In early January, the Associated Press announced its All-Pro team. The voting process is pretty simple: 50 voters select their top players at each position, and a first-team All-Pro squad is announced. The runners-up at each position are placed on the second-team, but that leads to some very odd results. If fans, teams, and Hall of Fame voters are going to put weight on a player being considered a 2nd-team All-Pro, then the voters should actually vote for both a first and second team. Simply naming the second vote getter (or third and fourth vote getters at positions with two starters) as the second-team All-Pro(s) invites significant abuses of the system.
Let’s take a look at the detailed voting breakdown. I’ve bolded the first-team All-Pro(s) at each position, and italicized the second-team “choices.”
Peyton Manning, Denver, 50.
This one’s pretty easy.
Did you hear that Eddie Lacy was a second-team All-Pro choice in 2013? That’s because one voter — presumably one in Wisconsin — decided that Lacy was better than McCoy or Charles in 2013. And that’s it. Is Lacy, or for that matter, Peterson, a more-deserving choice as a 2nd-team All-Pro than Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris, Knowshon Moreno, or DeMarco Murray? Who knows — and that’s the point. The 2nd-team All-Pro honors going to Peterson and Lacy are essentially meaningless pieces of information. All we know is that 1 voter out of 50 decided that those two were top-2 running backs in 2013. Gregg Rosenthal noted that it was a shame that Forte was passed over for 2nd-team honors, and I agree with that sentiment. But Forte wasn’t passed over in the literal sense: had the 50 voters actually selected a second-team pair of running backs, I suspect Forte would have been chosen.
It’s also worth noting that it appears as though 3 voters selected only one running back. Brilliant.
Anyone want to offer me 49:1 odds that the AP voter who selected Kuhn also selected Lacy?
Vernon Davis was a 2nd-team All-Pro in 2013 because…. 2% of all voters thought Davis was better than Jimmy Graham. Graham should have been a unanimous pick, but we all know what happened here: some voter decided that he wanted Davis to get some love, and figured he could ensure such accolades by placing Davis on the 2nd team by casting just one vote for him. I love Davis, and think he’s probably an underrated player nationally, but how can anyone give any credibility to this “accomplishment”?
Calvin Johnson, Detroit, 42; Josh Gordon, Cleveland, 28; A.J. Green, Cincinnati, 12; Demaryius Thomas, Denver, 6; Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh, 6; Brandon Marshall, Chicago, 5; Alshon Jeffery, Chicago, 1.
It’s safe to say that Jeffery cost Marshall the one vote he needed to be the, uh, 4th wide receiver named 2nd-team All-Pro. And it’s still pretty silly to determine who the 4th best receiver in the NFL is based on the fact that 12% of voters thought the receiver was one of the top two in the league.
Joe Thomas, Cleveland, 28; Jason Peters, Philadelphia, 25; Joe Staley, San Francisco, 16; Tyron Smith, Dallas, 14; Zach Strief, New Orleans, 4; Orlando Franklin, Denver, 3; Jordan Gross, Carolina, 2; Gosder Cherilus, Indianapolis, 1; Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati, 1; Jermaine Bushrod, Chicago, 1; Demar Dotson, Tampa Bay, 1; Trent Williams, Washington, 1; Branden Albert, Kansas City, 1; Jake Long, St. Louis, 1; Phil Loadholt, Minnesota, 1.
Well, at least there were some pretty decent gaps between the first-team and second-team selections, and between the second-team selections and the “others receiving votes.” That’s not the case at the next position.
Louis Vasquez, Denver, 22; Evan Mathis, Philadelphia, 18; Jahri Evans, New Orleans, 14; Josh Sitton, Green Bay, 13; Mike Iupati, San Francisco, 12; Logan Mankins, New England, 12; Larry Warford, Detroit, 3; Marshal Yanda, Baltimore, 3; Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati, 1; Andy Levitre, Tennessee, 1.
Evans, Sitton, and Mankins were actually announced as the second-team selections, which means either (1) Mankins actually received 13 votes (the total number of votes only adds up to 99), or (2) Mankins should not have been named a 2nd-team choice. An e-mail to the Associated Press was not returned. In any event, is there any meaningful difference between Iupati and Evans/Sitton/Mankins? Ideally, you would send out the ballot, and after Vasquez and Mathis were picked for the first team, the ballot would be re-sent with the question “pick the two best guards other than Vasquez and Mathis.” At that point, we might be able to trust who the second-team guards actually were.
Ryan Kalil, Carolina, 26; Alex Mack, Cleveland, 9; Jason Kelce, Philadelphia, 4; Max Unger, Seattle, 4; Manny Ramirez, Denver, 2; John Sullivan, Minnesota, 2; Mike Pouncey, Miami, 1; Dominic Raiola, Detroit, 1; Nick Hardwick, San Diego, 1.
No place is it safer to file your homer votes than on the interior line.
Tucker was a great selection, but Prater? We can chalk this one up to Mile High bias, though, and not a flaw in the process.
I suppose we are to assume that the category is mislabeled? McCluster and Brown combined for 19 kickoff return yards in 2013. So do their 9 votes represent protest votes or a failure to understand the rules vote? Both were great punt returners this year, but that’s not what the category is labeled. Please, I urge you: take a second and process that Dexter McCluster, who returned one kick for 3 yards in 2013, was chosen as the second-team kick returner by the most revered voters in football.
Robert Quinn, St. Louis, 46; J.J. Watt, Houston, 28; Greg Hardy, Carolina, 14; Mario Williams, Buffalo, 5; Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets, 1; Cameron Jordan, New Orleans, 1; Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati, 1; Charles Johnson, Carolina, 1; Kyle Williams, Buffalo, 1; Chandler Jones, New England, 1.
Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay, 28; Ndamukong Suh, Detroit, 19; Dontari Poe, Kansas City, 13; Justin Smith, San Francisco, 8; Jurrell Casey, Tennessee, 8; Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets, 8; Kyle Williams, Buffalo, 6; J.J. Watt, Houston, 3; Jason Hatcher, Dallas, 3; Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets, 2; Brandon Mebane, Seattle, 1; Marcell Dareus, Buffalo, 1.
Let’s take these two groups together. Watt received 28 votes at defensive end and 3 at defensive tackle. Buffalo’s Kyle Williams was two votes shy of being a “second-team” choice at guard. We know at least one person considered him an end — how many others did? Wilkerson was in the same boat. He’s played as a 3-4 defensive end his entire career, so how comes 8 people chose him as an All-Pro at tackle and just 1 at end? I have no problem if voters think 3-4 ends should be treated as interior defensive linemen, but then every voter needs to do that. To not have a uniform categorization of defensive linemen throws the entire results into question.
Had all voters labeled Wilkerson an end, he probably gets the second-team nod over Mario Williams, which might have been enough to vault Buffalo’s other Williams into the second-team position at tackle. How does this make any sense? And yet, somehow, this is even less embarrassing than what happened at linebacker.
Robert Mathis, Indianapolis, 49; Lavonte David, Tampa Bay, 22; Tamba Hali, Kansas City, 10; Ahmad Brooks, San Francisco, 5; Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati, 4; Justin Houston, Kansas City, 4; Terrell Suggs, Baltimore, 3; John Abraham, Arizona, 2; Thomas Davis, Carolina, 1.
Luke Kuechly, Carolina, 45; NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco, 39; Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati, 7; Karlos Dansby, Arizona, 4; Patrick Willis, San Francisco, 2; Derrick Johnson, Kansas City, 2; Thomas Davis, Carolina, 1.
In case you can’t tell, the positions are labeled “Outside Linebackers” and “Inside Linebackers”. I repeat, we have one category for “Outside Linebackers” and one category for “Inside Linebackers.” These categories are NOT labeled “Pass Rushers” and “Tacklers.” Vontaze Burfict led the NFL in tackles and was a “second-team All-Pro” at inside linebacker. But Burfict is an outside linebacker. Rey Maualuga plays on the inside in Cincinnati, and Vincent Rey replaced him when Maualuga was injured. According to Pro Football Focus, Burfict spent 306 snaps as an inside linebacker, 18 snaps deep, 22 covering the slot or lined up out wide, and roughly 700 snaps as an outside linebacker. Ahmad Brooks can thank the ignorance of voters for his second-team All-Pro “selection” at outside linebacker.1
We can confirm that 45 people know who plays middle linebacker in Carolina… but we can also confirm that at least one voter does not. Thomas Davis had a great year at outside linebacker but is not a sack artist, which means he gets a vote as an inside linebacker, I guess.
There were 24 votes not cast for either Sherman or Peterson. Those were split pretty evenly among Talib/Verner/Haden/Grimes, but the Dolphin was left out in the cold because of the process. The AP voting field has a decidedly ESPN presence, which may explain how Talib received so many votes. He had a fine year, but I’d say he was the worst of the six.
Earl Thomas, Seattle, 47; Eric Berry, Kansas City, 32; Eric Weddle, San Diego, 10; Jairus Byrd, Buffalo, 2; T.J. Ward, Cleveland, 2; Devin McCourty, New England, 2; Antrel Rolle, New York Giants, 2; Kam Chancellor, Seattle, 2; Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona, 1.
Do I even need to say anything? Eight different safeties were selected as second-team All-Pros using this process.
Hekker led the league in net punting average, and Fields was just a tenth of a yard behind Oakland’s Marquette King (who had 2 punts blocked) for the lead in gross punting average. Presumably, that’s about as much thought went into this process.