Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman (USA Today Sports Images)
The Pro Bowl might be a popularity contest in part, but the All-Pro team is considered the more prestigious honor.
The NFL announced the Associated Press' All-Pro first- and second-team roster Friday, and here's our take on the selections — which were mostly good picks:
First team: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Second team: None
Manning was the only quarterback to garner all 50 votes, and rightfully so. There was no other choice here, despite some contrarians wanting to vote for Tom Brady, or whomever else.
The first team is spot on; there were no two better backs in football this season. I can live with Peterson, but Lacy? Please. Matt Forte, even with his blocking, and Marshawn Lynch were the more consistent performers this season.
No fullback does more than Tolbert. Reece is the best pass catcher at the position, but the San Francisco 49ers' Bruce Miller was a great blocker before getting hurt in Week 16.
First team: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions; and Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
Second team: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals; Demaryius Thomas, Broncos; and Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
We're not as bothered by the names here — although the Bears' duo, and the Packers' Jordy Nelson seem to get short shrift here — as we are the order. Gordon first team? He was great and all, but Green and Thomas were better, and Brown more consistent.
First team: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
Second team: Vernon Davis, 49ers
Graham got 49 of the 50 votes, and he probably should have been unanimous. Davis and his 13 touchdowns stole one vote.
Thomas is a great pass blocker, and Peters had an exceptional season coming off two Achilles injuries, so no argument there. Smith and Staley both were very strong, too. Carolina's Jordan Gross might have been worthy, but these are four worthy picks.
How Mathis didn't make the Pro Bowl was an insane crime. He was maybe the best guard in football this season, and perhaps for the past few years. Vasquez is a rock. Evans was good, but maybe not his typically dominant self. There was a lot of chatter around the league with how well the Bears' Matt Slauson played, though maybe not quite this well.
First team: Ryan Kalil, Panthers
Second team: Alex Mack, Browns
Two excellent choices. I am a John Sullivan fan, but I would not put him above either one this season.
The problem here, as it has been for the past decade or so, is the difference between the teams running 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. It's wrong lumping the different schemes together. Watt plays a role as a 3-4 end that's more similar to a 4-3 tackle. But all the choices are worthy for sure; it's just a matter of getting the group right, along with the linebackers. Perhaps Arizona's Calais Campbell, a Shutdown favorite, was unfairly omitted.
First team: Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Ndamukong Suh, Lions
Second team: Dontari Poe; Kansas City Chiefs; Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets; Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans; Justin Smith, 49ers
So why was Smith included here, as a 3-4 end, when Watt was not? Weird — plus, Smith didn't deserve to make the list over Campbell. The rest of the picks are smart. Casey was amazing despite being overlooked in Tennessee. Poe cooled off down the stretch, and perhaps a spot should be created for the Jets' Sheldon Richardson, but no big qualms here.
More 3-4 and 4-3 confusion. But justice, too: David, who was left off the Pro Bowl roster, makes it here deservedly. Mathis was on fire all season and a huge part of why the Colts won games this season. Playing only half a season, Von Miller didn't do enough. Hali's teammate, Justin Houston, belongs in the discussion for sure.
First team: Luke Kuechly, Panthers; and NaVorro Bowman, 49ers
Second team: Vontaze Burfict, Bengals; Karlos Dansby, Arizona Cardinals
I still don't get why the Chiefs' Derrick Johnson gets so overlooked. But it's a loaded spot, and these are some good choices, too. Dansby opened eyes after his career looked to be on the downslope.
First team: Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks; and Patrick Peterson, Cardinals
Second team: Aqib Talib, Patriots; Alterraun Verner, Titans; and Joe Haden, Browns
Our first Seahawk? Hard to believe. No Darrelle Revis? He'd be my pick here over Talib, who flashed and had some big games but was a big inconsistent.
First team: Earl Thomas, Seahawks; and Eric Berry, Chiefs
Second team: Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers; Devin McCourty, Patriots; Kam Chancellor, Seahawks; Jairus Byrd, Bills; T.J. Ward, Browns; and Antrel Rolle, New York Giants
Not much debate with the starters here, although a few more big plays and we might be arguing McCourty over Berry, who faded a bit down the stretch. The other picks are worthy, although I am not as big a Chancellor fan as some other folks are. Thomas is a huge step above him, even with their vastly different roles.
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