Every season, the NFL All-Pro teams are hotly contested. Unlike Pro Bowl nods which can be popularity contests to some degree, the NFL All-Pro team is the best of the best. With the NFL season just around the corner, let’s predict the best player at each position continuing with the defense. Check out the offense as well, as the NFL All-Pro players come marching through.
Interior Defensive Lineman: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams
The best player in the NFL, Donald has made seven consecutive NFL All-Pro teams and eight consecutive Pro Bowls. He has secured three Defensive Player of the Year awards, and he has finished in the top five in seven straight seasons. Donald is an unstoppable ball of ferocity who can be penciled in for double-digit sacks and 80 total pressures. He is as consistent as any player in the NFL, and he has as many elite games as any player in the NFL.
Interior Defensive Lineman: Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers
After six seasons with no accolades, Heyward has ripped off an impressive five-year run with three All-Pro nods and five Pro Bowls. He is an elite run defender, and he has five straight seasons with at least 59 pressures. He may be overshadowed on his defense by the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but Heyward is one of the best players in the NFL, and he has only gotten better with age.
Edge Defender: T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
The aforementioned 2021 Defensive Player of the Year, Watt has been a defensive force since 2018. He has four straight seasons with 13.0 or more sacks. Since 1980, only Reggie White, Bruce Smith, and Kevin Greene have had more such seasons. Watt is also generally an excellent run defender, and he has led the NFL in tackles for loss each of the last two seasons. There is no edge defender in the NFL that can reliably match Watt’s production, which should see him make it into the NFL All-Pro team.
Edge Defender: Rashan Gary, Green Bay Packers
Gary put together quite the breakout in his third NFL season. He more than doubled his pressure production and nearly doubled his sack production. He also made strides as a run defender and played well in Green Bay’s playoff loss. Gary is a rapidly ascending player coming off a season in which he finished third in the NFL in pressures. He is the primary piece of an electric front seven, and he should deliver.
Linebacker: Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers
The 2020 NFL All-Pro took a slight step back in 2021, but he should be right back to form in the middle of the San Francisco defense. Warner is an elite coverage player who can also thump between the trenches and blitz the quarterback. He is incredibly durable, and he has the fifth-most tackles since he was drafted. Warner is a true do-it-all modern linebacker.
Linebacker: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns
Owusu-Koramoah is a superhero playing the linebacker position. He has a knack for appearing wherever the ball is. Owusu-Koramoah seems to be able to morph through time and space to arrive on a tackle. Despite missing three games, Owusu-Koramoah had a healthy stat line with four pass deflections, two forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks, and three tackles for loss. He has the makings of an elite linebacker moving forward and backward.
FLEX: Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys
Parsons may have found a loophole in the NFL All-Pro voting process. There are better pure edge defenders in the NFL. There are better pure linebackers in the NFL. However, Parsons toes the line between the two so excellently that he should begin to rack up the NFL All-Pros. His ability to do two different tasks at an elite level will put voters in a bind for years to come. In a few years, there might be a new positional designation for All-Pro teams: the Micah Parsons role.
Cornerback: Eric Stokes, Green Bay Packers
In general, there are two kinds of corners. Some corners are freaky athletes who make up for a lack of technique with blazing speed or long appendages. Other corners rely on pristine technique and become “sticky” because they are one mental step ahead of the offense. Stokes has the making of being a hybrid of the two. If there was a corner in the 2021 class to make a jump similar to AJ Terrell last season, Stokes would be the best candidate.
Cornerback: Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams
Ramsey is the quintessential hybrid cornerback. Blessed with tremendous physical gifts, Ramsey puts them to use by being one of the smartest defenders in the game. He is almost always in the right spot, toying with quarterbacks. He may not have the raw ball production (namely interceptions) as other top cornerbacks, but Ramsey is an island in the modern game. The three-time NFL All-Pro should make it again in 2022.
Safety: Antoine Winfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last season, Winfield made the jump from a good player to a NFL Pro Bowl player. This is the year that he will make the jump to an NFL All-Pro player. In 2020, Winfield shined as a run defender, tackler, and even a blitzer. In 2021, Winfield evolved to being a coverage maestro, allowing just a 63.9 passer rating and no touchdowns. A combination of Winfield’s 2020 and 2021 seasons would yield the NFL’s best safety.
Safety: Jevon Holland, Miami Dolphins
Holland was quietly one of the most impactful defensive players in the NFL after Week 4. When he could finally play as a full-time free safety, Holland wreaked havoc on all three levels. On the back end, he allowed an 88.6 passer rating with just a 54.5% completion rate. In the middle, he was a steady tackler, missing just six tackles for an 8.3% rate. Moving forward, Holland was adept at blitzing, recording a pressure on nearly 25% of his opportunities. Holland is a superstar in the making, and is certainly deserving of an NFL All-Pro nod.
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