2012 PFF All-NFC South Team
The NFC South was full of storylines both good and bad. Khaled Elsayed takes you through the best of the players the division had to offer in 2012.
2012 PFF All-NFC South Team
The format is simple. Find 11 guys to start on offense and defense with four more on special teams to field as strong a starting unit as possible for a division.
Here’s the NFC South, and links to the others:
Quarterback: Matt Ryan (ATL)
Ryan wasn’t always the most consistent quarterback, but his habit for making clutch throws while leading the Falcons to the NFC’s top seed was impressive.
Running Back: Doug Martin (TB)
One of those rookies that made everyone take notice of him. Martin was a threat to take it the distance every time he touched the ball. If Year 2 brings some improvements then we could be looking at something truly special here.
Fullback: Jed Collins (NO)
While Collins wasn’t quite as impressive this season he still graded in the Top 10 of our fullback rankings.
Tight End: Tony Gonzalez (ATL)
If this was the last year we get to see Gonzalez, then what a way to go. His blocking was poor (even by his recent standards), but our grading had him top of the receiving charts for tight ends. He still has an incredible ability to get open and move the chains.
Wide Receivers: Roddy White (ATL) and Vincent Jackson (TB)
There was only so much room in this team, so no Julio Jones or Lance Moore despite some impressive years. That was because Roddy White had possibly his best season to date, making big catches and cutting all the drops that have plagued him. Joining him, Jackson was as advertised in Tampa Bay, making those around him better with his ability to operate all over the field.
Tackles: Jordan Gross (CAR) and Tyson Clabo (ATL)
If Donald Penn could play every game like it was on national television he’d probably have made this team. Instead, some inconsistent outings let the consistently good Gross ease into the team. The right tackle spot featured less competition, with Clabo being our sixth ranked player at the position on the year.
Guards: Ben Grubbs (NO) and Jahri Evans (NO)
Our All-Saints guard pairing proved there is life after Carl Nicks. Sure, Grubbs might not have quite the ceiling Nicks did, but once he found his rhythm there really wasn’t much of a drop-off. Evans delivered another fine year, even if you’d like to see a little more movement in the run game from him.
Center: Brian De La Puente (NO)
It’s amazing the kind of talent you can find when you don’t really have a choice but to play someone. ‘DLP’ established himself as a starter last season and followed up in 2012 with an even better year.
Edge Defenders: John Abraham (ATL) and Charles Johnson (CAR)
This was a tough one. The NFC South had four guys ranked in the Top 8 of our defensive end rankings. In the end, Abraham and Johnson were the choice because in a passing league they offer greater threat off the edge. Still, fine years were had by Greg Hardy and Michael Bennett.
Defensive Tackle: Gerald McCoy (TB) and Vance Walker (ATL)
While it may be a surprise to see Jonathan Babineaux miss out for some, Walker stood out this year and made a name for himself seeing his most considerable action to date. There was never any chance McCoy wouldn’t make this team. He’s been phenomenal in his first year where health didn’t slow him down.
Linebackers: Lavonte David (TB), Luke Kuechly (CAR) and Thomas Davis (CAR)
Two rookies and a man that you didn’t expect to last the season, let alone manage 798 snaps. David emerged in Year 1 as one of the most active linebackers around the line of scrimmage, as evidenced by his 70 defensive stops. Even the impressive Kuechly couldn’t keep up, posting a ‘mere’ 67. For those thinking Davis is a sentimental selection, don’t. He performed exceptionally well to finish the year 11th in our 4-3 outside linebacker rankings.
Cornerbacks: Dunta Robinson (ATL) and E.J. Biggers (TB)
If you’re not happy with these selections think how we must feel. But really, where else could we go? Robinson has had his best year in Atlanta, but that’s not saying all that much. To the credit of Biggers though, his game has improved by leaps and bounds this season. Now if only he could cut down on the missed tackles.
Safeties: William Moore (ATL) and Ronde Barber (TB)
This duo scares us for the amount of missed tackles that they produce together, but reassures us with their ability to find ballcarriers and make plays.
Kicker: Connor Barth (TB)
He was near perfect on his kicks under 50 yards and was a reliable leg overall for the Bucs.
Punter: Thomas Morstead (NO)
The most reliable player on the Saints for 2012.
Returner: Jacquizz Rodgers (ATL)
Handled kick returns well in a division devoid of electric returners.
Special Teamer: Dekota Watson (TB)
Carved himself out a little niche on special teams.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled