Heading into Super Bowl LII, NFL.com writers Chris Wesseling and Matt Harmon put together their own All-Pro Teams — selecting their top players at each position. The picks were based on players’ performances throughout the 2017 season, as well as evaluations based on the NFL’s Next-Gen stats.
Six Rams — running back Todd Gurley, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, specialist Pharoh Cooper, punter Johnny Hekker, and kicker Greg Zuerlein — made the cut on both the All-Pro offensive and defensive lists.
Here’s what Wesseling and Harmon had to say about each of the six Rams players given the All-Pro designation. You can check out the rest of their picks by clicking here.
* *Wesseling: “What a difference coaching makes at the highest level of pro football. Transformed behind an overhauled offensive line, Gurley took advantage of Sean McVay's brilliant play designs and timely calls to carry the league's most improved attack and give a Brady an honest fight for the 2017 MVP award. Reminiscent of Adrian Peterson's furious 2012 finish, Gurley was the NFL's most unstoppable force in December, flashing a Millennium Falcon-like hyperdrive that consistently enabled him to pull away from defenders as a big-play machine.”
Harmon: “The ultra-talent of Todd Gurley was released from the shackles that kept it out of sight during the Rams' 2016 season. Beyond Gurley's raw rushing skills, the most notable change in his game was the way Sean McVay found creative outlets to exploit the running back's explosive abilities in the pass game out in space.”
Wesseling: “It's only fitting that Whitworth stands as a fine fallback choice in a season that saw a string of stalwart blind-side protectors such as Joe Thomas, Jason Peters, Tyron Smith and Trent Williams bitten by the injury bug. Before he gained long-awaited notoriety for the Rams' historic turnaround, Whitworth was rarely recognized for his All Pro-caliber play over a decade in Cincinnati.”
Harmon: “Whitworth was perhaps the most impactful free-agent signing in the NFL this season, proving to be a key figure in the Rams' offensive revival. Back in 2016, Todd Gurley averaged -0.1 yards before a defender closed within a yard of him. The 2017 version of Los Angeles' blocking afforded running backs 0.65 yards before close, ranking third-best.”
Wesseling: “Asked what surprised him most in his first season with the Rams, venerable defensive boss Wade Phillips raved, "Aaron Donald, because he's better than everybody, and I didn't know he was better than everybody. I thought he was good, but I didn't know he was better than everybody. But he is." He'll get no argument from Russell Wilson.”
Harmon: “Donald is the best defensive player in the NFL and proved it once again this season, despite operating in a new scheme under Wade Phillips. Despite missing the first and last game of the season, Donald posted 65 pressures in 2017, trailing only Chandler Jones among all defenders.”
Wesseling: “Cordarrelle Patterson and Tyreek Hill might be more exciting talents, but Cooper finished second in both kickoff- and punt-return yards as the game's most dangerous big-play returner. It's a testament to coaching guru John "Bones" Fassel that the Rams' special teamers reign on this list.”
Wesseling: “The rare punting Goliath at 6-foot-5 and 241 pounds, Hekker might be regarded as the greatest to ever do it by the time he hangs up his spikes. He's mastered the nuances of the position, confounding opponents with an arsenal of trick kicks that enable him to limit touchbacks, pin returners inside the 10-yard line and leave precious little space to run.”
Wesseling: “Baltimore's Justin Tucker has set a new standard for long-distance expectations over the past two years, but Zuerlein's 2017 production can't be ignored. Zuerlein led the league in scoring (158 points) despite missing the last two games due to a herniated disc injury.”
Harmon: “The Rams kicker was an edge for the team this year and enjoyed his best season as a pro. Zuerlein cranked in all but one of his attempts from 40-plus yards out and nailed 95.7 percent of his kicks overall.”