In an effort to make the Pro Bowl a little more interesting, the NFL decided to forgo the customary battle between conferences. In its stead, the league opted for a draft to fill out the two teams, which are headed up by NFL legends Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders.
It remains to be seen if this will help make the exhibition game any more exciting, but at the very least, it is more fun comparing the teams.
Now, instead of having teams sorted out by the happenstance of conference alignment, we have draft strategy and execution to look over.
The first day—yes, there were two days of this draft—was reserved for the selection of captains and defensive and offensive interior linemen, fullbacks, special teams players and punters. Or in other words, the players who get beat on the most and paid the least...and punters.
Here are the results from the first day, and don't worry about squinting, I also have the rosters below:
After that, it was onto Day 2 of the Pro Bowl draft. The second day was highlighted by the selection of everyone else.
Check out the vitals for this game, and then we'll take a closer look at the rosters.
When: Sunday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
Watch: NBC (TV); NBC Sports Live Extra (Live Stream)
|RBs||LeSean McCoy||Mike Tolbert|
|WR||Brandon Marshall||Josh Gordon|
|OL||Joe Thomas||Jahri Evans||Ryan Kalil||Ben Grubbs||Tyron Smith|
|Safties||Jairus Byrd||Eric Reid|
|CBs||Alterraun Verner||Joe Haden|
|LBs||Robert Mathis||Vontaze Burfict||Justin Houston|
|DL||Robert Quinn||Kyle Williams||Marcell Dareus||Cameron Jordan|
|RB||Jamaal Charles||Marcel Reece|
|WR||A.J. Green||Dez Bryant|
|OL||Brandon Albert||Logan Mankins||Mike Pouncey||Marshal Yanda||Trent Williams|
|Safties||Eric Berry||Eric Weddle|
|CBs||Patrick Peterson||Darrelle Revis|
|LBs||Tamba Hali||Luke Kuechly||Terrell Suggs|
|DL||J.J. Watt||Dontari Poe||Ndamukong Sug||Mario Williams|
|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|
Weighing the Matchup
The first thing I look at when it comes to weighing a matchup in the Pro Bowl is the skill position players—especially those in the passing game. In football games that count, I try to never overlook the trenches. I believe physical dominance at the point of attack is the most fruitful path to consistent success in the NFL.
In the Pro Bowl, and understandably so, the point of attack more closely resembles a resort than a trench, however.
So, if the big guys who move the NFL will forgive me, I'm going to largely overlook them here.
Team Rice opted for more physical receivers with players like Brandon Marshall and Larry Fitzgerald. Also, with a secondary group consisting of players like Alterraun Verner and Jairus Byrd, Team Rice does not have the same kind of tantalizing size/speed ratio.
At the quarterback position, Team Rice have far more polished passers with Drew Brees and Philip Rivers stepping in under center, but Team Sanders have the explosive playmaking of Cam Newton and Andrew Luck, who is as polished a passer as the league has ever seen out of a second-year quarterback.
Although, that apparently doesn't extend to his fashion sense:
Andrew Luck stays safe from the Hawaiian sun at the Pro Bowl Draft. pic.twitter.com/I8mbiWOTPq— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 23, 2014
In the backfield, both teams have dynamic runners with big-play ability, with Jamaal Charles on Team Sanders and LeSean McCoy on Team Rice.
Team Sanders does have a great Pro Bowl weapon at fullback, however, in Marcel Reece. The versatile Raiders fullback is a real threat down the field. Although the Panthers' Mike Tolbert is a better blocker and more physical player, Reece's abilities are made for the Pro Bowl.
Another edge I see for Team Sanders is that Team Rice are loaded with amazing pass-rushers like Robert Mathis, Justin Houston and Robert Quinn.
What was the last game-changing sack you remember in the Pro Bowl, though?
In case you can't tell, I give the edge here to Team Sanders. They are simply better suited for the highlight environment of the Pro Bowl.