I have a problem. And that is when I talk about Jason Witten I am addicted to referring to him as the prototypical tight end. It feel good to get that off my chest. Witten never gets enough press, but he’s the only truly elite pass catcher and run blocker at the tight end spot. You would struggle to make a tight end better than this guy. He was thrown to more than any other TE in the league (123 targets), and still managed to be our best-graded run blocker. Lewis deserves recognition but until he is more consistent, he’ll remain a long way behind Witten (like the rest).
Wide Receivers: Brandon Lloyd (Denver) and Andre Johnson (Houston)
Backup: Calvin Johnson (Detroit) and Roddy White (Atlanta)
We’d be surprised if even the family members of Brandon Lloyd saw this season coming. But he made play after play, and tough catch after tough catch as he led the league in yards and finished with the season with 18.8 yards per reception. There was some talk that he did most of his damage in garbage time, padding the stats, but really there was little of it happening. He had a four game slump in November that seemed to point to a coming-back-to-earth phase, but he closed the season strong. In his three weeks with Tim Tebow, he averaged more than 10 yards per target.
Andre Johnson’s season ended early but even battling through injury he was still superb. Even the best Receivers tend to see their charts fluctuate between positive and negative grades, but Johnson has only had two grades “in the red” (-1.1 or worse) in our three years of grading. He just keeps out a strong group of guys behind him with Roddy White letting himself down with penalties and Calvin Johnson just too inconsistent.
Left Tackle: Jake Long (Miami)
Backup: Andrew Whitworth (Cincinnati)
We didn’t see the kind of All-Universe tackle play that Joe Thomas produced in 2009 here in 2010 as defensive lines got the better of their offensive counterparts league-wide. But with both Thomas and our eventual top selection Jake Long playing hurt for much of the season, that’s somewhat understandable. Long hadn’t allowed a sack until he started playing hurt, where he had a couple of bad games playing through pain before figuring out how to work around it and finishing strong. A remarkable effort from a player who’s proven every bit worthy of a No. 1 overall pick. Andrew Whitworth of the Bengals very nearly beat him out, but was a bit too up-and-down to get past Long.
Left Guard: Carl Nicks (New Orleans)
Backup: Wade Smith (Houston)
As we mentioned in the intro, Logan Mankins would have made this team but for missing nearly half the season. We simply couldn’t ignore that, despite one of the best periods of play we’ve ever seen from a guard. Instead Nicks gets the nod, as our highest rated guard. Ten of his games got him a green rating, and he was consistently dominant. Smith may have been the best offseason acquisition by any team and was exceptional in pass blocking situations. He and his offensive mates in Houston certainly did their jobs, but were let down by the struggles in the defensive back seven.
Center: Matt Birk (Baltimore)
Backup: Nick Mangold (New York Jets)
We could really have gone either way, and this was one of the more contentious selections during our final discussion. Ultimately, while we recognize Mangold as the greater talent, playing hurt cost him as Birk graded out the slightly better player. Both were comfortably better than any other center in the league. They have graded 1-2 at the position the last two seasons.
Right Guard: Josh Sitton (Green Bay)
Backup: Harvey Dahl (Atlanta)
We do like us some Josh Sitton, even if his talent remains one of the leagues’ best kept secrets. Comfortably our best-graded right guard, Sitton didn’t allow a single sack all year. Dahl is more than just a nasty player with a rep, he’s a guy who played more snaps than any other guard and grade out well in all regards. It’ll be fun to watch them do their dirty work this weekend for the Falcons-Packers playoff matchup.
Right Tackle: Kareem McKenzie (New York Giants)
Backup: Marshall Yanda (Baltimore Ravens)
You want your right tackle to be dominant with his run blocking and more than serviceable with his pass blocking. McKenzie wasn’t quite as dominant as the season closed, but he was plenty good throughout and really walked away with this selection. Yanda may not be a natural tackle, but he didn’t miss a beat when he made the move outside. He would have had a fight for the No. 2 spot from the other Big Apple RT, Damien Woody, but injuries down the stretch took their toll on the veteran.