It’s the most wonderful time of the year – the time where we all gather round to complain about our favorite players missing the Pro Bowl. The NFL’s annual all-star event has lost some of its luster in recent years, but this otherwise-frivolous institution is still used as a benchmark for contract incentives. It’s just a popularity contest to fans, but making or missing the Pro Bowl has real, financial implications for the players. And because it’s a popularity contest, a lot of deserving players miss the cut.
Fred Warner was rightfully selected to the Pro Bowl, but his cohort Dre Greenlaw probably should have made it too. Greenlaw is the only NFC linebacker to rank in the top 10 in both run defense Total Points and pass coverage Total Points, with Greenlaw ranking 8th and 1st in those respective categories. He’s also averaging 8.5 tackles/game with an average tackle depth of just 1.2 yards, which is 2nd-best in the NFC (minimum 30 tackles). Greenlaw was a fifth-round pick in 2019 and has performed really well in a contract year, so making the Pro Bowl could have helped him a ton in contract negotiations this offseason.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Just a few months after being released by the Giants, new Eagles cornerback James Bradberry leads the NFL in coverage Total Points (49), is 3rd in coverage Total Points/snap (0.09), and ranks 2nd among qualifying corners (200+ cover snaps) in yards/cover snap (0.4). He’s done all this while seeing a high volume of targets across from teammate Darius Slay, who did make the Pro Bowl.
Bradberry has been thrown at 62 times and has allowed the lowest completion percentage in the NFL at 34%. Ideally, the goal is to suppress targets, but corner play is volatile and very few players achieve that consistently. Bradberry deserved a Pro Bowl nod this year, and it was surprising he didn’t get it considering just how good the Eagles have been.
Honorable mention: PHI DT Javon Hargrave ranks 2nd in pressure rate (10.4%) and 3rd in Total Points/pass rush among NFC DTs, but it’s hard to bump any of Aaron Donald, Jonathan Allen, and Dexter Lawrence, especially when all three are better run defenders.
The 6-8 Jaguars don’t get a lot of fanfare, and second-year corner Tyson Campbell predictably did not get a Pro Bowl bid over some of the household names on winning teams. However, he’s had a really good sophomore campaign and, quite frankly, deserved the Pro Bowl slot over Dolphins corner Xavien Howard, who is having an uncharacteristically bad year and ranks last in the NFL in yards allowed. Campbell, meanwhile, ranks 2nd in the NFL in pass coverage Total Points and has the 6th-best positive play rate (33%) among corners who have been targeted at least 10 times. Unfortunately, emergent players on losing teams have a tough time making the Pro Bowl.
In another instance of a household name making it over a less-established, albeit more deserving player, T.J. Watt, who has played just seven games this year due to injury, made the Pro Bowl as an outside linebacker over the Dolphins’ Jaelan Phillips. Miami’s second-year edge ranks 4th in the AFC in both pressure rate (17.4%) and pass rush Total Points Saved (21) among players with 100+ pass rushes. His 57 pressures rank 9th in the NFL this season, but a low sack rate (2%) and a middling sack total (7) bely just how good he’s been.
Honorable mention: CIN WR Tee Higgins has had a really good year. He ranks 4th in the NFL in Total Points/route run among wide receivers with 50+ targets, behind Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, and Tyreek Hill, but it’s hard to argue he’s better than those guys, and the fourth AFC WR is his teammate, Ja’Marr Chase, who draws more attention from opposing defenses.
This year’s Pro Bowl voting seems to have been a bit better than previous seasons. As always, there were some selections that were based on name-brand recognition more than anything, but the snubs seemed few and far between. As disappointing as that is for a Scrooge like me who loves to complain, it is nice to see that a lot of emerging young stars got their due. Players like Quinnen Williams and Talanoa Hufanga should soon become household names in their own right, and maybe some of this year’s snubs aren’t too far behind.