In 2018, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz caught 116 passes from his quarterbacks, which is an NFL record for tight ends and was second among all pass-catchers in the league in that category. To go along with this, Ertz also scored eight touchdowns with 1,163 receiving yards, all of which are phenomenal for a tight end (he was third in the league compared to other tight ends in both categories). When Associated Press released their annual All-Pro selection at the end of the regular season, only two tight ends were listed: Travis Kelce and George Kittle. Both were definitely deserving (each beat the previous tight end record for receiving yards), but the absence of Ertz despite his record-setting year is, in a word, garbage.
As a pre-cursor to the main argument, allow me to shed some light on what exactly the AP All-Pro ballot means and what it’s meant to represent. A panel of voters (with football credibility) are selected to vote on who they thought were the best players at each major position in football. Their votes are tallied and put into two separate categories: first team and second team all-pro. First team includes the players with the most votes, second team includes the players with the second-most votes. The way the ballot is organized is that of a pseudo-team of starters, with each team being represented by how many players one would typically have in a starting line-up (hence one quarterback, one running back, two wide receivers, etc.).
For a visual reference, refer to this complete list of this year’s first and second team all-pro ballot:
As one can see, each team is given a small sample size of players at each position, mirroring the amount of players that would typically take the field at any given time. It is not an exact science, but I believe that is the inherent purpose of the ballot, as well as the title of first and second “team.” I will now proceed to elaborate on why I think this is too severely limiting.
The scenario I painted within the first paragraph is just one example. If it were the only example, it would still be a shame, though not a travesty. However, the make-up of the ballot doesn’t include a large number of performers this year (and every year) that could viably compete for a spot on the list, leaving them within a zone of unnoticed ability that gets lost below those more decorated.
Take, for example, Drew Brees. He is often considered within the top five at his position every year, and his statistical dominance backs that up on a near-yearly basis. Prior to this season, he has only been selected as first team all-pro once, and the last time he was voted second team all-pro was 2011. All he has to show for his efforts is multiple Pro Bowl nods, yet that honor, especially in recent years, is more of a running joke. There was even one year (2013) where Peyton Manning was selected as the unanimous choice for quarterback, leaving the second team quarterback as a big ol’ nada, which is top-tier garbage.
If the quarterback position is the most important position in football—as well as the most recognizable—shouldn’t there be a stronger urge for more notoriety for quarterback play? What of Jared Goff, Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, and Matt Ryan, all of whom had fantastic years at quarterback in 2018? Why should the list be confined to only two quarterbacks?
And so I pose this simple, yet groundbreaking suggestion: increase the quantity of every category by one.
Two quarterbacks for each team, two running backs, two tight ends, three wide receivers, and so on. This is especially noteworthy for the offensive side of the ball, which, curiously, has fewer spots available, despite the higher prevalence of offense within the last ten or so years in the NFL. Defensive positions tend to be less concrete in nature, with teams opting to rotate players depending on the situation. Offensive positions, such as quarterback, wide receivers, or offensive linemen, are much more stout.
Even with my suggestion, there’s bound to be a little variety to the voting process and what’s to come of it. For example, if one looks at this year’s all-pro list, they can see that the second team has two more players listed under edge rushers than in the first team. They also have an additional tackle in the second team, and the only explanation I can think of is that the votes were tied. One can also see that Von Miller, J.J. Watt, and Derwin James were voted to multiple positions, which is also a little shoddy.
With an expanded ballot, more players can get the recognition they deserve for having great seasons. Players like Robert Woods, who (in my opinion) was the most reliable weapon for Jared Goff and the Rams, and Saquon Barkley, who led the league in scrimmage yards, will be able to be recognized on a platform that is not often referred to as a farce. I believe the change I present is minimal, with the only issue being whether or not the ballot would remain a “team” afterwards. But hey, what’re the chances that people will get upset over change of a time-honored tradition that has generally been set in stone? Certainly not the typical NFL fan!