Closer look at players who merit recognition in 2006
Posted: Friday January 5, 2007 10:21AM; Updated: Saturday January 6, 2007 1:15AM
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning threw 31 touchdowns and just nine interceptions this season.
DR. Z'S ALL-PROS
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
COACH OF THE YEAR
In explaining my all-pro team, the first thing I should get out of the way is the fact that I picked Peyton Manning as my quarterback and Drew Brees as my MVP. I thought Peyton produced the finest level of play at the position, but no player did as much for his team as Brees did. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I can go to the more or less normal selections.
Where applicable I'll give you the runners-up at the various positions, and an idea of how different players graded. These grades are strictly personal, based on my own system. For offensive linemen I add a mark for every successful run block within a scheme that produces four of more yards. I deduct one for a sack allowed, a force, an assist on a sack or a stuffed-run. Then I come up with a net figure. Highest net wins.
For defensive linemen I don't count up tackles, I give a mark for a move that destroys a play, even if the destroyer doesn't eventually wrap his arms and bring the runner down. I add half a point for a forced pass or an assist on someone else's sack, and a full point for a self-generated and self-fulfilled sack. Linebackers are graded more or less on the same system, except that pass defense figures in as well. The system for DB's is multi-faceted, too complicated to explain in detail.
QUARTERBACK (Peyton Manning) I only graded two, Manning against Brees. Peyton graded higher, and in the first nine unbeaten contests he was absolutely at the top of his game, but there was no way to overlook the contribution Brees made to his club's well being.
RUNNING BACK (LaDainian Tomlinson) There were many fine runners this year, and in a normal season you would not go wrong with Tiki Barber or Larry Johnson as your all-pro selection. Frank Gore would have been a purely emotional choice, carrying a team whose offense would have died without him, operating behind an average to mediocre line. But there was simply no way of getting away from LaDainian Tomlinson, the class of the field.
FULLBACK (Justin Griffith) Lorenzo Neal was everybody's choice. Except mine. Yeah, I know, he gets his body in front of Tomlinson, and all that, but he doesn't go after people the way he once did. He plays the angles now ... does only as much as he has to. He's a position blocker, which is what happens to these booming fullbacks as they age. The problem was that I couldn't really find anyone else who really thrilled me.
Last year my man was the Redskins' Chris Cooley, an H-Back. The position, I reasoned, was "other man in the backfield," fullback or H-Back or whatever, but this year Cooley is a tight end and the fullback, who seldom started and was only spotted in and out, was Mike Sellers. Yeah, a sturdy banger on occasion, but not an all-pro. Nor was Ovie Mughelli of the Ravens, who, again, had his moments but not enough of them. Mack Strong of the Seahawks had been my pick in years past, but he's aging.
I went down the league, team by team, and the best guy I found, who spent the most time on the field and made the biggest contribution, was Justin Griffith of the Falcons. At this point I'm ready to entertain all arguments, and if you start hollering Neal at me, I'd advise you to do a film study, if you have them, and watch him closely.
RECEIVERS (Laveranues Coles, Marvin Harrison) This position was, to be frank, a bitch to sort through. I had eight finalists, Laveranues Coles of the Jets, Andre Johnson of the Texans, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne of the Colts, Torry Holt of St. Louis, Steve Smith of the Panthers, Donald Driver of the Packers and Roy Williams of the Lions. I guess you have noticed one glaring omission. Chad Johnson wasn't on my list. I saw the Bengals play nine times this season. He made some big plays. He had some crucial dropped passes. Too many of them. Dropped balls are very big in my system. I wonder how many Pro Bowl pickers consider that element.
Consistency was what I looked for among my final eight. So I went down the season game by game and awarded points for the guy who won each week. Not perfect, I know. They were facing different teams in different situations. Then I took each receiver's top five games and tried to put them in the context of the importance of the game and then compare them. Same problem.
Then I tried to evaluate the effect each wideout had on the defense, how much he helped the overall attack. Then I backed up and did a "clutch catch" evaluation, which was almost like awarding points to divers for degree of difficulty. When I got through with everything I had Coles, who excels in the degree of difficulty, clutch catches, and Harrison, who does things so effortlessly that you lose track of how effective he really is.