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Dr. Z's All- Pros (cont.)

Posted: Thursday January 10, 2008 9:45AM; Updated: Thursday January 10, 2008 2:36PM
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The Patriots' Wes Welker had 112 catches for 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
The Patriots' Wes Welker had 112 catches for 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
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SLOT RECEIVER (Wes Welker) Why do the All-Pro pickers insist on a fullback, when most teams use one for about 10 plays a game, preferring a three-wide attack? OK, if I had to choose a FB it would be Cleveland's Lawrence Vickers, who goes after people with disdain, but there's no way I was going to pick an All-Pro team and leave Welker off.

You know how they're always saying how it takes a new receiver time to adjust to the quarterback? I mean, I heard that about the Colts' Anthony Gonzalez for more than half the season. But it took Brady about five minutes to get timed up with Welker.

And what a boost that's been to the offense. Welker broke the Pats' single-season pass-catching record by 11 receptions, and tied for first in the NFL. He was Brady's hot man against the blitz, his bail-out receiver who always seemed to put a move on a defender just as he made the difficult catch. I've said many times that he's the greatest hot receiver I've ever seen.

TACKLES (Flozell Adams, Jason Peters) I'd never picked Adams on my All-Pro team and I didn't plan to this year. I mean, his technique was just so sloppy. He kind of engulfs people. I wasn't even going to do a grading on him, along with the other lads. But then I was going through my DEs and the Giants' Osi Umenyiora flunked out, basically because of a pair of zeros against the Cowboys.

Now a zero in my system is very rare. It doesn't just mean no sack, it means no outstanding defensive play of any kind ... force against the pass or against the run, tackle near the line, even enough penetration to blow up a play. All those get a check mark of some kind. But Flozell held Osi to nothing. So I looked at him more closely, or rather, at his opponents.

Jason Taylor of Miami. Zero. Huh? I know he's been beaten up this year, but a zero for Jason? I'd never seen that. Rosevelt Colvin of the Patriots. Zero. Andre Carter of Washington. Zero. Schobel of Buffalo, a single force. Cole of Philly, who's a good active rusher, two tackles on running plays. I had found the rarest commodity of all, an offensive tackle, which are just so difficult to come by these days. And I didn't even do a grading on Flozell, his drive blocking, etc. Just the guys he faced.

I went with my grades for the other tackle spot. The Bills' young, athletic Peters scored highest. When he left the Giants game with a groin pull, the offense fell apart. I use the same basic system for all 0-linemen, but my tackle grades are the lowest for any position.

Light of the Patriots, a quick type of blocker, was runner-up. Joe Thomas, the Cleveland rookie, finished next. Very sound, but for a while he was into some weird, cutting technique that didn't serve him very well. Then he played it safe, and soft, and didn't let his man near the QB very often, but didn't move many people out, either.

Samuels of Washington started out well, then faltered. Lepsis of Denver, another guy I've liked in the past, came apart toward the end of the season. I was told the Panthers' Jordan Gross was the best RT in the league. Not in the games I saw him. New Orleans Jammal Brown, everyone's favorite tackle last year, never recovered from what I assume was a pretty bad injury because he struggled. Seattle's perennial Walter Jones has lost most of the punch he had at one time, but he can still get pretty decent position.

GUARDS (Logan Mankins, Jason Brown) Mankins was my favorite guard last year, and this one, too. He's got it all, brains, quickness, meanness. I saw him have only one tough game, and that was against Haloti Ngata of the Ravens, but everyone has trouble trying to move that guy. It's like blocking something out of a quarry.

A sleeper, Brown of the Ravens, ran away with my other position. A different type. He's a 6-3, 320-pound bowling ball, and when he hits 'em, they fly. If I needed any convincing at all on him, and I really didn't, it came against the Patriots, when he just about put a hole in Richard Seymour's chest.

People occasionally ask me for my scoring numbers on the linemen, and I don't mind providing them, except for the tackles because they're embarrassingly low. But here are the grades for my top guards: Mankins 5.5; Brown 5.3; Hutchinson of the Vikings, a little slower, a little less sure footed than my pair, 4.7; Lilja of the Colts 3.7; the Redskins' Pete Kendall, who had a terrific game at Green Bay, 3.6; Pittsburgh's Faneca, not as young nor as balanced as he used to be, 3.5; Andrews of Philly 3.2.

If you're sad that your favorite Pro Bowler isn't mentioned, it's because I started grading him, realized that he'd never make it, and gave it up before I'd gotten every look.

CENTER (Jeff Saturday) I'll go with the same drill, OK? The Colts' Saturday and Koppen of the Patriots were pretty close all year. At crunch time I was faced with a choice, Saturday, the old pro who might be starting on the downside in years to come, or Koppen, who's on the rise. I went with the old vet, whom I'd never picked before, having chosen Tom Nalen for as long as I can remember.

The grades were 4.9 for Saturday, 4.6 for Koppen, and here comes the rest of the parade: Meester of Jacksonville 4.4, Mangold of the Jets 3.9, Jackson of Philly 3.3, Mawae of Tennessee 3.2, Faine of New Orleans 2.7. You'll notice that most of these players are of the fairly quick-footed variety. Probably the best of the brute force type is Gurode of Dallas, but after six games I gave up on him because he just wasn't in the hunt.

I'll have to award an asterisk to Miami rookie Samson Satele, very willing, very energetic. Big effort, some mistakes. He had a really outstanding game on the road against the Jets, in others he had his share of whiffs. Definitely a guy to watch for the future, though. He might be better as a guard.

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