NFL Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders made the most of the inaugural Pro Bowl Draft as the league attempts to revive an event that has been dead in the water for years.
The shot in the dark may just work.
With the nation under the influence of a thing called fantasy football, a fantasy draft that features the biggest names in the NFL (barring injured or championship-bound stars) only made sense. The final rosters have the look of exciting matchups—on paper.
|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|
|RB||LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles|
|Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers||RB||Matt Forte, Chicago Bears|
|Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins||RB||DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys|
|Marcel Reece, Oakland Raiders||FB||Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers|
|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|
|Mike Pouncey, Miami Dolphins||C||Ryan Kalil, Carolina Panthers|
|Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns||C||Nick Mangold, New York Jets|
|Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens||OG||Jahri Evans, New Orleans Saints|
|Logan Mankins, New England Patriots||OG||Ben Grubbs, New Orleans Saints|
|Kyle Long, Chicago Bears||OG||Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles|
|Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions||DT||Kyle Williams, Buffalo Bills|
|Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers||DT||Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys|
|Dontari Poe, Kansas City Chiefs||DT||Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills|
|Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills||DE||Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints|
|Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers||DE||Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins|
|J.J. Watt, Houston Texans||DE|
|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|
|Brandon Fields, Miami Dolphins||P||Johnny Hekker, St. Louis Rams|
|Matthew Slater, New England Patriots||ST||Justin Bethel, Arizona Cardinals|
|J.J. Jansen, Carolina Panthers||LS||Matt Overton, Indianapolis Colts|
Of course, vocal detractors remain in the face of the league's attempt to revitalize the annual spectacle, such as legendary coach John Madden, via Mad Dog Sports Radio:
John Madden on Pro Bowl: "It's become an embarrassment, it's become a joke, and as they seek to improve it, it's become an even bigger joke"— Mad Dog Sports Radio (@MadDogRadio) January 22, 2014
Regardless, the NFL has set the stage for intriguing matchups that were once only reserved for the imagination. Perhaps the biggest example is superstars from the same team set to battle one another as they line up on opposite sides of the field.
For example, Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis of Team Rice has the chance to hit Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who was the No. 1 overall pick. Mathis told reporters, via NFL.com's Kevin Patra, that he would not hit Luck: "No. It's my quarterback, I'm not going to hit him. We joked about it. It was just jokes. I'm glad it didn't happen."
But it did happen, as Mathis was traded for Brian Orakpo and will subsequently line up across from Luck. Now Mathis has a dilemma on his hands. Do not expect him to change his approach in regards to hitting his own quarterback, however.
Mathis is far from the only player stuck in this awkward situation—which makes for great entertainment among fans.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who replaced New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, will have to face several of his own defenders. This time, the hits and mistakes will be meaningful against the likes of defensive tackle Dontari Poe, linebacker Tamba Hali and safety Eric Berry.
The same goes for San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who was drafted by Team Rice and will somehow have to avoid star safety Eric Weddle.
Speaking of Weddle, he was not too thrilled about his late selection and laid out an epic interview during his wait, which Rivers may want to pay attention to, per Ricky Henne of the Chargers' website:
It doesn’t really matter [where I go]. I’m just chilling. [It’s] been 17 hours in here right now. But when it comes to Sunday, and I told both coaches, they’re going to regret along with everyone in this room [because] I’ll be on the field in the fourth quarter and ready to wreck shop.
Chargers safety Eric Weddle can feel the excitement at the Pro Bowl draft. pic.twitter.com/Lzv5GZvh9c— Bleacher Report NFL (@BR_NFL) January 23, 2014
While Weddle sounds angry, one has to think he will not take out his frustrations on his own quarterback.
Defenders going against their own signal-callers is far from the only storyline to watch, as receivers and cornerbacks from the same teams will also line up across from each other for epic matchups.
Arizona Cardinals star cornerback Patrick Peterson will line up across from Larry Fitzgerald. As CBS Sports' Will Brinson illustrates, this matchup, only made possible via the Pro Bowl, is a must-see affair:
It does not end there. Will Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict light up receiver A.J. Green if he comes across the middle? Is Cleveland Browns wideout Josh Gordon safe if he goes deep in T.J. Ward's direction? It can be assumed those defenders will take it easy on their offensive counterparts, but both are not known for holding back—so do not be shocked to see some vicious friendly fire.
While far from the only intriguing matchups to watch, the above scenarios should raise the expectations of fans everywhere for this year's Pro Bowl. "What if?" scenarios are always a hot topic, and the upcoming spectacle in Hawaii will fulfill many of those dream matchups.