Colts highlight first-half offense picks
Picking Manning ahead of Brees, Favre just one of many difficult choices
My offensive midseason All-Pro team is heavy on Colts. For my defensive midseason All-Pro team, including special teams, click here.
Seven of the past 10 most valuable players in the NFL were quarterbacks (not surprisingly, the other three were running backs), and that isn't likely to change for the 2009 season.
At the halfway point of the campaign, Indianapolis' Peyton Manning and New Orleans' Drew Brees have their teams undefeated. Manning is on pace to top Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yards. Brett Favre also is in the debate. His Minnesota Vikings have lost only once.
If either Manning or Favre wins the honor at the end of the season, it will be a record-breaking fourth MVP award.
There still is plenty of football to be played in 2009, and while another player like Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson could sneak into the conversation, the MVP race at this point seems to be down to the early-line favorites at quarterback.
Picking a midseason All-Pro team, and selecting Manning over the other two, was a difficult chore. Of course, it was one that will generate plenty of discussion.
ESPN.com's midseason All-Pro squad was compiled after discussions with about a dozen general managers, personnel directors and pro scouts, and some consultation with the folks at Scouts Inc.
We feel we've come up with a representative all-star team for the first half of the season.
Let the debate begin.
Reasoning: With the departure of Marvin Harrison, the three-time Pro Bowl performer has become the Colts' go-to guy. Despite constant double-coverage, he has six touchdown catches this season and has averaged 90.7 receptions the past three seasons.
Reasoning: Johnson has 100 or more catches in two of the past three seasons. Even with injury limiting him to nine games in 2007, the three-time Pro Bowler had 46.9 percent of catches by Houston wide receivers from 2006 through 2008 and 20 touchdowns.
Reasoning: Every bit as much a big wide receiver as he is a tight end, Clark can play flexed off the line or in the slot and is a matchup nightmare for secondaries. He is on pace to set tight end single-season records for catches and yards in a season, and had 14 receptions in Week 9.
Reasoning: Clady is a terrific technician but also a tough guy. In just his second season, he already is the NFL's premier lineman in some observers' eyes. He has started 24 games and, despite always facing the opponent's best rusher, unofficially surrendered only three sacks. He was the only offensive lineman to warrant any rookie of the year votes in 2008.
Reasoning: He's a Pro Bowl fixture, with appearances in six straight all-star games. Hutchinson has been a little dinged this season, and critics contend he is not as good as he was. The Vikings still know where to run when they need yards.
Reasoning: Mangold has held up particularly well playing against two 3-4 defenses in the division. His Pro Bowl trip last season probably was the first of what figures to be many.
Reasoning: Evans is a four-year veteran who is quick enough to pull and lead a play, and flexible enough to trap. He's at his best as a gritty in-line blocker, mauling defensive linemen with his tremendous strength. He doesn't get the credit he deserves.
Reasoning: Otah's drawbacks as a pass-protector have been exposed at times, but he's a powerful run-blocker who can knock defenders off the line of scrimmage. Otah fits the mold and has the mentality of a strongside tackle. He's really flourished since the Panthers began running the ball more.
Reasoning: Just when you thought he couldn't get any better, he did. Manning has increased his pass-completion rate to an incredible 70.6 percent. He entered the season with a 64.4 percent mark. He's made his young receivers look good at times. Manning is much more competitive than most people realize.
Reasoning: In his sixth pro season, Karney has logged only 41 career rushing attempts, including two (and seven total touches) this season. Yet, he is a dynamite lead blocker and can really root a linebacker out of the hole.
Reasoning: The best pure tailback in the league is probably Adrian Peterson of Minnesota, but Johnson has been tremendous in the first half of the season. He sports a lofty rushing average (6.7 yards), and leads the NFL in runs of 20 yards or more (12) and runs of 40 yards or more (six).
For my defensive midseason All-Pro team, click here.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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