2013 NFL Mid-Season All-Pro Team

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Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) runs for yards after the catch against the Dallas Cowboys free safety Barry Church (42) during 2nd half of a game at Ford Field. Lions won 31-30. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

Calvin Johnson is quite clearly the best wide receiver in the NFL, and this year hasn’t been any different for the future Hall of Famer. He earned our Player of the Week award in both Week 7 and 8, and he is just uncoverable. Johnson has bailed out Matthew Stafford several times this season, and Johnson is definitely somebody you would feel the utmost comfort in trusting to “make the play”. He has seven receiving touchdowns this season and has done an excellent job of generating yards after the catch. I worry sometimes that Stafford forces the ball to Johnson when he shouldn’t, though, because Johnson really opens things up for the other pass-catchers. Once Nate Burleson comes back, the Lions offense will be even more dynamic.

WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

In my view, no receiver has played as well as Antonio Brown this season, and there’s no doubt that Brown is one of the game’s elite wide receivers. He has caught a whopping 76.7% of everything thrown at him, and he is almost uncoverable. Brown does an excellent job of moving the chains for the Pittsburgh Steelers offense, and he and Ben Roethlisberger share the kind of rapport that can’t be stopped. It’s easy for some to overlook Brown since his counting stats aren’t as gaudy as A.J. Green‘s or Demaryius Thomas’s, but I don’t think any elite wideout has been as efficient with their targets as Antonio Brown.

WR Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

Speaking of efficiency, Jordy Nelson has been pretty darn efficient himself. Nelson is one of those receivers who can destroy defenses from anywhere on the field, and that kind of versatility is becoming even more important in this league. We saw Nelson eat up rookie Xavier Rhodes for supper on Sunday night, and Nelson is somebody who knifes through single coverage. There is little doubt that Nelson is an elite receiver, because he has elite hands, speed, and route-running ability. Nelson brings the total package to the table, and that’s why he is averaging a sensational 12 yards per target this year. He stretches the field as well as anybody in the league, with his back-shoulder connections with Aaron Rodgers being especially noteworthy. Rodgers and Nelson share one of the NFL’s premier hook-ups, and Nelson has been gold this season. In terms of raw statistics, Nelson’s been the best this season with a 72.7% catch rate and a whopping 16.6 yards per reception; those kinds of numbers are just unheard of for a No. 1 wideout who is generally the prime focus of the opposing defense. Oh, Nelson also has seven receiving touchdowns to boot.

TE Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns

Tight ends have become so important in this league that I have to add two, and I feel extremely comfortable in adding these two weapons. Jordan Cameron has been one of two huge bright spots at the skill positions for the Browns (the other is Josh Gordon), and you can only imagine how good these two would be with a franchise QB at the helm. Still, Cameron has been good enough this season with 49 receptions for 596 yards and six touchdowns. He’s been able to average 8.9 yards per target, and Cameron is an absolute beast. This guy is hyper-athletic, and that makes it nearly impossible for defenses to stop him.

TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

Jimmy Graham is a household name these days like “Kleenex”, “Tom Brady“, or “Monopoly”. It’s for good reason, too, because there’s a reason why Drew Brees has singled him out as- by far- his top target in a Saints offense that is simply crowded when it comes to weapons. Graham has a jaw-dropping 40 receptions for 630 yards and eight touchdowns. His blocking sure could improve, but that’s all dandy when he’s averaging 10.2 yards per target and being a freak in the red zone. Graham leads all TEs in receiving yards and does a fantastic job of stretching the seam.

LT Nate Solder, New England Patriots

I flip-flopped between Joe Thomas and Nate Solder for a while before finally deciding to select Solder over the perennially elite Thomas. Solder is the best run-blocking offensive tackle in the game, and he’s also fantastic in pass protection. It’s easy for some fans to criticize Solder for a couple of breakdowns that have led to sacks, but he’s been pitching shutouts outside of those notable breakdowns. Thomas is significantly better in pass protection, but Solder is a better run blocker, is more athletic, and he has significantly less penalties than Thomas does. However, choosing Solder over Thomas was by no means an easy pick, so it’s definitely fine if you believe that Thomas has been the better player this year. If I were ranking the best offensive tackles overall (not just for this season), then I would have obviously ranked Thomas at the top.

LG Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles

Mathis has been the best guard in the league for a few years running, so it would have been absolutely criminal for me to keep him off of this list despite some lapses in pass protection. His run blocking continues to be elite, and I don’t think there’s a better run blocker in the game than Mathis. It’s crazy to think that the Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals absolutely whiffed on this guy, as he was a star right under their noses.

C Manuel Ramirez, Denver Broncos

When Dan Koppen went down with a season-ending injury before the season even started, the center position looked like a possible question mark for the Denver Broncos. At this point, it’s been nothing close to a question mark at all. Manuel Ramirez has been playing at an elite level this season, and there is little doubt in my mind that he’s been the league’s best center so far when you consider the circumstances. He’s solidified the middle of the Broncos offensive line on short notice and has been adept as both a run blocker and pass blocker.

RG David DeCastro, Pittsburgh Steelers

While the Pittsburgh Steelers line has been embarrassingly bad overall, second-year David DeCastro is living up to his first-round billing out of Stanford. DeCastro could miss this week’s key game against the New England Patriots (that would definitely be a huge loss for the Steelers), but he’s been excellent to this point despite all the issues around him. I guess that’s what makes DeCastro so important to this team, and his run blocking has been a joy to watch. There isn’t a right guard who is better at aggressively paving his way into the second level, and Le’Veon Bell definitely has DeCastro to thank for his big game against the Baltimore Ravens.

RT Zach Strief, New Orleans Saints

It’s a shame to see Sebastian Vollmer down for the count, because he was extremely close to earning a spot on this team over Strief. Injuries had nothing to do with me picking Strief (Vollmer has played in all eight first-half games, whereas Strief has played in six due to a bye week and an injury that cost him the game against the Patriots) over Vollmer, though. Strief is one of my favorite offensive linemen to watch, because he is such a physical and smart player. You can tel that Strief is a huge leader on the Saints offensive line, and he is as good as anybody in this game at shutting down the pass rush. The whole left vs. right tackle bit gets overplayed a lot, and I firmly believe that guys like Strief and Vollmer would kill it on the left side if asked to play there.

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Tags: Alterraun Verner Anthony Sherman Antonio Brown Aqib Talib Baltimore Ravens Buffalo Bills Calvin Johnson Cincinnati Bengals Cleveland Browns Cordarrelle Patterson Dallas Cowboys Darrelle Revis David Decastro Denver Broncos Derrick Johnson Detroit Lions Devin McCourty Dontari Poe Evan Mathis Geno Atkins Green Bay Packers Houston Texans Indianapolis Colts J.J. Watt Jason Hatcher Jimmy Graham Jordan Cameron Jordy Nelson Justin Houston Kansas City Chiefs Kiko Alonso Lavonte Davis LeSean McCoy Manuel Ramirez Marshawn Lynch Matt Prater Michael Bennett Minnesota Vikings Muhammad Wilkerson Nate Solder New England Patriots New Orleans Saints New York Jets Notes And Analysis Peyton Manning Philadelphia Eagles Philip Rivers Pittsburgh Steelers Robert Mathis Robert Quinn San Diego Chargers Sean Lee Seattle Seahawks Shane Lechler St. Louis Rams T.J. Ward Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tandon Doss Tennessee Titans Vontaze Burficit Zach Strief

  • David Town

    Not even a Earl Thomas mention eh?

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      I always get comments like this one whenever I do these posts, and it always makes me regret not mentioning a player haha. There are so many players who have legitimate cases, and Earl Thomas has definitely been playing at a high level. He’s one of the best coverage safeties in the league (for sure) and has cut down on his missed tackles. In all honesty, he’s a lot more important to the Seahawks defense than fans outside of Seattle think, but I couldn’t put him over McCourty, who has been a godsend for the Patriots defense. Thomas has played great, though, so don’t think that I don’t recognize that. This post was over 5,000 words as it is, so I really didn’t want to drag it out by naming every honorable mention, so to speak.

  • Blake Molina

    I like the Sherman recognition! If you look on PFF, he’s by far and away the best FB in the league.

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      I definitely looked at the PFF ratings in order to help come up with this list, and I was absolutely blown away by his blocking rating. It’s like Panthers TE Ben Hartstock, who has no “stats” but is PFF’s highest-graded TE, thanks to his impeccable blocking.

      • Herman Moore

        And there’s the problem with PFF. I really like what they do, don’t get me wrong, but how does a guy who is in theory playing a skill position get rated #1, in spite of catching zero passes? That is, on it’s face, ridiculous. Hartsock has played on six teams in nine years. He has seldom been a starter. He is, at best, a situational player. Yet PFF says he’s the best TE in the NFL? Find one coach or personnel guy who thinks so… PFF does a great job at what they do, but it has to be kept in perspective. They aren’t the end-all, final word on who can play and who can’t.

        • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

          They aren’t, and that’s why I didn’t put Hartstock on my All-Pro team. It is kind of hard to believe that the best TE is somebody who hasn’t caught a pass, but blocking is a key, undervalued part of the game. Pass-catching TEs can really open things up for the entire offense, but blocking TEs can do the same. Don’t believe me? Listen to some Bill Belichick (yes, Bill Belichick haha) press conferences in which he describes in detail how effective blockers can do this for an offense. Your point about blocking TEs not being as valuable is well taken, though, definitely understand your argument.

  • Herman Moore

    Lions rookie P Sam Martin has a better avg than any of the guys you listed.

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      That’s a great fact and certainly helps his case, but there is much more to punting than simply yards per punt. How many touchbacks did he have? How many times did he get it inside the 20? Was he able to punt it out of bounds frequently? How much hangtime can he get? Average is the biggest chunk of it, but there are other things that need to be considered, too.

      Appreciate the response, love the username haha…can’t go wrong with him.

      • Herman Moore

        Martin gets great hang time, has good directional control, generally prevents returns. Long punt over 70 yards. Most games has a long over 50 yards. Adept at leaving opponents with a long field. Also handles kickoffs, and has 26 touchbacks there. He consistently gives his team good field position. Has a cannon leg and very good control of it for a rookie. Has shanked exactly one punt so far. Also the holder for FGs and PATs. He’s good enough that he has silenced the critics who thought spending a fifth round pick on a punter (from Appalachian State, no less) was crazy. Remember his name–he’s a future Pro Bowler for sure.

        • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

          I will definitely keep Martin’s name in mind going forward, thanks.

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