Pro Bowl Fantasy Draft 2014: Grading Team Rice vs. Team Sanders After Selections

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Pro Bowl Fantasy Draft 2014: Grading Team Rice vs. Team Sanders After Selections
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 Pro Bowl will be different than all those that came before it. Gone are teams based on conference affiliations, and here are teams based on the whims of NFL legends Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders. 

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These two former playerswho, by many accounts, are the greatest to ever play their respective positionsstarted off this affair by selecting two captains apiece: Rice went with Drew Brees and Robert Quinn and Sanders selected J.J. Watt and Jamaal Charles.

That was followed by the selection of defensive and offensive interior linemen, fullbacks, special teams players and punters. As if those guys don't get beat on outside of the limelight enough in the regular season, they don't even get the attention in this draft. 

On the second day, everyone else was drafted in a drawn-out and tropical process on the NFL Network. 

After all of that, here are the rosters we are left with: 

Pro Bowl Rosters
Team Sanders Position Team Rice
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers RB Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins RB DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals WR Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys WR Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers WR Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys TE Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
Branden Albert, Kansas City Chiefs OT Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
Trent Williams, Washington Redskins OT Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys
Duane Brown, Houston Texans OT Jordan Gross, Carolina Panthers
Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills DE Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints
Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers DE Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins
Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs OLB Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs
Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins (via trade) OLB John Abraham, Arizona Cardinals
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens OLB Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts (via trade)
Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers ILB Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati Bengals
Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville Jaguars ILB Derrick Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs
Tim Jennings, Chicago Bears CB Alterraun Verner, Tennessee Titans
Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals CB Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns
Darrelle Revis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Brandon Flowers, Kansas City Chiefs
Brent Grimes, Miami Dolphins CB Antonio Cromartie, New York Jets
T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns S Antrel Rolle, New York Giants
Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs S Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills
Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers S Eric Reid, San Francisco 49ers
Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens K Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots
Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings PR Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs
Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions DT Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys
Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Marcell Dareus, Buggalo Bills
Dontari Poe, Kansas City Chiefs DT Kyle Williams, Buffalo Bills
Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens OG Jahri Evans, Philadelphia Eagles
Logan Mankins, New England Patriots OG Ben Grubbs, New Orleans Saints
Kyle Long, St. Louis Rams OG Evan Mathis, New Orleans Saints
Mike Pouncey, Chicago Bears C Ryan Kalil, Carolina Panthers
Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns C Nick Mangold, New York Jets
Marcel Reece, Oakland Raiders FB Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers
Matthew Slater, New England Patriots ST Justin Bethel, Arizona Cardinals
Brandon Fields, Miami Dolphins P Johnny Hekker, St. Louis Rams

We will see if any of this helps the product of the game. So far, it is not getting universal acclaim:

If nothing else, this new process makes evaluating the rosters more interesting, and I'll do just that. 

I'm going to offer up grades and break the players into two groups: offense and defense. Then, I'm going to break down each of those groupings into two sub-categories: passing game and running game—which is a woefully poor way to do this, but it is nicer them calling "players that matter" and "players that don't matter." 

In football games that matter, those latter labels would be an insult, but in the Pro Bowl, there isn't the same level of impact being made by players in the trenches.



Passing Game

Team Rice

MARCO GARCIA/Associated Press

QB: Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Alex Smith

WR: Josh Gordon, Alshon Jeffery Brandon Marshall,  Larry Fitzgerald

TE: Jimmy GrahamTony Gonzalez

With Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints reunited, Team Rice has a wonderful foundation for success. 

Rice also went for physical receivers who can make plays all over the field to pair with his experienced quarterbacks. This is the foundation for a team that features precision passing and possession football. My only criticism is that Rice left a lot of speed for Sanders

Grade: B


Team Sanders

Marco Garcia/Associated Press

QB: Andrew LuckCam NewtonNick Foles

WR: A.J. Green, Dez BryantAntonio Brown, DeSean Jackson

TE: Jason WittenJordan Cameron

Sanders went with a youth movement with his quarterbacks. Although his passers are not as polished, there is more collective mobility. 

I prefer Sanders' receivers over Rice's, in the context of this game, due to this being a group that thrives more as a whole on speed rather than physicality. Both Brown and Jackson have the speed and moves to take a short pass to the house, and Green and Bryant have a strong size/speed combination. 

In the less physical environment of the Pro Bowl, speed kills. 

Grade: A-


Running Game

Team Rice

Marco Garcia/Associated Press
Joe Thomas pondering the meaning of linemen in the Pro Bowl.

RB: LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte

FBMike Tolbert, Panthers

T: Joe Thomas, Tyron Smith, Jordan Gross

G: Jahri Evans, Ben GrubbsEvan Mathis

C: Ryan Kalil, Nick Mangold

Rice not only gave Drew Brees his favorite target, but also two of his guards. That helped give Rice a strong and bullish offensive line.

In fact, I prefer this offensive line over Sanders', and the potential is there for this team to open up big holes for the talented backs. 

You can't knock Rice for selecting a stable of backs led by LeSean McCoy and the blocking, running and receiving of Mike Tolbert

Grade: A-


Team Sanders

MARCO GARCIA/Associated Press

RB: Jamaal Charles, Eddie Lacy, Alfred Morris

FBMarcel Reece

T: Trent Williams, Duane Brown, Branden Albert

G: Marshal Yanda, Logan Mankins, Kyle Long

C: Mike PounceyAlex Mack

As I said, I'm not as big a fan of Sanders' offensive line, although it should be a touch better in pass protection, which could lead to rushing yards from the quarterbacks. 

Like Rice, there is no knocking Sanders for his choice of backs. Jamaal Charles is a touchdown waiting to happen, and Marcel Reece's ability to leave the backfield and catch passes down the field is perfect for the Pro Bowl. 

Grade: A-




Passing Game

Team Rice

CB: Joe HadenBrandon Flowers, Antonio Cromartie, Alterraun Verner

S: Eric Reid, Jairus Byrd, Antrel Rolle

As far as Pro Bowlers go, Rice has a blue-collar group in the secondary. His corners aren't boom-or-bust players, and they aren't going to wow people with insane size/speed ratios. 

Although Joe Haden has a costly lapse from time to time, this is a group of corners and safeties that can be counted on during every play. That should work out well in the Pro Bowl, where teams are constantly hunting for the big play. 

Grade: A


Team Sanders

CB: Patrick Peterson, Darrelle Revis, Brent Grimes, Tim Jennings

S: Eric Berry, Eric Weddle, T.J. Ward

The secondary group for Sanders' team is a little more boom-or-bust, but there are some highlight makers in this group.

Of course, along with the highlights come the occasional lapses and penchant to give up the big play. In the Pro Bowl, I see a gambling type like Patrick Peterson or Tim Jennings only making even riskier decisions. 

Grade: B


Running Game

Team Rice

Eugene Tanner/Associated Press

DE: Robert Quinn, Cameron Jordan, Cameron Wake, Jason Hatcher

DTMarcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Jason Hatcher

OLB: Justin Houston, Robert Mathis, John Abraham

ILB: Vontaze Burfict, Derrick Johnson

This is a good and versatile front seven for Mr. Rice. He's got power up the middle with his pair of Bills defensive tackles and then has inside linebackers who pick up tackles by the handfuls. 

On the edge, Justin Houston, Robert Mathis and John Abraham are a menacing pass-rushing trio, but it is not the most well-rounded group. Although the range and coverage skills of Derrick Johnson should help make up for that, as they did in Kansas City this year. 

Grade: A-


Team Sanders

Eugene Tanner/Associated Press

DE: J.J. Watt, Greg Hardy, Mario Williams

DTNdamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe 

OLB: Brian Orakpo, Tamba Hali, Terrell Suggs

ILB: Luke Kuechly, Paul Posluszny

Well, this group is just frightening. J.J. Watt with Ndamukong Suh on his inside and Tamba Hali on his outside? No thank what quarterbacks would be saying if this wasn't the Pro Bowl. 

Of course, the tropical setting tells us that pass-rushing is not going to be a big part of this game.

Still, this group isn't going to leave many holes for running backs, either. 

Grade: A

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