Biggest Snubs and Surprises of NFL's 2021 Pro Bowl Selections
The NFL Pro Bowl may look different in 2020, but the criticism surrounding the rosters this year was as loud as it always is.
While the Pro Bowl is supposed to celebrate the league's most talented players, it's usually more of a popularity contest voted on by fans, players and coaches around the league. Many of the players selected don't even end up participating because they're either injured or preparing to play in the Super Bowl.
Although there won't be a traditional Pro Bowl played this year, being selected to participate is still an honor for the players. Pro Bowl selections are often mentioned when reflecting on a player's career, but they can also result in big paydays for players with certain incentives written into their contracts.
There were a handful of snubs and surprises once again this year. Take a look at the most notable ones.
Snub: DT DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts had three players selected to the Pro Bowl, but the omission of DeForest Buckner frustrated plenty of fans.
The Colts traded the 13th overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers for Buckner this past offseason, and he's been a big reason for their defensive success to date. He has produced 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles while racking up 24 hits on opposing quarterbacks in 13 games.
Stats are nice, but Buckner's impact goes beyond the box score.
The Colts felt his absence against the Tennessee Titans when he missed a game against the Tennessee Titans due to a positive COVID-19 test back in November. The Titans dominated the Colts in that game, scoring 45 points while running for 229 yards as a team.
For a player that has started to get Defensive Player of the Year consideration, Buckner might be the biggest Pro Bowl snub of all.
Surprise: G Andrus Peat, New Orleans Saints
A number of deserving interior offensive linemen were fighting for a handful of Pro Bowl spots in the NFC. However, New Orleans Saints guard Andrus Peat didn't deserve a selection over others in the conference.
This was the third straight Pro Bowl selection for Peat, whom the Saints took in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft. Pro Bowl voting for offensive linemen can be controversial since fans and players typically don't spend as much time studying the position, but Peat's selection this year was a bit of a surprise.
Peat has played 100 percent of the Saints' offensive snaps in only six games this season, according to Pro Football Reference. He has also missed two games because of injuries. Since several of his top competitors for that spot have stayed healthy and played at a high level, his availability (or lack thereof) should have counted against him.
Someone like Tampa Bay's Ali Marpet may have been more deserving to represent the NFC at offensive guard, but Peat was able to snag the selection instead.
Snub: WR Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons
All of the wide receivers selected in the NFC were deserving of their Pro Bowl nods, but Calvin Ridley had a strong case that might have gone overlooked due to his team's struggles.
The Falcons are 4-10 and playing for an interim head coach at the moment, but that hasn't slowed Ridley down. In 13 games, he's racked up 77 receptions for 1,192 yards and nine touchdowns, all of which are career highs.
Ridley may not have had a case against the likes of Davante Adams, DK Metcalf or DeAndre Hopkins, but he does have one compared to Minnesota Vikings rookie Justin Jefferson, who landed the NFC's final Pro Bowl nod at receiver. Ridley currently has more receptions, yards and touchdowns than Jefferson despite playing in one fewer game.
Being such an explosive rookie probably gave Jefferson the popularity bump over Ridley. However, it's disappointing that Ridley wasn't able to make his first Pro Bowl considering the type of season he's had.
Surprise: TE Evan Engram, New York Giants
Evan Engram might have been one of the New York Giants' more reliable weapons this year, but compared to other tight ends in the NFC, it was a shock to see him make the Pro Bowl.
Through 14 games, Engram is having one of the quieter seasons of his career, especially when it comes to finding the end zone. He's caught only 54 of his 95 targets for 572 yards and a single touchdown.
Not being able to find the end zone more than once should have been a big blemish on Engram's resume, along with his 56.8 catch percentage. It's even more disappointing when stacked up against a player like Robert Tonyan, who has hauled in 10 touchdowns and caught 89.1 percent of his targets.
Playing in the huge New York market likely helped Engram out with the fan vote, but coaches and players should have done a better job recognizing the more deserving tight ends in the NFC.
Snub: RB James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Justin Jefferson and Chase Young were the only two rookies to make the Pro Bowl this year, but James Robinson was another first-year player deserving of recognition.
Robinson went undrafted, but the Jacksonville Jaguars scooped him up and put him into a featured role after they suffered several injuries at running back. He currently sits at third in the NFL with 1,070 rushing yards, has 344 yards on 49 receptions and has scored 10 total touchdowns.
Those numbers should have at least put him in front of Josh Jacobs in the AFC, although Robinson was never going to compete with Derrick Henry or Nick Chubb in the Pro Bowl voting. Jacobs has had an inefficient year, averaging only 3.7 yards per carry with 907 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.
Playing for a Jaguars team that's in the running for the No. 1 overall pick didn't help Robinson's case. It would have been nice for an undrafted player to get some well-deserved recognition for the season he's had, but he couldn't compete in the voting with Jacobs, who had the entire Raiders fan base on his side.
Surprise: DE Frank Clark, Kansas City Chiefs
Frank Clark has had some dominant seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs, but this year wasn't one of them.
Through 14 games, Clark has recorded only 27 total tackles, five sacks, 12 quarterback hits and seven tackles for loss. He is currently pacing to have his least productive season since he was a rookie in 2015.
Last year's Pro Bowl selection made a bit more sense for Clark, when he had eight sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. This year, he has has yet to force a turnover, and he's pressuring opposing quarterbacks less frequently.
There were a number of other AFC defensive ends more deserving of Clark's spot. Miami's Emmanuel Ogbah is having a career year with nine sacks, while Pittsburgh's Stephon Tuitt has picked up eight sacks of his own.
Clark has the benefit of playing for a defending Super Bowl champion, but his production in 2020 isn't close to worthy of a Pro Bowl nod.
Snub: DE Trey Hendrickson, New Orleans Saints
For all of the New Orleans Saints players who were selected to this year's Pro Bowl, it was surprising not to see Trey Hendrickson listed among his teammates.
Hendrickson isn't a household name for most NFL fans, but his huge leap in 2020 should have gotten him some more attention. Not only is he tied with Aaron Donald at the top of the league with 12.5 sacks, but he's also hit opposing quarterbacks 24 times this season.
The 26-year-old was left off of the NFC's Pro Bowl roster while his teammate Cameron Jordan was selected at the same position. Jordan has had an impressive career and could make an argument to get into the Hall of Fame down the road, but his 6.5 sacks don't come close to Hendrickson's.
Name recognition kept Hendrickson out of the Pro Bowl this year, but if he can come back in 2021 and continue to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, he might get the Pro Bowl nod he deserves next year.