Before we dive into the All-Star team for the AFC South, I would like to explain a specific attribute of this article. I recently read a Sports Illustrated piece on college football and noticed they gave ratings to each team’s offense, defense and special teams. So, I thought it would be fun to give each player a Madden-type rating for the position they are designated to, just to give a feel of how good this team would be, at least virtually. I will list the average ratings for each unit at the end.
QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts – 88 rating
Luck had a fantastic, historic, rookie season, with a mostly abysmal supporting cast. Meanwhile, Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub had another disappointing season with one of the most talented rosters in the NFL (not to say a divisional playoff showing is terrible, just not quite up to expectations). To put it in perspective, Schaub’s backup, T.J. Yates, has achieved just as much as Schaub has in the playoffs, by beating the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the postseason. Jake Locker has been erratic at best and Blaine Gabbert hasn’t shown much, if anything, and is in a constant quarterback battle.
RB Arian Foster, Houston Texans – 98 rating
1,424 rush yards, 17 total TDs (15 rushing, 2 receiving), and a respectable 4.1 ypc on 351 carries. Foster is regarded as one of the few elite running backs in the NFL and is also the starting running back for the all-AFC South squad. Any objections?
RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars – 92 rating
Maurice Jones-Drew is coming back from what is known as a ‘Lisfranc injury’ which, is a fracture of the foot that is a very painful injury that requires a long recovery period. Reports say he is running without discomfort, and it seems he is primed for a bounce back season, after only playing 6 games in 2012. Before last year, he had proven himself to be a consistently healthy running back, having played 6 straight seasons of 14 games or more before 2012. And we all know he can produce; even last year, he posted a 4.8 ypc.
FB Greg Jones, Houston Texans – 90 rating
The fullback best known for paving the way for Maurice Jones-Drew is now with the Houston Texans, blocking for another great running back. A Pro-Bowler in 2007, Jones is the most accomplished of the 4 fullbacks in the AFC South. No brainer here.
WR Andre Johnson, Houston Texans – 98 rating
Ever read, heard, made a list of the top five receivers in the NFL? Now, tell me if any of those lists didn’t include Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson. If they didn’t, it’s a flawed list, excluding one of the most athletically gifted wideouts in the game. Johnson is in the top tier of receivers in the NFL and has the resume to go along with it: six 1,000 yard seasons, 6x Pro-Bowler, 5x all-pro selection and league leader in receiving yards in 2008 and 2009. This 6-foot-3, 230-pound freak would be the number one receiver for almost any team (excluding the Lions and the Cardinals) and rightfully leads the pack for the AFC South.
WR Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts – 93 rating
Old reliable himself: every season, ‘experts’ predict his demise, and on every occasion he proves them wrong. Wayne is one of the most under-appreciated receivers in the NFL and for the wrong reason; simply because he is not a menacing freak of nature. He merely does what great pure receivers do; work hard, run precise routes and catch everything thrown his way. I will let his accolades do the rest of the talking: 6x Pro Bowler, 3x all-pro selection, 2007 league leader in receiving yards, eight 1,000 yard seasons, four 100 reception seasons and he hasn’t missed a game in 11 straight years.
TE Owen Daniels, Houston Texans – 85 rating
Daniels has proven himself to be a solid tight end and he has always been the second best receiver on his team, supplementing the great Andre Johnson. While providing a good support system for quarterback Matt Schaub, he found his way to the Pro Bowl last year for the second time, after recording 62 receptions, 716 yards and 6 touchdowns. Daniels beat out Colts tight end Dwayne Allen by a smidgen, and, quite frankly, I expect Allen to be in this slot come 2014.
OT Duane Brown, Houston Texans – 97 rating
Duane Brown mans the left side of one of the best offensive lines in football. Seeing as his left tackle spot is the toughest position to play on any line, especially while playing it for such a talented offensive front, he deserves to be on this list for that reason alone. Nevertheless, his cause is also helped by the fact that he was a Pro Bowl selection last year, along with receiving first team all-pro honors.
OG Andy Levitre, Tennessee Titans – 93 rating
The Tennessee Titans didn’t sign Levitre to a 6-year, $47 million deal for nothing. He was a highly sought after free agent this offseason and for good reason. He is an up and coming guard in the NFL and, although, he doesn’t have many accolades yet (2009 NFL all-rookie team) he is one of the best at his position. He also has an awesome mustache.
C Chris Myers, Houston Texans – 95 rating
Another member of that formidable Houston Texans offensive line and another Pro-Bowler, Chris Myers has taken over the role as the best veteran center in the AFC South, previously Jeff Saturday, these past few years. He has made the Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2012 and is certainly the man for the job.
OG Wade Smith, Houston Texans – 87 rating
Starting to see a trend here? Houston really does have an outstanding offensive line. Wade Smith is yet another Pro-Bowler from last year, returning to his guard spot in 2013. He will also be playing the other guard position for this all-AFC South squad.
OT Michael Roos, Tennessee Titans – 93 rating
Veteran offensive tackle, who has proven himself to be a solid blocker and has been recognized for it. Roos is a 3x All-Pro selection and 1x Pro-Bowler. Roos rounds out a fantastic offensive front, probably the best collective unit for this all-division team.
Note: I have adjusted the positions of certain players to fit a 4-3 scheme.
DE Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts – 93 rating
Mathis is now a 3-4 OLB in Chuck Pagano’s defensive scheme, but for the greater part of his career he was known as a sack master at defensive end, in a 4-3 defense. But, he has adapted nicely to his new position as well; recording 8 sacks in 12 games, and he has done it through his usual combination of outstanding athleticism and crafty play. Point is, put him anywhere on the field and he will find his way to the quarterback.
DT Cory Redding, Indianapolis Colts – 86 rating
Cory Redding is a 3-4 defensive end, or a 4-3 defensive tackle, who is well-known and well-respected throughout the league. I have observed him at Colts games and practices, and this guy is a born leader, which every team needs, including an all-division team. He also complements his leadership with great play. You may look at his stats and say he doesn’t deserve to be on this list. However, 3-4 defensive linemen aren’t meant to put up huge numbers, they’re designated to take up space and help their linebackers put up those stats. And Redding does his job well.
DT Antonio Smith, Houston Texans – 91 rating
Smith is also a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme and put up an impressive 7 sacks in 2012. He is a Pro-Bowler from 2011 and he helps anchor one side of one of the best defenses in football. On the other side of Smith is one of the most feared defensive players in the NFL: J.J. Watt.
DE J.J. Watt, Houston Texans – 99 rating
Watt was the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 2012, and for good reason. Watt ruins opposing offensive game-plans. He is an athletic, menacing freak of a man. He had a mind bending 2012 season: 81 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 16 pass deflections. And he shows no signs of letting up. Watt is definitely the MVP of the all-AFC South team.
LB Brian Cushing, Houston Texans – 93 rating
2009 Pro-Bowler, 2009 defensive rookie of the year, 2009 league leader in tackles and 2011 All-Pro selection. Cushing tore his ACL and found himself on the injured reserve in 2012, but he has proven himself to be a more than viable option at linebacker for the Texans, and the best linebacker on this division roster.
LB Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville Jaguars – 87 rating
Simply put, this man is a tackling machine. He has had 5 straight seasons with 100 tackles or more, which is impressively steady. Consistency is big in any sport and Posluszny makes the cut for his ability to showcase that coveted quality.
LB Jerrell Freeman, Indianapolis Colts – 82 rating
Jerrell Freeman was a 26-year-old rookie who burst onto the scene last year coming over from the Canadian football league. Freeman posted 145 tackles and 2 sacks. Putting those kinds of numbers up as a linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, with as bad as a defensive front that the Colts have, isn’t an easy task. Yet Freeman still played well, seeming to be around the ball on every play.
CB Jonathon Joseph, Houston Texans – 94 rating
Joseph has proven himself to be one of the better corners in the league, and last year was no exception, as he made the Pro Bowl for the second time, with 2 interceptions and 11 pass deflections. He rightfully earns the number one corner spot.
CB Vontae Davis, Indianapolis Colts – 87 rating
Former first-round pick Vontae Davis had a rocky start to the 2012 season but a great finish. In 10 games he ended up with 3 interceptions, 7 pass deflections and showcased his potential to become a shut-down corner.
S Ed Reed, Houston Texans – 92 rating
9x Pro-Bowler (including last season), 8x All-Pro selection, 2004 Defensive Player of the Year and fresh off a Super Bowl victory, Ed Reed is the best safety in the AFC South, coming over this offseason from the world champion Baltimore Ravens. Those are just a few of his many accolades and there’s no doubt this man belongs on the squad.
S Antoine Bethea, Indianapolis Colts – 86 rating
Antoine Bethea had absolutely no help from the opposite safety spot in 2012 and as a result his play suffered. However, he is still a 2x Pro-Bowler and recorded 100 tackles and 2 sacks last year; he would definitely thrive opposite Reed in the defensive backfield.
K Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts – 93 rating
Vinatieri is the most clutch kicker in NFL history and is still booting game-winning field goals. Sure he’s declining a little, but like I said, he is the most clutch kicker in NFL history.
P Pat McAfee, Indianapolis Colts – 95 rating
McAfee is not on here solely because he is twitter famous; the man can punt. He should have been a Pro-Bowler last year, as he can drive the ball deep down the field or nail it inside the 20 yard line.
Returner T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts – 84 rating
Not much talent when it comes to returners in the AFC South, but Hilton has the potential to become a good one. This speedster returned one punt for a touchdown last year and specialized as a returner in college.
DT Tyson Alualu, LB Akeem Ayers, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, TE Dwayne Allen, OT David Stewart, CB Kareem Jackson, QB Matt Schaub, K Rob Bironas
Offense: 92 overall
Defense: 90 overall
Special Teams: 91 overall
How do you think this team would matchup against other divisions?