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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We get it – Tom Brady was great this year. So were Randy Moss, LaDainian Tomlinson and Bob Sanders. But what about the players whose great seasons didn’t translate into postseason berths for their teams? Don’t they deserve recognition too? You bet they do, and they’ll get it with our second- annual NFL All-Spectator Team. The selection process is simple: any player on a playoff team is immediately disqualified from our All-Spectator roster. That’s right, no Patriots, Colts, Packers or Cowboys found their way onto this team. We've heard enough about them anyway.

Below is a roster of players who had terrific years but were often overlooked by fans and the media in favor of players on playoff qualifiers. You won’t find guys like Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris or Lions linebacker Ernie Simms on most All-Pro teams, but you’ll find them below. So enjoy and remember: It’s not always about Tom Brady, Randy Moss and LT!

Drew BreesDrew Brees (NO)
(4,423 yards, 28 TDs, 18 INTs, 89.4 QB rating)
It was a close call between Drew Brees and Derek Anderson, but Brees gets the nod because he posted better numbers behind a mediocre offensive line and with fewer weapons at his disposal. He got off to a dreadful start, tossing only one TD against nine picks in the Saints’ first four games – all losses. Over the course of the next 12 games, he posted an average of 292 yards, 2.3 TD and 0.8 INT. Even though he lost Deuce McAllister early in the season and Reggie Bush later on, Brees single-handedly kept the Saints in the playoff race until the bitter end.
Running Back
Brian WestbrookBrian Westbrook (Phi)
(1,333 rushing yards; 90 rec., 771 rec. yards; 12 total TD)
Without Westy, the Eagles would have been in serious trouble in 2007. Sure, two guys (LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson) outgained him on the ground, but his 90 receptions and 771 receiving yards were tops among running backs. To put his total production into perspective, his eye-popping 2,104 total yards were more than that of Maurice Jones-Drew and Greg Jennings combined. And while LT and AP will get most of the “best natural runner” accolades, let’s not forget that Westy had the highest yards per carry (4.8) of any back with 250 or more carries.
Cleveland BrownsLawrence Vickers (Cle)
(43 rushing yards; 13 rec., 91 rec. yards; 2 total TD)
The position has been deemphasized around the league with teams using more multiple wide receiver sets, making it tougher each year to give credit to a well- deserving fullback. However, Vickers deserves a ton of praise for how hard he worked in his second year in the NFL. He was one of the main reasons Jamal Lewis rushed for 1,304 yards this season and he was steady in pass protection, too. Everything clicked offensively for Cleveland in 2007 and unselfish, hard-working players like Vickers were a big reason why.
Wide Receiver
Braylon EdwardsBraylon Edwards (Cle)
(80 rec., 1,289 yards, 16 TD)
Edwards fits that mold of a receiver breaking out with a big season in his third year. He benefited greatly from improved play at QB and was good for at least one or two spectacular catches each game. The former Michigan star was especially dangerous in the red zone, ranking third in the NFL in total touchdowns behind Randy Moss and LT. The Browns offense improved across the board, but Edwards’ ascension in 2007 was something special.
Tight End
Tony GonzalezTony Gonzalez (KC)
(99 rec., 1,172 yards, 5 TD)
He keeps saying he’s only going to play a year or two more, but the 31-year-old Gonzo still has major game. He actually benefited from the emergence of Dwayne Bowe, which made it difficult for teams to double-team Gonzalez. He caught 99 passes, the second-highest total of his career…and that was with Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle throwing to him. Just imagine what he could do with Bowe and a real QB behind center.
Wide Receiver
Larry FitzgeraldLarry Fitzgerald (Ari)
(100 rec., 1,409 yards, 10 TD)
It took five games for Fitz to find the end zone, and four more before he found it again. But over the last seven games, he caught nine of his 10 scores and posted 50 catches for 672 yards, including a nine-catch, 156-yard effort against the 49ers, and an 11-catch, 171-yard game against the Rams. The Rams’ defensive backs will see Fitz in their nightmares this offseason; in their two meetings, Fitz torched St. Louis to the tune of 20 catches for 307 yards and three scores. Ouch.
Honorable Mention: Skill positions

QB: Derek Anderson (Cle)
(3,787 yards, 29 TDs, 19 INTs, 82.5 QB rating)
Anderson’s play was a big part of the Browns’ transformation from cellar dwellers to playoff contenders. After his so-so three-INT performance in week five against New England, some thought he just might be a flash in the pan. Then, over the next two weeks, he rattled off 493 yards and six TDs against the Dolphins and Rams. His four-INT game against the Bengals in week 16 (which took the Browns’ playoff fate out of their own hands) tainted an otherwise terrific season.

Adrian PetersonRB: Adrian Peterson (Min)
(238 carries, 1,341 yards, 12 TDs)
Peterson had a terrific rookie season and proved to be a steal for the Vikings, who took him with the #7 overall pick. There are still some injury concerns, but with his tremendous 5.6 yards per carry and his huge outings against Chicago (224 yards and three TDs) and San Diego (an NFL single-game record 296 yards and three TDs), it’s clear that he’s already one of the best backs in the league.

WR: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, (Cin)
(112 rec., 1,143 yards, 12 TDs)
In 2007, “Whosyourmomma” went from being a punch line in a commercial to a bona fide star. Housh was amazingly consistent, catching at least five passes or at least one TD in every game this season. His 112 catches tied Wes Welker for tops in the league, while his 12 scores were the fourth most. If he keeps this up, Housh just might surpass Chad Johnson as the Cincinnati wideout with best chance to reach the Hall of Fame.

WR: Brandon Marshall, (Den)
(102 rec., 1,325 yards, 7 TDs)
Who needs Javon Walker? With his counterpart missing most of the season with a knee injury, Brandon Marshall decided to break out in his second year rather than waiting for his third. He was especially consistent in the second half of the season, catching at least six passes or a TD in the last nine games, racking up 66 catches for 812 yards and five TDs in that span. It looks like Marshall is going to be WR1 in Denver for a while.

TE: Kellen Winslow Jr., (Cle)
(82 rec., 1,106 yards, 5 TDs)
Along with breakout star Braylon Edwards and surprise studs Derek Anderson and Jamal Lewis, Winslow was a key cog in the NFL’s eighth-best offense. Despite his soft hands, KW2 converted just 55% of his targets into catches, but he’s fast and athletic and got a ton of looks in 2007.

Jordan Gross (Car)
In an effort to boost the running game, the Panthers implemented a zone-blocking scheme this year. The new scheme wasn’t a huge success – Carolina ranked 14th in the league in rushing yards per game – but that’s not a reflection of the season Gross put together. His total of three sacks allowed is remarkable considering the slow-footed Vinny Testaverde, sack master David Carr and rookie Matt Moore split time under center. Gross set himself up for a nice payday as he hits the free agent market this offseason.
Joe Thomas (Cle)
Give NFL draft pundits credit: many of them noted in April that Thomas would be a good pro and he certainly didn’t disappoint. He started all 16 games at left tackle for the Browns and even made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. His stellar play directly contributed to Derek Anderson’s breakout year and Jamal Lewis’ revival in his first season with the Browns. With Thomas and Eric Steinbach anchoring the left side of Cleveland’s line, the Browns offense should keep rolling in 2008.
Steve Hutchinson (Min)
When the Vikings stole Hutchinson from the Seahawks two years ago, they knew he was well worth the hefty $49 million price tag. He helped open holes for Rookie of the Year Adrian Peterson and rarely, if ever, got pushed back while in pass protection. Hutchinson can be a road grader in run blocking but is effective when pulling as well. His versatility is one of the main reasons he is regarded as one of the best guards in football.
Matt Birk (Min)
Much like teammate Steve Hutchinson, Birk was part of an offensive line that gets major credit for rookie Adrian Peterson’s 1,304 rushing yards. After 10 years of service, Birk continues to be one of the smartest and most underrated centers in all of football. He also gets bonus points for helping Tarvaris Jackson mature a bit in his second season.
Jahri Evans (NO)
One of the few bright spots for New Orleans this year was Evans, who started every game for an underrated Saints’ offensive line. He’s easily one of the best young guards in the game and was part of a unit that surrendered the fewest sacks in football. With the problems Reggie Bush often has finding and hitting his holes, it’s tough to grade any Saints’ lineman, but Evans should again be one of the league’s better run-blockers next year.
Honorable Mention: Offensive line

Robert GalleryOT: Jon Runyan (Phi)
Runyan continues to be an iron man for the Eagles. He now has 180 consecutive starts, which is remarkable considering the brutality of his position. While age might be catching up to him, he’s still one of the more widely heralded tackles in all of football.

OG: Robert Gallery (Oak)
After two years of being a gigantic bust as a tackle, Gallery moved to guard this season and had a very solid year for a Raiders team that had the NFL’s sixth-best rushing attack. He still might be considered a bust, considering he was a top-five pick and was slated to be a tackle, but give him credit for making the transition and having a good season.

C: Olin Kreutz (Chi)
Kreutz again anchored the Bears’ offensive line, a unit that seemed to fall apart at times this season. Kreutz continues to stand the test of time, however, and hasn’t missed a start since 2001. His tenacity and relentlessness make him one of the best.

Defensive End
Mario WilliamsMario Williams (Hou)
59 tackles, 14 sacks, 4 FF
A year ago, Williams was largely considered a bust and the Texans were ridiculed for selecting him ahead of the flashier choice: USC running back Reggie Bush. However, after breaking out in 2007 with 14 sacks while displaying athleticism reminiscent of Julius Peppers, not many are questioning Houston’s decision now. Usually players slump in their second season before taking off in their third, but Williams accelerated this year and is already one of the better defensive ends in the AFC. Will he be even better in his third season when things typically start to click for players?
Defensive End
Kansas City ChiefsJared Allen (KC)
65 tackles, 15.5 sacks, 3 FF
Most defensive ends fit into one of two categories: pass rushers or run defenders. Allen is one of the few defensive ends in the league who covers both categories, and it’s amazing to watch how much of a push he gets off the line. He often wreaks havoc in the backfield by staying low and getting good penetration. Despite missing the first two games of the season due to a suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, Allen led the NFL in sacks with 15.5.
Defensive Tackle
Tommie Harris (Chi)
35 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 FF
Even though the Bears were often gashed on the ground this year, Harris was once again tremendous at getting to the quarterback. He continues to be one of the best interior linemen in the NFL and his quickness rivals anyone at the position. The fact that he played most of the season with a bad hamstring and still put up great numbers is a testament to his desire to play the game. He also gets kudos for having a productive season despite not having big Tank Johnson taking on most of the opponents’ double teams.
Defensive Tackle
Kevin Williams (Min)
38 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 FF
While his stats don’t measure up against other defensive tackles around the league, Williams was once again amazing against the run this year. Despite not having the best talent on paper, Minnesota made a run at the playoffs in 2007, thanks in large part to opponents’ not being able to run the ball. Opposing teams rarely found running room up the middle and Williams was a major part of a unit that allowed a paltry 74.1 yards per game on the ground.
Outside Linebacker
Ernie Simms (Det)
134 tackles, 1 sack, 3 FF, 1 INT
When Simms was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2006 draft, many scoffed at the Lions for taking him too early. Yet, in just his second season, Simms led all outside linebackers with 134 tackles, proving that as long as a team gets a productive player, it shouldn’t matter where they draft him. Simms’ vision is outstanding for such a young player and he can play sideline to sideline, which is a necessity in the Lions’ Cover 2 defense. He was also outstanding in pass coverage and always plays with a ton of energy and tenacity.
Inside Linebacker
Patrick Willis (SF)
174 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 FF
Any player recoding 174 tackles in one season is impressive; the fact that Willis reached that number as a rookie is astounding. San Fran linebackers coach Mike Singletary did a remarkable job shaping Willis into the Defensive Rookie of the Year, helping the former Mississippi star lead the league in tackles while quickly becoming one of the more feared linebackers in football. His quickness and instincts are outstanding, and his playmaking ability was on display in every game. There’s nothing Willis can’t do and as long as he stays healthy, the sky’s the limit.
Outside Linebacker
Michael Boley (Atl)
110 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 FF, 2 INT
One of these years Boley is going to get more league-wide recognition. He was clearly the Falcons’ best linebacker this season, if not their best defender period. His versatility reminds many of a young Derrick Brooks, and it’s only a matter of time before Boley makes his first Pro Bowl. Whenever the Falcons needed a momentum-shifting play on defense, Boley seemed to come up big. Now a restricted free agent heading into the offseason, he’s sure to cash in with a multi-year deal.
Honorable Mention: Front seven

DE: Elvis Dumervil (Den)
(39 tackles, 12 sacks, 4 FF, 1 INT)
Not many thought Dumervil would be as good as he is in only his second season. In college, he was more known as the guy that Marcus Vick stomped on, rather than his on-field performance. However, this year proved that he’s not only a viable pass-rusher, but that he can be an every-down end too.

Adewale OgunleyeDE: Adewale Ogunleye (Chi)
(58 tackles, 9 sacks, 6 FF)
Ogunleye was once again a pass-rushing beast this season, but he also deserves credit for the work he did against the run. He often used his speed to chase down backside ball carriers and finished with six forced fumbles, which led all defensive ends.

DT: Shaun Rogers (Det)
(35 tackles, 7 sacks, 3 FF)
Rogers was once again the rock of an extremely underrated Lions’ defensive line, notching seven sacks and forcing three fumbles, which is hard to do as an interior defensive lineman. We’d love to see what Rogers could do if he got into better shape.

DT: Darnell Dockett (Ari)
(58 tackles, 9 sacks, 2 FF)
This might be a cheat to list Dockett as a defensive tackle, because in fairness, he did rotate from end to tackle in Arizona’s 3-4 defense. Still, 58 tackles and nine sacks is a tremendous season for any defensive lineman. The five-year, $22 million extension the Cardinals inked him to in 2006 was well worth it.

OLB: Lance Briggs (Chi)
(103 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INTs)
It was unclear whether or not Briggs would ever wear a Bears’ uniform again after he demanded a trade following the 2006 season. Briggs and the team eventually patched up their differences, however, and while his numbers weren’t as eye-popping as they were last year, he still turned in a very productive season. Now the question is, will he return to Chicago when he once again becomes a free agent this offseason?

OLB: David Harris (NYJ)
(126 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 FF)
As with the case of Darnell Dockett, we’re cheating a bit by listing Harris as a true outside linebacker considering he’s actually an inside ‘backer in the Jets’ 3-4 defense, but he was excellent as a rookie. One of the few bright spots on the struggling Jets, Harris was highly effective against the run and even flashed pass-rushing ability with five sacks.

MLB: D.J. Williams (Den)
(141 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT)
If it weren’t for Patrick Willis’ unbelievable season, Williams would never have made it into the honorable mention category. His 141 tackles were the second best total in football behind Willis’ 174, and he was the backbone of Denver’s defense. Houston’s DeMeco Ryans was a viable option here too.

Champ BaileyChamp Bailey (Den)
84 tackles, 3 INT
Sure, other cornerbacks had better numbers than Baliey this year, but you have to look past the stats to appreciate everything does for his defense. Quarterbacks fear him and he’s one of the few corners in the league who can completely shut down one half of the field. He’s also not afraid to play the run, a trait most cornerbacks lack. Despite having a bit of a down year, Bailey is still one of the game’s elite players.
DeAngelo HallDeAngelo Hall (Atl)
70 tackles, 1 FF, 5 INT
While he got more negative press for his mouth and on-field antics, Hall easily had his best season as a pro. Even though he’ll get caught guessing sometimes, his instincts and playmaking ability is unquestioned. He often takes on the opponents’ best receivers and when playing in man-to-man coverage, he’s outstanding. No, he’s not Deion Sanders (even if he thinks he is), but if he ever matures (he’s only 24), Hall could become one of the rare shutdown corners in the league.
Free Safety
Ed Reed (Bal)
39 tackles, 7 INT
There’s still nobody better than Ed Reed. Baltimore’s defense struggled at times this year, but Reed, the Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, was usually at the top of his game. No safety covers as much ground as Reed and while his tackling numbers were down, he’s never been afraid to stick a receiver over the middle. He’s truly one of the best “centerfielders” in the game, and quarterbacks always have to make sure they know where he is before the snap.
Strong Safety
Michael Lewis (SF)
105 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF, 2 INT
One of the better offseason acquisitions this year was Lewis, who struggled in his last season in Philadelphia before signing a deal with the 49ers. He was one of San Fran’s better tacklers and certainly wasn’t a liability in coverage, which can’t be said for most strong safeties. While it was a disappointing year overall for the 49ers, at least they have players like Lewis and Patrick Willis on defense to eventually help them turn the tide and become contenders.
Honorable Mention: Secondary

CB: Leigh Bodden (Cle)
(88 tackles, 6 INTs)
Bodden had a breakout year for the Browns, posting career-best numbers in both tackles and interceptions while playing in all 16 games for the first time in his five-year career. With Bodden, safety Sean Jones and breakout rookie Brandon McDonald, the Browns’ secondary has a bright future.

CB: Charles Tillman (Chi)
(76 tackles, 4 FF, 3 INTs)
“Peanut” Tillman doesn’t get a ton of national attention, but he’s one of the steadiest DB’s in the game. He’s perfect in the Bears’ Cover 2 defense because he’s physical and never seems to be lost in coverage. He’s also not afraid to play the run, and his four forced fumbles led all cornerbacks.

FS: Oshiomogho Atogwe (StL)
(75 tackles, 8 INTs)
Atogwe was one of the busiest defensive backs in the NFL this year. He led all safeties in interceptions with eight, which was also a career best, but it must be noted that he was a liability in deep coverage at times. Ironically, he also finished with the same number of total (75) and solo (66) tackles as he did in 2006.

SS: Chris Harris (Car)
(97 tackles, 8 FF, 1 INTs)
When Mike Minter decided to retire in the offseason, the Panthers lost a true playmaker at the safety position. Harris really stepped up, however, and led all defensive backs in tackles with 97 and also led the league in forced fumbles with eight.

Special Teams
Shayne Graham (Cin)
37/37 ExPT, 31/34 FG
Graham was outstanding for an inconsistent Bengals’ offense, converting on 13-of-13 field goals from 30 to 39 yards this year. He also was six-of-seven from between 40 and 49 yards, as well as 11-of-12 between 20 and 29 yards. As an added bonus, Graham didn’t once scream at Marvin Lewis or Carson Palmer on the sidelines, one thing that cannot be said for receivers Chad Johnson or T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Andy Lee (SF)
47.3 yards/punt, 7.6 per return, 41.0 net average
Thanks to the 49ers’ stagnant offense, Lee was by far the busiest punter in the league this season. He recorded 105 punts, 10 more than Kansas City punter Dustin Colquitt. Lee also finished second to only Oakland’s Shane Lechler (49.1) with an average of 47.3 yards per punt, and he placed 40% of his punts inside the opponent’s 20.
Kick Returner
Joshua Cribbs (Cle)
30.7 return average, 2 TD
If it weren’t for some guy named Devin Hester hogging all the attention, Cribbs would have gotten even more national recognition than he received (which was a pretty fair amount). Cribbs was an absolute beast on kickoff returns this season, sporting a league-best 30.7 average and returning two for touchdowns. In addition to those numbers, his returns often set up scoring chances for the Browns’ offense, a team that averaged just over 25 points a game
Punt Returner
Devin Hester (Chi)
15.5 return average, 4 TDs
Anybody who figured that Hester would hit a sophomore slump was woefully mistaken. He led the league in punt returns for touchdowns with four, and he finished second behind only Roscoe Parish of the Bills with an average of 15.5 per return. Teams that kicked away from him were stuck with poor field position, and teams that bravely kicked to him were often burned badly.
Honorable Mention: Special teams

K: Rian Lindell (Buf)
(24/24 ExPts, 24/27 FGs)
It’s no surprise that three of the Bills’ special teams members are getting recognition, even if it is the honorable mention section. Every year Buffalo produces excellent special teams units, which is a great testament to special teams coach Bobby April. Lindell was outstanding this year and often provided the Bills with their only offensive production.

P: Brian Moorman (Buf)
We considered the Vikings’ Chris Kluwe here because he had a better overall punting average than Moorman (44.7 to 40.8), as well as a better average inside the 20-yard line (42% to 37%). However, Kluwe also punts in the comfortably controlled climate of the Metrodome, while Moorman kicks in Buffalo’s frozen and windy Ralph Wilson Stadium. Moorman deserves an honor just for showing up every Sunday.

KR: Leon Washington (NYJ)
(27.5 Avg., 3 TDs)
Washington might have to make due with Thomas Jones’ leftovers in the Jets backfield, but kickoff duties are all his. Washington was once again a tremendous bright spot for the Jets this season, averaging better than 27 yards per return and taking three kicks to the house.

PR: Roscoe Parish (Buf)
(16.3 Avg., 1 TD)
If Devin Hester wasn’t so damn good, Parish would have easily made our first team as a punt returner. His return average of 16.3 actually bested Hester’s 15.5 mark, but come on – it’s Devin Hester! Plus, Parish had 15 fewer returns than Hester did, but he deserves a ton of credit for only fair-catching two punts in the swirling winds at Ralph Wilson Stadium.