Bleacher Report's 2014 NFL All-Pro Team

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystDecember 31, 2014

Bleacher Report's 2014 NFL All-Pro Team

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    It's been a wild 2014 season across the National Football League.

    In 2014, we saw any number of jaw-dropping individual efforts. Whether it was Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt becoming the first player in NFL history to record multiple 20-sack seasons or Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell gaining well over 2,000 total yards, any number of players young and old had campaigns worthy of All-Pro consideration.

    The NFL has already released the 2014 Pro Bowl honorees, and in the coming weeks, several news organizations will unveil their own All-Pro teams.

    Well, now it's Bleacher Report's turn, as our National Lead and Division Lead Writers have gathered to name the best at each position in the NFL this year.

Quarterback

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Winner: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (10 votes)

    This is a vote that will likely draw some clamoring from fans of the Dallas Cowboys and quarterback Tony Romo, as well as supporters of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger.

    Both signal-callers had phenomenal years. Romo's 113.2 passer rating leads the NFL. Roethlisberger passed for 4,952 yards, tied with Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints for the league lead.

    However, Rodgers' numbers are hardly chopped liver—4,381 yards through the air. A sterling 38-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. A passer rating of well over 110.

    In fact, after returning from a calf injury to lead the Packers to the NFC North title last week against Detroit, teammate Mike Daniels told Mike Spofford of the team's website that, in his opinion, Rodgers is the NFL's most valuable player:

    If there’s a word higher than respect for respect, that’s what I’ve got for Aaron, man. He’s a warrior. He laid it all out on the line for his teammates. To be the best in the league and still want to continue to solidify himself as one of the greatest, I’m glad he’s in my locker room.

    There may be some dispute as to whether Rodgers is the NFL MVP, but the 10th-year veteran was the clear choice of our experts as the Bleacher Report All-Pro quarterback.

    Preseason Winner: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (6 votes)

    Midseason Winner: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos (13 votes)

    Others receiving votes: Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (3 votes), Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (1 vote), Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (1 vote)

Running Back

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    Winners: DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (15 votes), Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (12 votes)

    This one was something of a no-brainer, as DeMarco Murray of the Dallas Cowboys and Le'Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers established themselves as the top of the heap at running back in their respective conferences in 2014.

    Both Murray (1,845) and Bell (1,361) led their conferences in rushing yards. Each touched the ball more than 370 times this season, piling up over 2,200 total yards in the process.

    Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News thinks it's Murray, and not Tony Romo, who deserves MVP consideration among Cowboys players:

    When the club dramatically altered its philosophy and made Murray the focus of the offense, wisely reducing the pressure on a 34-year-old quarterback coming off surgery, Dallas finished 12-4.

    Now understanding that any selection of an MVP in football is far different from basketball or baseball where individual contributions are much more easily measured — football is more comparable to selecting the MVP of a symphony orchestra — let’s look at what Murray accomplished this season (with considerable help from the offensive line).

    He led the league with 1,845 yards rushing. The gap between Murray and Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell (484 yards) was the same as Adrian Peterson’s lead over Alfred Morris two years ago when Peterson ran for more than 2,000 yards.

    So, percentage-wise, Murray’s lead was the largest since 2009, when Tennessee’s Chris Johnson also ran for more than 2,000 yards and beat St. Louis’ Stephen Jackson by 590.

    Murray finished with 15 runs of 20 or more yards and 13 touchdowns. No other back had 10 of each. His 85 first downs were far and away the best in the NFL.

    Just as with Rodgers, Murray's MVP candidacy is up for debate.

    The fact that he and Bell were easily the NFL's best running backs in 2014? Not so much.

    Preseason Winners: LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles (14 votes), Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (8 votes)

    Midseason Winners: DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (15 votes), Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers (11 votes)

    Others receiving votes: Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (2 votes), Arian Foster, Houston Texans (1 vote)

Fullback

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    Winner: Bruce Miller, San Francisco 49ers (11 votes)

    In today's pass-wacky, spread offense NFL, the fullback position is going the way of the dodo bird. More and more teams don't even have a fullback on the roster.

    With that said, the Bleacher Report All-Pro team is all about grinding out tough yardage on the ground after getting staked to a lead, so the team needs a lead blocker capable of opening some holes.

    Bruce Miller of the San Francisco 49ers has become quite adept at just that over the past four seasons. The 27-year-old ranked third at his position in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), helping to propel tailback Frank Gore to a fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season on the ground.

    A streak that coincides with Miller's entry into the NFL.

    Preseason Winner: Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers (5 votes)

    Midseason Winner: Kyle Juszczyk, Baltimore Ravens (11 votes)

    Others receiving votes: Anthony Sherman, Kansas City Chiefs (3 votes), Ryan Hewitt, Cincinnati Bengals (1 vote)

Tight End

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    Winner: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (15 votes)

    New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski got Week 17 off, sitting out the Pats' regular-season finale against the Buffalo Bills.

    As Mike Reiss of ESPN reported, the reason for that day off was simple: The Patriots need a healthy Gronk if they're going to make it to Glendale and Super Bowl XLIX:

    We've touted Gronkowski's value to the Patriots all season, pointing to him not just as the team's MVP, but also as a player worthy of league-wide MVP consideration. It goes well beyond his 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns; more so it is how his sheer presence has consistently opened opportunities for others to make plays, such as four defenders gravitating toward him in the end zone to create favorable matchups elsewhere.

    This is obvious by now when considering what has unfolded the past three years in the playoffs. In the 2011 season, a hobbled Gronkowski gutted through a serious ankle injury in the Super Bowl, but he wasn't himself and the offense sputtered. Without Gronkowski the past two postseasons -- first because of a broken forearm in 2012 and the second due to a torn ACL in 2013 -- the Patriots again faltered.

    In a season where other elite tight ends such as Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints and Julius Thomas of the Denver Broncos struggled with injuries of their own, Gronkowski got better as the season went on, carrying defenders with him all the while.

    And now, with Gronkowski back to being one of the NFL's biggest matchup nightmares, he's an easy call as our All-Pro tight end.

    Preseason Winner: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (14 votes)

    Midseason Winner: Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers (10 votes)

Wide Receiver

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    Winners: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (11 votes), Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers (7 votes)

    Given that I know this vote is going to send folks clamoring to the comments section, a note on how this team was selected.

    At the wide receiver position, each writer is afforded a pair of votes. There are no "alternates," or second-place finishers. Each scribe picks their All-Pros, and that's that.

    With Antonio Brown leading the NFL in both catches (129—the second-most in a season in NFL history) and yardage, it was a pretty safe bet that he was going to earn one of the All-Pro spots.

    At that point, there's a boatload of worthy candidates for spot No. 2. Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys led the league with 16 touchdowns. Demaryius Thomas of the Denver Broncos topped 110 catches, 1,600 receiving yards and 10 scores. Jordy Nelson of the Green Bay Packers averaged 15.5 yards a catch and posted five scoring plays of 50 yards or more in 2014.

    And so on, and so forth. 

    So, before you head off to light us up for the fact that Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons or T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts didn't get a single vote, consider this.

    This is a group vote made individually, and most of the "snubs" have a lot more to do with roster size than with a lack of appreciation for the season Emmanuel Sanders of the Broncos just had.

    In today's pass-wonky NFL, we could add a third (or even fourth) wideout spot and still wouldn't be able to include every deserving candidate.

    Preseason Winners: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (14 votes), Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (5 votes)

    Midseason Winner: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers (11 votes), Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (8 votes)

    Others receiving votes: Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (6 votes), Odell Beckham, New York Giants (5 votes), Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (1 vote)

Offensive Tackle

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    Winners: Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns (14 votes), Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati Bengals (12 votes)

    Both of our All-Pro edge protectors hail from the AFC North, and while one choice will surprise absolutely nobody, the other is apt to raise a few eyebrows.

    On one side, we have Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns. For the eighth straight year, Thomas was a rock at left tackle for the Browns. He allowed only two sacks all season long and ranked third at his position at Pro Football Focus. Only one tackle had a higher grade in pass protection than Thomas.

    That player is our "surprise" All-Pro: Andrew Whitworth of the Cincinnati Bengals.

    Not only did Whitworth not allow Andy Dalton to be sacked once in 2014, but the ninth-year veteran surrendered only a single QB hit all season long.

    Whitworth, who has never been named to the Pro Bowl, was snubbed again this year, but the 33-year-old told Coley Harvey of ESPN he's used to the cold shoulder at this point.

    "I'm used to that," Whitworth said. "I don't know how many tackles haven't given up a sack all season, but I doubt it's many. But hey, I don't worry about that. I know all the guys who will be on it."

    Whitworth may not make it to Honolulu, but there won't be any snubbing going on here.

    Well, at least where Whitworth is concerned.

    Preseason Winners: Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns (9 votes), Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles (7 votes)

    Midseason Winners: Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns (13 votes), Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys (10 votes)

    Others receiving votes: Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles (2 votes), Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys (2 votes)

Offensive Guard

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    Winners: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens (15 votes), Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys (5 votes)

    We have our first rookie All-Pro of 2014.

    Of course, Zack Martin of the Dallas Cowboys didn't play like a rookie in 2014. Martin ranked seventh among all guards this year, per Pro Football Focus. His pass-blocking grade of 13.3 trailed only Josh Sitton of the Green Bay Packers.

    Not only has Martin excelled this year, surrendering a grand total of zero sacks, but offensive line coach Bill Callahan told Charean Williams of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he's seen no evidence of the "rookie wall" with the youngster:

    I haven’t seen that wall. I don’t know if he’d ever admit it, but he certainly has pushed himself, improved week in and week out on all the details of his position. He’s prepared unbelievably just for everything he has to handle in terms of his job and how it relates to everybody else. He’s been terrific in terms of preparation. I’ve never seen a dropoff even when he got nicked a couple of weeks ago. He’s never dropped off in terms of his preparation and also his work ethic.

    Martin is joined on the interior of our All-Pro front by Marshal Yanda of the Ravens. The only number you need to know about the eight-year veteran: 43.4.

    That was Yanda's PFF grade in 2014, highest among guards by a huge margin.

    Preseason Winners: Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles (13 votes), Larry Warford, Detroit Lions (4 votes)

    Midseason Winners: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens (13 votes), Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys (8 votes)

    Others receiving votes: Josh Sitton, Green Bay Packers (4 votes), Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns (4 votes), Kyle Long, Chicago Bears (2 votes)

Center

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    Winner: Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys (10 votes)

    When the Dallas Cowboys selected center Travis Frederick in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, there was snickering and eye-rolling galore.

    The only people laughing now are the Cowboys.

    Frederick has quickly become one of the NFL's top centers. Only Nick Mangold of the New York Jets received a higher grade at the position this year from Pro Football Focus.

    Former college teammate Russell Wilson (yes, that Russell Wilson) talked up Frederick while speaking with Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News back in October:

    He was able to play left guard for us. We had Peter Konz start at center. But also when Peter went down, he played center. We had a good relationship. He can play some really good football. I knew Travis was going to be a first-round pick because of his demeanor. His love for the game was pretty remarkable.

    You know, DeMarco Murray's big year is starting to make more sense now. Turns out the line in front of him was pretty darned good.

    And as dated as it may sound to say it, football games are still very much won in the trenches.

    Preseason Winner: Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns (7 votes)

    Midseason Winner: Nick Mangold, New York Jets (10 votes)

    Others receiving votes: Nick Mangold, New York Jets (5 votes)

Defensive End

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    Patric Schneider/Associated Press

    Winners: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans (15 votes), Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills (8 votes)

    Our All-Pro defensive ends were actually teammates for a short time.

    However, when the Houston Texans moved to a 3-4 defense back in 2011, it marked the beginning of the end for Mario Williams' time with the team. The next offseason, he signed a free-agent deal with the Buffalo Bills that made him (at the time) the NFL's highest-paid defender.

    It's hard to argue that Williams didn't earn his money in 2014. While anchoring the league's best defensive front, he posted a career-high 14.5 sacks.

    With that said, the line Williams anchors may be the NFL's best, but the Texans' line is now led by the best end in the NFL.

    In fact, many people believe that J.J. Watt is the league's best player at any position, including former All-Pro Rodney Harrison, according to Ricky Doyle of NESN:

    He’s proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is the best player on the football planet. He’s had the best year. He’s been the most consistent. The league needs to do the right thing, they need to vote this guy the MVP because he really deserves it. You can’t tell me that Aaron Rodgers had a better year than J.J. Watt.

    Watt's 20.5 sacks made him the first player in NFL history with multiple 20-sack seasons (officially, at least). He scored five touchdowns.

    Bleacher Report AFC South Lead Writer Rivers McCown summed it up quite nicely:

    The great thing about praising J.J. Watt's existence is that there are actually almost enough stats to do it. Simply put: there are many players who play extremely well, and there are many players who do a good job in enviable roster circumstances.

    J.J. Watt is the only player in the NFL who plays at a level where it feels like he's a ringer in your company softball league.

    What he said.

    Preseason Winners: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans (15 votes), Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams (11 votes)

    Midseason Winners: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans (15 votes), DeMarcus Ware, Denver Broncos (7 votes)

    Others receiving votes: Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets (6 votes), Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks (1 vote)

Defensive Tackle

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Winners: Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions (12 votes), Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills (9 votes)

    OK, so the Bleacher Report All-Pro defensive tackles aren't exactly "high character" types.

    Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions was just suspended by the NFL for the Wild Card Round after yet another stomping incident, this time involving Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

    The suspension was overturned on appeal, but Suh was still fined $70,000 by the NFL.

    Marcell Dareus of the Buffalo Bills spent much of the offseason in trouble with the law, including arrests for drug possession and street racing.

    You may not want to meet either player in a dark alley, but having them on your defensive front is another story.

    The pair ranked one-two in terms of run defense at their position this year at Pro Football Focus. No defensive tackle in the NFL had more sacks in 2014 than Dareus' 10.

    A four-man line of Williams, Dareus, Suh and Watt?

    I may have to fire up Madden this weekend just to see what that looks like.

    Preseason Winners: Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12 votes), Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets (7 votes) 

    Midseason Winners: Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (15 votes), Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills (14 votes)

    Others receiving votes: Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8 votes), Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams (1 vote)

Outside Linebacker

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Winners: Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs (15 votes), Tie: Von Miller, Denver Broncos (6 votes), Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders (6 votes)

    There probably isn't a more controversial pick on this year's All-Pro team than Oakland rookie Khalil Mack.

    Mack's stats in 2014 (75 tackles, four sacks) are good but not great. He beat out much more productive players such as Tampa's Lavonte David (who earned only a single vote) and Detroit's DeAndre Levy.

    However, if you're a fan of Pro Football Focus, it's worth noting that among 4-3 outside linebackers, Mack earned the highest overall grade (56.4), just ahead of Von Miller, who piled up 15 sacks en route to sharing a spot with Mack on the team.

    It's a ridiculously deep position, with a great deal of schematic variance between 3-4 pass-rushers and 4-3 tackle vacuums.

    Regardless of which you prefer, though, it's hard to deny that Justin Houston has earned a spot on the team.

    Houston's four sacks against the San Diego Chargers in Week 17 gave him 22 on the year, tops in the NFL and half a sack off Michael Strahan's single-season record.

    It was a performance that earned Houston comparisons to former Chiefs great Derrick Thomas from Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star:

    Houston just finished the kind of season that makes him a peer of some of the NFL's best pass rushers – now or ever. He broke Derrick Thomas' team record of 20 sacks, set in 1990, the year after Houston was born.

    The comparisons are too obvious to ignore, and Houston is actually a more complete player than Thomas. That sounds like amnesia, because Thomas is a Pro Football Hall of Famer. But it's true. He plays the run better, particularly in setting the edge and funneling backs into tacklers. He's also more versatile, with the skills to drop into coverage.

    That's high praise indeed, and with Houston set to hit free agency, it's going to be expensive praise as well.

    Preseason Winners: Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9 votes), Von Miller, Denver Broncos (5 votes)

    Midseason Winners: Von Miller, Denver Broncos (15 votes), DeAndre Levy, Detroit Lions (8 votes)

    Others receiving votes: DeAndre Levy, Detroit Lions (2 votes), Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1 vote)

Inside Linebacker

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    Winners: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers (13 votes), Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks (12 votes)

    2014 shall forever live in football history as "The Year of the Injured Linebacker." From beginning to end, it was a season littered with injured stars at the position.

    Of course, those injuries mean opportunities for other players. In the opinion of AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz, Dont'a Hightower's performance in relief of an injured Jerod Mayo was All-Pro caliber:

    Hightower deserves to be an All-Pro linebacker. Not inside linebacker, not outside linebacker, just linebacker. He started off playing primarily on the outside, and when Jerod Mayo suffered a season-ending injury, he shifted back inside and continued to excel rushing the passer on A-gap pressure as Mayo has done for so long. From rushing the passer with his hand in the dirt to shooting gaps in run defense to putting tackles on receivers crossing over the middle, his versatility has allowed him to do more than fits inside the perfect box of a positional distinction.

    He's not wrong. Both Hightower and Jamie Collins stepped up in a huge way. It's a big part of why the Pats enter the playoffs as the AFC's top seed.

    As AFC South Lead Writer Rivers McCown pointed out, another injury at linebacker (and Bobby Wagner's return from that injury) appeared to sync up with the Seattle Seahawks' late surge:

    Perhaps it's just a case of selective end points, but it sure did seem like the Seahawks' defensive jelling down the stretch to become a dominant unit again coincided directly with Wagner's insertion back into the lineup.

    The Seahawks have a celebrated secondary for a reason, but Wagner is as important as any player Seattle fields. Two-way NFL linebackers don't grow on trees.

    Then there's our leading vote-getter, who didn't get hurt at all. All Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers did was continue making play after play, pacing the NFL in tackles for the second time in his three-year career.

    Preseason Winners: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers (11 votes), Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers (8 votes)

    Midseason Winners: C.J. Mosley, Baltimore Ravens (10 votes), Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers (10 votes)

    Others receiving votes: Jamie Collins, New England Patriots (3 votes), Dont'a Hightower, New England Patriots (2 votes)

Cornerback

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Winners: Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks (12 votes), Darrelle Revis, New England Patriots (9 votes)

    This is another position where some fans will no doubt be left unhappy. There are just too many cornerbacks and only two spots. Stars such as Desmond Trufant of the Atlanta Falcons were shut of the voting altogether.

    Bleacher Report AFC South Lead Writer Rivers McCown cast one of his votes for Vontae Davis of the Indianapolis Colts:

    I suspect he won't win because he is not Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis, but Vontae Davis deserves a spot on this team. The Colts ask Davis to play a ton of press-man coverage, and he's fought through injuries all season to be spectacular.

    The Colts defense could have easily folded up the tents once it was known outside linebacker Robert Mathis wouldn't be back, but they did an admirable job of patching things up given the circumstances. Davis is the only elite player in the unit, played a huge role in keeping the Colts afloat and deserves to be honored for it.

    Davis and Chris Harris of the Denver Broncos (PFF's top-ranked cornerback of 2014) are worthy candidates, but just as McCown feared, Godzilla and King Kong carried the day.

    With that said, it's sort of hard to find fault with Darrelle Revis of the Patriots or Seattle's Richard Sherman. Both rank inside the top five at their position this year, according to Pro Football Focus. Neither allowed 52 percent of the passes thrown their way to be completed. They combined for six interceptions.

    Simply put, players like Harris, Trufant and Davis are climbing the mountain that Revis and Sherman stand on top of.

    And neither seems in any hurry to come down any time soon.

    Preseason Winners: Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks (14 votes), Darrelle Revis, New England Patriots (10 votes)

    Midseason Winners: Vontae Davis, Indianapolis Colts (12 votes), Chris Harris, Denver Broncos (8 votes)

    Others receiving votes: Vontae Davis, Indianapolis Colts (5 votes), Chris Harris, Denver Broncos (4 votes)

Safety

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    Winners: Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers (7 votes), Glover Quin, Detroit Lions (6 votes)

    The vote at safety was the most varied and surprising of this year's All-Pro team. Nine players received at least one vote.

    Granted, it wasn't a stunner that Eric Weddle of the San Diego Chargers was one of the picks. For the second straight season Weddle topped 110 tackles for the Bolts. He was the top-ranked player in the NFL at his position in 2014, per Pro Football Focus.

    It's rare for a safety to be the unquestioned leader of a defense, but that's the case in San Diego.

    The big surprise comes from Motown, in the personage of Glover Quin.

    Quin was a big disappointment in his first season with the Detroit Lions in 2013. As head coach Jim Caldwell told Paula Pasche of The Oakland Press, that hasn't been the case this year:

    (Quin) plays consistently well, he’s a sure tackler, he’s opportunistic, and he does a great job of tracking the ball. As you can see he’s made a couple of tremendous interceptions off of tips that were quite a ways away from his area of responsibility. He’s a great communicator and does a great job in terms of leadership so he does everything well.

    Said teammate James Ihedigbo of Quin, who picked off seven passes in 2014, "It’s about time he started getting recognition. The guy’s a beast, week-in, week-out you know what you’re going to get out of him."

    Well, ask and you shall receive, James.

    Preseason Winners: Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks (14 votes), Kenny Vaccaro, New Orleans Saints (10 horribly mistaken votes)

    Midseason Winners: Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers (12 votes), Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings (9 votes)

    Others receiving votes: Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings (5 votes), Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks (5 votes), Kam Chancellor, Seattle Seahawks (3 votes), Antoine Bethea, San Francisco 49ers (1 vote), Devin McCourty, New England Patriots (1 vote), Reshad Jones, Miami Dolphins (1 vote), George Iloka, Cincinnati Bengals (1 vote)

Special Teams

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    Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots (8 votes)

    As Rich Garven of The Telegram and Gazette wrote, Gostkowski "finished with 156 points to lead the NFL in scoring for a third straight season and fourth time since 2008. That was two points shy of tying the franchise record he set last season."

    Yeah, that's pretty good.

    Preseason Winner: Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens (10 votes)

    Midseason Winner: Dan Bailey, Dallas Cowboys (13 votes)

    Others receiving votes: Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons (6 votes), Graham Gano, Carolina Panthers (1 vote)

    Punter: Pat McAfee, Indianapolis Colts (12 votes)

    McAfee did nothing to damage his reputation as one of the NFL's best punters in 2014, ranking second at his position at Pro Football Focus, third in net punting average and fifth in kicks downed inside the 20.

    Preseason Winner: Shane Lechler, Houston Texans (9 votes)

    Midseason Winner: Pat McAfee, Indianapolis Colts (14 votes)

    Others receiving votes: Johnny Hekker, St. Louis Rams (1 votes), Kevin Huber, Cincinnati Bengals (1 vote), Thomas Morstead, New Orleans Saints (1 vote)

    Kick/Punt Returner: Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles (6 votes)

    Not only did Sproles catch 40 passes and top 700 total yards in his first season with the Eagles in 2014, but the 31-year-old led all punt returners with more than 20 returns, averaging 13 yards a pop with a pair of touchdowns.

    Preseason Winner: (tie) Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings (5 votes), De'Anthony Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs (5 votes)

    Midseason Winner: Devin Hester, Atlanta Falcons (15 votes)

    Others receiving votes: De'Anthony Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs (4 votes), Adam Jones, Cincinnati Bengals (3 votes), Odell Beckham, New York Giants (1 vote), Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins (1 vote)