Biggest Snubs and Surprises of NFL's 2022 Pro Bowl Selections

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2021

Biggest Snubs and Surprises of NFL's 2022 Pro Bowl Selections

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    The NFL Pro Bowl game is set to return on Feb. 6 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

    The game has taken on many forms over the years, including a virtual affair in 2021. However, criticism surrounding the selection process has remained a constant. With fans having a one-third say in the voting, many view the Pro Bowl as a popularity contest based on name recognition.

    To some degree, that is how the Pro Bowl works. With players and coaches also having a vote, though, Pro Bowl rosters do involve players who aren't on the national radar as well.

    That combination can lead to a variety of surprises and snubs when the Pro Bowl teams are announced.

    Now that we know who has been named to the 2022 Pro Bowl—whether they actually play is another matter entirely—let's take a look at this year's biggest snubs and surprises.

Snub: Roquan Smith, LB, Chicago Bears

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith has never been to the Pro Bowl despite topping 100 tackles in each of his four seasons.

    The 24-year-old ranks fourth in the NFL with 140 tackles this year, but he's also been effective as a cover man and part-time pass-rusher. Smith has three sacks, three passes defended and an interception returned for a touchdown. He has allowed an opposing passer rating of only 76.3 in coverage.

    One of the game's best all-around linebackers, Smith is a central, reliable cog in Chicago's defense—he's played 95 percent of the defensive snaps for the second straight season. He's a Pro Bowler in every sense but an official one.

    Even teammate Akiem Hicks was shocked that Smith wasn't named to the 2022 all-star game.

    One could argue that Smith's omission was perhaps the biggest shock at any position during this year's voting cycle.

Surprise: Maxx Crosby, DE, Las Vegas Raiders

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    Las Vegas Raiders edge-rusher Maxx Crosby is worthy of a Pro Bowl selection. Through Week 15, he has totaled 43 tackles, four passes defended, 34 quarterback pressures and an impressive 25 quarterback hits.

    Still, it was a surprise to see Crosby make the roster. Pass-rushers are generally judged on sack totals, and Crosby has only five after Monday night's win over the Cleveland Browns. Eight AFC defensive ends have more.

    It's also surprising because outside of Las Vegas, Crosby hasn't garnered a ton of name recognition. However, those who play the game know Crosby well.

    "This year, he's really taken a step up and he's become one of the more premier pass rushers in this league," Browns guard Joel Bitonio said, per Rachel Gossen of the Raiders' official website. "It's not all sacks, it's pressures, it's his disruptiveness."

    Consider Crosby a prime example of why fan voting alone doesn't dictate who appears in the Pro Bowl. Crosby finished sixth at his position in fan voting, according to Josh Dubow of the Associated Press.

Snub: Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Las Vegas Raiders

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    For the same reasons it was surprising to see Crosby make the Pro Bowl, it was surprising to see Raiders teammate Yannick Ngakoue left off the roster.

    With nine sacks on the season, Ngakoue ranks behind only Myles Garrett and Trey Hendrickson among AFC defensive ends. He has added 26 tackles, 18 quarterback hits, 29 quarterback pressures and two forced fumbles.

    Perhaps voters believed that there was only room for one Raiders edge-defender in the Pro Bowl, but picking Crosby over Ngakoue wasn't an obvious decision. Again, sack numbers usually generate attention, and Ngakoue is a known commodity.

    Since first appearing with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014, Ngakoue has had at least eight sacks every season. He made the Pro Bowl in his second season but has never been invited back since.

    One of Las Vegas' prized offseason acquisitions, Ngakoue has lived up to his $5 million cap hit and then some. He has a good chance to surpass 10 sacks for the second time in his career and was worthy of Pro Bowl recognition.

Surprise: Harrison Smith, S, Minnesota Vikings

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    Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

    Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith is in the Pro Bowl for the sixth time of his career. He's returning to the game after missing it in 2020, but before that, he made five consecutive appearances.

    Seeing the 32-year-old on the Pro Bowl roster is a bit surprising because the Vikings defense hasn't been particularly good this season. Minnesota ranks 29th in passing yards allowed and 23rd in points allowed.

    While good players can and do thrive on bad units, Smith hasn't been great on the back end, either. He does have 91 tackles and three sacks, but with only six passes defended and one interception, this is one of his least productive years in recent memory.

    In coverage, Smith has allowed an opposing passer rating of 98.4, his highest mark in four seasons.

    Working in Smith's favor is the fact that he doesn't come off the field. He's played 100 percent of Minnesota's defensive snaps, which is an impressive feat.

    Still, it's rare to see a pass defender with average pass-defending numbers get named to the Pro Bowl.

Snub: Jonathan Greenard, DE, Houston Texans

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    Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

    Good players on bad teams don't always get recognition, so it isn't entirely surprising to see defensive end Jonathan Greenard left off of the AFC roster. The Houston Texans are undoubtedly a bad team.

    However, it's easy to make a case that Greenard deserved the nod over Crosby.

    Despite playing only 10 games, he has compiled eight sacks, 31 tackles, four passes defended, two forced fumbles and 20 quarterback pressures. Prorated over 14 games, Greenard would have 11 sacks and 28 quarterback pressures, which are Pro Bowl-caliber numbers.

    While Greenard has emerged as a true difference-maker in his second season out of Florida, he isn't satisfied with what he has accomplished.

    "The day you get comfortable like that, the day I get comfortable like that, that's when something bad happens," he told reporters earlier this month. "... I definitely try to make sure I don't go to that mindset."

    If Greenard—who just landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list—can finish the season strong, he should garner enough recognition to be on voters' Pro Bowl radar next year.

Surprise: Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is undoubtedly a special player, and his 2,882 passing yards and 767 rushing yards in 12 games are impressive. However, it's surprising to see Jackson get the Pro Bowl nod in what could be considered a down year.

    The dynamic dual-threat has racked up the yards but has only 16 touchdown passes and two rushing scores to go with 13 interceptions—one fewer than the league lead. In addition, Jackson's passer rating of 87.0 is his lowest since his rookie campaign.

    While Jackson had fewer passing yards in 2020 (2,757), he tossed 26 touchdown passes and posted a rating of 99.3. He also rushed for 1,005 yards and seven touchdowns. He was not part of the AFC's Pro Bowl roster that season.

    To see Jackson miss the Pro Bowl with an arguably more impressive 2020 season adds to the surprise factor of this year's inclusion. It doesn't help Jackson's case that he has missed two games and had Tyler Huntley— who has 743 passing yards, 168 rushing yards, five combined touchdowns, one interception and an 88.8 rating—play just as well in his stead.

    Jackson is a Pro Bowl-caliber talent, but he hasn't quite had a Pro Bowl-caliber season.

Snub: A.J. Terrell, CB, Atlanta Falcons

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons secondary has not been good this season. Atlanta ranks 24th in passing yards allowed, 26th in total yards allowed and 31st in points allowed.

    That's likely why cornerback A.J. Terrell was overlooked for the Pro Bowl. The second-year cover man out of Clemson has been fantastic, though.

    Terrell experienced his fair share of rookie ups and downs in 2020—he allowed an opposing passer rating of 109.6 in coverage—but he has emerged as a lockdown defender in 2021. He has 14 passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble, 62 tackles and has allowed an opposing passer rating of only 60.8.

    As Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus recently noted, Terrell has allowed only one catch and fewer than 10 receiving yards in four consecutive games.

    Like Greenard, Terrell is a young and emerging standout playing on a non-contender. While he didn't have the name recognition that he needed to leap into the Pro Bowl conversation this year, that will likely change in 2022 and beyond.

Surprise: Andy Janovich, FB, Cleveland Browns (Alternate)

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    We're not going to focus too much on Pro Bowl alternates here because there's an extensive list, and they may not even reach the game itself. For an alternate to appear in the Pro Bowl—assuming the game goes on as scheduled—a player will have to pull out or be playing in the Super Bowl.

    However, one selection was so surprising that it's worth a mention. One of four Cleveland Browns alternates, Andy Janovich, was an odd choice, as the Browns don't heavily rely on a fullback.

    Janovich does have a touchdown this season, but he's only touched the ball three times (one reception, two rushes). He has a whopping three scrimmage yards. And while Janovich is a fine lead blocker, he doesn't even fill that role often.

    In 10 appearances, Janovich has only played 78 offensive snaps. That's 12 percent of the total offensive plays this season. He has never appeared in more than 25 percent of the plays in a game, and he's only seen double-digit snaps three times.

    Perhaps voters were swayed by the fact that Janovich is a fullback on a run-heavy team (he has to be good, right?), but to see a player who so rarely sees the field listed as an alternate is startling.

Snub: Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    One could argue that Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler doesn't have the rushing numbers to make the Pro Bowl. That's a fair argument, as six AFC backs have rushed for more yards through Week 15.

    However, few dual-threat backs are as dangerous as Ekeler.

    The fifth-year pro has 789 rushing yards, 62 receptions, 558 receiving yards and whopping 17 total touchdowns. He has a passer rating of 115.1 when targeted and is averaging more yards per carry (4.6) than two-time rushing champion Derrick Henry (4.3).

    The 5'8" Ekeler may be one of the smallest players in the league, but his impact on the field is huge. 

    "My mindset has been the same since I was a rookie," Ekeler said, per Cory Kennedy of the team's official website. "It's about trying to build and keep building.

    It's hard to believe that Ekler hasn't built enough this season to earn a Pro Bowl nod.

Snub: Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, Atlanta Falcons

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    Cordarrelle Patterson isn't a snub in the traditional sense because there is no slot for "offensive weapon" on the Pro Bowl ballot. It's a shame that there isn't, though, because he deserves recognition for his efforts this season.

    A four-time first-team All-Pro return specialist, Patterson has finally gotten a chance to make his mark offensively. The Falcons have utilized him as both a receiver and as a backfield staple, and the results have been impressive.

    Patterson has rushed for 565 yards and is averaging 4.2 yards per carry. He has also caught 48 passes for 525 yards. He has scored 10 offensive touchdowns and has a passer rating of 118.2 when targeted. Oh, and he still returns the occasional kickoff.

    "CP has had a huge impact this year," Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said, per ESPN's Michael Rothstein. "Certainly, when you sign somebody in free agency, you hope to get a decent amount of production. He's exceeded that."

    Patterson has been an all-around difference-maker for Atlanta and the team's most reliable offensive weapon. Considering his versatility, importance to the team and the fact that Dalvin Cook is the only 1,000-yard back in the NFC, Patterson deserved the opportunity to be an offensive Pro Bowler for the first time in his career.


    Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.