Bleacher Report's 2019 Expert Consensus NFL All-Pro Team

NFL StaffContributor IJanuary 2, 2020

Bleacher Report's 2019 Expert Consensus NFL All-Pro Team

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    The Pro Bowl is nice and all, but the All-Pro team is the real litmus test for the NFL's best of the best.

    Granted, players probably prefer a trip to Hawaii, Orlando or wherever the previously mentioned event is being held. With that said, All-Pro squads are a far better indicator of the game's top performers, because they're based on one qualification: being the very best at your respective position.

    Bleacher Report's team of NFL writers—Brad Gagnon, Brent Sobleski, Gary Davenport, Mike Freeman, Mike Tanier and Ty Dunne—cast their votes to determine the 2019 Expert Consensus NFL All-Pro team.

    As expected, the Baltimore Ravens are well-represented after developing into the league's best team. All in all, players from 18 different squads earned first-team status.

    You won't find a better list of players from the 2019 campaign, because there isn't one. These athletes operate at a different level compared to everyone else in the league.

Quarterback

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    Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (7 votes)

    What the Baltimore Ravens accomplished in 2019 is nothing short of awesome because they did the right thing in building their organization around quarterback Lamar Jackson.

    And Jackson proved the franchise made the right decision.

    His development has been downright staggering to the point where the NFL has never seen anyone quite like him. Let's stress that final point: Jackson is the greatest dual-threat quarterback in NFL history. Don't compare him to Michael Vick or Randall Cunningham, because those two never achieved or performed to the level Jackson did this season. 

    The 22-year-old signal-caller smashed the NFL record by a quarterback with 1,206 rushing yards—which ranked sixth overall this season.

    More importantly, Jackson's improvement as a passer was something to behold. Last season as a rookie, he completed 58.2 percent of his passes with a six-to-three touchdown-to-interception ratio. This year, his completion percentage rose nearly 8 percent, and he led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes.

    Jackson is the league's clear-cut choice for MVP. If anyone else receives a vote, it'll be downright shocking.

Running Back/Flex

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    RB: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers (7 votes)

    Christian McCaffrey's name can now be placed on the same pedestal as Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk.

    "It was a miserable season for the Panthers, but McCaffrey was absolutely fantastic," Davenport said. "He finished the season third in the NFL in rushing, averaged 4.8 yards a carry, scored 19 total touchdowns (is that a lot? It sounds like a lot) and touched the ball over 400 times. Only three tailbacks have ever had 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season—McCaffrey is now one of them."

    To build on Gary's points, McCaffrey led the league with 403 total touches and an impressive 2,392 yards from the scrimmage—which ranks third all-time. McCaffrey also broke his own record with 116 receptions by a running back in a single season.

    McCaffrey is one of the greatest multipurpose threats in NFL history.

             

    FLEX: Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans (4 votes)

    Initially, this position belonged to the Cleveland Browns' Nick Chubb, since he appeared to have a stranglehold on this year's rushing title.

    Not so fast, my friends.

    The Titans knew what it would take to crown Henry the rushing leader, made sure he was put in a position to earn the crown and let him work. On the final day of the regular season, Henry gained 211 yards to finish with a league-leading 1,540 rushing yards.

    That shows a different level of commitment to the individual and ground game.

    "Who knew that all it would take for Henry to finally realize his potential is the Titans giving him the damn ball?" Davenport said. "Go figure. There's no way that Tennessee is in the postseason without its bruising running back. It's fitting that Henry plays for the same franchise Earl Campbell starred for—running through defenders is the preferred 'juke' move for both."

    Others receiving votes: Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns (2 votes); Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings (1 vote)

Tight End/Fullback

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    TE: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers (5 votes)

    A void emerged this season with Rob Gronkowski's retirement. Granted, his injuries over the last few years probably created an opportunity for a tight end to grab the moniker of the league's best before that point, but Gronk's absence as a dominant all-around force forced another to stake his claim.

    The San Francisco 49ers' George Kittle is the logical successor because of his well-rounded game and overwhelming physical presence. The Kansas City Chiefs' Travis Kelce led all tight ends in receptions and receiving yards this season. But it's more than that.

    Kittle isn't just a productive receiver. He's a tone-setter as both a pass-catcher (85 receptions for 1,053 yards) and blocker. He's the complete package.

    Whereas, Mike Tanier decided to go in a different direction with the Philadelphia Eagles' Zach Ertz as his preferred top tight end.

    "Ertz wasn't just the Eagles' top offensive weapon down the stretch," Tanier said. "He was their only offensive weapon down the stretch. He caught 88 passes for 916 yards against defenses that didn't even have to bother covering anyone else. The numbers just don't do justice to how important his role was in the Eagles' playoff run."

    Others receiving votes: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (1 vote); Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles (1 vote)

             

    FB: Kyle Juszczyk, San Francisco 49ers (5 votes)

    Kyle Juszczyk is a different animal at fullback compared to his contemporaries. He can be used as a traditional lead blocker, wing, in-line tight end, H-back or split out wide. His real value this season was realized when he missed four games with a knee injury.

    "I mean, you don't replace Kyle," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters. "He's kind of one of a kind at fullback. We still use a fullback, and you do that with tight ends also. I mean, you motion them in there and do stuff, but no one is going to fully replace him. We've just got to do some different things and adjust."

    Others receiving votes: Patrick Ricard, Baltimore Ravens (2 votes)

Wide Receiver

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    WR1: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (7 votes)

    The New Orleans Saints' Michael Thomas is literally in the greatest stretch of wide receiver play anyone has ever seen. His production since entering the league is unmatched. In fact, his 470 receptions through his first four seasons destroyed Jarvis Landry's previous record of 400. Thomas reached this point by surpassing another significant milestone.

    Thomas set a new NFL record this season with 149 receptions.

    "He's a fierce competitor, and there's a great sense of urgency with everything Mike does," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said of Thomas, per CNN's Amir Vera. "He's got a fire that I think is pretty rare."

    Obviously, Thomas catches nearly everything thrown in his direction. But it's more than simple bulk usage. He's one of the league's best in reception percentage and contested catch rate.

    Lamar Jackson and Christian McCaffrey are the top two candidates for NFL Offensive Player of the Year, but Thomas shouldn't be too far behind those options.

             

    WR2: Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5 votes)

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Chris Godwin is the No. 2 receiver on the Buccaneers roster, on B/R's All-Pro team and in everyone's hearts even though he proved himself to be so much more in his third season.

    "Godwin broke out and then some in 2019," Davenport said. "Despite missing two games, he was third in the league in receiving yards, averaged 15.5 yards a catch and finished the year tied for fourth in the NFL with nine touchdowns. In an NFC South that's brimming with elite receivers, Godwin has shown that he can hang with the best of them."

    Godwin will probably always be overshadowed by teammate Mike Evans—a top-10 pick, towering physical presence and elite downfield threat. That simply means the Buccaneers now claim the NFL's best wide receiver duo since Godwin established himself as a true top target.

    Others receiving votes: DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (2 votes)

Offensive Tackle

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    OT1: Ronnie Stanley, Baltimore Ravens (6 votes)

    The old guard among offensive tackles is slowly fading away with Joe Thomas' retirement two years ago, Andrew Whitworth and Jason Peters in the final stages of their careers and Tyron Smith's battles with injuries.

    As such, a new wave of talent can step to the forefront starting with the Baltimore Ravens' Ronnie Stanley.

    "In his fourth NFL season, Stanley emerged as arguably the best pass-blocking tackle in the game and a cornerstone of one of the league's best O-lines," Davenport said. "The former Golden Domer surrendered fewer than 10 pressures all season long. There's no one you'd rather have holding down the most important spot on the offensive line."

    The Ravens set a team record this season as the most prolific rushing offense of all time. Their offensive front simultaneously features the league's best pure pass-blockers. Stanley makes sure to protect Lamar Jackson's back at all times when the Ravens do drop back to pass, and the quarterback's jersey rarely gets dirty.

               

    OT2: Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints (4 votes)

    Forget a significant gap ever existed between left and right tackles, because that's no longer the case. Right-side blockers must be as adept at pass protection since they regularly face a lineup of the league's best edge-defenders.

    Ryan Ramczyk isn't just the league's best right tackle; he's an elite offensive tackle, period. Pro Football Focus graded Ramczyk as the league's best overall tackle.

    "This year alone, Ramczyk faced J.J. Watt, Clay Matthews, Jadeveon Clowney, DeMarcus Lawrence, Josh Allen, Khalil Mack, Chandler Jones, Brian Burns, Arik Armstead, Jason Pierre-Paul and the league's leading sack artist, Shaq Barrett, and didn't surrendere a single sack," Sobleski said. "That's an unbelievable accomplishment in today's pass-first league."

    Others receiving votes: David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers (3 votes); Laremy Tunsil, Houston Texans (1 vote)

Offensive Guard

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    OG1: Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts (5 votes)

    Even non-offensive line aficionados can appreciate the human highlight reel Quenton Nelson is as arguably the league's most physical blocker.

    Offensive linemen aren't supposed to dominate other grown men quite like Nelson does on a regular basis. Yes, he's young and still has miscues, but those don't overshadow his propensity for driving defenders off the ball and dominating at the point of attack.

    The Indianapolis Colts know exactly what they have in the 2018 sixth overall pick, because they have a tendency to run behind him when the offense needs to gain crucial yards. He excels in the passing game, too. Nelson didn't surrender a single sack during the 2019 campaign.

    The Colts left guard is simultaneously becoming the league's best guard and one of its most recognizable blockers.

           

    OG2: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens (4 votes)

    The Baltimore Ravens' Marshal Yanda has been very good for a very long time. The 35-year-old hasn't taken a step back and appears to be on track toward obtaining a gold jacket in Canton.

    "Marshal, in my mind, is a Hall of Fame player," head coach John Harbaugh said, per Clifton Brown of the Ravens' official site. "If you're going to make the Hall of Fame as an offensive lineman, you've probably got to play your Hall of Fame level at the end when people are watching. ... I think he's playing some of his best football, if not his best football, right now." 

    Yanda is the leader of a unit that paved the way for the most prolific ground game in NFL history and allowed Lamar Jackson to be sacked the third-fewest times (23) among quarterbacks who started 14 or more games.

    Others receiving votes: Brandon Brooks, Philadelphia Eagles (3 votes); Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys (2 votes)

Center

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    Rodney Hudson, Oakland Raiders (2 votes)

    Every play requires a center to snap the ball, but snappers rarely receive the level of recognition they deserve.

    The Oakland Raiders' Rodney Hudson is the perfect example.

    "He's a great player on the field, he's one of our captains and true team leaders," head coach Jon Gruden said prior to the start of the 2019 campaign, per 247Sports' John Newby. "He's as tough a guy as we have. I've seen him play with kidney stones and various ailments, and to get a master's degree is a huge accomplishment. I compliment him to the day's end. He's special."

    Many things went wrong with the Raiders offense this season. Hudson wasn't one of them.

    Instead, he's the game's premier pass-blocking pivot. He rarely allows any pressure whatsoever. Hudson's mobility is so advantageous because he's an asset pulling, getting to the second level and leading screens.

    The interior of the Raiders offensive line is set, starting with the game's best all-around center.

    Others receiving votes: Erik McCoy, New Orleans Saints (1 vote); Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles (1 vote); Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers (1 vote); Mitch Morse, Buffalo Bills (1 vote); Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys (1 vote)

Edge-Rusher

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    ER1: Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals (7 votes)

    So much attention was placed on the Arizona Cardinals' offensive transition under head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray that Chandler Jones' Defensive Player of the Year-caliber season went nearly, but not entirely, unnoticed.

    Jones finished second overall with 19 sacks and tied for the league lead with eight forced fumbles.

    "What he's done is incredible," Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said, per the Arizona Republic's Bob McManaman. "That's a huge year. ... I was in Houston when [J.J.] Watt won his first [Defensive Player of the Year] award and it was a special year. He's doing it."

    Unfortunately, Jones likely won't receive the recognition he rightfully deserves because he played on a 5-10-1 Western-based team, but that's not the case here.

             

    ER2: Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings (3 votes)

    The Minnesota Vikings' Danielle Hunter is the NFL's greatest example of developing a prospect loaded with potential into an elite producer.

    Hunter registered 4.5 sacks during his time with the LSU Tigers. This year alone, the defensive end finished with 14.5 sacks, which tied for fourth overall. Hunter has now posted back-to-back 14.5-sack campaigns and is a consistent and reliable force along the Vikings defensive front.

    "It's amazing to me that he can go after the quarterback that many times and never get frustrated and want to take it out on the quarterback when he finally gets to him," safety Anthony Harris said, per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Mark Craig. "That tells me he not only knows how to do his job, he knows how to not make it personal and force things. He's all business."

    His 52 total solo tackles also led all defenders—43 in total—who registered at least 7.5 sacks.

    Others receiving votes: Za'Darius Smith, Green Bay Packers (2 votes); Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers (1 vote); Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1 vote)

Interior Defensive Lineman

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    IDL1: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams (7 votes)

    Death, taxes and Aaron Donald's dominance are life's only certainties.

    At this point there might be some Donald fatigue regarding NFL Defensive Player of the Year consideration, because he continues to play at a different level than any other defensive lineman in the league.

    Donald once again led interior defenders with 12.5 sacks. He finished first overall with 24 tackles for loss. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year is a human wrecking ball, who destroys opposing ground games and consistently collapses the pocket despite constant double-teams from offensive linemen.

    "Donald is one of the very best to ever do it," Sobleski said. "He's not a traditional 300-pounder by any means, but his combination strength, quickness and explosiveness make him nearly impossible to stop no matter how many linemen are used to get in his way."

                

    IDL2: Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers (3 votes)

    The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is loaded with recognizable names. T.J. Watt is already on of the league's best pass-rushers. The team just spent a top-10 pick on linebacker Devin Bush. Joe Haden snagged five interceptions this season. The team also flipped a first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick, who lived up to every expectation set before him.

    Yet, defensive lineman Cameron Heyward set the tone up front as the unit's leader. Heyward managed nine sacks, 14.5 tackles fro loss, six deflected passes a forced fumble and even a blocked kick this season. His yeoman-like work along the interior allows Watt and Bud Dupree to get more opportunities off the edge, because offense's must account for Heyward first and he's difficult to handle.

    Others receiving votes: Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles (2 votes); Deforest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers (1 vote); Jordan Phillips, Buffalo Bills (1 vote)

Linebacker

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    LB1: Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks (7 votes)

    Mr. Consistency.

    The Seattle Seahawks' Bobby Wagner led the NFL this season with 159 total tackles. He's finished among the top seven in the category for four straight years, including two first-place showings.

    "The thing I love about looking at great players is do they show that ability to do it year after year after year," head coach Pete Carroll said last season, per John Boyle of the team's official site. "I think that's what greatness is all about. Bobby's put together a resume of really Hall of Fame stuff."

    Everything Carroll said still applies a year later. Wagner is a true three-down linebacker with six defended passes, seven tackles for loss, three sacks and an interception.

          

    LB2: T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers (5 votes)

    First, let's address obvious incoming criticisms: Yes, T.J. Watt is technically an edge player even though he's listed at linebacker. In this situation, he can be viewed as the SAM backer for B/R's All-Pro defense.

    With that out of the way, there's no way he should have been kept off this team, as Gagnon noted.

    "Watt was the only player in the NFL with double-digit sacks and multiple interceptions, as well as the only player with double-digit sacks and more than six passes defensed," he said. "He also tied for the league lead with eight forced fumbles and was one of just three players with more than 35 quarterback hits. Throw in those four fumble recoveries and this is a no-brainer."

            

    LB3: Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts (4 votes)

    Darius Leonard experienced an offseason oddity last year. He earned Defensive Rookie of the Year and first-team All-Pro honors yet didn't receive a Pro Bowl nod.

    Voters rectified the oversight this year when Leonard was named to his first Pro Bowl.

    "A lot of adversity I had to go through and coming here and kinda proving everybody wrong," he told Fox59 (h/t the Charleston Post and Courier's Derrek Asberry). "Finally, everybody seeing what type of linebacker I am."

    The nomination only confirms what everyone already knew: Leonard is an elite defender. He finished his second campaign with 121 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, five sacks, seven defended passes and five interceptions.

    Others receiving votes: Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2 votes); Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers (2 votes); Zach Cunningham, Houston Texans (1 vote)

Cornerback

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    CB1: Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots (7 votes)

    The New England Patriots' Stephon Gilmore isn't just the NFL's best cornerback; he very well might be this year's Defensive Player of the Year.

    Yes, Gilmore struggled against DeVante Parker in the Patriots' final regular-season contest. One subpar performance shouldn't overshadow what he did to that point in the year.

    How good was the Patriots defensive back before that point? He allowed a measly 39.7 passer rating when targeted, per Pro Football Focus. A quarterback would receive a 39.6 passer rating by intentionally throwing an incomplete pass on every attempt. Opposing signal-callers completed 49 percent of their passes when they targeted Gilmore.

    Supposedly, true shutdown corners don't exist anymore. Gilmore certainly comes the closest to fitting the bill.

           

    CB2: Tre'Davious White, Buffalo Bills (4 votes)

    Scoring touchdowns is the entire point of football.

    If a Buffalo Bills opponent wants to score six points, it shouldn't target cornerback Tre'Davious White. According to Pro Football Focus, he recorded 599 coverage snaps without allowing a single touchdown.

    Despite that impressive statistic, White didn't receive a unanimous vote for B/R's All-Pro squad. Tanier leaned toward the Baltimore Ravens' Marlon Humphrey as the game's second-best cornerback.

    "I remember visiting Ravens headquarters in spring and summer and thinking, 'I'm not sure about this new Lamar Jackson offense. He can barely complete a pass!'" Tanier said. "Of course, we knew the Ravens secondary was pretty great (Earl Thomas was a clue), but Humphrey exceeded expectations and had an underrated impact on the team's success, especially early in the season. And that Ravens secondary may have played a role in Jackson's development, to boot."

    Others receiving votes: Richard Sherman, San Francisco 49ers (2 votes); Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore Ravens (1 vote)

Safety

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    S1: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers (3 votes)

    The impact Minkah Fitzpatrick made on the Pittsburgh Steelers after being traded from the Miami Dolphins can't be overstated.

    The Steelers saw an opportunity to obtain a premium talent for their defensive backfield, knowing the franchise likely wouldn't be in a position to draft a 23-year-old player of the same caliber since it tends to fall in the back end of the first round. Even without a semblance of quality quarterback play, they narrowly missed the playoffs and earned the 18th overall draft pick, which now belongs to the Dolphins.

    But the team wouldn't have been nearly as good without Fitzpatrick, who became a ball magnet in the Steel City. Following the trade, the safety registered 57 total tackles, nine defended passes, five interceptions and two recovered fumbles. He also scored two defensive touchdowns.

    "He's always in the right position," Steelers cornerback Joe Haden said, per ESPN's Brooke Pryor. "It's something to say that the ball just don't hit the ground. He's always around there being able to get them."

              

    S2: Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans (3 votes)

    Some defenders just have a nose for the football. Like Fitzpatrick, the Tennessee Titans' Kevin Byard makes plays by creating game-changing turnovers. He tied for fourth overall with five interceptions, and he's now setting the bar for a roaming free safety.

    Still, Gagnon decided to go in another direction with his choice for the second All-Pro safety.

    "Jamal Adams' play-by-play impact went well beyond the numbers, as is often the case with a superstar safety," he said. "He was the only defensive back in the NFL with at least 75 tackles and more than five sacks."

    Others receiving votes: Devin McCourty, New England Patriots (2 votes); Jamal Adams, New York Jets (2 votes); Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings (2 votes); Anthony Harris, Minnesota Vikings (1 vote); Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs (1 vote)

Special Teams

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    K: Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens (6 votes)

    Justin Tucker is the greatest kicker of his era, and he continues to prove it with each passing season. The 30-year-old finished second this season with a 96.6 field-goal percentage. He was one of only three kickers during the regular season to miss two or fewer field goals and extra points.

    Others receiving votes: Matt Prater, Detroit Lions (1 vote)

            

    P: Brett Kern, Tennessee Titans (5 votes)

    Three key categories tend to define a punter: overall punting average, net punting average and punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Brett Kern ranked fourth overall with a 47.1-yard punting average and 43.1-yard net punting average. He also led the league with 37 punts pinned inside the opposition's 20-yard line.

    Others receiving votes: Tress Way, Washington Redskins (2 votes)

             

    KR: Cordarrelle Patterson, Chicago Bears (4 votes)

    The NFL's current rules make it difficult for kick returners to create an actual impact in most games. But a handful are still dangerous enough to make a difference. The Chicago Bears' Cordarrelle Patterson led that group when he averaged 29.5 yards per kick return on 28 attempts, including a 102-yard touchdown.

    Others receiving votes: Andre Roberts, Buffalo Bills (3 votes)

             

    PR: Deonte Harris, New Orleans Saints (5 votes)

    No punt returner worked harder this season than the New Orleans Saints' Deonte Harris. His 36 punt returns led the league, and he ranked fourth overall at 9.4 yards per return. He added a touchdown, too.

    Others receiving votes: Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers (2 votes)

             

    ST: Matthew Slater, New England Patriots (7 votes)

    The New England Patriots' Matthew Slater is the NFL's best all-around special teams performer. That statement can be taken a step further with an argument he might be the best core-four special-teamer of all time. (Certainly, Steve Tasker would have something to say about that.)

    Slater continues to affect games by blocking kicks, downing punts inside the 10-yard line and more. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranked second among special teams performers in overall grade deep into the season.