Bullz-Eye.com's NFL All-Spectator Team, NFL all pro, best NFL players

Bullz-Eye.com's NFL All-Spectator Team

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Okay, so you led your team to the playoffs. Whoopee. You're on your way to Miami and Super Bowl XLI? Congrats. You’re an MVP? Fantastic, but who really cares? How about the other 1,060 NFL players that busted their butts all season only to be watching you come January? Yeah, we’re talking to you Brady, Urlacher and Tomlinson! You guys have gotten enough press this postseason.
So instead of handing even more hardware to the usual group of superstar candidates, we’ve assembled our own squad of NFL elite, but with one caveat: the players we selected all packed up their lockers and went home when the playoffs started. That’s right, you won’t find Peyton Manning, Tiki Barber or Antonio Gates anywhere on our list. What you will find are guys who had outstanding individual years, but were nonetheless reduced to innocent bystanders when the postseason began.

Below is Bullz-Eye.com’s first annual NFL All-Spectator team. All 11 positions on offense and defense are represented, as well as a kicker, punter and return specialists. The criteria for how we selected each player were rather simple: how good would that player’s respective team have been without him this season? In other words, do the Tennessee Titans sniff .500 without the play of rookie quarterback Vince Young? Take Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas off the Dolphins and is Miami’s defense even half of what it was in’06? And since there were a lot of close calls, we also included honorable mentions for each position.

Vince Young (Ten)
(2199 pass yards, 12 pass TD, 13 INT; 552 rush yards, 7 rush TD)
After taking over a squad that started 0-3 under the leadership of Kerry Collins, Young led the usually overmatched Titans to eight wins in the next 13 games (including six straight) and even had his team in contention for a playoff spot heading into Week 17. He achieved this just a few months after plenty of pundits criticized the team for taking Young, a “project,” over the “more NFL-ready” Matt Leinart in the 2006 NFL Draft. Young’s mechanics and his accuracy (51.5%) do need some work, but his ability to tuck the ball and consistently take it to house is a dimension that few other QBs bring to the table. Plus, the guy just knows how to win.
Running Back
Frank Gore (SF)
(1695 rushing yards; 61 receptions, 484 rec yards, 9 total TD)
Few thought that Gore would be able to match the 4.8 yards per carry that he posted in 2005. This season, he not only matched it, he exceeded it. The former Miami Hurricane rushed for 1,695 yards on 312 carries, which works out to 5.4 yards per carry, and he was almost always good for one big play per game, ripping off runs of 51, 53, 61 and 72 yards this year. Considering that the San Francisco passing attack was pretty anemic, Gore’s season becomes that much more impressive. He’s a star in the making, if he can just keep those knees together.
Justin Griffith (Atl)
(106 rushing yards; 23 receptions, 168 rec yards, 4 total TD)
Griffith is versatile, young and very underrated. All of those virtues where on display in a Week-17 win against Tampa Bay. When starting tailbacks Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood succumbed to injuries on the same series, Griffith stepped up big. The bruising fullback took on all of the tailback duties, rushing for 57 yards on 12 carries and added a 21-yard touchdown run where he head-faked Bucs safety Will Allen in the process.
Wide Receiver
Donald Driver (GB)
(92 receptions, 1295 yards, 8 TD)
Year after year, Driver gets little to no attention, and year after year, the guy puts up great numbers. This was his third straight 84+ catch/1200+ yard season, and it earned him a second trip to the Pro Bowl. He’s not blessed with superior physical skills, so Driver does much of his work over the middle, an area of the field that a lot of wideouts are reluctant to explore.
Tight End
Kellen Winslow (Cle)
(89 receptions, 875 yards, 3 TD)
The self-described “best tight end in the game” led the position in receptions and was third in receiving yards. He only scored three times but was plagued by sketchy QB play for most of the season. KW2 takes a lot of flak, most of it deserved, but this self- proclaimed soldier talked the talk and, in his first healthy NFL season, pretty much walked the walk. Now, he just needs to stay away from motorcycles (and microphones).
Wide Receiver
Lee Evans (Buf)
(82 receptions, 1292 yards, 8 TD)
After a strong finish to 2005, Evans was primed for a great 2006 and he didn’t disappoint, even though J.P. Losman’s inconsistency made life tough. The Bills had no business winning seven games, but there they were, fighting for a playoff spot during the stretch run. Evans caught 43 balls for 805 yards and six scores over the last eight games, which could mean he’s in for an even bigger 2007.
Honorable Mention: Skill positions

Quarterback: Marc Bulger (StL)
(4301 yards, 24 TD, 8 INT)
Sure, Bulger’s stats are a quite a bit better than Young’s, but he also had a lot more help. Put him on the Titans and there’s no way the team sniffs eight wins.

Running Back: Steven Jackson (StL)
(1528 rushingl yards, 13 TD; 90 receptions, 806 rec yards, 3 TD)
Jackson did his best Marshall Faulk impersonation, catching 90 passes for 806 yards, and became one of the most dangerous dual-threats in the league. With this kind of production at running back, it’s amazing the Rams didn’t make the postseason in the mediocre NFC.

Fullback: Zach Crockett (Oak)
(39 carries, 163 rushing yards)
Crockett isn’t as versatile as Griffith is in the receiving game, but the 13-year vet added stability to the Raiders ever so inconsistent offensive backfield this year.

Wide Receiver: Torry Holt (StL)
(93 receptions, 1188 yards, 10 TD)
Noticing a trend here? We love Holt, but he had Steven Jackson pulling linebackers and safeties out of his passing lanes while Marc Bulger threw him the ball. This made his life pretty easy when compared to what Donald Driver and Lee Evans had to work with.

Wide Receiver: Chad Johnson (Cin)
(87 receptions, 1369 yards, 7 TD)
“Ocho Cinco” regressed a tad in 2006, and desiite being a part of a great offense, he (and the underachieving Bengals) failed to make the postseason. After a slow start, he rattled off 765 yards and five TDs during a five-game span in the middle of the season, flashing his incredible talent and earning this honorable mention.

Tight End: Alge Crumpler (Atl)
(56 receptions, 780, 8 TD)
Even though he only caught 56 passes, Crumpler was second among all tight ends in scores and fourth in receiving yards. Though he’s easily Michael Vick’s favorite target, he’s still a bit inconsistent.

Willie Anderson (Cin)
Anderson is a veteran of 11 years and he seems to get better every season. The most stable of the Cincinnati offensive linemen, Anderson mauls defenders with his exceptional technique and fundamentals. Although he displays excellent fundamentals and finesse, Anderson also has no problem pancaking defensive linemen with his 300-plus pound frame. When most players start thinking about retirement once they hit their mid-30s, Anderson seems to still be in his prime.
Chris Samuels (Was)
While it’s true that Samuels gets a ton of help from fellow tackle Jon Jansen, it’s no surprise that Samuels is heading to his fourth Pro Bowl in just seven seasons. Samuels was a critical component to the Redskins ranking fifth in fewest sacks allowed per pass play and seventh in yards per carry. Washington was the only team in the league ranked in the top seven in both categories and that goes a long way in supporting how big of an impact Samuels had for the disappointing Redskins this season.
Eric Steinbach (Cin)
Quick, name the only Cincinnati offensive lineman that was among the nine Bengal arrests this season. If you guessed Steinbach, give yourself a pat on the back. Steinbach was arrested for “boating under the influence” in August. Despite the legal run-in, Steinbach is looking to make it big in the free agency market after a nice ‘06 campaign. Versatility is the name of the game for most of our squad, and Steinbach fits nicely into that category as well since he can play all five o-line positions, is consistent and partners up well with Willie Anderson.
Brad Meester (Jax)
The strength of the Jaguar offense is in the line and Meester is at the center of it all. Meester led a Jacksonville unit that set a franchise record for rushing yards in a season with 2,541 and opened plenty of holes for running backs Fred Taylor and rookie Maurice Jones-Drew. Meester rebounded well from a bicep tear that cost him the final four games of the 2005 season. He’s in the prime of his career, explodes well at the point of attack and rarely gets pushed back when facing nose tackles.
Alan Faneca (Pit)
For the fifth time in his nine-year career, Faneca was voted to the Pro Bowl in Honolulu. Along with teammate Kendall Simmons, Faneca is the anchor of Pittsburgh’s offensive line. He has displayed an amazing work ethic year in and year out as well as being the ultimate road grater for tailback Willie Parker. There might not be a better pulling guard in the game today.
Honorable Mention: Offensive line

Tackle: Jason Peters (Buf)
Peters is a young pup with only three years of service, but he already is regarded as the Bills’ best lineman. He showed his flexibility by moving from the right to left tackle spot in October when Buffalo was struggling. Peters is extremely quick and keeps defenders in front of him with his long arms, but he’s young and still makes some costly mistakes.

Guard: Steve Hutchinson (Min)
Hutchinson is a very determined blocker who is also extremely intelligent and agile. He was definitely worth the dough the Vikings shelled out to acquire his services from Seattle in the offseason. However, he wasn’t as overpowering this year as he was last season during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run.

Center: Tom Nalen (Den)
Nalen is tough as nails and is the leader of a veteran line. True, he doesn’t allow his teammates to talk to the media, which can cause animosity toward the Denver line, but he also keeps the younger players focused and determined. Although Meester gets the starting nod over him, Nalen is still one of the best centers in the NFL.

Defensive End
Jason Taylor (Mia)
62 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 9 FF, 2 INT
Okay, who pissed off Jason Taylor? He has always been a force, but good grief Charlie Brown; Taylor was an absolute monster for Miami this year. In a 31-13 victory in Chicago, Taylor had one sack, one forced fumble and one interception that he returned 20 yards for a score. Did we mention the Bears were previously 7-0 before the loss to Miami? Taylor led the NFL in fumbles forced and ran away with Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Defensive End
Aaron Kampman (GB)
89 tackles, 15.5 sacks
Taylor may have overshadowed him with an out-of- this-world year, but few defenders topped Kampman’s season. The former fifth-round draft pick led the NFC in sacks with his relentless motor and combination of speed and technique. Take Kampman off the Packers defense and Green Bay probably isn’t in the playoff hunt heading into Week 17. Plus, unlike teammate Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Kampman plays the run too.
Defensive Tackle
Pat Williams (Min)
36 tackles, 5 sacks
Williams was a huge part – both figuratively and literally – of the NFL’s top run defense in ’07. In the mold of Ted Washington and Grady Jackson, Williams commanded double teams on virtually every play. That kept pulling guards off Viking linebackers, which helped them clean up opposing running backs. Williams made ‘backers E.J. Henderson, Ben Leber and Napoleon Harris more productive run stuffers this season.
Defensive Tackle
Warren Sapp (Oak)
47 tackles, 10 sacks, 1 FF
While criticized earlier in his Oakland career, Sapp was an absolute beast for Da Raiders in '06. Sapp was perhaps the biggest benefactor of the Raiders moving back to a 4-3 defense, finishing behind only end Derrick Burgess for the team lead in sacks. But the former Buc's biggest stat may have been 16: after playing in a combined 19 games over the past two seasons, Sapp played in all 16 games this year and was a big part of the Raiders finishing in the top five in total defense.
Outside Linebacker
Keith Bullock (Ten)
144 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 FF, 1 INT
Every year the centerpiece of the Tennessee defense is Bullock. The seven-year veteran is a natural leader, a fierce competitor and an unselfish player. Bullock makes everybody around him better and without him, the Titans' defense wouldn’t be half of what it is today. Bullock led the Titans and all outside linebackers in tackles with 144.
Inside Linebacker
Zach Thomas (Mia)
165 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 FF, 1 INT
Thomas continues to show why size shouldn’t be the only factor in determining where a player gets drafted. At only 5-11, Thomas was told he would never make it as a middle linebacker in the NFL. Eleven years into the game, Thomas still serves as the backbone of the Dolphins defense. Thomas led the league in tackles, shedding blocks like a madman with his “undersized” 5-11 frame. Funny how no one ever mentions Thomas’ size after he continuously blasts ball carriers in the mouth Sunday after Sunday.
Outside Linebacker
EJ Henderson (Min)
110 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 FF, 2 INT
Henderson was so good this year that the Vikings signed their most productive linebacker to a multi-year contract extension in mid- December. Henderson finished the season with at least 10 tackles in four games and was a vital contributor to a Vikings team that led the league in run defense. He also finished with three sacks and two interceptions, proving that he was much more than just a surefire tackler.
Honorable Mention: Front seven

Defensive End: Julius Peppers, (Car)
(58 tackles, 13 sacks, 3 FF)
Peppers’ sacks and tackle numbers were right in line with Jason Taylor’s, but Julius didn’t take over games like Taylor did this season so he’ll have to settle for an honorable mention nod. That’s not to take anything away from what Peppers accomplished this season, however. His numbers were impressive, especially considering he was probably on the most underachieving defensive line of the year.

Defensive End: Leonard Little (StL)
(60 tackles, 13 sacks, 7 FF)
Little seemed to be the only Rams defensive lineman to apply pressure on the quarterback this season. While many say he’s just a one-dimensional player in the mold of Simeon Rice, Little’s 60 tackles this year should squash that criticism. Just like Peppers, Little is certainly worthy of a starting nod on this team, but loses out to the amazing seasons Taylor and Kampman delivered.

Defensive Tackle: Kevin Williams (Min)
(44 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF)
Kevin Williams loses the nod to his teammate Pat Williams because he was less versatile. Kevin was a stud against the run, but added next to nothing in getting after the quarterback.

Defensive Tackle: John Henderson (Jax)
(51 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 FF)
Henderson wasn’t as dominate this season as he has been in years past, but he still is one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Losing tag team partner Marcus Stroud to injury for six weeks likely hampered Henderson’s production.

Outside Linebacker: Derrick Brooks (TB)
(121 tackles, 3 INT)
Brooks’ stats weren’t as flashy as they have been in years past, but he still led the Bucs in tackles with 121 and continues to be the master of the “Tampa 2” coverage. Brooks is the best outside linebacker to ever play the Tampa 2 because his phenomenal instincts often lead to pass breakups and interceptions. His internal clock is always on par with the quarterback’s, which is just one of the reasons Brooks still competes at a high level despite being 33 years old.

Outside Linebacker: Michael Boley (Atl)
(87 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 FF, 2 INT)
Give Boley – who just completed his second NFL season – another year before he starts making yearly trips to Honolulu. Boley is fast, a sure-tackler and a true playmaker. While he doesn’t display the usual mean streak you find in most NFL linebackers, that doesn’t mean Boley doesn’t come with the same intensity and fire every game.

Inside Linebacker: DeMeco Ryans (Hou)
(156 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 INT)
Ryans is only a rookie, so we're curious to see if the former second rounder can avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. It’s amazing to think that the Texans had a bonafide Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate this year, but it wasn’t first overall draft pick Mario Williams.

Inside Linebacker: London Fletcher-Baker (Buf)
(146, 2 sacks, 4 INT)
Go ahead and give recognition to Ryans and not Fletcher-Baker, or vice versa, but we won’t do it. Fletcher-Baker is 31, but still has plenty left in the tank. He finished third in the NFL behind Thomas and Ryans with 146 total tackles and led Buffalo in team tackles. Fletcher-Baker had seven games this season of 10-plus tackles and never missed a contest.

Champ Bailey (Den)
86 tackles, 1 sack, 10 INT
There is no better all-around corner in the NFL than Bailey. As quite possibly the only true shutdown corner left in the league, Bailey makes opposing quarterbacks think twice before throwing in his direction. How many times this season did an opposing offense put together an impressive drive only to be turned away by a Bailey interception in the end zone? That’s why his return yardage was so low – because he made the pick when it killed teams the most. Bailey simply shuts down one side of the field with both his interception-making ability and sure tackling.
Walt Harris (SF)
63 tackles, 1 sack, 4 FF, 8 INT
Harris was completely overlooked for the Pro Bowl and loses a lot of press to his younger cross-bay rival Nnamdi Asomugha of the Raiders. Not only did Harris face stiffer competition than Asomugha in Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Darrell Jackson, Deion Branch, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald in the NFC West, but he also was the most stable defensive back in the 49ers' inconsistent secondary. Harris led all cornerbacks with four forced fumbles and finished tied for second in interceptions with eight.
Strong Safety
Adrian Wilson (Ari)
85 tackles, 5 sacks, 4 FF, 4 INT
The Denny Green-led Cardinals were mostly a collection of overpaid underachievers. While it’s true that ‘Zona did play hard for almost half a year in ’06, Wilson played hard throughout the full 16 game season. No play summed up Wilson’s season more than the one he made against Michael Vick and the Falcons in Week 4. With the Falcons up 9-3 and driving for an apparent touchdown early in the second quarter, Wilson watched from his strong safety position as Vick rolled out to his right. Thinking he had a receiver wide open, Vick flung a laser into the end zone only to have Wilson step in at the last second and snag it out of thin air. But rather than kneeling down for a touchback, Wilson broke two tackles and raced 99 yards for an Arizona touchdown. There’s just never any quit in the smart and distinctive Wilson.
Free Safety
Chris Hope (Ten)
121 tackles, 5 INT
In the offseason, Hope was regarded as the best free safety available on the free agent market. He wanted to remain a member of the defending world champion Pittsburgh Steelers, but his former team thought Hope's asking price was too high. Fair enough, Hope went to Tennessee where he played in all 16 games, finished second on the team in tackles with 121 and led the team in interceptions with five. He also brought veteran leadership to a youthful secondary and got the ear of former troublemaker Pac Man Jones, who subsequently started to fly straight under Hope’s direction and finished out a nice ’06 season. The Steelers, on the other hand, lost their centerfielder and complement to strong safety Troy Polamalu. Polamalu suffered a rash of injuries this season and the secondary looked disastrous at times. Sometimes it’s better to just pony up.
Honorable Mention: Secondary

Cornerback: Rashean Mathis (Jax)
(63 tackles, 8 INT)
Rashean Mathis had a superb year, but his overall team value comes down a bit with so many playmakers on Jacksonville’s stout defense. Unfair? We know.

Cornerback: Nnamdi Asomugha (Oak)
(Asomugha: 50 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF, 8 INT)
The above explanation on giving the nod to Walt Harris over Asomugha was not in anyway a dig at Asomugha. One of the true bright spots on a hideous Oakland team, Asomugha made fantastic plays in an upset over Pittsburgh and a 27-10 loss to Cincinnati. If teams knew they had to throw the ball more to beat the Raiders, Asomugha would probably have been better than honorable mention, but nevertheless, he is an excellent young talent.

Strong Safety: Sean Jones (Cle)
(111 tackles, 5 INT)
It’s tough being a Cleveland Browns fan these days and even tougher to be a Browns defensive back. Nickel back Daylon McCutcheon missed the season following knee surgery, starting cornerback Leigh Bodden only played in nine games because of ankle injuries and somehow, someway, expensive free agent Gary Baxter blew out both of his knees on the same play while trying to cover Denver’s Javon Walker. Yikes. The lone bright spot was Sean Jones, who earned the starting strong safety spot over former 2005 second-round pick Brodney Pool. Jones led the Browns in tackles with 111 and tied ex-Bear Daven Holly for the team lead in interceptions with five. Assuming he doesn’t succumb to a freak injury like the rest of Cleveland’s defensive backs, Jones might become one of the finest young safeties in the league.

Free Safety: Kevin Kaesviharn (Cin)
(64 tackles, 4 sacks, 6 INT)
When the Bengals acquired safety Dexter Jackson from the Saints before the start of the regular season, Kaesviharn lost his starting spot. Injuries cost Jackson five games, though, and Kaesviharn stepped in more than admirably. He led all safeties in interceptions with six and had season-high 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks in a win at New Orleans. His signature play in ’06 came on a goal line interception of Carolina’s Jake Delhomme, preserving the Bengals' 17-14 victory. In a full starting role, Kaesviharn might have had more of an impact than Chris Hope did.

Special Teams
Jason Elam (Den)
27/29 FG, 115 points
It took a while for Elam to get going, but once Jay Cutler took over at QB, his field goal attempts rose. He has always had a very strong leg, but this season Elam set a personal best for field goal accuracy (93.1%), which was good for third-best in the league.
Brian Moorman (Buf)
43.6 yards/punt, 7.4 per return, 39.2 net average
We’re not going to sit here and bore you with punter details. Just know that Moorman continues to be one of the biggest reasons the Bills rank first in special teams every season. And punting in the gusty winds of Buffalo eight times a year isn’t like the friendly confines of a dome. His 39.2 net average was outstanding.
Kick Returner
Terrence McGee (Buf)
1355 yards, 26.1 return average
While the Bears’ rookie stud Devin Hester stole a lot of the headlines this year in the return game, the Bills’ McGee quietly had a solid year. For the amount of returns McGee had this season (52), his 26.1 return average was fantastic, ranking him sixth in the entire NFL. Rookie Maurice Jones-Drew had a nice return season too, but his numbers take a bit of a hit compared to McGee seeing as how Jones only had 31 attempts and averaged just a yard better per return.
Punt Returner
Adam "Pac Man" Jones (Ten)
440 yards, 12.9 return average, 3 TD
It is an amazing concept...staying out of trouble that is. Jones has been quite a pain in the Titans' side since being the sixth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, but now Tennessee is starting to see a return on its investment. Pac Man led the NFL in punt return average and also tied Devin Hester for the league lead in punt returns for touchdowns with three. To top it all off, Pac-Man is quickly developing into one of the top young corners in the game.
Honorable Mention: Special teams

Kicker: Jeff Wilkins (StL)
(32/37 FG, 131 points)
As he cleaned up after the Rams’ high-octane offense, Wilkins had a ton of attempts and tied Robbie Gould with 32 made field goals, the best in the league.

Punter: Shane Lechler (Oak)
(47.5 yards/punt, 12.9 per return, 36.9 net average)
Lechler’s 12.9 punt per return average is way higher than Moorman’s 7.4, but that has a lot to do with Oakland’s shoddy coverage teams. Lechler can boom with the best of them and if the Raiders’ gunners were better at getting down the field and making a play, his net average would more closely resemble Moorman’s.