Predicting Every Pro Bowl Player in Both Conferences
The NFL Pro Bowl is an accolade all players aspire to obtain in their careers. Being named one of the best players in the league in professional sports is arguably one of the best individual achievements, though for some positions it is mostly a popularity contest. For example, with offensive lineman, once you win one you're almost guaranteed to win more. It is pretty much the only way casual fans see your name in the limelight.
The actual game has become a joke in recent years, with players only wanting that extra $22,500 dollars for winning the game. There is rarely any effort on the defensive side of the ball. Though with the physical nature of the game, I understand players not wanting to go full effort. I strongly believe they should just give offensive and defensive lineman the recognition by name only and go 7-on-7 two-hand touch. Then players wouldn't worry about getting hurt and it would still be somewhat exciting.
But I digress. This slideshow is a prediction of every single roster spot in both conferences. I tried to base it off both 2012's stats and the popularity factor. Frequently the Pro Bowl is about your name rather than the year you are having, especially with elite players.
If you don't agree with my predictions, feel free to tell me in the comment section below.
Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Matt Schaub
The first two names shouldn't come as a surprise, but the third is where I'm up for debate. Ben Roethlisberger has been solid but he's expected to miss a couple of games, and even rookie Andrew Luck has put up some decent numbers. I believe Schaub will have earned consideration with the ridiculous 527-yard game he had this weekend. He'll certainly have gained enough popularity for it.
Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan
The NFC quarterback race is typically a lot more wide open, at least after you get passed the first two names. Ryan just had five interceptions this weekend but he's played well enough to earn Pro Bowl honors. Josh Freeman and Robert Griffin are each having fantastic seasons, and could close the gap on Ryan if he has any more bad games.
AFC Running Back
Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Chris Johnson
Shouldn't be any surprises here. Johnson has come on strong in recent weeks and looks to be back to the Johnson we came to know. Rice is not having the type of year you might have expected, but he's still a dangerous weapon.
NFC Running Back
Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin
Rookie Doug Martin has taken the league by storm and is fifth in the league in rushing and tied for second with seven touchdowns. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded up to get him and they clearly knew what they were doing. No surprises at the top, though. Peterson and Lynch are one and two in the NFL in rushing and have already crossed the 1,000 yard mark.
AFC Wide Receiver
A.J. Green, Reggie Wayne, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker
Reggie Wayne surprised a lot of people by sticking with the Indianapolis Colts, but he and Andrew Luck have developed great chemistry together. Green has emerged as one of the premier receivers in the league; he's already got 10 touchdowns this season. Welker struggled out of the gates but has come on strong. Thomas has clearly benefited from the Denver Broncos acquiring Peyton Manning and is developing into one of the top young receivers in the game.
NFC Wide Receiver
Calvin Johnson, Roddy White, Brandon Marshall, Victor Cruz
Johnson has struggled to find the end zone this season, but he's leading the league in yards and catches of 20 or more yards. Megatron is breaking the Madden curse, so far. Marshall teamed back up with former teammate Jay Cutler and gives the Chicago Bears a weapon they haven't had in a long time (or ever?). White has to be one of the least talked about weapons in the league but he's still having a great season. Despite having some issues with drops, Cruz has been providing the New York Giants with big touchdown plays for the second straight year. He was a snub for the Pro Bowl last year.
AFC, NFC Fullback
Vonta Leach, Henry Hynoski
I don't know if Hynoski has the popularity to make the Pro Bowl, but he's been great for the Giants this season and deserves recognition for his improvement. Leach is the best fullback in the league in my humble opinion.
AFC Tight End
Rob Gronkowski, Heath Miller
Miller has been a bit of a surprise this season and is among the league leaders for tight ends with six touchdown catches. This has been mostly a down year for tight ends other than the top guys.
NFC Tight End
Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham
It's amazing how Gonzalez continues to be counted out due to his age but he keeps producing. He's still a weapon for Matt Ryan, and arguably the greatest tight end ever. Graham is building off his breakout 2011 season; his athleticism is off the charts and teams cannot seem to find a way to slow him down.
AFC Offensive Tackle
Duane Brown, Jake Long, Joe Thomas
Long and Thomas are probably going to win double digit Pro Bowl honors, and Brown has emerged as the best left tackle in the league this season.
NFC Offensive Tackle
Tyson Clabo, Jermon Bushrod, Joe Staley
Staley and Bushrod were both Pro Bowl-ers last season, and Clabo has been a mauler for the Atlanta Falcons. He should not only make the Pro Bowl, but be a starter.
AFC Offensive Guard
Logan Mankins, Marshal Yanda, Steve Hutchinson
Mankins and Yanda should not be a surprise, but Hutchinson was all but written off before this season. Once considered the best guard in football, Hutchinson was cast aside by the Minnesota Vikings and has played great for the Tennessee Titans this season, helping Chris Johnson get back to being himself.
NFC Offensive Guard
Jahri Evans, Mike Iupati, Ben Grubbs
The New Orleans Saints may have had their issues early on, but it certainly wasn't the offense's fault. Evans and Grubbs are the best guard combination in football. Iupati is one of many bright spots on the San Francisco 49ers' front.
Chris Myers, Nick Mangold
Myers and Mangold each made the Pro Bowl last year and should again this year, only with Myers getting the starting gig over Mangold. He's a rock for the Houston Texans and Mangold has been injured at times this season.
Jeff Saturday, John Sullivan
Saturday has rejuvenated his career with the Green Bay Packers after being cut by the Colts. John Sullivan anchors an offensive line that has helped Adrian Peterson lead the league in rushing so far this season.
AFC Defensive End
J.J. Watt, Cameron Wake, Elvis Dumervil
Watt is one of the early candidates for defensive player of the year. The second year man out of Wisconsin has been a monster so far. Wake has been a bright spot for the Dolphins; he's among the league leaders with 9.5 sacks. Elvis Dumervil has been a terror off the edge with the Broncos, tallying seven sacks and five forced fumbles in 2012.
NFC Defensive End
Jared Allen, Jason Pierre-Paul, Charles Johnson
You may be surprised to see Johnson here, but he's not to blame for the Carolina Panthers' defensive problems. He has 8.5 sacks and five forced fumbles on the season. Allen is having a down year by his standards but is still among the leaders in sacks with seven. Pierre-Paul is like Watt in that he can affect the game with more than just sacks. He has five pass deflections and an interception that he returned for a touchdown.
AFC Defensive Tackle
Geno Atkins, Haloti Ngata, Vince Wilfork
Atkins made the Pro Bowl last year but could be even better this season. He has eight sacks already, which is good for an entire season for a defensive tackle, let alone 10 games. Ngata has not been himself this season but is still playing well. Wilfork has been a nice surprise for the New England Patriots; he lost some weight this off-season and is playing some of his best football lately.
NFC Defensive Tackle
Justin Smith, Henry Melton, Ndamukong Suh
Justin Smith is one of the absolute best players in the NFL and anchors a physical 49ers defense. Melton has been a pleasant surprise for the Chicago Bears, who always seem to have great defensive tackles. The Bears pose one of the best defenses in the NFL, and Melton is a big reason why. He already has five sacks and two forced fumbles on the year. The final spot is a toss up between Suh, Linval Joseph of the Giants and Brandon Mebane of the Seahawks. You can't go wrong with either of the three, but I think Suh gets more recognition among casual fans.
AFC Inside Linebacker
Jerod Mayo, Derrick Johnson
With Ray Lewis out, it opens the door for a new inside backer to make the Pro Bowl. Mayo has had a terrific season with the Patriots so far, totaling 101 tackles, three forced fumbles, one sack and an interception. The problem in Kansas City has been their offense, and Johnson is still one of the better defensive players in the league.
NFC Inside Linebacker
Patrick Willis, Daryl Washington
Washington is living up to the potential the Arizona Cardinals saw in him when they drafted him in 2010. He has eight sacks and 75 tackles on the year. Willis is as close to a lock as it gets; he's made the Pro Bowl every season of his five-year career.
AFC Outside Linebacker
Von Miller, Justin Houston, Wesley Woodyard
You might be surprised to see Woodyard here, but it shouldn't be if you've been watching the Broncos this year. He has 80 tackles, three sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles. Miller is leading the NFL with 13 sacks and a candidate for defensive player of the year. Justin Houston is having a great year with the Chiefs; he's got 40 tackles, seven sacks, a forced fumble and an interception.
NFC Outside Linebacker
Clay Matthews, DeMarcus Ware, Chad Greenway
After a slow year in 2011, Matthews has come back strong and has nine sacks on the year. Ware is having a typical year for him with 10 sacks and four forced fumbles. The Cowboys have shown much improvement on the defensive end. Greenway is among the league leaders with 100 tackles and is one of the more underrated players in the NFL. He also has two sacks and an interception.
Champ Bailey, Johnathan Joseph, Leon Hall
Bailey just seems to get better with age. It is a luxury for the Broncos to know that Bailey will shut down the opposing team's wide receiver pretty much every game. Joseph and Hall are having good seasons as well. Without Derrelle Revis in the mix due to his injury, it opens the door for a guy like Hall to get recognized for his play. Hall doesn't have any interceptions this season, but he's done a good job taking away the opposing offense's best weapon.
Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Richard Sherman
Tillman and Jennings have been turnover machines for the Bears. Tillman has seven forced fumbles (leads the league) and two interceptions, both of which he returned for touchdowns. Jennings leads the NFL with eight interceptions and has returned one for a touchdown. Sherman is part of a truly elite secondary with the Seattle Seahawks. All four of their starters are Pro Bowl worthy.
Strong Safety - Bernard Pollard. Free Safety - Ed Reed
Reed may not be the same player he's been in year's past, but his name alone will be enough to get him to the Pro Bowl. Pollard has been a force in run defense alongside Reed and has 74 tackles on the season, which is tops in the AFC for strong safeties.
Strong Safety - Kam Chancellor. Free Safety - Earl Thomas
Like I said, the Seahawks have an elite secondary. Both Thomas and Chancellor made the Pro Bowl last season, and the Seahawks' defense has them in every game. You know your secondary is good when you have wins against the Packers and Patriots. They actually made Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady look human.
Kickers: AFC - Phil Dawson, NFC - Lawrence Tynes
Punters: AFC - Brandon Fields, NFC - Andy Lee
Returners: AFC - Jacoby Jones, NFC - Randall Cobb
It's a toss up every year as to who will make the Pro Bowl as kickers and punters. Dawson is perfect on the season and Tynes has already made 28 field goals this season. He's on pace for around 44 field goals, which would be just two shy of the NFL record. Fields is dominant, averaging 51 yards per punt and has put 18 inside the 20 yard line. Andy Lee has an put 20 punts inside the 20 to go along with his 46 yard average.
Jones has been a lightning rod for the Ravens and has three return touchdowns so far this season. He's the clear cut favorite for the AFC return specialist honor, but the NFC position is wide open. Cobb has earned some popularity as a receiver for one of the better teams in the league, which should give him enough of an edge.