|Associated Press/US Presswire
|A.J. Green, Peyton Manning and J.J. Watt (from left to right) have excelled in the 2012 season's first nine weeks.
With the help of a handful of trusted NFL executives, I've come up with my Midseason All-Pro Team. This was a very fun process, but it was also difficult, because there were a few positions that featured several worthy candidates.
The quarterback position is a good example. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has led his team to an 8-0 start, but I chose Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning because he has been slightly better on an individual level. Tampa Bay Buccaneers rusher Doug Martin, the only rookie position player on the team (Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh is also in his first year), beat out some stiff competition for the second running back spot, including the Houston Texans' Arian Foster and the Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch. At wide receiver, there were six or seven viable candidates, but I settled on Cincinnati Bengals stud A.J. Green (who is tied for the NFL lead in touchdown catches) and Indianapolis Colts stalwart Reggie Wayne (who leads the league in receiving yards).
On the defensive side of the ball, there were a few tough calls as well. Green Bay Packers star Clay Matthews has been very productive, but Dallas Cowboys veteran DeMarcus Ware and Denver Broncos youngster Von Miller have been more consistently disruptive at outside linebacker. Both of the Seattle Seahawks' starting cornerbacks (Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner) have played at a very high level this season, but I gave the CB nods to the pair in Chicago. Tim Jennings leads the league with six interceptions and Charles Tillman leads the league with an amazing seven forced fumbles.
Here are a few formatting details for my list:
» In terms of positions and players per position, I followed the formatting employed by The Associated Press for its annual end-of-season All-Pro Team.
» For the offensive tackle position, I chose one right tackle and one left tackle.
» At defensive end, I limited my choices to 4-3 ends.
» At defensive tackle, I considered 3-4 ends and 4-3 tackles.
» At outside linebacker, I limited my choices to 3-4 outside linebackers.
» At inside linebacker, I considered all 4-3 linebackers and 3-4 inside linebackers.
For each position player selected to the list, I've included a brief comment from an NFL personnel executive.
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
NFC executive: "He doesn't always look pretty, but he's still Peyton. They are running his offense from Indy and he has it mastered."
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
AFC executive: "He's a freak. The best running back in the league and he's not even 100 percent healthy."
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
AFC executive: "He's been the top rookie in the league. He's so shifty and explosive."
Vonta Leach, Baltimore Ravens
AFC executive: "He's a contact freak. He's a true throwback and he functions like an extra offensive lineman."
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
NFC executive: "He's a beast. He's not the greatest athlete, but his length and body control are unreal. Can't defend him."
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
NFC executive: "He's the NFL's best vertical threat because of his combination of speed and ball skills."
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
AFC executive: "He's the best route runner in the NFL and he's playing like he's in his prime."
Duane Brown, Houston Texans (left tackle)
NFC executive: "He's playing really well. He's gotten much stronger. He's the best LT in the league right now."
Anthony Davis, San Francisco 49ers (right tackle)
NFC executive: "He's a powerful man. You can't get around him in the pass game and he drives people off the ball in the run game."
Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens
AFC executive: "He's not always pretty, but he's incredibly strong, tough and instinctive."
Mike Iupati, San Francisco 49ers
NFC executive: "He's so wide and strong. He clears a lot of space for their running game. He's a more athletic Leonard Davis."
Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers
NFC executive: "He has a rare combination of strength, athletic ability and instincts. He doesn't put any bad plays on tape."
Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings
He's made 19 of 20 field-goal attempts, nailing all five of his attempts of 50 yards or more.
Leodis McKelvin, Buffalo Bills
He's averaging 29.8 yards per kickoff return and 19.5 yards per punt return.
Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins
NFC executive: "He just keeps getting better. He has developed more moves and added strength."
Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
AFC executive: "He's a total freak. He's a rare talent and he plays with a great motor."
J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
NFC executive: "His motor is unbelievable. He has outstanding instincts. He's by far the NFL's best interior pass rusher."
Calais Campbell, Arizona Cardinals
NFC executive: "He plays too high, but he still finds a way to dominate games."
Von Miller, Denver Broncos
NFC executive: "He's the most explosive edge rusher in the NFL. He plays about six inches off the ground."
DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys
NFC executive: "He's better versus the run than he gets credit for, and he is the top pass rusher in the league."
Daryl Washington, Arizona Cardinals
NFC executive: "He's super explosive and he has a nose for the ball. He's closing in on Patrick Willis' spot as the top inside linebacker in the league."
Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears
AFC executive: "He's always around the ball. He's the key player on the Chicago defense."
Sean Weatherspoon, Atlanta Falcons
NFC executive: "He's been awesome in pass coverage. He's a complete linebacker."
Tim Jennings, Chicago Bears
NFC executive: "He plays much bigger than his size (5-foot-8). He's a big man in a little man's body."
Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears
AFC executive: "He's just starting to get a lot of attention, but he's been a great player for a long time."
Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills
NFC executive: "He has phenomenal ball skills and he's a very good tackler."
Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers
AFC executive: "He's always around the football. He's a great tackler and he always takes the correct pursuit angles."
Thomas Morstead, New Orleans Saints
His net average of 45 yards per punt leads the NFL.
Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.