Bleacher Report's 2015 NFL All-Pro Team

Sean Tomlinson@@SeanGTomlinsonNFL AnalystDecember 30, 2015

Bleacher Report's 2015 NFL All-Pro Team

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    The 2015 NFL season has been filled with firsts, and the next generation of young talent just now reaching its athletic prime provided most of them.

    Look in the direction of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, for example, and you'll see a 27-year-old who became the first wideout to record two games with 16-plus receptions in one season. Incredibly, Brown also logged three games with 180-plus receiving yards.

    Then there's Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who became the first player in league history to throw five touchdown passes in a game while also running for 100 yards. In the same game (a Week 15 win over the New York Giants) Newton made history in another category by being the first player with 100 rushing yards, 300-plus passing yards and those five touchdowns.

    Oh, and there's New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who became the fastest at his position to score 60 career touchdowns, needing only 70 games to get there.

    They're all among the 2015 All-Pros selected by our esteemed panel of eight Bleacher Report writers: Mike Freeman, Mike Tanier, Brent Sobleski, Ty Schalter, Brad Gagnon, Gary Davenport, Matt Miller and myself. So come with me then. Let's break it down position by position and see the new history-making numbers and feats.

Quarterback

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    Winner: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (8 votes)

    Cam Newton's MVP candidacy would be confusing if, for whatever reason, you were to look at only one surface-level metric we often use to gauge quarterbacks: completion percentage.

    The overall percentage posted by the Carolina Panthers signal-caller (58.6) is pedestrian at best. It ranks 26th among the 28 quarterbacks who have taken at least 50 percent of their team's snaps in 2015, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Now take that number and toss it away forever.

    Newton lost the services of Kelvin Benjamin in training camp when the wide receiver tore his ACL. During his rookie season in 2014, the 6'5" Benjamin was on the other end for nine of Newton's 18 touchdown passes.

    The quarterback has been left to rely on Devin Funchess, along with veteran journeyman Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery. Funchess is a promising, though raw, rookie, while Ginn caught only 14 passes for 190 yards in 2014. So Newton's supporting cast leaves much to be desired beyond tight end Greg Olsen.

    Yet Newton, now a three-time Pro Bowler, still logged three games in which he threw five touchdown passes. The 26-year-old went through a seven-game stretch, starting in Week 10, when he tossed 19 touchdowns and only one interception. And he still manufactured wins with his legs, running for 45-plus yards in seven games and 626 yards overall.

    He's taken an offense that, on paper at least, was razor-thin to begin the season and had no business powering a title-contending team. Here the Panthers are, though, with only one loss heading into their regular-season finale and the Super Bowl in their sights.

    Others receiving votes: None

    Midseason winner: Tom Brady, New England Patriots (6 votes)

    Preseason winner: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (4 votes)

Running Back

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Winners: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (8 votes); Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6 votes)

    Once a running back turns 30 years old, he's forever banished to the Island of Misfit Toys.

    The migration of aging running backs to a far-away place may even be mandated somewhere in an NFL rule book because it feels like we're always bracing for a sudden decline. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson might make us wait for a while, though.

    In his age-30 season, Peterson has posted eight games with 100-plus yards from scrimmage. He's done that while averaging 4.6 yards per carry and leading the league in rushing yards per game with 94.5.

    His career longevity has now placed Peterson in some exclusive company. As ESPN Stats & Info recently noted, Peterson's eight seasons with 10-plus rushing touchdowns puts him only one behind LaDainian Tomlinson's all-time record.

    Doug Martin, the second running back to receive our All-Pro honors, is only just behind Peterson in many of the marquee statistical categories. Or in some cases, just ahead.

    Peterson leads all running backs with 1,418 rushing yards, and Martin is right behind him at 1,354 yards. Martin's open-field elusiveness has led to a league-high 56 missed tackles created as a runner, per Pro Football Focus. And with his breakaway speed he also leads all running backs in 15-plus yard runs with 18, per PFF.

    He's a small pinball of fury while powering through contact to extend plays, a style he didn't change after multiple injuries limited him to only 17 games over the past two seasons. Now with six rushing touchdowns he's doubled his total in 2013 and 2014 combined, making Martin a prime Comeback Player of the Year candidate.

    Others receiving votes: Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams (2 votes)

    Midseason winnersDevonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons (8 votes); Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (4 votes)

    Preseason winners: Peterson (6 votes); Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (3 votes)

Fullback

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    WinnerPatrick DiMarco, Atlanta Falcons (8 votes)

    The Atlanta Falcons' 2015 season fizzled for a lot of reasons. To name a few: quarterback Matt Ryan's swift regression, a pass rush that barely existed at times and a struggling offensive line.

    But the rushing offense certainly wasn't one of those reasons—especially not with fullback Patrick DiMarco emerging as one of the league's premier options at an overlooked position.

    The fullback is still an essential cog for offenses that rely on power running, and DiMarco has been a central figure for Atlanta. He's created space for running back Devonta Freeman, who will likely finish with more than 1,000 rushing yards despite missing one game.

    Freeman sizzled during the first half of 2015 when he averaged 111 rushing yards per game over his first six starts. He also became the first running back to score three touchdowns in each of his first two starts, doing all that with DiMarco ramming into bodies ahead of him.

    DiMarco has earned a Pro Football Focus grade of 13.6, which easily leads his position (the Titans' Jalston Fowler is second at 6.3). As an added bit of bonus gravy, he's also a reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield. The 26-year-old is fifth among fullbacks with 103 receiving yards and has scored two touchdowns.

    Earlier in December, he told Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com that adding another element to the passing game is an important part of his role.

    "Anytime you can help out in this leagueespecially as a fullback who doesn't get to touch the ball muchwhenever you can get a chance to touch the ball, you have to make the most of your opportunities," said DiMarco. "Now that [Ryan] knows that I'm the checkdown, it's another weapon. It's something that keeps the defense honest."

    Others receiving votes: None

    Midseason winner: DiMarco (8 votes)

    Preseason winnerKyle Juszczyk, Baltimore Ravens (7 votes)

Tight End

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    Winner: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (6 votes)

    Sometimes a player is so good, so often, that we come to expect weekly brilliance and don't step back to realize the absurdity of what we're watching. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is one of those players.

    Health has always been a concern with Gronkowski, just as it was this season in Week 12 when he suffered what initially looked like a serious knee injury. But he missed just one game and returned in Week 14 to catch four passes for 87 yards and a touchdown against the Houston Texans.

    That first post-injury game was one of four times in 2015 Gronkowski has averaged 20-plus yards per reception. Overall he leads all tight ends in yards per catch by a wide margin (minimum of 20 catches), with Gronkowski sitting at 16.5 while the Cardinals' Darren Fells is far back at 15.2.

    Gronkowski is nearing the end of his sixth NFL season. He's scored double-digit touchdowns in five of those years, while also topping the 1,100 receiving yards mark in three of them.

    What separates Gronkowski from many of his peers is an ability to be more than a red-zone behemoth. He's a dynamic deep threat and can get vertical fast up the seam. His 15 receptions for 25-plus yards is the highest single-season total from a tight end over the past 20 years, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

    Others receiving votes: Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (2 votes)

    Midseason winnerGronkowski, New England Patriots (5 votes)

    Preseason winnerGronkowski, New England Patriots (5 votes)

Wide Receiver

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    Winners: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (8 votes); Tie: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (3 votes); DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (3 votes)

    It's not hard to imagine a time years from now when we look back on the three wide receivers listed here and view them as generational talents who redefined their position.

    They've combined for 22 games with 100-plus receiving yards this season, with the Steelers' Antonio Brown and the Falcons' Julio Jones logging eight apiece. All three have 1,400-plus receiving yards, which is a particularly heroic feat for the Texans' DeAndre Hopkins considering the stable of depression he's dealt with at quarterback. Brown and Jones are also the only two wideouts averaging over 100 yards per game.

    They're all shining examples of oozing athletic talent and for different reasons.

    Brown has his open-field slipperiness that's led to 581 yards after the catch, per Pro Football Focus, all while becoming the first receiver to have multiple 16-plus catch games in one season.

    And Jones has his leaping ball-snatching that's put him next to Colts legend Marvin Harrison on a short list in the NFL's history books. Jones joined Harrison as one of only two receivers in league history to record a season with 125-plus receptions and 1,700-plus yards, according to NFC Director of Football Communications Randall Liu.

    But Hopkins' fireworks may be the most impressive because of the awfulness he's navigated at quarterback. Four signal-callers (Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates, Brian Hoyer and Brandon Weeden) have combined to give Texans passers a completion percentage of 57.6 (31st).

    Yet Hopkins has still scored 11 touchdowns, seven of which have come on 20-plus yard receptions, per PFF. Offensively he's the only reason Houston has remained respectable, and Hopkins alone will make the Texans a terrifying playoff opponent despite the nothingness they have at quarterback.

    Others receiving votes: Odell Beckham Jr. (2 votes)

    Midseason winners: Jones (8 votes), Hopkins (6 votes)

    Preseason winners: Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (5 votes), Brown (6 votes)

Offensive Tackle

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    WinnersJoe Thomas, Cleveland Browns (6 votes); Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati Bengals (6 votes)

    It's a crime against football that one of the steadiest left tackles in NFL history still hasn't played one postseason game while languishing with the Cleveland Browns. Joe Thomas is now concluding his ninth season, and although there aren't any signs of it yet, the 31-year-old's advancing into a stage of his career where a decline could be coming.

    Or maybe not, as he could be the first man to defeat time. Thomas has been a starter since the Browns made him the third overall pick in 2007, and we're still waiting for his first missed game.

    That durability combined with consistent high-caliber play to protect Browns quarterbacks' blind sides has led to nine straight Pro Bowl appearances. Thomas is now one of only eight players in league history to begin a career with nine straight trips to the Pro Bowl. The other seven on that list (which includes legendary running backs Barry Sanders and Jim Brown) all have replicas of their faces sitting in Canton, Ohio.

    Browns head coach Mike Pettine said Thomas' combination of experience and technique make him a wall on the left side.

    “Joe has seen it all, whether it’s the end going first, or the tackle going first,” Pettine told Andrew Gribble of ClevelandBrowns.com. “All of those games, he’s seen it all, so it’s very difficult to scheme against him. You’re almost better off saying, ‘We’ll trade one for one over there. Let’s see if we can find a better matchup somewhere else.’”

    Cincinnati's Andrew Whitworth will be joining Thomas in Hawaii after also being selected to the 2015 Pro Bowl. And deservedly so, because he gave up only three sacks along with one quarterback hit over 985 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Whitworth is the rock on a Bengals offensive line that's allowed just 29 sacks.

    Others receiving votes: Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys (3 votes); Ryan Schraeder, Atlanta Falcons (1 vote)

    Midseason winnersThomas (7 votes); Smith (5 votes)

    Preseason winnersSmith (8 votes); Thomas (7 votes) 

Guard

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    Winner: Trai Turner, Carolina Panthers (7 votes); David DeCastro, Pittsburgh Steelers (4 votes)

    Sometimes it's possible to summarize a season with one enduring image. For Carolina Panthers guard Trai Turner, that image is a two-for-one block back in Week 7.

    With his quarterback, Cam Newton, rolling right, Turner's assignment then became to protect against the back-side pursuit. So he launched Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham into cornerback Nolan Carroll. Reminder: Graham weighs 265 pounds, so turning him into a human bowling ball is no easy task.

    Turner is a classic interior offensive line bully. He's allowed only one sack over 1,037 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. The 2014 third-round pick was voted to his first Pro Bowl in 2015 and has grown quickly to become a core run-blocker for an offense averaging 144.7 rushing yards per game (2nd).

    He's a football baby in terms of his overall development, and at 22 years old Turner is still likely far away from his talent ceiling. In this case, confidence and energy have trumped age.

    "I’m 22 and I have that energy," Turner told Max Henson of Panthers.com. "But I also have that confidence. When those two things came together, I realized I was going to be all right."

    The Steelers' David DeCastro isn't much older than Turner (he's 25), and he's maturing into a run-blocking pillar. DeCastro has cleared space for a rushing offense that's averaged 4.6 yards per carry (tied for fourth) even with running back Le'Veon Bell injured for much of the season.

    Others receiving votes: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens (2 votes); Evan Mathis, Denver Broncos (2 votes); Josh Sitton, Green Bay Packers (1 vote)

    Midseason winnersZack Martin, Dallas Cowboys (4 votes); Yanda (3 votes)

    Preseason winnersYanda (8 votes); Martin (3 votes)

Center

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    WinnerWeston Richburg, New York Giants (6 votes)

    New York Giants center Weston Richburg hasn't needed long to become recognized as one of the league's premier blockers at his position. To be exact, he's needed only 16 games as a full-time center.

    Richburg was a second-round pick in 2014 and spent most of his rookie season at guard. The shift to center in 2015 has turned Richburg into a stonewalling interior presence. He's allowed only nine pressures over 540 passing snaps this season, per Pro Football Focus, and not a single sack.

    Richburg has quickly gained entry into the top tier of NFL centers. But if you ask him, he's not content. That will never happen.

    "It's just up to me to never be content and continually strive to be better," he told Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski. "Once you become content, that's when you stop getting better. Throughout my career, I want to continually learn and strive to be better than I was the day before."

    The 24-year-old Richburg is young, and like Turner, he's nowhere near his talent peak—which is a welcome thought for a Giants passing offense that will become scary quickly when wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is given more time to stretch the field.

    Others receiving votes: Rodney Hudson, Oakland Raiders (1 vote); Joe Berger, Minnesota Vikings (1 vote)

    Midseason winnerRyan Kalil, Carolina Panthers (3 votes)

    Preseason winnerTravis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys (7 votes)

Defensive End

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    Winners J.J. Watt, Houston Texans (8 votes); Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit Lions (5 votes)

    A pattern quickly emerges whenever you scroll back to 2011 and glance at any pass-rushing statistic that matters. It comes in the form of J.J. Watt's name, which is at or near the top of, well, pretty much everything.

    Watt wins trench battles with both speed and relentlessly honed technique. That's how he has recorded 80-plus pressures over each of the past three seasons, per Pro Football Focus. In 2015, he's collected 32 quarterback hits, which is 10 more than any other 3-4 defensive end. And since his rookie season in 2011 he leads the NFL in sacks by another hilarious margin, with his 71.5 sacks well ahead of the Broncos' Von Miller, who sits at 59.0.

    In short, Watt is a multi-tasking disruption who severely limits the opposing passing offense and reduces time in the pocket to maybe a blink. He's been doing that recently with a broken hand, too, which earned praise from Texans head coach Bill O'Brien.

    “When you really think about that, it’s remarkable," said O'Brien, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (h/t Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith). "His ability to adjust and learn and keep being disruptive [is] probably frustrating for him, but is a testament to his ability to still play at a very high level."

    Ezekiel Ansah is our second All-Pro defensive end, and he's one of the few sources of optimism during an otherwise dismal season for the Detroit Lions. His 13.5 sacks put him only one behind Watt. He reached that career single-season high while also forcing four fumbles.

    Others receiving votes: Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles (2 votes); Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks (1 vote)

    Midseason winnersWatt (6 votes); Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints (2 votes)

    Preseason winnersWatt (8 votes); Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders (4 votes) 

Defensive Tackle

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    Winners: Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams (8 votes); Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals (8 votes)

    Seattle Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable was tasked with at least somewhat containing St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald during a Week 16 matchup. He failed miserably, of course, because failing against Donald feels like the only possible outcome. Donald recorded two quarterback hits and three total tackles.

    Cable has been an NFL coach at various stops since 2006, and before his loss to Donald and the Rams he said what we're all thinking.

    "I think it's been a while since you've had that dominant a player in the NFL [at defensive tackle]," he told Curtis Crabtree of Sports Radio KJR, implying Donald is just that.

    That point is getting hard to argue after Donald's first two seasons.

    He's needed just 31 NFL games to record 20 sacks, earning two straight Pro Bowl trips by being both a daunting pass-rusher and an effective interior run-stuffer. Despite being undersized (6'1", 285 lbs) at defensive tackle, he collapses the middle with strength and aggression, which has resulted in 36 defensive stops, per Pro Football Focus.

    He's also piled up 22 quarterback hits, per PFF, which is nine more than any other defensive tackle. The only other interior brute who comes close to Donald's totals is the guy he was compared to throughout his predraft evaluation process.

    That's the Bengals' Geno Atkins, who leads all defensive tackles with 76 total pressures, per PFF.

    Others receiving votes: None

    Midseason winnersDonald, (6 votes); Atkins, (4 votes)

    Preseason winnersDonald (7 votes); Tie: Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3 votes), Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills (3 votes) and Ndamukong Suh, Miami Dolphins (3 votes)

Outside Linebacker

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    Winners: Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders (8 votes); Von Miller, Denver Broncos (6 votes)

    Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack doesn't really play football. He often plays his own game: tossing large humans.

    That's what he did repeatedly in Week 14 against the Denver Broncos when the fifth overall pick from 2014 recorded five sacks, all in the second half. Double-teams and chip blocks were useless. Mack still lived in the backfield to single-handedly take over the game.

    The win over Denver was one of Mack's four multi-sack games during a breakout second season. His 15 sacks overall lead the league, and the 24-year-old is also excelling as a run defender while setting the edge. Mack has accumulated 28 run stops, which is tops among all 3-4 outside linebackers, per Pro Football Focus.

    Earlier in December, PFF's Sam Monson argued that Mack should get heavy Defensive Player of the Year consideration:

    Sacks will always generate the headlines for edge defenders, but part of what makes Mack so good is his consistent supremacy in the run game. He is by far the highest-rated edge defender against the run in the NFL, and that has been the better side of his game since entering the league in 2014. Last season he was a destroyer in that aspect, but he didn’t quite generate enough pass rush to be ranked as one of the league’s true elite defenders in his rookie season.

    This season Mack has added pass-rush dominance to his devastating run defense without any drop-off in that area, and he’s clearly become one of the league’s true transcendent forces.

    Mack has been nearly unblockable, which often describes Von Miller too. The Broncos outside linebacker has now recorded double-digit sacks in four of his first five NFL seasons and is one of the leaders on the NFL's No. 1 defense.

    Others receiving votes: Telvin Smith, Jacksonville Jaguars (1 vote); Anthony Barr, Minnesota Vikings (1 vote)

    Midseason winnersJustin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs (4 votes); Tie: Miller (2 votes); Smith, (2 votes)

    Preseason winnersHouston, (4 votes); Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4 votes)

Inside Linebacker

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    Winners: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers (8 votes); Derrick Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs (5 votes)

    Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly missed three games early in the 2015 season due to a concussion—which makes his continued ball-swarming even more remarkable.

    Kuechly is among the most versatile linebackers in football, excelling against both the run and pass. His 109 tackles put him on pace for 145 during a full 16-game season, and for the second time in his short career Kuechly intercepted four passes. On 56 targets he's yielded a passer rating in coverage of only 53.5, per Pro Football Focus.

    As you read the above, the image of Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones snatching a ball over Kuechly's head is likely playing in your mind repeatedly. That's when you remember Kuechly is a linebacker who stayed with one of the league's most athletically gifted wideouts while 45 yards downfield in coverage, and Jones needed a spectacular play to beat him.

    Our second All-Pro inside linebacker, the Chiefs' Derrick Johnson, also regularly seals off the middle as a pass defender. He's allowed a reception only once every 14.8 snaps in coverage, per PFF, which leads all inside linebackers who have played at least 50 percent of their team's snaps. 

    Others receiving votes: NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers (3 votes)

    Midseason winnersKuechly (7 votes); Bowman (5 votes) 

    Preseason winnersBowman (6 votes); Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks (4 votes)

Cornerback

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Winners: Josh Norman, Carolina Panthers (8 votes); Richard Sherman (4 votes)

    Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman may no longer have his baseball bat. But he still swings a mean one when matched up against some of the league's best receivers.

    Norman gave up only 28 yards against the New York Giants while spending most of his afternoon across from Odell Beckham Jr., per Pro Football Focus. And in Week 12 he held Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant to just two catches for 26 yards.

    Combine that dominance in marquee matchups with his four interceptions—two of which have been returned for touchdownsand Norman is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. His only major blemish is a common one: getting lit up by Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.

    Jones torched Norman for 91 yards on seven receptions in Week 16, per Next Gen Stats and NFL.com's Chris Wesseling. It was an afternoon when he looked uncharacteristically vulnerable. But one poor outing shouldn't take away from his overall body of work. Let's also remember that in Week 14 Jones caught only four passes for 33 yards against Norman, per ESPN.com's David Newton.

    The Seahawks' Richard Sherman, our second All-Pro cornerback, is also familiar with winning when the degree of difficulty is cranked. Sherman held Bryant to only 12 yards on two catches and limited the Steelers' Antonio Brown to a modest 51 yards on six catches.

    Others receiving votes: Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals (3 votes); Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals (1 vote)

    Midseason winnersDarrelle Revis, New York Jets (4 votes); Tie: Norman (2 votes); Desmond Trufant, Atlanta Falcons (2 votes)

    Preseason winnersRevis (5 votes); Tie: Sherman (4 votes); Trufant (4 votes)

Safety

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    WinnerCharles Woodson, Oakland Raiders (6 votes); Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs (4 votes)

    The safeties listed here are on opposites ends of their careers, and they made lasting impressions in 2015 for different reasons.

    Charles Woodson of the Oakland Raiders is ending an 18-year career the same way it began: on top. Even at 39 years old Woodson was his typical ball-hawking self while recording five interceptions. He'll also fade from the NFL with a passer rating in coverage of just 51.9 in 2015, per Pro Football Focus.

    Then there's the Chiefs' Eric Berry, 27, who's just hitting his prime and returned to peak form less than a year after being diagnosed with lymphoma. Berry is a leading Comeback Player of the Year candidate after finishing 2015 with 10 passes defensed and two interceptions.

    Berry has now been selected to four Pro Bowls and his Chiefs are heading to this year's playoffs.

    Others receiving votes: Reshad Jones, Miami Dolphins (3 votes); Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks (2 votes); Malcolm Jenkins, Philadelphia Eagles (1 vote)

    Midseason winnerHarrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings (4 votes); Tie: Thomas, (2 votes); Woodson, (2 votes); Jones (2 votes)

    Preseason winnerThomas, (6 votes); Tie: Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers (3 votes); Smith, (3 votes)

Special Teams

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    KickerStephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots (8 votes)

    Stephen Gostkowski has attempted the sixth-most field goals in 2015, which is a standard season when you're the New England Patriots' kicker. That also means he had the sixth-most opportunities to miss and potentially alter the outcome of a game. But he whiffed only twice, going 32-of-34, with the first one not coming until Week 11. He's also nailed four of his five attempts from 50-plus yards.

    Others receiving votes: None

    Midseason winnerGostkowski (6 votes)

    Preseason winnerDan Bailey, Dallas Cowboys (4 votes)

     

    Punter: Johnny Hekker, St. Louis Rams (6 votes)

    The Rams' Johnny Hekker is a punter, not a fighter. He should probably stick to sending footballs sailing a net average of 43.4 yards per punt, which leads the league. And throwing the odd 20-plus-yard pass is nice, too, even if it's not part of the standard punter job description. Hekker has six career completions for 99 yards, including one 20-yard heave this season.

    Others receiving votes: Matt Darr, Miami Dolphins (1 vote); Sam Koch, Baltimore Ravens (1 vote)

    Midseason winnerPat McAfee, Indianapolis Colts (4 votes)

    Preseason winnerTie between Andy Lee, Cleveland Browns (4 votes); Hekker (4 votes)

     

    Kick/punter returner: Tyler Lockett (8 votes)

    The Seattle Seahawks needed some speed to solve a problem that lingered from 2014, when they ranked 30th in kick-return average and 25th in punt-return average. Tyler Lockett has provided an instant solution. He's recorded four games with 100-plus kick-return yards and 1,092 return yards overall.

    Others receiving votes: None

    Midseason winner: Lockett (8 votes)

    Preseason winnerDe'Anthony Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs (5 votes)