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Rob Weintraub's 2019 All-NFC North Team

Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Nearly forty percent of every team's schedule is made up of division games. Every coach and player talks about the importance of winning games against division foes. Schemes and personnel are very often tailored to matching up with division opponents. Yet when it comes to naming the best players at season's end, we never classify them by division. Where are the All-Division teams? This has always mystified me. Colleges name All-Conference teams, why not do likewise for the professional ranks?

Well rest easy, I've done it for you. Today we focus on the NFC North. Naturally, this being Football Outsiders, our stats are used to justify selections whenever necessary.

OFFENSE

QB: Aaron Rodgers, GB

Probably the closest call in any division at any position -- you can't shine a flashlight in the gap between ARod and Kirk Cousins. Indeed, Captain Kirk was a tiny smidge better in both DYAR and DVOA, and more than that in QBR. But he also had much better weaponry at his disposal, and still lost twice in head-to-head matchups to Green Bay, so Rodgers gets the slightest of edges.

RB: Dalvin Cook, MIN
RB: Aaron Jones, GB

One of the more obvious calls of all the divisions -- Jones was fourth and Cook eighth in rushing DYAR. By contrast, the top-rated Lions runner, Kerryon Johnson, was 40th in the NFL; the top Bears runner, David Montgomery, was 42nd.

WR: Stefon Diggs, MIN
WR: Kenny Golladay, DET
WR: Marvin Jones, DET
TE: Kyle Rudolph, MIN

Whither Davante Adams and Adam Thielen, you ask? Adams finished 32nd in receiving DYAR and even lower in DVOA, way below Jones (and nowhere close to Diggs or Golladay, both of whom were top-ten finishers). Thielen had a good DVOA (16th) but was 40th in the cumulative number. Thielen, struggling with injury for part of the year, was below Adam Lazard in DYAR. Obviously all the bellyaching Diggs did early in the season about not getting the ball worked out well.

OT: David Bakhtiari, GB
OT: Bryan Bulaga, GB
OG: James Daniels, CHI
OG: Pat Elflein, MIN
C: Frank Ragnow, DET

The showdown between Riley Reiff and Bryan Bulaga for the second tackle spot was a tough one, with Bulaga being slightly more consistent overall. Daniels was much better after getting kicked over to guard from center. Elflein sneaks past Graham Glasgow for the other guard spot.

DEFENSE

DE: Everson Griffin, MIN
DE: Danielle Hunter, MIN
DT: Kenny Clark, GB
DT: Eddie Goldman, CHI

Goldman bests Damon Harrison in a simple "Jewish guy over Snacks guy" choice*.

OLB: Khalil Mack, CHI
OLB: Za'Darius Smith, GB
ILB: Blake Martinez, GB
ILB: Eric Kendricks, MIN

Roquan Smith's injury allows Martinez to nab the other inside linebacker spot alongside three stalwarts.

CB: Jaire Alexander, GB
CB: Kyle Fuller, CHI
CB: Mackensie Alexander, MIN
S: Anthony Harris, MIN
S: Harrison Smith, MIN

Minnesota's sensational safeties were as important in their way as the bookend defensive ends. Overall safety play was strong in the North, with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Eddie Jackson in the race. However, the division wasn't particularly strong at slot corner this year.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Mason Crosby, GB
P: Sam Martin, DET
RET: Cordarrelle Patterson, CHI

Tarik Cohen handled punt return duties in Chi-Town, but kick returner Patterson tips out his teammate by dint of finding paydirt where Cohen didn't.

* Note: Goldman is not actually Jewish.

Comments

29 comments, Last at 24 Feb 2020, 6:10pm

1 You took Tannehill over…

You took Tannehill over Watson.
 

You should either have to take Stafford here for identical reasoning or go revert the AFC South to Watson for identical reasoning. Stafford had the same DYAR as Cousins and Rodgers and 2-3x their DVOA.

4 Very similar situations,…

Very similar situations, although Tannehill has a bit more DYAR than Watson, while Cousins and Rodgers both have a bit more DYAR than Stafford. I guess the fact that Tannehill led his team to the playoffs while the Lions went nowhere with or without Stafford factors heavily into the perception of both those players.

6 in Stafford's case, I wouldn…

in Stafford's case, I wouldn't call the DYAR being less than Rodgers & Cousins because he had more dyar/pass, given he was close to them and threw quite a few less passes due to injury (whereas Tannehill was both straight > in DYAR and dyar/pass). And like Tannehill, Stafford kills them both in DVOA.

8 DYAR per pass is actually…

DYAR per pass is actually DVOA. DYAR is useful because volume matters, too. Anyway, another interesting thing to consider here is Tannehill started 10 games (plus part of another in relief) and Stafford only 8, despite having just about the same number of attempts -obviously because one of this players was on a team that usually played with a lead and the other wasn't. My point being that one of these players had a hugely disappointing year and the other a hugely successful one. Expectations factor into that, of course. Anyway, can't argue too much about the QB selections in both their divisions, even if I'd have leaned Watson's way.

16 ah, that's true. I guess i'm…

ah, that's true. I guess i'm just not sure where the cutoff is for when injuries basically drop a player from being considered. this year, Stafford scaled to 16 games would've taken this position easily, which is why i was saying i would've voted for him to be the NFC North QB.

18 “Tannehill started 10 games …

“Tannehill started 10 games (plus part of another in relief) and Stafford only 8, despite having just about the same number of attempts -obviously because one of this players was on a team that usually played with a lead and the other wasn't.”

That’s not actually true. In the seven game Stafford started, Detroit had the lead far more often than they were trailing.  Their problem was that their appallingly inept defense kept blowing leads.  (They were leading the entire way against Green Bay until losing in the last second field goal, and had the lead the majority of the time against Kansas City before Mahomes last drive.). Tannenhill’s fewer attemps per game had more to do with Tennessee having a more run heavy offense, a with a far better defense than Detroit.

In any case, volume and actually being on the field does matter, so I can’t begrudge Rogers and Cousins getting the nod over Stafford, but I wish the article acknowledged that Stafford was at least in the running.   We should also acknowledge that there might be a bit of recency bias here. Tannenhill’s great performance was over the latter half of the season and the playoffs, while Stafford’s was in the first half of the season.

20 Stafford is going to be one…

Stafford is going to be one of the tragic what ifs for me. Much like Rivers, he went to a team that on most of its good days offered him a flawed roster, on its bad days would be in the running for the worst team in football if they were not on it. 

Its strange to say this, but I think of the broader media and fans will liken him to Andy Dalton. Players who are seen as an empty calories type qbs that were just good enough that you couldn't move on from them, but not good enough to move the needle against the upper echelon teams. I think that does a disservice to Andy Dalton and completely misses the mark when it comes to Stafford. Maybe the lions will draft Tua and Stafford can go to a good team. I'd love to see him in Tampa Bay. 

22 Stafford's very likely a…

Stafford's very likely a Hall of Famer if he had been drafted by a team with a good gm and coach. It's the story of qbs in this league, in both directions. Stick Peyton Manning with the late 90s versions of Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano, instead of Polian, Mora, and then Dungy, for the 1st 5-7:years of his career, and I guarantee there is no talk about him being the GOAT, he quite likely is considered a good qb who was "never really elite", and thus a huge disappointment. There's a nontrivial chance he plays fewer than 10 years, and is considered a semibust. Like if he'd been paired with Matt Millen.

23 Oh will why did you have to…

Oh will why did you have to throw in Peyton Manning's name. 

 

My rebuttal to your argument is that he's replicated his offense with every kind of head coach, offensive line, and receiver combination. So if ever there was a quarterback that seemed head coaching independent, it would be Peyton Manning. That by the way is one reason I slightly favor him as the goat but that's neither here nor there.

 

I'm guessing your rebuttal to my rebuttal is that he would never have developed those abilities had he been cast to the wolves in the first place. To that we will never know, though I will say we've had examples of great quarterbacks shining through bad coaching and great quarterbacks look terrible with poor coaching. John elway and Steve Young respectively are my examples.

25 This game remains one that…

This game remains one that is, at its core, about the effective application of violence. Subject any qb to sufficient violence, and performance degrades significantly, and the effect become cumulative. Even Peyton Manning, in the 1st few years, had to have assets, be it teammates, coaches, or front office people, who could shield him from the full effect of NFL violence. 2000 Peyton Manning wasn't even close to 2010 Peyton Manning, in terms of his ability to single handedly manipulate the other players on the field. If he has been saddled with an idiot for a GM, and a guy who had no business being a head coach, for his 1st 5 to 7 years, Manning might still be thought of as a good qb, but there is nearly zero chance he'd be as highly regarded as he now is.

29 I think the argument was…

I think the argument was more that early in his career, Manning didn't have the freedom to just do Manning things independent from the coaching staff.

That said, I don't think Archie would have let the situation get too dire.

24 Just have to state I'm…

Just have to state I'm another who feels Stafford may be the best QB on a lot of crappy teams since I can't remember. (Maybe Archie Manning?) Replace Scott Mitchell with Stafford on those 90's Lions teams with Sanders and Herman Moore and that's one scary offense that could challenge the Cowboys and Packers in the early-to-mid-90s. 

28 He would have been much…

He would have been much better than what they had in 1991. Maybe he turns that team from a sham into an actual 12-win team.

Still, even with Stafford, they don't get past Washington that year. The '91 Skins are the best team of the DVOA era.

In 1995, Mitchell's one solid year, they lose in typical Lionsian manner, a la Stafford's shootout loss to NO.
https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/det/1995.htm
(Two Lions QBs somehow combined for a DVOA of 30% and 3100 DYAR)
Stafford doesn't improve that team, because Mitchell actually had a Stafford-level season.

The year for Stafford is 1993, when Fontes cobbled together 10 wins from a bucket of warm spit. That team could have used anything.

7 Agree

This is very confusing to me. Either the guard play in the NFCN is extremely terrible or...well I don't have an or... I guess he was OK run blocking but an absolute tire fire pass blocking.

9 I agree as well.

In reply to by vikedawg

Cody Whitehair was also both a better guard and a better center than James Daniels. And while I'm pointing out mistakes involving the Bears, Allen Robinson was the best receiver in the division last year. 

10 A better unit

In reply to by vikedawg

Elgton Jenkins was a rookie, but still one of the best guards in the league. I realize that would put three Packers on the OL positions, but Jenkins was the best lineman on the Packers besides Bakhtiari. That includes Bulaga, who was better than Reiff but not so much that his omission would be a mistake. Exchanging Jenkins for Elflein and Reiff for Bulaga would make this a much better unit. 

13 NFL All time Not Jewish team

Following up on your eddie goldman joke, maybe you guys should do an "NFL ALL Time Best Team WIth Players who have jewish surnames but may or MAY NOT actually be Jewish"
Since, ya know, you couldnt get past the OL if you were trying to make an all time all jewish team.

14 Were the ILBs that bad?

I'm a bit stunned Blake Martinez is part of the LB corps here. He's a serviceable ILB who makes a lot of tackles as long as you don't mind that the tackles are all four yards beyond the line of scrimmage. I'm sure some team will overpay for him based on his tackle total and then be disappointed when they see the results. He's not a horrible ILB. Just the epitome of the type of player you want to replace. Roquan Smith was better in 12 games than Martinez was in 16 and should be on this team.

17 Pat Elflein was not one of…

Pat Elflein was not one of the best guards in the division. He has about a 1% chance of starting for the Vikings next season.

19 Yep, Graham Glasgow got…

Yep, Graham Glasgow got robbed here.  Excellent as a pass protector, decent run blocking, can play multiple positions.  The Lions are foolish to let him hit free agency. 

26 "Pat Elflein was not one of…

"Pat Elflein was not one of the best guards in the division." 

I doubt as a Vikings fan you are intending to soft pedal this, but seriously, calling him not one of the best guards in the division is being absurdly charitable.

If instead of this being the All NFC North team, it was the All Vikings team of the year, I'm not sure he would be deserving of that guard spot either. 

27 There's a reason I said he…

There's a reason I said he had about a 1% chance of being on the roster next season. It's not because 2.3 million is a steep cap number for a guard. Really don't know what Weintraub was looking at.