NFL All-Pro teams are not perfect, but they typically give a good indication of the best players in the league over the course of a season. Because some great players have a stranglehold on All-Pro positions (typically Tom Brady and Antonio Brown among them), it can be a tough honor to crack. Over the next couple of days, I’ll be going over five guys on offense and five guys on defense that I believe have a chance at becoming first-time All-Pros in 2018.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
Team success is important for a quarterback to make the All-Pro team, and Russell Wilson is coming off his first season in which he missed the playoffs. Now, he’s on a team that went through some major changes this offseason to both the roster and coaching staff—including new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. There are obvious red flags for Wilson’s chances of being named an All-Pro this season. However, he has it in him to make it happen.
Statistically, Wilson has been better, but he might be coming off his best year considering the situation he was in during 2017. The Super Bowl XLVIII champion seems to get better as a passer by the year, and his rushing skills and magician-like ability to escape pressure are still at their height. Seattle is hoping to take pressure off Wilson with an upgraded running game, but the defense might take a step back, which could lead to Wilson having to put up bigger numbers. If Wilson leads the Seahawks to the playoffs or a division title in perhaps the league’s toughest division, it probably would mean he has a strong case for an All-Pro nod and MVP consideration.
Derek Carr, QB, Raiders
After entering last season as someone on many MVP shortlists, the common thought about Derek Carr has now swung the complete opposite direction despite the fact that the offensive line and other players around Carr took a step back, and that Carr was coming off a broken leg and then suffered a fractured back. A low yards per attempt leads to some the criticism, but there is no question the fifth-year quarterback is a very talented player with the ability to be among the top signal-callers in the NFL.
Jon Gruden could be the perfect coach for Carr, as the longtime quarterback guru will challenge Oakland’s franchise player unlike anyone that has challenged him before—which should bring out the best in him. Also, after spending nearly a decade from a different perspective while undoubtedly crafting an offense for a potential coaching return, Gruden could have a lot up his sleeve when the Raiders hit the field in September—and Carr will be the triggerman as a CEO-type quarterback for that offensive attack.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans
I believe a case can be made for the Titans being the second-best team in the AFC behind the Patriots, so that’s part of why I think their quarterback could become an All-Pro in 2018. My thoughts on Marcus Mariota are well-documented, and his statistically substandard 2017 season didn’t change anything for me. Mariota has everything you want from a quarterback—from top-notch physical tools, including great size, athletic ability, and a quick release, to exceptional football IQ.
The wide receivers for the Titans must emerge as playmakers for Mariota to put up the numbers required for an All-Pro team, but second-year receiver Taywan Taylor appears to be stepping up during training camp, and fellow second-year receiver—and 2017 fifth overall pick—Corey Davis showed big flashes in last January’s playoff loss to New England. Furthermore, the addition of Dion Lewis, who is a great outlet on check-downs and short passes, will help Mariota. Tennessee and Mariota might emerge into the NFL’s elite this season.
Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
Keenan Allen probably should have made last year’s All-Pro team, so he’s an easy pick to become a first-time All-Pro in 2018. Last season, a healthy Allen had 102 receptions for 1,393 yards and six touchdowns, including one of the best stretches for a receiver in NFL history as he became the first player to ever have three consecutive games with at least ten receptions, 100 receiving yards, and one receiving touchdown.
Also, Allen is a consistent performer that makes an impact every week. His crafty route-running, great hands, open-field moves, and underrated speed all make him one of the league’s best and perhaps the best bet to become an All-Pro this season. I also think Chargers teammate Melvin Gordon can become an All-Pro in 2018, and I’ll get to another Chargers player tomorrow.
Brandon Scherff, OG, Redskins
The Redskins have wanted to get tougher in the trenches the past few years, and left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brandon Scherff are a big part of that. Williams is already an All-Pro, but Scherff could be next to join his teammate for the honor. The former Iowa Hawkeye was drafted with the fifth pick in the draft in 2015, so the Redskins likely have high hopes for him becoming that type of player (despite former GM Scot McCloughan drafting him).
With Derrius Guice added to a group of talented backs including Samaje Perine, Rob Kelley, and Chris Thompson, the Redskins might run the ball a lot in 2018. Scherff leading the way on the interior for what could be one of the league’s best rushing offenses, potentially led by Guice, who many people thought was a first-round talent at running back, could lead to his first appearance on an All-Pro team.