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Midseason All-Pro teams, eye test vs. Next Gen Stats: Offense

With eight weeks of the 2017 NFL campaign in the books, Chris Wesseling and Matt Harmon provide their Midseason All-Pro teams. Where do Wesseling's seasoned eye and Harmon's Next Gen Stats-based evaluations differ -- and where do they converge?


Chris Wesseling: Tom Brady, New England Patriots. If you'd rather reward Alex Smith or Carson Wentz, that's perfectly understandable. But Brady carries his offense to a greater extent than Smith, and he's been a more consistent passer and decision-maker than Wentz. Of all the marvels in Brady's exceptional career, the most impressive might just be the dominant fashion in which he has reimagined possibilities for aging quarterbacks, increasing his efficiency across the board in completion percentage, yards per attempt, yards per game, touchdown-to-interception ratio and passer rating every year from ages 36 to 39. He has a chance to do it again at 40, while also leading the league in attempts, completions and passing yards.

Matt Harmon: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks. After a typically slow start to the season for the entire Seattle offense, Wilson has been white-hot over the past month. His 89.2 passer rating when throwing into tight windows (the NFL average is 54.0) ranks second among starting quarterbacks. His elevation of the offense despite a hopeless ground game broke ties in his favor. Seattle's running backs average 3.16 yards gained after defenders close within a yard of them, ranking 29th in the NFL.

Running back

Wesseling: Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs. You can count on one hand the number of backs in nearly 100 years of NFL action with better numbers in the first two months of their careers. It's no surprise that Hunt is an upgrade over the dependable but unspectacular Spencer Ware in Kansas City. What has jumped off the tape, though, is the combination of uncanny balance and never-say-die physicality with which the rookie punishes tacklers and adds yards after contact.

Harmon: Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs. The third-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft looked the part the second he hit the NFL stage with a demolition of the New England Patriots in the season-opener. Hunt proved himself to be no fluke with sustained excellence throughout the year. Already one of the most difficult running backs to bring down, Hunt averages 4.76 rushing yards after defenders close within one yard of him (the NFL average is 3.6), the second-most among backs with 60-plus carries.

Wide receivers

Wesseling: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers and DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans. Brown put the Steelers' offense on his back while the rest of the marquee names struggled to hone their timing in September and early October. He's on pace for 1,670 receiving yards in a season in which no other wideout is on pace to clear 1,400. The NFL's premier boundary receiver and a contortionist at the catch point, Hopkins drew a slew of defensive pass-interference penalties as a chain-moving one-man show prior to Will Fuller's early October return. Now Hopkins and Fuller are functioning as a dynamic complementary duo in Houston, helping Deshaun Watson take the league by storm.

Harmon: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers and DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans. It's hard to make a case for anyone but Brown as the best wide receiver in the NFL. He leads all pass-catchers this season with a 45 percent share of his team's intended air yards. Hopkins is a revived man with Deshaun Watson under center. Known as a contested-catch threat, Hopkins has been an elite separator this year. He averages 3.05 yards of separation on his routes (the NFL average is 2.9).

(UPDATE: Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson suffered a tear in his right ACL in practice on Thursday, ending his season.)


Wesseling: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams. With all due respect to Leonard Fournette's broad shoulders in Jacksonville, Gurley gets the nod for his impact as a receiver -- a skill that went to waste under the previous Rams regime. On pace to accrue 2,103 yards from scrimmage, the Comeback Player of the Year candidate is a testament to new coach Sean McVay's precociousness as one of the game's brightest offensive minds. McVay is the type of inspired hire capable of transforming an organization and altering the outlook of an entire generation of Rams fans.

Harmon: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams. If there were a co-winner for this award, it would go to Gurley's head coach, young wizard Sean McVay. Gurley's new role as a receiver might mark the starkest contrast from his years trapped under Jeff Fisher. The dynamic back owns a 5.1 percent share of Rams quarterback Jared Goff's intended air yards. Only Kareem Hunt and LeSean McCoy outpace him among true feature backs. Gurley averages 10.9 yards per catch on backfield targets.

Tight end

Wesseling: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs. Rob Gronwkowski remains the league's best all-around tight end. Going back to last November, though, Kelce has overtaken the perennial All-Pro as a matchup nightmare for safeties, clearing the century mark in eight of his last 15 regular-season games. As boring as the Chiefs' offense might have been a couple of years ago, this is now a hyper-athletic, star-driven outfit, with Kelce as the passing-game centerpiece. He leads all tight ends in receptions (44), receiving yards (556) and yards after the catch (207), per NFL Research.

Harmon: Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles. Ertz has decided to make it December all year here in 2017. Typically saving his best work for the conclusion of the regular season, Ertz has emerged as the steadiest weapon in Carson Wentz's high-flying passing offense. Don't ignore his flair for the spectacular, however. Wentz has a 140.4 passer rating when targeting Ertz in tight windows, which leads all tight ends this season (with a minimum of three tight-window targets).


Wesseling: Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns and Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles. Unfortunately lost forthe season due to devastating injuries sustained within the same 36-hour window in Week 7, both tackles will be conspicuous by their absence when we run the final All-Pro list in early January. It's fitting, however, that the seemingly termless tandem likely to be honored on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's All-Decade Team were still outplaying ballyhooed blockers 10 years their junior before they went down. Another ageless tackle, Andrew Whitworth, deserves special mention for turning the Rams' offensive line around as Jared Goff's blindside protector.

Harmon: Andrew Whitworth, Los Angeles Rams and Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns. Whitworth is a game-changing force in the Rams' ground attack. Gurley averaged -0.1 yards before a defender closed within 1 yard of him in 2016. With Whitworth in the fold, the Rams' backs average 0.89 yards before defenders close in, third-best in the league. Joe Thomas gets a nod despite his IR status. Cleveland allowed 8.3 pressures per game on the left side in Weeks 1-7 but 13 in their first game without Thomas.


Wesseling: Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys and David DeCastro, Pittsburgh Steelers. While gnawing anxiety eats away at Cowboys fans regarding Ezekiel Elliott's status, Dallas' ground attack find itself clicking on all cylinders behind Martin and peripatetic former Cardinals draft bust Jonathan Cooper. Barring an upset, Martin will headline this list for the better part of the next decade. Pittsburgh's offensive line has taken a step back in consistency this season through no fault of DeCastro, who keeps Ben Roethlisberger clean and opens lanes for The Great Hesitator in his backfield.

Harmon: David DeCastro, Pittsburgh Steelers and Shaq Mason, New England Patriots. A former first-round pick, DeCastro has solidified his spot as one of the top right guards in the NFL. The Steelers allow an 11 percent pressure rate on the right side of their offensive line, the fourth-lowest in the league (the NFL average is 15.4). Shaq Mason is one of the rare guards who is a treat to watch run-block. New England's running backs average 0.48 yards gained before defenders close within a yard, which ranks 10th.


Wesseling: Alex Mack, Atlanta Falcons. It's no secret that the Falcons have suffered a precipitous decline in production under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. With Mack in the pivot, however, this offense entered Week 8 atop the leader boards in yards per drive, plays per drive and time of possession. Mack is enjoying the finest season of his sterling nine-year career. Jason Kelce merits kudos as the nimble linchpin of the Eagles' ground attack.

Harmon: Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys' once-famous line sprung a few leaks this year, but Frederick remains one of the rock-solid stalwarts on the front five. Dallas is one of just six teams this season that has yet to allow a sack or pressure through the center of its offensive line. The run-blocking was rounding into form the last two weeks, as Ezekiel Elliott averaged 1.6 and 0.9 yards before close (0.17 for the season).


Wesseling: Greg Zuerlein, Los Angeles Rams. Baltimore's Justin Tucker is setting a new standard for long-distance expectations, but Zuerlein's early-season production can't be ignored. The NFL's leading scorer has converted 42 of 43 kicks, drilling all seven field-goal attempts in the Rams' 35-30 upset victory at Dallas in Week 4.

Harmon: Harrison Butker, Kansas City Chiefs. Not often does a kicker become a national sensation, but we're almost there with "Buttkicker," thanks to his prime-time efforts. Snagging him off the Carolina Panthers' practice squad, the Chiefs got a true gem. He's the finishing piece for one of the NFL's best offenses, knocking back 94.7 percent of his field-goal attempts this season and all of his extra points.


Wesseling: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs.Cordarrelle Patterson is the most electrifying kickoff specialist of the past half-decade, but that species is going the way of the fullback in the golden age of the touchback. Hill's difference-making speed and elusive short-area quickness make him the most dangerous player with the ball in his hands.

Harmon: Cordarrelle Patterson, Oakland Raiders. If we weren't still bent out of shape by him being a first-round whiff by the Vikings as a true wide receiver, we'd regard Patterson as one of the best role players in the NFL. One of the best special teamers around, Patterson posted a top speed of 19.96 mph on a 39-yard return in Week 6 -- the third-fastest on any kick return this year. Maybe he'll consider unblocking this long-time fan for writing this.

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