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Dr. Z's All-Pro Team
Paul Zimmerman
January 08, 2007
A Chargers-dominated lineup and a cool Brees for MVP
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January 08, 2007

Dr. Z's All-pro Team

A Chargers-dominated lineup and a cool Brees for MVP

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OFFENSE
QB Peyton Manning Colts
RB LaDainian Tomlinson Chargers
FB Justin Griffith Falcons
WR Marvin Harrison Colts
WR Laveranues Coles Jets
TE Antonio Gates Chargers
T Jammal Brown Saints
T Jonathan Ogden Ravens
C Tom Nalen Broncos
G Logan Mankins Patriots
G Mike Goff Chargers

PEYTON MANNING had another fine year, further establishing himself as the reigning quarterback of this era. But for those of you who say that no player, quarterback or otherwise, meant as much to his team as Drew Brees did to the Saints, I won't argue. In fact, he is my Most Valuable Player, even though I couldn't put him in the QB spot over Manning. It's the first time in 28 years of picking SI's All-Pro team that I've split the vote that way.

The Chargers--Super Bowl front-runners--dominate the lineup with four choices. The easiest was the league's premier runner, LaDainian Tomlinson, who put the alltime touchdown record out of sight with 31. Teammate Antonio Gates is a repeater at tight end. The Broncos paid him the highest tribute by putting shutdown corner Champ Bailey on him in man coverage.

Marvin Harrison, as smoothly efficient as ever, is one of the wideout selections. The other involved an agonizing choice among half a dozen candidates. But I gave the nod to the Jets' Laveranues Coles because no one else has his awareness of exactly where the first-down sticks are. If you're looking for the Bengals' Chad Johnson, whose numbers jumped off the chart, sorry, I take a dim view of dropped balls.

Young Jammal Brown, the Saints' left tackle, is this year's offensive line star, displacing an old standby, Walter Jones of the Seahawks. I let my charts do the work for me, and Brown, a big reason for Brees's success, simply had higher grades. The other tackle, the Ravens' Jonathan Ogden, is again his old drive-blocking self. San Diego right guard Mike Goff was my sleeper lineman last year, and I guess he's still a sleeper because the Pro Bowl voters refuse to honor his work in providing the muscle up front for Tomlinson. On the other side, tough-as-nails Logan Mankins of the Patriots edges others with fancier credentials. I keep looking for ways to avoid picking Denver center Tom Nalen because he despises writers and makes sure his fellow linemen keep away from them. But his game just refuses to come down from the high level he set so many years ago. Atlanta knows how to run the ball, and in fullback Justin Griffith the Falcons have a mobile and versatile athlete.

I had three finalists at defensive end. The Dolphins' Jason Taylor is the great game-changer. The Chiefs' Jared Allen is the intimidator, a relentless, punishing competitor who never stops coming. That was my pair, but how about the Panthers' Julius Peppers? When he's fresh, he's the best in the game, but the Panthers have worn him out. The Vikings' Pat Williams is a repeat defensive tackle from last year. There's no interior lineman in the game who has had the year Baltimore's Trevor Pryce has. "Best defensive player in football," says Ravens coordinator Rex Ryan, and I can't disagree.

Once again the Dolphins' Zach Thomas is the middle linebacker pick by an eyelash, this time over Brian Urlacher of the Bears. Thomas got my vote thanks to his amazing ability to get to the ball in a hurry. San Diego's Shawne Merriman is the rush linebacker who attacks the edge with fury and doesn't worry too much about coverage. Chicago's Lance Briggs is the all-around backer who has the finely tuned game of many standouts from the past.

I'd never picked Bailey at a corner--other people just graded higher. However, going around the league and realizing how much respect he commands, I can't leave him off this year. But the young guy who is really exciting is the Raiders' Nnamdi Asomugha, a great ball hawk and a cover man who in his fourth year already has offenses geared to avoid him. The Browns' Sean Jones was an easy strong safety pick. Under my complicated system, he had the best grades of any defensive back. The Eagles' Brian Dawkins has had a fine year at free safety but the Jets' Kerry Rhodes was even more active, if that's possible.

Sorry, but I can't pick a kicker who hasn't tried one longer than 49 yards. Thus Baltimore's Matt Stover is my choice over Chicago's Robbie Gould. Brian Moorman of the Bills is my repeat punter.

Chicago's Devin Hester, with his record six TDs, is everybody's choice as a returner, and Philadelphia's Quintin Mikell, who not only busts wedges but is also a terrific blocker on kickoffs, is my all-around special teamer. The Saints' Sean Payton has done a magnificent job handling his rushing tandem, Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister. He's a narrow choice over the Jets' boy wonder, Eric Mangini, as my Coach of the Year. My heart said that Chargers left tackle Marcus McNeill would be a terrific choice for Rookie of the Year, but my head said that quarterback Vince Young deserved the honor for taking the Titans into playoff contention.

The Best of 2006

[This article contains tables. Please see hardcopy or pdf.]

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