NFL All-Pro predictions: Favorites for first- and second-team honors
Eighty-eight players participated in the 2015 Pro Bowl. Another 30 or so who were named to the team did not suit up for one of myriad reasons, whether they suffered an injury, played in the Super Bowl or declined the invite.
By comparison, the league's annual All-Pro team is a rather exclusive club. The voting process—a panel of 50 Associated Press writers cast ballots—is not quite an exact science, but the end results tend to be a bit more on the money than the Pro Bowl's final roster.
How might this year's All-Pro teams look when all is said and done?
Hardest position to pick: Wide receiver. The level of talent at the position league-wide is rather remarkable right now, so narrowing the group down to four requires the omission of a few superstars. Without even diving too deep, those not mentioned above include Demaryius Thomas, Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, T.Y. Hilton, Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin and Alshon Jeffery. Any of those players reasonably could top the league in yards this season.
Even so, it's likely not much of a surprise to see any of Beckham, Brown, Bryant or Jones listed as a first- or second-teamer. Tossing Beckham onto the first team takes into account that he missed four games last season and still finished top-10 in yards and fourth in touchdowns.
A few more names to consider from among the NFL's rising stars: Alshon Jeffery, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans and Jordan Matthews. This year's rookie class could have something to say about the pecking order, too—Amari Cooper is the lead horse, but the list of potential playmakers is lengthy.
The future could be now. Bitonio actually garnered an All-Pro vote after his phenomenal rookie season of 2014. A follow-up performance could leapfrog him over some of the more established names at his position.
Ansah and Trufant each were first-round selections in 2013 (Ansah at No. 5, Trufant at No. 22) and have become irreplaceable to their respective teams in short order. The Lions will have Haloti Ngata occupying space inside, but Ansah has a chance to emerge as the D-line headliner now that Suh and Nick Fairley have departed. Meanwhile, Trufant already stands as the best Atlanta has to offer in its secondary.
Biggest snub: Marcell Dareus, Bills.
No doubt, there are many others (let the critiques fly in the comments or on Twitter). But Dareus was a first-team All-Pro last season and will be doubly motivated by what looks to be a contract season—the Bills reportedly will not discuss an extension as of next weekend.
It's no secret that new Buffalo coach Rex Ryan has a knack for getting the most out of his defenses. He inherits a front that includes Dareus and Williams, among others. While Williams is still the bigger name, Dareus arguably set the tone for the Bills' line last season.
He is in line for another huge season.
Runaway winners: Gronkowski and Graham. Merely including a second-team tight end marks a deviation from last year's All-Pro team—Gronkowski scored a unanimous spot, taking all 50 available votes.
An up-and-comer like Travis Kelce or proven vets such as Greg Olson (in line for a monster season as Cam Newton's top target) or Jason Witten may have something to say at the position this season. Odds are, though, that Gronkowski stays a few steps ahead of the competition as the NFL's top tight end.
Graham's arrival in Seattle may not do wonders for his overall stats, but he should be Russell Wilson's No. 1 option in the red zone. That alone gives him momentum.