The NFL season is just past the midway point, and players are stepping into the spotlight as stars for their respective squads. Although every team expects their blue-chip players to play at an elite level in crunch time, the regular season is always full of surprise stars who emerge as difference-makers in an ultra-competitive league.
Given some time to review and reflect on some of the top performers in the league, here are my All-Pros through nine weeks.
Midseason All-Pro Offense
Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
The one-time MVP has quietly put together a stellar campaign for the Ravens, directing a new-look offense with a more robust passing game. Jackson leads the NFL in completion rate (71.5%) while ranking fourth in yards per pass attempt (7.7) and sixth in passer rating (100.8). As an efficient passer with electric playmaking skills as a runner (440 rushing yards; easily the most of any QB), Jackson is the rare dual-threat quarterback who can win games with his arm as well as his legs.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, San Francisco 49ers
As a member of the 1,000/100 (1,000 rushing yards/100 catches) and 1,000/1,000 (1,000 receiving yards/1,000 rushing yards) Clubs, CMC is the ultimate offensive weapon as a legitimate RB1/WR2. He has become an unstoppable force in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, as the offensive wizard utilizes him as a proverbial queen on the gridiron chessboard for an offense that overwhelms opponents with its speed, power, physicality, and interchangeability. Having scored a scrimmage touchdown in a record-breaking 17 straight games, McCaffrey continues terrorizing defenses as a dynamic runner and receiver who can make big plays.
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Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins
The All-Pro receiver is on track to break the NFL single-season mark for receiving yards (1,964) with his 1,076 yards through nine games. Despite facing various coverage designed to limit his big play opportunities, Hill leads the league with eight receiving touchdowns and seven 40-yard-plus receptions. The world-class speedster torches opponents with his acceleration and burst, making him nearly impossible to defend on vertical and horizontal routes. As the league leader in YAC (yards after catch) with 408, Hill is the league’s quintessential playmaker on the perimeter.
A.J. Brown, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles’ co-WR1 has blossomed into one of the league’s premier receivers within a little over a year in Philly. Brown ranks second in receiving yards (1,005), third in receptions (67) and second in 20-yard-plus catches (18) as a big-play specialist on the outside. The 6-foot-1, 226-pound WR has a unique game that enables him to win with speed on deep balls or power on catch-and-run plays that showcase his ability to run through the arm tackles. As a big-bodied pass catcher with a “bully ball” game, Brown is an unstoppable force in the passing game.
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CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys
The league leader in 20-yard-plus catches (19) has become a big-play specialist. Whether blowing past defenders on vertical routes or eluding and evading would-be tacklers in traffic, Lamb is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Although he has just three touchdowns on his ledger, the fourth-year pro has emerged as a dangerous playmaker and is the clear No. 1 option in the Cowboys’ aerial attack.
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
The Swifties have elevated Kelce’s profile outside of the football world. Within it, scouts and executives continue to view the Chiefs’ star tight end as the gold standard at the position. The perennial All-Pro has been nearly impossible to defend due to his freelance route-running skills and impromptu playmaking ability. With 597 yards and four touchdowns despite facing double and triple coverage, Kelce remains the TE1 that every offensive coordinator covets as the anchor of a passing game.
Christian Darrisaw, OT, Minnesota Vikings
The 6-foot-5, 315-pounder has become one of the top offensive tackles in the game by blending a mauler/brawler style with a dancer’s footwork and a boxer’s quick hands. Darishaw has routinely neutralized elite pass rushers on the edges without relying on “chips” from running backs or tight ends in protection. Moreover, the Vikings’ blindside pass protector has become a one-on-one specialist with the skills and temperament to protect franchise quarterbacks in high-pressure situations.
Tyler Smith, OG, Dallas Cowboys
The 2022 first-round pick has quickly emerged as a dominant interior blocker for the Cowboys. Smith’s athleticism, strength, and power enable him to blow run-stoppers off the ball while displaying balance and body control to stuff pass rushers in their tracks. As the second-year pro settles into his spot at left guard after spending much of last year at left tackle, the Cowboys’ passing game has flourished, with the young blocker controlling the point of attack.
Jason Kelce, C, Philadelphia Eagles
The perennial All-Pro remains the gold standard at the position. Kelce is a masterful technician with the athleticism and footwork to turn the corners on pulls ahead of outside runs. With defenses also unable to neutralize the Eagles’ vaunted “tush push” with the veteran spearheading the charge, the less ubiquitous Kelce deserves recognition for his impressive work at the line of scrimmage.
Chris Lindstrom, OG, Atlanta Falcons
The highly paid interior blocker has keyed the Falcons’ ninth-ranked rushing attack with his steady play at the point of attack. Lindstrom’s toughness and tenacity have given his team an edge as they bully opponents at the line of scrimmage. With Bijan Robinson routinely scooting through holes between the tackles, the veteran’s stellar blocking has sparked the Falcons’ impressive rushing attack.
Penei Sewell, OT, Detroit Lions
It is no coincidence the Lions have become one of the most physical teams in the league, with Sewell paving the way in the running game. The third-year pro is an athletic road grader with the size, strength and power to mash defenders in tight quarters or in space. As the Lions have become bona fide contenders, Sewell may even become a household name as an elite player on the edge.
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Midseason All-Pro Defense
Myles Garrett, Edge rusher, Cleveland Browns
When the All-Pro defensive end is not executing basketball crossover moves before the snap, he attacks blockers with spectacular pass-rushing moves that leave quarterbacks battered and bruised in the pocket. My frontrunner for 2023 Defensive Player of the Year hits the midway point with 9.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz creating and exploiting favorable matchups at the line of scrimmage. The defensive unicorn is on track to hit the 20-sack mark with a strong finish, and is an easy choice as a midseason All-Pro.
Dexter Lawrence, DT, New York Giants
The destructive nose tackle has flourished as the centerpiece of the Giants’ defense under Wink Martindale. Although Lawrence is at his best stopping the run, the double-extra-large defender continues to terrorize defenders as an inside pass rusher with an exceptional power game. With three sacks and 32 total stops, the fifth-year pro is a rare find as a combo defensive tackle with elite run-stopping and pass-rushing skills.
Chris Jones, DT, Kansas City Chiefs
The four-time Pro Bowler notches sacks and splash plays from anywhere on the front as defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo allows Jones to pick his preferred matchup. The veteran has collected 5.5 sacks in eight games, feasting on overmatched opponents at the line. Jones’ dominance as a pass rusher and playmaker sets the tone for a defense that has emerged as one of the most disruptive in football.
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Maxx Crosby, Edge rusher, Las Vegas Raiders
As a disruptive one-man show for the Raiders, Crosby has entered the conversation as one of the top edge defenders in the game. The fifth-year pro has totaled 9.5 sacks and a forced fumble despite facing double teams and chip blocks routinely at the point of attack. Considering Crosby has posted impressive numbers and produced splash plays without a credible threat on the opposite side, the two-time Pro Bowler deserves a mention for his stellar work.
Roquan Smith, LB, Baltimore Ravens
The sideline-to-sideline menace has been worth the draft capital and salary the Ravens committed to him. Smith has dominated between the tackles for Baltimore, displaying exceptional instincts, awareness and diagnostic skills while tallying 87 total tackles (fourth-most in the NFL), 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss. As the ringleader for the best defense in the league, the veteran defender is worthy of a mention on this All-Pro list.
Foye Oluokun, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars
As the heart and soul of the Jaguars’ defense, Oluokon sets the tone for the unit with savage play between the tackles. He is a tackling machine with his instincts and diagnostic skills to destroy runs before the blocking concepts fully develop. Moreover, Oluokon’s aggressive approach leads to timely splash plays and turnovers that change the game’s momentum. With the Jaguars’ defense quietly joining the elite ranks, the football world is starting to appreciate the hard-working linebacker’s efforts as a playmaker.
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Paulson Adebo, CB, New Orleans Saints
The underrated cover corner has emerged as a turnover king on the perimeter in his third NFL season. Through seven games, Adebo has tallied five interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries, exhibiting outstanding instincts and ball skills. He has smothered top-notch receivers on the perimeter with his length and aggressiveness but also displays the athleticism to shadow from distance with vision on the quarterback. Adebo’s ball skills and takeaway instincts are a game changer in a league that rewards teams and players who produce turnovers.
Darious Williams, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars
The NFL leader in passes defensed has taken his game up a notch in his sixth NFL season. Williams has shown impressive awareness, instincts, and anticipation as a “see ball, get ball” defender in the Jaguars’ zone-heavy defense. With 14 passes defensed, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and a defensive score, the veteran has become of one of the league’s top corners on the perimeter.
DaRon Bland, Nickel CB, Dallas Cowboys
It is hard to find nickel corners with size, instincts and ball skill. Bland is the exception to the rule as a 6-foot, 197-pound DB with exceptional awareness and sticky hands. The second-year pro has four interceptions, including three pick-sixes, and ten passes defensed through eight games. As a turnover machine with a game built on technique and preparation, Bland has a chance to develop into an elite playmaker.
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Geno Stone, S, Baltimore Ravens
If you have not heard of Stone, you probably have not watched many Ravens games. The ball-hawking safety leads the NFL in interceptions (6), displaying outstanding range, anticipation and ball skills as a deep defender. Although the Ravens’ high-pressure schemes force opposing quarterbacks into errant throws and critical errors, the third-year pro has capitalized on the mistakes as a takeaway bandit with sticky hands with superb instincts.
Jessie Bates, S, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons’ prized free agent acquisition has been better than advertised as a playmaker. Bates has added a dimension to the defense with his turnover prowess and playmaking ability. The veteran has registered three interceptions and forced a pair of fumbles as the Falcons’ designated ball hawk on the third level. Given his impact and ball production, Bates is the quintessential defender every defensive coordinator covets in the secondary.
Bucky Brooks is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. He also breaks down the game for NFL Network and as a cohost of the “Moving the Sticks” podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.
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