NFL Pro Bowl 2014: Under-the-Radar Players Most Deserving of Honor

Tyler BrookeSenior Analyst IIDecember 24, 2013

Dec 1, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) catches a pass against the Minnesota Vikings for an 80 yard touchdown catch in the third quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. Vikings win 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Being selected to the NFL Pro Bowl is a huge honor in the league, and there are a few players flying under the radar right now that truly deserve to be selected by the fans.

Big names like Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson are obviously getting plenty of attention as well as a ton of Pro Bowl votes, but a few players that have been critical to their respective teams' success deserve enough attention to be selected as well.

Below is a look at a few of these players, explaining what makes them so important and why they deserve to be selected to the Pro Bowl.

 

Lavonte David, OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA, FL -  NOVEMBER 17:  Linebacker Lavonte David #54 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signals that a pass by the Atlanta Falcons  is not complete November 17, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Tampa won 41 - 28. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Get
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Sacks are always the flashy stat when looking at outside linebackers, which is why players in 3-4 defensive schemes usually get selected to the Pro Bowl.  But what Lavonte David has done for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season in their 4-3 defense should be rewarded.

The numbers from David are eye-popping enough that fans should be talking more about him.  He's had 137 combined tackles in 15 games, adding another 6.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, 10 passes defended and five interceptions.

For a 4-3 linebacker, those are not only Pro Bowl-caliber numbers, but they should also help put him in the conversation for the Defensive Player of the Year.

Unfortunately, since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are just 4-11 this season, the casual fan hasn't heard much about David this year.  This is just his second season since being drafted out of Nebraska, and David is already playing like one of the best linebackers in the league.

 

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears

Arguably the most improved player in the NFL this season, Alshon Jeffery is having a brilliant sophomore campaign with the Chicago Bears.  Unfortunately, with how many terrific wide receivers there are out there, only eight can be selected, and there's a chance that Jeffery could be the odd man out.

In 2012, Jeffery played in just 10 games, catching 24 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns.  He showed promise at times, but he was never a game changer at the position.  This year, it's been a different story, as Jeffery has caught 86 passes for 1,341 yards and seven touchdowns, coming up with incredible receptions on a regular basis.

The Bears have had a strong season, even without Jay Cutler, and Jeffery was a terrific weapon for Josh McCown as he was forced into the starting lineup.  Jeffery's ability to make difficult catches in traffic has made him an exciting player to watch, and he's been extremely productive despite being the No. 2 receiver behind Brandon Marshall.

Since he is a No. 2 guy, it will be hard for Jeffery to get enough fan votes, but with the way he's played this season, enough people have seen him make those incredible catches to give him a chance.

 

Evan Mathis, G, Philadelphia Eagles

Sep 15, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles guard Evan Mathis (69) leaves the field after playing the San Diego Chargers at Lincoln Financial Field. The Chargers defeated the Eagles 33-30. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Unless they're a top-tier name, offensive linemen very rarely get a lot of love, especially when they play offensive guard.  Perhaps the most underrated offensive lineman in the NFL this season has been Evan Mathis, as he's having the best season of any guard out there.

Mathis has been snubbed over the past two seasons, mostly being overlooked due to the tumultuous seasons from the rest of the offensive line for the Philadelphia Eagles.  However, things have been different this year, as the same five offensive linemen have started every game this season.

The run game for the Eagles has been the best in the league, averaging 161.9 rushing yards per game.  At left guard, Mathis has paved the way for some wide open running lanes for LeSean McCoy and Co.  In fact, Mathis has been so good that Pro Football Focus (subscription required) has him as the top offensive guard in the league with a 42.9 overall grade, with Louis Vasquez in second at 28.9.

If Mathis finishes this season on top of those rankings, it will be the third straight season he was graded as the best offensive guard by PFF.

Few players have been as overlooked as Mathis, and he certainly deserves a Pro Bowl nod for his work this season.