The Year Too Early NFL All-Decade Team

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The Year Too Early NFL All-Decade Team
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

There's still another year of football to be played in this decade.

 

However, I figured I'd put together a list of guys who merit selection to the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team.

 

For this, I chose to factor in stats, awards, playoff performances, and other achievements. Without further adieu, here is your all-decade team by position.

 

 

 

Quarterback

 

Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?

 

The ever-popular and over-discussed debate.

 

Colts fans will focus on the regular season accomplishments, while Patriots fans will look to the postseason success.

 

I have no bias either way, so I don't really care.

 

Forgive me, but I'll pass on this one...

 

Runners-Up: Matt Cassel and Jim Sorgi

 

 

 

Running Back

 

There have been a lot of great running backs this decade, but only one has dominated for virtually the whole decade.

 

That would be the Chargers' versatile and durable LaDainian Tomlinson, a former league MVP and owner of the single-season touchdown record.

 

LT is already pushing the top 10 greatest running backs who ever lived (I put him fifth on my list, published back in December), and a down year in '08 still consisted of over 1,500 total yards and 12 touchdowns.

 

Runners-Up: Priest Holmes, Marshall Faulk, Jamal Lewis, Clinton Portis, Shaun Alexander, Curtis Martin, Edgerrin James, Ahman Green, Tiki Barber, Corey Dillon, Fred Taylor, Brian Westbrook, Adrian Peterson, Larry Johnson

 

 

 

Fullback

 

It's probably the NFL's most underappreciated position. In fact, sometimes I even forget it exists (not hard to do as an Eagles fan).

 

No one has been better than Lorenzo Neal, who has played on five separate teams thus far this decade.

 

That hasn't stopped him from earning four Pro Bowl selections and three All-Pro honors. He has blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher eight separate times this decade.


Runners-Up: Tony Richardson, Mike Alstott, Mack Strong, Fred Beasley

 

 

 

Wide Receiver

 

Four names come to mind for the NFL's top wide receiver—Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, and Randy Moss.

 

And I can only choose two.

 

Name

Pro Bowls

All-Pro

1,000-Yard Seasons

10 TD Seasons

Rec-Yds-TD

Playoff Wins (Super Bowl)

Terrell Owens

6

5

8

7

729-10815-109

1 (0-for-1)

Marvin Harrison

7

2

7

7

791-10439-95

7 (1-for-1)

Torry Holt

7

1

8

3

817-11872-68

3 (0-for-1)

Randy Moss

4

3

7

6

694-10475-107

4 (0-for-1)


Terrell Owens

 

T.O. has the edge in first-team All-Pro selections, with just one fewer than Moss, Holt, and Harrison combined. He also has more 1,000-yard seasons and 10 TD seasons than the other three, and he ranks first in touchdown catches.

 

If it weren't for an abbreviated season in Philadelphia in '05, T.O. would be the only one on this list to top 1,000 receiving yards in every season this decade.

 

Marvin Harrison

 

Harrison has the most Pro Bowls out of the group (tied with Holt), although he does have the second fewest first-team All-Pro selections. This is more a testament to his consistency and excellence than domination.

 

He has the second most catches out of the bunch—including an NFL-record 143 in 2002, a record that will probably not be broken anytime soon—but the second fewest touchdowns. He is also the only one of the bunch to have played on a Super Bowl champion team (in this decade, so Holt's 1999 season does not count).


Torry Holt

 

The most underrated player of the bunch. By far.

 

When I originally made this list, I automatically just included Holt in the “runner-up” category. It wasn't until I went back and looked at his credentials that I realized one could make a pretty legit case for Holt as a member of the All-Decade Team.

 

He has made seven Pro Bowls, tied with Moss for the most out of the group. He has by far the most receptions and receiving yards out of the group but the fewest touchdowns by an embarrassing margin.

 

This can probably be linked to: 1) Marshall Faulk, the versatile running back and touchdown machine who took away many of Holt's touchdowns in St. Louis; 2) The simple fact that the Rams have not been a very good football team over this decade.

 

Holt has only been a first-team All-Pro selection once, but he has been arguably the most productive receiver year in and year out.


Randy Moss

 

Moss is the only player who does not lead in a single category, and he is penalized the most for what he has done in a previous decade.

 

In the first two seasons of his career (1998-99), Moss earned two Pro Bowl selections and a first-team All-Pro selection while averaging 1,363 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns per year.

 

Add in those two years and take away his disappointing two seasons in Oakland (2005-06), and I think Moss would have a much stronger case.

 

I will give him this though—go look up Daunte Culpepper's stats in 2000 and 2004 compared to his years without Moss. Then check out what Moss helped Brady do in 2007. Moss probably has the biggest impact on his quarterbacks out of any of the others.

 

The Verdict

 

As of now, I have to take T.O. and Harrison.

 

In my opinion, T.O. is the most talented as a pure receiver. He will go across the middle, block, catch the ball, do whatever it takes to help his team win.

 

I won't defend his attitude—I can't—but he gives everything he's got out there on the football field. He never took two years off, like Moss.


Runners-Up: Moss, Holt, Steve Smith, Chad Johnson, Reggie Wayne

 

 

 

Tight End

 

L.J. Smith. No question. He has been one of the best draft picks Andy Reid has ever made...

 

Other than him, I would go with Tony Gonzalez. He might go down as the greatest tight end of all time. He has made the Pro Bowl in all nine seasons this decade, including four selections as first-team All-Pro.

 

How many 32-year-old tight ends do you know who can catch 96 passes for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns from the likes of Tyler Thigpen, Brodie Croyle, and Damon Huard?

 

Runners-Up: Antonio Gates, Jason Witten

 

 

 

Offensive Tackles

 

It's very difficult to judge offensive linemen. Very difficult. There are no stats to which I have regular access.

 

I go by the Pro Bowl selections, first-team All-Pro selections, and their reputation. The first two names that came to my mind were Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Pace.

 

Ogden made eight consecutive Pro Bowls this decade before retiring at the end of the '07 season. Five times he was named first-team All-Pro, and two additional times he was second-team All-Pro. He also helped the Ravens capture the Super Bowl championship after the 2000 season.

 

Pace was the NFC's version of Jonathan Ogden—a mammoth-sized offensive tackle who was a fixture for the Pro Bowl roster. Pace earned six Pro Bowl selections in the '00s, including five selections for first-team All-Pro.

 

Yet I'll take another tackle—Walter Jones. Jones has been selected to the Pro Bowl in his last eight seasons and been voted an All-Pro seven times. He has blocked for the 2005 league MVP (Shaun Alexander) and was selected by Sporting News as the best player in the NFL following the 2006 season.

 

Runners-Up: Pace, Willie Roaf

 

 

 

Guards

 

Alan Faneca was the first name that came to my mind when I thought of guards.

 

Anyone realize how good he's been?

 

EIGHT consecutive Pro Bowls. He has been a first-team All-Pro five times and second-team All-Pro three times.

 

He helped the Steelers to three conference championship games, including a Super Bowl win following the 2005 season. It's a shame he left for the Jets after the '07 season, because he would have another ring to his name if he had remained with the Steelers.

 

Faneca was voted Tuesday Morning Quarterback's Non-QB Non-RB NFL MVP for his stellar performance in the 2001 season.

 

Three other guards have earned at least six Pro Bowl selections this decade—Will Shields (7), Steve Hutchinson (6), and Larry Allen (6).

 

Again, it's difficult to judge these guys on anything but their Pro Bowl selections, but I have always felt Hutchinson was the best guard in the league.

 

He has been an All-Pro six times, five of them as a first-team guard. He has been hugely instrumental in the performance of Shaun Alexander (2005 NFL MVP) and Adrian Peterson, the league's top runner and 2008 NFL rushing champion.

 

In fact, Hutchinson has blocked for a 1,300-yard rusher in five of his last six seasons.


Runners-Up: Shields, Allen, Brian Waters

 

 

 

Centers

 

I've always loved watching Olin Kreutz play. He's a little, undersized guy, but he gives it his best. He's earned six Pro Bowl selections and been named to the All-Pro team once.

 

Matt Birk of the Vikings has also earned six Pro Bowl invitations and been named All-Pro twice.

 

It's either Kreutz or Birk.

 

I've got to go with Birk. He's been slightly more dominant (more All-Pro selections). He's been more vital to his team's success in the running game, helping turn Adrian Peterson into the league's top running back and Chester Taylor into one of the best backups.

 

Runners-Up: Kreutz, Kevin Mawae, Jeff Saturday

 

 

 

Defensive Ends

 

There have been a LOT of great defensive ends thus far this decade.

 

Five in particular I will evaluate.

 

Jason Taylor leads in Pro Bowl selections (6), All-Pro nominations (4), and is one of just two defensive ends to have won the Defensive Player of the Year award.

 

Michael Strahan is the other to have won the Defensive Player of the Year award. He also holds the NFL single-season record in sacks (22.5) and has four Pro Bowls to his name.

 

Dwight Freeney and Julius Peppers have consistently been among the league's best pass-rushing ends. In fact, they are two of the most similar players in the NFL, not so much in their physical stature, but more so their accomplishments.

 

Each has totaled four Pro Bowls since their arrival to the NFL in 2002. Each has earned two All-Pro selections and accumulated exactly 70.5 sacks in seven years.

 

Personally, I feel Peppers is slightly better. He's faster, more versatile, and can create a play out of nothing.

 

Last is Richard Seymour, a versatile lineman who can play both end and tackle. Seymour has been primarily used as an end, earning five Pro Bowl selections in eight years as a pro.

 

He has been a key part of the Patriots' three Super Bowl championship teams and is often regarded as the most dominant defensive lineman in the NFL.

 

He has struggled with injuries but has been significant in the play of teammates Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork, two up-and-coming talented linemen.

 

It's very difficult to choose just two of these five players, but I think I'll take Taylor—probably the best pure pass rusher of the group—and Seymour, a huge unblockable end who can play anywhere on the line.


Runners-Up: Strahan, Peppers, Freeney, Simeon Rice

 

 

 

Defensive Tackles

 

Probably the least dominant position out of all of them.

 

Warren Sapp was the first name to come to my mind, but he was at his best in the late '90s and early part of this decade. Same with La'Roi Glover, who leads all defensive tackles this decade with six Pro Bowl nominations.

 

I've always loved Kris Jenkins, although he has been injury-prone during his career. Jenkins has earned four Pro Bowl selections from two different teams, played in a Super Bowl, and been an All-Pro three times.

 

Kevin Williams is arguably the top defensive tackle in the game right now. He is a tremendous run stopper who has earned four Pro Bowl selections and four All-Pro nominations in the last five years.

 

I'll take Glover and his six Pro Bowl invitations, along with Williams, the tackle most primed to have another dominating season in '09.

 

Runners-Up: Sapp, Jenkins, Pat Williams, Shaun Rogers, Casey Hampton, Marcus Stroud, Sam Adams, Tommie Harris

 

 

 

Middle Linebacker

 

Who else but Ray Lewis?

 

He might be the greatest middle linebacker of all time, every bit as good as Ray Nitschke or Dick Butkus. In a poll the other year, Lewis was voted the third greatest linebacker of all time.

 

Lewis is a future first ballot Hall of Famer, no question. He is a living legacy. Just ask Baltimore fans. There are those who swear that even at age 34, he hasn't lost a single step.

 

In this decade alone, he has been voted to the Pro Bowl seven times, earned five All-Pro selections, and been named the game's MVP following the Ravens' 34-7 win in Super Bowl XXXV.

 

Lewis is also one of just six players in the history of the NFL to have earned the Defensive Player of the Year award twice (2000 and 2003).

 

Runners-Up: Brian Urlacher, Al Wilson, Keith Brooking, Jeremiah Trotter, Tedy Bruschi

 

 

 

Outside Linebackers

 

Very few people know just how good Derrick Brooks has been during his future Hall of Fame career. He has been selected to 11 Pro Bowls, eight of them within this decade.

 

Brooks has also earned six All-Pro selections for the decade, earned an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award (2002), and helped the Buccaneers win the Super Bowl following the '02 season.

 

Perhaps no player in the NFL has been as versatile as Julian Peterson, an outside linebacker who has lined up at defensive tackle, defensive end, middle linebacker, cornerback, and safety.

 

Peterson is a five-time Pro Bowler who has earned three All-Pro selections. He is one of the league's best pass rushers and coverage linebackers.


Runners-Up: Joey Porter, Shawne Merriman

 

 

 

Cornerback

 

The most valuable part of a top-notch defense is a shutdown corner, a guy who can literally shut down one side of the field.

 

Players like Deion Sanders and Mel Blount come to mind. These guys could cover the opposition's top receiver and hold him to two or three catches and no scores.

 

Champ Bailey is the closest thing to a shutdown corner in today's game. He has been arguably the top cover corner in the NFL over his career. Bailey has been voted to eight Pro Bowls thus far this decade, earning four All-Pro nominations.

 

His 2006 season, in which he led the NFL with 10 interceptions, did not allow a touchdown the entire year, and was voted unanimously to the All-Pro team, is one of the greatest by a cornerback in NFL history.

 

The Bucs' Ronde Barber is one of the most underrated guys in the league. Barber has been voted to five Pro Bowl teams and earned five All-Pro nominations during his career. He helped the Bucs win a Super Bowl following the 2002 season.

 

Runners-Up: Ty Law, Troy Vincent, Chris McAlister, Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel

 

 

 

Free Safety

 

I love a good free safety. A ballhawk who can play center field and roam around the defensive side of the field. A hard-hitter who can rush the quarterback, stop the run, and pick off the pass.

 

Like my man, Brian Dawkins.

 

Nicknamed “Weapon X,” Dawkins has been an icon during his reign in Philly. He earned six Pro Bowl selections during the decade and five All-Pro nominations while leading the Eagles to the playoffs seven times, including five trips to the NFC Championship Game.

 

And he's not the best free safety of the decade.

 

Unfortunately.

 

Ed Reed is.

 

Even though he has played just seven seasons in his NFL career, Reed is already being talked about as the greatest safety to ever play the game.

 

He is a ballhawk like no one I have seen in my lifetime, with 43 interceptions in his career, 11 total touchdowns, and five interceptions in five career playoff games.

 

Reed has been voted to five Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams, earned a Defensive Player of the Year award, and led the NFL in interceptions twice.

 

At just 30 years old, Reed will most likely go down as one of the two or three greatest safeties to ever play the game.


Runners-Up: Dawkins, Darren Sharper, Roy Williams

 

 

 

Strong Safety

 

I hate the Pittsburgh Steelers with a passion, but I can't tell you what I would give for a playmaking safety like Troy Polamalu.

 

One of the top defensive players in the game right now, Polamalu has made five consecutive Pro Bowls, earned three All-Pro nominations, and helped the Steelers to two Super Bowl titles.

 

Despite Polamalu's success, I'll have to go with John Lynch. Lynch has been around the entire decade, compared to Polamalu, who didn't break into the NFL until 2003.

 

While both players have earned three All-Pro selections, Lynch has earned seven Pro Bowls to Polamalu's five. And Lynch was doing work for the Bucs at the beginning of the decade, while Polamalu had yet to finish his college career.

 

Runners-Up: Polamalu, Rodney Harrison, Bob Sanders

 

 

 

Kicker

 

Adam Vinatieri is the obvious choice.

 

A two-time Pro Bowler, Vinatieri has played on four Super Bowl champion teams, three with the Patriots and one with the Colts.

 

He has been a part of some of the most clutch plays in NFL history, twice kicking last-second, game-winning field goals to win the Super Bowl, while adding a 45-yard field goal in a foot of snow in overtime to beat the Raiders in the '01 Divisional Playoffs.

 

Vinatieri is on track to be just the second pure kicker to earn admission to the Hall of Fame.

 

Runners-Up: Mike Vanderjagt, David Akers, Jeff Wilkins, Jason Elam, Matt Stover

 

 

 

Punter

 

Shane Lechler has long been considered the top punter in the game. He has earned four Pro Bowl selections and been voted an All-Pro six times.

 

Lechler also holds the NFL's second-best single-season mark for punting average (49.1 in 2007).

 

Runners-Up: Brian Moorman, Todd Sauerbrun, Jeff Feagles

 

 

 

Kick/Punt Returner

 

It's a close one here between Dante “The Human Joystick” Hall and Devin “Anytime” Hester.

 

Hall was dominant from 2002 through 2004, putting together three of the finest seasons a kick returner has ever had. During those three seasons, he earned two Pro Bowl selections and returned nine total kicks for touchdowns.

 

Hester hasn't been in the league longer than three years, but he has already earned two trips to the Pro Bowl and returned 11 kicks for touchdowns, plus a 108-yard missed field goal return for a score and the opening kick of the Super Bowl back for a TD.

 

I think Hester was slightly more dominant in his prime than Hall, but I'll take Hall due to more years in the league during this decade.


Runner-Up: Hester

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