ESPN has named its All-NFC North team and, to the surprise of few, there were very few Minnesota Vikings named to the offensive side of the ball, but the Vikings dominated the defensive selections.
Of the 30-member team, the Vikings and Packers accounted for two-thirds of the selections, while the Lions and Bears had five selections each, with three of the playoff-bound five players from Detroit being named as special teams players.
Here is the full list of players selected. There was one tie (Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter and Chicago’s Akiem Hicks tied for one of the defensive end positions), turning a 29-member team into a 30-member team. Players who were unanimous selections are denoted with an asterisk.
QB – Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay*
RB – Jordan Howard, Chicago*; Ty Montgomery, Green Bay*
WR – Jordy Nelson, Green Bay*; Golden Tate, Detroit.
TE – Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota*
LT – David Bakhtiari, Green Bay
LG – Josh Sitton, Chicago*
C – Cody Whitehair, Chicago
RG – T.J. Lang, Green Bay*
RT – Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay*
DT – Linval Joseph, Minnesota*; Mike Daniels, Green Bay*
CB – Xavier Rhodes, Minnesota*; Darius Slay, Detroit*
S – Harrison Smith, Minnesota*; Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Green Bay
K – Matt Prater, Detroit
P – Sam Martin, Detroit
Returner – Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota*
Special Teams – Kentrell Brothers, Minnesota; Don Carey, Detroit; Sherrick McManis, Chicago, Jayrone Elliott, Green Bay.
The Packers dominated the offensive selections, having more picks themselves (6) than the other three teams combined (5). Solidifying that point, five of the six Packers selected on offense were unanimous picks by the NFC North beat writers.
The only Viking named to the offense was Rudolph, a justifiable unanimous choice given his career highs in receptions and yards.
Defense was the Vikings’ domain, landing three defensive linemen, two of the three linebackers and two defensive backs – with Joseph, Kendricks, Rhodes and Smith all getting voted in unanimously.
Patterson won his third kick return title in four years, so he was an obvious choice, and Brothers, who was singled out by Pro Football Focus as a dominant special teams performer, was one of four special teams players representing each team.
The clear verdict from those who watched all four teams is that the best players in the NFC North are residing in Minnesota and Green Bay and they got to where they currently sit by dominating one side of the ball. The fact that seven of the Vikings’ starting 11 on defense made the team (and multiple picks at all three levels of the defense) speaks to the fact that, if you’re going to get to the playoffs in 2017, the Vikings defense will be the primary impediment for any other team taking that away from them.