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Pro Bowl Odds for Best Players on St. Louis Rams' Roster

Matthew MeltonContributor IIIJuly 18, 2012

Pro Bowl Odds for Best Players on St. Louis Rams' Roster

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    Over the past five NFL seasons, if you were on the St. Louis Rams' roster and your name was not Steven Jackson, you had no hope of going to the Pro Bowl. 

    It was even worse if you'd actually been drafted by the Rams. No other Ram besides Jackson has made a Pro Bowl since his selection in 2004 NFL Draft.

    That's 69 players, over eight drafts, plus the countless free agents that have come and went at Rams Park.

    For the better part of the last decade, the Rams and the Pro Bowl have mixed as well as oil and water.

    To the outsider, the idea of setting Pro Bowl odds on a current Ram would seem to be rather futile, as if one were lining up the horse behind the cart.

    But on closer look, such a task allows us an opportunity for two pre-training-camp checkpoints: (1) How does the Rams' roster seem to be shaping up, both on offense and defense? (2) How do the Rams' top players compare to other elite NFL players at their respective positions?

    Admittedly, the Pro Bowl is a long shot for many on the Rams' roster, but I believe there are several players who have realistic chances at joining Steven Jackson in Hawaii come January 2013.

    To get to the Pro Bowl, the formula is relatively simple: (1) know the history; (2) know your competition; and most importantly (3) have the stats.

    Here's a position-by-position breakdown of the Rams' roster and the odds each player has of making the Pro Bowl.

Quarterback

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    Nothing like starting off with what might be the deepest position in the NFC, right?

    Aaron Rodgers. Drew Brees. Cam Newton. Eli Manning. Matt Ryan. Tony Romo. Mike Vick. That's the list for Sam Bradford. Now all he has to do is join it.

    For Bradford to reach the Pro Bowl, he is obviously going to need to dramatically improve his performance.

    Going back through the past three Pro Bowls, 12 quarterbacks have represented the NFC as a starter, backup or alternate.

    Those quarterbacks averaged 4,540 yards passing, 30 TDs, 65 percent completion percentage and a QB rating of 100 in their respective Pro Bowl seasons.

    Bradford has a large hill to climb. In his only full season as a rookie in 2010, he threw for just over 3,500 yards, 18 TDs, completed 60 percent of his passes and had a 76.5 QB rating.

    I think Bradford has the yards in him this season to get close to 4,500, especially in the Coryell-type offense sure to be run by new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

    But I don't see the touchdowns, or the efficiency, necessary to dramatically increase his QB rating.

    Add in the reality that Brees, Rodgers, Newton and the rest of the aforementioned QB royalty are not leaving the NFC anytime soon, and Bradford has no better than a 5% chance at making this year's Pro Bowl.

    Pro Bowl Odds 20:1

Running Back

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    Being the most seasoned Pro Bowl veteran on the Rams' roster means that Steven Jackson has as good a shot as any at being Hawaii-bound this season. 

    Over the last three seasons, NFC Pro Bowl running backs have averaged 1,635 yards from scrimmage, along with 11 touchdowns.

    These are numbers that Jackson can realistically attain, especially if you discard outliers such as the superbly insane regular seasons by LeSean McCoy (2011) and Adrian Peterson (2009).

    During that same three-season stretch, Jackson has averaged just over 1,600 yards from scrimmage, with five touchdowns, and probably most importantly, two Pro Bowl appearances.

    Fans and players (aka those who vote) surely respect Jackson's name and his game.

    I believe it's safe to project similar, if not better, numbers for Jackson, especially when it comes to scoring.

    When Jackson last scored double-digit touchdowns in a season (16 in 2006), he had a healthy QB throwing for 4,300 yards, two 1,000-yard wide receivers, plus a defense led by a dominant DE and an ILB who finished near the top of the NFC in tackles.

    But for having the two stud WRs, this Rams roster offers Jackson many of the same elements that led to him topping the NFC in touchdowns and leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 2006.

    Jackson knows he doesn't have many seasons left on his legs. This is his team, his year, his ball. There are not four better RBs in the NFC ahead of Jackson. I say he gets in this year.

    Pro Bowl Odds 1:1

Wide Receiver

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    There arguably has not been a position more mocked in recent Rams history than wide receiver.

    While Pro Bowl bids were once automatic for the Rams, thanks to Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, they have been in short supply for several years now.

    The numbers required to gain Pro Bowl status are not something to be taken lightly. You can thank Calvin Johnson, Roddy White and Larry Fitzgerald for that.

    Over the last three Pro Bowls, NFC wideouts averaged 80 catches, 1,200 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in their respective Pro Bowl seasons.

    Those numbers sound like the combined season totals for at least two or three Rams wide receivers.

    Steve Smith is the only WR on the Rams roster with Pro Bowl experience. In 2009, Smith gained 1,220 yards on 107 receptions and seven touchdowns for the New York Giants. But that was multiple knee injuries ago. It would seem that the Pro Bowl version of Steve Smith has otherwise left us.

    Danny Amendola is the most recent Ram to even sniff Pro Bowl numbers. In his last healthy season (2010), Amendola had 85 receptions, 689 yards and three touchdowns.

    The reality, however, is that as long as Amendola remains a possession receiver (which he will), he won't get the opportunities to gain the yards and touchdowns needed to compete with the young and ever-improving crop of WRs in the NFC.

    Newcomers Brian Quick and Chris Givens offer hope for Pro Bowl bids. But not this season. 

    The last time a rookie wide receiver was named to the NFC squad for the Pro Bowl was in 2003 (Anquan Boldin). That season Boldin had more than 100 catches and 1,300 yards.

    The phrase "slim to none" comes to mind when handicapping the Rams Pro Bowl chances at wide receiver.

    Pro Bowl Odds 50:1

Tight End

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    Tight end is a position that continues to get deeper in talent, as the hybrid receiver/blocking end position develops and becomes more prevalent in offensive playbooks.

    As long as Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis and Jason Witten are catching 80, 90 or even 100 balls a season, it is going to be next to impossible for Lance Kendricks to break through onto a Pro Bowl roster at the tight end position.

    We also cannot forget about Mr. 12-time Pro Bowler Tony Gonzalez, who shows no signs of slowing down for the Falcons, while Jermichael Finley and Brandon Pettigrew are no slouches themselves.

    Kendricks has the potential to be a playmaking threat, especially over the middle and in the seam.

    To get there, Kendricks will need to come close to 85 receptions, 970 yards and 8 touchdowns. That's the average season of an NFC Pro Bowl tight end over the last three seasons.

    Eventually, Gonzalez will give up his place atop the position. Kendricks is as good a candidate as any to fill the void. But not this year.

    There are at least a half dozen better tight ends than Kendricks in the NFC.

    Pro Bowl Odds 10:1

Defensive Line

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    The Rams have invested heavily in the team's defensive line, spending recent first-round picks on Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers.

    The best way to gauge the viability of that investment is to count the Pro Bowl appearances. So far, the team has come up empty, but the future definitely looks brighter.

    For defensive ends, the quickest way to the Pro Bowl is racking up large amounts of sack totals. Double digits are a must. 

    Over the last three seasons, the DEs who have been selected to the Pro Bowl from the NFC have averaged 14 sacks in their respective seasons.

    Jared Allen, Julius Peppers, Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Jason Babin have a lot in common, besides their alliterative first names.

    They all get to the quarterback, cause turnovers and make tackles at the line of scrimmage.

    Long can surely get to the QB. His sack totals have increased each of his four seasons, finishing with 13 in 2011. If Long can increase that number again, he should be at the top of many Pro Bowl ballots.

    For defensive tackle, it is a little dicier for the Rams. Darell Scott has yet to gain a sack in his NFL career, and Brockers has several more years of seasoning left in him before he can start talking Pro Bowls.  

    Long's breakout season last year is hopefully a sign of things to come.

    With more talent lined up next to Long on the defensive line, he should not face too many double teams. That should give Long plenty of room to wreak havoc in the offensive backfield.

    There are several stud DEs in the NFC. Long is one of them. Sixteen sacks and he should be in for the Pro Bowl. I say he will do it.

    Pro Bowl Odds 3:2

Linebacker

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    The fact that James Laurinaitis has not yet been named to a Pro Bowl is a crime in itself.

    It's not that there aren't plenty of deserving inside linebackers in the NFC. Patrick Willis, London Fletcher, Brian Urlacher and A.J. Hawk all are wonderful players.

    Last year, however, Laurinaitis outperformed them all. He had more tackles and more sacks than all of those above-named players.

    There has to be room on a Pro Bowl roster for the best ILB in the NFC, right?

    I have said before that Laurinatits needs to add the one missing element to his game—namely, the ability to strip the ball while making a tackle. 

    The best LBs do it, and Laurinaitis should as well.

    If Laurinaitis continues with triple-digit tackle totals, grabs a handful of sacks and causes a turnover or two during the season, he's in the Pro Bowl this season.

    How sweet would it be to watch 91 and 55 on the field in Hawaii representing the blue and gold?

    Pro Bowl Odds 1:1

Defensive Back

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    If the Rams' front seven takes care of business this season, getting to the quarterback and stopping the run, that should leave the Rams' secondary with plenty of juicy opportunities on long yardage situations on second and third down.

    Enter a Rams secondary that is the most talented, and deepest, in a long time.

    Two Pro Bowlers will man the backfield in Quintin Mikell (2009) and free agent acquisition, Cortland Finnegan (2008).

    Throw in two highly-touted rookie corners in Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, along with the very capable Darian Stewart, and the Rams have as good a defensive backfield as any in the NFC.

    The two statistical keys for a DB to make the Pro Bowl are: (1) tackles and (2) passes defended. I'm sure it also doesn't hurt to have a couple nice, highlight-making interceptions.

    For cornerbacks over the last three years, the average Pro Bowl season of an NFC representative has meant about 55 tackles and 16 passes defended.

    Finnegan's numbers from last year (58 tackles and 11 PDs) are right in line. Hopefully, Finnegan will be motivated by the team drafting two very capable replacements for him, should his recent boost in financial security stymie any of his edge.

    Mikell and Stewart also have good chances at the Pro Bowl this year. Mikell led all DBs last year in forced fumbles, and had more tackles (75) than the three free safeties selected last year from the NFC (Earl Thomas, Dashon Goldson and Kam Chancellor).

    Stewart's hill is a little higher, as he has to deal with five-time Pro Bowler (including the last four) Adrian Wilson, who hasn't lost anything, even at 32 years old.

    Mikell should get the call this year for Honolulu, and Finnegan has a bettor's chance himself.

    Pro Bowl Odds 1:1 (Mikell); 3:1 (Finnegan)

Placekicker

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    Placekicker is my dark horse for a Pro Bowl bid on the Rams roster. I can't imagine rookie kickers get much love, if any, from Pro Bowl voters, but if there was going to be one, Greg Zuerlein deserves to be it.

    As a Division II All-American last year, Zuerlein led the nation in field goals per game (2.3) and set a D-II record with 21 consecutive FGs (making 23 of 24 attempts).

    The problem for any kicker who has his eye on securing an NFC Pro Bowl invite lies with slaying one David Akers.

    Akers has had a virtual stranglehold on the position, taking NFC honors each of the last three seasons while setting career highs for field goals made (44) and attempted (52) in 2011.

    However, Akers will turn 38 during this upcoming NFL season, and if there was ever an opening atop the PK fraternity, this might be the season.

    Zuerlein's numbers from last year project well over a 16-game NFL season (mid-30s in FGM) with a very nice success rate.

    I do not mean to equate the kicking game of Division II with the NFL's, but the skill set is the same and as long as the kid has it going well between the ears, he should be a very nice replacement for Josh Brown.

    I would say it's worth a flyer on Z this season.

    Pro Bowl Odds 7:1

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