Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks didn’t make the Pro Bowl, but he could be bringing home a much bigger prize when the Associated Press’ All-Pro teams are announced Friday.
“I feel like I’m getting more love for All-Pro than the Pro Bowl,” Kendricks said Thursday. “We’ll see.”
Fifty ballots were cast Wednesday. Each voter picked his or her first team made up of 11 offensive players, 12 defenders and five specialists.
This reporter’s ballot included Eric Kendricks and teammates Danielle Hunter at edge rusher and Harrison Smith at safety.
Kendricks, the only one of the three who didn’t make the Pro Bowl, was the easiest choice of the three.
While becoming the first player to lead the Vikings in tackles in each of his first five seasons, Kendricks also had 12 passes defensed, a league-high for a linebacker. And, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), the 83.0 passer rating on balls thrown toward Kendricks was 20 points lower than the average for all NFL linebackers.
“I actually learn coverage technique watching him play,” said Vikings safety Anthony Harris. “I’m watching him and I’m like, ‘Is this guy a DB or a linebacker?’”
PFF named Kendricks and Harris to its All-Pro team. Although Harris tied for the league lead with six interceptions, this reporter’s ballot chose the more versatile Smith as one of the two safeties.
Smith, a first-team All-Pro pick in 2017, finished with three interceptions, a sack, 11 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries as coach Mike Zimmer’s favorite chess piece.
A case could be made that Hunter is the Vikings’ best defender, if not player. But he was the hardest choice because of the intensely crowded field at edge rusher.
With only two picks to make at edge rusher and Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt a no-brainer as one of them, the second pick on this ballot came down to a whisker between Hunter and Packers’ outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith.
Hunter had one more sack (14½-13½) and led the NFL with 62 hurries. His 88 total pressures were No. 2 behind Smith’s 93, but the more consistent Hunter also had 70 tackles, which, according to league tallies, was the highest among the top 14 sack leaders.
Below is the rest of this reporter’s ballot. Of the 12 playoff teams, all but Buffalo is represented.
Votes for AP’s eight awards, including MVP and coach of the year, also were turned in Wednesday. But the voters have been asked to keep those choices private until the winners are announced on the eve of Super Bowl LIV.
Mark Craig’s All-Pro ballot
Offense: WR (2): Michael Thomas, Saints; DeAndre Hopkins, Texans. Flex (1): Aaron Jones, Packers. TE (1): Travis Kelce, Chiefs. LT (1): Ronnie Stanley, Ravens. LG (1): Quenton Nelson, Colts. C (1): Jason Kelce, Eagles. RG (1): Zack Martin, Cowboys. RT (1): Ryan Ramczyk, Saints. QB (1): Lamar Jackson, Ravens. RB (1): Christian McCaffrey, Panthers.
Defense: Edge rusher (2): Danielle Hunter, Vikings; T.J. Watt, Steelers. Interior linemen (2): Aaron Donald, Rams; Cameron Heyward, Steelers. LB (3): Eric Kendricks, Vikings; Demario Davis, Saints; Bobby Wagner, Seahawks. CB (2): Stephon Gilmore, Patriots; Richard Sherman, 49ers. S (2): Harrison Smith, Vikings; Jamal Adams, Jets. DB (1): Justin Simmons, Broncos.
Special teams: Kicker (1): Justin Tucker, Ravens. Punter (1): Brett Kern, Titans. Kick Returner (1): Cordarrelle Patterson, Bears. Punt Returner (1): Diontae Johnson, Steelers. Special Teamer (1): Matthew Slater, Patriots.