Two weeks ago, the NFL announced its 2018 Pro Bowl selections and only two players from the New England Patriots were represented: quarterback Tom Brady and cornerback Stephon Gilmore emerged among the winners of the glorified popularity contest known as the league’s all-star game. Of course, the NFL is not the only entity to recognize its best (or most popular) players near the end of the regular season.
One of the outlets to publish an All-Pro team every year is advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus. And as opposed to the Pro Bowl, the Patriots are actually well-represented this year: all in all, four players are mentioned making either the first or the second team. Only two teams — the New Orleans Saints (7) and the Kansas City Chiefs (6) — have more players on the list than New England.
PFF’s Patriots picks for the All-Pro squad are as follows:
RG Shaq Mason (1st team)
DE Trey Flowers (2nd team)
CB Stephon Gilmore (1st team)
ST Albert McClellan (1st team)
Shaq Mason making Pro Football Focus’ first All-Pro team is no surprise: the 25-year old is having an excellent season for the Patriots after signing a five-year, $50 million contract extension in August. Starting 14 of 16 regular season games and playing a combined 85.2% of New England’s offensive snaps, Mason is one of the league’s premier run blockers and also performing well as a pass protector.
Trey Flowers is also having an excellent year but comes in behind the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt and the Chicago Bears’ Khalil Mack . Still, his second-team designation illustrates just how well the 25-year old impending free agent is playing this season. According to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, Flowers is leading the Patriots with 7.5 sacks this regular season as well as 22 quarterback hits and 31 additional hurries. He also forced three fumbles.
As well as Flowers and Mason are performing this year, no Patriot may have a better season than the aforementioned Pro Bowler Stephon Gilmore. Playing in his second year in the system, the 28-year old is arguably the NFL’s best shutdown corner. He leads PFF’s rankings with a 90.7 grade as he is allowing less than half of the passes thrown his way to be completed. Opposing quarterbacks are just 37 of 90 for 403 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions when targeting Gilmore.
The most surprising player on the list might be Albert McClellan. A mid-season pickup after getting released by the Baltimore Ravens, the 32-year old has become a core special teamer for the Patriots and consistently playing around two-thirds of all kicking game snaps. When on the field, McClellan is excellent: he blocked two punts, recovered a fumble and registered three tackles in seven games for the Patriots.
Two players noticeably missing the cut are quarterback Tom Brady and fullback James Develin. While Brady being left out does not come as a surprise — his season-long stats are inferior to those posted by the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes (1st team) and the Saints’ Drew Brees (2nd team) — Develin’s position is the reason for his absence: PFF does not list fullbacks, which means that the NFL’s gets overlooked just like he was in the Pro Bowl vote.