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Bleacher Report's Consensus All-Pro Team

Ian KenyonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 18, 2013

Bleacher Report's Consensus All-Pro Team

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    The NFL regular season has ended, which means that it is time for NFL awards and recognition. 

    The Pro Football Writers of America came out with their version of the All-Pro team last week. 

    We wanted to give the experts at Bleacher Report a chance to voice their opinion on who they believe is worthy of recognition on this year's All-Pro Team.

    The voters were comprised of Bleacher Report’s group of lead writers and lead bloggers, who were allowed to fill out a full ballot for the team.

    Our Bleacher Report panel of experts for this vote (each received one ballot):

     

    Matt Miller: NFL Draft Lead Writer (@nfldraftscout)

    Sigmund Bloom: NFL Draft Lead Writer (@SigmundBloom)

    Ty Schalter: NFL National Lead Writer (@tyschalter)

    Andrea HangstAFC North Division Lead Writer (@FBALL_Andrea)

    Brad GagnonNFC East Division Lead Writer (@Brad_Gagnon)

    Knox Bardeen: NFC South Division Lead Writer (@KnoxBardeen)

     

    The results are listed based on how many votes each player received in descending order. 

Quarterback

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    Starter: Peyton Manning (3 Votes)

    It's been an incredible season for Peyton Manning, who came back for the 2012 season after missing all of 2011 with a very serious neck injury that required multiple surgeries. Miraculously, Manning put up arguably the second-best statistical season of his Hall of Fame career while leading the Denver Broncos to a 13-3 record and a bye in the playoffs.

    Manning's 105.8 passer rating was the second-highest of his career, with his MVP campaign in 2004 being the only year that trumps it (121.1 rating).

    His terrific season also earned him Pro Bowl honors. He will be the starter for the AFC in the NFL's annual all-star game.

     

    Honorable Mention:

    Tom Brady (2 Votes)

    Aaron Rodgers (1 Vote)

Running Backs

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    RB 1: Adrian Peterson (5 Votes)

    RB 2: Arian Foster (3 Votes)

    The only story that may top Peyton Manning's comeback is Adrian Peterson's. The 27-year-old workhorse tore his ACL last December but amazingly came back and didn't even miss a preseason game. Peterson playing in all 16 games this year was a miracle in and of itself, but he almost set the single-season rushing record, falling nine yards short with 2,097 yards. 

    Peterson was a one-man show in Minnesota. With the struggling Christian Ponder at the helm, defenses were able to hone in on Peterson, but it didn't matter. He didn't just lead the league in rushing, he also led all running backs with over six yards per carry. 

    What made Peterson so special in 2012 was his explosive plays. Nobody even came close in this category. He had 27 runs of 20 yards or more. The next closest was C.J. Spiller with 12.

    The second running back on the All-Pro team is Arian Foster. The former undrafted free agent has quickly become one of the NFL's best all-around players. His ability to run the football and make catches out of the backfield has allowed the Houston Texans to put together one of the most potent offenses in the NFL.

    Foster's 391 touches led the NFL, and he led the league in rushing touchdowns.

     

    Honorable Mention:

    Marshawn Lynch (2 Votes)

    Alfred Morris (1 Vote)

    C.J. Spiller ( 1 Vote)

Wide Receivers

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    WR 1: Calvin Johnson (6 Votes)

    T-WR2: Brandon Marshall (3 Votes)

    T-WR 2: A.J. Green (3 Votes)

    The first unanimous vote-getter is Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson, who shattered Jerry Rice's single-season receiving record with 1,964 receiving yards. He also led the NFL in receptions with 122.

    Unfortunately, only five of those receptions resulted in touchdowns. However, Megatron's season will still go down as one of the greatest seasons ever by an NFL wide receiver.

    Brandon Marshall joined the Chicago Bears before the 2012 season and quickly became Jay Cutler's favorite target. He had a total resurgence, notching the best statistical season of his career. He was targeted 194 times (tied for second in the NFL) and ended the season second in the league in catches with 118. 

    A.J. Green tied with Brandon Marshall for votes, but his ceiling in the NFL appears to be even higher. The 24-year-old second-year wideout from Georgia was just shy of triple digits with 97 catches for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns. His combination of size, route running and fluid movement skills make him a matchup nightmare for opponents. Expect him to be on All-Pro teams for many years in the future.

Tight Ends

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    Starter: Tony Gonzalez (4 Votes)

    According to Tony Gonzalez, he's 95 percent sure that he'll be retiring at the end of this season. But make no mistake, this 36-year-old tight end is not over the hill yet. He's still one of the best tight ends in the game and had the best season of any tight end in the NFL.

    With 93 receptions for 930 yards and eight touchdowns, he led all tight ends in receptions and was third in yards and fourth in touchdowns. 

    The 2012 season will be a great ending to the most prolific tight end in NFL history. If Gonzalez's pending retirement does come true, he will end his career with over 14,000 receiving yards and over 100 receiving touchdowns.

     

    Honorable Mention:

    Jason Witten (1 Vote)

    Heath Miller ( 1 Vote)

Offensive Line

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    OT 1: Joe Staley (4 Votes)

    OT 2: Duane Brown (3 Votes)

    OG 1: Marshal Yanda (5 Votes)

    OG 2: Mike Iupati (3 Votes)

    C: John Sullivan (3 Votes)

    Joe Staley was the leading vote-getter of all offensive tackles. He's been an anchor at left tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, and his movement skills have been a perfect fit for the read-option offense that the 49ers have been running since Colin Kaepernick took the reins from Alex Smith. 

    Duane Brown was second and followed up a fantastic 2011 season where he was named a second-team All-Pro with an even better one this year. He's been a force on the left side of the offensive line in Houston and has done a spectacular job protecting quarterback Matt Schaub.

    Marshal Yanda led all offensive linemen in votes with five, and that should surprise no one. Yanda has been thought of as one of the NFL's top offensive linemen for a few years now, and he continues to dominate opponents with his brute strength and quick movement skills.

    The second guard on the offensive line is Mike Iupati. The third-year guard from Idaho is an absolute mauler at 6'5", 331 pounds. His strength and fierce attitude serve him well on the 49ers, who dominate opponents with a run-first attack. 

    Rounding out the offensive line is center John Sullivan, who would be making his first appearance on an All-Pro team. His play up front for the Vikings helped Adrian Peterson rush for over 2,000 yards.

     

    Honorable Mention:

    OT: Ryan Clady (2), Joe Thomas (2), Andre Smith (1)

    OG: Jahri Evans (2), Evan Mathis (1), Anthony Davis (1)

    C: Max Unger (1), Mike Pouncey (1), Nick Mangold (1)

Defensive Line

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    DE 1: J.J. Watt (6 Votes)

    DE 2: Cameron Wake (5 Votes)

    DT 1: Geno Atkins (6 Votes)

    DT 2: Gerald McCoy (2 Votes)

    J.J. Watt just had what may have been the most dominant season ever by a defensive player. His combination of pass-rushing, run defense and ability to swat passes at the line of scrimmage made him an absolute nightmare for opposing offenses to game-plan around.

    He led the league with 20.5 sacks and coupled that with 16 passes defensed. Watt also added 81 tackles and four forced fumbles. 

    What makes Watt's season so incredible isn't simply that he accumulated those statistics. It's that he did it while playing the 5-tech (3-4 defense end) in Houston's defense. Most 3-4 defensive ends are asked to occupy double-teams to allow the linebackers to do the pass-rushing. Watt faced double-teams and still put up those numbers...astonishing.

    Cameron Wake was the NFL's most productive 4-3 defensive end, according to Pro Football Focus, and it really wasn't even close. His 53.7 overall rating was 22.1 points ahead of second-place Brandon Graham. Wake enjoyed his best statistical season, notching 15 sacks and forcing three fumbles en route to his second Pro Bowl appearance.

    Geno Atkins was overlooked by many on draft day due to being short, but nobody is looking past him now. The 6'1", 300-pound defensive tackle has been an absolute animal since being drafted in the fourth round back in 2010.

    Atkins had 12.5 sacks despite doing his pass-rushing from the interior (a very tough task). Pro Football Focus rated him as the best defensive tackle in the NFL by a large margin. His 79.9 rating was more than double the player behind him in second place.

    That second-place player is none other than Gerald McCoy, who earned the other spot here on the All-Pro team. At one point, it appeared that McCoy was going to end up being a bust, but the third-year player out of Oklahoma has become one of the best young defensive stars in the NFL.

    His statistics may not jump out at you (30 tackles, five sacks), but make no mistake, McCoy is a force inside. He was extremely disruptive as an inside pass-rusher in 2012.

     

    Honorable Mention:

    DE: Justin Smith (1)

    DT: Vince Wilfork (1), Ndamukong Suh (1), Haloti Ngata (1), Brandon Mebane (1)

Linebackers

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    OLB 1: Von Miller (6 Votes)

    OLB 2: Aldon Smith (5 Votes)

    ILB 1: Patrick Willis (5 Votes)

    ILB 2: Daryl Washington (3 Votes)

    Outside of J.J. Watt, nobody had a more dominant defensive season than Denver's Von Miller. His 18.5 sacks ranked third in the NFL, and he was also third in the NFL in forced fumbles with six. Even though he landed one sack shy of Aldon Smith, Pro Football Focus' defensive ratings had him ranked far higher (78.5 to 16.9).

    Aldon Smith was second in the NFL with 19.5 sacks and at one point looked like he was going to break Michael Strahan's single-season record. Unfortunately, Smith failed to record a sack in any of the 49ers' final three games of the regular season. He still ranks among the best pass-rushers in the game and looks like one of the rising stars in the NFL.

    Inside linebacker Patrick Willis plays right next to Smith in San Francisco's 3-4 defense and is the leader of the NFL's best linebacker unit. Willis combines instincts with amazing athleticism and has been one of the NFL's best defensive players since being drafted in 2007.

    He didn't blow anyone away with his pure volume numbers in 2012 (120 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles), but his presence goes much further than just numbers.

    Third-year pro Daryl Washington got better in each of his first two seasons, and his third was no different. Recording 134 tackles and nine sacks is no easy feat. The undersized linebacker flies into opposing backfields and has been an attacking playmaker all year. 

     

    Honorable Mention:

    OLB: Anthony Spencer (1)

    ILB: NaVorro Bowman (2), Lawrence Timmons (1), Derrick Johnson (1)

Secondary

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    CB 1: Richard Sherman (6 Votes)

    CB 2: Charles Tillman (5 Votes)

    S 1: Eric Weddle (3 Votes)

    S 2: Earl Thomas (3 Votes)

    Richard Sherman (a.k.a. "Optimus Prime") has been a complete steal for the Seattle Seahawks after being taken in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft. The trash-talking corner shuts down opponents with his size, physicality and fluid movement skills.

    Not only does he shut down whatever side of the field he's on, but Sherman also has shown incredible ball skills, accumulating eight interceptions during the 2012 season. 

    Charles Tillman (a.k.a. "Peanut") just compiled one of the most unique seasons you'll ever see from an NFL cornerback. He led the league with 10 forced fumbles (had four in one game) and added three interceptions on top of that. 

    Like Sherman, Tillman is an extremely physical player who can take on one-on-one assignments and completely shut them down.

    The voting for safeties was extremely close, but coming out on top were two great ones in Eric Weddle and Earl Thomas.

    Weddle is no stranger to All-Pro teams after being named to them in both 2010 and 2011. He is one of the NFL's best tacklers from the safety position, compiling 97 this year alone. 

    Thomas has been a terrific find for the Seattle Seahawks after investing a first-round pick on him in the 2010 NFL draft. He can step up and cover players in the slot, defend the run or defend zones in the middle of the field.

    His numbers won't jump out at you (61 tackles, three interceptions) but his presence was vital to the success of the Seahawks' dominant defense.

     

    Honorable Mention:

    CB: Antonio Cromartie (1)

    Safety: Dashon Goldson (2), Jairus Byrd (2), Ryan Clark (1), Thomas DeCoud (1)

Special Teams

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    Placekicker: Blair Walsh (3 Votes)

    Punter: Andy Lee (3 Votes)

    Kick Returner: Jacoby Jones (5 Votes)

    Blair Walsh had one of the best rookie seasons in recent history from a kicker. The Georgia graduate was 35-of-38 on field-goal attempts and a perfect 10-of-10 from 50-plus yards.

    He led the league in field goals made and was fourth in field-goal percentage. Expect him to make an annual appearance on the All-Pro team.

    Andy Lee was second in the NFL in net punting average (44.1) and continues to be one of the NFL's most reliable punters. 

    Jacoby Jones received every possible vote for the kick returner spot. He led the league in kick-return average at 30.7 yards per return, had two touchdowns and also had a punt-return touchdown. The explosive receiver has been a vital part of the Baltimore Ravens' success in 2012. 

     

    Honorable Mention:

    PK: Phil Dawson (1), Justin Tucker (1)

    P: Thomas Morstead (1), Brandon Fields (1)

     

    Note: Only five ballots collected for this category.

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