The start of a new decade is upon us with the 2020 NFL season. But before we get rolling with the ’20s, ESPN is taking a look back at the best — and worst — of the 2010s and naming the top players of the decade for all 32 teams.
From the social media star of the decade to the worst call by a referee, ESPN’s NFL team remembers the people and moments of impact — good and bad — from the past 10 years. And NFL Nation reporters select the two best players of the decade from their teams, the top coach and assemble all-division teams of the 2010s.
It all kicked off Monday with the best and worst of the NFL from the past decade.
Division all-decade player, teams
Tuesday: AFC East and NFC East
Wednesday: AFC North and NFC North
Thursday: AFC West and NFC West
Friday: AFC South and NFC South
AFC South players of the decade
Years with team: 2011-present
Since entering the NFL in 2011, Watt has won three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards and become the face of the Texans franchise. Even though he has missed significant time in three out of the past four seasons, Watt has been Houston’s best player since he was drafted. Since 2011, Watt is tied for second in the NFL in sacks, even though he has played in only 112 games. Few defensive players boast anything that comes close to resembling Watt’s résumé, and the future Hall of Famer is still going strong at age 31.
Honorable mention: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, 2013-19. Hopkins was a first-team All-Pro in his final three seasons with Houston and was well on his way to becoming the best receiver in franchise history. After seven seasons in Houston, Hopkins was second to Andre Johnson for most receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in Texans history. Hopkins played with quarterback Deshaun Watson in his final three seasons, but even put up big numbers in his first four years when the Texans had a revolving door at the position with nine different starting quarterbacks. — Sarah Barshop
Years with team: 2012-18
Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, replaced Peyton Manning as the Colts’ franchise quarterback. Luck led the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons in the NFL, including consecutive AFC South titles and an appearance in the AFC Championship Game in 2014. Injuries, which led to Luck’s early retirement at age 29, started to take a toll on him in 2015. He missed 26 games — including the entire 2017 season — because of shoulder, kidney and rib injuries. It was during the 2017 season that Luck questioned whether he would be able to continue his career. Luck shocked the sports world when he announced his retirement during an emotional news conference on Aug. 24, 2019. He finished his career with 2,000 completions, 3,290 attempts, 23,671 yards, 171 touchdowns and 83 interceptions. Luck would likely be the front-runner to be the team’s player of the decade in the next 10 years, too. If only.
Honorable mention: T.Y. Hilton, WR, 2012-present. Hilton, who was also part of the 2012 draft class with the Colts, followed in the footsteps of Reggie Wayne and Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison. Hilton has 8,598 yards, including five seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards in his eight seasons in the league to go with 45 touchdowns. — Mike Wells
Years with team: 2017-19
Though he played only three seasons in Jacksonville, Campbell is fourth on the team’s all-time sacks list (31.5) and is just the second defensive player in franchise history to make three consecutive Pro Bowls. Campbell set a franchise record with 14.5 sacks in his first season — which included a franchise-record four in his first game — and was a finalist for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He was a key piece of a Jaguars defense that scored seven touchdowns and fueled a run to the AFC title game in 2017. He is without a doubt the best free-agent signing in franchise history.
Honorable mention: Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, 2006-13. Jones-Drew is second in franchise history in rushing (8,071 yards) and the Jaguars’ all-time leader in rushing TDs (68) and total TDs (81). Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing in 2011 with a franchise-record 1,606 yards. That capped a three-year span when he rushed for 4,321 yards and 28 TDs. — Michael DiRocco
Years with team: 2013-19
Walker was one of the best free-agent signings in Titans history. He was the epitome of consistency for Tennessee, with an ability to generate yards after the catch and consistently make plays in traffic. He was the team’s primary pass-catcher in the first five years of his Titans career. Before suffering a horrific ankle injury in the 2018 season opener, Walker averaged 71.2 receptions, 831.2 yards and 5.2 touchdowns from 2013-17. Walker’s 94 receptions for 1,088 yards in 2015 was the franchise’s most productive season for a tight end. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in three of his five full seasons with the Titans.
Honorable mention: Jurrell Casey, DT, 2011-19. Casey was a mainstay on the Titans’ defensive line and was named a second-team All-Pro in 2013 after posting 10.5 sacks. He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of the past five seasons in Tennessee. Casey’s versatility allowed him to make an impact on games while playing up and down the defensive line. — Turron Davenport
AFC South coach of the decade
Bill O’Brien, Texans
Years with team: 2014-present
The division titles show why O’Brien was the best coach in the AFC South in the past decade. The Texans have won the division four times in the past five years. Although the Texans have won only two playoff games in that stretch — and every other team in the division has played in an AFC Championship Game since O’Brien was hired in Houston in 2014 — they still have consistently been the most successful team in the AFC South in the regular season. O’Brien faces criticism for his lack of playoff success and the job he has done in his first year as general manager, but as a head coach, he has played an important role in the Texans’ success. — Barshop
Honorable mention: Chuck Pagano, Colts, 2012-17. Pagano was the head coach when the Colts won two of their three division titles during the decade. Pagano, who missed part of the 2012 season while being treated for cancer, went 53-43 in his six seasons as coach. The Colts were perfect in the AFC South (12-0) during the 2013 and 2014 seasons and went to the playoffs in each of their first three seasons under Pagano, including reaching the AFC Championship Game in 2014. — Wells
ESPN’s AFC South All-Decade Team
Voted on by ESPN’s AFC South reporters.
QB: Andrew Luck, Colts, 2012-18
RB: Arian Foster, Texans, 2009-15
WR: Andre Johnson, Texans, 2003-14; Colts, 2015; Titans, 2016
WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Texans, 2013-19
WR: T.Y. Hilton, Colts, 2012-present
T: Duane Brown, Texans, 2010-17
G: Quenton Nelson, Colts, 2018-present
C: Ben Jones, Texans, 2012-15, Titans, 2016-present
RG: Wade Smith, Texans, 2010-13
T: Jack Conklin, Titans, 2016-19
TE: Delanie Walker, Titans, 2013-19
DE: J.J. Watt, Texans, 2011-present
DT: Jurrell Casey, Titans, 2011-19
DT: Calais Campbell, Jaguars, 2017-19
DE: Robert Mathis, Colts 2003-16
LB: Darius Leonard, Colts, 2018-present
LB: Jadeveon Clowney, Texans, 2014-18
LB: Paul Posluszny, Jaguars, 2011-17
CB: Jalen Ramsey, Jaguars, 2016-19
CB: Johnathan Joseph, Texans, 2011-19
S: Kevin Byard, Titans, 2016-present
S: Michael Griffin, Titans, 2007-15
KR/PR: Marc Mariani, Titans, 2010-13, 2016
K: Adam Vinatieri, Colts, 2006-19
P: Shane Lechler, Texans, 2013-17
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