With the injuries to Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger, and with Eli Manning being benched for someone that was considered a massive reach when the Giants took him sixth overall and pretty much everyone being fine with it even before Daniel Jones’ star-making performance in his first start, many have spent this past week wondering whether we’re seeing a changing of the guard in the NFL.
As in culture more generally, the 2010s have felt more like a weird extension of the 2000s than a decade in their own right, certainly at the quarterback position. Many of the biggest names at quarterback played large chunks of the previous decade. Of the six quarterbacks with five or more Pro Bowl selections, only two, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, entered the league after the 2004 draft that boasted Roethlisberger, Manning, and Philip Rivers. Tom Brady has been so timeless he’s likely going to become the first quarterback to be on two different All-Decade teams – and not only that, make the first team on both. Part of this has been the result of the reduction in practices after the 2011 CBA, and part of it is simply because quarterback is a position where it’s easier for a player to stay in the game for a decade or more, but it definitely feels like the game has been in stasis for the past decade.
Besides marking the 100th season of the NFL, 2019 marks the end of the decade of the 2010s, and with it will come the selection of the All-Decade Team of the 2010s. Selection to the All-Decade Team can mean more than bragging rights; the selection committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame also selects the members of the All-Decade Team, and Hall voters seem to tend to favor All-Decade players when possible. Below I’ve attempted to figure out what players are likely to make the All-Decade team and what it could mean for their Hall of Fame chances (or at least provide a starting point for the latter), based primarily on first-team All-Pro selections and Pro Bowl selections from 2010-2019 only, which along with the All-Decade teams (and to a much lesser extent excellence in Super Bowls) seem to be the currency by which Hall of Fame players are assessed, especially when comparing players from different eras where statistical comparisons can be misleading. Pro Bowl selections refer to initial selections only, not later selections to replace players that did not play in the actual game due to injury, Super Bowl participation, or otherwise being unable or unwilling to play for any other reason. All-Pro selections are also divided in the tables below between selections by the AP, which are the most widely reported All-Pro teams and the ones you’ll see in the Pro Football Reference pages linked, and total years selected All-Pro by the AP, Pro Football Writers Association, and Sporting News, all of which name their own All-Pro teams that may have at least limited currency with Hall voters. I’ve also listed points racked up in NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players” lists (where being ranked #1 is worth 100 points and #100 is worth 1) determined by polls of fellow players, but this is only used to help break ties for comparison purposes, in conjunction with statistical comparisons for positions where that applies. Even so, I reserve the right to be way off on any of these by not incorporating whatever other factors the voters might look at.
In terms of how many players are selected at each position, I’ve mostly gone off of the structure of the last All-Decade team, checked by looking at the most recent set of All-Pro teams. The 2000s All-Decade team, for example, named two running backs, a fullback, two wide receivers, a tight end, and two players each at tackle and guard without separating into specific positions on each of the first and second teams. This mirrors what the 2010 AP All-Pro team did, but the 2018 All-Pro team replaced one of the running back spots with a flex selection (possibly partly inspired by fantasy football), with the first-team flex pick also getting a second-team selection at their main position, did not name a fullback, and named individual All-Pro players at each of the five offensive line spots. The PFWA and Sporting News still name their All-Pro teams the same way they did at the start of the decade (both of them already went without a fullback); the PFWA named only one running back but that may have been because they had a tie for the second wide receiver. On defense the All-Decade team was selected consistent with the 4-3 defense while the 2010 AP All-Pro team named two players at each of both the two defensive line and two linebacker spots; the 2018 team lumped all linebackers together and named three on each team, but named two each of “edge rushers” and “interior linemen” and had a fifth spot for defensive backs the others didn’t that did not appear on the second team at their normal position. The Hall’s treatment of the defense matches that that the PFWA had that year, so I’m assuming the All-Decade Team will have the same structure as last decade, but without a fullback and leaving open the possibility of a flex position being introduced in place of one of the running back spots. On special teams I’m not looking at kick and punt returners because Pro Football Reference doesn’t break them out and this is running late enough already; I was originally hoping to get this out before the Week 3 games.
The thin black line separates first-team and second-team selections; the thick one separates All-Decade selections from non-selections. Names in bold are considered at least probable to make the All-Decade team; anyone else could make it or not depending on how they or others do in the current season. Names in italics are retired.