We are halfway through the NFL’s 100th season. The trade deadline has passed and lines of demarcation between contenders, fringe threats and build-for-2020 teams have largely been established. Here is Yardbarker’s mid-season All-Pro team.
QUARTERBACK: Aaron Rodgers, Packers
In the heart of an MVP race for the first time in at least three seasons, the Packers’ 35-year-old passer has thrown eight touchdown passes and no interceptions over the past two games to give him a 16-to-2 TD-INT ratio. Lifting the Packers to 7-1, in a half-season without much at wide receiver thanks to Davante Adams’ turf toe issue, gives Rodgers (2,324 passing yards, second in the league) a slight nod over Seattle's Russell Wilson.
RUNNING BACK: Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
Driving a team with an undrafted quarterback to a winning record, McCaffrey has 10 touchdowns and 1,078 yards from scrimmage. He remains on pace to threaten Chris Johnson’s season record for yards from scrimmage (2,509). McCaffrey has improved each season, though he’s yet to earn a Pro Bowl nod, and has done the most to elevate the Kyle Allen-quarterbacked Panthers into a contender spot.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Cooper Kupp, Rams; Michael Thomas, Saints
The Rams’ offensive hierarchy has shifted, going from a Todd Gurley- and Brandin Cooks-centered attack to one that features Kupp firmly entrenched as the team’s go-to playmaker. The third-year slot weapon’s 792 receiving yards are 77 shy of his season high, and Jared Goff’s most trusted chain-mover has done this despite tearing an ACL midway through last season.
As the NFL’s receiving leader with 875 yards, Thomas is on pace to smash his season best (1,405 from 2018) and has put to rest doubts about his ability to thrive whenever New Orleans’ post-Drew Brees era begins. Thomas has two 130-plus-yard games with Teddy Bridgewater at the controls, and the elite mid-range target's 73 receptions are 13 more than anyone else.
TIGHT END: George Kittle, 49ers
The NFL’s most complete tight end, Kittle is a vital part of the 49ers’ old-school ground attack and serves as Jimmy Garoppolo’s top aerial weapon. Kittle’s 541 yards are third most among tight ends. But in an era when the league’s glamour tight ends are basically big wide receivers, San Francisco has developed a frightening throwback –- one likely to reset a stagnant tight end market with a monster 2020 extension.
FLEX: Dalvin Cook, Vikings
Cook leads the NFL in rushing (823 yards) and yards from scrimmage (1,116) and represents the centerpiece of the best Gary Kubiak rushing attack since his Texans days. Playing the role of Clinton Portis or Arian Foster in the new Minnesota assistant’s zone-blocking attack, Cook has the Vikings’ vintage offense flourishing.
LEFT TACKLE: Terron Armstead, Saints
Armstead was an essential component in the Saints’ unbeaten run without Drew Brees, allowing no sacks and spearheading a line that sits third among Pro Football Focus’ offensive line rankings and second in Football Outsiders’ chief run-blocking metric (adjusted line yards). Even without Alvin Kamara the past two weeks, the Saints rode Latavius Murray's 221 combined yards and three touchdowns to back-to-back blowouts.
LEFT GUARD: Quenton Nelson, Colts
The Colts have managed to start 5-2 despite Andrew Luck’s late-preseason retirement, and their top-tier offensive line represents a key part of that limited-margin-for-error formula. Although Nelson's been better in the run game, Indianapolis’ second-year masher is already one of the NFL’s most complete linemen and has helped Jacoby Brissett steer a justifiably doubted team to the AFC South lead.
CENTER: Rodney Hudson, Raiders
The two-time Pro Bowler has been a dependable cog since coming to Oakland in 2015. The Raiders rank seventh in rushing, with running back Josh Jacobs the leading Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate, and Hudson’s reliable pass protection has kept Derek Carr mostly clean (eight sacks -- second-least in the NFL). Although Hudson’s recent injury may take him out of All-Pro consideration, he deserves credit for anchoring a line that’s seen several changes over the past year.
RIGHT GUARD: Brandon Brooks, Eagles
Somehow the Eagles’ mammoth right guard bests everyone else at this position in run- and pass-blocking, per Pro Football Focus. Brooks suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon in the Eagles’ divisional-round loss to the Saints last season, yet he’s back to lead another high-end Philadelphia blocking quintet. PFF’s No. 2 overall offensive line rates as a big reason the inconsistent Eagles still have a shot to reach the playoffs.
RIGHT TACKLE: La’el Collins, Cowboys
Collins grades as Pro Football Focus' top run-blocking tackle, and it was not a coincidence that his return -– along with left tackle stalwart Tyron Smith’s –- sparked the Cowboys to a 37-10 rout of the Eagles in Week 7. Dallas’ right tackle, an ex-guard, turning the corner would be a frightening proposition for an O-line already housing three All-Decade-caliber blockers.
EDGE DEFENDERS: Nick Bosa, 49ers; Myles Garrett, Browns
Bosa is the biggest difference between the unremarkable 49ers pass rushes of recent years and this one. He has shown game-wrecking ability despite dealing with multiple injuries over the past year. Bosa’s seven sacks are more than any 49er edge defender has produced since 2013. The freakishly talented defensive end has also accumulated 11 tackles for loss on just 266 snaps.
Garrett is the best thing about this disappointing Browns team, racking up 10 sacks in just seven games. This Defensive Player of the Year-type push has not come against a brigade of bad tackles, with the former No. 1 overall pick collecting a sack in six of the team’s seven games.
INTERIOR LINEMEN: Calais Campbell, Jaguars; Aaron Donald, Rams
The Giants passing on defensive end Josh Allen enabled the Jaguars to draft him, and the explosive rookie’s arrival meant more inside-rushing opportunities for Campbell. Used more as an edge player in 2018, Campbell has responded with 4.5 sacks, six tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hits to help keep the Jalen Ramsey-less Jags in the AFC playoff mix.
Arguably the NFL’s best player, Donald has understandably commanded top billing on opponents’ scouting reports. The Rams have deployed their oft-double-teamed defensive lineman on the edge a bit more than usual, but Donald still spends most of his Sundays beating guards and centers. The two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year has five sacks and 11 tackles for loss (tied for NFL lead).
LINEBACKERS: Jamie Collins, Patriots; Eric Kendricks, Vikings; Luke Kuechly, Panthers
One of the best examples of a player thriving in New England but underwhelming elsewhere, Collins has been a revelation since returning to the Patriots. The 2019 Browns cap casualty has 44 tackles, six sacks, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and two forced fumbles. Collins, 30, is operating on an even higher level than he was when he made the 2015 Pro Bowl as a Patriots 4-3 outside linebacker.
Kendricks is enjoying his finest year as a pro, more than justifying his $10 million-per-year contract. Minnesota’s middle linebacker has 68 tackles –- on pace to eclipse his career high –- and grades as Pro Football Focus' top run-defending ‘backer. But the three-down defender has held his own in coverage for Minnesota’s No. 8 pass defense, with his 10 passes defensed leading all linebackers.
A future Hall of Famer, Kuechly remains the Panthers’ centerpiece defender and one of this era's defining players. He had a monstrous Week 2 performance vs. the Bucs (18 tackles and a safety). Carolina’s middle linebacker is still a menace in coverage, intercepting passes in each of his past two games. Kuechly has a chance to earn his sixth first-team All-Pro honor before his 29th birthday.
CORNERBACKS: Stephon Gilmore, Patriots, Richard Sherman, 49ers
A cornerback has only won the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award once in the past 24 years (Charles Woodson in 2009); the Patriots’ No. 1 corner is moving toward that acclaim. Quarterbacks have an NFL-worst 36.0 passer rating when targeting Gilmore, and the former Bills starter-turned-Patriots star has three interceptions -- one a pick-6.
This is a pivotal season for Sherman, who entered 2019 having not played at an elite level in years. Suddenly, the former Seahawks corner is a linchpin of a dominant 49ers defense -– No. 4 all time in DVOA's 34-season history through seven games. Sherman's 60.4 passer rating allowed ranks fourth among corners, and the second-year 49er has matched Gilmore with three picks and a return touchdown.
SAFETIES: Devin McCourty, Patriots; Justin Simmons, Broncos
Opening the season with an interception in four straight games, McCourty has an NFL-best five picks at the season’s midway point. There will be multiple All-Pro representatives from this Patriots defense, which has allowed 7.6 points per game. The two-time Pro Bowler is on track for his initial first-team All-Pro honor.
Simmons has put together a strong start to his contract year, with his nine passes defensed leading all NFL safeties and helping the Broncos trail only the Patriots and 49ers in defensive DVOA. Pro Football Focus' top coverage safety has two interceptions, and although Denver’s mostly strong defensive work of late has not helped the overall cause much, Simmons will be in line for a major payday soon.
FLEX: Tre’Davious White, Bills
Buffalo’s zone-based pass defense held Tom Brady to 3.85 yards per attempt – the future Hall of Famer's worst mark in a win – and is the primary reason the Bills are 5-2 with one of the league’s worst pass offenses. A third-year corner, White has two forced fumbles and snared three interceptions –- one of those sealing a victory over the Bengals and another a diving pick that ignited a win over the Dolphins.
KICKER: Justin Tucker, Ravens
The premier 2010s kicker has made all 16 of his field goal tries this season. Tucker’s top performance came in an overtime Ravens win in Pittsburgh, when he connected on four field goals -– including a 46-yard game-winner.
PUNTER: Tress Way, Redskins
Despite being asked to punt more often than almost anyone else this season, Way boasts the NFL’s only 50-yard punting average at 50.2 -– nearly two yards better than anyone else. A bright spot in another lost Redskins season.
RETURN SPECIALIST: Tarik Cohen, Bears
The electric gadget running back is ideally suited for punt returns, and the 5-foot-6 talent leads the NFL with 11.9 yards per return. Cohen earned All-Pro acclaim for this skill last season, and his return work helps a Bears team that has dealt with issues on offense all season.
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