NFL All-decade Team

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) reacts between plays in the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

It can be so tempting to assemble a collection of talent and expect it to develop the chemistry that will result in championship results. Ask the Cleveland Browns. Or Dallas Cowboys.

But still, I’ll go out on a limb and declare that this “dream team” assembly of stars – my picks as the NFL’s best of this past decade — would mesh well enough to dominate. Hypothetically.

So now, the envelopes, please …


Quarterback: Tom Brady. Him again. Old man survived “Deflategate,” keeps winning rings, even when down 28-3. Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes? Off to great starts as next decade’s favorites.

Running Back: Adrian Peterson. After reconstructive knee surgery, he rushed for 2,097 yards and NFL MVP honors in 2012. Three years later, at 30, he became oldest runner named first-team All-Pro. And he’s not done yet, with shot at second consecutive 1,000-yard season.

Running Back: Ezekiel Elliott. When the Cowboys feed Zeke, good things tend to happen. Has rushed for more yards (5,236) than anyone since he entered NFL in 2016.

Tight end: Rob Gronkowski. Gave Patriots the NFL’s toughest matchup problem and red-zone weapon, which overshadowed his premier impact with run-game blocking. The Patriots miss all of that now, but an assortment of injuries took him to early retirement at 29.

Wide receiver: Antonio Brown. With deft double moves, he’s the only wideout named first-team All-Pro four times during the decade. It’s a shame that assorted drama prevented a talented player from a repeat honor.

Wide receiver: Julio Jones. When Patriots practiced for Super Bowl LI, Bill Belichick had his defense work against two players on field at the same time wearing No. 11 for scout-team offense. What a compliment for the looming threat.

Wide receiver: Calvin Johnson. Like Barry Sanders, Lions fans surely wish that “Megatron” could have stayed longer – and won big. Three consecutive first-team All-Pro selections during first half of decade was just one measure of his greatness.

Left tackle: Joe Thomas. No, as it continues to be confirmed, he wasn’t the problem. And he gets more points for playing 10,363 consecutive snaps one losing season after another for the Browns.

Left guard: Kelechi Osemele. He’s now plagued by injury issues that will test his ability to regain previous, dominant form. Quenton Nelson is a worthy choice, given the major respect earned from opponents and O-line connoisseurs – and first-team All-Pro status last year as a rookie. But sample size wins out. And Osemele had his own rookie year exploits in contributing to a Super Bowl crown in Baltimore.

Center: Maurkice Pouncey. As perennial Pro Bowl selections (7) suggest, the NFL’s premier center has long lived up to a Pittsburgh tradition.

Right guard: Marshal Yanda. The O-line anchor has been a rock through the transition of establishing a new kind of offense in Baltimore. Longevity gives him the nod over Jahri Evans (early decade) and Zack Martin (latter decade).

Right tackle: Lane Johnson. As new record contract illustrates, a not-so-anonymous lineman who has been the perfect Philadelphia bookend to longtime star left tackle Jason Peters.

Dynamic Duo: Drew Brees and Michael Thomas. Brees, Mr. Record-Breaker, is still humming in his 19th season. And no receiver in NFL history has had the type of production in his first three years like Thomas, on the verge of breaking the NFL’s single-season record for receptions. This is not by chance. These intense pros are made for each other.

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