AP selects NFL all-decade team for 2010-19
The Associated Press
All-Decade teams are a dicey proposition. Some all-time greats never made such a team because of, basically, bad timing.
Maybe they broke into the NFL in mid-decade, such as Curtis Martin in 1995 or Fred Dean 20 years earlier. Both are Hall of Famers without ever making an All-Decade squad.
Others happened to play in an era jam-packed with stars at their positions. Some had injury-interrupted careers. They also made it into the Canton shrine without All-Decade recognition.
Next Monday, the Hall of Fame and the NFL will announce the roster for the 2010-19 span. Voters were asked to select a first-team and a second-team as follows: six players for each squad at linebacker; four at running back, wide receiver, tackle, guard, defensive end and defensive tackle; three at safety and cornerback; two at quarterback, center, defensive back (a nod to nickel backs), placekicker, punter, kick returner and punt returner; and one offensive flex player (a nod to versatility).
Here’s how one voter filled out the ballot — with lots of alterations during the process. Starting, naturally, with quarterback, which in the past decade became the focal point of every NFL franchise.
If Tom Brady isn’t a unanimous selection, it will be a bigger upset than the Jets over the Colts in Super Bowl 3. Three Super Bowl rings in the decade cements his place.
The other QB considerations all own championships as well: Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. Brees’ overwhelming statistics get the nod, though Wilson is a personal favorite, the most exciting offensive player of the decade.
The difficult part here is finding eight names for both teams. Indeed, only one running back is truly a shoo-in, Adrian Peterson, the only non-quarterback to be voted league MVP in the decade.
Joining him are Le’Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy.
Not so easy here keeping Michael Thomas, Calvin Johnson or Julian Edelman off the first team. Still, there’s plenty of comfort with first-teamers Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and, gulp, Antonio Brown.
With only two slots, they go to Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce, relegating Rob Gronkowski to second team because of his unavailability for too many stretches. Jason Witten also is a tough one to leave off the first team.
In a shout-out to fullbacks, Vonta Leach is the choice. Many voters are likely to vote for Tyreek Hill or Christian McCaffrey, which is fine.
No problem at all here: Joe Thomas, who soon will be in the Hall of Fame, would make any All-Decade compilation. Trent Williams, Andrew Whitworth and Tyron Smith are the other selections.
Only one slam-dunk at this position: the recently retired Marshal Yanda. A good argument could be made for maybe a dozen others, with the picks being Josh Sitton, Zack Martin and David DeCastro.
Four centers deserve nods: Jason Kelce and Nick Mangold, our first-teamers, plus Maurkice Pouncey and Alex Mack, our second-teamers.
The most impactful defender of the decade is J.J. Watt, who won three Defensive Player of the Year awards and, had injuries not interfered, might own a few more.
Calais Campbell, Khalil Mack and Cam Jordan deserve to join Watt.
Aaron Donald almost measures up to Watt as a dominating presence. No one would want to go up against an inside front line that also includes Geno Atkins, Fletcher Cox and recently traded Jurrell Casey.
Luke Kuechly, who retired after last season, Von Miller and Bobby Wagner absolutely define the best, whether they play inside or outside. Asked to select six, there is no way of leaving off Terrell Suggs, Patrick Willis and DeMarcus Ware.
Another spot where there’s hefty competition, though three guys stand out: Darrelle Revis, Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson — all with potential busts in Canton.
Yes, that pushes Stephon Gilmore and Aqib Talib to the second team. We’re OK with that.
The Triple-E squad here: Earl Thomas, by far the top safety of the 10-year period, Eric Weddle and Eric Berry. Malcolm Jenkins just falls short of first-team selection.
No sweat here selecting Chris Harris Jr., and Devin McCourty, the perfect examples of do-everything DBs.
Adam Vinatieri is the best clutch placekicker in NFL history, and Justin Tucker is the most accurate. Vinatieri also made the 2000s squad, as did Brady.
Andy Lee dominated the earlier portions of the decade, Johnny Hekker later on. They get nominated over Thomas Morstead and Brett Kern, who have had similar impacts.
This was not a decade featuring spectacular runbacks on kickoffs, in great part due to rules changes; the NFL has found it to be the most dangerous of plays.
Still, Cordarrelle Patterson and Tyler Lockett have stamped themselves as the best.
A player who deserves consideration for flex, Darren Sproles, gets the nod for his speed, shiftiness and clever punt returns. He easily outdistances the field, with Dwayne Harris the second choice.