In the 1990s, Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin were mainstays on the NFC Pro Bowl roster and mired in a rivalry that extended to the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys. Now, the legendary wide receivers will bring back their glory days as captains for this year's Pro Bowl teams.
Under new rules established in 2014, the teams will be determined by a fantasy-style draft with all players up for grabs and the two team captains will select the rosters.
Here is the list of players up for grabs when the draft takes place on Wednesday, Jan. 27:
|2016 Pro Bowl Selections|
|QB||Russell Wilson, SEA||Ben Roethlisberger, PIT||Aaron Rodgers, GB|
|Carson Palmer, AZ||Cam Newton, CAR||Tom Brady, NE|
|RB||Jonathan Stewart, CAR||Adrian Peterson, MIN||LeSean McCoy, BUF|
|Todd Gurley, STL||Devonta Freeman, ATL||Doug Martin, TB|
|WR||Brandon Marshall, NYJ||Julio Jones, ATL||Calvin Johnson, DET|
|DeAndre Hopkins, HOU||A.J. Green, CIN||Larry Fitzgerald, AZ|
|Antonio Brown, PIT||Odell Beckham, NYG|
|TE||Greg Olsen, CAR||Travis Kelce, KC||Rob Gronkowski, NE|
|Tyler Eifert, CIN|
|OT||Trent Williams, WAS||Andrew Whitworth, CIN||Joe Thomas, CLE|
|Joe Staley, SF||Tyron Smith, DAL||Jason Peters, PHI|
|C||Mike Pouncey, MIA||Alex Mack, CLE||Ryan Kalil, CAR|
|Travis Frederick, DAL|
|G||Marshal Yanda, BAL||Trai Turner, CAR||Josh Sitton, GB|
|Zack Martin, DAL||Mike Iupati, AZ||David DeCastro, PIT|
|DE||Muhammad Wilkerson, NYJ||J.J. Watt, HOU||Khalil Mack, OAK|
|Chandler Jones, NE||Michael Bennett, SEA||Ezekiel Ansah, DET|
|DT||Kawann Short, CAR||Gerald McCoy, TB||Geno Atkins, CIN|
|Aaron Donald, STL||Fletcher Cox, PHI||Calais Campbell, AZ|
|OLB||DeMarcus Ware, DEN||Von Miller, DEN||Justin Houston, KC|
|Tamba Hali, KC||Thomas Davis, CAR||Jamie Collins, NE|
|ILB||Bobby Wagner, SEA||Clay Matthews, GB||Luke Kuechly, CAR|
|NaVorro Bowman, SF|
|CB||Aqib Talib, DEN||Richard Sherman, SEA||Darrelle Revis, NYJ|
|Patrick Peterson, AZ||Marcus Peters, KC||Josh Norman, CAR|
|S||Charles Woodson, OAK||Earl Thomas, SEA||Reggie Nelson, CIN|
|Tyrann Mathieu, AZ||Kam Chancellor, SEA||Eric Berry, KC|
|K||Stephen Gostkowski, NE||Dan Bailey, DAL|
|P||Sam Koch, BAL||Johnny Hekker, STL|
|Punt Returner||Darren Sproles, PHI||Tyler Lockett, SEA|
|Special Teams||Matthew Slater, NE||Justin Bethel, AZ|
It's important to note that these rosters will change a lot over the next month before the draft, as players decide not to play, get injured or, in the case of this year's Super Bowl participants, still have one more game left to prepare for.
As things stand right now, though, it will be interesting to see which direction Irvin and Rice go with their skill position selections.
This year's quarterback field is so loaded that Aaron Rodgers doesn't even feel worthy of being the top pick.
Russell Wilson has taken his game to a different level, one not seen in his in his four-year career, with 19 touchdown passes and no interceptions over Seattle's last five games, a new NFL record, per Elias Sports (via ESPN Stats & Info):
There's also Cam Newton, who is making a strong case to be this year's NFL MVP with 40 total touchdowns (33 passing) and using his arm and legs to set his own NFL records along the way like he did in Week 15 against the New York Giants, per SportsCenter:
Oh, it also doesn't hurt that Newton is leading a Panthers team that is currently 14-0 with a chance to become the third team in the Super Bowl era to make it through the regular season without a loss.
If fans are looking to gauge where the captains may look to be going with their quarterbacks, Rice may have tipped his hand to the NFL Network:
Of course, when thinking about Rice and Irvin, it's hard not look at this year's crop of Pro Bowl wide receivers.
There really isn't a wrong wideout to take, though there are different things that group is capable of doing. If you want someone who can overpower a cornerback, Brandon Marshall or Calvin Johnson are tall, physical players who present matchup problems.
Finding players who are just going to run down the field and create big plays opens up the field to include A.J. Green and Odell Beckham.
But let's be honest: any discussion involving wide receivers right now starts with Antonio Brown. Pittsburgh's superstar is operating at a different level than anyone else having been targeted at least 11 times in seven consecutive games, catching at least six passes in eight consecutive games and having at least 118 receiving yards five times in the last eight games.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, per ESPN Stats & Info, Brown is the first receiver in NFL history to have two games with at least 16 receptions in a single season. He did it in a six-week span, setting the record with 16 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns in Pittsburgh's Week 15 win over Denver.
With all the playmakers on offense, defense will be essential for Rice and Irvin. Houston Texans star J.J. Watt took some time to heat up this season, but he's found his mojo with 13.5 sacks heading into Week 16.
According to Neil Hornsby of Pro Football Focus, per TheMMQB.com, heading into a Week 13 game against the Buffalo Bills, Watt was actually outperforming the entire Bills defensive line with 29 quarterback hits and 13 sacks.
Watt is also the top defensive performer by defensive stops, per Pro Football Focus:
Not surprisingly, the top three names on that list are all Pro Bowlers.
Getting to the quarterback is the first line of defense for stopping the passing game, but depth in the secondary is also nice to have.
This year's crop of cornerbacks is nothing short of outstanding, with Pro Bowl veterans like Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis invited to Hawaii.
What is a pleasant surprise is seeing new names like Josh Norman, who has had an eventful 48 hours involving Beckham, and last year's Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler get recognized for their breakout seasons.
If there is any justice in the world, Beckham and Norman will end up on opposite sides in the game. Even though nothing will likely come of a glorified exhibition, the pre-game storyline of having those two on different teams will be worth the hype.
The NFL has been able to create this great intrigue for the draft by throwing all of its talented players into a pool to get drafted. Fantasy football rules the world, so making all of the league's top stars participate in a real-life fantasy draft only creates more buzz for the Jan. 31 matchup between Team Irvin and Team Rice.