Craig: My NFL All-Pro ballot

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 10, 2013 - 11:48 AM
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Having one of the 50 votes for the Associated Press' NFL All-Pro team and player-of-the-year awards comes with no monetary compensation. Just certain perks.

For instance, fans will go out of their way to help a voter. For starters, they suggest a lot of things that you can do to yourself. Secondly, if you don't know where your head is, they can tell you exactly where they think you've misplaced it.

So, without further delay, here was one man's ballot for the 2012 season:

All-Pro offense

Wide receivers: Calvin Johnson, Lions; Brandon Marshall, Bears. Johnson is the no-brainer. Marshall had 118 catches for 1,508 yards and 11 TDs, including league highs in third-down catches (39) and third-down touchdowns (five).

Tight end: Jason Witten, Cowboys. Led NFL tight ends with 110 catches.

Offensive tackles: Joe Thomas, Browns; Ryan Clady, Broncos. Thomas is a cement wall lined with steel. Too bad there's so little of value for him to protect in Cleveland.

Guards: Mike Iupati, 49ers; Jahri Evans, Saints. The 49ers built their foundation the right way, using three No. 1 picks on their offensive line. Iupati is big, athletic and the league's best mauler at guard.

Center: John Sullivan, Vikings. We'll try to right a wrong that was made during the Pro Bowl voting. Sullivan is the leader, signal-caller and best player on an offensive line that had a 2,097-yard rusher but no Pro Bowl picks. Packers center Jeff Saturday, an older player with a more recognizable name, made the Pro Bowl during a year in which his poor play got him benched. The toughest postseason award for an offensive lineman to win is his first one. There was some momentum among the AP voters to grant Sullivan this first nod. He deserves it.

Quarterback: Peyton Manning, Broncos. Great seasons by Brady, Rodgers and Manning made it a toss-up. I went with Manning because starting over with a new team a year after sitting out the season was even more impressive.

Running backs: Adrian Peterson, Vikings; Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks. Peterson obviously is a unanimous lock for an All-Pro first-team selection. That will give him five in six NFL seasons.

Fullback: Jerome Felton, Vikings. Ask Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis how good this guy is at the point of attack.

Placekicker: Blair Walsh, Vikings. Made 35 of 38 field goals, including an NFL-record 10 of 10 from 50 yards and beyond. Yes, the best kicker in the league, hands down, was the Vikings' rookie.

Kick returner: Leodis McKelvin, Bills. Averaged 18.7 yards and had two TDs on 23 punt returns.

All-Pro defense

Defensive ends: J.J. Watt, Texans; Charles Johnson, Panthers. Watt was the easy choice. Johnson had 12 1/2 sacks.

Defensive tackles: Geno Atkins, Bengals; Ndamukong Suh, Lions. Atkins had 12 1/2 sacks inside. Suh had eight.

Outside linebackers: Aldon Smith, 49ers; Von Miller, Broncos. Combined, they had 38 sacks.

Inside linebackers: Luke Kuechly, Panthers; Navorro Bowman, 49ers. Kuechly led the NFL in tackles. Bowman was second.

Cornerbacks: Tim Jennings, Bears; Charles Tillman, Bears. Jennings led the NFL with nine interceptions. Tillman had three, returning all of them for TDs, and forced 10 fumbles.

Safeties: Stevie Brown, Giants; Devin McCourty, Patriots. Brown had eight picks, two forced fumbles. McCourty had five interceptions, two forced fumbles.

Punter: Andy Lee, 49ers. Had a league-high 43.2-yard net average with 53.7 percent (36 of 67) of his punts downed inside the 20.

Postseason awards

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Casey Hayward, Packers cornerback. The kid already is a good one. He could become a great one.

Offensive Rookie: Robert Griffin III, Redskins quarterback. So many tough choices. Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson could have been chosen just as easily. But give me RGIII. For a rookie to finish third in passer rating (102.4) and 10th in rushing (815 yards, 6.8 average)? Wow.

Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Texans. When Adrian Peterson calls you a "beast" not once, but three times, you're a bonafide "beast."

Offensive Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, Broncos. Again, Rodgers, Brady and Manning all were good choices. Manning had one of his best seasons statistically and finished the regular season with 11 consecutive victories. And, again, he did it in his first year with a new franchise. Heck, he might even be the NFL Unofficial Coach of the Year.

Comeback Player: Adrian Peterson, Vikings. Another toss-up. Give me Peterson or Manning, who sat out last season and had multiple neck surgeries. I went with Peterson because of what he did at a more physically demanding position.

Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians/Chuck Pagano, Colts. As outstanding as Leslie Frazier was in turning around the Vikings, I still had to split my vote and give it to the guys who turned a gutted, 2-14 Colts team into an 11-5 playoff qualifier. Despite Pagano's three-month absence to battle leukemia, Arians led the Colts to nine of their 11 victories and made the playoffs. And one of the wins with Pagano on the sideline came against Frazier and the Vikings.

Most Valuable Player: Adrian Peterson, Vikings. His knee injury wasn't a factor in my decision. This simply was the most amazing season I've ever seen. The Vikings needed to make the playoffs for me to pick him over Manning. The fact a running back carried a one-dimensional team from three victories to the playoffs in today's NFL made Peterson the right pick.

Mark Craig • mark.craig@startribune.com

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Charlotte 76
Detroit 86 FINAL
Milwaukee 101
Philadelphia 83 FINAL
Memphis 101
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Utah 108
Washington 96 FINAL
Portland 103
Wake Forest 57 FINAL
Clemson 59
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East Carolina 64
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Penn State 79
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Xavier 89
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Boston Univ 77
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IUPUI 65
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Texas 62
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William & Mary 78
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USC Upstate 91
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Alabama State 84
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Ark-Little Rock 68
Oklahoma 58 FINAL
Baylor 69
UNC Greensboro 72 FINAL
Chattanooga 81
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Florida A&M 50
Jackson State 74 FINAL
Grambling St 63
Charlotte 69 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 72
Florida 71 FINAL
Ole Miss 72
Prairie View 72 FINAL
Miss Valley St 65
Delaware State 67 FINAL
NC A&T 52
USC 55 FINAL
Oregon State 59
Norfolk State 76 FINAL
SC State 63
Houston 59 FINAL
SMU 80
LSU 79 FINAL
Vanderbilt 75
Hampton 66 FINAL
Savannah State 68
Cal State Fullerton 49 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 68
Wagner 50 FINAL
Central Conn St 53
Cornell 57 FINAL
Columbia 47
Richmond 60 FINAL
Dayton 63
Delaware 82 FINAL
Elon 94
Nevada 62 FINAL
Fresno State 66
Davidson 80 FINAL
George Mason 73
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
High Point 72
North Dakota St 71 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 77
Wisconsin 69 FINAL
Michigan 64
Canisius 46 FINAL
Rider 59
Penn 56 FINAL
Saint Josephs 52
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Samford 78
SE Missouri St 53 FINAL
UT Martin 70
Bowling Green 67 FINAL
Toledo 71
East Tenn St 64 FINAL
Wofford 72
Ill-Chicago 64 FINAL
Youngstown St 77
Seattle 55 FINAL
UMKC 75
TX A&M-CC 71 FINAL
New Orleans 67
Southern U 65 FINAL
Alabama A&M 58
Missouri State 59 FINAL
Bradley 61
Washington St 58 FINAL
Colorado 90
Pacific 60 FINAL
Gonzaga 91
Utah State 77 FINAL
UNLV 79
Towson 65 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 69
Southern Miss 75 FINAL
North Texas 71
South Dakota St 76 FINAL
Oral Roberts 72
Louisiana Tech 58 FINAL
Rice 45
Grand Canyon 72 FINAL
TX-Pan American 73
Memphis 57 FINAL
Tulane 55
Murray State 60 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 54
Lamar 77 FINAL
Houston Baptist 79
Auburn 55 FINAL
Alabama 57
Texas Southern 62 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Southern Utah 56 FINAL
Montana 58
Utah Valley U 44 FINAL
New Mexico St 69
Sacramento St 78 FINAL
Weber State 71
Portland State 76 FINAL
Idaho State 80
Eastern Ky 81 FINAL
Tenn Tech 83
UC Riverside 49 FINAL
Cal Poly 68
Long Beach State 64 FINAL
CS-Northridge 58
San Diego St 73 FINAL
Colorado State 79
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Idaho 83
St Marys-CA 74 FINAL
Portland 64
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California 50
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Santa Clara 60
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Hawaii 72
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Stanford 89
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Charlotte 54
Kansas State 46 FINAL
(3) Baylor 68
Louisiana 63 FINAL
Georgia State 56
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Bryant 71
Wagner 61 FINAL
Central Conn St 77
Robert Morris 67 FINAL
St Francis-NY 64
Presbyterian 51 FINAL
Winthrop 54
Akron 74 FINAL
Central Michigan 72
Davidson 47 FINAL
Duquesne 83
Dayton 75 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 56
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La Salle 48
USC Upstate 44 FINAL
Stetson 67
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Fairleigh Dickinson 75
MD-Eastern Shore 65 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 75
Coppin State 58 FINAL
NC Central 59
Wofford 47 FINAL
East Tenn St 69
UNC Greensboro 49 FINAL
Western Carolina 70
Campbell 40 FINAL
Liberty 64
Charleston Southern 71 FINAL
Longwood 79
McNeese State 54 FINAL
Northwestern St 75
Coastal Carolina 61 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
High Point 58 FINAL
Radford 61
UAB 46 FINAL
Old Dominion 58
Penn 59 FINAL
NJIT 29
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Eastern Illinois 63
West Virginia 59 FINAL
Kansas 65
Miami-Ohio 53 FINAL
Bowling Green 66
Northern Ill 43 FINAL
Buffalo 47
Eastern Michigan 75 FINAL
Toledo 61
Western Mich 78 FINAL
Kent State 55
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Siena 59
Boston U 56 FINAL
Bucknell 72
Colgate 72 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 45
Holy Cross 60 FINAL
Navy 44
Rhode Island 57 FINAL
George Mason 45
Massachusetts 44 FINAL
Richmond 64
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Saint Josephs 66
Cleveland State 65 FINAL
Wright State 82
Green Bay 75 FINAL
Detroit 58
Northern Ky 70 FINAL
Jacksonville 59
Lipscomb 71 FINAL
North Florida 62
Tulsa 74 FINAL
East Carolina 63
TCU 71 FINAL
Oklahoma St 62
Santa Clara 65 FINAL
Pepperdine 54
Denver 82 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 75
Incarnate Word 54 FINAL
Abilene Christian 78
Nicholls 75 FINAL
Central Arkansas 72
Furman 45 FINAL
Chattanooga 67
Nebraska Omaha 53 FINAL
Oral Roberts 74
Stephen F Austin 64 FINAL
Sam Houston St 65
(24) Western Ky 63 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 64
Houston 49 FINAL
Memphis 84
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Jacksonville St 72
Prairie View 78 FINAL
Miss Valley St 61
Appalachian St 58 FINAL
Texas State 67
Arkansas State 82 FINAL
Troy 76
American Univ 60 FINAL
Army 68
Georgia Southern 66 FINAL
ULM 72
Illinois-Chicago 63 FINAL
Milwaukee 64
Youngstown St 82 FINAL
Oakland 85
Eastern Washington 82 FINAL
North Dakota 96
Texas Tech 64 FINAL
Oklahoma 70
San Diego 50 FINAL
BYU 54
Air Force 54 FINAL
Boise State 81
Portland 53 FINAL
St Marys-CA 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Wyoming 54 FINAL
New Mexico 60
Delaware State 38 FINAL
NC A&T 79
UNLV 72 FINAL
Utah State 85
Hampton 55 FINAL
Savannah State 61
Marshall 76 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 71
Norfolk State 75 FINAL
SC State 79
Boston College 70 FINAL
Pittsburgh 78
Chicago State 58 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 83
Alcorn State 45 FINAL
Alabama State 54
Jackson State 64 FINAL
Grambling 55
TX-Arlington 38 FINAL
Ark-Little Rock 66
Fordham 50 FINAL
Saint Louis 54
Idaho 52 FINAL
Northern Colorado 70
Cornell 44 FINAL
Columbia 42
Ohio U 60 FINAL
Ball State 53
Gonzaga 73 FINAL
Pacific 63
San Francisco 74 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 65
St Francis-PA 64 FINAL
Mount St Marys 74
Colorado State 49 FINAL
San Diego State 36
Hawaii 85 FINAL
Cal-Irvine 50
Lamar 80 FINAL
Houston Baptist 64
TX A&M-CC 58 FINAL
New Orleans 46
Weber State 65 FINAL
Sacramento St 108
FIU 63 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 77
North Texas 55 FINAL
Southern Miss 67
Southern U 77 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
(6) Notre Dame 74 FINAL
Clemson 36
Murray State 52 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 78
SE Missouri St 55 FINAL
UT Martin 96
New Mexico St 68 FINAL
Utah Valley U 58
No Dakota State 66 FINAL
Western Ill 88
Harvard 75 FINAL
Dartmouth 69
Texas Southern 74 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 45
Belmont 64 FINAL
Tennessee St 62
Eastern Kentucky 97 FINAL
Tenn Tech 93
South Dakota 43 FINAL
IUPUI 68
Fresno State 62 FINAL
Nevada 44
CS-Northridge 67 FINAL
Long Beach St 52
Rice 71 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 88
UMKC 46 FINAL
Seattle 60
Saint Peters 51 FINAL
Marist 77
Kennesaw St 47 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 61
Cal Poly 78 FINAL
UC-Riverside 82
Montana State 64 FINAL
Northern Ariz 79
UC Santa Barbara 50 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 54
Montana 59 FINAL
Southern Utah 37
Idaho State 65 FINAL
Portland State 53
TX-Pan American 54 FINAL
Grand Canyon 69
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