Bleacher Report's NFL Midseason All-Pro Team

Ty SchalterNFL National Lead WriterOctober 29, 2013

Bleacher Report's NFL Midseason All-Pro Team

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    There's no higher individual NFL honor than being named to an Associated Press first-team All-Pro squad. In the minds of the people whose job it is to watch football, each nominated player was the best in the world at his position.

    Pro Bowl squads, while usually comprised of the NFL's top stars, are really more like popularity contests. Their rosters annually swell with "injury replacements," too, so reaching the status of "Pro Bowler" is relatively achievable for a quality starter with a respectable career. 

    Not so with All-Pros; they're picked by media only, and the honorees comprise a complete starting 22, plus specialists, period.

    At Bleacher Report, we polled our NFL lead writers to nominate a preseason first-team All-Pro squad in an attempt to project which players would reach the peak of the football profession in 2013.

    Now that the 2013 season's halfway over, we've done it again.

    Many of the votes changed, and many stayed the same. Some stars have disappointed, some great players have emerged from nowhere and some have been exactly as great as our experts expected.

    As with the AP's list, we've named two defensive tackles, two defensive ends, two outside linebackers and an inside linebacker—but that doesn't mean we're putting together an actual 4-3 starting lineup or only choosing from defensive players who line up in a 4-3. All defensive players are receiving votes based on the official position they play.

    Before we get to Bleacher Report's projected roster of the NFL's best players of 2013, here are our esteemed voters:

    Matt Bowen—National Lead NFL Writer (Twitter)

    Mike Freeman—National Lead NFL Writer (Twitter)

    Ty Schalter—National Lead NFL Writer (Twitter)

    Michael Schottey—National Lead NFL Writer (Twitter)

    Matt Miller—National Lead NFL Draft Writer (Twitter)

    Erik Frenz—AFC East Lead NFL Writer (Twitter)

    Andrea Hangst—AFC North Lead NFL Writer (Twitter)

    Chris Hansen—AFC West Lead NFL Writer (Twitter)

    Brad Gagnon—NFC East Lead NFL Writer (Twitter)

    Zach Kruse—NFC North Lead NFL Writer (Twitter)

    Knox Bardeen—NFC South Lead NFL Writer (Twitter)

    Tyson Langland—NFC West Lead NFL Writer (Twitter)

Quarterback

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    The Voters' Selection: Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos)—11 votes

    There's been little to fault in the performance of our preseason consensus pick, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.

    Peyton Manning, though, is having the best year of his career in a career that might be the best of any quarterback ever.

    Per Pro-Football-Reference.com, Manning leads the NFL in completions, yards, touchdowns, touchdown rate, raw yards per attempt and every derivative thereof, yards per game, NFL passer efficiency rating and ESPN Total QBR.

    With one voter more impressed by Tom Brady's tenacious showings in the face of unprecedented team adversity, Manning falls just short of a consensus midseason nomination.

     

    Others Receiving Votes

    Tom Brady (New England Patriots)—one vote

Running Back

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    The Voters' Selections: LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia Eagles)—11 votes, Marshawn Lynch (Seattle Seahawks)—eight votes

    When new Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly took over, many anticipated quarterback Michael Vick would greatly benefit from his read-option offense. Fewer predicted that Kelly's offense would put LeSean McCoy in a perfect position to maximize his shifty skills.

    McCoy leads the NFL in both rushing attempts and yards, validating Eagles fans who thought McCoy was underutilized in former skipper Andy Reid's pass-first offense.

    The other midseason All-Pro tailback: Marshawn Lynch, the man they call "Beast Mode." Lynch is tied for third in the NFL in rushing attempts and touchdowns, and fourth in yards, per Pro-Football-Reference.com, all while running behind a patchwork offensive line that has lost multiple starters during the season's first half. 

    In a funny twist, Reid's current star tailback, Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs, was one of our experts' preseason All-Pro picks. He was the only midseason vote-getter besides McCoy and Lynch.

     

    Others Receiving Votes

    Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs)—five votes

Fullback/H-Back

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    The Voters' Selection: Bruce Miller (San Francisco 49ers)—seven votes

    Fullback used to be a key position in the NFL, but today, very few true fullbacks see significant reps. Of that hard-nosed dying breed, Bruce Miller is Pro Football Focus' second-rated blocking fullback (subscription required). Unlike some of his punishing peers, Miller has been trusted to run the ball a few times as well.

    Our experts' preseason pick, Vontae Leach of the Baltimore Ravens, has shown the Ravens knew something we didn't when they dragged their feet in re-signing him this offseason. Leach is currently graded 18th overall out of 19 fullbacks by Pro Football Focus.

     

    Others Receiving Votes

    Mike Tolbert (Carolina Panthers)—three votes

    Anthony Sherman (Kansas City Chiefs)—two votes

Tight End

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    The Voters' Selection: Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints)—10 votes

    This was a no-doubter. Jimmy Graham led preseason voting with eight out of 12 votes and garnered 10 votes at the halfway mark. Graham leads all tight ends in yards, is tied for first in touchdowns, third in receptions and tied for third in yards per catch, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.

    This production came despite Graham playing through injuries, like the torn plantar fascia that limited him in Week 8, per Katherine Terrell of The Times-Picayune.

     

    Others Receiving Votes

    Vernon Davis (San Francisco 49ers)—one vote

    Jordan Cameron (Cleveland Browns)—one vote

Wide Receiver

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    The Voters' Selections: Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions)—11 votes, A.J. Green (Cincinnati Bengals)—eight votes

    There was little doubt that Calvin Johnson would garner the most votes, even though our experts turned in their ballots before Johnson's Week 8 explosion against the Cowboys.

    Despite missing a game with an injury, Johnson still leads the NFL in receiving yards with 821 on 47 catches, and is tied for third among receivers with seven touchdowns. A.J. Green is right behind Johnson; Green's No. 2 in receiving yards with 734 on 46 catches and also has five touchdowns to his credit.

    The only other vote-getter, Dallas Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant, is second among wide receivers with eight touchdowns.

     

    Others Receiving Votes

    Dez Bryant (Dallas Cowboys)—four votes

Offensive Tackle

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    The Voters' Selections: Nate Solder (New England Patriots)—10 votes, Joe Thomas (Cleveland Browns)—nine votes

    When Nate Solder was drafted, his long, athletic, 6'8", 320-pound frame made him a prototypical pass-blocking left-tackle prospect. The key word is "prospect," because the converted tight end was still growing into his position.

    That potential now has been realized; Solder tops Pro Football Focus' offensive-tackle grades (subscription required).

    Joe Thomas, a three-time first-team All-Pro, is as great as ever; he's ranked No. 1 among offensive tackles in PFF's pass-block grading.

    Our experts' top preseason vote-getter, Duane Brown, hasn't been nearly as dominant in 2013 as he was in 2012; the No. 2 finisher, Ryan Clady, was lost for the season to a Lisfranc injury.

     

    Others Receiving Votes

    Trent Williams (Washington Redskins)—three votes

    Joe Staley (San Francisco 49ers)—one vote

Interior Offensive Line

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    The Voters' Selections: Evan Mathis (Philadelphia Eagles)—11 votes, David DeCastro (Pittsburgh Steelers)—five votes, Alex Mack (Cleveland Browns)—10 votes

    Before the season, there was some question as to whether Evan Mathis, a tall, lean, athletic guard at 6'5", 298 pounds, would fit into Chip Kelly's power-run offense. Halfway into the season, there's no doubt at all. Mathis is blowing open holes for tailback LeSean McCoy and topping Pro Football Focus' overall guard grades (subscription required).

    David DeCastro, the Steelers' 2012 first-round pick, lost his rookie season to a torn MCL, dislocated patella and partially torn patellar tendon. Fortunately for DeCastro and the Steelers, he's been more than worth the wait.

    Marshal Yanda, our experts' top preseason pick, has been fine for his Baltimore Ravens, but far from dominant. Mike Iupati of the San Francisco 49ers has struggled, as evidenced by his 53rd-ranked Pro Football Focus overall grade (subscription required). 

    At center, Alex Mack edges out Houston's Chris Myers. Mack's been very strong in interior pass protection, increasingly important in today's game. Preseason nominee Mike Pouncey not only hasn't performed up to Mack's or Myers' levels, but he's also become a material witness in the Aaron Hernandez case.

     

    Others Receiving Votes

    Chris Myers (Houston Texans)—seven votes

    Manny Ramirez (Denver Broncos)—four votes

    Louis Vasquez (Denver Broncos)—four votes

    Marshal Yanda (Baltimore Ravens)—three votes

    Nick Hardwick (San Diego Chargers)—two votes

    Mike Pouncey (Miami Dolphins)—one vote

    Mike Iupati (San Francisco 49ers)—one vote

Defensive Tackle

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    The Voters' Selections: Ndamukong Suh (Detroit Lions)—nine votes, Dontari Poe (Kansas City Chiefs)—eight votes 

    Our experts are more than comfortable with their preseason selection of Ndamukong Suh as a first-team All-Pro; Suh's 3.5 sacks are slightly behind his typical pace, but his 19 solo tackles show his improved down-to-down consistency.

    Pro Football Focus, long a detractor of Suh, currently grades him as the second-best pass-rushing defensive tackle (subscription required) and eighth best overall.

    Dontari Poe's 4.5 sacks, 24 solo tackles and three assists have been a huge part of the Chiefs' stunning run to 8-0. Poe's personal turnaround from a disappointing rookie season nicely mirrors his team's.

    Geno Atkins, the leading preseason vote-getter, netted five votes this time around.

     

    Others Receiving Votes

    Geno Atkins (Cincinnati Bengals)—five votes

    Jason Hatcher (Dallas Cowboys)—one vote

    Gerald McCoy (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)—one vote

Defensive End

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    The Voters' Selections:  J.J. Watt (Houston Texans)—12 votes, Robert Quinn (St. Louis Rams)—seven votes

    J.J. Watt's Texans have been a massive disappointment, but Watt's still doing work. Though his sack rate (4.5 through seven games) isn't anywhere near his otherworldly 2012 total, he's still Pro Football Focus' top-rated 3-4 defensive end by a long shot in pass rush, run-stuffing and overall.

    Votes were submitted before Robert Quinn's monster three-sack game in Week 8's Monday Night Football, but Quinn had compelling numbers even before that. He had seven sacks in seven games, along with four forced fumbles.

    DeMarcus Ware, our experts' second preseason nominee, has laid low with an injury after a hot start.

     

    Others Receiving Votes

    Mario Williams (Buffalo Bills)—two votes

    Lamarr Houston (Oakland Raiders)—one vote

    Michael Johnson (Cincinnati Bengals)—one vote

    Cam Jordan (New Orleans Saints)—one vote

Outside Linebacker

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    The Voters' Selections: Justin Houston (Kansas City Chiefs)—11 votes, Robert Mathis (Indianapolis Colts)—seven votes

    Clay Matthews and Aldon Smith looked like can't-miss choices after their 2012 seasons, but early setbacks knocked them both out of the running. In their place, Robert Mathis and Justin Houston have had monster seasons; they've tallied 11.5 and 11 sacks, respectively.

    There's an embarrassment of riches in pass-rushing outside linebackers this season, especially in Baltimore and Kansas City, where both of the Chiefs and Ravens starters garnered first-team All-Pro nods from our experts.

     

    Others Receiving Votes

    Lavonte David (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)—three votes

    Elvis Dumervil (Baltimore Ravens)—one vote

    Tamba Hali (Kansas City Chiefs)—one vote

    Terrell Suggs (Baltimore Ravens)—one vote

Inside Linebacker

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    The Voters' Selections: Sean Lee (Dallas Cowboys)—nine votes, Luke Kuechly (Carolina Panthers)—six votes

    Even before Sean Lee had a monster two-interception game against Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions, Lee got the most votes from our experts as the player most likely to finish the season as the NFL's best inside linebacker.

    Lee is now tied for the NFL lead in interceptions, with four, plus an NFL-best 174 interception return yards and a touchdown. He also, per Pro-Football-Reference.com, leads the NFL in combined tackles.

    Luke Kuechly, our experts' top preseason vote-getter, has two interceptions to go with 56 combined tackles—at the heart of the NFL's second-best scoring defense (that gets off the field much quicker than last season).

    Patrick Willis, the other preseason nominee, picked up a vote in a very crowded field.

     

    Others Receiving Votes

    NaVorro Bowman (San Francisco 49ers)—six votes

    Derrick Johnson (Kansas City Chiefs)—two votes

    Patrick Willis (San Francisco 49ers)—one vote

Cornerback

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    The Voters' Selections: Richard Sherman (Seattle Seahawks)—10 votes, Alterraun Verner (Tennessee Titans)—seven votes 

    The burning question Richard Sherman asked New Orleans revelers in the B/R TV video above has been answered: Sherman has been a game-changer for one of the NFL's best defenses, snagging four picks and returning one for a touchdown.

    Darrelle Revis, misused in Tampa Bay's zone scheme, has been almost as invisible as the receivers he covers man-to-man. Still, Revis garnered four votes.

    The answer nobody saw coming was the Titans' Alterraun Verner, who not only has four interceptions to his credit, but he also has a touchdown, two fumble recoveries, 20 solo tackles and an NFL-best 13 passes defensed to his credit.

     

    Others Receiving Votes

    Darrelle Revis (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)—four votes

    Aqib Talib (New England Patriots)—three votes

Safety

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    The Voters' Selection: Earl Thomas (Seattle Seahawks)—12 votes, Eric Berry (Kansas City Chiefs)—10 votes

    This was the easiest category to nail down.

    Going into Week 8, Earl Thomas was tied for the NFL lead in interceptions, with four, and had five passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a whopping 42 solo tackles. As he was already the leading preseason vote-getter, his midseason nod was assured.

    With 1.5 sacks, an interception return for a touchdown, seven passes defensed and 31 solo tackles, Eric Berry has been all over the field behind the relentless Chiefs front seven.

     

    Others Receiving Votes

    Devin McCourty (New England Patriots)—one vote

    Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh Steelers)—one vote

Specialists

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    The Voters' Selections: Matt Prater (Denver Broncos K)—12 votes, Shane Lechler (Houston Texans P)—eight votes, Cordarrelle Patterson (Minnesota Vikings KR)—10 votes, Devin Hester (Chicago Bears PR)—six votes

    We have our first midseason consensus pick—and it's a kicker.

    The Denver Broncos' Matt Prater ran away with the voting, and no wonder: He's a perfect 12-of-12 on field goals and, unlike some of the most accurate kickers in the league, has also been lethal on kickoffs.

    After being allowed to leave by the Raiders squad he'd spent his whole career with, Shane Lechler has proved he's still one of the best in the business, leading Pro Football Focus' punter grades (subscription required).

    Cordarrelle Patterson, whose scintillating 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers actually came after votes were cast, has a death grip on the honor at the halfway point. The punt-return field was packed, but a rejuvenated Devin Hester earns a plurality of the votes.

     

    Others Receiving Votes

    Brandon Fields (Miami Dolphins P)—two votes

    Matt Bosher (Atlanta Falcons P)—one vote

    Johnny Hekker (St. Louis Rams P)—one vote

    Trindon Holliday (Denver Broncos KR)—one vote

    Golden Tate (Seattle Seahawks KR/PR)—two votes

    Tandon Doss (Baltimore Ravens PR)—one vote

    Dwayne Harris (Dallas Cowboys PR)—one vote