Ends: Michael Strahan, Giants, and Michael McCrary, Ravens. Strahan plays the strong side and is relentless. On consistency McCrary, a sack specialist, wins over the Seahawks' Michael Sinclair.
Tackles: Bryant Young, 49ers, and Darrell Russell, Raiders. Young, neglected in Pro Bowl balloting after he broke his leg in the 12th game, is the most technically proficient player at his position. Russell, a mighty pocket collapser, is a narrow winner over the Saints' cat-quick La'Roi Glover.
Middle linebacker: Ray Lewis, Ravens. The Incredible Tackling Machine wins by a whisker over the Steelers' Levon Kirkland, the Lions' Stephen Boyd and the Dolphins' Zach Thomas.
Outside linebackers: Chad Brown, Seahawks, and Derrick Brooks, Buccaneers. Once a pass-rushing specialist, Brown has become a complete player. I awarded him the highest grades of anyone. Brooks, my weakside backer, is strong at the point of attack and gifted in coverage.
Cornerbacks: Ty Law, Patriots, and 5am Madison, Dolphins. They routinely cover the most dangerous receiver. Law is the NFL's interception leader, with nine. Madison is tied for second, with eight. Where's Deion Sanders? With only nine full games, he hasn't played enough to qualify.
Strong safety: Rodney Harrison, Chargers. Teamed with Junior Seau to lead the league's top-ranked defense. A great run stopper, and he's better now in coverage.
Free safety: Mark Carrier, Lions. Every time I saw him, he was knocking down a pass.
Nickelback: Ray Mickens, Jets. A new position on my team, but Mickens has been so good in the nickel, which we're seeing more of than ever, that he deserves recognition.