2014 Pro Bowl Roster: The 15 Biggest Surprises
2014 Pro Bowl Roster: The 15 Biggest Surprises
Every season when the Pro Bowl rosters come out we all complain about who didn't make the team -- the snubs -- but we forget that for someone to be added to the team, someone else must be left off. There are always those "surprise" players that make the roster that leave us scratching our heads; these are the guys that need to go home, and clear some space for all those snubs.
This season there are more than the normal handful of surprise players, and that in itself is surprising. With all the data we now have available at our fingertips, it blows my mind that guys can make the Pro Bowl, or any other All-Star team, based solely on name. I know the big names sell, but who would decide not to go to Hawaii and watch the Pro Bowl just because Tom Brady or Andre Johnson wouldn't be there? If I got plans to go to Hawaii, the only thing stopping me is death or an active volcano. Also, don't give me that nonsense about fans voting for the players they want to see, because no one watches the Pro Bowl. Not even the player's parents watch them in the Pro Bowl, unless they are at the game.
The years of players getting rewarded for career achievements, or riding their popularity from college, or early-career success should be over. There are numerous stats driven websites that will breakdown every play made, and tell us whose fault it was a play didn't work, or who is the reason why it worked. Looking at this year's Pro Bowl roster, I can tell there are some people that needed Santa to bring them a subscription to ProFootballFocus.com or FootballOutsiders.com.
I sifted through all the stats and data, and these are the "surprise" players that should not be heading to Hawaii in late January for the Pro Bowl; they should be at home, not watching the game just like the rest of us.
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15. Cam Newton
Newton has played the best he has ever played. He is taking care of the ball, not forcing throws, and has come up clutch for the Carolina, but the Panthers win games because of their defense and run game, not because of Newton making big plays. Matt Stafford, Andy Dalton, Alex Smith and Nick Foles all had much better seasons. Newton is going to the Pro Bowl based on the fact that he was ragged on so much last season, and the beginning of this season. The criticism was too harsh, and now the voters are overcompensating for past faults.
14. Haloti Ngata
Ngata has been a staple at the Pro Bowl ever since joining the league, and has now been selected for his fifth consecutive trip to Hawaii. Ngata has been one of the best run-stuffing interior lineman, as well as one of the best at getting pressure on the quarterback, but that was not the case this season. He has only 12 quarterback hurries this season, good for 30th among interior lineman, and only two sacks. Ngata was still productive against the run, but not as dominant as years past. A guy like Jurrell Casey, who had 11 sacks, should be in the Pro Bowl instead.
13. Branden Albert
I understand there being a Kansas City offensive lineman in the Pro Bowl because of the great season Jamaal Charles has had, but that lineman should not be Albert. He was very bad at run-blocking this season, and committed the seventh most penalties among all tackles. Geoff Schwartz was the best offensive lineman for the Chiefs this season; granted he plays guard, so he couldn't take Albert's spot, but if we are talking about rewarding one guy for the entire unit, Albert is not that player. Too many other tackles had better seasons. Plus, pass-blocking for a team that threw the second-least deep passes will make anyone's sack numbers look good.
12. Jordan Cameron
I know Tony Gonzalez is old, but did he die and no one told me? Cameron had some decent pass-catching numbers, but nothing that blew away Gonzalez or Jason Witten, both of whom are superior to Cameron in run-blocking and pass-blocking. Cameron also had five drops and six penalties. He has a bright future, but this isn't the season for him to be in the Pro Bowl.
11. Ahmad Brooks
The San Francisco 49ers have the best linebacking group in the NFL, but Brooks does not deserve to be going to Hawaii. The stat that Brooks ranks highest in is sacks, and he is only ranked 28th in that category. Every other stat he ranks below 28th. He gets to play alongside Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, and the best 3-4 defensive line in the league, Brooks should be putting up monster numbers. Brooks was good in the run-game, but both Brian Orapko and Trent Cole were better against the run, and they both had better overall seasons than Brooks. He made Pro Bowl because of the overall greatness of San Francisco's defense.
10. Max Unger
It is hard to grade an offensive lineman. We don't know what all they do on a particular play at the line of scrimmage, but looking at the stats we have available, Unger is not a Pro Bowler. He gave up the 11th most sacks, and committed the 12th most penalties. Unger also has a negative rating in run-blocking and pass-blocking according to ProFootballFocus.com. There are 10 other centers that would have been a better choice than Unger.
9. Mike Iupati
Iupati missed four games this season, and in his absence the Niners still rushed for 127.3 yards per game. A player that misses 25 percent of the games, and doesn't his loss doesn't affect the team isn't worthy of the Pro Bowl. Philadelphia led the league in rushing, and not one of their guards made the Pro Bowl. That is a joke, especially when Iupati missed so much action.
8. Dez Bryant
Bryant not only threw temper-tantrums on the sidelines and walked out before the game was over, he also dropped a lot of passes -- 13 to be exact -- and fumbled more than any other wide receiver did this season. All of these miscues have resulted in a Pro Bowl appearance for Dez Bryant. If it wasn't for the star on the side of his helmet he would be sitting at home in January instead of going to Hawaii.
7. Antonio Brown (kick returner)
As a wide receiver Brown is more than deserving of his selection, but as a kick returner? That is a head-scratcher. I guess the return against Cincinnati on Monday Night Football stuck in everyone's mind. Golden Tate had a much better season as a punt returner, and Cordarelle Patterson was the best kick returner in the league this season. I think the NFL was trying to save some money by not having to send another player just to return kicks.
6. Aqib Talib
According to ProFootballFocus.com Talib ranked as the 66th best cornerback out of every cornerback that played at least 250 snaps, and the biggest reason why he is so far down the list was his 81st ranking in coverage ability. Aqib was also flagged eight times on only 70 targets. His four interceptions weren't even the most on his team; Logan Ryan had five. Talib is a talented defensive back, but this year was not his best by any means.
5. Tom Brady
Brady ranks sixth in passing yards, 10th in passing touchdowns, and 17th in QB Rating. The Patriots have dealt with a lot of injuries, especially to the receiving corps, but it's not like Alex Smith or Nick Foles were playing with the best receiving weapons either. The fact that New England has won their division and still have a shot at the number one seed in the AFC is a great accomplishment for their team, but it is not solely because of Brady. Making the Pro Bowl is supposed to be an award for a great season, but Brady's nod is based on his career achievements, not this season's play.
4. Brandon Flowers
Flowers is the 85th best cornerback according to ProFootballFocus.com. They use a grading metric on every play, and grade each play in increments of 0.5 scaling from 2.0 to -2.0. Flowers was given the sixth worst grade of any cornerback to play 800 snaps this season. I know the Chiefs have a great defense, but Flowers has not played very well. The only games when Flowers had a grade higher than 0.5 were against Jacksonville, Tennessee and Oakland. Flowers had an average season at best. He gave up a QB Rating of 103.9 on passes thrown his way -- which would have ranked sixth among all quarterbacks -- and allowed 66.7 percent of all passes thrown his way to be caught. Not exactly a Pro Bowl season for Flowers.
3. Marcel Reese
First off, why are we even putting fullbacks in the Pro Bowl? Honestly, how many teams use a fullback on a regular basis? But, even after we come to the conclusion that fullbacks should be in the Pro Bowl, Reese should not be one of the ones that is going. Fullbacks that are used often are mostly there for blocking, not running, and Reese is a below-average blocker, and isn't even that great of a runner. His stats are inflated because he had to start at running back one week and racked up 19 carries. Other than that one week, Resse had 95 yards on 27 carries.
2. Frank Gore
Gore has had a great career, and lasted longer than anyone would have imagined after his first few seasons, but he has lost a step. His 4.2 yards per carry are is the second-lowest of his career, and his receiving numbers across the board are the worse he's had since his rookie season. I was surprised to see Gore selected for the Pro Bowl and guys like Eddie Lacy and Knowshon Moreno were left off. You can add Gore to the list of players that were selected as more of a career achievement than this season's actual production.
1. Andre Johnson
The Houston Texans are the worst team in the NFL, and no one from that team should be in the Pro Bowl. Houston trailed seemingly all season long, thus having to throw the seventh most times this season. Johnson put up 103 catches, and is fifth in yards, but only has five touchdowns. This team was terrible, and the fact that he caught a lot of passes, for a lot of yards, against prevent defenses should not put him in the Pro Bowl.