2013 PFF All-NFC North Team
The next stop in the PFF All-Division series is the NFC North courtesy of Nathan Jahnke.
2013 PFF All-NFC North Team
This was a division that was wide open late in the season. Instead of a team winning a string of games to take control of the division, the winner was the team to best avoid collapsing.
When it comes to forming the division’s all-star team, the skill players are loaded to the point that some unbelievable players had to be left off the team. However, an argument could be made that there are defenses in the league today that are better than this collection which has seven of their eleven players come from the Lions.
Here’s our 2013 All-NFC North Team of the Year.
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers (GB)
There were definitely steps in the right direction made by Matthew Stafford, but it wasn’t enough to put him on the same level as Rodgers even though Rodgers missed a big part of the season. When healthy Rodgers is just too accurate a passer and for that reason he remains in his own class here.
Running Back: Eddie Lacy (GB)
While Adrian Peterson might be a better runner, and Matt Forte a better receiver, Eddie Lacy gets this spot for being the better all-around player. Lacy was among the best runners in the league and became a larger part of the passing game as the season went on. He also was among the best pass blocking backs which is typically something rookies struggle with and also something that Peterson and Forte aren’t great at.
Tight End: Martellus Bennett (CHI)
This was an easy choice for Bennett to make this team in his first year within the division. He was the best receiving tight end in the division while being on par with the others in blocking. Even if Jermichael Finley and Kyle Rudolph didn’t get hurt, Bennett’s ability to avoid tackles this year exceeded all other tight ends in the NFL.
Wide Receivers: Calvin Johnson (DET), Brandon Marshall (CHI) and Jordy Nelson (GB)
Even though some teams in the NFC North often use a second tight end or fullback, it was impossible to not include at least three wide receivers. While Alshon Jeffery had an incredible sophomore season, the trio of Johnson, Marshall and Nelson were three of the top four rated wide receivers this year. If a team had all three of these receivers, I don’t know how they could lose.
Tackles: Riley Reiff (DET) and Phil Loadholt (MIN)
At left tackle, Reiff had a decent first year as a starter and was the only left tackle in the division who showed an ability to both pass and run block well. In each of the last three years Phil Loadholt has been among the top right tackles in run blocking which is enough to put him here. To strengthen the argument for him, he has continued to improve his pass blocking skills in recent years.
Guards: Josh Sitton (GB) and Larry Warford (DET)
While there were a number of good guards in this division, the duo of Sitton and Warford are in a league of their own. Sitton and Warford were two of the three guards in the NFL had a Pass Blocking Efficiency above 98. Not bad at all for a player who switched positions last offseason along with a third round rookie.
Center: John Sullivan (MIN)
All four centers in the division had at least a +7.2 overall grade this year, so you really can’t go wrong with any of the possible choices. We like centers who can pave the way for their running back, and no center in the division did this as well as Sullivan.
Defensive Tackles: Nick Fairley (DET) and Ndamukong Suh (DET)
The first choice was an easy one as Ndamukong Suh was by far the best defensive tackle against the run as well as pass rushing in the division. He received less national attention than in the past, but his fourth year was by far his best. You could argue Fairley or Kevin Williams in the last spot, but it’s a passing league and Fairley excelled at pass rushing.
Defensive Ends: Mike Daniels (GB) and Brian Robison (MIN)
Three of the four teams in the division play a 4-3 defense, so even though Daniels is a 3-4 defense end he is moved to an outside pass rusher here. While he slowed down as the season went on, it’s hard to find defensive linemen who are very good at both stopping the run and pass rushing and Daniels is one of those players. At the other defensive end spot is Brian Robison who quietly had 83 pressures on the year which was the third most of any player regardless position behind just Robert Quinn and J.J. Watt.
Linebackers: Erin Henderson (MIN), DeAndre Levy (DET) and Stephen Tulloch (DET)
Linebacker isn’t strength here in this division, but the duo from Detroit both were very accomplished as coverage linebackers which was enough to make it. Even though he has struggled in coverage, Erin Henderson was the best linebacker in the division against the run which was good enough for this team.
Cornerbacks: Rashean Mathis (DET) and Sam Shields (GB)
After spending most of the season as an average starter, Mathis had an excellent last quarter of the season with nearly as many passes defended with four as he did catches allowed at five over his last four games. Sam Shields had his ups and downs as the season went gone on, he only allowed a 50% catch rate thanks to 12 passes defended, and was only penalized twice on the year.
Safeties: Louis Delmas (DET) and Glover Quin (DET)
With so many disappointing safeties in the division, the Lions duo made these selections easy. They both had low catch rates allowed mixed in with some interceptions.
Kicker: Blair Walsh (MIN)
While he missed a few long field goals, he was much better on kickoffs than the others.
Punter: Sam Martin (DET)
His net yards per punt was two full yards higher than the other three punters in the division.
Returner: Cordarrelle Patterson (MIN)
The division had the only two kick returners with more than 1000 yards, but Patterson averaged more per return than Hester plus he had two touchdowns.
Special Teamer: Blake Costanzo (CHI)
While Gerald Hodges played as well on kickoffs, Costanzo also played well during punt plays.
Follow Nathan on Twitter: @PFF_NateJahnke