Russell Wilson isn't playing in the Super Bowl for the first time since his rookie season, which opened up the Seattle Seahawks quarterback's schedule to become the No. 1 pick in Wednesday night's Pro Bowl draft.
Wilson went off the board first to Michael Irvin in the live draft, which was broadcast on ESPN2 from Wheeler Army Airfield in Wahiawa, Hawaii. He was immediately followed by New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who will be under center for the team captained by Jerry Rice.
Wilson was without question the season's second-half MVP, throwing for 24 touchdowns against a single interception in Seattle's final seven regular-season games. The Seahawks won six of those contests and defeated the Vikings in Minnesota during their Wild Card Round matchup before falling to the eventual NFC champion Carolina Panthers. Wilson reacted to his selection on Twitter:
Russell Wilson @DangeRussWilson
#TeamIrvin Let's go!!! #ProBowl20162016-1-28 01:01:20
Of course, Wilson was a natural choice because he's the remaining player from the original six quarterbacks selected who will be participating. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger all withdrew because of injuries. Cam Newton is ineligible to play as he prepares for Super Bowl 50.
In fact, the 2016 Pro Bowl will go down as the least starry in history. As noted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert, citing the Elias Sports Bureau, there have been 133 players named to the game as original selections or alternates—an all-time record by 14 players. The Pro Bowl has carried less and less clout with players over the years, with their selections being used as resume builders more than anything else.
Seifert came up with a suggestion to perhaps fix the game:
If anything, this Pro Bowl will be a gathering of future stars. Perhaps that is an idea for Pro Bowls moving forward. There's nothing wrong with voting on a true year-end All-Star team, but perhaps the Pro Bowl could be played by promising younger players—the Derek Carrs and Jameis Winstons of each season -- who would be eager to participate and to be marketed as the future of the league. Just a thought as the roster hemorrhage continues.
All of this made Manning another natural pick at No. 2. He's the only other quarterback in the game with Pro Bowl experience. Selected for the first time since 2012, Manning threw for 4,436 yards and 35 touchdowns against 14 interceptions this season, setting a number of career highs in the process.
|1||QB Russell Wilson (Seahawks)|
|2||WR Julio Jones (Falcons)|
|3||CB Richard Sherman (Seahawks)|
|4||DE Ezekiel Ansah (Lions)|
|5||DE Michael Bennett (Seahawks)|
|6||WR A.J. Green (Bengals)|
|7||WR DeAndre Hopkins (Texans)|
|8||RB Todd Gurley (Rams)|
|9||OLB Anthony Barr (Vikings)|
|10||CB Desmond Trufant (Falcons)|
|11||WR Allen Robinson (Jaguars)|
|12||LB Lavonte David (Buccaneers)|
|13||TE Tyler Eifert (Bengals)|
|14||QB Jameis Winston (Buccaneers)|
|15||DE Carlos Dunlap (Bengals)|
|16||QB Teddy Bridgewater (Vikings)|
|17||TE Delanie Walker (Titans)|
|18||S Reshad Jones (Dolphins)|
|19||OLB Sean Lee (Cowboys)|
|20||CB Adam Jones (Bengals)|
|21||RB Latavius Murray (Raiders)|
|22||S Malcolm Jenkins (Eagles)|
|23||CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Giants)|
|24||FS Harrison Smith (Vikings)|
|Captain||RB Devonta Freeman (Falcons)|
|Captain||DT Geno Atkins (Bengals)|
|1||QB Eli Manning (Giants)|
|2||DE Khalil Mack (Raiders)|
|3||WR Jarvis Landry (Dolphins)|
|4||QB Derek Carr (Raiders)|
|5||WR Amari Cooper (Raiders)|
|6||CB Marcus Peters (Chiefs)|
|7||RB Adrian Peterson (Vikings)|
|8||OLB Tamba Hali (Chiefs)|
|9||DE Everson Griffen (Vikings)|
|10||CB Vontae Davis (Colts)|
|11||WR T.Y. Hilton (Colts)|
|12||CB Brent Grimes (Dolphins)|
|13||RB Doug Martin (Buccaneers)|
|14||TE Travis Kelce (Chiefs)|
|15||S Eric Berry (Chiefs)|
|16||LB Julius Peppers (Packers)|
|17||DE Cameron Jordan (Saints)|
|18||QB Tyrod Taylor (Bills)|
|19||TE Gary Barnidge (Browns)|
|20||OLB Elvis Dumervil (Ravens)|
|21||RB Chris Ivory (Jets)|
|22||CB Jason Verrett (Chargers)|
|23||SS Mike Adams (Colts)|
|24||SS Charles Woodson (Raiders)|
|Captain||WR Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants)|
|Captain||DT Aaron Donald (Rams)|
If we're comparing the weapons available for the two quarterbacks, there's no question Irvin got the better of Rice. Wilson will have the chance to throw to Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green, arguably the three best receivers selected.
Rice went with youngsters Jarvis Landry and Amari Cooper despite Hopkins and Green still being available for both selections. Having Manning's Giants teammate, Odell Beckham Jr., around as a captain will help matters, but suffice it to say Rice dropped the ball a little here in crafting the best all-around corps.
"We'll have to talk about it," Manning said, when asked about any potential special plays for himself and Beckham, per ESPN.com. "We've got a few plays that we've run over the years that we might have to throw into the offense, and hopefully, we can get together on a couple big plays."
Irvin also made a point to load up on Seahawks early. In addition to Wilson, he selected cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive end Michael Bennett within the first five rounds. Linebacker Bobby Wagner and kick returner Tyler Lockett were assigned to Team Rice as part of Tuesday's proceedings.
Irvin's first-team offense is strong on the ground as well, with Devonta Freeman coming over as a captain and Todd Gurley being selected in the eighth round. Rice added Adrian Peterson in the seventh round, but it's a curious selection given how unlikely it is the 30-year-old will want to pound the rock the entire game.
As it stands, it's hard to envision Team Irvin not coming into Sunday's game as a favorite. The game won't at all be reflective of the best of the 2016 season, but we at least should know after Wednesday who we'd rather have drafting our fantasy teams.