Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Jan 2018

AP Releases 2017 All-Pro Teams

Forget the Pro Bowl, where the best (non-injured) (non-Super Bowl) (non-"any excuse I can find") players go head to head (in a game where no one tries); the real highest honor in the NFL is being named to the AP's All-Pro team. On Friday, the voting results were released, and you can view them all here.

Here is the first team:


Quarterback: Tom Brady, New England
Running Back: Todd Gurley, LA Rams
Flex: Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, New England
Wide Receivers: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh; DeAndre Hopkins, Houston
Left Tackle: Andrew Whitworth, LA Rams
Right Tackle: Lane Johnson, Philadelphia
Left Guard: Andrew Norwell, Carolina
Right Guard: David DeCastro, Pittsburgh
Center: Jason Kelce, Philadelphia


Edge Rushers: Calais Campbell, Jacksonville; Cameron Jordan, New Orleans
Interior Linemen: Aaron Donald, LA Rams; Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh
Linebackers: Chandler Jones, Arizona; Luke Kuechly, Carolina; Bobby Wagner, Seattle
Cornerbacks: Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville; Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota
Safeties: Kevin Byard, Tennessee; Harrison Smith, Minnesota
Defensive Back: Darius Slay, Detroit

Special Teams

Placekicker: Greg Zuerlein, Los Angeles Rams
Punter: Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams
Kick Returner: Pharoh Cooper, Los Angeles Rams
Punt Returner: Jamal Agnew, Detroit
Special Teamer: Budda Baker, Arizona

Antonio Brown was the only player selected unanimously, with all 50 voters giving him the nod. He is one of four returning first-team All-Pros from last season, joining Aaron Donald, Johnny Hekker and Bobby Wagner.

The Rams lead all teams with six All-Pros, though Greg Zuerlein probably should have been replaced with Justin Tucker, who has reached "so good it's boring to vote for him" levels. Zuerlein had 22 votes; Tucker had 15.

Harrison Smith was not voted to the Pro Bowl, but gets All-Pro recognition here, with 45 first-place votes. The second safety position was much more tightly contested, with Kevin Byard (12) just squeaking out a victory over Earl Thomas (11), Micah Hyde (9) and Eric Weddle (7).

Left guard was a really, really close race. Andrew Norwell gets first-place recognition with just 11 votes. Roger Saffold of the Rams had 10, followed by Buffalo's Richie Incognito with 8 and Oakland's Kelechi Osemele with 7. All in all, 12 different left guards received votes, including three for Zack Martin, the second-team All Pro right guard. Martin received 17 votes in total.

The secondary is a little bit of a mess. Two years ago, the AP wisely updated their years-old system, replacing fullback with a flex position on offense and adding a fifth defensive back position on defense, among others. Trouble is, voters vote for two cornerbacks, two safeties, and then a "defensive back", and those votes aren't combined. So A.J. Bouye, who received 18 votes for cornerback and two votes for defensive back, loses out to Darius Slay, who received six votes for cornerback and eight votes for defensive back. Two steps forward, one step back, I suppose.

Posted by: Bryan Knowles on 05 Jan 2018

21 comments, Last at 13 Jan 2018, 11:47pm by RickD


by jtr :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 2:53pm

I don't have any real objections about the players that ended up being selected in the front seven (especially since I've been pulling for Cam Heyward for years), but aren't the position designations a bit weird? Isn't Chandler Jones primarily an edge rusher and Calais Campbell primarily an interior lineman?

And the "defensive back" thing should just be designated "slot corner" or "nickel". That's an actual NFL position now and it should be treated as such, rather than just as another cornerback.

by Bryan Knowles :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:07pm

Campbell's been playing a lot of 4-3 defensive end with Jacksonville in their base package; kicking inside when they go to nickel, so calling him an edge rusher isn't the strangest decision in the world. He, like a number of other players, doesn't quite fit in the box they're trying to put him in. Still miles better than the old DE/DT/ILB/OLB positions they used up until 2015, but some guys just don't fit in those boxes. Campbell did indeed get 10 votes as an interior lineman as well, meaning 44 people thought he was worth a first-team selection; they just couldn't agree as to where.

Jones got one vote as an edge rusher, but 41 as a linebacker; I'd have called him an edge rusher too, but the voters seemed pretty happy with where they put him.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:27pm

Rather than "defensive back" or "nickel corner" positions, I think they should just go with 3 corners.

Yea, it's true that outside and slot corners are very different positions (just like in-line and "move" tight ends entail very different skill sets), but how many pure slot corners in the league are truly great enough to warrant AP consideration? On the other hand, just having 3 CBs will give more guys (who are truly amongst the best players on defense) a chance to make the AP team.

I do have to give the AP props for at least acknowledging that the game has changed, and trying to address the positions problem. Wish the Pro Bowl would join the 21st century and do the same.

by Bryan Knowles :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:53pm

Yeah, I definitely want to restate that getting rid of "fullback", splitting the offensive line into individual positions rather than two tackles and two guards, rejiggering the front seven and adding a punt returner (rather than just one general returnman) are all great moves by the AP and should be applauded.

They just took preexisting issues when a player didn't fit into a pre-existing box and made it worse with the addition of the 'extra' skill position/secondary player. Bouye is essentially penalized because some people thought he was too good to be the third cornerback!

A similar issue sort of reared it's head in 2015, when Khalil Mack split votes between Outside Linebacker and Defensive End. He just had so many votes, and such a clear lead, that he was named first-team All-Pro at BOTH positions (which is one of the reasons the AP made the change). It'd be easy to imagine him being a little bit less good that year and missing out in both spots thanks to vote splitting.

There's a couple options they could do to fix this, most simply rolling "unused" skill position/secondary votes into the flex spot. However, there are situations where THAT wouldn't really work, either (i.e.: picture a race where one amazing running back earned all 50 votes over a very good second choice, but two mediocre tight ends split votes there. Should that second mediocre tight end get a 20-odd vote head start over the second, not-quite-amazing-but-still-very-good back?).

Some kinks to work out.

by jtr :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:42pm

I don't know if I agree with splitting up the guard and tackle positions by side. If there's a right guard out there who's better than Norwell but worse than DeCastro, should he really be the second team right guard instead of just one of the two first team guards? They're essentially the same position. It's not like they split defensive players into RDE/LDE, ROLB/LOLB, etc, so why should they split guard and tackle by sides? I can't say I'm bothered if the two top left tackles both make first team All Pro and no right tackles are represented if the LT's are better players.

by The Ninjalectual :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 4:00pm

How do you figure left guard is the same position as right guard? Like a knowledgeable authority saying the same? It would require that all NFL linemen be ambidextrous

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:45pm

"Yeah, I definitely want to restate that getting rid of "fullback", splitting the offensive line into individual positions rather than two tackles and two guards"

How do they handle linemen for left-handed QBs? (Your "right tackle" plays left tackle in that situation)

by jtr :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:42pm

>how many pure slot corners in the league are truly great enough to warrant AP consideration?

Chris Harris Jr has made the first or second team All Pro each of the last three seasons while playing primarily in the slot. And Tyrann Mathieu made first team two years ago while primarily playing slot, though he's listed at free safety and they move him all over.

Ultimately, it's just a different position, so it should be treated that way. Saying they should just have more CB spots is like saying that we shouldn't treat guards and centers differently from tackles.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 4:58pm

Those are two players you listed. There are typically far more outside corners in a given year who would truly merit all-pro consideration.

The 3 corner idea is not perfect by any means, but in my opinion, it would be the simplest solution. Darius Slay (I can't tell you for sure he was as good as Bouye, but he had an under the radar great season, against some elite competition), is most definitely NOT a slot corner, so I'm kind of scratching my head as to why he was voted in as "defensive back", and why Bouye got any "defensive back" votes at all. Clearly the AP voters are as confused as we are about the positions.

by jtr :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 5:31pm

I just named those two because they're the top slot corners in the league right now. And for the three previous seasons to this one, one or both of them made first or second All Pro even though their real position wasn't listed on the ballot.

And now that I'm digging into the second team All Pro, there's even more confusion. Xavier Rhodes made second team as Defensive Back and first team as Cornerback. LeVeon Bell made first team Flex and second team RB, while Alvin Kamara made second team Flex--apparently most voters this year chose Flex to mean whoever they thought was the second-best RB in the league. Calais Campbell made first team edge and second team interior line, and Von Miller made second team LB even though he's obviously an edge rusher. It's a damn mess, and there's no reason for it to be this complicated.

So there's a lot of damn confusion with the voters as far as who should be eligible for what position, and there's no clarity at all as to what should be done with Flex and DB. The obvious first step for these is for the AP to clearly define each player's position prior to the vote, like on the Pro Bowl ballot. There's no reason for some people to be putting Campbell down on the edge and some on the interior. I'm sure Von Miller ended up splitting his own vote between LB and EDGE. Second, there should be a Borda Count vote system, where voters list their top several players in order, maybe 3 each for positions where only one player is chosen and 5 or 6 for positions where several are chosen. That way, FLEX and DB could simply be the top vote-getter who didn't take first in his respective position. Finally, whoever takes FLEX or DB first team should be taken out of the running for second-team at their position. It just makes no damn sense to say that a player was first team and second team All Pro at the same time, but the AP did just that for Campbell, Rhodes, and Bell this year.

by andrew :: Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:48pm

I guess this agrees with our ranking for the Rams' special teams.

by bachslunch :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 3:26pm

I’m firmly a believer that AP is not the only game in town when it comes to all pro honors. Nowadays there are also teams selected by Pro Football Writers, Pro Football Focus, and Sporting News, and I see no reason not to consider them as equals.

by The Ninjalectual :: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 4:02pm

How about the FO reader polls?

by amin purshottam :: Sun, 01/07/2018 - 1:00am

How the hell is Gronk not a unanimous choice??? No one else is even close at TE. Sorry Kelce is not in the same universe.

by Alternator :: Sun, 01/07/2018 - 11:05pm

Kelce had similar numbers as a receiver, and it wouldn't surprise me for a couple of voters to ignore Gronk's (massively) superior blocking just to vote for somebody different.

by RickD :: Sat, 01/13/2018 - 11:47pm

I suppose it's asking a lot to get voters to look at FO's stats.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/10/2018 - 11:03am

Kelce wasn't suspended for a game for trying to paralyze a guy.

by RickD :: Sat, 01/13/2018 - 11:45pm

Nor was Gronk.

by JimZipCode :: Sun, 01/07/2018 - 10:50pm

As a Ravens fan, it is difficult for me to frame the idea that there is a better kicker than Justin Tucker. Is Greg Zuerlein just that good?

by ssereb :: Mon, 01/08/2018 - 1:47am

This season, Zuerlein was very marginally more accurate than Tucker kicking field goals, marginally less accurate kicking extra points, and had a huge advantage in terms of kicking conditions. FO says that Tucker was better on kickoffs and was overall a much better kicker. Zuerlein also missed two games.

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 01/08/2018 - 1:16pm

Zuerlein might be the best kicker humanity has to offer.

Tucker, as we all know, is otherworldly.