NEW YORK (AP) — From a breakthrough quarterback to a unanimous choice. From two brothers to four rookies for the first time — two from the same club, no less. The Associated Press 2018 All-Pro Team has something for everyone.
Patrick Mahomes and three other Kansas City Chiefs players made the squad Friday. They were joined by the first rookie teammates since 1965 — Colts guard left Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard. The last time that occurred it was two future Hall of Famers, the Bears’ Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers.
Surprisingly, leading NFL rusher Ezekiel Elliott of Dallas failed to make the first team. Elliott was picked for the second team behind the Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley, despite leading second-place rusher SaQuan Barkley of the New York Giants by 127 rushing yards. Elliott outgained Gurley by 183 rushing yards and also produced 18 more receptions this season than Gurley with 77 catches. Gurley had 59 receptions.
Guard Zack Martin was the only Dallas player picked on the first team. Rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and cornerback Byron Jones joined Elliott on the second team.
Houston defensive lineman J.J. Watt earned his fifth All-NFL selection with a unique distinction. Watt was a first-team pick as an edge rusher and a second-team selection as an inside defensive lineman.
“It means a lot to get back to the top level of the game,” said Watt, who missed most of the 2016 and ’17 seasons with major injuries. “Obviously, it’s an extreme honor to be a first-team All-Pro, especially after what I’ve been through the last two years and hearing the things that people were saying and questioning myself at times.
“To be able to get back to the top level of the game and know that I still have things to improve on and things that I want to get even better at, it’s exciting.”
Houston wide receiver De Andre Hopkins also was a first-team choice at wide receiver.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was the only unanimous choice in balloting by a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league.
“That’s surreal,” Donald said. “It’s a blessing. Wow! You see the hard work pay off.
“A lot of credit to my teammates and my coaches for pushing me and helping me.”
Mahomes, Kansas City’s second-year sensation, drew 45 votes at quarterback and was joined by teammates Travis Kelce at tight end, Tyreek Hill as the flex player and Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle.
Kelce’s brother, Eagles center Jason, also made the team.
“For me and my brother to both get it, it’s that much more special because I still remember us in the backyard fighting with each other, playing football growing up and we envisioned each other competing at the highest level, competing against the best players,” Jason said. “And for both of us to be recognized as one of those guys is pretty special.”
Joining Nelson and Leonard as rookies on the team were Seahawks punter Michael Dickson and Chargers safety Derwin James.
“These are the kind of guys who have the DNA, the makeup of everything that we are looking for,” Colts coach Frank Reich said of Nelson and Leonard. “All the intangibles, all the character qualities, everything about them. It’s a really hard filter to get through to get marked that way and both Quenton and Darius had that on their card. So that says something about their maturity and how fast we think they will develop.”
And already have developed.
Chicago also had four All-Pros: edge rusher Khalil Mack, cornerback Kyle Fuller, safety Eddie Jackson and punt returner Tarik Cohen.
Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly joined Watt as a selection for the fifth time.
The All-Pro team was split: 14 AFC and 14 NFC members. There were 16 newcomers: Mahomes; Schwartz; Fuller; Jackson; Cohen; Saints receiver Michael Thomas; Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari; Eagles interior defensive lineman Fletcher Cox; Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore; Chargers defensive back Desmond King and special teamer Adrian Phillips; Jets kick returner Andre Roberts; and the four rookies.
Players with previous All-Pro honors who made the 2018 team included Donald and Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, each for the fourth time; Mack, Martin and Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, each for the third time; Hill; Gurley and Hopkins.
“I think I really took a lot of pride in leadership,” said Wagner, who drew 49 votes. “I knew that was going to be big if we were going to be successful. I knew I was going to have to up my role in that, up my mindfulness in that. I was really conscious of that and just making sure I was, when it came to getting back to the defense I looked at it from a different lens.”
Hopkins got the most votes on offense with 46.
“This is validation,” Hopkins said. “I feel like these people are the people who actually know football, who study football, who have been around football for years. So to be on this list and to be first team is a great feeling. But it makes me want to work harder and continue to be on that list.”
AP Pro Football Writers Rob Maaddi and Dennis Waszak Jr., and Sports Writers Mike Marot, Kristie Rieken and Greg Beacham contributed to this report.