Lavonte David hasn’t been to the Pro Bowl yet. Doug Martin and Gerald McCoy have been all-stars, but they haven’t hit a quarter-century yet.
Whether they’re under the radar like David or just under 25 like Martin and McCoy, the Buccaneers’ up-and-coming stars are catching notice around the NFL. That was emphasized once again this week, as USA Today’s Nate Davis named David to his “All-Joe” team and NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison tabbed both Martin and McCoy for his All-Under-25 Team.
USA Today has been naming an All-Joe team for more than two decades, since it was first created by Larry Weisman in 1992. It is intended to recognize those players around the league who make big contributions to their teams while drawing comparatively little attention. Unsung heroes, in other words. Heavy lifters in the trenches. Workhorses in the backfield. Big-play makers without the glamour stats. The only rule of the team is that no player who has ever been to a Pro Bowl can be selected.
The All-Joe Team is a full 53-man squad and must have at least one representative from each NFL team. In the Bucs’ case, that’s David, who is probably only under the radar because he was a rookie in 2012 and because another NFC South linebacker, Carolina’s Luke Kuechly, took Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. In the years to come, David may price himself out of All-Joe range if he keeps producing like he did in his debut campaign. As Davis points out, David had 20 tackles for loss in 2012, which nearly set an NFL rookie record.
Martin and McCoy made themselves ineligible for the All-Joe team by gaining their first Pro Bowl nods in 2012, Martin as a rookie and McCoy in his third season. However, Harrison saved two spots on his 25-man All-Under-25 team (he really likes the number 25) for the young Buc stars. Harrison’s team is pretty exclusive, with just 11 offensive players, 12 defensive players (one extra to account for differences in 3-4 and 4-3 fronts), one kicker and one punter.
You might have expected a backfield tandem of Martin and fellow 2012 rookie Alfred Morris, but Harrison tabs Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy, who is indeed a dynamic runner and receiver. He also took McCoy over his draft connection, Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh, but that was an easy decision. Suh is already 26. Instead, it’s McCoy and Cincinnati’s own rising star from the 2010 draft, Geno Atkins, patrolling the middle.
David might have had a shot to join his Buccaneer teammates on the All-Under-25 team, but he unfortunately shares a position, at least technically, with such 3-4 pass-rushing stars as Von Miller and Aldon Smith. Kuechly gets in as an inside ‘backer.
Other notable players on Harrison’s team include Seattle QB Russell Wilson, WRs A.J. Green of Cincinnati and Dez Bryant of Dallas, TE Rob Gronkowski, T Trent Williams (McCoy’s buddy from Oklahoma), Houston DE J.J. Watt and Seattle DBs Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. Anybody else think this team could compete for a championship immediately?