I was fortunate to accomplish a lot in my nine-year NFL career, but one of the highlights was being selected to The Associated Press' All-Pro first team in 2011.
Getting recognized for your play is a huge deal for any NFL player, and that selection validated the work I had put in my entire life. It's a tremendous honor to be considered the best of the best.
Who might get to experience that thrill after the 2020 season? With my playing career in the rear view, I decided to scan the league and select a crop of five promising players with the potential to unseat picks on the 2019 All-Pro first team. Let's jump right in.
Replacing: Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Watson told reporters last week that he's "trying to pull a big three. I won a state championship, won a national championship. So, of course, I'm trying to get a Super Bowl." To check that final title box, the fourth-year pro needs to have an MVP-level season -- which, in turn, would put him in this spot. Watson, who has a 101.0 career passer rating, has shown improvement in each of the last three seasons, culminating in a career-high 33 total touchdowns last season and his first playoff win -- in which he and the Texans overcame a 16-point third-quarter deficit to top the Buffalo Bills in overtime in the AFC Wild Card Round. The magic abruptly ended against Patrick Mahomes the following week. Then, in the offseason, Bill O'Brien traded away Watson's biggest, most reliable weapon (DeAndre Hopkins). Without the perennial All-Pro receiver, Watson will have to be the guy and make things happen on the regular. Watson is fully capable of establishing himself among the position's elite, and I think he will.
Replacing: DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
Evans has been a dominant receiver in this league since he was drafted, recording 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first six seasons (something only he and Hall of Famer Randy Moss have done). The thing is, Evans hasn't achieved the notoriety of other top wideouts primarily because the Bucs haven't been relevant. Seriously -- Evans has experienced one winning season. But it feels as if that's all about to change with Tom Brady in town. I expect Evans to embrace everything that comes with catching passes from the six-time Super Bowl champion. And with five prime-time games on the schedule, Evans will no longer fly under the radar, instead getting the chance to showcase his abilities in the national spotlight weekly. There are a lot of mouths to feed in the Bucs' offense, but Evans will get his targets -- and, finally, the recognition he deserves.
Replacing: Ronnie Stanley, Baltimore Ravens
I was shocked to find out that Williams has never been named first-team All-Pro. It doesn't seem right. When he's on the field and healthy, the seven-time Pro Bowler is one of the best left tackles in the game. Could 2020 be the year when Williams puts another notch in his belt? You bet. Traded to the 49ers in a draft-day transaction after missing all of his final season with Washington, Williams joins a tremendously talented team -- and, like, Mike Evans, he should reap the benefits of playing in the national spotlight. I know some might be concerned with the fact that Williams hasn't played a snap since 2018, but reports out of camp suggest he's fresh, healthy and ready to roll. I mean, he's stonewalling Nick Bosa, the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year, in practice. Speaking of ...
Replacing: Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
Step aside, Mr. Jones and Mr. Watt. It's the year of the Bosa bros. It feels like it's only a matter of time before both Bosas earn All-Pro honors, so why not project them to do it together? Nick is coming off a dominant rookie campaign, and Joey just got paid. Last season, the 49ers rookie logged nine sacks, 25 QB hits and 16 tackles for loss, while ranking fourth in the NFL in total pressures (60) and pressure rate (13.9%, among those with a minimum of 250 pass rush snaps), per Next Gen Stats. The Chargers defensive end recorded 11.5 sacks and a career highs in QB hits (31) and 18 tackles for loss (third-most in the NFL) in 2019. If the pair can stay healthy -- here's to hoping Nick heals quickly from the muscle strain in his leg -- I wouldn't be surprised if the Bosa bros claimed the league's top two edge rusher spots for years to come.