The 2020 NFL All-Pro Defense and Special Teams


Photo Courtesy: Mike Dinovo, USA Today Sports

Written by Patrick Pryor

Rosters voted on by the Blitzalytics Team


Earlier this week, we assembled our All-Pro offensive roster, and we would be remiss if we didn’t give you the defensive squad as well. 13 Blitzalytics members voted on the 1st team and 2nd team. A 1st team vote counted as 2 points, and a 2nd team point as one. In the event of a tie, the player with the most 1st team votes wins. Teams were voted on before the start of the playoffs.


*=unanimous selection


Interior Defensive Lineman


1st Team: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams*

1st Team: Leonard Williams, New York Giants

2nd Team: DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts

2nd Team: Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs


7 years into his career, Aaron Donald has already shown he is the greatest defensive tackle of this generation, and one of the best of all time. He’s the most dominant player on defense, and maybe even across the entire sport. Essentially every quarterback gives him the nod as the most disruptive player they face, as he wins 24% of his pass rushes. This gives him the top spot among tackles easily, as 2nd place Chris Jones only wins 20%. He had 13.5 sacks on 45 total tackles and was one of two IDL’s to have 10 or more sacks. His spot on this list was never in doubt, and he was a clear unanimous selection.


After making the Pro Bowl in his 2016 sophomore season, Leonard Williams was headed downwards, and in 2019, the Jets and Giants exchanged a player for the first time in history. Despite only moving to a lockerroom across the stadium, Williams had a career revival and had his best season ever. He notched 11.5 sacks on 57 tackles, along with an additional 30 QB hits. After a few down years, the former 6th overall pick returns to dominance and earns his spot on the Blitzalytics All-Pro Team.


The offensive All-Pro team had plenty of veterans joining new teams, and the first to join them on defense is DeForest Buckner. Buckner was traded for a first in March that would eventually head to the Buccaneers, who selected 2nd team LT Tristan Wirfs. However, the trade worked out quite well for Indianapolis as well, as Buckner put up 9.5 sacks, 58 total tackles, 26 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles, and a safety. He led a Colts defensive line that allowed just 1,448 rushing yards, placing them second in the league and first in the AFC.


Over the offseason, Chris Jones was one of the best available free agents, but the Chiefs wasted no time in securing his future in KC. He signed a four-year, 80 million dollar contract, with 60 million dollars guaranteed. He’s already started to live up to the high expectations, with 7.5 sacks, 44 pressures, and a league-best 20 QB knockdowns at defensive tackle. Now he’s on his way to his second Super Bowl and looking to notch a sack on Tom Brady.


Edge


1st Team: TJ Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers*

1st Team: Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

2nd Team: Trey Hendrickson, New Orleans Saints

2nd Team: Haason Reddick, Arizona Cardinals


The Watt brothers have a history of dominating, and TJ held up the family standard this year with 15 sacks on 53 tackles, 41 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles, and an interception. He was one of the most consistent players on either side of the ball this year, as he recorded a sack in 14 out of the 15 games he played and led all linebackers by 2.5 sacks. In their division-clinching win over Indianapolis, he had 2 sacks, a TFL, and a forced fumble. As his dominant season came to a close, he was voted team MVP for the second consecutive year and earns his spot on the Blitzlaytics All-Pro Team with a vote from every panel member.


Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson can’t be too excited about their future opponents. Both of the Blitzalytics All-Pro 1st Team edge rushers are under 27 and wrapping up their rookie contracts in the AFC North. Myles Garrett had 12 sacks in 14 games, along with 18 QB hits and 4 forced fumbles. All his production came in a shaky season, and despite missing three out of five weeks in the middle of the year, due to a knee injury and being infected with COVID-19. Despite this, he still put up great numbers and led the Browns defense to their first playoff berth since 2002.


Trey Hendrickson hasn’t popped up on any All-Pro or Pro Bowl rosters since being picked in the third round in 2017, but this year he broke out, amassing 13.5 sacks, 25 QB hits, and 12 TFL’s. He was extremely effective in the Saints system, as he played just over 50% of snaps, but ranked third in the league in sacks. Over half his tackles we’re sacks, and now that he’s found his place in the Saints defense, expect Trey Hendrickson to become recognizable over the next few seasons.


From Week 1 until Week 13, Haason Reddick was quietly putting on a quality season and starting to look like the 13th overall pick he was selected as in 2017. And in week 14, he burst onto the scene with 5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in a dominating 27-6 victory over the New York Giants. Two of those fumbles came in the fourth quarter to end drives by the Giants to help ice the game. He would then get 3 forced fumbles, 2.5 sacks, and 12 more tackles in his final three games, altogether putting together an All-Pro worthy season and earns his spot on this team.


Linebacker


1st Team: Devin White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1st Team: Roquan Smith, Chicago Bears

1st Team: Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts

2nd Team: Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2nd Team: Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers

2nd Team: Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks


There was no defensive player in the NFL that was as productive as Devin White. Ranking 6th in tackles with 140, he was the only player in the top 25 that had more than 5 sacks. He had 9. And after all that? He’s currently preparing to play in the Super Bowl this Sunday. Through three playoff games, he has an interception, two fumble recoveries, and 26 sacks. He’s shown himself time and time again to be a top-notch linebacker and earns his spot on the Blitzalytics All-Pro Team.


While most can’t even imagine comparing to White’s numbers, Roquan Smith is one of the few to join him in the ranks of the top linebackers. He had 139 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 7 passes defended. He had at least three tackles in every game, and 10+ combined in 6 games. He ranked second in solo tackles with 98 and 4.0 sacks. He was also effective in pass coverage, with 2 interceptions and 7 passes defended. Thanks to his dynamic game, Roquan Smith pens him in the Blitzalytics All-Pro Team.


To round out the linebacker core of the Blitzalytics All-Pro First Team is Darius Leonard, who’s inked his name on an All-Pro squad each year since entering the league in 2018. This year, he anchored one of the best defenses in the league, especially in the second half of the season. He finished the season with 132 total tackles, 7 TFLs, 3.0 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. He’s an absolute monster on every part of the field and exemplified that with a fantastic overall year. He also amassed 12 total tackles in his sole playoff game, where he fought the Bills until the very end.


Heading to the Super Bowl on a loaded defensive front, Lavonte David racked up 117 total tackles, along with allowing just 6 yards per completion in coverage, enough to be third in the league. He did this all while being targeted 92 times, far more than anyone else ranking top ten in yards per completion allowed. His consistent play upfront and in coverage earns him a spot on this roster.


Most linebackers are effective pass rushers or can lock up in coverage. That isn’t the story for Fred Warner. He had 6 QB knockdowns and 16 more pressures. He also was targeted 61 times, and only allowed 38 completions for 270 yards and two touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks had a 69.7 rating when targeting him, as he reeled in two interceptions. His dynamic game makes him a clear cut selection on the Blitzalytics All-Pro Team.


We can’t mention dynamic linebackers without naming Seattle’s Bobby Wagner. He had 3.0 sacks, 138 total tackles, and allowed just 9.4 yards per completion. Opposing quarterbacks had an 88.9 rating when targeting him. He produces on each level of the field and has proven himself worthy of this All-Pro selection.


Cornerback


1st Team: Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins

1st Team: Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers

2nd Team: Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams

2nd Team: JC Jackson, New England Patriots


The Dolphins were first in takeaways this season, a mark they wouldn’t have come close to without Xavien Howard. He had 10 interceptions and allowed a passer rating of 48.3, and only allowed 4 touchdowns on 101 targets. Howard will be an extremely important part of Miami’s bright future, and with that earns his spot on the Blitzalytics All-Pro Team.


In 2020 the word lockdown was used a lot; however, nothing defined that word like Jaire Alexander’s game. He was targeted 80 times, and only allowed 41 completions for 375 yards and just two touchdowns. Not to mention, only a third of those yards came after the catch. He held opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 67.4 while having only 5 missed tackles to 51 total tackles. By the end of the season, the three-year veteran has inked his name as one of the best corners in the league.

This roster has been filled with a lot of first-time All-Pro players, but one name that you can always count on at least being talked about for this list is Jalen Ramsey. He’s been dominating since his sophomore season in 2017 and that hasn’t changed this year. He was targeted 71 times and allowed just 36 completions and 345 yards. He missed just 3 tackles all year, as he was one of the most reliable players on either side of the ball.


The Patriots struggled all season long, and most players struggled after losing their franchise quarterback, but JC Jackson was not one of them. He was one of the few consistent pieces on a team known for its stability. He was second in the league with 9 interceptions and allowed a passer rating of just 66.5. He was a bright spot on a Patriots season with few of them, and his highly productive season will round out the cornerbacks for the Blitzalytics All-Pro Team.


Safety


1st Team: Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos

1st Team: Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs

2nd Team: Jessie Bates III, Cincinnati Bengals

2nd Team: Jamal Adams, Seattle Seahawks


After earning the Broncos franchise tag in the offseason, Simmons had high expectations in 2020. Being on this roster, he clearly met those expectations. He finished the season with 96 total tackles and 5 interceptions, including a game-sealing pick against the Dolphins in Week 11. The Broncos had a rocky season, even starting a practice squad WR at quarterback in Week 12, but Simmons stood tall and set himself apart from the competition, earning the first safety spot on this team.


There was no strong safety better in coverage this year than Tyrann Mathieu. On 67 targets, he allowed 42 receptions, 2 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 60.2 while hauling in 6 interceptions. He’s also now added 13 tackles and an interception through Kansas City’s first two playoff games as he heads to Tampa Bay for the Super Bowl. Being far and above the best coverage strong safety in the league, and possibly the best overall, Tyrann Mathieu grabs his spot here.


Bengals fans have had a rough few seasons, and with their 1st overall pick Joe Burrow getting injured midway through the season, this year had very few bright spots. However, of those spots, none glowed brighter than Jessie Bates. He had 109 tackles, which ranks him 3rd among free safeties. He allowed just a 70.7 passer rating, which was second among free safeties. No other free safety was quite as productive as Bates and the former second-round pick notches his spot on the Bltizalytics All-Pro Team.


The massive moves made in the 2020 offseason continue to make differences across the field. The Jamal Adams trade was one of the most notable, as the Jets received two first-rounders for their former 6th overall pick. He made an immediate impact, as he racked up 23 tackles and 2 sacks over his first three games. He was then sidelined until Week 9 but wasted no time getting back in his groove, as he finished the game with 1.5 sacks, 5 tackles, and 3 more QB hits. As his season came to an end, he had an insane 9.5 sacks, 6 more than other safety. He also had 83 total tackles, 26 pressures, and didn’t allow any touchdowns in coverage. In just 12 games, he put up a fantastic stat line and can add Blitzalytics All-Pro Team to his accolades.


Defensive Back


1st Team: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers

2nd Team: Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals


It’s easy to forget that Minkah Fitzpatrick was a rookie just three years ago in 2018. However, he has always looked like one of the most experienced players on the field and had a great 2020 season. He let up just 13 completions on 26 targets and allowed a 65.7 passer rating. He had 4 interceptions, meaning he hauled in a pick on 7% of the times he was targeted. He was the top defensive back for a Pittsburgh defense that allowed the third-fewest points in the league and put together an All-Pro worthy season.


The Cardinals had an underrated defense throughout the year, and no part of that was more important than Budda Baker. He was 6th in solo tackles with 90 and allowed just 30 completions for 339 yards. He also came up with 2 interceptions and 2 sacks. The tenth best passing defense relied on his consistent game all year long and it paid off.


Special Teams


Kicker


1st Team: Younghoe Koo, Atlanta Falcons

2nd Team: Jason Sanders, Miami Dolphins


Younghoe Koo had a rough start to his career, as he lasted only 4 weeks with the Chargers in 2017. He then had a stint in the now-defunct American Alliance of Football and then made his way to the Falcons, where he has solidified his name as one of the top kickers in football. He made 37 out of 39 field goals, going a stunning 8 for 8 from 50+ yards. He also averaged 63 yards on kickoffs and was the best player on the Falcons on every side of the ball. He’s the clear cut choice for the 1st Team Blitzalytics All-Pro Roster.


While Koo put up a fantastic season, Jason Sanders in Miami put up nearly just as impressive. He went 36 for 39 on field goals, including going 8 for 9 from 50+ yards. He was also the only kicker that didn’t miss an extra point all season long, as he hit all 36 he put up. Finally, he showcased his power with 70% of his 91 kickoffs going for touchbacks. A new generation of kickers has started, and these two will be the centerpieces of it.


Punter


1st Team: Michael Dickson, Seattle Seahawks

2nd Team: Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams


Michael Dickson exemplified exactly what a team looks for in a punter. On 61 punts, only 6 of them were touchbacks, and 32 of them hit inside the 20. He averaged nearly 50 yards per punt, while he and the Rams only allowed 7 yards per return and no touchdowns.


Johnny Hekker has repeatedly proved himself as one of the best punters in the league, and 2020 was no different. 28 of his 68 punts landed inside the 20, with only 5 touchbacks. The four-time Pro Bowler adds Blitzalytics All-Pro Team to his resume.


Kick Returner


1st Team: Cordarrelle Patterson, Chicago Bears

2nd Team: Andre Roberts, Buffalo Bills


This year, Cordarrelle Patterson continued to prove himself as one of, if not the best kick off returners in NFL history. He’s tied Josh Cribbs for career kick return touchdowns with 8, as he amassed 1,017 returning yards and an average of 29.1 yards per return. 31 of his returns went for 20 or more yards, and 6 of them went for 40 or more. He adds Blitzalytics All-Pro Team to his already fantastic career.


Despite Cordarrelle Patterson being a generational talent, Andre Roberts put up a season to be right up there as one of the best. He averaged 30 yards per return and totaled 961 yards. 29 of his returns went for more than 20 yards, and 5 for 40 plus. He was also dynamic as he returned punts, averaging 9.9 yards on 29 returns.


Punt Returner


1st Team: Gunner Olszewski, New England Patriots

2nd Team: Jakeem Grant, Miami Dolphins


There haven’t been a lot of undrafted free agents who made this list, and none other than Gunner Olszewski played for the Bemidji State Beavers in college. The only NFL player to make a roster out of Bemidji State, he totaled 346 return yards. His most notable performance was in week 13 against the Los Angeles Chargers, where he returned three punts for 145 yards and a touchdown, and then tacked on a receiving touchdown in the 45-0 victory. His league-leading 4 returns of 20 plus yards put him on his way to his first-ever All-Pro selection.


AFC East punters are going to struggle in the next few years, as both our All-Pro punt returners come out of this division. Grant was second in yards with 330 on 29 returns, averaging 11.4 yards. He also had an 88-yard touchdown against the Rams in the Dolphins’ 28-17 victory.


Special Teamer


1st Team: George Odum, Indianapolis Colts

2nd Team: Matthew Slater, New England Patriots


Odum led the league in special teams tackles with 21 and also forced a fumble in the Colts Week 8 victory. He also had no penalties throughout the season and helped the Colts as they went to the playoffs without Andrew Luck for the first time since 2010.


Slater has always been one of the best special teams players in the league and kept that status in 2020. He led the team that was first in opposing punt return yards and fourth opposing kick return yards. While his 7 tackles don’t appear to be a lot at first, he led the most successful part of the struggling Patriots team and earns his spot here.


Well, that wraps it up! It’s been my pleasure to assemble the Blitzalytics team and get these votes together and present them to you. I hope you enjoyed reading how this squad of the NFL’s best turned out, and I wish you all an enjoyable Super Bowl.


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