Midseason All-Pro Team
It’s not about stats. It’s not about who has the best highlight reel. It’s about who, play to play, have been the best players.
That’s the ethos behind our Midseason All-Pro Team, wanting to give back to the players who have made the first nine weeks of the NFL season enjoyable. Whether you’re a first-year undrafted free agent or a veteran with 10 Pro Bowls on your CV, you’re measured the same.
So with that in mind let’s introduce our Midseason All-Pro Team.
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger (PIT)
Pulled away from the competition with his performances in the past two weeks, but this is Roethlisberger at his best. His playmaking has never been in doubt but he’s doing all the little things well and it’s adding up to a tremendous season.
Honorable Mention: Aaron Rodgers (GB) and Tom Brady (NE)
Running Back: DeMarco Murray (DAL)
His fumbles aren’t great and we’d like more in the passing game, but this is the running back spot and no-one has been anywhere near as effective as Murray in that regard. His +11.9 rushing grade dwarves that of Lynch (+6.5) in second spot.
Honorable Mention: Marshawn Lynch (SEA) and Le’Veon Bell (PIT)
Fullback: Anthony Sherman (KC)
Proving himself no one year wonder, Sherman is poised to repeat his breakthrough 2013 season where he earned an All Pro nod from our good selves.
Honorable Mention: Jerome Felton (MIN)
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski (NE)
Slowly worked his way back from injury before exploding these past three weeks in a fit of Gronktastic rage. There isn’t another tight end like him in the league and it’s great to see him healthy.
Honorable Mention: Jason Witten (DAL) and Martellus Bennett (CHI)
Wide Receivers: Antonio Brown (PIT) and T.Y. Hilton (IND)
It’s no surprise to see Brown here. He might not be the physical specimen some look for but he’s been as good as any receiver in the league for a while now. Hilton is more of a surprise, elevating his game to a whole new level.
Honorable Mention: Jordy Nelson (GB), Demaryius Thomas (DEN) and Jeremy Maclin (PHI)
Tackles: Joe Thomas (CLE) and Ricky Wagner (BAL)
Five years after Joe Thomas retires someone better start preparing their induction speech for him, because he’s Hall of Fame bound. His performance has never slipped and this year is no different with him owning the best pass blocking and run blocking grade of any tackle. Wagner is the surprise and was really the only right tackle we considered. His +13.7 grade has him streaks ahead of Marcus Gilbert (+6.2) in second.
Honorable Mention: Jason Peters (PHI), Branden Albert (MIA) and Andrew Whitworth (CIN)
Guards: Josh Sitton (GB) and Marshal Yanda (BAL)
Two of the most respected guards in the league sit one and two in our guard rankings on the year. Yanda has had some difficulties (by his standards) in pass protections but his run blocking has been a delight to watch. Sitton can’t claim to have that kind of impact in the run game, but he’s near unbeatable when Aaron Rodgers drops back from center.
Honorable Mention: Kelechi Osemele (BAL), Zack Martin (DAL) and Joel Bitonio (CLE)
Center: Nick Mangold (NYJ)
Whether it injury or being replaced by the incumbent starter, Mangold has seen all challengers drop out of the race leaving him a very obvious pick at center. He is back to his best after a shaky 2013.
Here we put forward a hybrid defense that features two edge rushers (4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers), three players on the “interior” of the defensive line (3-4 defensive ends or defensive tackles) and two linebackers (all inside linebackers and 4-3 outside linebackers).
Defensive Interior – Ends: J.J Watt (HOU) and Gerald McCoy (TB)
You could line Watt up anywhere and short of getting numerous bodies on him he’d make plays. He’s a once in a generation talent and we shouldn’t take that for granted. That kind of upstages McCoy a little, but there isn’t a defensive tackle out there that gets as much pressure as him.
Honorable Mention: Muhammad Wilkerson (NYJ), Sheldon Richardson (NYJ) and Kyle Williams (BUF)
Defensive Interior – Nose: Johnathan Hankins (NYG)
An easy pick here. Hankins spends the majority of his time lined up either zero or one technique and has been a revelation for the Giants. A strong run defender, it’s perhaps been surprising to watch him such a big impact rushing the passer.
Honorable Mention: Marcell Dareus (BUF) and Damon Harrison (NYJ)
Edge Rushers: Von Miller (DEN) and Cameron Wake (MIA)
The scary thing about Miller? He has yet to reach the heights of his pre-ACL form yet is still an easy pick for this team. He makes plays on every down but as you’ve probably noticed is especially destructive rusher the passer. A charge you could also lay at the feet of Wake who is once again the top ranked pass rushing 4-3 defensive end.
Honorable Mention: Khalil Mack (OAK) and Justin Houston (KC)
Linebackers: DeAndre Levy (DET) and Karlos Dansby (CLE)
One of the biggest reasons that Detroit D is playing so well is Levy taking his game up a level. His interceptions may be down but his impact against the run is way up. It was tough picking a partner for him but in the end the work of Dansby in coverage just got him in.
Honorable Mention: C.J. Mosley (BAL) and Luke Kuechly (CAR)
Cornerbacks: Vontae Davis (IND) and Chris Harris Jr. (DEN)
Davis has been long on talent but has really put it together this year. He’s allowing just 42.2% of throws into his coverage to be complete and looking shutdown. The more versatile Harris should be playing his way back to full fitness, but instead he’s having a career year.
Honorable Mention: Richard Sherman (SEA), Brandon Flowers (SD) and Antonio Cromartie (ARI)
Safeties: Eric Weddle (SD) and Harrison Smith (MIN)
Two safeties who can put a big hit on you and have the kind of range to make big plays in coverage. Easily our top two ranked safeties, their ability to do all things well make them a kind of dream combo right now.
Honorable Mention: Antoine Bethea (SF) and Malcolm Jenkins (PHI)
Kicker: Dan Bailey (DAL)
Others have better accuracy percentages but it’s the nature of Bailey’s kicks and the distance of them that makes him a shoe in.
Punter: Pat McAfee (IND)
Distance, hang time and location. Those are the three big things for us when we’re grading punts and the leg of McAfee is producing all three with incredible consistency.
Kick Returner: Jarvis Landry (MIA)
Opportunities for returns aren’t what they were but Landry deserves credit for averaging a very healthy 31 yards on his 16 take outs.
Punt Returner: Darren Sproles (PHI)
Leads the league in punt return yardage and in our punt returner gradings. Sproles is still more than capable of making defenders look very silly.
Special Teamer: Josh Martin (KC)
Doesn’t have the tackle numbers of some, but Martin has proved a wrecking ball on the kickoff return units and not bad on punts either. If you get a chance just watch him.
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