PFN 2021-22 NFL All-Pro Team: Rams, Chiefs, Cowboys, and Titans all dominate the voting

The PFN NFL All-Pro team has been voted on and finalized. A full 17-game slate was analyzed with some intriguing results.

First-Team NFL All-Pro Defense

As one may probably imagine, defense is a bit more all over the place in terms of NFL All-Pro team voting.

EDGE | T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers

It should come as no surprise that the sack record holder and eventual Defensive Player of the Year would be an All-Pro. But the most impressive part about T.J. Watt’s season is that there will be no asterisk by his shared sack record.

No, because he did it in only 15 games, as he missed two with injury. For the second year in a row, Watt also led the league in tackles for loss with 21. Watt gets dinged by some of the film grinders because his sacks aren’t always as clean or technical as others, but there’s no taking away his productivity overall.

EDGE | Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

This also should be of no surprise. Myles Garrett is feared by most as the most dominant pass rusher in the NFL. He was built in a lab and is one of the more technically refined rushers in the game. He finished third in total pressures this season.

Eventually (hopefully), the Browns can find an interior rusher to free Garrett up from the shackles of constant double teams so he, too, can legitimately threaten the sack record. He and Watt could go down in history as two of the best to ever do it.

Interior Defensive Lineman | Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

I’m not sure if Aaron Donald is still the most dominant force in the NFL, but I’m not willing to claim he definitively isn’t either. His 86 total pressures were second to Maxx Crosby, and his 15 sacks were the most of any interior player by 4.

His 49 stops were also 3 more than Cameron Heyward, who finished second in the category for interior players. Stops are, in Layman’s terms, tackles that matter. Donald’s 4 forced fumbles also led the league for interior players. Okay, so maybe he still is the best player in the league. But, in 2021, Trent Williams had an argument.

Interior Defensive Lineman | Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee Titans

This one warms my heart. Aside from Vita Vea, who was hilariously fun to watch at Washington, Jeffery Simmons was probably the most enjoyable defensive tackle prospect study in my years watching for the NFL Draft. He’s big, physical, and athletic, but with devastating hands and the ability to rush the passer and defend the run coming from Mississippi State.

Simmons finished 2021 top five in total pressures (62), sacks (11), hurries (47), and stops (43). But his ability to dominate against the run at just slightly over 300 pounds is magnificent to watch.

Linebacker | Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks

Linebacker is a difficult position to evaluate if you’re not attentive to tape. Pure traditional stats often lie about a player’s value overall. Tackles have been the great barometer, but tackles are fickle.

Scheme dictates how productive a linebacker can be, and Bobby Wagner’s tape is still outrageous. He’s one of the best coverage linebackers in the league, and undoubtedly, the most cerebral without Luke Kuechly in the NFL.

But it’s not as if he didn’t produce. Wagner finished with the most combined tackles of his career. His 93 solo tackles were second only to his 2017 season. And his 51 stops (tackles resulting in a failure for the offense) ranked seventh.

Linebacker | Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys

There is no more versatile defender in the NFL. Micah Parsons almost perfectly split snaps in run defense, pass rush, and coverage. It was abundantly clear he improved throughout the season in coverage.

Then, there’s the pass rush. Nobody in the NFL won more often on pass rushes this season on a per-rush basis. Not even Maxx Crosby, who had 101 total pressures for the season, won more often.

Parsons played off-ball linebacker for two years at Penn State. He hadn’t legitimately played on the edge since high school. Yet, if it weren’t for wanting to avoid doubling up, Parsons would have been an NFL second-team All-Pro as an edge. It won’t be long before we’re wondering if he’s the most dominant player in the sport.

Linebacker | Roquan Smith, Chicago Bears

Nobody in the NFL produced more stops this season than Roquan Smith (67). Things seemed to finally click for the fourth-year player selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Smith was one of the original “new mold” of NFL linebackers. Before Smith, we rarely saw linebackers listed under 230 pounds. Now, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is playing the position at around 215 at a high level. “Darty” may not be a real word, but it’s the one that comes to mind for Smith, who darts laterally at a pace that boggles the mind.

Cornerback | J.C. Jackson, New England Patriots

J.C. Jackson is a bit of a unicorn in the modern NFL. He’s able to both cover at a ridiculous rate and takes the ball away better than anybody over the past two seasons. His 8 INTs were second to Trevon Diggs, and his completion % against ranked fourth in the league.

It’s not like Bill Belichick needs more kudos than he already gets. Nevertheless, congratulations to him for recognizing Jackson’s talent early and betting on him, trading away Stephon Gilmore in the process. Jackson is long and fluid and has the ball skills to rival receivers. And this is your reminder that he went undrafted.

Cornerback | A.J. Terrell, Atlanta Falcons

After some lobbying, the council saw things my way. There was no better cornerback in the NFL this season than A.J. Terrell. Unfortunately, he wasted it on a bad team.

From a metrics perspective, nobody was better. Quarterbacks completed fewer passes than they attempted in Terrell’s direction. He allowed a negligible amount of yards for the entire season, and nobody allowed fewer yards per reception, meaning he wasn’t allowing the big plays.

He didn’t wow with a mass of INTs, but he did break up his fair share of passes. And despite quarterback rating penalizing heavily for interceptions, he still had the lowest rating against him in the NFL. Terrell was, for all intents and purposes, an island this year.

Safety | Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos

Safety is a lot like a linebacker, except usually, production is even less of a success metric. The less you hear a safety’s name throughout a game, usually, the better he’s playing. Schematically they almost play different sports. Derwin James and Jamal Adams (at times) don’t play in the same zip codes as Minkah Fitzpatrick or Jessie Bates.

Justin Simmons has been one of the best safeties in the league now for the better part of the last decade. Next season will be his third different scheme defensively, and his versatility in coverage will allow him to succeed there, too. Simmons finished the year with 5 INTs and 7 PBUs. And no matter where you look (coverage stats are very different depending on site), quarterback rating was not very high when Simmons was around in coverage.

Safety | Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans

Kevin Byard must have seen I snubbed him from the PFN top 10 safeties list heading into the NFL season because he gave me Foot in Mouth Syndrome with his performance in 2021. The Titans’ defense doesn’t work without Byard and Amani Hooker.

Byard is the dude. He intercepted 5 passes and broke up just as many. Quarterbacks did not have a good time targeting him as the closest defender, but the most impressive thing about the free safety’s game is his innate ability to rarely ever miss a tackle. You can bet Byard will be overtaking a few of his contemporaries before next season’s safety rankings.

First-Team NFL All-Pro Special Teams

If it were up to me, kickers and punters wouldn’t exist. However, I would never say that in front of PFN Draft Analyst Oliver Hodgkinson, the foremost proponent of the kicking game in all of Europe and the Americas.

Kicker | Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens

Okay, so one kicker can exist, as long as it’s Justin Tucker. The opera-belting, upright-splitting kicker is the most accurate of all time. This season, he broke the record for the longest kick in NFL history at 66 yards.

Punter | A.J. Cole, Las Vegas Raiders

Punting is for cowards. But if you’re going to be a lousy offense, or if you absolutely must punt, you better not mess it up. A.J. Cole had the longest punt average in the league. He’s also one of just two punters since 2012 to average over 50 yards per punt.

Kick Returner | Kene Nwangwu, Minnesota Vikings

Kick returns are still the most exciting play in the NFL. They do not often happen at this point. If you search kick return average on Pro Football Reference, our first-team NFL All-Pro member doesn’t even meet the requirements to be on the list.

But on just 18 returns, Kene Nwangwu scored twice and averaged 32.2 yards per return, which was the highest average of anybody with at least 2 returns.

Punt Returner | Devin Duvernay, Baltimore Ravens

It was hotly contested between Devin Duvernay and Jakeem Grant Sr. Duvernay doesn’t have Grant’s touchdown, but he still averaged more per return than anybody in the league and was second to Ray-Ray McCloud in total yards by 7. However, he did that on 12 fewer punt returns.

Second-Team NFL All-Pro Offense

Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Running Back
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

Wide Receiver
Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

Tight End
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive Line
(LT) Rashawn Slater, Los Angeles Chargers
(LG) Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts
(C) Corey Linsley, Los Angeles Chargers
(RG) Kevin Zeitler, Baltimore Ravens
(RT) Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles

Second-Team NFL All-Pro Defense

Defensive Line
(EDGE) Robert Quinn, Chicago Bears
(EDGE) Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
(IDL) Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers
(IDL) Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs

Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings
Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers
Devin White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins
Trevon Diggs, Dallas Cowboys

Quandre Diggs, Seattle Seahawks
Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals

Second-Team Special Teams

Matt Gay, Los Angeles Rams

Bryan Anger, Dallas Cowboys

Kick Returner
Andre Roberts, Los Angeles Chargers

Punt Returner
Jakeem Grant Sr., Chicago Bears

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