It’s not surprising when Luke Kuechly is named an Associated Press First Team All-Pro at linebacker – he’s done it four other times in his career and this season saw Kuechly finish the season ranked eighth in the NFL with 130 tackles and set the Panthers franchise record for most tackles for loss in a single season with 20, which ranked him third in the league and the highest among non-defensive linemen.
It also wasn’t a surprise to see Christian McCaffrey be voted to the second team for his tremendous second season in which the foundational running back racked up 1,965 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns – including one through the air as he proved he can run, catch and pass this year – as he blew through multiple Panthers’ franchise records.
McCaffrey became the first player since Walter Payton to have more than 50 yards passing, rushing and receiving in a single game in addition to becoming the second player ever to amass more than 1,500 yards both rushing and receiving through their first two seasons and only the third to have 100 receptions and 1,000 yards rushing – his 107 receptions were the most ever by a running back in a single season.
That’s just a sampling of the records the running back set, so it wasn’t surprising to see him get the All-Pro designation.
The only surprise was where he was voted onto the team.
McCaffrey earned the designation at the “flex” position as Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott were the running backs, surprising after McCaffrey was named an alternate to the Pro Bowl – but a smaller roster that includes two running backs total (one on the first team and one on the second) and two players at the “flex” position (Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill was named first-team “flex) may be an even bigger honor than being voted to the game in Orlando.
The All-Pro team lists three linebackers on both the first and second team – Kuechly has been named to the first team four times and second team twice.
His five selections tie Houston’s JJ Watt for the second-most among active players.
Since entering the league in 2012, Kuechly has recorded 948 tackles, the most by any player over that stretch. and has secured 16 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries since 2012, the most interceptions and total takeaways by any linebacker since he came into the league in 2012.