NEW YORK — Five players were unanimous choices for The Associated Press 2021 NFL All-Pro Team, including one on each side of the ball for the Los Angeles Rams.
Wide receiver Cooper Kupp and defensive tackle Aaron Donald received votes from all 50 members of a nationwide panel of media members who regularly cover the league, as did Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams, Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor and Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt.
The All-Pro list, which includes first and second teams, was announced Friday, the day before the NFL playoffs kick off with a three-day weekend of six wild-card games — three in the AFC and three in the NFC.
Donald, the NFL defensive player of the year for the 2017, '18 and '20 seasons, is an All-Pro for the seventh time in his eight seasons, with all of those appearances first-team selections. Kupp's breakout campaign in his fifth year in the NFL — he led the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947) and touchdown catches (16) this season — made him an All-Pro for the first time.
The same is true for the 22-year-old Taylor, who in his second pro season was the top rusher by a landslide with 1,811 yards and scored 18 touchdowns on the ground. He also had a pair of touchdown catches.
Adams (123 receptions, 1,553 receiving yards, 11 touchdown catches) earned his first selection during the 2020 season, while Watt is making his third straight first-team appearance in his fifth season. In 2019, Watt was a first-teamer as an edge rusher and a second-teamer as a linebacker.
"Obviously it's an honor to be recognized, and it wouldn't be possible without my coaches and incredible teammates, but the awards and accolades aren't what drives me," Watt said. "It's competing with and for them, this franchise, and this city, that drives me. My coaches and teammates are the people that put me in a position to make splash, help us win, and this recognition honestly doesn't come without them."
Like Donald — although not nearly as often as the offense-wrecking 6-foot-1, 280-pounder — several players are making another first-team appearance on the All-Pro Team. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is on for the fourth time, as is Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce — one more time than his brother, Kansas City star tight end Travis Kelce. One better than them are Dallas Cowboys right guard Zack Martin and Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker at five apiece.
Three-time All-Pros this year are Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward, Colts linebacker Darius Leonard and Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey; Cleveland Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett and Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard are being recognized for the second time.
The other 14 first-team choices are making their All-Pro debuts.
On offense, San Francisco 49ers left tackle Trent Williams is a newcomer in his 11th NFL season, joined by Ravens tight end Mark Andrews, Browns left guard Joel Bitonio, 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel and Tampa Bay Buccaneers right tackle Tristan Wirfs. Williams has been a stellar blocker for a decade with Washington and now San Francisco.
"I do feel more comfortable than I've ever felt," he said. "I do feel like I'm as strong as I've ever been. I do feel my football IQ is probably better than it's ever been. As a football player, as a competitor every year you want to be better than the last year. That's my goal and always has been my goal. So if this year is better than last year, I hope so. That's the plan."
Making up the rest of the defense are linebackers Micah Parsons of Dallas — the only rookie on the squad — and De'Vondre Campbell of Green Bay, as well as Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs and Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Poyer. The special teamers are New York Jets kick returner Braxton Berrio, Las Vegas Raiders punter A.J. Cole, Ravens punt returner Devin Duvernay, New Orleans Saints special teams ace J.T Gray and and Colts long snapper Luke Rhodes.
Almost as unusual as sweeping the votes is having a rookie on the team. Parsons has been so outstanding he's also considered a strong contender for the defensive player of the year award.
"I think it's an extraordinary honor," the former Penn State star and the No. 12 overall pick in last year's draft said of being an All-Pro. "It speaks to the work and the position the Cowboys put me in. I think it's just a true blessing. It just makes you want to go harder.
"I think when you achieve things early, you've got to learn how to sustain it. People always say when you get there it gets easier. But I think when you get there, it gets harder. Once you get it, you've got it. But it's harder to sustain it than it is just to get there. I've got to just keep working and keep getting better and find a way to beat this season next year, which is the harder part."
Byard was an All-Pro in 2017, and now he's back on the roster after what he felt was a down 2020 season.
"It means a lot to me, honestly," he acknowledged. "I put a lot of work in every single offseason by myself, not necessarily with the team in training camp, but just try to come into the next season to try to play the best I can be for my team.
"I've talked about it a lot. Just (didn't feel) like I played my best last year. So to be able to bounce back and see the kind of the work that I put in mentally and physically kind of pay off (is rewarding)."
The Associated Press 2021 NFL All-Pro team, as selected by a national panel of 50 media members.
Quarterback — Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Running back — Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis
Tight end — Mark Andrews, Baltimore
Wide receiver — Davante Adams, Green Bay; Cooper Kupp, L.A. Rams; Deebo Samuel, San Francisco
Left tackle — Trent Williams, San Francisco
Right tackle — Tristan Wirfs, Tampa Bay
Left guard — Joel Bitonio, Cleveland
Right guard — Zack Martin, Dallas
Center — Jason Kelce, Philadelphia
Edge rusher — Myles Garrett, Cleveland; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh
Interior lineman — Aaron Donald, L.A. Rams; Cam Heyward, Pittsburgh
Linebacker — De'Vondre Campbell, Green Bay; Darius Leonard, Indianapolis; Micah Parsons, Dallas
Cornerback — Trevon Diggs, Dallas; Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams
Safety — Kevin Byard, Tennessee; Jordan Poyer, Buffalo
Kicker — Justin Tucker, Baltimore
Punter — A.J. Cole, Las Vegas
Kick returner — Braxton Berrios, N.Y. Jets
Punt returner — Devin Duvernay, Baltimore
Special teamer — J. T. Gray, New Orleans
Long snapper — Luke Rhodes, Indianapolis
Quarterback — Tom Brady, Tampa Bay
Running back — vacant
Tight end — Travis Kelce, Kansas City
Wide receiver — Ja'Marr Chase, Cincinnati; Justin Jefferson, Minnesota
Left tackle — Rashawn Slater, L.A. Chargers
Right tackle — Lane Johnson, Philadelphia
Left guard — Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis
Right guard — Wyatt Teller, Cleveland
Center — Corey Linsley, L.A. Chargers
Edge rusher — Robert Quinn, Chicago; Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas
Interior lineman — Chris Jones, Kansas City; Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee
Linebacker — Demario Davis, New Orleans; Roquan Smith, Chicago; Bobby Wagner, Seattle
Cornerback — J.C. Jackson, New England; A.J. Terrell, Atlanta
Safety — Justin Simmons, Denver; Budda Baker, Arizona; Micah Hyde, Buffalo
Kicker — Daniel Carlson, Las Vegas
Punter — Bryan Anger, Dallas
Kick returner — Andre Roberts, Los Angeles Chargers
Punt returner — Jakeem Grant, Chicago
Special teamer — Matthew Slater, New England; Ashton Dulin, Indianapolis.
Long snapper — Josh Harris, Atlanta