John Clayton's midseason All-Pro team

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The first half of the 2015 season is in the books. Several players have stood out, but here are the ones who deserve the most accolades.

Wide receiver

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: Jones is on pace for a 142-catch, 1,829-yard season and has an offensive coordinator (Kyle Shanahan) who designs routes to get him open.

Wide receiver

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers: That the best receiver in 2015 has 69 catches for 1,002 yards despite not having Ben Roethlisberger for four games is incredible.

Tight end

Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: His 44 catches put him on pace for another 90-catch season, but the big thing this year is getting downfield. He is averaging a career-high 15.8 yards a reception.

Left tackle

Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns: The thought of trading Thomas was silly. He's a potential Hall of Fame tackle and has been atop the left tackle list for years.

Left guard

Richie Incognito, Buffalo Bills: It helps that he's not a right guard, a position that has stars such as Marshal Yanda, Zack Martin, Kevin Zeitler and others, but Incognito re-established himself as a top guard after being out last season.


Ryan Kalil, Carolina Panthers: What puts him atop a great group of centers is his communication skills along the line in an offense that is expanding into more no-huddle plays.

Right guard

Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens gave him an extension that rewarded him for being the best right guard in the game.

Right tackle

Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals: He hasn't allowed a sack on a Bengals offensive line that is one of the best in football.


Tom Brady, New England Patriots: The debate isn't whether he's this season's MVP. The debate is whether he is now the greatest quarterback in NFL history.


Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: Todd Gurley might be the next Adrian Peterson, but the current Adrian Peterson leads the NFL in rushing with 758 yards and a 4.5-yard average.


Patrick DiMarco, Atlanta Falcons: DiMarco is on the field more than any other fullback (22.8 plays a game), and his impact as a blocker has allowed Devonta Freeman to rush for 721 yards in nine games.

Defensive end

J.J. Watt, Houston Texans: His numbers are staggering. He has 8.5 sacks, five passes defensed and averages five tackles a game. He's still the best defender in football.

Defensive tackle

Kawann Short, Carolina Panthers: Short has emerged as one of the most dominating interior presences in the league for the Panthers' 4-3 defense. He's been a force.

Defensive tackle

Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams: Donald is like Watt in making plays, but he does it mainly from the defensive tackle position, where he is on pace for another nine-sack season.

Defensive end

Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks: It's hard pinning down a position for him because he lines up at every spot along the defensive line. But it's easy putting him on this list with his 6.5 sacks and numerous disruptive plays.

Outside linebacker

DeMarcus Ware, Denver Broncos: Surprisingly, sack numbers for 3-4 outside linebackers were down in the first half of the season. Ware leads the group with 6.5 in seven games on a Broncos defense geared for speed and sacks.

Middle linebacker

Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers: He earns every dollar as the highest-paid inside linebacker in the game. He's a leader and a tackling machine.

Inside linebacker

Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers: Whether he's at the outside or the inside linebacking spot in the 3-4, he deserves to be on this list of all-stars.

Outside linebacker

K.J. Wright, Seattle Seahawks: Wright, Thomas Davis of the Panthers and Jamie Collins of the Patriots are among the best coverage linebackers in football. Wright had the slight edge in the first half.


Josh Norman, Carolina Panthers: Norman was smart in turning down early offers to sign him. He has emerged as a No. 1 corner with four interceptions.

Strong safety

Mike Adams, Indianapolis Colts: Adams made the Pro Bowl last year and he will probably do the same this year. He has five picks from the strong safety position.

Free safety

Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings: Smith has the first-half nod, but he can't look back because Malcolm Jenkins, Eric Berry, Earl Thomas and others are right behind him.


Darrelle Revis, New York Jets: Revis Island just moved locations with the same results. He's allowed only 17 completions and one touchdown pass in the first half.


Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots: He had a perfect first half, going 19-for-19 on field goals and 31-for-31 on extra points, edging Josh Brown of the New York Giants, who made all 19 of his field goals but missed an extra point.


Sam Koch, Baltimore Ravens: Koch averaged 49.4 yards per punt and had an incredible 45.6-yard net in the first half.

Kick returner

Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks: With no returner with more than 19 returns, the numbers don't really stand out. Dwayne Harris of the Giants had the best average (33 yards), but on only 13 returns. I'll give the nod to Lockett, who had a 25.4-yard kickoff return average and one touchdown. (He also had one punt return for a score.) Only four kickoffs have been returned for touchdowns this year.

Punt returner

Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles: Sproles is always dangerous. He averaged 14.7 yards a return and had a touchdown, putting him in the slight lead for the first half of the season.