The NFL has changed immeasurably over the past decade or so. Rule changes led teams to embrace the passing game and spread out the field on offense, and defenses responded by getting as much speed onto the field as possible.
Gone are the days when every team had a fullback and lined up in predictable, staid formations. These days, you're as likely to see an empty backfield at the goal line as you are a jumbo package.
And with the very nature of the game changing, the way we reward players for elite play must change, too. On Friday, the Associated Press announced major modifications to the way the All-Pro team is selected. Here's what you need to know about the NFL's annual roster of its very best players.
Getty ImagesJared Wickerham
The "fullback" position is no more
"There will be only one running back on the All-Pro team, but we are adding a flex player (running back, fullback, tight end or wide receiver, voter's choice). The flex player is designed to recognize the frequency of three receiver sets or the use of two tight ends."
This is clearly further proof that fantasy football rules everything around us. Before long, we might see "Flex" listed as an official position in the league.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY SportsBenny Sieu
Offensive linemen will now be selected by their specific positions
"On offense, linemen will now be voted for by specific position: left tackle, left guard, etc."
Previously, All-Pro voters selected a center and four "other" offensive linemen for the team.
Defensive backs are getting more recognition
"On defense, the AP is adding a defensive back (DB) designation for the secondary. This is to recognize the importance of the slot cornerback in today's defenses. The DB can be a safety or a cornerback; the idea is to reward defensive backs who cover slot receivers."
The very best defenders line up all over the field; it doesn't make sense to punish them for matching up with an opponent's top receivers, regardless of where they are on the line of scrimmage.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY SportsJerome Miron
Khalil Mack won't be able to be an All-Pro at multiple positions in the same year again
"We also are changing the listing of positions on the front seven to two edge rushers (basically 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers), two interior defensive linemen (basically 3-4 DEs, nose tackles and 4-3 defensive tackles), and three linebackers."
In 2015, the Raiders LB made the All-Pro team at both defensive end and OLB. This minor modification fixes that, although honestly, I'm not really against a player making the All-Pro team twice if he's that darn good.
Special teamers get some time to shine, as well
"On special teams, a punt returner and a special teams player (non-returners) have been added to kickoff returner, placekicker and punter."
Unfortuately, Devin Hester probably won't make the roster this year.