PFF's All-Pro Team through Week 4
Can you believe a quarter of the season (for all but two teams) is in the books? As always, we’ve been watching every player, on every play, of every game; with that information, we feel it’s time to unleash our All-Pro Team through Week 4.
Quarterback: Carson Palmer (Cardinals)
It was close, and it’s arguable that if Big Ben didn’t get hurt, he was in pole position. But he did, and it opened the door for Palmer to squeeze through in front of Rodgers. He’s worked wonders behind a line that isn’t always the most helpful.
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), and Tom Brady (Patriots)
Running back: Chris Ivory (Jets)
The effort of Ivory against the Dolphins propelled him onto this list, where he was at his bruising best. No running back has a higher grade rushing the ball, and only one (Carlos Hyde) has forced more missed tackles.
Honorable mentions: Carlos Hyde (49ers) and Giovanni Bernard (Bengals)
Fullback: Patrick DiMarco (Falcons)
DiMarco has been so much better than his peers, there is no need for any honorable mentions.
Tight end: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots)
Despite playing one fewer game than most of his peers (New England had a bye in Week 4), Gronk still has a grade nearly three times better than anyone other tight end.
Honorable mentions: Tyler Eifert (Bengals)
Wide receivers: Julio Jones (Falcons) and Antonio Brown (Steelers)
These two may be coming off quiet weeks, but such was their sustained brilliance through the first three games of the year. They’re head and shoulders above our wide receiver rankings.
Honorable mentions: Steve Smith (Ravens) and James Jones (Packers)
Slot receiver: Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals)
Redemption, thy name is Fitzgerald. He looked like his best years may be behind him after last season, but nothing has been further from the case in 2015. It’s telling that Carson Palmer has a 154.9 rating when throwing the ball his way.
Honorable Mentions: Randall Cobb (Packers)
Tackles: Joe Thomas (Browns) and Sebastian Vollmer (Patriots)
This isn’t the year Joe Thomas takes a step backwards, and if any one player in the NFL can be described as a constant, it’s the immoveable Thomas. On the right side, there is a gulf between Vollmer and every other right tackle. If it feels like that sentence has been written before, it’s because it has.
Honorable mentions: Terron Armstead (Saints) and Andrew Whitworth (Bengals)
Guards: Gabe Jackson (Raiders) and Marshal Yanda (Ravens)
The Raiders look like they’ve hit the jackpot with Jackson, who could be developing into one of the best guards in the league if his first four games of his sophomore season are anything to go by. The Ravens already know they’ve hit the jackpot with Yanda. He’ll go down as one of the best lineman of his generation, and his start to 2015 does nothing to harm that.
Honorable mentions: Ramon Foster (Steelers), Richie Incognito (Bills), and Clint Boling (Bengals)
Center: Ryan Kalil (Panthers)
It hasn’t been the best start to the year for centers across the league, but Kalil has done enough in the run game to warrant bragging rights amongst his peers.
Honorable mentions: Mike Pouncey (Dolphins)
Turn the page for defense and special teams
PFF puts 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 (Texans) and Aaron Donald (Rams)
There was a danger Watt wouldn’t make this team. Naturally, spurred on by the potential exclusion, he proceeded to decimate the right side of the Falcons’ offensive line to cement his spot. As for Donald, his spot was never in doubt, though we’d like to see a little more of the player who dominated in the opening two weeks of the season.
Honorable mentions: Muhammad Wilkerson (Jets), Geno Atkins (Bengals), and Kawann Short (Panthers)
Defensive Interior – Nose: Brandon Williams (Ravens)
Every year, it feels like there’s a new nose tackle who decides teams shall not run by him. Williams, who was pretty good in 2014, is that man this year, with the best run defense grade of all defensive tackles.
Honorable mentions: Linval Joseph (Vikings) and Dan Williams (Raiders)
Edge rushers: Von Miller (Broncos) and Justin Houston (Chiefs)
Only Denver teammate DeMarcus Ware has more pressures than Miller, but it’s not the volume of Miller’s pressures, so much as the speed at which they come. Houston might not be as explosive, but he is putting forward a more complete season, excelling in every phase, as he always does.
Honorable mentions: Pernell McPhee (Bears), Khalil Mack (Raiders), and Cliff Avril (Seahawks)
Linebackers: Sean Lee (Cowboys) and Brandon Marshall (Broncos)
No linebacker has a better rating than Sean Lee, who seems intent on making up for lost time. Joining him is Marshall, who is already proving his breakout 2014 was no fluke.
Honorable mentions: Anthony Barr (Vikings)
Cornerbacks: Josh Norman (Panthers) and Ronald Darby (Bills)
A former fifth-rounder out of Coastal Carolina, Josh Norman is playing so well that he’s forced Sam Monson to make a definitive statement about him joining the upper echelons of cornerbacks with his elite play. It was harder picking the number two guy, but in the end, a surprise rookie candidate has emerged. Darby has been a revelation since he was thrust into the lineup, allowing a 31.4 QB rating when thrown at.
Honorable mentions: Tyrann Mathieu (Cardinals), Adam Jones (Bengals), and Desmond Trufant (Falcons)
Slot cornerback: Tyrann Mathieu (Cardinals)
We do like our versatile defensive backs, and Mathieu is just that. There may not be another defensive back who contributes in as many facets of the game as the Cardinal, who has positive grades for his work in coverage, run defense, and rushing the passer.
Honorable mention: Captain Munnerlyn (Vikings)
Safeties: Harrison Smith (Vikings) and Will Hill (Ravens)
Is it time to crown Smith the best safety in the league? If not, then it’s getting close, with his consistently excellent performances. He was a country mile ahead of the pack, led by Will Hill, who is keeping himself out of trouble and playing as well as ever.
Honorable mentions: Darian Stewart (Broncos), Reshad Jones (Dolphins) and Michael Mitchell (Steelers)
Kicker: Brandon McManus (Broncos)
McManus is perfect on the year, and three-of-three from over 50 yards.
Honorable mentions: Robbie Gould (Bears) and Justin Tucker (Ravens)
Punter: Johnny Hekker (Rams)
Hekker has improved as the season has gone on.
Honorable mentions: Dustin Colquitt (Chiefs) and Matt Bosher (Falcons)
Kick returner: Marc Mariani (Bears)
Mariani consistently makes moves that gets more yardage than his blocking should allow.
Honorable mentions: Tyler Varga (Colts) and Dwayne Harris (Giants)
Punt returner: Jarvis Landry (Dolphins)
Punt to Landry in the open field at your own peril.
Honorable mentions: Darren Sproles (Eagles) and Antonio Brown (Steelers)
Special teamer: Justin Bethel (Cardinals)
Bethel remains the gold standard on special teams, particularly on punts.
Honorable mentions: Don Carey (Lions) and Antwon Blake (Steelers)