Monday, January 9, 2023

2022 PFJ All-Pro Team

 By John Turney 
Football is a specialized game and has been since the seventies and we like to acknowledge that in our post-season awards. 
This year the defensive format is roughly that of a Fangio-type defense—a 5-2 TITE/TUFF front with three defensive interior types, one linebacker edge (an 'overhang') but with and one 40 end to represent the teams still using 4-man schemes like the 49ers, Jets, Bengals, etc.

In the Fangio scheme many times it is a 5-1 PENNY front with five defensive linemen one linebacker and five defensive backs. In both cases, it's essentially a 3-4 with both ends tighter than usual. Often teams will call one a tackle and one an end and we'll do that, picking one of these TITE guys and one 40 tackles. Other times it may be two ends, or just three "DLs". 

Here are a few examples or listings of front threes, the Dolphins, Rams, Cardinals, and Falcons—
 Regardless we will attempt to pick a team based on roles and roughy use the verbiage of the Cardinals and Rams, one TITE/TUFF defensive end, and one 3-technique/DT type. 

Of course, all schemes go to nickel defenses more often than base defense so we picked a fifth defensive back to go with either the PENNY or a 4-2-5 defense. Often in the Fangio scheme the nickel is called the Star and the linebacker other than the Mike is the $backer (money backer) rather than the more traditional nomenclature of nickelback and Will/Sam.

No matter the name teams use more than eleven players. Usually more than twelve 

So, we are picking twelve players and also honoring a couple of specialists who are not necessarily part of the All-Pro team but following a precedent started by NFL Films in 1983 and then picked up By Paul Zimmerman in 1985 it is a cool idea. 

On offense, we also pick twelve. The AP did it for years and years (they did it on defense, too). We add a third wide receiver and also some specialists.

One other note—We pick left- and right tackles but not left- and right guards. There is not enough of a difference in the positions and no one drafts left or right guards and neither position requires a specific skill set, both have to pass protect, both have to zone block, man block, duo block, pull, and trap, etc. They are too similar to pick say a left guard when the top three guards may be right guards or vice versa.

Here is the 12-man format for good or bad—
The teams—
Wide Receivers
First-team—Justin Jefferson, Vikings, Davante Adams, Raiders, and Tyreek Hill, Dolphins. These three are among the easier choices this year. They stood out.

Jefferson is our Offensive Player of the Year. So many times this year he saved the Vikings bacon with clutch players, getting open and making tough catches in crucial situations. He was on a record-setting pace (until last week) but if the Vikings win in the playoffs you can be sure it will be because Jefferson makes big contributions—he led the NFL with 128 receptions and 1,809 yards.
Justin Jefferson
Credit: NFL Game Pass
The Raiders would have been nowhere offensive without Adams. He put up phenomenal numbers and didn't miss a step in Las Vegas, reuniting with college teammate Derek Carr. Adams led the NFL with 14 TD catches and ended with 100 catches and 1,516 yards. 
Davante Adams
Credit: NFL Game Pass
Another difference-maker was the Cheetah, Tyreek Hill who revived the Dolphins offense and also revived Tua Tagovailoa's career. His 119 catches and 1,710 yards trailing only Jefferson in yards. 
Tyreek Hill
Credit: NFL Replay
Second-team—A.J. Brown, Eagles, Stefon Diggs, Bills, and Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins. Brown has had a career year with just under 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns. He spent all year getting open downfield and hauling in dimes from Jalen Hurts averaging 17.0 yards per catch. We're old enough to remember when that statistic mattered. It's great to see throwback receivers who get deep in an era of two-deep shells and defenses trying not to let receivers get open over the top of their defensive structure. 
Stefon Diggs
Credit: NFL Replay
The Bills rely on Diggs so much. He's clutch and runs nearly perfect routes. His metrics are not always at the top of the heap in terms of length of reception and YAC but Josh Allen counts on him and he delivers—one metric that he's best at is passer rating when targeted. He's at 120.3, the best among all wide receivers who were targets at least 70 times. He ended with 1,429 yards and 11 scores.

We went with Jalen Waddle over CeeDee Lamb for the final Second-team slot for a few reasons. His third-down conversion percentage was high. His yards per catch led the NFL and the passer rating when targeting him was just a hair behind Diggs. Add to that 58 of his 70 catches went for a first down rate of 82.9%, tops in the NFL through 17 weeks as per Sports Information Services (SIS).

First-team—Jason Kelce, Eagles. Kelce added to his Hall of Famer career with another great year. He's a throwback to a previous era when centers would lead sweeps and get around the edge. Kelce does things few centers can do. he's a throwback to the center of the 1970s like Rich Saul who could snap and lead a sweep but still could handle a nose tackle in an era that was transitioning into to 3-4 fronts.

Second-team—Creed Humphrey, Chiefs. After a fine rookie season, he is even better this year. So far, just one holding call. The southpaw snapper is going to have a long career.

First-team—Zack Martin, Cowboys, and Joel Bitonio, Browns. Martin is a first-ballot lock for the Hall of Fame. When he's healthy he's almost always the best guard in the league, he's a machine. It may seem boring with him being All-Pro every year but it's simply greatness. He's an interior lineman like a Dwight Stephenson or an Anthony Munoz, just a step ahead of others at their position and doing it year after year.
Zack Martin
Credit: NFL Game Pass
Second-team—Chris Lindstrom, Falcons, and Michael Onwenu, Patriots. We picked Lindstrom as a First-team All-Pro in 2020 and Second-team in 2021 so this is the third straight year we've picked him for post-season honors. He's a top-notch guard but competes with Zach Martin and Martin is hard to supplant from an All-Pro team.

First-team—Trent Williams, 49ers, and Lane Johnson, Eagles. Both were hurt some, Williams early and Johnson late but both were the best at their positions, left- and right tackle. This is the third straight year we've picked Williams for our All-Pro team, starting in 2020. The AP voters first selected him in 2021. 

In 2022 Williams allowed just one sack and was called for one hold and was dominant in the next-level 49er run game. The same can be said about Johnson. He has the best kick step in the NFL in our view and didn't allow a sack.

Second-team—Laremy Tunsil, Texans, and Penei Sewell, Lions. Sewell edges Tristan Wirfs at right tackle. If Trent Williams were not in the league Tunsil would be the First-team pick. He's having a great year but not as good as Williams. 

Wirfs is terrific but we went with Sewell because he was the superior run blocker. Wirfs is as good as there is in pass pro but we don't get to see him run blocking like we do others. He's capable but when a team does not run consistently a player cannot show off his wares. 

Tight End
First-team—Travis Kelce, Chiefs. Easiest pick this season. No discussion is needed.

Second-team—George Kittle, 49ers. Kittle has come on strong in the second half of the season and caught 11 touchdowns, just one behind Kelce.
George Kittle
Credit: NFL Repla
First-team—Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs. Has sewn up the quarterback spot and is our MVP. He threw for 5,250 yards and 41 scores with really only Travis Kelce in his receiving corp remaining from last year. Mecole Hardman has been hurt and everyone else is new. He also set the NFL record for most combined passing and rushing yards in a season.
Patrick Mahomes
Credit: NFL Replay
Second-team—A late-season injury cost Jalen Hurts a shot at the MVP but he still had the second-best season among quarterbacks this year. No, he is not as polished a passer as some. There are even some who run better. 

If you asked GMs what young quarterbacks they'd take to start a franchise they'd start with Mahomes and then in some order go with Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, and Justin Herbert. However, an All-Pro team is not a player personnel evaluation it is a celebration of a single season, in our view. 

There are some out there who object to using quarterback wins as a measure of success. They say "QB Wins are not a stat". They are right. They are a record. Hem Edwards famously said, "We play to win the game". Bill Belichick also said, famously, "Stats are for losers. Final scores are for winners." 
Jalen Hurts
Credit: NFL Replay
Fairly or unfair win-loss records do apply to quarterbacks to some degree. Not all of it of course. Stats do matter. A lot. We like them. We use them. We dig them up. We love to count things. But football is still art. And we love the art more. 

So, using a mixture of stats, wins, and the old eye test, we pick Hurts as our Second-team quarterback over Joe Burrow and Josh Allen. His 14-1 record is part of it. When he was out the Eagles were 0-2. He threw for 3,701 yards and ran for 760. He accounted for 35 touchdowns in 15 games. He didn't throw picks, he was efficient, and he was the best quarterback at gaining yards in plays labeled RPOs—He's our guy to back up Mahomes.

First-team—Kyle Juszczyk, 49ers. Teams are using more 21 personnel this year than in the past few years. With teams going with more and more two-high safeties, the counter for the offense is running the ball with a lead blocker and even with two running backs, called pony or "2 backs" or other such verbiage. 
Kyle Juszczyk
Credit: NFL Replay
In the first half of the season, Patrick Ricard of the Ravens was the best we saw but Juszczyk was still excellent, lead blocking, lining up on the wing, catching a few passes, doing the dirty work, and playing special teams. Stuff John Madden would have loved.

Second-team—Patrick Ricard, Ravens. More powerful than Juszcyk but not as quick or nimble but a perfect fit for the Ravens power offense.

Running back
First-team—Josh Jacobs, Raiders. The top runner and also the one who can catch very well, leading the NFL with 2,053 scrimmage yards and rushing yards with 1,653 and running for 12 touchdowns. 

Second-team— Derrick Henry, Titans. Henry rushed for 1,538 yards and 13 scores and had 398 receiving yards and was as valuable a player to his team as almost anyone is.
Derrick Henry
Credit: Wikipedia
Henry was a tough choice over Nick Chubb and a couple of others.

Nick Bosa, 49ers—Our Defensive Player of the Year. He is the NFL leader in pressures by Pro Football Focus (PFF), Next Gen Stats (NGS)Sports Information Solutions (SIS), Sports Radar(SR), and QB Hits by NFLGSIS (NFL). Of course, all those totals vary, but he's first in all of them, nonetheless. If you combine them the mean is 75. He also leads in sacks with 18.5. 

He's the best player on the NFL's best defense. 
Nick Bosa
Credit: NFL Game Pass
Maxx Crosby, Raiders, and Myles Garrett, Browns. It's too hard to separate these guys. Both are having a great year. Crosby has a ton of pressures—his average from our five known platforms is 68, which is third among edge rushers. He also seemed to always be extra dominant late in games, playing his guts out.

He has 12.5 sacks and 11.5 run stuffs (by far the most among ends/edges) and finished with 87 tackles. Additionally, Next Gen Stats pegs him as being first plus expected points added (EPA). Add to that he plays 96% of snaps which is unheard of these days (Bosa 74% and Garrett 76%).

Garrett also has a ton of hurries (a mean of 63 from our sources) and 16.0 sacks. Garrett gets double-teamed more than any defensive end and Next Gen Stats reports that he's third in pass rush win rate among edge defenders. 

It's just a year where Bosa has far too many QB hits and pressures that the case for Crosby and Garrett cannot be made to say they would be the top defensive end. So, in our view, they are in a tie for the second-best 40 end.
Maxx Crosby and Myles Garrett
Credit: NFL Game Pass
First-team—Christian Wilkins, Dolphins. Wilkins generally plays on the left side, though he'll take a series here and there for Zach Sieler, the right "end".

Wilkins leads all NFL defensive linemen in tackles and leads all players in stuffs with 14.5 and his 97 tackles are the most by a defensive lineman since Bruce Smith had 106 in 1993. He is listed by the Dolphins as a defensive end but plays 3-technique, a 4i, and some head-up on a tackle, you'll even see him over the center in some packages. But mostly, you'll see him forcing his way into the backfield wrecking plays. 
Christian Wilkins
Credit: NFL Game Pass
Second-team—Jeffery Simmons, Titans. Though he missed some time he still had a terrific season. We chose him First-team All-Pro last year but being hobbled some and with such strong years by so many others we had to put him on the Second-team. The Titans had injuries to their outside linebackers/edge guys and Simmons had to rush from the outside some this year, which is not ideal, but Simmons was game.
Jeffery Simmons
Credit: NFL Replay
First-team—Chris Jones, Chiefs. Jones is currently the best interior pass rusher in the NFL with Aaron Donald being out for the rest of the season. He is more pure 3-tech, flopping sides depending on the strength of the offense and if the Chiefs are running an under- or overshift. However, he will play some outside and other spots but mostly he's abusing guards, usually with his forklift move.

He certainly is a beast and he is now playing harder more consistently. He gets sacks himself (he tied a career-high of 15.5) but also forces a lot of sacks into the arms of other players.
Chris Jones
Credit: NFL Replay
Jones was tied for second NFL in pass-rush productivity 7.9 (PFF) and third in pressure percentage (SIS) among defensive interior players and gets double-team as much or more than any inside defensive lineman.

If the Chiefs are to win the Super Bowl, Jones has to play like he has in the last three months after a slow start.

Second-team—Quinnen Williams, Jets. Williams is a right tackle and when the Jets play an over- or undershift he slides left or right rather than switch sides as say, Aaron Donald or Chris Jones does, so he's not a pure 3-tech. But he's more often at that spot as opposed to a shade technique on the center.
Quinnen Williams
Credit: NFL Replay
Overall, had almost as good a season as Jones—both on an All-Pro level, but Williams tailed off a little at the end and that was the difference, he tweaked a calf in December and missed a game. During the first three-fourths of the season, he was actually superior to Jones in our view. 

Jones had more sacks in 2022 but Williams was rotated more so he had fewer snaps so on a per-snap basis he outperformed Jones in some of the pass rush metrics with a higher sack, QB hit, knockdown, and pressure percentage in SIS's accounting with the QB knockdown rate topping all defensive tackles. Willams was also first in pass rush productivity among interior players (8.1) according to PFF which is also calculated on snap count. 

He did all that sometimes playing on the nose in some pass rush overload fronts where three defensive linemen are lined up on one side (from the center to a tackle) and one is isolated on the other side lined up on a tackle. Simply put he was not always lined up in an ideal position (outside shoulder of a guard) like Jones was,

He was also tops in playing the run having a low center of gravity and getting under blockers' pads. In NFLGSIS's run directional stats, the exact place you don't want to run on is their defensive right. Exactly where Williams lines up. Running behind right guard and right tackle Jets opponents averaged 3.3 yards a carry as opposed to 4.9 going to the left. Best not to test Williams' side.

First-team—Dexter Lawrence, Giants. Sexy Dex gets a huge amount of pressure for a 340-pound man. He pushes the pocket and is a ton of fun (pun intended) to watch. He pairs with fellow lineman Leonard Williams in the middle of the Giants defense and gives offenses a lot to deal with. He finished with 68 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 28 QB hits and had the highest QB hit, hurry, and pressure percentage of all defensive interior players, per SIS and was fourth in pass rush productivity in PFF's tally.

Second-team—Derrick Brown, Panthers. One of NFL's most improved players. He's been tossing centers around, using a variety of moves, and chasing down runnings down the line. He's not quite as big as Lawrence (6-5, 325) but he can move better.

He made 67 tackles a sack and a dozen QB hits. 
Derrick Brown
Credit: NFL Game Pass
First-team—Micah Parsons, Cowboys. He was in contention for Defensive Player of the Year and will likely be the runner-up. A dominant player who is always accounted for with two hats and four hands—single block him too often and you will lose.

In the average of pressures from the five sources we've mentioned, he was second with a mean of 70, about five behind Bosa and two ahead of Crosby. But Parsons is more about the eye test. He's just quicker than everyone, he scares offensive linemen. Parsons is a rare, rare talent that also has an array have hand techniques that make him special. 

Through the first half or even three-fourths of the season, he was the Defensive MVP but the consensus now is that Bosa has overtaken him. We'll see what the AP voters do.
Micah Parsons
Credit: NFL Replay
Second-team—Matt Judon, Patriots, and Haason Reddick, Eagles (tied). Like the Second-team 40 ends these guys are too hard to separate, both integral to their defenses, and both made huge plays all year so we pick both.
Matt Judon
Credit: NFL Replay
Reddick seems to get more escapes from blockers and if he doesn't get the quarterback he forces him into the arms of another Eagle. 
Haasan Reddick
Credit: Wikipedia
Judon has gotten a few more coverage sacks, but the Eagles come from everywhere. They have five, or six good defensive linemen. Judon has just one other guy helping out. So there is that. 

Statistically, they were very similar, Reddick had 16.0 sacks, Judon 15.5, and both averaged in the mid-50s in pressures in our five-source average.

It is interesting to note that Reddick is 6-1, 240 pounds and Judon is 6-4, 275—opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of size at their position. When Reddick was with the Arizona Cardinals they played him at $backer (money backer) an off-the-ball linebacker position because of his athleticism. Finally, they moved him to the edge and his career took off, but that was in a contract year and he signed with the Panthers. Then moved to Philly this year. What a good signing.

First-team—Fred Warner, 49ers. The best. A heat-seeking missile. Easy choice. Not much discussion is needed.
Fred Warner
Credit: NFL Replay
Second-team—Demario Davis, Saints. Davis beats out several Mike-types. Davis has 109 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 7.5 stuffs, six passes defended and a pick. At 33 he's playing as well as ever. He edges out Bobby Wagner who has similar numbers. 

First-team—Matt Milano, Bills. Milano makes tackles for losses (11.5 stuffs), covers as well as any off-the-ball linebacker (three interceptions and ten passes defensed), and can even blitz effectively (a sack and a half) and tackle (99 total tackles). He's been very good for several years (his 2018 and 2020 seasons were very similar to this year when he gave him honorable mentions on our All-Pro teams). Hopefully, the AP voters will take notice in 2022. 
Matt Milano
Credit: NFL Replay
Second-team—Dre Greenlaw, 49ers. Often the AP voters will put two middle linebackers on their All-pro ballots rather than one MLB and one who is more of a Will or Sam type. It is hard to distinguish but there are differences. This kind of thing hurt Lavonte David over the years. Greenlaw (and Milano) and others often get overlooked when it comes to post-season awards. We try to recognize them in some small way because it is an important position. 
Dre Greenlaw
Credit: NFL Replay
For example, this year, on our Second-team All-Conference teams this year we chose Frankie Luvu and Josey Jewell for example. Last year we chose Kyzir White (was good last year, not so much this year) and Shaq Thompson (good last year, good this year). In 2020 it was Kyle Van Noy (the second time we picked him) and K.J. Wright. So we value that spot. 

Defensive backs
First-team—Patrick Surtain II, Broncos, and Sauce Gardner, Jets. The two best we saw over the season. Surtain plays in a Fangio system which requires reading and matching routes quickly. It takes a lot of smarts and extreme reaction skills to break on the ball and also requires great tackling ability. In match quarters, pretty often the offensive route concepts can cause the "shell" to leave a corner with no deep safety, it becomes a de facto cover-0 and the corner has to match a deep route, i.e. that zone becomes man in a hurry. To Surtain it's something he handles well.

Gardner will almost assuredly be the first rookie corner to be First-team All-Pro since Ronnie Lott in 1981, though there have been a few that have been to the Pro Bowl and he's a lock for Defensive Rookie of the year. Gardner has not backed down from any challenges and gave up a single touchdown all year.

Sauce Gardner
Credit: NFL Game Pass
Second-team—James Bradberry, Eagles, and Jaycee Horn, Panthers. Slay was probably the best for the first half of the season but Gardner surpassed him and his teammate Bradberry did, too. There are three organizations that put out individual defensive passer ratings. They never agree, but can often be close. In Bradberry's case PFF, SIS, and SR all have him with the lowest DPR among our four corners. He allowed 44% (averaging all three) of passes to be completed against him and had an average DPR of 50.3. 

Like Surtain, he was in a Fangio-based scheme but the Eagles mixed in more looks and also had the benefit of a vicious pass rush, unlike Surtain. He showed well in 2022.

Not everyone loves Horn. We do. Horn had an average defensive passer rating of 56.4 and didn't give up a touchdown according to PFF. A student of the game, he learned what it takes to be an NFL player (like Surtain) from having a father (Joe Horn) who was a long-time player. At 23, he's got good strength for a corner. he didn't make the Pro Bowl but should have plenty of those in his future.
Jaycee Horn
Credit: NFL Game Pass
First-team—Demond King II, Texans. King plays in the slot a lot but also plays outside - mostly inside the first half of the year and mostly outside the second half. He was All-Pro in 2018 and has had a great year on a poor team. He's made ten tackles behind the line of scrimmage out of his 89 tackles, picked off a pair of passes and defensed eight. 

Desmond King II
Credit: NFL Game Pass
Second-team—L'Jarius Sneed, Chiefs.Late in the year he has been playing outside lately, matching with the opponents' top receiver but was a slot most of the year, blitzing, getting sacks, causing problems and being a general menace. A fun player to watch. He's given up a few touchdowns but that is the price a team pays when playing aggressively as the Chiefs do. He finished with 108 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3.5 run/pass stuffs, three forced fumbles, three picks and 11 passes defensed. 

Rams corner/star Jalen Ramsey gave up some touchdowns (five, six, or seven depending on the organization) and did a lot of good things, too. We didn't pick him for any of our teams this year but we recognize had a lot of tough assignments and we did take that into consideration, a lot was asked of him. It's just a year that others played better and more consistently but we saw him a lot and respect his game but went with King and Snead ahead of him for 2022.

First-team— Vonn Bell, Bengals, and Minkah Fitzpatrick, Steelers. A lot of the best safeties were hurt this year to varying degrees—Justin Simmons, Jordan Poyer, Derwin James, Eddie Jackson, and Chauncy Gardner-Johnson, and we debated whether to include them or not. Usually, we want maybe 70-75% of games played to be the minimum a couple of them barely made the cutoff.
Vonn Bell
Credit: NFL Replay
A month ago we were all set to pick Talanoa Hufanga of the 49ers as a First-team safety but he's been too nosey at times lately and has given up too many touchdowns. Yes, he's also made a lot of big plays—behind the line of scrimmage, picks, all the things a safety is supposed to do but when you make too many key errors you cannot be ahead of guys who also make big plays and make fewer errors so he's been bumped down to All-NFC. However, Hufanga seems like the type of player who will elevate his game after being called out by his coach for playing "hero ball" and will be a big part of 49ers Super Bowl run.

We went with Vonn Bell who was consistent all year. He is not as well known as some others but he's been excellent this year. He's got the lowest individual defensive passer rating among all the top safeties and has given up one touchdown this year and that one was on some shot or coverage foul-up that involved at least three players. 

He gets pressure and makes big plays at key moments and has flown under the radar for too long. He's a big reason the Bengals led the NFL in team defensive passer rating while he had an individual DPR in the mid-60s. He picked off four passes, didn't give up a touchdown (as per SR and SIS) forced a pair of fumbles, and recovered one. In short, he's Hufanga without the big plays allowed. You'll see his presence in the playoffs.

Fitzpatrick is a playmaker. He's tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions taking one to the house, blocking a kick, and covering well, he made big plays in the run game and he also made big plays when it mattered most (like a dozen and a half run stops on third- and fourth down). He tied for the NFL lead in interceptions, taking one back for a score. He will likely be on the AP and PFWA All-Pro teams as well.

Second-team— Justin Simmons, Broncos, and Derwin James, Chargers. Both were nicked and both came on strong at the end of the year. Had they been healthy all year they likely would have been the First-teamers (unless Hufanga hadn't faded).

James plays everywhere. box safety, slot (Star), and some post safety. He covers wideouts and tight ends. Can rush the passer. A do-it-all type. When healthy some say he's the best safety in the NFL. We'll get some gas for going Bell over him but from our film study and talking to sources we trust we think Bell is a solid choice.

Some say when healthy, Simmons is the best safety in the NFL. He has great range and intelligence. At a young age, he's a pro's pro. He's missed a lot of time in 2022 but still is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions and forced three fumbles as well. We first picked Simmons as First-team All-Pro in 2018 and every year since but this year we relegated him to Second-team because he did five games (He played in 70% of the scheduled games - the absolute minimum to qualify for our All-Pro team).

Since Bell, Fitzpatrick, Simmons, and James are all in the AFC they take up all the slots on the All-AFC team leaving no room for Kyle Dugger of the Patriots. He deserves honorable mention. He's someone who has made big plays all season. He's a big hybrid type, he had three defensive scores, a sack, and 4.5 stuffs (three on pass plays) and had eleven pressures, eight passes defended and picked off three passes. He sure filled out the stat sheet. 

Another sleeper is Juan Thornhill who didn't fill out the stat sheet all the time but he was always in the right place in coverage all the time and makes great plays on the ball. he's kind of a Justin Simmons type and he's also an honorable mention. The AFC is loaded with top-notch safeties this year, we could have mentioned a few more who had good seasons.

First-team—Daniel Carlson, Raiders. Justin Tucker is the G.O.A.T. of NFL kickers, however, 2022 was not his year. We did not penalize him for missing super-long kicks but we do reward the kickers who had the best season in any given year and if the best-ever does miss some, then the All-Pro should be someone else, and that someone else is Carlson. He hit 11 of 13 attempts from 50 yards or longer with a long of 57. He was 34/47 overall (91.9%) and missed just one PAT.

Second-team—Brett Maher, Cowboys. He was 9/11 from 50+ and two of his three misses on the season were from 59 yards. he did miss three PATs but he's probably the best at kickoffs of all the top-notch NFL kickers. There are some bigger legs but they cannot hit 90% of their field goals. 

First-team—Tommy Townsend, Chiefs. Townsend was on pace for one of the best-ever punting seasons in terms of metrics we follow,  right up there with Johnny Hekker's 2016 and Jake Bailey's 2020 season with an NYOA (net yards over average) of 5.6 or better. 
Tommy Townsend
Credit: NFL Replay
However, he tailed off and ended with a still excellent number of just under 5.0. he had a gross of 50.4 yards per pun and a league-leading 45.6 net yards per punt which is tied for second-best all-time with Bailey (2020) behind Hekker (2016) who had a 46.0 net. Of his 22 punts inside the 20, six were inside the six.

Second-team—A.J. Cole, Raiders. Cole's net was 43.9 and had a 26-1 inside-the-20 to touchback ratio. He was a precision punter this year, five of his punts ended up inside the three.

Kick returner
First-team—Keisean Nixon, Packers. He was second in the NFL in return average with a 28.8 average return and took one to the house.

Second-team—Kene Nwangwu, Vikings. Excellent for the second year in a row, had 920 return yards and a score. 

Punt returner
First-team—Marcus Jones, Patriots. Jones won a game with an 84-yard punt return, eas second in the NFL with a 12.5 average return. A mystery why he wasn't the AFCs return specialist.

Second-team—Kalif Raymond, Lions. Raymond led the NFL in punt return average with a 13.2 average and also a touchdown return. We put Jones on the because Raymond had almost 100 fewer yards and a dozen more fair catches.

Special teamer
First-team—George Odom, 49ers. Odom has been one of the best core special teams players for a few years and 2022 was as good as any, including 2020 when he was a consensus All-Pro as a special teams player. This season he led the NFL in special teams tackles for the second time in three years, totaling 21.

Second-team— Jeremy Reaves, Commanders. Reves edges out Justin Hardee of the Jets. Both are excellent and both are Pro Bowlers.

First-team—Taysom Hill, Quarterback, tight end, running back, special teams. A Swiss Army knife.

First-team—Isaiah Simmons, Cardinals. Slot, safety, linebacker. The Taysom Hill of Defense. Has some flaws (poor run grade per PFF) but was excellent for his position in their pass rush grade and good in coverage.

Third-down back
First-team—Jerick McKinnon, Chiefs. Last year we neglected to pick a nickel running back. Usually, we do. James White of the Patriots and Darren Sproles are a couple of examples. This year our pick is McKinnon who has played this role most of his career, coming in and catching the ball in the backfield, running some but not being a change-of-pace back or a RB2, but the guy who can get you a first down. or more. 

This year McKinnon has nine receiving touchdowns and has not started a game. No player in NFL history has more touchdown receptions in a season while not starting a game.  

Nickel Rusher
First-team—Josh Uche, Patriots. He proved Judon with some help from the other side, notching 11.5 sacks coming into the game in passing situations. 

Second-team—Brandon Graham, Eagles. Eleven sacks with no starts. As a wave rusher, he's been great, playing both edges, standing up over the center or guard. The Eagles rush had 70 sacks and he was a vital part of it. 

All-Conference Teams—

All-Conference Notes
Foyesade Oluokun, Jaguars. Second-team All-AFC inside linebacker. He led the NFL with 184 tackles and 10.5 were run/pass stuffs, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and five passes defensed on a Jaguars team that closed fast and made the playoffs.

Alex Highsmith, Steelers, Second-team All-AFC outside linebacker. He had 14.5 sacks and tied for the NFL lead with 5 forced fumbles.

As mentioned, NYOA is a key factor in choosing a punter for us among other things. We picked Johnny Hekker over Tress Way for All-NFC. Hekker had a higher NYOA, a higher net punting average, by just over a yard, had more punts inside the 20 (39 to 35), and both had 11 inside the ten. Hekker allowed fewer returns, was 9th in hang time (PFF), and Way was 15th. Hekker probably deserved to be the NFC Pro Bowl punter over Way. In fact, Michael Dickson has a case, too, though he and Way are close.
Justin Houston, Ravens, Second-team All-AFC nickel rusher. According to Next Gen Stats still has the fasted get-off time  (seconds it takes to cross the line of scrimmage after the snap) of any pass rusher in the NFL. He led the Ravens with 9.5 sacks.

Frankie Luvu, Panthers, Second-team All-NFC linebacker. He missed some time but still totaled 111 tackles, had seven sacks, 12.5 stuffs, and a pick-six. His total of 19.5 sacks + stuffs is impressive. Luvu plays a lot of positions and has been special. We named him Second-team All-Pro special teams player last year. We've watched him for a while.

Brian Burns, Panthers, Second-team All-NFC 40 end. Burns had 12.5 sacks and is on the top ten lists for pressures by PFF, SIS, and Next Gen Stats. It was a terrific year for 40 ends.

Christian Kirk, Jaguars, Second-team All-AFC wide receiver. Ended the year with 84 receptions 1,108 yards and eight touchdowns. 

We first picked John Thuney as First-team All-Pro in 2018 (had him as an honorable mention in 2017 and have him Second-team All-AFC this year, we rank him as fifth with Ben Powers, Shaq Mason, and Jonah Jackson 6-7-8. Denver's Quinn Meinerz is also an honorable mention at guard ranked ninth.

Terry McLaurin, Commanders, Second-team All-NFC wide receiver. Only two dropped passes and had 77 catches, 1,191 yards, 15.5 yards per catch average, and five scores in 2022. He's a Washington fan favorite and finally got his chance to go to the Pro Bowl when he was voted to the team in December.

Tremaine Edmunds, Bills. A poor man's Fred Warner. Will cash in big in the offseason since he will be a free agent. He's tall and good in coverage, his fewest yards per target number is the best in the NFL. 

The Broncos Josey Jewell is one of those off-the-ball linebackers that will likely never get many post-season awards, like a Milano or Greenlaw or Van Noy, etc. We've picked him Second-team All-AFC. His team had a miserable year but the defense did not and he certainly did not. He filled out the stat line with 128 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 picks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 recovered fumbles, 2 passed deflected (other than the picks) and 7.5 stuffs. And he missed four games. He can play.

Most Valuable Player: Patrick Mahomes, KC
Offensive Player of the Year: Christian McCaffrey, SF
Defensive Player of the Year: Nick Bosa, SF
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Garrett Wilson, NYJ
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Sauce Gardner, NYJ
Coach of the Year: Brian Daboll, NYG
Comeback: Geno Smith, Sea
Exec: Howie Roseman, Phi


  1. Did you give any consideration to Stonehouse for punter? Breaking Baugh's record is certainly an accomplishment!

    1. Not really. It is a great thing. But it's just me, and I could be wrong, but always go by net average, not gross. And we also look at touchback to inside the 20 ratio, and yards allowed. Stonehouse outkicked coverage - allowed over 600 yards in returns. Of course, not all on him, but it become a pattern. He was 4th in net punting. He was 16th in hang time. los in in the 20 to TB ratio, 6th in net yard over Average. To me, anyway, he was about 5th or 6th.

      he set the NFL record for gross punting by almost 2 yards and was behind the NFL record for net punting by almost 2 yards...a four yard difference...had be just a bit more control, you'd think he'd have smashed both. That's my take anyway, for what it is worth

  2. Aha. That makes total sense.

  3. Great job picking the team and going into great detail. What did you see out of Raider tackle Kolton Miller this season? I know you have liked him in the past. How strong is offensive line play this season do you feel? I feel like guards are down a bit the past couple years.

    1. I like him---but saw him lose some power rushes this year--I watch him close--I think vs Chargers didn't look great, opening week . . Tunsil, to me, was great. Armstead really helped Mia... Miller was good, but not as good...maybe 3rd or 4th in AFC? But that's me.

      There were no up and comers at guard. . . no sleepers. Maybe Jackson, Det. he runs well . . . Powers, Bal, powerful . . .

      Oline play is more technical IMO. Not tons of pop. They position on those duo blocks. Baltimore does power blocks, traps, counters, - stuff like that. 49ers...but it's still a zone blocking era.

  4. Yeah you make good points about o-line play. I like Onwenu because he moves people out. I didn't see Quinton Nelson mentioned by you. What do you think of his perfomance?

    1. Nelson seemed off this year. I think he even said so himself. Not 100% sure on that. I think it was after the Giants game. Prob still top 10 guard. Pro 5-6th in AFC

  5. From Brian wolf ...

    Do you think John or Nick that there will be one or two running back selections as All-Pro? I think last year it was just one selection but there needs to be two. The accolades help a player make the HOF and needs to be done right in my opinion.

    Sewell for the Lions was fun to watch when I did catch Detroit on tv ...
    Had Watson not started games for the Browns, I think Chubb would have contended with Jacobs for the rushing title.
    Did any rookies other than Gardner warrant All-Pro discussion or possible votes?

    1. Sorry didn't get back to you---as you saw today, it was one, but I knew it was one. But the PFWA will have 2 RBs. The AP also made sure that Parsons was an Edge and no one who voted for him as a LBer would keep their status. They were serious, at least that is what I was told.