Pro Bowl

2014 NFL Pro Bowl Mock Draft

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystJanuary 21, 2014

2014 NFL Pro Bowl Mock Draft

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    Eat your heart out, Meadowlands.
    Eat your heart out, Meadowlands.Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

    The most exciting weekend of NFL action is almost here!

    Not the Super Bowl, you goof. I mean, who really cares about that game?

    It's all about the commercials and musical genius of Bruno Mars in the tropical paradise that is New Jersey in February.

    No, I'm talking about the Pro Bowl, where the NFL's very best gather each year for the hardest-fought game of the season, a 60-minute fight to the death in the frozen wastes of Honolulu.

    In an effort to somehow make the Pro Bowl more exciting (like that's possible), the NFL made some big changes to the format for this year.

    Rather than AFC vs. NFC, Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will pick teams fantasy-style from the pool of players, aided by fans and this year's player captains.

    So, as the NFL prepares to make history with this unprecedented event, here's a look at how this year's new wrinkles will unfold into the greatest single game in the history of any sport ever.

    I'll even stop being sarcastic.

Rules

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    I spent much of the last slide jesting because many see the Pro Bowl as something of a joke.

    Scores of players have backed out of the game in recent years due to an assortment of phantom injuries. The level of play in the game two years ago was so horrific that there was talk of abolishing it altogether.

    It got better last year, but that didn't stop the calls for the Pro Bowl to be put out of its misery.

    However, the NFL isn't going to get rid of a game that, for all its problems, is still a money-maker. So instead, the league decided to turn the rules upside down. 

    Buckle up, folks. We're headed through the looking glass.

     

    Rosters

    Each Pro Bowl team has a total of 44 players. 21 offensive players (four wide receivers, three tackles, three guards, two centers, two tight ends, three quarterbacks, three running backs and a fullback), 18 defensive players (three defensive ends, three defensive tackles, three outside linebackers, two inside linebackers, four cornerbacks and three safeties) and five special teams players (a punter, kicker, specialist, returner and "need" player, like a long snapper).

    So, 88 players.

     

    The Draft

    On Tuesday, Jan. 20, a coin toss will be held between captains Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders. The winner can either have their choice of player captain groups (one offense, one defense) or the first pick in each of the two player drafts.

    Yes, two drafts.

    On Tuesday, the first group of 22 players will be selected (defensive tackles, guards, centers, fullbacks, punters and specialists). If necessary, players will be assigned to rosters to meet requirements. The "need" player is also an assignee.

    Picks are made in alternating order.

    Then on Wednesday, the remaining players (wide receivers, tackles, tight ends, quarterbacks, running backs, linebackers, defensive backs, defensive ends, kickers and returners) will be chosen.

    Some notes on Wednesday's "main event," courtesy of NFL.com:

    Four of the players above will be captains and already on a team prior to the Wednesday draft.

    There will be a minimum of 12 players assigned. There will be a maximum of 48 players drafted.

    Once each team has two quarterbacks on its roster, they may not take a third quarterback until the last round of the draft.

    At the conclusion of the draft, the team that chooses second may make one trade. Players must be the same position (e.g., wide receiver for wide receiver). This must only involve players selected beyond the fifth round. The trade may not be for a quarterback. If the team that chose second decides to make a trade, the trade is mandatory.

    Given these rules, they really should have let Matt Millen pick a team.

    Talk about TV history.

Captains

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    The 2014 Pro Bowl rosters will be selected by a pair of the greatest to ever play the game.

    As he usually was during his playing days, Deion Sanders is full of confidence heading into Tuesday's draft, telling CBS Sports, “I think it is going to be a blowout. I don’t think Jerry has strategized.”

    Jerry Rice, of course, disagrees, stating, “That’s not going to happen. I have a pretty good mindset of where I want to go.”

    Both men have been rather coy about their strategy for the draft, but both indicated an affinity for younger players and newcomers to the game.

    Said Sanders, “You want what you want. I know the guys that are going to cover. No matter what, they’re not cutting no deals.”

    Rice was wary, though, adding that while he expects his team to be more balanced, Sanders "might go the opposite way and try to select some veterans.”

    Rice and Sanders have the final say on picks, but they'll have help.

    The four player captains are comprised of two pairs: The top vote-getter of offense and second-place finisher on defense (Drew Brees and Robert Quinn) and the top vote-getter on defense and second-place finisher on offense (J.J. Watt and Jamaal Charles).

    Rounding out the "front offices" are a pair of very lucky fans who won the right to help select the teams via contests.

    Say what you will about the Pro Bowl, but the league is making an effort to shake things up. 

Coin Toss

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    Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    The first order of business is the coin flip that will determine the captains and draft order.

    Sanders lost the coin toss affording Team Rice the choice of first pick or the captains.

    For Rice, the decision was an easy one.

    As good as Jamaal Charles was this year for the Kansas City Chiefs, running backs are devalued in the Pro Bowl. In snatching up Drew Brees and Robert Quinn, Rice gets a two-fer: a 5,000-yard passer and a defensive end who finished 2013 with 19 sacks, which was second in the league. 

    So it's Brees and Quinn to Team Rice, Charles and J.J. Watt to Team Sanders.

    Team Sanders is on the clock.

Tuesday's Draft

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Tuesday's draft won't make or break the game, but it has its importance. It's not that the interior linemen comprising the majority of the player pool aren't all very good at what they do. The type of game played in Honolulu just isn't one that fits their skill set.

    The two captains selected for each team, however, could make all the difference.

    Here's a look at the selections made on Tuesday:

     

    Team Rice

    Jason Hatcher DTDallas Cowboys
    Marcell Dareus DTBuffalo Bills
    Kyle WilliamsDTBuffalo Bills
    Jahri EvansOGNew Orleans Saints
    Ben GrubbsOGNew Orleans Saints
    Evan MathisOGPhiladelphia Eagles
    Ryan KalilCCarolina Panthers
    Nick MangoldCNew York Jets
    Mike Tolbert FBCarolina Panthers
    Justin Bethel STArizona Cardinals
    Johnny Hekker PSt. Louis Rams
    Matt Overton LSIndianapolis Colts
    Drew BreesQBNew Orleans Saints
    Robert QuinnDESt. Louis Rams

     

    Analysis

    Selecting his captains first, Rice wasted no time adding Drew Brees and Robert Quinn to his roster. Brees could easily be the MVP of the game given the way defense has played in this all-star game of late.

    Robert Quinn will be a problem for whichever signal-callers Sanders selects Wednesday.

    Fullback Mike Tolbert was the second biggest weapon added to the team on Tuesday. The Panthers ball-carrier can be extremely effective out of the backfield.

     

    Team Sanders

    Ndamukong Suh DTDetroit Lions
    Gerald McCoyDTTampa Bay Buccaneers
    Dontari PoeDTKansas City Chiefs
    Marshal Yanda OGBaltimore Ravens
    Logan Mankins OGNew England Patriots
    Kyle LongOGChicago Bears
    Mike Pouncey CMiami Dolphins
    Alex MackCCleveland Browns
    Marcel ReeceFBOakland Raiders
    Matthew SlaterSTNew England Patriots
    Brandon FieldsPMiami Dolphins
    J.J. JansenLSCarolina Panthers
    Jamaal CharlesRBKansas City Chiefs
    J.J. WattDEHouston Texans

     

     

    Analysis

    Selecting second, Sanders was able to add the league's most dynamic running back in Jamaal Charles and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt.

    Whichever QBs he adds on Wednesday night will be well protected with Yanda, Mankins, Long, Pouncey and Mack manning the interior line.

    Special teamer Matthew Slater has been one of the league's best for a number of years.

Wednesday's Draft

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Wednesday is when the magic happens.

    On the second day of the Pro Bowl draft, a three-hour televised special will detail the picks that will win this game.

    Whether it's passing the ball or stopping it, the road to victory at the Pro Bowl involves a trip to the airport.

    Before we get to the picks, a few notes...

    For the sake of this exercise, I attempted to approach this game with the understanding that the Pro Bowl isn't a "regular" football game. Some positions increased in value as a result, while others fell.

    It's a good day to be a quarterback. Not so much a pass-rushing outside linebacker in a game where blitzes aren't allowed.

    Also, the nuances of the rules can impact draft strategy. If you have only one remaining slot at a position, your next choice there will automatically reward the remaining players at that position to the other team.

    An example: When Team Rice selected Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson with the 26th pick, that filled their wideout corps. Team Sanders then automatically received Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, while also picking next.

    When Sanders and Rice do this for real, they may be less wary of those occurrences, but I was leery of affording too many "freebies."

    (Pick number in parentheses.)

      

    Previously Assigned Players

    Team Sanders: Jamaal Charles (RB, Kansas City Chiefs), J.J. Watt (DE, Houston Texans), J.J. Jansen (LS, Carolina Panthers)

    Team Rice: Drew Brees (QB, New Orleans Saints), Robert Quinn (DE, St. Louis Rams), Matt Overton (LS, Indianapolis Colts)

     

    Round 1

    Team Sanders (1): Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

    Team Rice (2): Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints

     

    Round 2

    Team Sanders (3): Darrelle Revis, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Team Rice (4): A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

     

    Round 3

    Team Sanders (5): Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals

    Team Rice (6): Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns

     

    Round 4

    Team Sanders (7): Luke Kuechly, ILB, Carolina Panthers

    Team Rice (8): Derrick Johnson, ILB, Kansas City Chiefs

     

    Round 5

    Team Sanders (9): Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

    Team Rice (10): LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

     

    Round 6

    Team Sanders (11): Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Team Rice (12): Joe Thomas, OT, Cleveland Browns

     

    Round 7

    Team Sanders (13): Cameron Jordan, DE, New Orleans Saints

    Team Rice (14): Joe Haden, CB, Cleveland Browns

     

    Round 8

    Team Sanders (15): Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts

    Team Rice (16): Robert Mathis, OLB, Indianapolis Colts

     

    Round 9

    Team Sanders (17): Jordan Gross, OT, Carolina Panthers

    Team Rice (18): Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs

     

    Round 10

    Team Sanders (19): Justin Houston, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs

    Team Rice (20): Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals

     

    Round 11

    Team Sanders (21): Brandon Flowers, CB, Kansas City Chiefs

    Team Rice (22): Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears

     

    Round 12

    Team Sanders (23): Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons

    Team Rice (24): Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills

     

    Round 13

    Team Sanders (25): DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys

    Team Rice (26): DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (Fills WR slots)

    Note: Per Pro Bowl Rules, Brandon Marshall (WR, Chicago Bears) and Alshon Jeffery (WR, Chicago Bears) are assigned to Team Sanders.

     

    Round 14

    Team Sanders (27): Duane Brown, OT, Houston Texans

    Team Rice (28): Tim Jennings, CB, Chicago Bears

     

    Round 15

    Team Sanders (29): Antrel Rolle, S, New York Giants

    Team Rice (30): Trent Williams, OT, Washington Redskins

     

    Round 16

    Team Sanders (31): Cordarrelle Patterson, KR, Minnesota Vikings (Fills KR slot)

    Team Rice (32): Greg Hardy, DE, Carolina Panthers

    Note: Per Pro Bowl rules, Dexter McCluster (KR, Kansas City Chiefs) assigned to Team Rice.

     

    Round 17

    Team Sanders (33): Brian Orakpo, OLB, Washington Redskins

    Team Rice (34): Tamba Hali, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs

     

    Round 18

    Team Sanders (35): Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers

    Team Rice (36): Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

     

    Round 19

    Team Sanders (37): Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns (Fills TE slots)

    Team Rice (38): Alterraun Verner, CB, Tennessee Titans

    Note: Per Pro Bowl rules, Jason Witten (TE, Dallas Cowboys) assigned to Team Rice.

     

    Round 20

    Team Sanders (39): Brent Grimes, CB. Miami Dolphins (Fills CB slots)

    Team Rice (40): Branden Albert, OT, Kansas City Chiefs (Fills OT slots)

    Note: Per Pro Bowl rules, Antonio Cromartie (CB, New York Jets) assigned to Team Rice. Tyron Smith (OT, Dallas Cowboys) assigned to Team Sanders.

     

    Round 21

    Team Sanders (41): Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers (Fills RB slots)

    Team Rice (42): Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Cincinnati Bengals (Fills ILB slots)

    Note: Per Pro Bowl rules, Alfred Morris (RB, Washington Redskins) assigned to Team Rice. Paul Posluszny (ILB, Jacksonville Jaguars) assigned to Team Sanders.

     

    Round 22

    Team Sanders (43): Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore Ravens (Fills K slot)

    Team Rice (44): Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo Bills (Fills DE slots)

    Note: Per Pro Bowl rules, Stephen Gostkowski (K, New England Patriots) assigned to Team Rice. Cameron Wake (DE, Miami Dolphins) assigned to Team Sanders.

     

    Round 23

    Team Sanders (45): John Abraham, OLB, Arizona Cardinals (Fills OLB slots)

    Team Rice (46) Eric Reid, S, San Francisco 49ers (Fills S slots)

    Note: Per Pro Bowl rules, Terrell Suggs (OLB, Baltimore Ravens) assigned to Team Rice. T.J. Ward (S, Cleveland Browns) assigned to Team Sanders.

     

    Round 24

    Team Sanders (47): Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (Fills QB slots)

    Note: Per Pro Bowl rules, Alex Smith (QB, Kansas City Chiefs) assigned to Team Rice.

     

    Analysis

    With Team Rice already having a quarterback, there was really no need for Team Sanders to take one so early. However, there also isn't a player in the pool more tailor-made to run the "Prime Time" offense than Cam Newton of the Panthers.

    From there, it was defense. Sanders, as a former cornerback, will likely prioritize the secondary. That's reflected in the back-to-back picks of Darrelle Revis and Patrick Peterson. In fact, in Watt, Revis and Kuechly, Sanders may have the best individual player at each level of the defense in this year's game.

    It's also not as if the offense suffered unnecessarily. The Team Sanders stable of young guns under center has plenty of options in the passing game, and DeMarco Murray joins Charles as a second tailback more than capable of hurting teams through the air.

    Meanwhile, it should come as little surprise that the NFL's greatest receiver might favor the passing game, and that's the direction Team Rice took in this draft.

    Whether it was Brees' teammate Jimmy Graham with their first pick, wideouts A.J. Green and Josh Gordon with the next two selections or DeSean Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald and Jason Witten later on, there are no shortage of targets for Team Rice's quarterbacks.

    About those quarterbacks: They may be a bit long in the tooth, but the duo of Brees and Philip Rivers have combined to win a few shootouts in their day.

    Granted, on paper at least, Team Rice doesn't appear as stout defensively. However, it's worth pointing out that safeties Jairus Byrd and Eric Berry are among the very best in the NFL at their position in coverage.

    Team Rice also has a nice combination of youth and experience in the pass-rush, especially since both Robert Mathis and Terrell Suggs have experience playing with their hand down.

    Team Rice also elected not to use their trade option, standing pat.

Final Rosters

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    Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

    Combining Tuesday's results with Wednesday's projections, here's a look at the final rosters for each team in the 2014 Pro Bowl.

     

    TEAM RICE

    QB: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

    QB: Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

    QB: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

    RB: LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

    RB: Matt Forte, Chicago Bears

    RB: Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins

    FB: Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers

    WR: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

    WR: Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns

    WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

    WR: DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles

    TE: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

    TE: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

    OT: Joe Thomas, Clevalend Browns

    OT: Trent Williams, Washington Redskins

    OT: Branden Albert, Kansas City Chiefs

    OG: Jahri Evans, New Orleans Saints

    OG: Ben Grubbs, New Orleans Saints

    OG: Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles

    C: Ryan Kalil, Carolina Panthers

    C: Nick Mangold, New York Jets

    DE: Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams

    DE: Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers

    DE: Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills

    DT: Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys

    DT: Kyle Williams, Buffalo Bills

    DT: Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills

    OLB: Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts

    OLB: Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs

    OLB: Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

    ILB: Derrick Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs

    ILB: Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati Bengals

    CB: Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns

    CB: Tim Jennings, Chicago Bears

    CB: Alterraun Verner, Tennessee Titans

    CB: Antonio Cromartie, New York Jets

    S: Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs

    S: Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills

    S: Eric Reid, San Francisco 49ers

    K: Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots

    P: Johnny Hekker, St. Louis Rams

    KR: Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs

    ST: Justin Bethel, Arizona Cardinals

    LS: Matt Overton, Indianapolis Colts

     

    TEAM SANDERS

    QB: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

    QB: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

    QB: Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles

    RB: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

    RB: DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

    RB: Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

    FB: Marcel Reece, Oakland Raiders

    WR: Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

    WR: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

    WR: Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears

    WR: Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears

    TE: Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons

    TE: Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns

    OT: Jordan Gross, Carolina Panthers

    OT: Duane Brown, Houston Texans

    OT: Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys

    OG: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens

    OG: Logan Mankins, New England Patriots

    OG: Kyle Long, Chicago Bears

    C: Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns

    C: Mike Pouncey, Miami Dolphins

    DT: Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions

    DT: Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    DT: Dontari Poe, Kansas City Chiefs

    DE: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

    DE: Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints

    DE: Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins

    OLB: Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs

    OLB: Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins

    OLB: John Abraham, Arizona Cardinals 

    ILB: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers 

    ILB: Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville Jaguars

    CB: Darrelle Revis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

    CB: Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals 

    CB: Brandon Flowers, Kansas City Chiefs 

    CB: Brent Grimes, Miami Dolphins 

    S: Antrel Rolle, New York Giants 

    S: Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers 

    S: T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns

    K: Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens

    P: Brandon Fields, Miami Dolphins

    KR: Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings

    ST: Matthew Slater, New England Patriots

    LS: J.J. Jansen, Carolina Panthers

Conclusion

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    Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

    So, what have we learned from this little exercise?

    Well, if this mock was any indication, it's possible to go defense early in the Pro Bowl draft and not suffer too badly, but the impact is a little more apparent the other way around.

    This isn't to say that Rice or Sanders can't load up offensively early and still field a good defense (relatively speaking), but the depth at spots like wide receiver, tight end and even quarterback is such that those positions don't need to be a priority early.

    For a game with so much passing, the talent pool at cornerback is shallower. For that reason, if I had to choose a player as the individual with the most value, my vote would lie with Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis.

    Finally, those nuances I mentioned in the draft rules could add a very interesting wrinkle or two to draft night(s), or have no impact whatsoever.

    It will be interesting to see how much the two GMs try to use those rules to their advantage, or Rice will exercise the trade option.

    All in all, this new format for the Pro Bowl is just thatnew. Right now at least, the novelty is refreshing, although that could quickly change if a botched draft leads to a blowout.

    And that's the rub. None of this will matter if the game's lousy. Maybe the new format will bring a bit more effort out of the players, and the two teams will be more evenly matched than ever.

    Or it will be a train wreck, and we'll be back to AFC vs. NFC in no time.

    Either way, the NFL has already accomplished its goal.

    We're talking about the Pro Bowl without snickering.

    Well mostly, anyway.

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