Friday, January 13, 2012

2011 NFL All-Pro Team and Awards

The 2011 NFL regular season is officially over, and it's time to hand out my coveted season awards and announce my highly-anticipated All-Pro team.

One thing I'm doing differently this time around (and moving forward) is splitting up the defensive all-pros into a 3-4 scheme and a 4-3 scheme. There is always so much confusion over positions between schemes (it makes no sense to have DeMarcus Ware as an OLB going up against Daryl Smith or Erin Henderson, because they just play different positions). I think splitting them is a better alternative and one that the AP and others should adopt!

You can view my midseason all-pro team and awards here and my preseason awards here to see how things have changed since.


WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions Quite possibly the most dominant receiver in the NFL today, Johnson is an obvious choice after leading the NFL in receiving yards (1,681) and NFL receivers in touchdowns (16) while averaging 17.5 yards per catch. There's simply no one better right now.

LT Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles Peter has had a significantly up and down career, but the 2011 season may have been one of his best as he allowed just three sacks and was one of the best run-blocking tackles in the league.

LG Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles Cut by the Dolphins during the 2008 season, Mathis has been the NFL's most underrated guard over the past three seasons. He excels in all facets of the game and did a great job paving lanes for LeSean McCoy this season.

C Chris Myers, Houston Texans People gush over Arian Foster and understandably so, but the Texans' line is its biggest strength and Myers anchors the unit as a bulldozer in the middle.

RG Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens A former tackle, Yanda does a great job of pass protection inside while opening holes for Ray Rice in the ground game.

RT Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay Packers After a rough rookie campaign, the 2010 first-rounder has really come into his own with just 17 pressures and one sack allowed on the season.

TE Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots Was there ever any question? "Gronk" was an excellent run blocker this season while posting the best receiving year by a tight end in NFL history with 90 catches for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns.

WR Wes Welker, New England Patriots Regular readers know I can't stand Welker, but you can't really argue with and NFL-best 122 catches and 1,569 yards.

QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers Rodgers was great in the Packers' Super Bowl run last season, but he took his game to a whole new level in 2011. Totally dominant throughout the season, Rodgers finished the year with 45 touchdowns, only six interceptions, and a ridiculous 122.5 passer rating.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars Not only did MJD lead the NFL in rushing with 1,607 yards, but he did it with no talent surrounding him on offense and a rookie quarterback that looked consistently frightened. An incredible performance.

FB Vonta Leach, Baltimore Ravens The best blocker in the league for a few years now, Leach does a great job protecting Joe Flacco and paving the way for Ray Rice in Baltimore.

Defense (3-4)

DE Justin Smith, San Francisco 49ers When it comes to 3-4 linemen, there is Smith, and then there's everyone else. Smith does a great job rushing the passer from a position that doesn't really call for that (7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles this year) while playing the run better than any of his peers.

NT Sione Pouha, New York Jets The Jets' defense wasn't what it was in past years, but that certainly wasn't due to Pouha. He's the best nose tackle in the league right now and is a dominant force inside.

DE Calais Campbell, Arizona Cardinals In just his third season of starting, Campbell has taken his play to a whole new level with 72 tackles, eight sacks, two forced fumbles, an interception, and 10 pass deflections.

OLB Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins Wake doesn't have the sack total of some of his NFL counterparts, but he led the position in total quarterback pressures while playing great run defense and making a huge overall impact.

ILB NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers With Patrick Willis being avoided by NFL offenses and missing three games due to injury, Bowman was a monster with 143 tackles and 111 solo—good for second in the NFL.

ILB Brian Cushing, Houston Texans An incomprehensible Pro Bowl snub, Cushing was excellent in every facet of his job while totaling 114 tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions, and five pass deflections. His 23 quarterback pressures led all inside linebackers.

OLB DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys Ware continues to be one of the dominant pass rushers in the league, ranking second in the NFL among 3-4 linebackers with 44 quarterback pressures and second in the NFL with 19.5 sacks.

Defense (4-3)

DE Trent Cole, Philadelphia Eagles* Despite missing two games, Cole played well against the run while racking up 11 sacks and 44 quarterback pressures.

DT Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals A first-year starter, Atkins was one of the biggest reasons the Bengals' defense was a top unit. With 47 tackles and 7.5 sacks, Atkins was a beast inside.

DT Broderick Bunkley, Denver Broncos Acquired for a fifth-round pick before the season, the former Eagles' first-rounder has been incredible all year. While he doesn't have any sacks or forced fumbles to show for his effort, Bunkley has been the single best run-stopping defensive tackle in the NFL this season. The Eagle's run defense: 16th in the NFL this season.

DE Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens* The Ravens actually play more of a 4-3 scheme than a 3-4 scheme, and Suggs is a monster with his hand in the ground. With 14 sacks and an incredible seven forced fumbles, Suggs might be the biggest playmaker on the defensive side of the ball this season.

OLB Von Miller, Denver Broncos Miller plays outside linebacker despite the Broncos' 4-3 scheme, but they wisely let him rush the passer and he's excelled with 64 tackles and 11.5 sacks.

MLB London Fletcher, Washington Redskins Even at age 36, Fletcher continues to be one of the best linebackers in the game. He led the league with 166 tackles while adding 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two interceptions, and 10 pass deflections in what was another great season for the undersized veteran.

OLB Kamerion Wimbley, Oakland Raiders Though he's been inconsistent in his career, Wimbley was excellent against the run this season while adding seven sacks as a rusher.

*It may seem incomprehensible that NFL sack leader Jared Allen didn't make the all-pro team, but Cole and Suggs were bigger overall disruptors and/or bigger playmakers. Allen had a fantastic year, but he just missed the cut.


CB Darrelle Revis, New York Jets Revis continues to be the best corner in the draft, with only one touchdown allowed in 2011, four interceptions, and quarterbacks holding a 45.6 passer rating when throwing his direction. 

CB Brent Grimes, Atlanta Falcons A former undrafted free agent, Grimes has become one of the NFL's elite corners. He allowed just two touchdowns in 2011 and was the NFL's best cover corner that doesn't have his own island.

FS Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills After a disappointing sophomore season, the 2009 Pro Bowler rebounded big in 2011 with 98 tackles, a sack, three forced fumbles, three interceptions, and excellent grades in coverage and run defense.

SS Adrian Wilson, Arizona Cardinals I felt Troy Polamalu had a pretty inconsistent season, which is why I'm giving Wilson the love instead. Wilson was the NFL's best coverage strong safety and was his usual stout self against the run, totaling 65 tackles and a career-best 14 pass deflections.

Special Teams

K David Akers, San Francisco 49ers Akers' didn't have the best percentage in the league, but his 52 attempts were most in the league and converting 85 percent of them is pretty darn good.

P Andy Lee, San Francisco 49ers Lee joins his Niners teammate Akers on my all-pro team, due in large part to an NFL-best 50.9 average and 44.0 net average.

KR Joe McKnight, New York Jets McKnight led all players with at least 17 kickoff returns with a 31.6 average, taking one back 107 yards for a score.

PR Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals Four returns for touchdowns? Need I say more. Peterson was the biggest playmaker in the return game this season and was the only pick here.

ST Heath Farwell, Seattle Seahawks Consistently one of the NFL's best special-teamers, Farwell tied for the NFL lead with 18 special teams tackles.

Season Awards

Most Valuable Player: QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers Say what you want about Matt Flynn in Week 17, but Rodgers is the key to the Packers' offense and is the best player in the league right now. His performance in 2011 has few comparisons over history.

Offensive Player: QB Drew Bees, New Orleans Saints I think Rodgers is the best player in the league, but I'll give Brees props here for shattering Dan Marino's single-season passing record. His 46 touchdowns, 5,476 yards, and 71.2 completion percentage are simply ridiculous.

Defensive Player: DE/OLB Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens Suggs actually tied for fifth in the league in sacks with 14, but his seven forced fumbles, two interceptions, and excellent run defense make him the most complete and effective defender in the NFL.

Offensive Rookie: QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers I still question his long-term ability to be an elite quarterback, but Newton's physical tools provided an intriguing challenge for NFL defenses in 2011. You can't argue with 4,051 yards and 35 total touchdowns.

Defensive Rookie: OLB Von Miller, Denver Broncos You have to think about guys like Aldon Smith, Brooks Reed, and Patrick Peterson, but Miller was the best of the bunch with 11.5 sacks and great run defense as a rookie.

Comeback Player: QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions After playing in just three games in 2010 due to injuries, Stafford broke out this season with a whopping 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns while leading the Lions to a long-awaited playoff berth.

Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers Taking over a mediocre team in a lockout year, Harbaugh exceeded expectations with a 13-3 record and NFC West title. Even more, he finally got former first-overall pick Alex Smith playing at his most effective level yet.

Offensive Coordinator: Pete Carmichael, Jr., New Orleans Saints He doesn't call the plays in New Orleans, but he did a great job when Sean Payton was out with a leg injury in the middle of the season and his game-planning guided Drew Brees to a record-breaking year.

Defensive Coordinator: Wade Phillips, Houston Texans Inheriting the league's worst unit and shifting to the 3-4 scheme, Phillips created a monster pass rush that held up even after the loss of Mario Williams and the NFL's third-ranked pass defense.

General Manager: Mike Brown, Cincinnati Bengals The owner and de facto GM, Brown got a great haul for a retired Carson Palmer and drafted two key players on offense in quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A. J. Green. I also give him credit for drafting underrated talents like Andrew Whitworth and Geno Atkins to build an unexpected playoff team.

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