Although neither J.J. Watt nor DeAndre Hopkins was strangers to the Associated Press’ All-Pro team, both of them found themselves back on the list following record-setting years.
A group of 50 writers get together and vote on who belongs on the team and Hopkins received the most amount of votes on the offensive side of the ball with 46.
It serves as the second consecutive nod for Hopkins and close enough to a consecutive notch for Watt who missed majorities of the previous two seasons to injury.
The defensive lineman actually made two All-Pro teams, the first team as an edge rusher and the second team as an interior lineman.
On the edge, Watt garnered the second-most votes with his 32 trailing only Chicago’s Khalil Mack who earned 43 votes. On the interior side of things, he trailed three others, most notably the lone unanimous decision in the Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald.
Donald finished his season atop the sack category with 20.5 of them although Watt wasn’t far behind with 16 of his own.
That registered the fourth season where Watt recorded more than 15 sacks which puts him just one season behind Reggie White who owns the all-time NFL record.
On top of that, he forced seven fumbles which was a good enough number to set not only a career-high but also a franchise-high as well as left him tied atop the NFL with Dee Ford from Kansas City.
“It means a lot to get back to the top level of the game,” Watt said. “Obviously, it’s an extreme honor to be a first-team All-Pro, especially after what I’ve been through the last two years. To be able to get back to the top level of the game and know that I still have things to improve on and things that I want to get even better at, it’s exciting.”
Also battling through injuries during the season and ending atop the NFL world was Hopkins who set personal and franchise records himself.
His 115 catches for 1,572 yards were career-highs for the receiver who also tied Andre Johnson’s franchise record for receptions in a single season.
Those catches helped him become the second-youngest receiver to accrue 7,000 yards and 500 catches, trailing only Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals.
Through the first six years of an NFL career, Hopkins is alone with Randy Moss in players to catch at least 525 passes for 7,400 yards and 45 touchdowns.
“This is validation,” Hopkins said simply. “I feel like these people are the people who actually know football, who study football, who have been around football for years, so do be on this list and to be first team is a great feeling. But it makes me want to work harder and continue to be on that list.”
Another list that featured both of these athletes was the Pro Bowl roster with Watt earning his fifth to accompany all five All-Pro nominations and Hopkins’ third Pro Bowl on top of his second All-Pro season.