Before we fully dive into the playoffs, it’s time for one final look at the 2021 regular season with All-Pro teams on offense and defense. These teams were picked with a mixture of stats and film. We’re going with 11 personnel on offense and nickel on defense, so three recievers and three corners will be named with weight to a slot option in each. For the AP All-Pro voting, voters only vote for one player for each spot, but we’ll name a full second-team here.

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2022 Playoffs record: 26-10 (72%)
Super Bowl record: 25-10 (71%)

Offense

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Second-team: Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

Rodgers leads the league in EPA per dropback (0.19) and is the driver of one of the league’s best passing offenses. There’s not much to say about Rodgers, who, despite some questionable off-field decisions, weathered the season as the top quarterback in the league. After an atrocious Week 1, Rodgers had only two other games with negative EPA. 58% of Rodgers’s completions went for a first down or a touchdown, which was the second-best rate in the league. 

Herbert on the second team might need a bit more explaining. The Chargers quarterback finished fourth in EPA per dropback this season and was first in Sports Info Solutions’s Total Points metric. We’re also grading Herbert a bit on a curve here based on how he had to navigate the Los Angeles offense early in the season by coming through on third downs after some less than ideal early down play calling. Herbert finished the year first in EPA per dropback on third and fourth downs down with the most dropbacks (214) in the league on late downs.

Running Back: Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

Second-team: Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

Taylor’s case is also pretty straightforward. He’s a rare running back that leads the league in both efficiency and volume. The Colts’ offense is good because of the success on the ground — a unit that ranks first in rushing DVOA while the passing offense is 18th. We wrote about how Taylor has provided value in some of the most disadvantageous situations for running the ball this season. Taylor more than doubled the EPA of the next highest running back (15.3 to 6.8).

Wide Receivers: Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams | Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers | Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

Second team: Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals | Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers | Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

With Kupp, it’s also a case of volume and efficiency leading the league. Kupp has seen a league-leading 32.3% of his team’s targets, per TruMedia, and leads the league in yards per route run (3.11). His versatility, even with just what he can do from the slot, shapes what the Rams can do on offense.

The same can be said for Davante Adams, who moves around the formation for the Packers (around 30% of his snaps from the slot). Adams ranked second in target share and third in yards per route run.

That third spot was between Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase and there probably isn’t a wrong answer. Jefferson gets the edge for, among other things, nearly single-handedly sparking the league’s best intermediate passing game. Kirk Cousins was first in EPA per attempt on throws of 11-19 air yards. Jefferson was the reason. He had a league-leading 54.2% target share on intermediate passes (the next highest receiver was at 42.2%) and his 6.93 yards per route run on intermediate routes also led all players. His ability to separate and have success in the most impactful area of the field was unmatched.

Tight End: Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

Second-team: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

If there was no Mark Andrews, there might not have been a Ravens passing game through stretches of this season. Whether it was when the offense was clicking or far from it, Andrews was the go-to. He led all tight ends with a 25.9% target share, which also ranked eighth among all players, and his 2.18 yards per route run was third at his position. Only Kyle Pitts had a higher average depth of target among tight ends.

Offensive Line: LT Trent Williams, San Francisco 49ers | LG Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns | C Creed Humprhey, Kansas City Chiefs | RG Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys | RT Tristan Wirfs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Second-team: LT Andrew Whitworth, Los Angeles Rams | LG Joe Thuney, Kansas City Chiefs | C Corey Linsley, Los Angeles Chargers | RG Kevin Zeitler, Baltimore Ravens | RT Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles

Williams was nearly perfect as a left tackle for the 49ers. Williams’s 1.2% blown block rate was the lowest among 36 left tackles with at least 400 snaps played, per SIS. His athleticism has on display in San Francisco’s zone-heavy scheme. He was fourth among all tackles with at least 150 snaps by blown block rate on zone plays.

Joel Bitonio was third among guards in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate and fifth among left guards with at least 400 snaps in overall blown block rate. Only Kevin Zeitler had more snaps as a puller at guard than Bitonio and no guard had a lower blon block rate on pulling snaps. 

As a rookie, Creed Humphrey was the league’s best center: first in Pass Block Win Rate, fifth in Run Block Win Rate, and second in blown block rate. 

Zach Martin led all right guards in blown block rate, ranked seventh among all guards in Pass Block Win Rate and 10th in Run Block Win Rate. Martin remains the best right guard in the game and the most consistent piece of a Dallas offensive line.

Only Ben Roethlisberger had a higher rate of his pass attempts (68.9%) out with 2.5 seconds of the snap than Tom Brady (62.5%), per TruMedia, but that doesn’t mean Tristan Wirfs’s job is easy. Wirfs played more snaps than any other right tacke and had the lowest blown block rate at 1.2%. None of the other five right tackles with at least 1,000 snaps on the season had a sub-2.0% blown block rate.

2021 All-Pro Team Offense

PositionFirst-TeamSecond-Team
QBAaron RodgersJustin Herbert
RBJonathan TaylorNick Chubb
WRCooper KuppDeebo Samuel
WRDavante AdamsJa'Marr Chase
WRJustin JeffersonTyreek Hill
TEMark AndrewsGeorge Kittle
LTTrent WilliamsAndrew Whitworth
LGJoel BitonioJoe Thuney
CCreed HumphreyCorey Linsley
RGZack MartinKevin Zeitler
RTTristan WirfsLane Johnson

Defense

EDGE: Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns | T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Steelers

Second-team: Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders | Trey Hendrickson, Cincinnati Bengals

Garrett was the most dominant edge rusher in the league this season. He finished first in Pass Rush Win Rate at edge and his quick wins were among the best for Garrett. Per TruMedia/PFF, no pass rusher had more pressures than Garrett on plays within 2.5 seconds of the snap. SIS had Garrett with the most total pressures among all edge rushers. His sack totals could have been higher, but he also had eight holding penalties drawn.

Watt was first among full-time edge rushers in pressure rate per SIS and led the league in quarterback hits. His 22.5 sacks are also kind of a big deal, I guess. What’s most impressive there is that 21 of them were solo sacks. When he was hitting the quarterback, he was on a solo mission. Watt also tied for the league lead with 21 tackles for loss.

Quick shout out to Hendrickson and Crosby, who ranked fourth and 12th in pressure rate. They were ninth and 10th in Pass Rush Win Rate and Crosby ranked third in Run Stop Win Rate at edge.

Interior Defensive Line: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams | Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs

Second-team: Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee Titans | Cameron Hayward, Pittsburgh Steelers

As long as Aaron Donald is on the field, he deserves to be here. He had a higher Pass Rush Win Rate than Myles Garrett while being double-teamed on around 60% of his pass rush snaps per ESPN Stats & Info. 

Chris Jones started the season playing more edge, but once he moved back inside, he returned to his dominant interior play and the Chiefs defense started to click again. Jones was second in Pass Rush Win Rate among interior defenders and second in pressures.

Linebacker: Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys | Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts

Second-team: De’Vondre Campbell, Green Bay Packers | Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers

Micah Parsons wins everywhere. He’s already one of the best downhill defenders in the league and even his coverage, which was a concern coming into the league and at the beginning of the year, wasn’t all that bad. Parsons led the league in pressure rate at 24%, per SIS, while he rushed the passer on 51.6% of his pass snaps. His ability to both play on the edge and rush from an off-ball alignment completely opened up the possibilities explored by the Dallas defense.

Leonard was all over the field for the Colts and he’s been a player who has repeatedly been able to make splash plays throughout his career. A year after zero interceptions, he had four in 2021 but that was possible because he’s typically around the ball. He had eight passes defenses and has at least seven in each of his four seasons. He also had a league-leading eight forced fumbles. 

Cornerback: Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams | A.J. Terrell, Atlanta Falcons | J.C. Jackson, New England Patriots

Second-team: Trevon Diggs, Dallas Cowboys | Kenny Moore, Indianapolis Colts | Jamel Dean, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jalen Ramsey remains the best corner in the league and even as he moved more into the slot during the 2021 season, he was among the best at deterring passes from being thrown his way and defending those passes when they were. Ramsey was fourth in Adjusted Yards allowed per coverage snap among 92 corners with at least 300 coverage snaps on the season.

A.J. Terrell didn’t make the Pro Bowl and that’s insane. He was easily one of the best corners in the league. Even if you want to knock him for mostly playing just one side of the field, opposing offenses completely avoided throwing to Terrell’s side. Terrell was third among corners in Adjusted Yards allowed per coverage snap and second in raw yards allowed per coverage snap.

The third spot came down to J.C. Jackson and Trevon Diggs, similar players who gain the most value from consistently creating turnovers. Both players were targeted often because of the structure of their defenses, but Jackson gave up fewer big plays. By raw yards allowed per coverage snap, Jackson ranked 67th but Digs ranked 91st. By adjusting for touchdowns and interceptions, Jackson jumps up to sixth while Digs is 51st.

Safety: Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans | Jordan Poyer, Buffalo Bills

Second-team: Micah Hyde, Buffalo Bills | Tryann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs

Byard was the best all-around safety in the league and made plays all over the field. He had over 500 snaps as a deep safety, 300 in the box, and was just short of 150 in the slot (147), per PFF. Byard led all safeties with 13 passes defensed. 

Picking between the two Buffalo safeties is nearly impossible and each of them made that spot at one point in this process. They’re easily the best safety duo in the league and the combination forced opposing offenses to complete just 20% of their deep pass attempts during the regular season. If I was a coward, I’d just split the vote between the two.

Poyer gets the final nod here for making a similar high impact on the backend while also filling that downhill box role that led to three sacks and eight tackles for loss. If Byard didn’t exist or have the season he did, both Buffalo safeties would have been on the first team.

2021 All-Pro Team Defense

PositionFirst-TeamSecond-Team
EDGEMyles GarrettTrey Hendrickson
EDGET.J. WattMaxx Crosby
iDLAaron DonaldJeffery Simmons
iDLChris JonesCameron Hayward
LBMicah ParsonsDe'Vondre Campbell
LBDarius LeonardFred Warner
CBJalen RamseyTrevon Diggs
CBA.J. TerrellJamel Dean
CBJ.C. JacksonKenny Moore
SKevin ByardTyrann Mathieu
SJordan PoyerMicah Hyde