Philadelphia Eagles Soar Through Pro Bowl Games Ballot
NFL Week 15 - I come not to praise the Pro Bowl, but to bury it. Good riddance to it, and hurrah for trying something new.
For years, Scramble attempted to pick the perfect Pro Bowl roster, despite all the various roadblocks the league has put up to make that impossible. And does that mean we watched literally one second of Pro Bowl action in that time? Not live, at any rate! Because that looked like this!
Offensive MVP in his first Pro Bowl. Not bad for Justin Herbert.
(@CaesarsSports Star of the Week) pic.twitter.com/lmGRgQoX1K
— NFL (@NFL) February 8, 2022
It has been a hot minute since anyone has cared about the Pro Bowl as a game, and the league has taken multiple steps over the past decade or so to actively devalue the experience even more. They moved it to the week before the Super Bowl so the best players on the best teams couldn't show up even if they wanted to. They created the NFL Honors ceremony, which takes away some of the Pro Bowl's cache as a celebration of the season as a whole, and so forth. It was left as this kind of vestigial thing, a relic from the days when you might not get to see a superstar in another city on a regular basis because their games weren't on national television all the time. A relic from an earlier age, in many ways.
That doesn't mean the activity doesn't have value, mind you. Naming the best players in the sport is a worthwhile endeavor, both for just recognition at the time and for helping historically keep track of success long after players have retired. And while the system is far from perfect—take your pick between multiple-time Pro Bowler Mike Alstott, 2020 Evan Engram, or 2018 Mitch Trubisky for your "the hell?" of choice—it's still something I enjoy filling out every year. Arguing about who should and shouldn't be considered one of the top players at their position is a good thing! Usually. Sometimes.
… OK, I mostly just think that everyone should listen to me, but I suppose that's the entire point of filling out a ballot to begin with.
The good news this year? They have taken the Pro Bowl out of the Pro Bowl, and we should be better for it. They're now calling it the Pro Bowl Games with the big finale being a series of flag football games, coached by Peyton and Eli Manning, as well as NFL legends Ray Lewis and DeMarcus Ware and flag football World Game medalists Diana Flores and Vanita Krouch. That's great! The actual event had basically devolved into two-hand touch anyway, so going seven-on-seven isn't destroying the sanctity of the game or anything. Plus, it lets the NFL continue its campaign to get flag football into the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, to which I say, well, best of luck with that. Add in what they're calling a "reimagined" set of skills challenges (c'mon, Superteams revival…), and they have significantly increased the chance I might actually watch some of it. I mean, going from 0% to 1% is an increase of infinite percent, right?
The bad news this year? The NFL still hasn't fixed it's Pro Bowl ballot. They still allow you to vote for six players at every position. So you can only vote for six wide receivers, despite the fact that eight will make the rosters. But you can vote for six long snappers, in case you have been grinding long snap tape for the past three months and have opinions to share! This, on top of the usual nonsense of insisting that, say, Nick Bosa is a defensive end and Micah Parsons is an outside linebacker and therefore they play two entirely different positions, makes the ballot itself something of a joke.
And that makes me the perfect one on staff to try to tackle it. Once again, I'm attempting to make the perfect* Pro Bowl roster. And with voting closing today, you can save time and energy by copying this list, going to the NFL's website, being annoyed that you can't actually use it, going to Twitter, hating their new interface, and just not voting at all! Hurray for the ease of the modern world.
The AFC is actually fairly easy this year, though the last two weeks have at least thrown a little bit of a wrench into things. Your top three players in DYAR are Patrick Mahomes, Tua Tagovailoa, and Josh Allen. That's true whether your just look at passing DYAR or add in rushing DYAR, though Allen jumps Tagovailoa if you use the "2.1 times value" hack Quick Reads introduced a couple of weeks ago. Jacoby Brissett slides in ahead of Allen in passing DVOA, but only by a tenth of a percentage point, and Brissett's not on the ballot anyway.
Four weeks ago, the Mahomes-Tagovailoa-Allen triumvirate was just a foregone conclusion. Tagovailoa was challenging all-time efficiency ratings while Mahomes and Allen were putting up insane volume stats. All three of them have come a little bit back to Earth in recent weeks, however, leaving the door a little bit open for a resurgent Joe Burrow, now fourth in the AFC in passing DYAR and less than a percentage point behind Allen in the DVOA chase. Add in Lamar Jackson's 200-plus rushing DYAR and you have some legitimate choices to make here.
I can't in good conscience leave either Mahomes or Allen off the ballot. Mahomes is the best quarterback in football, and when Allen isn't having a Bad Allen moment, he's right up there with anyone. It came down to Tagovailoa versus Burrow for the last AFC slot for me—has Tua been figured out, or has he just had a couple of down weeks? Tagovailoa still leads the league in passing DVOA and is second behind only Mahomes in DYAR despite missing time with a concussion; his first few weeks were blazingly efficient while Burrow spent most of them embedded into the turf. If voting took place at the end of the year and trends continued, maybe Burrow would fully pass Tua, but that midseason stretch where Tagovailoa's deep ball was destroying the league is too much to pass up at this point. He's my third guy.
NO LOOK TOSS??? @PatrickMahomes who are you?!?#ProBowlVote pic.twitter.com/J4jfxgn04K
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) December 11, 2022
Perhaps Burrow could put on a false mustache and suit up for the NFC, because their situation is much, much tougher. By DVOA, the best passers in the conference this season have been Jimmy Garoppolo, Jared Goff, and Jalen Hurts. By passing DYAR, Tom Brady replaces Hurts, though Hurts comes back into the top three once you include rushing value. Garoppolo is still on the ballot despite his injuries, as he hasn't gone on injured reserve yet, but … Garoppolo? A Pro Bowl quarterback? In this economy? I think not.
Part of me does want to vote for Brady, just because seeing him be coached by Eli Manning in the flag football game would be hilarious. But there are plenty of other options, which is what happens when you have a lower-level competition. Geno Smith is still in the top 10 in both DYAR and DVOA, even if he has cooled off a little bit in recent weeks; he has a better passing DVOA than Brady, but doesn't get to throw 50 times in blowouts. Dak Prescott is in the top 10, though his overall numbers are low because he missed time earlier in the year. Kirk Cousins? Andy Dalton? Daniel Jones, whose scrambles have helped the Giants have a top-10 passing offense? Justin Fields, who might be the most fun to watch in a flag football situation? It's not great!
Ultimately, I'm taking the current betting favorite at MVP in Jalen Hurts, as his rushing ability raises the floor of the Philadelphia offense tremendously. I'm taking Goff, the conference leader in passing DYAR even if his charting numbers don't quite match his production. And I'm taking Smith, who is one of the best stories of the season, even if his early-year success looks to be unsustainable over the long run. And I'm looking into wigs and false noses for Burrow.
AFC: Josh Allen, BUF; Patrick Mahomes, KC; Tua Tagovailoa, MIA
NFC: Jared Goff, DET; Jalen Hurts, PHI; Geno Smith, SEA
Your top three AFC running backs by rushing DVOA or rushing DYAR are Josh Jacobs, Nick Chubb, and Raheem Mostert. But Mostert offers very little value in the passing game; Joe Mixon knocks him off the list when you include receiving DYAR. That's your baseline there.
Jacobs is a must; he has been phenomenal and is likely making Las Vegas regret that they chose not to pick up his fifth-year option before the season began. And I don't think anyone's going to argue with Chubb, who has been just flattening people all year long.
Will @iAM_JoshJacobs run away with the rushing title? 👑#LVvsLAR— Tonight 8:15pm ET on Prime Video
Also available on NFL+ https://t.co/fK7vaWiHIa pic.twitter.com/fapD1Ezlb7
— NFL (@NFL) December 8, 2022
But taking Mixon would mean not taking Derrick Henry, which is a harder move to justify. There's no question in my mind that Henry is the better rusher, despite having less DYAR and a lower DVOA. He averages a full yard more after contact than Mixon does, forces more broken tackles, faces more loaded boxes, and generally has to carry a larger chunk of his team's offensive load. If you wanted to just use one stat for this, you could justify yards after contact per attempt, which would give you Jacobs, Chubb, and … well, technically, Rhamondre Stevenson, just over Henry by a few hundredths. But you wouldn't get Mixon, is the point.
But Mixon's value as a pass-catcher is significant. He's not Austin Ekeler or anything, but he tops Henry in DYAR and DVOA by nearly 50%. Add in the fact that this is a bit of a down year by Henry's standards—before this week's Jacksonville game, he had a four-week stretch where he averaged just 52 yards per game and 2.8 yards per attempt—and I think I'm OK with putting Mixon over Henry. I think. I'll stick with it.
In the NFC, your rushing leaders in DYAR or DVOA are Miles Sanders, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Aaron Jones. But Christian McCaffrey leapfrogs them all when you add in receiving value; he's a full 100 DYAR above any other running back as a receiver and manages to lead the league in DVOA while also being second in volume. He's the best receiving back in football, bar none, and it isn't a particularly close race. With all respect to Patterson or Tony Pollard, I'm just going with total DYAR and sticking with McCaffrey/Sanders/Jones for the NFC.
AFC: Nick Chubb, CLE; Josh Jacobs, LV; Joe Mixon, CIN
NFC: Aaron Jones, GB; Christian McCaffrey, SF; Miles Sanders, PHI
By DYAR, your top four receivers in the AFC this season have been Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Jaylen Waddle, and Tee Higgins. Honestly, you could pick that four and have a perfectly cromulent team, but I am going to quibble a little bit.
Tyreek Hill, oh my god. Something new every week in this league. pic.twitter.com/2MBleHQUGF
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) December 12, 2022
Hill and Diggs are no-brainer, must-includes, check and check. But I think Davante Adams falls into that category as well, despite not coming out as well in our numbers. While Diggs and Hill are second and third in DYAR and sixth and seventh in DVOA, Adams is eighth and 27th. A significant chunk of that difference has to be the offenses they're in, though—it's nice to have Josh Allen as your quarterback, or guys like Jaylen Waddle to play second banana for you. Adams has nearly doubled every other receiver on Las Vegas' roster in targets, as there have been points in this season where he has been the entire passing offense, and Derek Carr has, shall we say, not been in consideration for a Pro Bowl selection. I can't leave Adams off the ballot.
That just gives me one slot left in the conference. Waddle and Higgins would both be fine choices, but they're both also the second receiver on their teams. Surely, if we're going to put in a Bengals receiver, it has to be Ja'Marr Chase, right? Chase missed time and Higgins did an excellent job stepping up into the top receiver role; he'd be a fine Pro Bowler in his own right. But Chase is the proverbial straw that stirs the drink out there. Higgins is a very good receiver; Chase helps take the Bengals' passing offense to another level. And if we're giving Adams extra credit for working with an only above-average passer like Carr, surely we could take that to an extreme and say that what Garrett Wilson is doing as a rookie with that collection of passers is worth consideration too, yeah? I'm taking Chase rather than doubling up on Dolphins or giving extra credit to the Jets' passing offense, but the other three all deserved at least hat-tips.
In the NFC, your leaders in DYAR are Justin Jefferson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Lockett, and A.J. Brown. And you know what? That's fine. That's a good top four. I suppose we could debate the roles of Lockett versus DK Metcalf in the Seattle offense, or talk about how Chris Olave has stepped up in New Orleans since the three-headed Olave/Michael Thomas/Jarvis Landry monster has been a bust, or point out how CeeDee Lamb has stepped into Dallas' No. 1 receiver role just fine since Amari Cooper left, and so on and so forth. But none of those arguments are convincing enough to me to bump out Lockett or Brown for them, and so we'll just run with the numbers here.
I can also complain here that Cooper Kupp is not on the ballot, because he's on injured reserve. With the actual game part of the Pro Bowl being taken out of the equation, it feels like that shouldn't matter! I might have been tempted to put him over Lockett as our NFC West representative, but I'm fine with things as they stand. Let's just stick a pin in that when we get to the tight ends, shall we?
AFC: Davante Adams, LV; Ja'Marr Chase, CIN; Stefon Diggs, BUF; Tyreek Hill, MIA
NFC: A.J. Brown, PHI; Justin Jefferson, MIN; Tyler Lockett, SEA; Amon-Ra St. Brown, DET
There are three fullbacks in the league who have had more than 300 offensive snaps. So I guess we get to pick two of them!
In the AFC, that comes down to Patrick Ricard versus Alec Ingold, as the Dolphins have imported San Francisco's strategy of a fullback being occasionally relevant. As nice as it is to see Ingold get a career high in snaps already with four weeks to go, Ricard is one of the best run-blockers in the league regardless of position, and a big part of why the Ravens are second in rushing DVOA. He gets the nod.
#42 Patrick Ricard with a head of steam and knocking the Giants DB off the screen pic.twitter.com/wO7JvDWXg0
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) October 17, 2022
In the NFC, Kyle Jusczcyk wins by default. I mean, he probably would also win if he had any competition, as he's probably the best offensive weapon at the position, but no other fullback in the conference has more than 209 offensive snaps.
AFC: Patrick Ricard, BAL
NFC: Kyle Jusczcyk, SF
Travis Kelce has been the best tight end in football, so we probably should include him. At that point, the AFC becomes a three-way race between Mark Andrews, Pat Freiermuth, and David Njoku for the other AFC slot. I think I would call Njoku the best receiver of the three, but Andrews actually has more DYAR this season, and is the better blocker to boot. Obviously, Kelce laps the field here, but Andrews is a perfectly cromulent second pick.
Congrats to Travis Kelce on joining the 10,000 yard club 👏
He becomes only the 5th tight end to reach 10,000 career receiving yards.pic.twitter.com/To0TifwB1V
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) December 11, 2022
In the NFC, we have a problem. Dallas Goedert is your conference leader in receiving DYAR with 158. He's also … not on the ballot. Because he's currently on injured reserve, you can't actually vote for him. Never mind the fact that his practice window opened on Wednesday, and he'll be back next week at the latest; you can't vote for the NFC tight end who is having the best season. It's nonsense. For that matter, you can't vote for Kyle Pitts either. Again, with the Pro Bowl itself not being a game anymore, the rule about injured players not being able to be selected is a relic, especially when you couple it with the new IR rules making it possible for players to come back before the end of the year. Goedert should be a Pro Bowler, and probably will when the players and coaches get to vote, but we can't pick him due to the rules. Fine. Be that way.
It has been a little bit of a down year for George Kittle, as he started the season banged up, but a down year for Kittle is still a great year for 95% of tight ends in the league, so he'll get one slot. And then I think I'm going to go with our numbers and pick Will Dissly for the other slot—he only just qualifies for our leaderboards, but he's first in DVOA at 41.6% and third in DYAR at 119, and impressive total for just 36 targets. T.J. Hockenson would be a better choice if you're looking for volume, or you could highlight the blocking skills of a Cole Kmet or someone, but I'm fine with Dissly being my "this is where Goedert should go" pick.
AFC: Mark Andrews, BAL; Travis Kelce, KC
NFC: Will Dissly, SEA; George Kittle, SF
Kolton Miller is in the top five in both ESPN's run block and pass block win rates among tackles, so he gets one slot in the AFC. Laremy Tunsil is the top tackle in the AFC in blown block percentage, per SIS charting—just nine blown blocks all season, and a 1.2% rate. He has also only given up one sack all season, which, considering the state of the Texans' offense in general, seems really good. They're my left tackles.
There's no rule saying that you have to have a right tackle and a left tackle on the roster, but I do like having at least one because the skills aren't 100% transferrable, and it's nice to give credit where credit is due. So, with respect to Terron Armstead or Orlando Brown, I'm going to take Morgan Moses to round out the AFC. You could make an argument for the Eluemunors or Flemings of the world, but Moses has been a massive upgrade on the right side of Baltimore's line—they have jumped from 2.5 adjusted line yards off right tackle in 2021 to 4.7 this season, and while that's not all Moses by any stretch of the imagination, a jump like that has to be rewarded.
In the NFC, Trent Williams needs no explanation.
Trent Williams makes it look easy in the run game on a weekly basis. Week 14 edition here. pic.twitter.com/xPaj0Mck5I
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) December 12, 2022
Christian Darrisaw is in a similar boat; he has only allowed one sack this season, and his absence over the past couple weeks has coincided with two of the three worst days for the Vikings' run offense this season. They're my left tackles, and I also want a right tackle, which came down to Lane Johnson versus Tristan Wirfs for me. It's a coin flip, but Wirfs has the best blown block rate among tackles this season at 1.0%. Johnson, by comparison, is at a massive 1.1%, so, you know, my hands were tied.
AFC: Kolton Miller, LV; Morgan Moses, BAL; Laremy Tunsil, HOU
NFC: Christian Darrisaw, MIN; Trent Williams, SF; Tristan Wirfs, TB
Joe Thuney has the highest pass block win rate among guards, per ESPN, and he's sixth in run block win rate as well; he gets the first and easiest nod. Joel Bitonio continues performing at a very high level despite Cleveland's offense as a whole taking a step back this season; he has only allowed a pair of sacks and has been his usual bulldozing self. A pair of left guards locked up.
The difference between right and left guard isn't as big as that between left and right tackle, but it's worth at least acknowledging that multiple positions exist. That leaves me considering Michael Onwenu and Robert Hunt as my right guard options in the conference. And, of the two, Hunt has the better blown block rate—just 0.9%, compared to Onwenu's 1.7%. Unlike the joke at right tackle, that is a significant difference, and not a bad turnaround at all from the player who was struggling at right tackle two years ago.
In the NFC, Chris Lindstrom is turning into something special in Atlanta.
The rosters haven't been announced yet but I'm already mad about Chris Lindstrom getting snubbed for All-Pro pic.twitter.com/29j3RXVPW9
— James Foster (@NoFlagsFilm) December 9, 2022
Atlanta is third in adjusted line yards this season, and Lindstrom is a huge part of the reason why; he's just flattening people out there in the run game. Lindstrom has taken a step forward every year he has been in the league, and now he has an argument for the best run-blocking guard in football.
Landon Dickerson might argue that characterization; he leads ESPN's run block win rate charts and is third as a pass-blocker—plus, we snubbed Lane Johnson last segment and I need to make it up to the Philly rushing attack, so Dickerson it is. That leaves one more spot, which goes to Cody Whitehair, who manages to be in the top three in both run and pass block win rate, though admittedly he gets helped by the fact that he missed some time and has a fewer number of plays than some of the other names out there. Still, solid blocking in Chicago is rare enough that it should be acknowledged and cultivated.
AFC: Joel Bitonio, CLE; Robert Hunt, MIA; Joe Thuney, KC
NFC: Landon Dickerson, PHI; Chris Lindstrom, ATL; Cody Whitehair, CHI
It's worth noting that Ethan Pocic is not on the ballot; the Cleveland option is Hjalte Froholdt, which, uh, no. Pocic was having a shockingly good season before he went on IR, but now I suppose we don't have to try to figure out how much credit we give to him for this season, compared to the struggles he has had before this year.
He wouldn't have beaten out Creed Humphrey, at any rate. Humphrey leads both ESPN's pass block and run block win rate and is near the top of any other statistical or film ranking you care to use; he's an easy first pick. The second center spot is tougher, but Corey Linsley is second in pass-block win rate. He has missed time, but that might in a roundabout way improve his candidacy, as the Chargers' pass DVOA falls from 11.2% to -18.6% when he's out. There are other very good options here—either of the Connors, Williams or McGovern, would be fine choices, as would Tyler Linderbaum. But Linsley gets my nod.
The NFC is Jason Kelce and Frank Ragnow. Kelce is head-and-shoulders over the rest of the league, and Ragnow's a step ahead of anyone else in the conference; this was one of the easier picks to make.
Jason Kelce & Landon Dickerson team up on this mean block 😡 (via @Eagles)pic.twitter.com/jBCAYwDngd
— NFL (@NFL) December 5, 2022
Ah, the Pro Bowl's insistence that there are still "defensive ends" and "outside linebackers" rather than edge rushers rears its head again. We're going to argue that Matt Milano is more similar to Danielle Hunter than Nick Bosa is to Micah Parsons, are we? It's a mess—and, since edge rushers tend to have a more outsized impact on the game than their off-ball linebacker or interior linemen counterparts, they could justifiably get 12 of the 88 slots on the Pro Bowl rosters. Pity the poor 3-4 ends or 4-3 linebackers, drowned in a sea of sacks.
Well, I'm going to try to save at least one slot for non-pass-rushers here, and at defensive end, that means standing up for Christian Wilkins over Trey Hendrickson, Jadeveon Clowney, or John Franklin-Meyers. Because Wilkins only has 2.5 sacks, he's buried at the bottom of the ballot behind the Poona Fords and Jihad Wards of the world, but Wilkins plays defensive tackle! And he's very good at it; second in ESPN's run stop win rate stat and tied for third in the league in tackles for a loss! Justice for the run-stoppers!
Oh, and then Myles Garrett and Maxx Crosby, obviously, because not that much justice for the run-stoppers.
Myles Garrett is not of this Earth @BrandonThornNFL pic.twitter.com/f4e1nzXmTj
— Jacob Nierob (@JNierob) December 12, 2022
The NFC's top option is Nick Bosa, tied for the league lead with 14.5 sacks despite missing a game and a half. The other two slots are trickier, however. By raw sack totals, it'd be Brian Burns and Brandon Graham; by pressures, it's Burns and Montez Sweat. Sweat's also second behind Bosa in QB hits and knockdowns; he hits the quarterback more often than Burns does. I'm going to give one nod to him, and then one nod to the Pick Your Eagles Rusher, as Philadelphia is second in the league in adjusted sack rate (and Dallas' guy comes later). The Eagles spread their sacks around, so you have a number of options to choose from, but I like Josh Sweat; he has the highest pressure rate on the team. That means his pick is justifiable, and I can pretend like I didn't just pick two Sweat-y guys for the roster for my own personal amusement.
AFC: Maxx Crosby, LV; Myles Garrett, CLE; Christian Wilkins, MIA
NFC: Nick Bosa, SF; Josh Sweat, PHI; Montez Sweat, WAS
Three slots per conference, and two of them are pretty much autolocks. There's no way you're getting out of adding Chris Jones or Quinnen Williams to the AFC, and Aaron Donald and Dexter Lawrence need to take up two of the NFC slots. These four blow up interior lines and offensive game plans like no others, and were basically penciled in before I even started doing this.
3rd consecutive play. Jones says we are getting of the field. He lets the guard setup, swipes his hands, crosses his face and a shoots through for the sack. One of Chris Jones most dominant series as a #Chiefs. That's what happens when he gets 1 on 1s. #JacobsEyeInTheSky pic.twitter.com/5EvIqLTaeR
— Nick Jacobs (@Jacobs71) December 13, 2022
In the AFC, that left me with a decision between Cameron Heyward and Jeffery Simmons, a near impossible choice, and one I flipped even after originally submitting the article. I'm going with Simmons, who is higher in ESPN's run stop win rate, has more pass pressures per SIS, and is on the team in playoff position. But Heyward easily could have been the pick, and I might change my mind again by the time you're reading this.
In the NFC, I ended up taking Javon Hargrave over a small army of qualified players, from Jonathan Allen to Leonard Williams and everyone in between. It is a little bit more of a "when in doubt, pick the Eagles pass-rusher," but Hargrave's 10.0% pressure rate is second among interior linemen in the conference behind Lawrence, which at least helps reduce the doubt.
AFC: Chris Jones, KC; Jeffery Simmons, TEN; Quinnen Williams, NYJ
NFC: Aaron Donald, LAR; Javon Hargrave, PHI; Dexter Lawrence, NYG
Some tough calls to be made in the AFC, where Tremaine Edmunds, David Long, and Germaine Pratt all made it onto my list at one point or another. Nick Bolton is one of the more divisive players in the league at the moment—he's near the top of the league in tackles and can chew up massive amounts of the field quickly; Andy Reid says he's having an All-Pro season thanks to his instincts and range. That's a stretch, and there are plenty of lowlight-reel moments of Bolton bouncing off backs or finding himself in the wrong spot at the wrong time. But highlights are one thing; every single charting metric out there has Bolton among the league leaders in solid tackling (just a 7.1% broken tackle rate, per SIS; in the top 20 in TFLs). In a down year for the conference at the position (especially with Matt Milano not being in this category—we'll get to him) I'm fine with him taking one of the two slots here, alongside Alex Singleton, who has gone from maybe a special teams guy to one of the more solid pieces on one of the top three defenses in the conference by DVOA.
Remember when we laughed at how Bobby Wagner looked washed in the opening game against Buffalo, and then we all stopped paying attention to the Rams because they were horrible? Well, Wagner bounced back quite nicely and still looks like, well, Bobby Wagner out there.
The Rams played hard on Sunday and no one played harder than LB Bobby Wagner. He had 7 tackles, 2 sacks and an INT against his former team. Wagner has tied his career best of 5 sacks on the season, with 5 games yet to play. Hopefully in year 2 as a Ram, Wagner returns to playoffs pic.twitter.com/aXIAS4SYOJ
— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) December 5, 2022
For the other slot—and no offense to Lavonte David or Demario Davis or T.J. Edwards—I had to put a 49ers linebacker. But which one? Both Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw are having exceptional seasons, resulting in teams just not challenging the 49ers over the middle on passing plays. Warner is the team leader and has the bigger track record, but even he is arguing for Greenlaw to get Pro Bowl votes, considering just how thoroughly Greenlaw has shut down the middle of the field. I'm sure he meant in addition to himself rather than instead, but well, that's what you get for being selfless sometimes, Fred.
AFC: Nick Bolton, KC; Alex Singleton, DEN
NFC: Dre Greenlaw, SF; Bobby Wagner, LAR
Matt Judon is tied with Bosa for the NFL sack lead, so even if he gets an unusually high percentage of those sacks schemed up for him, it's really hard to justify not including him. He also leads all eligible AFC "linebackers" with 53 pressures, only three more than Jaelan Phillips. And after them you get Josh Allen and Alex Highsmith, who would be fine choices, and Denico Autry…
… wait, Denico Autry? He has played 12 snaps as a linebacker this season; he typically lines up at defensive end or, at best, at LEO. This position grouping, man…
Anyway, I'm not picking any of them, because Matt Milano is also on the ballot here, despite playing most of his snaps at inside linebackery positions. He's here because Tremaine Edmunds is Buffalo's choice for inside linebacker; I assume Von Miller would be in this category as well if he wasn't on IR. Anyway, Milano is one of the best coverage linebackers in the league; I'd much rather have him replace Bolton on the inside and take Allen or Highsmith (or Miller, for that matter!) here, but I'll just go with what the rules tell me I can do and complain about it on the internet.
For the NFC, Micah Parsons is a snap pick. I suppose while I'm yelling about things, I should at least commend the Cowboys for moving Parsons from an inside linebacker last season to an outside linebacker this year—both on the ballot and on the field, with Parsons spending about 15% of his time at traditional inside linebacker positions rather than 45% like he was in 2021. Because, sure, Parsons can cover quite well for an edge rusher. But you can also just use him like this!
Micah Parsons in the first half: 4 solo tackles, 2 sacks, 1 tackle for loss, 3 QB hits
(Video: @nfl) pic.twitter.com/radCR80BGK
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 20, 2022
That's much easier.
Anyway, there are no crazy inside linebackers slotted out here for the NFC like Milano, so we'll add to our pass-rusher collection. Haason Reddick is about to record 10-plus sacks for the third year in a row, each with different teams; leaping from defense to defense and always hoping that his next leap will lead to a long-term deal. This is also where I want to credit the Vikings pass rush, giving Za'Darius Smith a slight edge over Danielle Hunter, though both players are at least worthy of acknowledgement.
AFC: Matt Judon, NE; Matt Milano, BUF; Jaelan Phillips, MIA
NFC: Micah Parsons, DAL; Haason Reddick, PHI; Za'Darius Smith, MIN
There was a general consensus that Sauce Gardner would be good from the get-go, and in the conversation for Rookie of the Year and all that, but you could argue he's the best cornerback in football already—two off the league lead with 13 pass breakups per SIS' charting, third-best in the league with 4.6 yards allowed per target, a pair of picks, and only one touchdown allowed this season. Robert Saleh has been waiting for a guy like this; he never had a corner quite as good in San Francisco.
Sauce Gardner- best CB in the NFL already & only a rookie 🙌🏻@iamSauceGardner | #ProBowlVote #Jets
— Harrison Glaser (@NYJetsTFMedia) December 11, 2022
The other three corners from the AFC are also all under 6 yards allowed per target: Patrick Surtain, Tyson Campbell, and Cameron Sutton. Surtain and Campbell are also near the tops of the passes defensed table, as would Sutton if he could just hold onto the ball; he's tied for the lead with all corners with four interceptions dropped this season. Sutton's probably the one I would drop if I had to—Stephon Gilmore, Desmond King, L'Jarius Sneed and others are available. There's a pretty homogenous field when all is said and done.
In the NFC, you have to start with the league leader in interceptions in Tariq Woolen; it's hard to argue with six interceptions and a sub-50% completion rate against! He'll be joined by James Bradberry, Charvarius Ward, and Jamel Dean. Bradberry has been the biggest standout in the Eagles secondary, and that's a crowded field to stand out in. Ward and Dean have been key contributors while other members of their secondaries have fallen around them to injury, playing at a high level even as their help has fallen flat. With apologies to big names such as Jaire Alexander, Patrick Peterson, or Jalen Ramsey—all of whom are having very good seasons of their own—I like highlighting players who haven't been to the game before, such as Ward and Dean, when things are close.
AFC: Tyson Campbell, JAX; Sauce Gardner, NYJ; Patrick Surtain, DEN; Cameron Sutton, PIT
NFC: James Bradberry, PHI; Jamel Dean, TB; Charvarious Ward, SF; Tariq Woolen, SEA
The NFL says that each team will have three safeties. They then split the voting into free safety and strong safety—never mind how many of each each team gets, never mind that the overlap between the two positions is larger now than it used to be, never mind that actually determining who is which position isn't always the easiest in the world. You can technically pick 12 safeties and some indeterminate number of them will get the trip to Las Vegas. Fun times.
The AFC is a little more top-heavy at strong safety, with guys such as Adrian Phillips and Jordan Poyer worthy of consideration. I'm instead taking Derwin James who might well be the best safety in the league when healthy, and pairing him up with Rodney McLeod, who leads all defensive backs with 14 tackles for a loss; a rare bright spot in Indianapolis this season. The free safety will be Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is on the shortlist for best awareness and ball skills for any defender in the league.
Minkah Fitzpatrick picks off Joe Burrow and takes it back the other way for a Steelers touchdown. pic.twitter.com/x5K2zbO4GW
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 11, 2022
The NFC, on the other hand, is more balanced. I'm going double free safety here just to squeeze Tyrann Mathieu and Antoine Winfield onto the same roster. The strong safety position has a lot of possibilities, but Donovan Wilson has hit career highs in sacks, quarterback hits, tackles for a loss—Dan Quinn is moving him all around the Dallas defense, to great results. Plus, the Cowboys haven't gotten enough defenders in on this list despite being our top defense in DVOA; that sometimes happens when it's a scheme and team effort doing things, but it's worth tipping any ties in their direction for representation.
AFC: Minkah Fitzpatrick, PIT; Derwin James, LAC; Rodney McLeod, IND
NFC: Tyrann Mathieu, NO; Antoine Winfield, TB; Donovan Wilson, DAL
For all the special teams slots, I'm just going with the leaders by our numbers, all of whom make enough sense that there's no need to question.
At kicker, that's Justin Tucker in the AFC, because if your metric system does not have Tucker as the best kicker in the league, it's fundamentally broken. Jason Myers tops the NFC field goal table; he has only missed one field goal all season long and is a perfect 9-for-9 from 40-plus yards.
We have a potential record falling at punter in the AFC, where rookie Ryan Stonehouse is threatening to do something which hasn't been done since 1940. Since that season, Sammy Baugh has been the all-time leader with 51.4 yards per punt. His record has been approached a couple of times over the past couple of decades, but Baugh's leg has stood the test of time. With four weeks to go, there are two punters currently ahead of that, however—Tommy Townsend at 52.2 and Stonehouse at 53.4. Cold weather can shrink punts, but Stonehouse gets to play two games in Tennessee, one in Los Angeles, and one in Jacksonville to finish out the season; he has every chance to pull this off. And since Townsend also plays in the AFC, he gets beaten by Stonehouse. The always-reliable Johnny Hekker leads in our numbers in the NFC.
Return specialist is close in each conference. In the AFC, Marcus Jones is first in punt return average and third in kickoff return average and has a touchdown to his name, putting him over Devin Duvernay. The NFC goes to a Falcon—Cordarrelle Patterson wasn't nominated by the team, but Avery Williams leads the league in punt return average if you drop the needed return total from 17 to 16, and has had success on kick returns as well. He squeaks past Kene Nwangu in total value.
Washington's Jeremy Reaves leads all special teamers with 14 tackles, including a second-best nine stops. (San Francisco's George Odom leads with 10, but he's not on the ballot.) New York's Justin Hardee has eight stops of his own, all on punt duty; he leads the AFC in that category.
And as for long snapper … uh…
Baltimore and Seattle have the highest combined value for their field goals and punts, the two areas where long snapping is required. Therefore, your Pro Bowlers are Nick Moore and Carson Tinker, and I will be taking no more questions at this time.
AFC: Justin Tucker, BAL; Ryan Stonehouse, TEN; Marcus Jones, NE; Justin Hardy, NYJ; Nick Moore, BAL
NFC: Jason Myers, SEA; Johnny Hekker, CAR; Avery Williams, ATL; Jeremy Reaves, WAS; Carson Tinker, SEA
There you go! The best pro bowl you can select given the NFL's arbitrary ballot restrictions. Eighty-eight players, representing all 31 teams…
… hold a second…
… I'm so sorry, Arizona. At least you have the weather?
28 comments, Last at 17 Dec 2022, 1:19pm
#1 by Bryan Knowles // Dec 15, 2022 - 1:57am
Keep Choppin' Wood
There are a lot of ways for punts to fail. We've seen blocks, shanks, hooks, bad snaps, wind-addled nonsense. But usually, punters at least figure out a way to kick the ball before it hits the ground.
That one's going in the bank for a while, Jamie Gillan, to pull out whenever there's a blooper-reel kick in the future.
#11 by DGL // Dec 15, 2022 - 3:35pm
As discussed in the Walkthrough comments, I don't know why this was a penalty, since a drop kick ("a kick by a player who drops the ball and kicks it as, or immediately after, it touches the ground") is a perfectly legal scrimmage kick (as is a punt).
There's nothing that says that you can only drop kick the ball as a field goal try.
#19 by Pat // Dec 16, 2022 - 11:03am
There's nothing that says that you can only drop kick the ball as a field goal try.
There's a lot of "you're supposed to know how football works" in the kick portions of the rules - as in, the field goal section says that a successful field goal has to be a drop kick or placekick, but it doesn't define what an unsuccessful field goal attempt is (in other words, it doesn't actually define what a field goal attempt is). So the assumption is that any drop kick/placekick as a scrimmage kick/fair catch kick is a field goal/try attempt.
Note also that there are "standard field goal formations" and "standard punt formations" mentioned in the rules as well, so in some sense there's a "if you're like this, we presume you're trying to do this." You could interpret what he did as a drop kick, or you could interpret it as a fumble + illegal kick afterwards. The only difference between the two is intent.
They interpreted it as "illegal kick" because they were in a standard punt formation - so they clearly didn't intend to drop kick. But the reason why they had to talk about it so long was pretty much exactly because they were probably thinking "well, could it be a drop kick?" and the answer is no, not really - the intent of the dropkick rule is to allow field goal attempts via drop kick, not to allow a punter to recover from his mistake.
#22 by DGL // Dec 16, 2022 - 2:35pm
It is curious that the NFL will spend, like, two pages trying to define "catching a football" in order to remove all possible application of judgment by the officials, but will just assume that everyone knows how football works in the kicking portion of the rules.
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#5 by BlueStarDude // Dec 15, 2022 - 12:58pm
"If voting took place at the end of the year" — and that's always been one of the big problems with Pro Bowl voting. Maybe not the biggest problem, but definitely the cause of some of the odd-looking choices in retrospect.
#9 by Oncorhynchus // Dec 15, 2022 - 3:06pm
Oh my god, an Eagles linebacker made the ProBowl! C'mon down Alex Singleton....
Wait a second. Alex Singleton? Denver?
This Alex Singleton?
#10 by Oncorhynchus // Dec 15, 2022 - 3:10pm
I fucking love this guy:
- March 21, 2022: The Denver Broncos signed LB Alex Singleton.
- March 25, 2021: The Philadelphia Eagles re-signed LB Alex Singleton.
- October 17, 2019: The Philadelphia Eagles signed LB Alex Singleton.
- October 17, 2019: The Philadelphia Eagles released LB Alex Singleton.
- August 31, 2019: The Philadelphia Eagles waived LB Alex Singleton.
- February 4, 2019: The Philadelphia Eagles activated LB Alex Singleton.
- January 8, 2019: Reserve/Future
- December 29, 2018: Tryout
- December 21, 2018: Tryout
- December 18, 2018: Tryout
- December 14, 2018: Tryout
- December 10, 2018: Tryout
- April 13, 2016: The Minnesota Vikings waived LB Alex Singleton.
- January 11, 2016: Reserve/Future
- December 22, 2015: The Minnesota Vikings assigned LB Alex Singleton to the practice squad.
- December 15, 2015: The Seattle Seahawks released LB Alex Singleton.
- November 26, 2015: The Seattle Seahawks assigned LB Alex Singleton to the practice squad.
- September 16, 2015: The New England Patriots released LB Alex Singleton.
- September 9, 2015: The New England Patriots assigned LB Alex Singleton to the practice squad.
- September 5, 2015: The Seattle Seahawks waived LB Alex Singleton.
- August 14, 2015: The Seattle Seahawks signed LB Alex Singleton.
- August 5, 2015: The Seattle Seahawks waived LB Alex Singleton.
- May 8, 2015: The Seattle Seahawks signed LB Alex Singleton.
That's only the half of it. After the Vikings cut him he played for the Calgary Stampeders for all of 2017 and 2018. In 2019 and half of 2020 he was relegated to Special Teams for the Eagles. He only got the start in 2020 because TJ Edwards got hurt. Then he was benched for Davion Taylor for 6 weeks in 2021! Davion Taylor sucks.
He's earning the veteran minimum. He's ranked 93/223 in LB salary per OTC. Since 2015 his NFL earnings are just over 2 million total.
Alex Singleton. ProBowler. My man. They're gonna make a movie out of your life.
#13 by CHIP72 // Dec 15, 2022 - 4:02pm
"Haason Reddick is about to record 10-plus sacks for the third year in a row, each with different teams; leaping from defense to defense and always hoping that his next leap will lead to a long-term deal."
The second part of this line reminds me of one of my all-time favorite TV shows, one that was recently rebooted. So I suggest the following edit for Reddick's summary:
"Reddick is...leaping from defense to defense and always hoping that his next leap will be the leap home." (For Camden, NJ native Reddick, going to the Eagles actually WAS the leap home!)
I'm sure Scott Bakula would like that change.
#18 by Pat // Dec 16, 2022 - 9:42am
You've gotta go with Lane over Wirfs: the actual difference between them is miniscule and Lane's been underappreciated most of his career whereas Wirfs is still young.
Sucky way to choose, I know, but Lane's a Hall quality player who's basically got no shot. Wirfs keep playing like this and I'll stump for him later too.
#21 by Topas // Dec 16, 2022 - 2:12pm
Buffalo is 9-0 when Poyer is starting. 1-3 when not. And they beat e.g. KC with him and lost to the Jets without him, so it is not like he did not play against the top tier teams … Poyer must be in the conversation for best awareness and best safety
#26 by LionInAZ // Dec 16, 2022 - 10:36pm
What, no credit to Penei Sewell for his big man receiving skills?
More seriously... the Pro Bowl is a loser compared to baseball's All-Star game because (1) it happens at the wrong time of year, and (2) the All-Star game is played in every MLB stadium at some point, giving more fans a chance to see stars they might not see otherwise.
Realistically, average fans are priced out of these events anyway, so they're all irrelevant except for revenues for each league. So thhpppt! to all of them.
#27 by Pat // Dec 17, 2022 - 9:46am
Pro Bowl activities in Honolulu were free, except the game. Open practices, a *packed* block party in Waikiki: it was awesome. Sucked for TV, I guess, but it was a hell of a week when it was post-Super Bowl. And way, way affordable for fans.