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2014 All-Pro Teams: Analysis of the full rosters

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When historians and researchers study an NFL player's career, it's not the number of Pro Bowl selections that carry the most weight. Landing a spot on the All-Pro first team has always been more prestigious, as well as a more accurate sign of a player's value during that season.

The voting process isn't perfect (especially in regard to the runners-up), but the list often does a respectable job of accomplishing its primary goal: listing the cream of the crop at each NFL position.

The 2014 All-Pro squad was announced on Friday. Here is our position-by-position breakdown:

Offense

Quarterback
First team: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, 44.
Second team: Tony Romo, Dallas, 3.
Others receiving votes: Tom Brady, New England, 2; Andrew Luck, Indianapolis, 1.

Peyton Manning received all 50 votes last year. Rodgers might have been the unanimous choice this season if his counting numbers weren't deflated by so many games that ended by halftime in Lambeau Field. With apologies to Romo's career year in a run-first offense, Rodgers was alone atop the NFL at quarterback in 2014.

Running backs
First team: DeMarco Murray, Dallas, 48; Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh, 44.
Second team: Marshawn Lynch, Seattle, 7. (One voter selected only one running back.)

This was an easy choice. The surprise is that Murray was not a unanimous selection after leading the NFL in rushing and breaking records for most consecutive 100-yard performances to start a season. As stellar as Lynch was in carrying the Seahawks' offense, Bell was the best all-around back in football this year.

Fullback
First team: John Kuhn, Green Bay, 18.
Second team: Anthony Sherman, Kansas City, 14.
Others receiving votes: Marcel Reece, Oakland, 12; Bruce Miller, San Francisco, 3; Marshawn Lynch, Seattle, 1; Kyle Juszczyk, Baltimore, 1. (One voter did not select a fullback.)

Perhaps it's time to do away with All-Pro acknowledgment for a position that is going the way of the dinosaur. Kuhn got the nod because writers recognize and apparently love the Lambeau Field's "Kuuuuhn!" cheer. An afterthought in most offensive packages, he participated in just 18 percent of the Packers' snaps this season. Bruce Miller of the 49ers is the Kuhn ideal made real. Sherman is a worthy second-team selection.

Tight end
First team: Rob Gronkowski, New England, 50.

No other tight end received a vote because Gronk's hegemony over the position is undisputed. "Pieced together by the football gods," as NFL Media's Nate Burleson quipped, Gronk's first five NFL seasons are the most dominant half-decade stretch by any tight end in NFL history.

Wide receivers
First team: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh, 49; Dez Bryant, Dallas, 24.
Second team: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay, 15; Demaryius Thomas, Denver, 11.
Others receiving votes: Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants, 1.

It's a mild surprise that Julio Jones didn't receive a single vote, but it's hard to quibble with the top four vote-getters. Brown has to be on the first team as a nod to his consistency. Even if Nelson has the strongest argument for the other spot, Bryant carried the Cowboys' aerial attack and came up with huge catches in key situations while leading the league in touchdowns. Thomas can be as unstoppable as any receiver when he's not hampered by nagging injuries. Rookie sensation Odell Beckham made one ballot.

Tackles
First team: Tyron Smith, Dallas, 35; Joe Thomas, Cleveland, 22.
Second team: Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati, 14; Jason Peters, Philadelphia, 12.
Others receiving votes: Ryan Clady, Denver, 4; Sebastian Vollmer, New England, 3; Joe Staley, San Francisco, 3; Ricky Wagner, Baltimore, 2; Trent Williams, Washington, 1; Lane Johnson, Philadelphia, 1; Jared Veldheer, Arizona, 1; Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay, 1; Louis Vasquez, Denver, 1.

Former Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride believes Smith is the most valuable of all the Cowboys' MVP candidates. With quick feet and elite athleticism calling to mind Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz, Smith will be a mainstay on this list. Whitworth didn't allow a single sack and only one quarterback hit all year, per Pro Football Focus; he was more deserving than Thomas. Ricky Wagner of the Ravens should have been the recipient of more than two votes.

Guards
First team: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore, 38; Zack Martin, Dallas, 24.
Second team: Josh Sitton, Green Bay, 22; Kyle Long, Chicago, 5.
Others receiving votes: Mike Iupati, San Francisco, 4; Evan Mathis, Philadelphia, 2; Jahri Evans, New Orleans, 2; Joel Bitonio, Cleveland, 1; Dan Connolly, New England, 1; James Carpenter, Seattle, 1.

Yanda was the premier offensive lineman in the game this season, teaming with left guard Kelechi Osemele to pave the way for Justin Forsett's surprising breakout season. Martin is the only rookie to earn All-Pro recognition, soothing Jerry Jones' troubled soul. Sitton keyed the best offensive line of Aaron Rodgers' career.

Center
First team: Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh, 21.
Second team: Travis Frederick, Dallas, 14.
Others receiving votes: Nick Mangold, New York Jets, 7; Jason Kelce, Philadelphia, 5; Corey Linsley, Green Bay, 1; Rodney Hudson, Kansas City, 1; Ryan Kalil, Carolina, 1.

Pouncey gets decorated after each season regardless if he plays well. This was perhaps his best season. Frederick has more than justified Dallas' decision to "reach" for him in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Nick Mangold of the Jets enjoyed an excellent bounce-back season of his own.

Placekicker
First team: Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis, 25.
Second team: Stephen Gostkowski, New England, 21.
Others receiving votes: Matt Bryant, Atlanta, 1; Dan Bailey, Dallas, 1; Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona, 1; Justin Tucker, Baltimore, 1.

Vinatieri went without a miss until the season finale. In watching Game Rewind all season, though, Dan Bailey of the Cowboys was the league's best kicker.

Kick Returner
First team: Adam Jones, Cincinnati, 17.
Second team: Darren Sproles, Philadelphia, 15.
Others receiving votes: Devin Hester, Atlanta, 14; Jacoby Jones, Baltimore, 3; De'Anthony Thomas, Kansas City, 1.

I spent the Christmas break in Cincinnati, where the outrage over Jones' Pro Bowl snub was palpable. The Queen City faithful can take solace in Pacman's All-Pro selection after finishing in the top three in kickoff- and punt-return average.

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Defense

Ends
First team: J.J. Watt, Houston, 45; Mario Williams, Buffalo, 24.
Second team: Calais Campbell, Arizona, 11; Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia, 5.
Others receiving votes: Cameron Wake, Miami, 5; Michael Bennett, Seattle, 3; Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore, 3; Everson Griffen, Minnesota, 1; Jerry Hughes, Buffalo, 1; Robert Quinn, St. Louis, 1; Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets, 1.

Watt joined Gronkowski as the only unanimous selections, but five voters opted to place him at defensive tackle for his dominance on the interior in subpackages. Watt's last three seasons are the most impressive we have ever seen from a defensive lineman. Campbell deserved a first-team nod for holding Arizona's injury-depleted defense together, but Williams' furious finish lit up more boxscores. It's nice to see Cox get recognition after being shut out of the Pro Bowl. Michael Bennett, Everson Griffen and the Jets' duo of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson all enjoyed standout seasons.

Tackles
First team: Ndamukong Suh, Detroit, 41; Marcell Dareus, Buffalo, 24.
Second team: Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay, 13; J.J. Watt, Houston, 5.
Others receiving votes: Kyle Williams, Buffalo, 4; Aaron Donald, St. Louis, 4; Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets, 4; Sen'Derrick Marks, Jacksonville, 2; Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia, 2; Calais Campbell, Arizona, 1.

Gregg Rosenthal believes McCoy was this year's biggest first-team snub because there's no better interior pass rusher. Suh was the linchpin on one of the five best run defenses of the past 25 years and a ferocious pass rusher in his own right. Dareus was the dominant player on the league's most disruptive defensive line.

Outside linebackers
First team: Justin Houston, Kansas City, 47; Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore, 13.
Second team: Von Miller, Denver, 11; Connor Barwin, Philadelphia, 11.
Others receiving votes: DeAndre Levy, Detroit, 7; Clay Matthews, Green Bay, 5; Ryan Kerrigan, Washington, 3; Lavonte David, Tampa Bay, 2; Terrell Suggs, Baltimore, 1.

Voters are guilty of using the sacks list as a cheat sheet. Although Houston was deserving of a unanimous selection, Miller was robbed in the second spot. He's a difference-maker in the run game whereas Dumervil is a situational pass rusher. From the beginning of October to the end of November, Barwin was an absolute terror for the Eagles.

Inside linebacker
First team: Luke Kuechly, Carolina, 43; Bobby Wagner, Seattle, 31.
Second team: C.J. Mosley, Baltimore, 9; DeAndre Levy, Detroit, 4; Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh, 4.
Others receiving votes: Jamie Collins, New England, 2; Dont'a Hightower, New England, 2; D'Qwell Jackson, Indianapolis, 1; Brandon Marshall, Denver, 1; Clay Matthews, Green Bay, 1; Larry Foote, Arizona, 1; Mychal Kendricks, Philadelphia 1.

Eleven voters understood that Levy was one of the best defensive players in the league. They just couldn't agree on his position. Kuechly has been the best middle linebacker in football for two years running. Wagner isn't far behind, taking his game to another level. His five missed games didn't trouble the voters.

Cornerbacks
First team: Darrelle Revis, New England, 42; Richard Sherman, Seattle, 41.
Second team: Chris Harris Jr., Denver, 9; Brent Grimes, Miami, 4.
Others receiving votes: Vontae Davis, Indianapolis, 2; Aqib Talib, Denver, 1; Joe Haden, Cleveland, 1.

It's fitting that Revis and Sherman top the list, as they were the NFL's best at shutting down top receivers. Aqib Talib handles that role for the Broncos, but it's still a pleasant surprise to see Harris rewarded for posting the league's best opposing passer rating. Vontae Davis deserved more votes but lacked Grimes' highlight-reel signature play. Joe Haden might have earned a spot if the September game film was burned.

Safeties
First team: Earl Thomas, Seattle, 39; Eric Weddle, San Diego, 16.
Second team: Kam Chancellor, Seattle, 14; Glover Quin, Detroit, 13.
Others receiving votes: Harrison Smith, Minnesota, 7; Antoine Bethea, San Francisco, 5; Devin McCourty, New England, 2; Tashaun Gipson, Cleveland, 2; Charles Woodson, Oakland, 1; Rashad Johnson, Arizona, 1.

As the key to the NFL's stingiest defense for three consecutive seasons, Thomas is a worthy successor to Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu as the consensus top safety. Still just 25 years old, he now has four All-Pro nods and five Pro Bowls under his belt. Weddle enjoyed a typically excellent season, but we would have preferred Antoine Bethea of the 49ers as the other first-team safety. Playing through an ankle injury, Chancellor was actually a liability for a significant portion of the season.

Punter
First team: Pat McAfee, Indianapolis, 26.
Second team: Johnny Hekker, St. Louis, 12.
Others receiving votes: Sam Koch, Baltimore, 8; Kevin Huber, Cincinnati, 2; Bryan Anger, Jacksonville, 1. (One voter did not select a punter.)

We are in a golden age of punting, and McAfee is a maestro. Hekker is right on his heels. This one was easy.

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Below is a table of the first and second teams' depth charts:


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