2012 Pro Bowl Selections: 15 Players Snubbed by Pro Bowl Voters
The Pro Bowl voting always causes for controversy, and this year there were several notable players who were snubbed by voters. Some were because they lack the name recognition of more established players and still others were because their team just doesn’t have the popularity to get that player national attention.
The voting system has several flaws: The voting is done with several weeks still remaining in the season, so those players who begin the year strong are significantly more likely to get votes. Fan voting constitutes one-third of the balloting, which basically means the defensive ends with the most sacks will make the Pro Bowl and the offensive linemen who have made it before will make it (regardless of whether they deserve it or not).
One of the other questionable decisions about the Pro Bowl is the decision to play it before the Super Bowl. Each Super Bowl team typically sends at least five or six representatives to the Pro Bowl, meaning a whole slew of alternates end up making it. Factor in that a handful of the league’s players pull out due to injury (and the severe risk of injury) every year, and it often seems like anyone who is merely a good player gets to go to Hawaii.
Case in point: Two years ago, the AFC Pro Bowl squad included six quarterbacks. Six.
Eli Manning or Matthew Stafford?
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Let me start with a little bonus. Much has been made about Eli Manning taking the final spot among quarterbacks on the NFC Pro Bowl roster. Most people have said Matthew Stafford should have made it, although you could make a strong case for Cam Newton, Matt Ryan or Tony Romo. Even Jay Cutler or Alex Smith probably would have made it in a normal year for quarterbacks.
Personally, I’m fine with Manning making it over Stafford. Manning has thrown for 4,587 yards, 26 touchdowns and 16 interceptions while posting a 90.3 passer rating. Stafford has 4,518 yards, 36 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 96.6 passer rating.
The clear difference is the sizable advantage for Stafford in touchdown passes. Other than that, though, Manning is averaging three-quarters of an extra yard per attempt, and he’s leading the NFL with five fourth-quarter comebacks and six game-winning drives.
He’s turned Victor Cruz into a playmaker and he’s done so without a lot of surrounding help: The Giants rank dead-last in the league in rushing yards and yards per attempt, and the defense ranks 28th in scoring, 28th in yards, 27th in passing yards allowed and 22nd in rushing yards allowed.
The good news for Stafford supporters, though, is that he’ll likely be on the field when the Pro Bowl is actually played. There’s a very good chance Rodgers or Brees will go to the Super Bowl and someone else will bow out to injury, meaning Stafford, the No. 2 alternate, will get the call.
15. Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle Seahawks
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It’s really no surprise Kam Chancellor didn’t make the Pro Bowl, because no one really knows who he is. What is a surprise is that Dashon Goldson of the San Francisco 49ers was the third NFC safety to be selected.
Goldson plays on arguably the NFL’s top defense, so that could be a big reason why he was voted on. Playing with Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman, and the rest of the extremely talented players on the 49ers defense has to help Goldson, who actually didn’t grade very well against the run or the pass.
Meanwhile, Chancellor was possibly the conference’s best safety in 2011. He has recorded 74 tackles, intercepted four passes, and allowed just an average of 5.0 yards per attempt on passes thrown his way.
14. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
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If Matt Forte hadn’t gotten injured, he would easily deserve the final spot among NFC running backs. But since he did get injured and subsequently miss three games (next week will be his fourth), I have to go with Marshawn Lynch here.
Lynch was a one-man wrecking machine for the Seattle Seahawks. He has rushed for 1,118 yards on 4.2 yards per carry and topped 100 yards in the second half of the season alone. Lynch’s streak of scoring a touchdown in 11 straight games vaulted the Seahawks back into the NFC playoff hunt, and he’s done so with extremely mediocre play at the quarterback position.
13. Kevin Williams, DT, Minnesota Vikings
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With six Pro Bowl selections already in his trophy case, Kevin Williams seemed like a pretty good case to make his seventh. After all, Williams has given the Minnesota Vikings a consistent performance on a weekly basis, making life easier for defensive end Jared Allen.
The spot instead went to B.J. Raji, a key member of last year’s Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Raji frees up blockers for playmaking linebacker Clay Matthews, but he just hasn’t been nearly as effective in 2011.
Raji has just half of the sacks (three) that he had last year and actually rates as the third-worst defensive tackle in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
12. Andrew Whitworth, OT, Cincinnati Bengals
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For the first half of the season, Andrew Whitworth was arguably the NFL’s best offensive lineman. A.J. Green and Andy Dalton stole the show in Cincinnati, but Whitworth was by far the Bengals’ best player.
He allowed just one sack in the first 10 games and is probably the league’s premier pass blocker, behind just Joe Thomas. Whitworth has since faded, which has coincided with the Bengals’ tougher schedule (all four games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens came in the second half of the season).
Whitworth would take the spot of Jake Long. Long has been nothing short of a stud since he joined the NFL as the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, but he endured his worst season as a pro in 2011.
Long gave up four sacks in the first three games. By comparison, he gave up just two his entire rookie season.
11. London Fletcher, ILB, Washington Redskins
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Even though he has made just two Pro Bowl selections, London Fletcher has a legitimate case for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is an absolute tackling machine, and he seems to get better with age.
Fletcher leads the NFL with 163 tackles, an incredible 18 more than anyone else in the league. He’s forced three fumbles and opened up lanes for Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Ryan Kerrigan to run through.
Brian Urlacher—who made his eighth career Pro Bowl—had a fine season, but wasn’t as good as Fletcher.
10. John Sullivan, C, Minnesota Vikings
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As it usually works for offensive linemen, once a player makes it once or twice, he’s going to make it every year. Ryan Kalil of the Carolina Panthers has made it three straight times now, including this year, but he certainly didn’t deserve it.
John Sullivan was a stud for Minnesota and he seemed to get better as the year went on. He’s at his best when blocking for Adrian Peterson and the ground game, and he also made life easier for rookie QB Christian Ponder.
9. Bryan Bulaga, OT, Green Bay Packers
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Watch out for the Green Bay Packers in the future. They’ve got Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and with first-round picks each of the last two seasons on bookend offensive tackles, the Packers are set for many years to come.
Bryan Bulaga established himself as a premier lineman, the kind of guy the Packers can pencil in as a starter for the next decade. He has allowed just one sack all season and rates second only to Jason Peters among run-blocking tackles.
8. Duane Brown, OT, Houston Texans
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It’s always tough to grade how offensive linemen do, and selecting D’Brickashaw Ferguson as the third AFC offensive tackle certainly wasn’t a poor choice.
Duane Brown would have been a better fit, though. Brown has not allowed a single sack all season—the only offensive tackle who has started every game to have done that.
7. Brian Cushing, ILB, Houston Texans
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It’s tough to argue with the selection of Ray Lewis, a player who is probably the greatest middle linebacker who ever lived.
I would leave him off my roster for Brian Cushing, though, for several reasons, primarily the fact that Lewis has missed four games with a toe injury.
Cushing has started all 15 games and he’s been absolutely dominant as a pass-rusher, registering an incredible 22 quarterback pressures to just three for Lewis.
6. Aldon Smith, OLB, San Francisco 49ers
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Someone needs to change the way the Pro Bowl voting works. Aldon Smith wasn’t eligible for the fan voting because he technically doesn’t start. He’s a pass-rushing specialist, although he is used on about half the snaps (49.2 percent).
Without the fan voting to back his Pro Bowl case—which constitutes one-third of the voting process—Smith didn’t stand a very good chance to make it. Smith should have made it over Lance Briggs, a fine player who has made seven straight Pro Bowl selections.
5. Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
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Jason Babin has enjoyed a career year as a pass-rusher, racking up an incredible 18 sacks, but he’s actually the second-best defensive end on his own team, behind Trent Cole. You could even make a legitimate case that Babin is the third-best defensive lineman on the Philadelphia Eagles (Cullen Jenkins).
Babin benefits greatly from the wide-nine scheme implemented by new defensive line coach Jim Washburn, the man who was able to kick-start Babin’s career last season with Tennessee. He also is aided by the explosive play of Trent Cole on the other side, a pass-rushing and run-stuffing force who often requires multiple blockers, thus freeing up space for Babin to make plays.
4. Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
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Before the season, I expected Ndamukong Suh to lead all NFL defensive tackles in most of the pass-rushing attributes—sacks, quarterback pressures and QB hits.
In reality, it’s been Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals, a relatively unknown player who is having a monster season. Atkins leads all tackles with nine sacks and 14 QB hits, and his 25 pressures rank second just to Suh for his position.
Not to take anything away from Vince Wilfork—a fine player who can play both the 3-4 and 4-3—but Atkins has been significantly better this year. He just doesn’t have the name to get the recognition.
3. Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
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Like Aldon Smith, Victor Cruz couldn’t be voted by the fans, simply because he wasn’t on the ballot. That doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve the Pro Bowl, though.
Cruz set the New York Giants' franchise record for receiving yards, and he’s still got a game to go to add to his totals: 76 catches, 1,358 yards and eight touchdowns. After recording just two catches for 17 total yards in his first two games, Cruz broke out with a 110-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3.
From that point on, he became one of the elite receivers in the NFL, stealing passes from teammate Mario Manningham and proving to be one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 season.
His numbers tower over those of Greg Jennings—the NFC’s fourth receiver—but Jennings got the nod because he was on the ballot and Cruz wasn’t.
2. Chris Myers, C, Houston Texans
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This guy has been the Most Valuable Player of the Houston Texans. He’s kept the team upright through three quarterbacks and while both Arian Foster and Andre Johnson missed time due to injury.
Myers has surpassed Nick Mangold as the NFL’s top center. He grades extremely well as a pass-blocker (just one sack allowed), but he’s at his best as a ferocious run-blocker and has helped Foster and second-year back Ben Tate tremendously.
Myers lost out in the Pro Bowl voting to Mangold and Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey was a rookie last year and a key component of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl team, but his 2011 season wasn’t what it should have been. Pouncey struggled a lot early and just didn’t provide the consistency that Myers did.
1. Evan Mathis, G, Philadelphia Eagles
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People need to realize just what kind of a season Evan Mathis is having in 2011. He rates as the best offensive lineman in all of the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. He has been an absolute monster as a run blocker, opening up holes for LeSean McCoy all season, and he hasn’t allowed a sack as a pass blocker.
PFF grades each player based on each play in every game, and Mathis hasn’t had a negative game in any of his 14 starts. He’s the only offensive player to have pulled off that feat.
As a free agent heading into this offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles would be foolish not to offer Mathis a long-term deal.