2017 preseason NFL All-Pro team

Every NFL team spent Labor Day weekend organizing the first iteration of its 53-man roster. Those rosters will continue to change as Week 1 nears.

What won't change? The best players in the league, which is why I'm putting together a preseason 2017 All-Pro team. These are the true foundation pieces, the players who exude dominance on every play. Not some of the time or most of the time. The best of the very best.

I'm also including a dark horse pick for each position. These players have the talent and perhaps the right opportunity to crack the team.


Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Brady remains at the top of his game, which compared to much of the rest of the league is a different stratosphere. He has thrown 64 touchdown passes and nine interceptions over the past two seasons, or 7.1 touchdowns per interception. All other NFL quarterbacks are averaging just 1.9 touchdowns per interception during that stretch.

Dark horse pick: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Running back

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

Johnson has a legitimate shot at a 2017 season with more than 1,000 yards rushing and receiving.

Dark horse pick: Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers


Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

Bell, who is back with the Steelers after sitting out the preseason, is arguably the most versatile offensive weapon in the league.

Dark horse pick: Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

Wide receiver

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

Brown has four straight seasons with at least 105 catches and eight receiving scores.

Dark horse pick: Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers

Wide receiver

Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

Since I'm going with only two receivers here, this was a close decision between Beckham and Falcons WR Julio Jones. You can't go wrong with either guy. Beckham can turn a routine slant into six points at any time. He has 35 touchdowns in three seasons.

Dark horse pick: Terrelle Pryor Sr., Washington

Tight end

Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

Since entering the NFL in 2010, Gronk leads all players in receiving touchdowns ... despite missing 24 games in that time. He's the most physically dominant offensive player in the league -- when healthy.

Dark horse pick: Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

Left tackle

Trent Williams, Washington

Athletic, powerful and reactive. Williams does it all for a Washington line that has ascended under offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

Dark horse pick: Ronnie Stanley, Baltimore Ravens

Left guard

Kelechi Osemele, Oakland Raiders

The Raiders wanted to find a tone-setter guard in free agency after the 2015 season, and they nabbed one in Osemele. The team's yards-per-carry average rose from 3.94 in 2015 to 4.43 in 2016. Osemele is a mountain mover.

Dark horse pick: Jack Mewhort, Indianapolis Colts


Alex Mack, Atlanta Falcons

Having Mack on the field is like having a second quarterback in the huddle. He can communicate pre-snap adjustments and is as reliable a player as one can find at the position.

Dark horse pick: Cody Whitehair, Chicago Bears

Right guard

Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys

Dallas' offensive line is almost universally regarded as the best in football, and Martin is widely regarded as the best player in the group. Durable in pass protection, ferocious as a run-blocker, Martin might be the best lineman in the league.

Dark horse pick: Shaq Mason, New England Patriots

Right tackle

Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles

It's easy to see how the Eagles' season changed in 2016 while Johnson served a 10-game suspension. One way to back up Johnson's value: Philadelphia ranks rank third in the league in yards per carry before first contact since drafting him in 2013.

Dark horse pick: La'el Collins, Dallas Cowboys

Defensive end

J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

There's no need to overthink this pick, as Watt's transcendent talent is obvious. If there's a player returning from a major injury who you don't question, it's Watt.

Dark horse pick: Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings

Defensive end

Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders

Mack, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, has emerged as a uniquely dominant force. He has 26.0 sacks over the last two seasons.

Dark horse pick: Trey Flowers, New England Patriots

Defensive tackle

Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

Donald is a play-wrecker who wins with a rare blend of power, explosion and leverage -- and an incredible arsenal of pass-rushing moves. Of course, he has to be on the field this season to make the All-Pro team.

Dark horse pick: Leonard Williams, New York Jets

Defensive tackle

Damon Harrison, New York Giants

Harrison is an immovable run-stuffing force in the middle of the G-Men's run defense who recorded an astonishing 86 tackles last season.

Dark horse pick: Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans


Von Miller, Denver Broncos

Miller's first step is unmatched in today's NFL and draws appropriate comparisons only to players who are already enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I also considered Cardinals LB Chandler Jones for this spot.

Dark horse pick: Leonard Floyd, Chicago Bears


Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

Kuechly, who missed six games in 2016 while recovering from a concussion, is one of the league's best defenders overall.

Dark horse pick: Deion Jones, Atlanta Falcons


Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks

Incredibly cerebral but physical, Wagner and Kuechly are -- in my mind -- the unquestioned top pair of inside linebackers in the NFL.

Dark horse pick: Jordan Hicks, Philadelphia Eagles


Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals

Peterson has the most complete skill set of any cornerback in football. Name an assignment, he can take it on. He has surreal match-and-mirror skills and receiver-like hands.

Dark horse pick: Brent Grimes, Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Chris Harris Jr., Denver Broncos

Harris is as capable a corner as there is in handling slot or perimeter duties.

Dark horse pick: Ronald Darby, Philadelphia Eagles


Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks

Thomas resembles a human vacuum in the passing game and makes a huge impact in the running game. And he's reliable, game after game.

Dark horse pick: Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys


Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings

Like Thomas, Smith makes plays in the pass and run game. Coaches never have to worry about whether he'll execute the right assignment, and he ensures others are doing the same.

Dark horse pick: Jabrill Peppers, Cleveland Browns


Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens

Tucker converted all 24 of his attempts from 40-plus yards last season and didn't miss an extra point. He's money in the bank.

Dark horse pick: Blair Walsh, Seattle Seahawks


Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams

Hekker averaged a career-best 46 net yards per punt last season, and that was with an uncommon ability to directionally punt in a way that aids his coverage unit. He's a true weapon.

Dark horse pick: Bryan Anger, Tampa Bay Buccaneers