Sam Bradford and 9 Other Players Who Will Make Their First Pro Bowl in 2011
While the Pro Bowl has become more of a spectacle than an actual football game in recent years, it is still a nice honor for players. In fact, when the media speaks of a player's greatness, they often refer to how many Pro Bowls that player has made.
There are certain players that are perennial Pro Bowl players. For example, Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns has been to the Pro Bowl in each of his four seasons in the NFL and will probably continue that streak for the next eight or nine years.
Other players will never make a Pro Bowl, but the beginning of a season marks an opportunity for each player to have a special year. Here is a look at Sam Bradford and nine other players who will be making their first Pro Bowl appearance in 2011.
Sam Bradford, QB
Sam Bradford certainly had a rocky season as a rookie, but anyone who watched him play knew that St. Louis had something special. He almost single-handedly led the Rams to the playoffs without any talent at wide receiver.
Now Bradford has rookies Lance Kendricks, Austin Pettis and Greg Salas to throw the ball to. There will be times when this group struggles, but the talent they bring is far superior to what Bradford had last season. The NFC West will be wide open once again and St. Louis has a great opportunity to win the division.
Don't be surprised if Bradford has a huge sophomore campaign and becomes the best young quarterback in the league. He has everything a team could want in a quarterback and should shine this season.
LeSean McCoy, RB
LeSean McCoy had a breakout season last year and was vital to the success of the Philadelphia Eagles. He is a do-it-all type of back who is a threat in the running game and the passing game.
McCoy rushed for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns, while adding nearly 600 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver. He doesn't have speed like Chris Johnson or the power of Adrian Peterson, but he has a nice blend of speed, vision and power. The Eagles offense is stacked with playmakers and McCoy should benefit the most, as he is often forgotten by defenses.
If McCoy has a big season, which I'm fully expecting, the Eagles will have a great chance to make the playoffs. Look for McCoy's numbers to rise across the board where he should gain somewhere around 2,000 total yards and have double-digit touchdowns.
Darren McFadden, RB
Darren McFadden had more yards and touchdowns last year than he had in the previous two years combined. Many were ready to throw him under the bus as a major bust, but McFadden silenced his critics with a huge season for a surprising Oakland team.
McFadden showed everything last year that had scouts drooling over him coming out of college. Every aspect of his game looked polished. Even with missing three games, McFadden still rushed for over 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns.
Building on last year's success, and hopefully having an injury free season, McFadden could eclipse the 1,500-yard mark, which will be necessary to make the Pro Bowl in a talented AFC running back group.
Mike Wallace, WR
Mike Wallace is the best deep threat in football. His 21 yards per reception average is otherworldly and this kid will only be entering his third season. That should be a scary thought for the rest of the league.
Wallace is a speedy receiver with great hands who can make plays after the catch. He quickly became Ben Roethlisberger's top deep threat last season and will continue to be that for years to come. Wallace isn't the most physically intimidating receiver, but he uses his size well and is extremely athletic.
Finishing with the fifth most receiving yards in the NFL was impressive for Wallace, but he could lead the league this year. He should also improve on his 10 touchdown catches from last year, which will put him into the starting lineup for the Pro Bowl.
Jermichael Finley, TE
I don't know if there is a player who possesses Jermichael Finley's combination of size and athletic ability. Of course, most of the hype around Finley is still hypothetical due to the fact that we haven't received a full season from him yet.
However, Finley was well on his way to a Pro Bowl season last year before he was injured. He will be on every defensive coordinators' list of players who need to be stopped because he could become an ultimate game changer. Where Finley will really excel is in the red zone, so double-digit touchdowns is certainly a possibility.
If Finley stays healthy, he will be the top tight end in the NFC and possibly in the entire league. Not only will Finley have a chance to make his first Pro Bowl, but he could also earn a spot on the All-Pro Team.
Charles Johnson, DE
Charles Johnson is often overlooked because of the poor overall play of the Carolina Panthers, but he became a legitimate pass rusher last year. His 12 sacks were more than he had combined in his previous three seasons and he also added 62 tackles to round out a very good season.
Johnson can flat out get after a quarterback. He has a great motor and gives 110 percent on every snap. Not only is he effective in the pass game, but he has great patience in the run game also. Johnson will only continue to improve as he will only be 25 during the NFL season.
I was very surprised that Johnson didn't make the Pro Bowl last year, but that should only fuel him to be even better in 2011. Carolina is still going to be awful, but Johnson should be one of the lone bright spots for the Panthers.
Stephen Tulloch, MLB
Stephen Tulloch has been a very good player for a very good Titans defensive unit for the past few seasons. Tulloch, Jason Babin and Michael Griffin form a dangerous trio that opposing offenses don't want to see on their schedules.
To put it simply, Tulloch has a nose for the football. It always appears if he makes the tackle, no matter where on the field the tackle takes place. He isn't a great pass rusher and he won't blow anyone away with his cover skills, but he can tackle with the best of them. His 159 tackles were second in the NFL last season.
If Jason Babin leaves Tennessee during free agency, expect Tulloch to increase his sack total while still putting up an amazing amount of tackles. It will be difficult to beat out Ray Lewis and Jerod Mayo, but Tulloch should find his way on the Pro Bowl roster, even if it is as a backup.
Joe Haden, CB
After a spectacular rookie season, Joe Haden established himself as a shutdown cornerback. His six interceptions were tied for the third highest amount in the NFL.
Haden came out of Florida with high expectations, but I don't think many predicted him to perform as well as he did. He has a natural ability to go up and get the football and is quick enough to keep up with faster receivers. With great hands and fantastic instincts, most quarterbacks will probably attempt to stay away from Haden in the upcoming season.
Haden is the foundation of the Browns secondary and as he matures, he will only become more dangerous. He should put up similar numbers to last year, but the Browns will most likely let Haden be more aggressive, which should put him in the Pro Bowl.
Tramon Williams, CB
Some felt that Tramon Williams should have made the Pro Bowl over Charles Woodson last year, but at least he gets to be on this list.
Williams performance during the playoffs was spectacular, as he was arguably the reason that the Packers beat Philadelphia and Atlanta. He had a game-sealing interception off Michael Vick and then returned an interception for a touchdown against Atlanta. With Williams, Sam Shields, Charles Woodson and Nick Collins, Green Bay boasts one of the best secondaries in the league.
Woodson is on the decline and Williams shouldn't get snubbed again from the Pro Bowl. Put him down as a sure-fire starter.
Michael Huff, FS
It has taken Michael Huff a few years to be what a player picked seventh overall should be, but he finally got there last year.
Throughout the entire season, Huff showed his versatility. Whether he was stopping the run, intercepting passes or sacking the quarterback, he did everything well. His stat sheet read like Pro Bowl players, with 95 tackles, four sacks and three interceptions.
The Raiders could sneak into the playoffs out of the AFC West and if they are in the hunt, Huff would have played some fantastic football to get them there. His all-around play will easily get him voted to his first Pro Bowl.