The NFL's regular season is over which means that a) only 12 teams are left to play for the Super Bowl, and b) player recognitions are en vogue right now. After the Pro Bowl participants were announced in mid-December, All-Pro rankings are starting to get published with advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus releasing its all-star squad yesterday.
The New England Patriots are relatively well represented as three members of the team received the honor as some of the top-ranked players at their respective positions: Quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski were named starters, while running back Dion Lewis was chosen as the backup running back behind only the Los Angeles Rams' Todd Gurley.
PFF notes that Brady “has been the clear-cut front-runner at quarterback this season despite ending the year on a relative slump” and that no other quarterback “could match what Brady was doing on a down-to-down basis” during the regular season. The future Hall of Famer ranks near the top of nearly every passing statistic and led the NFL in yards (4,577) and pass attempts (581) through the first 17 weeks.
Gronkowski has been equally impressive this year. Coming off a season which he ended on injured reserve, PFF called him “the class of the [tight end] position and a more dominant force than anybody else out there”. The statistics website points out that the 28-year old not only dominates as a pass catcher but as a blocker as well: “His run-blocking grade of 84.1 ranks second among all TEs, ahead of dedicated blocking tight ends.”
At running back, Lewis was PFF's third-highest ranked player behind only the above-mentioned Gurley and New Orleans Saints rookie Alvin Kamara. The 27-year old established himself as the Patriots' top option at the position midway through the regular season and finished it with 1,110 yards from scrimmage, the second-most on the team, and a team-high nine touchdowns.
While New England's offense is well-represented in PFF's All-Pro squad, the team's defense and special teams units are not.