Monday, December 30, 2019

2019 PFJ All-Pro Team

OPINION
By John Turney
We picked more than 22 players because football has been a game of packages, 12, 21, 10, 11 and there are more than 22 starters on offense and defense. Nickel is a starter, nicker rushers are, but when teams want to go base they use a nose tackle, a fullback, and if it is a 30 defense they use 2 inside backers. We think All-Pros are an exercise in honoring the top players, not trying to pick the best players who only play in 11 personnel.

Besides the AP, NEA and others have picked more than 22—the AP picked to MLBers from 1984 through the early 2010s. The NEA chose three receivers in the late-1980s. NFL Films and Sports Illustrated picked nickel backs in the mid-1980s. The AP also picked two RBs and a fullback for about 20 years. So we get it, and we will do it our way.
For starters, we picked three receivers, including a slot this year, whereas in some previous years we picked two starters and a third (non-starting) receiver as well. Michael Thomas, NO, and Kenny Golladay, Det plus Cooper Kupp, LAR are the First-team guys with Julio Jones, Atl, and Chris Godwin, TB plus Julian Edelman, NE, on the Second-team
Thomas shattered Marvin Harrison’s single-season receptions record and dropped only 5 passes on his 149 catches. He totaled 1,725 yards and 9 touchdowns. We went with Golliday due to his deep threat ability—he had 65 catches for 1,190 yards for an 18.3 average and led the NFL with 11 TD receptions.

Kupp had 94 catches for 1161 yards and  10 scores and had one of the best YAC runs of the season versus the Saints.

Godwin and Jones both had over 1300 yards. Godwin dropped just one pass and had 86 receptions for 1,333 yards and 9 scores. Jones snagged 99 passes for 1,394 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Edelman was Brady’s only weapon in 2019 with guys getting cut and Gronk retiring. He might have beaten out Kupp but he dropped way too many passes. But, overall he was, we think, the second-best slot receiver this year.
George Kittle, of the 49ers is an easy First-team pick with Travis Kelce of the Chiefs backing him up. Kittle is the top blocker and is a gifter receiver as well. He’s the 2019 version of Russ Francis in his prime, a great two-way end.
The Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley easily has one tackle slot and La'el Collins, of Dallas, has the other. It was hard finding others—it was not a great year for tackles. Ryan Ramczyk, NO, backs up Collins.

Laremy Tunsil is an honorable mention. On pure grades he was very high, maybe second only to Stanley, but his 18 penalties (12 false starts) were just too many to ignore, some in key situations. So, his All-Pro status will happen when his 'key big errors' drop. Maybe next year? Talent-wise, the sky is the limit. Kolton Miller, therefore, edges Tunsil for the Second-team slot.

Good guards, unlike tackles, were abundant this year.  Zack Martin, Dal and Joel Bitonio, Cle are the highest we graded. Zack Martin is just in another league, he’s already a Hall of Famer. Brandon Brooks, Phi, backs up Martin.  Brooks is the has the best physical qualities, size, strength, quickness and

The Patriots Joe Thuney and the Colts Quenton Nelson, tied for Second-team guard. We just couldn't separate them. It reminded us of 1978 in baseball. The two MVPs were Dave Parker and Jim Rice. Both were great. Thuney is more like Parker, a higher average, a bit less power, but more all-around. Nelson is like Rice, still a high average but more power and more strikeouts. Any of the top five could be First-team All-Pro but Martin and Bitonio were slightly higher than the other three.

Ryan Kelly of the Colts is the top center and Second-team is Trey Hopkins of the Bengals.  Cody Whitehair was a top guard and center so he gets a high, high honorable mention. Chase Roullier of the Washington and the Jaguars Brandon Linder (after a slow start) are also honorable mentions. Roullier was the best pass blocking center this year.
Lamar Jackson of the Ravens is easily the MVP and the All-Pro quarterback.  His passing starts were impressive—265/401 for a 66.1 percent completion percentage for 3127 yards 36 scores and just six picks for a 113.3 passer rating. He ran for 1206 yards and 7 more TDs and a 6.9 yard per rush average.
Christian McCaffrey of Carolina and Derrick Henry of the Titans round out the First-team backfield. McCaffrey joined Roger Craig, 1985, and Marshall Faulk, 1999, as one of three backs to get 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. Henry was a vital player in the Titans playoff drive and earned the rushing title. Nick Chubb, Cle, and  Ezekiel Elliott, Dal and are the Second-teamers.

Yes, we picked two running backs and a fullback. Knock off the second-teamers if you want. But for time and immemorial All-Pro teams have had two running backs (or more). Even the AP All-Pro team did it until recently and they had a fullback as well.

Kyle Juszczyk, SF is the #1 fullback and Taysom Hill, NO, is our “true flex” playing QB, RB, TE, Receiver. Our third-down back is James White, NE.

C.J. Ham, Min, is the backup fullback and Patrick Ricard, Bal, is the “flex” playing fullback and defensive tackle.

Other honorable mentions in “flex” are Elandon Roberts who plays linebacker and fullback plus George Fant who plays tackle and tight end. Chris Thompson, Was, is the Second-team receiving back. It's too bad Thompson gets hurt so much, he'd be putting up some great numbers as a third-down back otherwise. In the last five years he's averaged 55 catches for 465 yards and 2 TDs per 16 games but had missed 20 games in that span.

Jacksonville's kicker Josh Lambo beats out Justin Tucker. Sure, Tucker is, as it stands now, the best ever but an All-Pro team is to pick who had the best season and Lambo earned the No. 1 spot. Tucker made his only 50+ yard field goal, Lambo was 4/4 from 50 yards and over. Both missed just one field goal but Tucker missed a pair of PATs, Lambo just one.

In the NFL's stat—"FG Plus/Minus = Summation of (If Field Goal made, 1 - rolling two-year League average success rate from that distance, if missed, negative rolling two-year League average success rate from that distance) Lambo edged Tucker 2.9 to 2.8. All that means is they try to level the playing field and judge who was better in FG kicking in a better way than just FG percentage. It was close, but Lambo had a better year.

Brett Kern of the Titans edges Tress Way of Washington as the punter. Way had a higher net average 44.1 to 43.1 but Kern's inside-the-20 to touchback ratio was 37-2 as opposed to 30-4 for Way. Kern also allowed 85 fewer return yards and in the NFL's metric "Net Yards over Avg" Kern is about a half-yard better. That metric takes into account where punts are kicked and therefore a punter isn't penalized if he has to punt inside the 50 yards line (for an example).

Actually, Bryan Anger is the top statistical punter, but since he missed some games we excluded him and went with the players who played the full season. His NYOA was one of the best ever but that total of just 40 punts was bothersome to us.

Cordarrelle Patterson of the Bears is the First-team kick returner and Brandon Wilson of the Bengals is the Second-team. Wilson did have an average yards-per-return of 31.3, almost two yards more than Patterson but Patterson had 200 more yards. They both had a touchdown but Patterson took more risks and that hurt his average a bit but also allowed more chances to break one. Mecole Hardman of the Chiefs is an honorable mention.

Diontae Johnson of Pittsburgh is top punt returner (12.4 avg. and a touchdown) and Deonte Harris, NO (9.4 avg 1 TD) backs him up. Technically, the Colts Nyheim Hines was the top punt returner (31.2 avg and 2 TDs) but he only had 9 returns, not enough to qualify.

J.T. Gray, NO, is the top special teamer and Matt Slater is our second-teamer. Gray had 14 tackles and a blocked kick and Slater had 10 tackles and blocked his first career punt this season. Tyler Matakevich is an honorable mention—he led the NFL in special teams tackles with 16. Sp is Dane Cruikshank of the Titans who blocked a punt and a PAT and had 9 special teams tackles. he really came on in the second half of the season.

The defensive specialists are J.C. Jackson, NE, and Buster Skrine of the Bears as the fifth (non-starter) defensive back. Josh Allen of Jacksonville and Benson Mayowa of the Raiders are the Nickel Rushers. Jackson is more of a dime back than a nickel, but the Pats play a lot of dime and Jackson was too productive (5 picks) to ignore.

Skrine was all over the place, would cover in the slot, blitz—a do it all guy. Our Second-team All-AFC sub defensive back Mile Hilton is in that category, too, a do it all slot corner.
Our 4-3 end is Cameron Jordan and our 3-4 (sink end) is Cameron Heyward.  Jordan finished with 15.5 sacks and 53 tackles and according to Sportsradar had 27 hurries—the most of any defensive ned. He simply does more than most DEs. He played a lot a 7-tech (inside shoulder of tight end) and dominates them in the running game and gets a consistently excellent rush game after game. Heyward played valiantly after his linemate Stephon Tuitt went down, losing his inside partner in crime. He had 83 tackles, 9 sacks and got his hands on six passes.

Matt Ioannidis is tied for our backup 30 end. He has a 'light stance' and plays a reading position but he still hustled his way to 8.5 sacks (last year he had 7.5 and he was our Second-team All-NFC 30 end) and 64 tackles and 35 pressures. Yes, the injury to JJ Watt moved Heyward up and also Ioannidis but give him some credit, he hustles and makes plays. Michael Brockers had his best year ranking very high in stopping the run, though he hurt his ankle in the last game. He made a career-high in tackles and simply stands up guards and tackles with his leverage, but the only thing is he's not a elite pass rusher though he was better in 2019 than 2018 when he had a shoulder injury most of the year.

Joey Bosa and Danielle Hunter tied for Second-team at 40 end. Hunter had 70 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 35 pressures) and forced three fumbles and Bosa had 64 tackles and 11.5 sacks, 55 pressures (most by any defensive end) and drew lots of extra blockers.

Nick Bosa, SF, is a strong honorable mention. We had Nick Bosa as an All-Pro end on our mid-season team but though he still makes some plays, his production in sacks, QB hits and knockdowns has dropped enough to let a couple others ahead of him. We don't know if he hit the 'rookie wall' or not but 'blue players make blue plays' and lately Nick has had fewer of them but he sure always passes the 'eye test'. Brandon Graham is also an honorable mention. He had 8.5 sacks and ten stuffs. In fact since graham became a starter he's average 9.5 stuffs and 7 sacks but a lot of pressures. He's a good all-around end. 

Aaron Donald, LAR is our three-technique and Vita Vea of the Bucs is the shade tackle. They are ably backed by Grady Jarrett of the Falcons and the Patriot nose tackle Danny Shelton.

Donald had 48 tackles and 12.5 sacks and 9.5 stuffs and was double more than anyone in the NFL. He's in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. Vea was tough all season and for a guy whose job it is to stuff the run he also got some push in the pass rush. Shelton had 55 tackles and 3 sacks patrolling the middle of the Pats defense. Jarrett had 69 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 9.0 run stuffs. If there were not a guy named Aaron Donald in the league Jarrett would be a First-team All-Pro.

Chandler Jones of the Cardinals secured the rush LBer spot with his 4 sacks in Week 16 and Shaquil Barrett, TB, is backing him up and T.J. Watt, Pit is the honorable mention.

Jones had 53 tackles, 19 sacks, 42 pressures, eight forced fumbles (tied for NFL lead), deflected five passes and is only one of two players ever to have 19 or more sacks and at least eight forced fumbles. he also missed fewer tackles than Barrett and Watt which can be the difference in a pressure or a sack.

Barrett had three sacks the final week and edged Jones for the sack title with 19.5 had 58 tackles six forced fumbles and 37 QB hits and 50 pressures. TJ Watt tied Jones with eight forced fumbles had 55 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 37 hits, 60 pressures, two picks, four fumbles recovered and seven passes defensed.

It was hard to separate Jones, Barrett, and Watt. Others may put them in a different order but there was only one slot and we made a call. The forced fumbles are big, they are often game changers so, in the end, his combination of sacks, pressure, and forced fumbles put him above the other two. However, putting any one of those three as the top rush linebacker would not be wrong.

Za'Darius Smith is a super-strong honorable mention. He was a huge difference-maker for the Packers, but again, his lack of forced fumbles (though he was consistent in pressure with 22 knockdowns and 51 pressures) left him out in the cold, though he deserved a Pro Bowl slot over Khalil Mack.

Now, as far as the NFL's stat of QB Hits, make sure to add in the forced fumbles since they don't count in that total. If you force a QB to fumble it's not a "QB hit" so when you see Smith, Watt, and Barrett with more than Chandler Jones know that when the sacks with forced fumbles are added back in the totals are far closer than the official total which shorts Jones on that score.

One additional note—TJ Watt had a good interior rusher and edge rusher on the opposite side to help him, Barrett got a healthy Jason Pierre-Paul down the stretch and that helped him. Who was there to help Jones? Certainly not as much as Watt or Barrett so that factor was used to rank the rush backers. Even Za'Darius Smith had Preston Smith to take the focus off of him some. Jones did it almost alone. His best rush 'mate' was Terrell Suggs and he even was cut late in the season. To highlight that consider Jones had 48% of his team's sacks, Barrett 40%, Watt had 27% of the Steelers sacks. Added to the fact that Jones is simply a master of pass rush moves and technically perfect in his skills.

It was simply a strong year for edge rushers, which may be part of the reason it was a poor year for offensive tackles.
The “Mike” is Fred Warner, SF, and the “Mo” is Lavonte David, TB. David has 121 tackles and led the NFL in run/pass stuffs, forced three fumbles and defended seven passes on a top run defense. He has been so good for so long but always seems to be overlooked. He can still play at a top level.

Warner made 118 tackles, had 3 sacks, had a pick 6 and deflected 9 passes and forced three fumbles.  At 6-3, 236, he has great length and excellent speed and awareness. he could be All-Pro for a long time in the 49ers scheme with his skills, the 2020s version of a bigger Bobby Wagner, perhaps.

The Bills MLBer Tremaine Edmunds and  Zach Cunningham of Houston back them up. Edmunds had 115 tackles and 8 stuffs. Edmunds is huge (6-5, 250) and he and Warner are potentially the Urlacher-Kuechly types of the future. The Bills finished Top 10 in total defense, run defense, pass defense and scoring defense. Both Warner and Edmunds are already excellent, but with their PQs (physical qualities) the sky is the limit for both.

Bobby Wagner, Sea (MIKE), Luke Kuechly, Car (ILB) Cory Littleton, LAR (ILB) are all honorable mentions. Kuechly played well (144 tackles, 6 stuffs, 12 passes defensed and 2 picks) but you could tell he was frustrated with his defense and wasn't what he was in 2018 (when he had 22 stuffs). Littleton was excellent the first half of the season but tailed off. He finished with 134 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 picks, 2 forced fumbles, 9 passes defensed and recovered four fumbles—he sure filled out the stat sheet and he put him on the All-NFC Second-team. We also give an honorable mention to Eric Kendricks he played well but is limited in a lot of way. But we give him credit, he had a good year and we also named him Second-team All-NFC.

Darius Leonard of the Colts was injured in the middle of the season and missed a few games but came on strong through the end of the year. He snags the WILL spot over the Saints Demario Davis. Leonard is one of only four linebackers to have at least 5 sacks and 5 interceptions in a single-season since 1982. (There are a few more before that, when sacks unofficial but it's a rare feat). He finished with a total of 121 tackles, 5 sacks, 5 picks, 7 PDs. Davis was also special. He made 111 tackles (7 were stuffs) and 4 sacks.

Anthony Barr of the Vikings is an honorable mention as is Kyle Van Noy of New England who is a SAM but had a fine year at OLBer. Jamie Collins played more inside the first half of the season and more on the outside in the second half. He made a lot of big plays and deserves a mention as well. He is a complete 'backer who can rush, cover, play the run, etc.
Stephon Gilmore of New England and the Bills TreDavious White are the First-team corners. They both had six picks to be two of the tri-leaders in the NFL in interceptions. That is an oddity because we don't care that much about picks but in this case the best two corners also had the most interceptions.

Richard Sherman of the 49ers are the corners and Shaquill Griffin of Seattle backup the First-teams corners. Sherman was one of our top two cornerbacks at midseason but he had a few penalties in the second half and was nicked some. Still, it was a super year for him. Logan Ryan had a fine year, too. He is an honorable mention and Second-team on our All-AFC team. he had 4.5 sacks and 4 picks, 113 tackles, 4 forced fumbles and 18 passes defensed.
Jamal Adams of the Jets is the box Safety and Justin Simmons of Denver is our free safety. One scout we spoke to compared Simmons to Nolan Cromwell—a guy who can play post safety of 1/2 the field, or play the slot corner or be a box safety as well. Technically, Simmons is a left safety, playing the left side only, so when the tight end is on his side he's the strong, and when the stong side is away from him—to the right, he's the free safety. 

We picked him as First-team All-Pro last year when no one did and though he didn’t make the Pro Bowl the rest of the media will likely pick him as the All-Pro free safety. Jamal Adams is the best safety in the box, he can blitz (6.5 sacks) and cover tight ends and backs and is very smart.

Terrell Edmunds of the Steelers and Tyrann Mathieu of the Chiefs backup the safeties. Edmonds is 'nosey' and always around the ball. Mathieu plays all over, in the slot, deep, and made big plays all year.

And since only PFWA still does it, we picked All-Conference teams—

Most Valuable Player—Lamar Jackson, Ravens
Offensive Player of the Year —Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
Defensive Player of the Year—Stephon Gilmore, Patriots
Offensive Rookie of the Year—Kyler Murray, Cardinals
Defensive Rookie of the Year—Nick Bosa, 49ers
Comeback Player of the Year—Cooper Kupp, Rams
Most Improved Player of the Year—Devante Parker, Dolphins
Special Teams Player of the Year—JT Gray, Saints
Coach of the Year—Jim Harbaugh, Ravens
Assistant Coach of the Year— Greg Roman, Ravens
Exec—John Lynch, 49ers

Position Awards:
Offensive Lineman of the Year—Ronnie Stanley, Ravens
Defensive Lineman of the Year—Aaron Donald, Los Angeles
Linebacker of the Year—Chandler Jones, Cardinals
Defensive Back of the Year—Stephon Gilmore, Patriots
Running Back of the Year—Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
Receiver of the Year—Michael Thomas, Saints
Returner of the Year—Cordarrelle Patterson, Bears
Special Teams Player of the Year—JT Gray, Saints
Kicker/Punter of the Year—Josh Lambo,Jaguars

9 comments:

  1. Marcus cannon and Shaq mason take a step back this season? Didnt see Rodney Hudson mentioned with the centers? Off season?

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    1. Husdon had a really poor view, and several good ones...it was a strong year for interior linemen, poor year for tackles. Only about 2-3 good tackles, all others flawed. Almost all the guards listed were good enough for "all-pro" only 1-2 tackles were "blue" and there were maybe 6-7 centers blue

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  2. Are we currently in the midst of the weakest tackle play in recent memory?

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    1. Yes. Only 2, maybe 3 "blue tackles". One year---Proscout, for example had no "blue" DTs, so all the All-Pros that year were "red"...this year I would say 6-7 "blue"guards...any one of which could be 1st team all-pro.

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  3. What has happened to Tyron smith and terror armstead? Did they slip a bit. I know we didn't have Trent Williams in the league this year.

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    1. SMith nicked with injuries. Armstead on the lazy sid, didn't cut off backside LB on plays away. little thigns. Call it a "red or high red year"... I;ve had him blue in years past

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  4. smith a red for you or is he even lower?

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