Since 2000 only 22 NFL rookies have made the All-Pro First Team. The All-Pro team is a different award than a player named to the Pro Bowl. The Associated Press (AP), Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA), and Sporting News (SN) select the NFL’s All-Pro team–with the AP being the most prestigious of the other publications.
The award means that players are not voted in by the public at-large but rather by a select group of NFL writers and broadcasters. For 2021, only rookie linebacker Micah Parsons of the Dallas Cowboys was selected to the NFL’s All-Pro team.
Why the number of rookies selected to the AP’s All-Pro First Team is significant
The NFL was formed in 1920, but it renamed itself the National Football League in 1922. That year, the All-Pro team had two rookies named to the All-Pro First Team.
Given the number of players and the number of teams in the league, it’s no small feat to be recognized as an All-Pro First Teamer, especially as a rookie. So while it’s not common, it’s also normal to see one or two rookies named to the First Team in any given season.
For example, 2021 had its lone rookie in Micah Parsons, while 2020 did not have any rookies named to the AP All-Pro First Team. 2019 and 2018 each had one rookie named to the First Team (wide receiver Deonte Harris in 2019 and guard Quenton Nelson in 2020).
The 2018 season was unprecedented in that three rookies were named to the All-Pro First Team for the first time since 1981. The rookies were Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Jack Conklin.
In 1981, three rookies made the All-Pro First Team: linebacker Lawrence Taylor, safety Ronnie Lott, and running back George Rogers. Taylor and Lott would go on to make the Hall-of-Fame, while Rogers followed his 1980 Heisman campaign in college with a stellar rookie season in the NFL. In that regard, making the All-Pro team as a rookie puts a player in a rarefied air.
For the recent regular season, it’s no surprise that rookie linebacker phenom Micah Parsons made the cut. Arguably, rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase could have been another rookie All-Pro named to the First Team. Instead, Chase is a Second Team All-Pro because his competition at the wide receiver position consisted of Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams and Deebo Samuel, all of whom had superb regular seasons.