A full season of 256 games. Can they really have come and gone already?
They have and we’ve seen some truly tremendous performances. Our grading system has been stretched like never before as players have put in the kind of seasons that will live long in the memory.
It makes announcing the Pro Football Focus All-Pro Team a real delight.
This selection comes from watching every player, at every position, comparing them against their peers and then having a good old fashioned discussion among the analysts to determine who warranted inclusion.
So shall we get to it?
Quarterback: Peyton Manning (DEN)
We weren’t the only ones to wonder if Peyton Manning would be anything like the player he once was. Incredibly, he’s come back and looks better than ever. With more talent around him than than he has had in the past Manning has been exceptional. He leads our grading for quarterbacks by some distance.
Second Team: Aaron Rodgers (GB) – He just edges out Tom Brady due to his stronger finish to the year.
Running Back: Adrian Peterson (MIN)
There are 2,097 reasons why this was the easiest choice we had to make. With a reconstructed knee Peterson, who welcomed some improved run blocking, looked better than ever on his way to a season for the ages.
Second Team: C.J. Spiller (BUF) – In the end Spiller received the nod over Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris with the only negative being in how poorly he was used.
Fullback: Vonta Leach (BAL)
The gold standard by which lead blockers are judged, Leach is the consummate, punishing full back who really contributes to his teams running game.
Second Team: Marcel Reece (OAK) – There may have been better blockers, although Reece is good in that regard, but he was our choice primarily because of how much a weapon he is in all facets of play.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski (NE)
The only thing that was going to keep Gronkowski out was his injury, but the performance in Week 17 eliminated even that argument. The Patriot is, by some distance, the best tight end in the NFL. He blocks well, gets open all over the field, and spikes like few can. He led our tight end rankings for the second year and it’s hard to look past him going forward.
Second Team: Jason Witten (DAL) – There was talk of the pure receiving ability of Tony Gonzalez getting him in but Witten is a far better all round package.
Wide Receiver: Calvin Johnson (DET)
His receiving record became somewhat anticlimactic because of the quantity of garbage time yardage. However, you have to respect the fact that Johnson overcame so much attention, a Madden curse, and an erratic quarterback to completely dominate the opposition. A tremendous all around talent.
Second Team: Brandon Marshall (CHI) – His best year as a Pro as Marshall put all the talk behind him and simply delivered.
Wide Receiver: Andre Johnson (HST)
It didn’t start off so well for Johnson, but as teams keyed in a little more on the Texans running game they went back to old faithful and boy did he deliver. He ended the year with the highest overall grade among wide receivers, becoming easily the most reliable player on the Texans offense.
Second Team: Vincent Jackson (TB) – Really delivered in his first year in Tampa Bay making all round him look better.
Third Receiver: Reggie Wayne (IND)
Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks? Wayne spent his entire career as an outside receiver, lining up in the slot 263 times between 2009 and 2011 and then 422 times this year. Working in new areas of the field saw him become a crucial safety valve for Andrew Luck, finishing second overall in our wide receiver rankings.
Second Team: A.J. Green (CIN) – We toyed with the idea of making this slot centric, but it would have been wrong to rob A.J. Green who got the nod over Roddy White.
Left Tackle: Duane Brown (HST)
Which way would we go? Would we go one of the four guys out there (Andrew Whitworth, Joe Thomas, Michael Roos and Ryan Clady) who are elite pass protectors but don’t get much movement in the run game? Ultimately no. We wanted linemen who prevent pressure and contribute to their teams rushing attack. Thus Brown was the obvious choice, doing a fine job in pass protection and being an impact player in the run game.
Second Team: Joe Staley (SF) – Once we decided we wanted all round tackles the best run blocker at his position in the league Staley had this place sown up.
Left Guard: Evan Mathis (PHI)
In the highlight driven world in which we live, many people seem to like like guards who pancake people on occasion, regardless of what they do on the other 1000+ plays. We like them doing whatever it takes to block guys consistently, play in play out. In that regard there isn’t a player in the league close to Mathis.
Second Team: Mike Iupati (SF) – If you are however looking for a mauling guard then we’ve got you covered with, the at times, downright vicious, Iupati.
Center: John Sullivan (MIN)
It was a crime that the leagues’ best center Sullivan wasn’t selected to the Pro Bowl. He’s a big part of the success the teams rushing game has had and one of the few centers who can handle any type of guy lined up over him. What a player.
Second Team: Max Unger (SEA) – didn’t give up a sack this year and yet it was his run blocking that really stood out.
Right Guard: Marshal Yanda (BAL)
There aren’t many offensive linemen who year after year can be relied upon to deliver at an elite level particularly once they’ve been paid. Yanda is certainly one of them and once again he finished the year as our top ranked right guard.
Second Team: Alex Boone (SF) – A big part of the 49ers offensive improvement was Boone coming in at right guard with some fantastic run blocking.
Right Tackle: Andre Smith (CIN)
We’re not going to ignore the right tackles in the league and with that in mind Andre Smith simply had to get first team honors. The best RT in football in 2012, Smith cut out the lapses (minus that game against Brandon Graham) and was a real bully in the run game.
Second Team: Sebastian Vollmer (NE) – One of the more heated discussions came when Vollmer was selected over Anthony Davis. Both played exceptionally well with the work of Vollmer in pass protection getting him the selection.
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