A look at Curran's All-Pro ballot: Defense

A look at Curran's All-Pro ballot: Defense
January 4, 2014, 2:15 pm
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The AP All-Pro team was unveiled Friday. When announced, there was a first team and a second team. When the voters cast their votes, it’s just for the first team so the second team is comprised of the players in the “others receiving votes” category.
 
Before I cast my votes this week, I talked to current players, coaches and analysts about the players that impressed them. Without fail, the people I asked (and have asked for the past seven years) gave an honest effort to share their input. Being named All-Pro is a big deal.
 
The night before the Super Bowl, the regular-season award winners will be announced – MVP, Coach of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, etc. I’ll share my votes on those after they are announced.
 
Here, I’ll list the All-Pro selections by position, who I voted for and the thought process behind it.
 
DEFENSE
 
DEFENSIVE END
FIRST TEAM: J.J. Watt, Houston; Robert Quinn, St. Louis.
SECOND TEAM: Mario Williams, Buffalo; Greg Hardy, Carolina.

Pretty easy call on this one given the production of Quinn and the near-unanimous raves about Watt as perhaps being even better in 2013 than he was in 2012. I voted for the Watt and Quinn.
 
 
DEFENSIVE TACKLE
FIRST TEAM: Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay; Ndamukong Suh, Detroit.
SECOND TEAM: Dontari Poe, Kansas City; Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets, Jurrell Casey, Tennessee and Justin Smith, San Francisco.

I also voted for McCoy and Suh, although I’m pleased to see Muhammad Wilkerson did get votes because he had an outstanding season. Which leads me to a minor quandary as a voter. I think it’s on me to vote for the best guy, period. Not to flip a vote to a guy who had a good year to give him some recognition if I think the deserving guys are going to win. I’m not saying that’s what anyone voting for Poe, Wilkerson, Casey or Smith did. I am saying I’ve considered throwing a recognition vote to a guy (Devin McCourty at safety) but decided against it because I believe you have to vote for the very best.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
FIRST TEAM: Robert Mathis, Indianapolis; Lavonte David, Tampa Bay.
SECOND TEAM: Tamba Hali, Kansas City; Ahmad Brooks, San Francisco.

I voted for Robert Mathis and Justin Houston and none of my advisors had a quibble with those votes.

INSIDE LINEBACKER
FIRST TEAM:  Luke Kuechly, Carolina; NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco.
SECOND TEAM: Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati; Karlos Dansby, Arizona.

I voted for Kuechly and Bowman. Also, Patrick Willis was mentioned as an option. Thomas Davis of the Panthers was also described by a player as the most underrated defensive player in the league.

CORNERBACK
FIRST TEAM: Richard Sherman, Seattle; Patrick Peterson, Arizona.
SECOND TEAM: Aqib Talib, New England; Joe Haden, Cleveland and Alterraun Verner, Tennessee.

I initially had Sherman and Brent Grimes of the Dolphins. Just loved the way he played every time I watched him. Believe it or not, I heard more support for the Bengals Terrence Newman than anyone outside Sherman and Peterson. Also recommended were Darrelle Revis, Joe Haden and Johnathan Joseph. I know Talib was actually one of the best defenders in football for the first two months but his play tailed off after getting hurt. Ultimately, I knew Peterson was the most sensible choice.

SAFETY
FIRST TEAM: Earl Thomas, Seattle; Eric Berry, Kansas City.
SECOND TEAM: Eric Weddle, San Diego; Kam Chancellor, Seattle, Jairus Byrd, Buffalo, T.J. Ward, Cleveland, Devin McCourty, New England and Antrel Rolle, New York Giants.

I voted for Thomas and Berry. Was told by one knowledgeable advisor that Thomas is the NFL’s best defender. On McCourty, he had a few dropped interceptions that made it hard for me to give him a vote over Berry. It’s a situation where I’m probably grading too hard on a guy I see all the time relative to the other voters who may only see highlights and stats.  

KICKER
FIRST TEAM: Justin Tucker, Baltimore.
SECOND TEAM: Matt Prater, Denver.

I voted for Stephen Gostkowski. Laid out the reasons for that vote here. I can see why Tucker was selected. A little homework would have prevented whoever voted for Prater to realize his season was inferior to Gostkowski’s.

PUNTER
FIRST TEAM: Johnny Hekker, St. Louis.
SECOND TEAM: Brandon Fields, Miami.

I voted for Fields based on the fact he and Hekker had similar numbers but Fields was kicking in the elements while Hekker’s home was a dome.

KICK RETURNER
FIRST TEAM: Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota.
SECOND TEAM: Dexter McCluster, Kansas City.
 
Patterson was a pretty easy selection though when I noticed McCluster returned 57 punts and had just 11 fair catches his fearlessness made an impression. Next bravest punt returner? Golden Tate who had 14 fair catches and 51 returns.

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