As you may know by now, Kyle and I have decided to make our own All NFL teams, but will be doing it a little differently. There were plenty of players that had great seasons, and deserve recognition, and should arguably be on any All Pro team, which is why we are breaking it down into scheme (for example, a 4-3 defense versus a 3-4 defense). This here is a list of the offensive players I would want on my team, based on the scheme I would run.
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Okay, so the idea of a scheme fit kind of goes out the window when you have the man that orchestrated the greatest offense we have ever seen. Manning is the type of player that you mold your scheme around, not someone you fit into it. Anyone that tries to tell you that someone else deserves this spot, or even the deserves the MVP over Manning, is either a fool, or is simply trying to give credit to other players who would be MVP candidates in virtually any other season.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
There are a lot of running backs in the NFL today that will likely be in the hall of fame. One of them is Jamaal Charles. Charles just completed his sixth season in the NFL, and he has never averaged less than 5 yards per carry in a season. In fact, his career yards per carry average of 5.6 is second best in the history of the NFL among running backs. Realistically speaking, that average will probably go down as he ages. But it's still remarkable to think about what he's done. Don't get me wrong, his career is not getting him on my team, his 2013 season is. LeSean McCoy might be the shiftiest running back we have seen since Barry Sanders, but he couldn't block Mike Greenberg coming off the edge. I'm not saying Charles is a fantastic blocker, but I'm putting three receivers on my team and no fullback, so somebody is gonna have to block back there. Adrian Peterson is also a viable candidate for this spot, but in my opinion he showed the slightest bit of age this year, and Charles was otherworldly.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
By the end of Calvin Johnson's career he will be considered the second best receiver of all time, at the very least. Barring injury he should be on All Pro teams annually. We saw this year what happens when he is out of Detroit's lineup. That was partly because the Lions lacked other reliable options, but that's not his fault. I'll take him over anybody else all day.
Depending on how you see it, Bryant either showed signs of immaturity this year, or maturity, and I'm an optimist. From the perspective of someone that is overly competitive, during the passion of the game emotions can flare. I've yelled at some of the best friends during the heat of the game. Granted, I didn't get quite as physical as Bryant did, but I can tell that it is out of passion, both for the game, and for his teammates. He might be the quickest of all the big receivers out there, and one can make an argument for him being the most physical too. I wouldn't shy away from lining him up anywhere on the field.
I really do not know how Gordon would do with a competent quarterback. I can't exactly imagine him matching his stats this year (ever again, actually), but he was targeted like a superstar this year, and didn't disappoint. He has a game similar to that of Randy Moss, as a big receiver with great deep speed and great routes. Will he match his stats of this year? It's unlikely. But not discount it. It looks like he's here to stay as an annual 1000 yard receiver.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
Graham is the best player in the NFL right now at going up and getting a contested ball. There are others that are really good, but Graham is setting himself apart. When (if) Gronkowski comes back next year (or ever) he may have some competition, but without him in the game, Graham stands alone at the top of the tight end position.
Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles
Thomas has been the best tackle in the NFL for a few years now, so his selection shouldn't come as a surprise. Peters' shouldn't either, but there were others I could have chosen that were closer to his level of play. Joe Staley is still getting it done at the highest level, Tyron Smith is at the top of his game, and Trent Williams is up there too. But I think Peters might be more well rounded than the others.
Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles
Louis Vasquez, Denver Broncos
Mathis, along with Peters, did a great job at paving the way for McCoy's outstanding season, and did their job at keeping Nick Foles upright as well. Foles might not have had such a great season, even in Chip Kelly's offense, if his offensive line didn't give him confidence in the pocket the way they did this year, and Mathis was a big part of that.
I'm still scratching my head over the Chargers not trying harder to keep Vasquez. He went to the Broncos this year and was one of the best offensive linemen in the country. He helped keep Manning upright all year, but more importantly he made Knowshon Moreno look like a really good running back. That's why he gets the nod over the other guards this year.
Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns
Mack was outstanding this year. He kept three different sub-par quarterbacks upright, making some of them even look halfway decent at times. Poise in the pocket isn't always a trait the quarterback carries, but one created by a good interior offensive line. Drew Brees has two of the best guards in the game every year, which helps him look poised, Tom Brady has had a top 3 offensive line every year of his career, which has molded him into one of the most patient quarterbacks we've ever seen. With Mack at the helm, whichever quarterback Cleveland takes in the draft this year will have the best of help at staying calm in the pocket, even with poor guard play, because the games best tackle, and arguably the games best center will be blocking for him.