It doesn’t seem as though it’s ever too early, or too late, for a ‘predictions’ article to come through and grace us with its presence. The latest is one from the league’s website by Elliott Harrison, in which he takes a stab at predicting who will constitute the first-team All-Pro team for the 2018 season.
He really went out on a limb in predicting that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, who has been a first-team All-Pro member for four consecutive seasons, would continue to retain that role once again in 2018.
“Brown is the AFC’s version of Aaron Donald: Over the last four years, he’s been the best player at his job in the NFL”, Harrison wrote. “With Martavis Bryant having left Pittsburgh and running back Le’Veon Bell sitting out training camp (and perhaps coming back sluggishly), look for Brown’s targets to soar through the roof”.
I’m not quite sure how or why Harrison is ignoring or forgetting about the existence of JuJu Smith-Schuster, who clearly and significantly outperformed the named Martavis Bryant last season. If anything, Brown should have greater competition for touches at the beginning of this season than he did a year ago with all of the new pieces that had to be integrated, including Vance McDonald.
I suppose you can gather by now that what is coming is a discussion about a name not on the list, that being Le’Veon Bell. He was listed as a second-team All-Pro running back in 2017, but also the first-team All-Pro flex position player, but this year, Harrison believes David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals will take his place. Johnson effectively missed last season due to injury.
Interestingly enough, he also believes that the Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott is going to outperform Todd Gurley, who was the Offensive Player of the Year for 2017, as the first-team running back. He didn’t even mention Gurley’s name in the entire piece.
But why assume that Bell wouldn’t be back where he was a year ago? If anything, he should be better-prepared to have a better season this year than he did a year ago, as there will be less unfamiliarity in preparing for a campaign without a proper offseason. He’s already done that. Theoretically, that should make it easier to manage.
Another name not on the list? Right guard David DeCastro, who has become a fixture on the All-Pro list. With the Baltimore Ravens’ Marshal Yanda returning from an injury-halted season, Harrison also expects him to regain his status as one of the top guards.
And you can probably guess by now that Cameron Heyward is not getting recognized for a second year in a row by Harrison, either. To be fair, it’s statistically unlikely that he would repeat the sort of numbers that he put up a year ago, recording the second-most sacks in a season by a defensive lineman in team history.