Predicting the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl Team
The Pro Bowl rosters for the 2012-13 season were announced yesterday and there were not many surprises. Players like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson have been to countless Pro Bowls and are very deserving. But for a rookie kicker like Blair Walsh to be named is amazing and a dream come true for that young player.
Another player who has lived up to his preseason hype is Robert Griffin III. The rookie signal-caller for the Redskins gets the Pro Bowl nod in the NFC over players like Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Drew Brees and Cam Newton.
Here is a list of my predictions for the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl. Many names will appear from this year’s roster, but there are some new faces that have the potential to be in Hawaii after next season.
Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck
Manning and Brady are shoe-ins for the Pro Bowl as long as they are playing and healthy. Both are Super Bowl Champions and respected around the NFL. Luck will replace the Texans Matt Schaub in next year’s Pro Bowl.
Luck has taken the Colts to the playoffs in his rookie season and with another year under his belt; Luck will cut down on his turnovers and produce even more touchdowns.
Aaron Rodgers, Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick
The group of Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Griffin for the 2013 Pro Bowl is solid. Those three could be selected for the next couple years. It is amazing to not see Saints quarterback Drew Brees in the mix though.
Rodgers is still one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL and Griffin III has proven his worth to the Redskins this year as well. Kaepernick took over for Alex Smith and has been solid. With an offseason as the starter and the time to prepare as the lead dog, Kaepernick has the tools and talent around him to be in the Pro Bowl in 2014.
AFC Running Backs
Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles, C.J. Spiller
Foster and Charles are in the 2013 Pro Bowl with Ray Rice of the Ravens. All three are deserving of the honor.
But in 2014, Spiller has the talent and skill set to replace Rice as a Pro Bowl player. Spiller took over the lead job from Fred Jackson an excelled in 2012. With a full offseason to prepare, Spiller will put up career high numbers in 2013.
NFC Running Backs
Adrian Peterson, Alfred Morris, Doug Martin
Peterson is a staple for the Pro Bowl any year he is healthy and one of the best running backs of all time. His name resonates with fans and players alike.
Morris and Martin are both rookies in 2012 but have made names for themselves as well. Both rushed for over 1,000 yards in their initial campaign and will only get better. Both players are in run-happy offenses where their touches will be plentiful. Look for Morris and Martin to replace Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch in the 2014 Pro Bowl.
The true fullback is being replaced by the H-back. But when talking about a NFL fullback, Leach is the prototypical model. Having started out as a college free agent in Green Bay, Leach has made a great niche for himself clearing out the running lanes for players like Ahman Green, Arian Foster and now Ray Rice.
The Atlanta Falcons fullback will replace Jerome Felton of the Vikings in 2014. Cox is a strong lead blocker and when used in the passing game, has shown the ability to pick up tough yards.
With the emergence of Jacquizz Rodgers in the Falcons offense, Cox will be asked to clear the way for the smaller runner. With the Falcons success, Cox will get more attention and thus will be voted a Pro Bowler in 2014.
AFC Wide Receivers
A.J. Green, Andre Johnson, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas
Green has proven himself in two NFL seasons as one of the best in the game. Johnson has been consistently good for years.
Gordon and Thomas will replace Wes Welker and Reggie Wayne in 2014 as Pro Bowl receivers. Gordon did not arrive in Cleveland until after the supplemental draft and still put up solid numbers in 2012. Thomas will continue to flourish playing with Peyton Manning and will have a career year in 2013.
NFC Wide Receivers
Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall, Vincent Jackson
The NFC is loaded with very good wide receivers and a case could be made for quite a few. Johnson, Jones and Marshall are all 2013 Pro Bowl receivers and with good years in the 2013 season, should be in Hawaii again in 2014.
Jackson will replace the Giants Victor Cruz in 2014 though. Jackson put up impressive numbers in his first year in Tampa Bay and will only get better as the Buccaneers offense evolves. Jackson and quarterback Josh Freeman will be a tandem to watch out for in the next couple seasons.
AFC Tight Ends
Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Myers
Gronkowski missed a lot of time this season with injuries and still was voted into the Pro Bowl. Gronkowski is a star player that has a huge fan following as well.
Myers plays on a bad Oakland team and does not get the national recognition. But Oakland will be better in 2013 and Myers will be a major reason why. Myers came into the 2012 season with only 32 career receptions but has caught 75 already on the season.
NFC Tight Ends
Jimmy Graham, Kyle Rudolph
Tony Gonzalez of the Falcons and Jason Witten of the Cowboys are the 2103 Pro Bowl tight ends for the NFC. Gonzalez is talking about retiring and Witten, coming off a career year in 2013, will not be targeted as much in the Cowboy’s offense with the emergence of Dez Bryant.
Graham and Rudolph are young players who are in offensive systems that use the tight end quite a bit. Both players, when healthy, are weapons in the middle of the field and are tough matchups for the defense.
AFC Offensive Tackles
Joe Thomas, Ryan Clady, Duane Brown
These three players are the same Pro Bowlers in 2013 representing the AFC. The only caveat to these three returning in 2014 is that Clady is a free agent and could sign with another team.
The Broncos know how talented Clady is and will lock him up to a long-term deal or place the franchise tag on him. Thomas, Clady and Brown are all young players that will be representing the AFC at tackle for years to come.
NFC Offensive Tackles
Joe Staley, Russell Okung, Matt Kalil
The depth and talent of offensive tackle position in the NFC is not even close to that of the AFC. That being said, Staley and Okung are very good players on good teams. Both will be in Hawaii year after year.
The Redskins’ Trent Williams is representing the NFC in 2013 but will be replaced by the up and coming talent that is Kalil in 2014. Kalil has proven he is one of the elite left tackles in the NFL already in his rookie season and will be a Pro Bowl staple for years.
AFC Offensive Guards
Marshal Yanda, Logan Mankins, Andy Levitre
Yanda and Mankins are Pro Bowl staples. Wade Smith of the Houston Texans is the third guard in the 2013 Pro Bowl. Levitre will replace him in 2014.
Levitre is a free agent after the 2013 season and could choose to sign with another team. But Buffalo has shown the ability to spend on free agents and keep their own players. Look for Levitre to stay a Bill and to represent the city of Buffalo in the Pro Bowl in 2014.
NFC Offensive Guards
Mike Iupati, Jahri Evans, Carl Nicks
Iupati and Evans are Pro Bowlers in 2013 and will be again in 2014. Nicks signed a huge free agent deal with the Tampa Buccaneers before the 2013 season. Nicks was injured most of this season. The former New Orleans Saint will be back to 100 percent in 2013 and will reclaim his place in the Pro Bowl in 2014, replacing the Giants’ Chris Snee.
Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Pouncey
Maurkice is a 2013 Pro Bowl player and will be again in 2014. His brother, Mike, a Miami Dolphin should have been selected this season. He will not be overlooked in 2014.
Mike will replace the Texans’ Chris Myers. Mike will grow under the Joe Philbin offensive system in Miami and will become a fixture in Hawaii with his brother for years to come.
Max Unger, Ryan Kalil
Unger is representing the Seattle Seahawks as a Pro Bowler in 2013. The former Oregon Duck will be the NFC Pro Bowl center in 2014 barring injury. Jeff Saturday of the Green Bay Packers was voted into the Pro Bowl in 2013 and is not even the starter on his own team.
Saturday will be replaced by Kalil in 2014. Kalil is a talented player who was hurt and put on injured reserve for the Carolina Panthers in 2013. Kalil will regain his Pro Bowl form and will be back in Hawaii in 2014.
AFC Defensive Ends
J.J. Watt, Cameron Wake, Chandler Jones
Watt is one of the best players in the NFL and will be a perennial Pro Bowler as long as he stays healthy. Wake has been a huge find for Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and will again be in the Pro Bowl in 2014.
Jones, of the New England Patriots, has a very bright future and will add a Pro Bowl to his list of accomplishments in 2014. Jones will replace Elvis Dumervil of the Broncos. Jones plays in a great scheme for his skill set and has a huge upside.
NFC Defensive Ends
Julius Peppers, Greg Hardy, Chris Clemons
The three defensive ends selected for the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl are Peppers, Minnesota Viking Jared Allen and the New York Giants Jason Pierre-Paul. While Peppers has the statistics to back up his selection, Allen and Pierre-Paul are in due to reputation.
Hardy and Clemons are both good pass rushers who can also play the run well. If Hardy was on a team with a better record, his 11 sacks in 2012 would be getting a lot more attention. Look for Hardy and Clemons to join Peppers in 2014.
AFC Defensive Tackles
Geno Atkins, Haloti Ngata, Vince Wilfork
A case could be made for Atkins as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The Bengals defensive tackle has 12.5 sacks on the season and is a run-stuffer in the middle. Ngata and Wilfork may not have great sack statistics, but both are the anchor for their defense.
Any future Pro Bowl voting for AFC defensive tackles starts with those three players. Their names will be on the ballot for years to come.
NFC Defensive Tackles
Justin Smith, Henry Melton, Michael Brockers
Smith is a stalwart and one of the best players in the NFL. Melton had a huge breakout season for the Bears. Melton getting voted to the 2013 Pro Bowl could not have happened at a better time. Melton is in the final year of his rookie contract and will be a free agent after the season.
Brockers will replace Gerald McCoy of the Buccaneers in 2014. McCoy had a solid season for Tampa in 2012 but Brockers has a huge upside and is in a great defensive scheme. Look for Brockers to have a major impact on the Rams defense in 2013.
AFC Outside Linebackers
Von Miller, Brian Cushing, Justin Houston
Miller is on the 2013 Pro Bowl squad and will continue to be in the game for the foreseeable future. Cushing was injured this season but should be back to his playmaking days in 2013.
Robert Mathis of the Colts and Tamba Hali of the Chiefs are deserving of the Pro Bowl in 2013, but Hali’s teammate, Houston is a player on the rise and should be selected to Hawaii in 2014. Houston actually has better statistics than Hali for the 2012 season.
NFC Outside Linebackers
Aldon Smith, DeMarcus Ware, Lavonte David
Smith is the best outside linebacker in the NFL and should be in the Pro Bowl for the next 10 years. Ware is still elite and continues to build on his Hall of Fame resume. David is a rookie this season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While sacks are the sexy statistic for voters, David is a true weak side linebacker. David makes plays in the run and passing game. Clay Matthews, a 2013 Pro Bowler even though he has missed a majority of the season with an injury, will be bumped in 2014 by David.
AFC Inside Linebackers
Derrick Johnson, D’Qwell Jackson
Johnson is the leader of the Chiefs defense and seems to get better with each passing season. New England’s Jerod Mayo was selected as the starter for the 2013 Pro Bowl. He will not return in 2014.
Jackson deserved a nod in 2013 and as his stature around the NFL continues to grow, Jackson will get more national recognition. Jackson has more sacks and passes defended than Mayo in 2013.
NFC Inside Linebackers
NaVorro Bowman, Sean Lee
Bowman had a fantastic 2012. Not only did he get voted to the 2013 Pro Bowl, but the 49ers rewarded Bowman with a huge new contract. That signing will pay off dividends for years to come for both the team and the player.
Lee went on injured reserve in 2012 and the Cowboys defense was affected in a major way. Lee was playing at a Pro Bowl level before getting injured. If healthy in 2013, Lee has the talent to get back to that playing level. Lee will knock Patrick Willis off the Pro Bowl team in 2014.
Darrelle Revis, Joe Haden, Lardarius Webb
The entire AFC cornerback roster will change in the 2014 Pro Bowl. The Broncos Champ Bailey, Houston’s Jonathan Joseph and the Jets Antonio Cromartie are in for 2013. None of them will be on the squad in 2014.
Revis and Webb would have been in this season if not for season-ending injuries. Haden was not eligible due to PED suspension. With all of those players healthy in 2013, look for all three to be representing their teams in Hawaii.
Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Janoris Jenkins
Browner and Sherman should be in the Pro Bowl in 2013 but Browner was suspended for PEDs and Sherman had PED accusations hanging over his head during the voting process. The Bears Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are worthy of being Pro Bowlers but need to enjoy their trip this season. They will not be back in 2014.
Jenkins had an incredible rookie season and will look to spring board that success into a Pro Bowl visit in 2014. The rookie had three touchdowns on interception returns. The NFC is loaded with talent at the cornerback position and the NFC squad, like the AFC, will look plenty different in 2014.
Eric Berry, Jairus Byrd, Reshad Jones
Berry is a constant for the Pro Bowl and will be on the team for as long as he is healthy. Byrd should have been voted on the 2013 squad. Baltimore’s Ed Reed and the Jets LaRon Landry make up the unit for 2013.
Byrd and Jones will replace them in 2014. Byrd is one of the best players in the AFC and is an obvious snub in 2013. Jones, along with Cameron Wake, is one of the best players on the Dolphins. Jones came into his own in 2012 and the future is very bright for the former Georgia Bulldog.
Dashon Goldson, Earl Thomas, William Moore
Goldson and Thomas are members of the 2013 Pro Bowl team and will get voted onto the 2014 squad as well. Moore should have been on the 2013 team.
Moore will replace Donte Whitner of the 49ers in 2014. Whitner was voted in with only one interception. Moore has four on the season and two forced fumbles.
Colquitt is the AFC representative for 2013 and will be again in 2014. Colquitt had 42 punts inside the 20 yard line and bailed out the Chiefs offense time and time again.
Morstead will repeat as the NFC Pro Bowl punter in 2014. Morstead led the NFL in net punting in 2013 and benefits greatly from playing a majority of his games indoors. Morstead gets great hang time on his kicks and is a valuable weapon for the Saints.
The Cleveland kicker only missed one field goal in 2012 and did so playing in tough conditions in Cleveland. Dawson does not look to be slowing down and should get the Pro Bowl nod in 2014 as well.
There was lots of talk about the Rams rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein this season, but Walsh had one of the best seasons any kicker has ever had. Walsh had nine field goals over 50 yards and did not have a miss from that distance. The Vikings have a Pro Bowl kicker for years to come.
Jones had a stellar 2012 season after signing with Baltimore this past offseason. Jones had three returns for touchdowns and was a game-changer for the Ravens. Jones is still young and will get countless opportunities to hit big returns for the Ravens in 2013 and beyond.
The Packers returner will replace Leon Washington on the Pro Bowl squad in 2014. Cobb is a legitimate returner of both kickoffs and punts. Cobb averaged over 9 yards a return on punts and had a score for the Packers.