I did not look at the incoming rookies when writing this article. I know that might seem a little silly since players like Nick Bosa, Ed Oliver, and Devin White are walking into scenarios where they could easily make the Pro Bowl, but I wanted to limit this list to players who already have a season under their belts. There will be plenty of time to write about rookies when we get closer to the regular season.
The following ten players are some of the best in the NFL, but they have been overshadowed by more experienced or talented stars. It’s definitely an exciting time to be a fan of the NFL with so many talented players still developing and preparing to build their own legacies. The ten players appear in alphabetical order by last name. You’ll see that a lot of them come from my top 30 players in the NFL 25 and under article.
Brandin Cooks, WR Los Angeles Rams
2018 stats: 16 games, 80 receptions, 1,204 receiving yards, five receiving touchdowns, ten carries, 68 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown
Cooks has crossed the 1,000-yard mark in each of his last four seasons, but he has never made a Pro Bowl. There are a lot of good pass catchers in Los Angeles right now, but I’d argue that only makes Cooks even harder to cover.
Bradley Chubb, OLB Denver Broncos
2018 stats: 16 games, 60 combined tackles, 12 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery
There are a lot of great pass rushers in the NFL and that causes some players to inevitably be snubbed. Chubb was only a rookie last year though and he might see a more favorable vote the next time around. While his production benefits from playing alongside Von Miller, Chubb is overshadowed for things like Pro Bowl selections.
Myles Jack, LB Jacksonville Jaguars
2018 stats: 16 games, 107 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception, one touchdown
Jack and Telvin Smith were one of the best linebacker duos in the league last season. Smith has said he doesn’t plan on playing this year though. That puts the spotlight squarely on Jack, who will have to fill some of Smith’s production this coming season.
Chris Jones, DE/DT Kansas City Chiefs
2018 stats: 16 games, 40 combined tackles, 15.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, five passes defensed, one interception, one touchdown
Again, the league is full of great pass rushers. Jones put up huge sack numbers but didn’t equally impressive tackling production. Being on a team with Dee Ford and Justin Houston also ensured that Jones was the least known of the Chief’s significant pass rushers.
Darius Leonard, LB Indianapolis Colts
2018 stats: 15 games, 163 combined tackles, 111 solo tackles, seven sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, eight passes defensed, two interceptions
I haven’t seen a linebacker move like Leonard since Patrick Willis. I think he’s got the chance to be that good, and the professional media seem to agree. Leonard won the 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year award and was a First Team All-Pro. Somehow, he didn’t make the Pro Bowl though, which easily makes him the biggest snub from this past season.
Baker Mayfield, QB Cleveland Browns
2018 stats: 14 games, 3,725 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 63.8 comp%, 93.7 rating
The eye test says Mayfield is going to be great. You don’t have to like the guy to see the raw ability and confidence he walks around with. While Mayfield had some great games in 2018, he was only a rookie and made his fair share of mistakes. Playing under Hue Jackson for the first half of the season didn’t help either.
Christian McCaffrey, RB Carolina Panthers
2018 stats: 16 games, 219 carries, 1,098 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns, 107 receptions, 867 receiving yards, six receiving touchdowns
Alvin Kamara is the reason why McCaffrey didn’t make the Pro Bowl in 2018. Kamara, like McCaffrey, is a versatile back who puts up big numbers in the run and receiving games. Most people believe Kamara is better than McCaffrey, which is why he was chosen over McCaffrey for the Pro Bowl last season, even though McCaffrey arguably had a better year.
Joe Mixon, RB Cincinnati Bengals
2018 stats: 14 games, 237 carries, 1,168 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns, 43 receptions, 296 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown
I guess I should also say that the league has a lot of young running backs. Mixon is certainly among them, but he was outshined by James Connor and Phillip Lindsay in 2018. If he can stay healthy and put together a complete season, Mixon will be in the discussion for the Pro Bowl next season.
Jaylon Smith, LB Dallas Cowboys
2018 stats: 16 games, 121 combined tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, four passes defensed
This is a tricky situation. Smith’s teammate and fellow linebacker, Leighton Vander Esch, made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last season. He deserved it too, but that means Smith is the second-best linebacker on his own team. While he’s a Pro Bowl talent, Smith will have to count on the Cowboys faithful to vote him to Orlando next season.
Roquan Smith, LB Chicago Bears
2018 stats: 16 games, 14 starts, 121 combined tackles, five sacks, five passes defenses, one interception
I guess Jaylon Smith does have some competition in the form of Roquan Smith though. Roquan was another member of an incredible rookie class of linebackers. He posted similar numbers to Jaylon despite fewer starts. There is the chance that Roquan could get lost in the Bears defense, especially when you consider he’s playing alongside All-Pros like Kyle Fuller, Eddie Jackson, and Khalil Mack.
Next Five In
Nick Chubb, RB Cleveland Browns
2018 stats: 16 games, nine starts, 192 carries, 996 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns, 20 receptions, 149 receiving yards, two receiving touchdowns
The Browns entire offense suffered from playing under Hue Jackson for the first half of the 2018 season. While the dynamic of Chubb and Kareem Hunt will be interesting, I think Chubb can really dominate from the onset of the 2019 season.
Frank Clark, DE Kansas City Chiefs
2018 stats: 16 games, 41 combined tackles, 13 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two passes defensed, one interception
Clark’s lack of production against the run can largely be credited with why he missed the Pro Bowl last season. Now that he has his big contract, it will be interesting to see how he follows up a stellar 2018 campaign.
Julian Edelman, WR New England Patriots
2018 stats: 12 games, 74 receptions, 850 receiving yards, six receiving touchdowns
Entering his age 33 season, I don’t think there’s a chance Edelman actually makes his first Pro Bowl. Still, it would’ve been disrespectful to one of the all-time great postseason performers to leave him off of this list entirely.
Kenny Golladay, WR Detroit Lions
2018 stats: 15 games, 70 receptions, 1,063 receiving yards, five receiving touchdowns
With Golden Tate now in New York, Golladay is Matthew Stafford’s top option. Say what you want about Stafford, but he usually puts up big yardage totals and Golladay will benefit from that style of play.
Tre’Davious White, CB Buffalo Bills
2018 stats: 16 games, 54 combined tackles, eight passes defensed, two interceptions
White’s stats were more impressive in his rookie season, but that’s mostly because teams targeted him less in his second year. White has six interceptions and 26 passes defensed in his career.