There’s nothing I like more than to put together, well, let’s call them all-star teams for lack of a better way of saying it. From the time I moved to Texas in 1983, I essentially lived with three “brothers” who would sit and play Strat-o-matic or Pursue the Pennant or any game we created. Since then, I’ve loved the idea of mixing and matching teams, drafts and the sort.
Combining two of my favorite things, I thought I’d put together a series of All-Conference NFL teams - the best 22 NFL players from a particular conference. So, instead of THIS All-SEC team having Dak Prescott and Nick Chubb on it, it’ll feature Peyton Manning and Randall Cobb. Now, CFB realignment has made this sort of tricky to be honest, but my rule of thumb is sort of like international sports - a player needed citizenship in that conference for at least one year to be considered. As such, former Texas A&M star Jake Matthews can be considered for both Big 12 and SEC status, as he spent two years as a starter in the Big 12 and two years as a starter in the SEC. Current Miami Dolphin Ndamukong Suh can only be considered for the Big 12 as his entire career was spent in that conference.
The SEC doesn’t have a huge problem in that area to be honest so let’s fire on the All-SEC NFL team heading into 2015.
Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning, Tennessee (1994 - 1997) - No brainer but there really aren’t a ton of QBs to choose from outside of Cam Newton & Matt Stafford.
Houston Texans RB Arian Foster, Tennessee (2005 - 2008) - Undrafted but one of the best, if not the best, all-around backs in the NFL. Four time Pro Bowler and the Texans’ All-Time Career leading in rushing attempts, yards, rushing TDs.
Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama (2009 - 2012) - The best of Nick Saban’s crew of Alabama running backs to come into the league. Just spinning his way through the league, no?
Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green, Georgia (2008 - 2010) - This is where it starts getting tough but Green has been dominant from the day he entered the league. He caught 12 passes v. Houston last season and was talking trash after every one of them. I watched in awe.
Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones, Alabama (2008 - 2010) - Joining the league the same year as Green, Jones has been to two Pro Bowls and led the NFL in receiving yards in 2014 (1,593)
Green Bay Packers ATH Randall Cobb, Kentucky (2007 - 2010) - The 2011 NFL Draft was good to the SEC and the NFL. Cobb was a Pro Bowler for the first time in 2014, then signed a massive deal to stay in Green Bay. The former Wildcat star is a consummate jack-of-all-trades, where will he line up next perimeter star.
Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten, Tennessee (2000 - 2002) - The gray beard of the bunch is still one of the most productive pass catchers in the entire NFL. He’s been to ten Pro Bowls, named All-Pro six times and has 943 receptions, 10,502 yards and 57 TD in his career. That’ll do.
Pittsburgh Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida (2007 - 2009) - The former Gator All-American has been to the Pro Bowl four of his five seasons and was named first or second team All-Pro in those same four seasons.
Miami Dolphins G Mike Pouncey, Florida (2007 - 2010) - It is possible to have one Pouncey without the other but not in this case. Mike was an All-Rookie team honoree in 2011 and has been to the last two Pro Bowls.
Detroit Lions G Larry Warford, Kentucky (2009 - 2012) - Although Warford went into the off-season with a knee injury, he’s become one of the better young guards in the league when healthy.
Cincinnati Bengals T Andrew Whitworth, LSU (2002 - 2005) - Another 30-something to make the list, Whitworth had a tremendous 2014 season, allowing a single hit on the quarterback and no sacks. He earned 2nd Team All-Pro honors after getting a Pro Bowl snub.
Philadelphia Eagles T Jason Peters, Arkansas (2001 - 2003) - Peters was a TE at Arkansas, but moved over to LT when he arrived in Buffalo after going undrafted. He’s racked up seven Pro Bowl trips, two first team All-Pro honors and four second team All-Pro honors in his career.
**Honorary member of the OL - Evan Mathis, Alabama (2001 - 2004) - Although he has no team currently, it’s worth mentioning the elder statesman of the group. Mathis has gone to the last two Pro Bowls and was first team All-Pro in 2013.
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton, Auburn
Detroit Lions QB Matt Stafford, Georgia
Cincinnati Bengals RB Jeremy Hill, LSU
New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram, Alabama
New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Miami Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry, LSU
Chicago Bears WR Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
Atlanta Falcons TE Jacob Tamme, Kentucky
St. Louis Rams TE/WR Jared Cook, South Carolina
San Diego Chargers T D.J. Fluker, Alabama
San Diego Chargers T King Dunlap, Auburn
Cincinnati Bengals T Andre Smith, Alabama
Kansas City Chiefs G Ben Grubbs, Auburn
Buffalo Bills DE/DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama (2008 - 2010) - You going to tell Mr. Big Stuff he’s not on my list? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I’m not doing it, but luckily his play will keep me from having to tell him. One of the most difficult interior guys to block consistently, been to two straight Pro Bowls and was 1st Team All-Pro in 2014 as well.
Buffalo Bills DT Kyle Williams, LSU (2002 - 2005) - He’s always been productive but lately he’s been getting a ton more attention. He’s gone to four Pro Bowls in the last five years and has been All-Pro three times.
Bengals DT Geno Atkins, Georgia (2006 - 2009) - The former fourth round pick was completely manhandling interior linemen before his ACL injury in 2013. He returned in 2014 and even though he wasn’t near as dominant as he had been prior to the injury, he still was voted to his third Pro Bowl.
New York Jets DE Sheldon Richardson, Missouri (2011 - 2012) - Two years in the league and some think he’s the best 3-4 DE not named JJ Watt in the NFL. He was 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2014.
Chicago Bears DE/OLB Pernell McPhee, Mississippi State (2009 - 2010) - He didn’t get much acclaim for the season he had in 2014; that’s a shame. But, the Bears recognized what he could do and signed him to big money. He had 7.5 sacks in 2014 for the Baltimore Ravens and was one of the hottest free agents on the market in 2015.
Baltimore Ravens ILB C.J. Mosley, Alabama (2010 - 2013) - What didn’t the former Alabama do in 2014? He became the leader of the Ravens defense nearly overnight, earned a Pro Bowl berth as a rookie, 2nd Team All-Pro honors and was AFC North Rookie of the Year.
New England Patriots ILB Dont’a Hightower, Alabama (2008 - 2011) - One of my all-time favorites interviews is also one of the most versatile linebackers in the game. He made a game saving tackle on Marshawn Lynch at the goal line in last year’s Super Bowl one play before The Interception Heard Around the World.
Kansas City Chiefs OLB Justin Houston, Georgia (2008 - 2010) - There aren’t many in his class as a pass rusher. The man had 22 sacks last year. Yes, more than J.J. Watt. He has 48.5 career sacks and will be a rich man soon. Well, when he signs his next piece of paper, that is.
Cleveland Browns CB Joe Haden, Florida (2007 - 2009) - I remember when Haden ran at the Combine and most people jumped off his bandwagon after his rather pedestrian 4.52. I felt all alone but man, I’m glad I stayed. The former Gator corner has been voted to the past two Pro Bowls and is considered one of the top three or four all-around corners in the NFL.
Arizona Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson, LSU (2008 - 2010) - Not only has Peterson made the Pro Bowl as a corner, he’s also been named to the game as a returner. Even though he struggled with diabetes at the end of the 2014 season, he’s still one of the most physical corners in the league.
Houston Texans Nickel CB Johnathan Joseph, South Carolina (2004 - 2005) - Although he doesn’t go inside to cover in nickel, it’s my list and “J Jo” is my guy. Not to mention, he’s a stud long after plenty of young corners have seen their careers end. He didn’t get a Pro Bowl invite last season, but he had his best season since his two Pro Bowl seasons (2011 & 2012).
Kansas City Chiefs S Eric Berry, Tennessee (2007 - 2009) - Lymphoma may have sidelined him in 2014, but Berry has made a remarkable recovery. Whether he makes it back to the field or not, it doesn’t matter. Berry has been a gem for the Chiefs. A 3x Pro Bowler, Berry was also 1st Team All-Pro in 2013.
San Francisco 49ers S Eric Reid, LSU (2010 - 2012) - Reid was tremendous as a rookie, racking up 77 tackles and four interceptions on a veteran-laden defense. He earned a Pro Bowl berth after his rookie season in 2013.
Philadelphia Eagles DE/DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
Jacksonville Jaguars DT Sen’Derrick Marks, Auburn
Houston Texans CB/Nickel Kareem Jackson, Alabama
Buffalo Bills CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
Baltimore Ravens OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
Carolina Panthers DE Charles Johnson, Georgia
Carolina Panthers SLB Thomas Davis, Georgia
Chicago Bears CB Tim Jennings, Georgia
Cleveland Browns ILB Karlos Dansby, Auburn
Denver Broncos ILB Danny Trevathan, Kentucky
New England Patriots ILB Jerod Mayo, Tennessee
Washington Redskins ILB Perry Riley, LSU
Green Bay Packers Nickel/CB Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt