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As you may or may not already know, the NFL Pro Bowl is basically one massive popularity vote. We, the fans, have more say in this matter than you do in anything else that goes on in the league. This is our moment to make some kind of decision and we inevitably always screw it up.
The official Pro Bowl selections were released last night and I’m going to be very busy ripping into all of us for some very noticeable snubs. Again, it’s hard to fathom just how ridiculous some of these snubs are and that can really mess up writers like me when I go to write an article and find players like Telvin Smith and Lavonte David have only one Pro Bowl selection while Anthony Barr has four. It’s not right. So I’m going to quickly tirade against the worst decisions we’ve made in voting for the upcoming Pro Bowl.
The future Defensive Rookie of the Year couldn’t believe his snub either. Leonard leads the league in combined tackles with 146 and is more than 20 ahead of the next closest player. He’s been on a record-setting pace and has completely blown me away with his versatility this year. His stat line, 146 combined tackles, seven sacks, six passes defensed, one interception, and four forced fumbles, literally fill up the stat sheet. I’d take Leonard over Jadeveon Clowney (37 tackles and eight sacks) and Dee Ford (45 tackles, 11.5 sacks, six forced fumbles) any day.
The Colts really got the short end of the stick this year. Andrew Luck spent the better part of the last two years rehabbing and enduring setbacks to finally return to the NFL and now he’s having a great year. He’s thrown for 3,951 yards, 34 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions on a 67.3 completion percentage. His numbers alone are Pro Bowl worthy but considering all he’s endured he should’ve easily got this selection. It’s hard to bump Tom Brady from the last quarterback spot in the AFC, but he has 3,979 yards, 24 touchdowns, and nine interceptions on 65.9 completion percentage. Luck has four more interceptions, but also ten more touchdowns and a better completion percentage.
The only reason why I’ve held off on putting McCaffrey on this list so far is that the competition above him is so stiff. The three backs ahead of him (Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley, and Ezekiel Elliott) are crazy, but McCaffrey has made a really good case for himself this season. Through 14 games he has 979 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns, five yards per carry, 69.9 rushing yards per game, 94 receptions, 768 receiving yards, and six receiving touchdowns. It’s hard to say if he should have made it in the NFC, but I would’ve had him as the best running back in the AFC. If he’s better than the three selections from the other conference, then he deserves a spot on this list. Oh, and he’s easily above Alvin Kamara this year.
The rookie outside linebacker is being discredited because he’s the second best pass rusher on his own team, behind Von Miller. Again, I’m going after Clowney and Ford. I’m sorry if that gets old, but Chubb shouldn’t be ranked below either of those two. This year, as a rookie no less, Chubb recorded 51 tackles, 12 sacks, and a forced fumble. He leads Clowney and Ford in tackles and sacks, so is there any excuse for not having him in above them?
Jones seems to be overlooked every year. How else do you explain that he’s made only two Pro Bowls despite recording ten or more sacks five times? He was a First Team All-Pro just last year, but nope go ahead and give the vote to DeMarcus Lawrence instead. Lawrence has 58 tackles, nine sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception. Jones has 42 tackles, 12 sacks, and three forced fumbles. Tackle-wise Lawrence has the clear lead but sacks go in Jones’ favor all the way. I’m siding with the First Team All-Pro.
I’m going after the outside linebackers of the AFC again. Smith is a perennially underrated and underappreciated player to the point that I want to pull my hair out. This year he is fifth in the league in tackles with 118 and he also has a sack, interception, and a forced fumble. The issue for Smith is that he competes with outside linebackers who post-sack numbers like Clowney and Ford, but Smith records numbers like a middle linebacker. Yet no one adjusts for that they just associate outside linebackers with sacks. This is the same system that puts Lavonte David at a disadvantage.
The NFL community has mostly forgotten about the 49ers and I can’t blame them, but how do you pass over Buckner? The 6-7, 300 lbs. defensive behemoth has 60 tackles and 11 sacks this season. Akiem Hicks of the Chicago Bears, who got in ahead of Buckner, has 51 tackles, six sacks, and three forced fumbles. That’s a nine-tackle and five sack edge to Buckner. What about Fletcher Cox? He only has 41 tackles and 7.5 sacks. So how do you justify putting these two in ahead of Buckner? I think if people knew the numbers they would see that Buckner obviously deserves to be ahead of at least one of these two guys, but I think he’s largely forgotten because of the team he plays on.
This is similar to the McCaffrey situation because Vander Esch is more than deserving of a Pro Bowl bid, but the players above him are those next level Hall of Fame type players. Those two guys would be Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner. I can’t even make an argument for removing either of those two because they’ve held a stranglehold on the First Team All-Pro selections for years. To his credit, Vander Esch is sixth in tackles this season with 116 and he also has seven passes defensed and two interceptions. I’m still taking Kuechly and Wagner, but I think Vander Esch would be the top middle linebacker in the AFC this year.
David falls into the same category as Telvin Smith: incredibly talented yet extremely overlooked. He’s also an outside linebacker who doesn’t rush the passer a lot so his stats are less flashy. Even so, I can’t think of a reason for Anthony Barr being picked above him besides that the Pro Bowl is a popularity vote. This season Barr has played in eleven games and has 49 tackles, three sacks, and a forced fumble. David has 105 tackles. 3.5 sacks, and a forced fumble in 12 games. There is that one game difference, but David still leads Barr in both tackles and sacks. He’s also a former First-Team All-Pro, unlike Barr, and that’s the difference in their talent levels.
Can someone explain the Melvin Ingram selection to me? I know he made the Pro Bowl last year, but his numbers are down almost across the board and I prefer the elder-statesman Campbell. The 6-8 giant from Jacksonville had 62 tackles and eight sacks this year. He’s great against the run and as a pass rusher, despite weighing as much as some defensive tackles (300 lbs). On the other hand, Ingram has just 39 tackles, seven sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble this year. I don’t think the interception and forced fumble makes up for the difference in sacks or tackles. If I was going to put someone else in this spot, Chris Jones on the Kansas City Chiefs definitely should have gotten in ahead of Ingram as well. Jones has 37 tackles, 14 sacks, an interception, and two forced fumbles. I just don’t get how Ingram jumps him or Campbell.
I’m all for moving Keenan Allen out of that fourth receiver spot for the AFC and plugging Smith-Schuster in. This season he has 95 receptions, 1, 274 yards and six touchdowns thanks to the yardage his quarterback is turning out. It’s also worth noting that Smith-Schuster has only started 11 games but played in all 14. Allen has played in 14 games but only started 13 and has 88 receptions for 1,074 yards and six touchdowns. He’s also fumbled the ball three times while Smith-Schuster hasn’t fumbled the ball this season. I just don’t see how Allen, a player with fewer receptions and yards, jumps over Smith-Schuster. If anything, it’s got to be because Antonio Brown is the better receiver on the Steelers. It looks like the Chargers players got the benefit of the doubt a lot this year.
Yep, I’m taking JPP over Lawrence too. Pierre-Paul has had his best season since the fireworks incident that ultimately led to his departure from New York after a few more seasons of learning to play without the help of most fingers on one hand. He has 50 tackles, 11.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. I think, considering the situation with his hand, he’s more skilled than Lawrence and has the better resume for last defensive end spot.
Yes, I’m even going to argue with you about the kicker position. I’ll keep this brief. Jason Myers had a good year for the New York Jets, going 31-33 on field goals and 25-28 on extra points, but Tucker went 28 of 30 on field goals and 33 for 34 on extra points. I’ll point to the difference in extra points to make my point, but you should know Tucker is the all-time leader in field goal percentage. Myers is fifteenth all-time.
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