The Associated Press have made some dramatic changes to the format of the All-Pro defense following last year’s Khalil Mack debacle. They have done away with individual defensive positions and grouped players together into their suitable roles. So we have Edge Rushers, Interior Defenders, and Linebackers now, which makes far more sense and clears up any defensive end/outside linebacker issues. They have also added a “defensive back” position to reflect the frequency of nickel defenses that are played in the NFL now. So, who made our All-Pro defense and special teams?
Edge Rushers: Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders & Vic Beasley Jr, Atlanta Falcons
Mack started 2016 slow, but over the final 12 games of the season he was a monster who terrorised every quarterback who dared to drop back against the Raiders. However it wasn’t just against the pass where Mack excelled, he was also one of the best run defenders in the league.
Vic Beasley ended a breakout campaign as the leading sack-getter in the NFL with 15.5, and while he wasn’t as consistent as others at his best Beasley was a game-wrecker. He picked up 3.5 sacks in a huge win at Denver in Week 5 that really announced both himself and the Falcons as contenders this season.
Interior: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams & Calais Campbell, Arizona Cardinals
Aaron Donald’s team may have been disappointing this season, but the man himself was anything but. He lead the NFL with 17 tackles for loss and 31 QB hits as he dominated the interior of every line he played against.
Calais Campbell was his usual brilliant self in 2016, moving around the line and causing havoc wherever he went. Eight sacks were supported by 12 tackles for loss and 21 QB hits as he was once again a key component in the Cardinals defense.
Linebackers: Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks; Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys & Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
Bobby Wagner lead the NFL in tackles with 167, but that wasn’t all he did. With 18 QB hits and 4.5 sacks Wagner was a far more successful blitzer than in years previous, while he also maintained good coverage over the middle.
Sean Lee played an entire season, or would have but for the Cowboys benching him in Week 17, for the first time and he is justly rewarded with an All-Pro spot. Lee was spectacular in 2016 as he flew around the field making plays wherever he went.
Luke Kuechly played just 10 games this season, but he was truly brilliant in those games and banked enough quality performances to make the difference over players who played the whole season.
Cornerbacks: Aqib Talib, Denver Broncos & Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs
Talib didn’t allow a touchdown all season, which isn’t too bad for a cornerback. Pro Football Reference measured him as allowing a passer rating of 49.5 this year as he shutdown everyone he came up against.
Marcus Peters is not a shutdown corner. He gives up some plays that other elite corners wouldn’t, but he also generates takeaways like no one else at his position. This year Peters grabbed six interceptions, won the game against Carolina with a forced fumble as he ripped the ball out of Kelvin Benjamin’s hands, and was 3rd in the NFL with 20 passes defensed.
Safety: Landon Collins, New York Giants & Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs
Landon Collins had a spectacular 2016 as he turned into a do-it-all star for the Giants. 125 tackles, four sacks, five interceptions… Collins was a superstar this season and justly won our defensive player of the year award.
Berry played the centrefield roll superbly in 2016 and, like his team-mate Peters, was a playmaking machine for the Chiefs defense. Four interceptions, including a vital pick-6 against Atlanta, a forced fumble and a pick-2 against the Falcons that ended up winning the game.
Defensive Back: Chris Harris, Denver Broncos
Chris Harris takes the new “DB” slot thanks to his terrific play when lined up on receivers anywhere on the field. As a slot corner he is unparallelled thanks to his amazing anticipation and reactions. Harris notched more defensive stops that any other cornerback according to Pro Football Focus.
Kicker: Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
Justin Tucker was perfect in 2016, making every kick that got beyond the line of scrimmage. He was 10 for 10 from over 50 yards and 100% on his extra points as well. The only black mark on Tucker’s record this year was when Shea McClellin lept the long snapper to block his kick, otherwise he was a guarantee.
Punter: Pat McAfee, Indianapolis Colts
McAfee is able to maximise the different variables of punting, from wind to hang-time, to grade out as the best in the league. And that doesn’t even include his strong kick off work. He also completed his first pass in the NFL this season, throwing a fake to Erik Swoope for 35 yards.
Kick Returner: Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
While Lockett didn’t find his way to the endzone this season as a return man he was consistently getting the most out of his opportunities, and making the right decisions when it came to bringing it out or taking the touchback.
Punt Returner: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
Hill was a game-changer for the Chiefs this season, and it was as a returner where he first made his mark. His 15.6 yard return average was second in the NFL to a man who only had 1 return. He took two punts back to the house, including a vital one against Denver in Week 12.
Special Teamer: Matthew Slater, New England Patriots
Matthew Slater is a perennial pick for special teamer, but it’s far more than just a reputation. He is consistently the first man to the ball on punts, with brilliant technique to get himself free of blockers and the speed to cover huge chunks of ground. Slater also has the discipline to break down and make the tackle when he gets there.
Edge: Von Miller, Broncos & Olivier Vernon, Giants
Interior: Damon Harrison, Giants & Fletcher Cox, Eagles
LB: Alec Ogletree, Rams; CJ Mosley, Ravens & KJ Wright, Seahawks
CB: Malcolm Butler, Patriots & Casey Hayward, Chargers
S: Devin McCourty, Patriots & Earl Thomas, Seahawks
DB: AJ Bouye, Texans
K: Matt Bryant, Falcons
P: Johnny Hekker, Rams
KR: Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings
PR: Jalen Richard, Raiders
ST: Justin Bethel, Cardinals
Do you think we missed anyone out? Let us know it the comments below!