Chris Simms' Preseason NFL All-22 Team

Chris Simms@@CSimmsQBNFL Lead AnalystAugust 29, 2017

Chris Simms' Preseason NFL All-22 Team

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    We've almost reached the 2017 NFL regular season, which, of course, means the return of my All-22 team.

    As a former player and former scout, I can tell you that closely studying game film reveals things you won't notice on the first or even second viewing of an NFL play. Sometimes the best individual plays never show up on a broadcast. 

    This is why the players I choose to focus on aren't picked for highlight plays or impressive statistics. I dig through the game film instead. I'm looking at guys who are wreaking havoc on the defensive line or breaking up passes but who might not be recording sacks or interceptions.

    I'm not here to tell you that Odell Beckham Jr. is good or that Von Miller is good. Anyone can tell you that.  I feel like it's my duty to open the public's eyes to players who aren't given the proper amount of credit through the national media because the national media can't justify excellence without stats.

    Since this is the preseason and a lot of stars and starters don't see significant game time, you're not going to see a lot of household names on this list—unless they've truly wowed me. Instead, I'm going to look at many more young and unproven players.

    These are the top preseason performers, in my eyes, and my picks for the 2017 preseason NFL All-22 team.


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QB: Mitchell Trubisky

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    Chicago Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has simply been phenomenal during the preseason.

    Trubisky is a guy who took a lot of undue flak because the Bears went out and signed Mike Glennon to be their starter before the draft. He took even more unnecessary criticism because Chicago traded away picks to move up and draft him No. 2 overall.

    Trubisky has had pressure on him since day one. He's handled it well.

    So maybe he didn't get off to the best start in training camp. I don't care about that. All I care about is the fact that when the bright lights came on and the referee blew the whistle, Trubisky was one of the most impressive quarterbacks in all of preseason—among starters, backups, rookies and 10-year veterans. He's been that good to this point.

    Trubisky has been poised, accurate, and he looks like he belongs. It's only a matter of time before he unseats Glennon as the starter in Chicago.

QB: Patrick Mahomes

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Kansas City Chiefs rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a guy we were all unsure of heading into the draft. Pretty much everyone wondered if he could make the transition from the Texas Tech spread offense to an NFL scheme.

    All Mahomes has done so far, in my eyes, is prove he can play the quarterback position at an NFL level impressively. All the concerns we had about him being too much of a gunslinger and throwing the ball stupidly into coverage? There's been none of that. Instead, he's done an excellent job of knowing where to go with the ball, when to throw it away and when to tuck it and run.

    To me, the physical ability is undeniable when you watch Mahomes. There have been two or three plays every game where I've said, "Hmm. There are only two or three quarterbacks in the NFL who can do what he just did."

    If Kansas City feels comfortable about Mahomes' grasp of the offense, he could start sooner than later. He fits the personnel and the scheme better than Alex Smith.

    Smith isn't a guy who can consistently hit Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce or Chris Conley down the field. Those are receivers almost custom-built for Mahomes.

QB: Russell Wilson

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    This is the best Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has ever looked in his career. His dedication to his new diet has allowed Wilson to transform his body. It's made him more dangerous.

    Wilson was quick to begin with, but he's so quick now that it's almost unbelievable.

    In addition, Wilson has done a great job of shortening his throwing motion a bit. Wilson is one of the few quarterbacks in football who throw the ball almost like a baseball. He's tightened that up, and I think that's why we've seen so many impressive, on-the-money throws from him through three weeks of preseason.

    I normally don't want to put a big-name guy like Wilson on a preseason list like this, but I have to here. To me, Wilson is on his way to having an MVP-type season. He's already a special player, but what I've seen this preseason is special even by Wilson's standards.

    I wouldn't be shocked if Wilson enters Aaron Rodgers territory with the ability to take over games on his own.

RB: Tarik Cohen

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    It looks like we might have a new version of Muscle Hamster in the NFL. That's what Chicago running back Tarik Cohen reminds me of, anyway.

    Cohen has been extremely impressive this preseason. Like a thicker, more powerful Darren Sproles, he's shown his size (5'6", 181 lbs) doesn't define him as a player. Like Sproles, Cohen has great explosion and the ability to cut on a dime. Yet he has the power to run through more arm tackles than you'd expect. This combination is why I think Cohen is more Doug Martin than Sproles.

    We haven't seen a lot of Cohen in the pass game. However, judging him as an athlete, I think he'd be valuable coming out of the backfield and matching up one-on-one with linebackers or safeties. He can be a perfect complement to the second-leading rusher in football last year, Jordan Howard.

    Howard is a back who is power-based. With Cohen, the Bears now have a back who is more speed-based.

RB: Chris Carson

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    Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

    It looks like the Seahawks offensive line is on the right path. Wilson is lined up for a great year. All Seattle is missing is a playmaking running back to complete the trifecta.

    Chris Carson, out of Oklahoma State, might be that guy. Carson looks a lot like the utility back the Seahawks hoped C.J. Prosise would be.

    Actually, Carson reminds me a lot of Shaun Alexander, and Seattle fans should be happy to hear that. He's got a big, square frame (6'0", 218 lbs) that's perfect for running between the tackles. Yet he also impresses with his ability to catch balls out of the backfield, run routes and adjust to the ball when it's in the air. It's an impressive combination.

    Carson may not be in line to start, but he looks like he's in position to help the Seahawks offense in a variety of ways.

RB: Kareem Hunt

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    I loved the look of Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt when he was coming out of Toledo. My only questions then were about the level of competition he faced and how he would look on an NFL field.

    There are no more questions. With Spencer Ware likely out for the season, I think Hunt has already made himself the No. 1 option for Kansas City.

    Hunt is the perfect fit for the Andy Reid offense. He can do just about everything, and he never needs to be taken off the field for any situation. Hunt can get a first down on 3rd-and-1. He can break through the line for 30-yard gains. He can catch the ball out of the backfield.

    When I look at this kid, what I love is his lower body. If there were an NFL All-Legs-and-Ass Team, Hunt would be on it. He has a base for both power and explosiveness.

    Hunt reminds me of Ware, but he's perhaps a hair quicker and a hair more explosive.

WR: DeVante Parker

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Miami Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker is a little more high-profile than a lot of guys on this list. However, he still has a lot to prove because he hasn't quite lived up to his first-round draft status because of injuries.

    Parker is now on his way to proving himself. He started to come on late last year, and I've just been blown away by him this preseason. He's been one of the more impressive receivers I've seen this preseason.

    Now that Jay Cutler is leading the Adam Gase offense in Miami, I think you're going to start hearing Parker's name in the conversation for the best receiver in football.

    Parker has great size, he's a tremendous route-runner ,and he has great quickness with the ball in his hands. He also has the speed to blow by defenders. And with Cutler throwing the ball, the Dolphins will be able to take advantage of that defense-busting speed.

WR: Dede Westbrook

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    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

    Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Dede Westbrook was one of the more talented receivers in the draft this year, but he had off-field issues that knocked him down into Round 4.

    Jacksonville snagged Westbrook, though, and I think he's in line to have a significant role in the Jaguars offense this season. He's the fastest receiver on the roster, and if nothing else, Westbrook can help take the top off a defense and open things up for other pass-catchers. Westbrook isn't just a decoy, though. He has a chance to be DeSean Jackson-like as far as his role in an NFL offense.

    An injury kept Westbrook out of Week 3, but he already has 173 yards and a touchdown this preseason.

    If I have one concern with Westbrook, it's the durability of his 6'0", 178-pound frame. However, he plays with a lot more strength and physicality than his size might indicate.

WR: Kasen Williams

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    When I looked at the Seattle offense last year, I always thought that the only guy Wilson could really throw to in coverage was tight end Jimmy Graham. The other pass-catchers on the roster—like Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett—didn't have the size for Wilson to throw a jump ball and expect them to win.

    Kasen Williams (6'1", 219 lbs) has a chance to be that type of guy. He's a player who can step into the Seahawks receiving corps and be a third-down target. Wilson can look to him and know that even if he's covered, he can toss up a back-shoulder throw or a sideline jump ball and that Williams will likely come down with it.

    What really surprised me is the fact Williams is a former undrafted free agent who appeared in just one game last season. He deserves a role.

WR: Cooper Kupp

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    I just look at Los Angeles Rams rookie wideout Cooper Kupp and go, "That's a modern-day slot receiver."

    Kupp has great size (6'2", 205 lbs), he's smart, and he's fearless when going over the middle. He can play the slot like a Jarvis Landry or a Chris Hogan—but more physically.

    Kupp wound up in the perfect offense for him. L.A. utilizes the slot receiver, and Kupp has an opportunity to be well-coached by Sean McVay. Kupp's ability to burst in and out of cuts will work perfectly in McVay's system because he has downfield guys like Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods on the outside.

    I think Kupp can be used much like fellow Rams receiver Tavon Austin, but Kupp is bigger and will provide a better target on the inside for quarterback Jared Goff.

OL: Cedric Ogbuehi

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    I don't gravitate toward offensive linemen for preseason lists for a couple of reason. For one, starting linemen don't get many reps. Secondly, they're facing the blandest possible defenses in pass protection.

    However, I have to include Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi.

    Ogbuehi was a supertalented physical specimen coming out of Texas A&M a couple of years ago, but he was extremely raw. He was raw to the point that I thought it might take years for him to adjust. He was so raw that when pass-protecting, he often looked like he was trying to guard Stephen Curry in a basketball game.

    To me, it looks like Ogbuehi has fixed a lot of those technical issues. It also looks like he's capable of digging in and anchoring against bigger defensive linemen in the power rush.

    The loss of Andrew Whitworth in the offseason was a big blow, but I think the Bengals may have found their new franchise left tackle.

DT: Fletcher Cox

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox is one of the few stars I just can't not put on this list. He's taken the mantle from Ndamukong Suh as the most powerful, disruptive defensive tackle in the game, and we've seen it in the preseason.

    Cox is almost unblockable one-on-one. He shined last season, and his dominance has continued into this preseason. If he isn't the best overall defensive lineman in the NFL, he's in that conversation.

DT: A'Shawn Robinson

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    I was a huge fan of Detroit Lions defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson when he was coming out of Alabama. I thought he really had the potential to become something special. The most encouraging thing I've seen from Robinson this preseason is that he seems to have matured.

    Robinson looked and played young as a rookie last season (he was 21). He seems like a completely different player now. I love the way his body looks. He's another candidate for the All-Legs-and-Ass Team, and I think he's one of the more impressive-looking defensive linemen in the NFL.

    Robinson has a chance to make a name for himself this season in the Lions defense, and Detroit is going to need him. We don't know what Ezekiel Ansah is going to be, and Haloti Ngata is getting up there in age (33). Robinson might just be the new anchor for the Lions' defensive front.

DT: Davon Godchaux

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    When analyzing defensive linemen, I'm not looking for sexy, I'm looking for effective. No. 56 for the Dolphins, Davon Godchaux, is effective.

    This is a rookie out of LSU who is playing next to Suh and holding his own. He has the perfect-looking defensive tackle body—which I'd expect out of an SEC defensive tackle. He might not be as athletic or as explosive as Suh, but he's similar.

    Godchaux is every bit as powerful as Suh and is every bit as capable of pulling down double-team blocks. I expect him to stand out for the Miami defense in the regular season.

DT: Adam Butler

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots are always good for finding some no-name, I've-never-heard-of-this-freaking-guy player. The Patriots have a few of them on defense this year, but the guy who has stood out to me is Adam Butler.

    The Vanderbilt product is 6'5" and 300 pounds, but he plays quicker and faster than a man that size should. Butler looks like he'll be another hybrid defensive lineman for New England. The Patriots can play him at defensive tackle if they want to be fast, and they can play him at defensive end if they want to go big.

    Look for Butler to be a big-time contributor in New England this season.

DE: Brent Urban

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Listen, if you're going to watch Baltimore Ravens football this year, pay attention to No. 96, Brent Urban. This preseason, he's been one of the best unproven defensive players I've seen.

    I've been really impressed with Urban's motor, his ability to shed blocks and his ability to fight to a standstill against premier NFL tackles.

    Through the preseason, every time I've turned to Ravens film, Urban has popped. He makes a lot of plays and creates a lot of havoc. What I really like about him, though, is that his bad is never bad. A bad play for Urban is battling an offensive lineman to a stalemate. There's a lot of value in that.

LB: Mychal Kendricks

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    I'm not sure what's going on between Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and linebacker Mychal Kendricks.

    Kendricks is one of the most physically gifted linebackers in all of football, and I don't understand why he doesn't start. All I know is that when he's played alongside the starters this preseason, he's been one of the most impressive guys in the entire NFL—not just on defense.

    Kendricks has logged an interception in each of his three appearances this preseason. One of those he returned for a touchdown, and he also has a preseason sack.

    Kendricks has been flying around the field every time I've seen him, and he's stood out as much as anyone.

LB: Reuben Foster

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    D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

    I don't think San Francisco 49ers rookie linebacker Reuben Foster is even 100 percent healthy yet. However, he's still been one of the most impressive guys I've seen on tape. It's scary to think we haven't seen all Foster can be, with his recklessness and willingness to throw his body around.

    There's a reason Foster has picked up the nickname The Waterboy. He smashes people. When I watch him, it almost feels like I've gone back 10 years in time and am watching Patrick Willis' first year or two in the NFL.

    Foster's ability to read and react to the football is phenomenal. His closing speed from that point is like that of a top-tier running back or wide receiver. He's explosive enough that he's up to full speed in three steps.

    As long as Foster stays healthy, he'll be in the Pro Bowl conversation.

LB: Kendell Beckwith

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    Frank Victores/Associated Press

    One of my concerns about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense is that the group is undersized at the linebacker position. Guys like Lavonte David (6'1", 233 lbs) and Kwon Alexander (6'1", 227 lbs) aren't much bigger than a strong safety.

    Rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith (6'3", 247 lbs) adds size.

    The addition of Beckwith gives Tampa a true thumping middle linebacker to help combat power rushing attacks, like that of the Carolina Panthers. If the Buccaneers need to stop a Jonathan Stewart or a Christian McCaffrey, they now have a powerful middle linebacker who can take on a guard, shed the block and make the play.

    Tampa desperately needed that kind of defender, and Beckwith looks capable of filling the hole.

DB: Jamal Adams

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Look, I know as the sixth overall pick in this year's draft, New York Jets safety Jamal Adams was expected to be good. Still, you can't help but turn on Jets film and find yourself saying, "Man, this No. 33 is a player!"

    Adams almost literally jumps off the screen.

    Has Adams made every tackle and hit every gap assignment right in the preseason? No. He's raw. What already appears special is his physical talent and his ability to read and react. Adams can diagnose a play and attack the ball as well as any middle linebacker—and I'm talking about the Luke Kuechlys and Bobby Wagners of the world.

    Adams is a guy who can play close to the line of scrimmage and who can back off and cover. In Todd Bowles' defense, Adams can almost be like a modern-day Troy Polamalu.

DB: Vernon Hargreaves

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves is a guy I look at and believe can jump onto the national scene this year. If he takes the next step, he'll be ready to become a shutdown cover corner.

    Hargreaves has great hips, he's fluid, he's extremely explosive, and—for a corner—he's an ultra-aggressive tackler.

    More importantly, Hargreaves gives the Tampa defense something it hasn't had in some time. He's a player the Buccaneers can put on an island and expect to match up with a Julio Jones or a Michael Thomas for 15-20 snaps a game.

    Having a guy who can play man-to-man coverage the way Hargreaves can will afford Tampa a lot of defensive flexibility.

DB: Rashard Robinson

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    San Francisco cornerback Rashard Robinson is one of my breakout candidates at the corner position along with Hargreaves.

    Robinson has tremendous top-end speed—he goes from zero to 60 like a Lamborghini. In some ways, he reminds me of a younger, more polished Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He's really impressed in the preseason, and the word out of training camp is that he's impressed there too.

    At 6'1", Robinson has the length to thrive in Robert Saleh's Seattle-style system. Even with that length, though, Robinson has amazing short-area quickness. It's rare when you find a corner who combines both of those traits.

All-22 Preseason Team

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press


    QB: Mitchell Trubisky

    QB: Patrick Mahomes

    QB: Russell Wilson

    RB: Tarik Cohen

    RB: Chris Carson 

    RB: Kareem Hunt

    WR: DeVante Parker

    WR: Dede Westbrook 

    WR: Kasen Williams

    WR: Cooper Kupp

    OL: Cedric Ogbuehi



    DT: Fletcher Cox

    DT: A'Shawn Robinson 

    DT: Davon Godchaux

    DT: Adam Butler

    DE: Brent Urban

    LB: Mychal Kendricks

    LB: Reuben Foster

    LB: Kendell Beckwith

    DB: Jamal Adams

    DB: Vernon Hargreaves

    DB: Rashard Robinson


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