WHY IS pro football the country's No. 1 sport? It's because the NFL always has new stars at the ready. San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson starts to slow at 29 and—boom!—here come Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Tennessee's Chris Johnson, both 23, to provide thrills at running back. Seattle's Walter Jones turns 35 this month, and Tennessee's Michael Roos, 26, is ready to take the mantle of best left tackle in the game. Whiny Terrell Owens is 35, so it's time for another great wideout in Texas, Houston's 27-year-old Andre Johnson, to assume his All-Pro slot. Indeed, the theme of my 2008 All-Pro team is youth. Fourteen of the 23 selections on offense and defense are 27 or younger.
This is an article from the Jan. 12, 2009 issue
In September, I stood with then Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, watching his team practice. I told him I'd heard good things about second-year right tackle Ryan Harris. "Nobody knows who he is yet," said Shanahan, "and I like it that way. But he's the best [right tackle] I've had here—quick, and you can't move him." Harris, who edged the Titans' 26-year-old David Stewart for a spot on my team, leads a slew of stellar young NFL offensive linemen. Six teams started rookies at left tackle in '08, and Roos gets the nod over Denver rookie Ryan Clady. At right guard the Giants' Chris Snee, 26, was a close second to Altanta's Harvey Dahl, 27.
While no position is stocked with more youth than linebacker, Ravens vet Ray Lewis, 33, remains the best of the best. He can still run, and he's such a powerful hitter that he broke Steelers back Rashard Mendenhall's shoulder on a tackle in Week 4. The pick alongside Lewis: Stewart Bradley of Philadelphia, the ideal sideline-to-sideline rover for coordinator Jim Johnson's unpredictable scheme. Bradley is 25 and relatively unknown, and his club can't prosper without him—a perfect fit on my 2008 team.
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