Well, it happened again.
Last year, 49ers defensive end Justin Smith made it onto the Associated Press All-Pro team at the position he doesn’t play — defensive tackle — with 35 of 50 votes. Smith also was a second-teamer at his actual position of defensive end with nine votes.
It was no-harm, no-foul for Smith. He appeared on 44 total ballots (unless someone voted for him at both positions), and he earned a spot on the All-Pro first team. (The defensive tackle who was relegated to the second team because of the incorrect votes for Smith likely would disagree that it was no problemo.)
This year, the inability of pro football writers to understand which position a high-profile pro football player plays may have kept Smith off the first team. Smith qualified for the second team at both the defensive end and defensive tackle positions.
If all of the defensive tackle votes had been cast the right way, Smith may have had enough votes to overcome Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake on the first team.
In all (or at least some) fairness to the voters, the Associated Press apparently isn’t providing much guidance when it comes to voting for defensive lineman in a 3-4 defense. Smith plays defensive end, and it easily becomes confused with defensive tackle in a 4-3.
The fact that the AP acknowledges two inside linebackers adds to the confusion. Along the defensive line, the formula looks like a 4-3; for the linebackers, it appears to be a 3-4.
Still, there was no confusion regarding Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who like Smith is more like an interior defensive lineman given the 3-4 front. But Watt got 50 of 50 votes at the right position.
UPDATE 12:13 p.m. ET: Justin Smith received six votes at end and 17 at tackle, for 23 total votes. That wouldn’t have been enough to overcome Wake, who had 27.