Predicting the NFC and AFC Pro Bowl Rosters in 2015
Everyone always wants to know who the future stars of the NFL are. With the 2015 Pro Bowl only three years away, you might be surprised by who we predict to be on the AFC and NFC roster that year.
Rules of the Predictions
Before we get started with the predictions, I thought I should go over some general rules with you.
The first and most important rule is that no current players on this list are changing teams. It may happen in real life, but with this prediction, we are going to assume that players like Calvin Johnson and Darrelle Revis are going to stick with their current teams.
Along the same lines, there will be a few players that are currently not in the NFL making an appearance in these predictions. With these players I just went back and forth between the AFC and NFC.
We also won't be predicting any reserve players. No one really cares about them at this point.
Finally, I've gotten rid of the fullback altogether from the Pro Bowl. It is a position used less and less these days, so instead of having a fullback, I've added another running back.
With that said, here are the actual rosters...
Starter: Matt Schaub
There are few quarterbacks as disrespected as Schaub. All he has done in his time with the Texans is make a terrible start-up franchise relevant.
Even though Schaub will be entering his mid-30s by 2015, he simply has too many weapons around him to not flourish. With Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels all excellent options, Schaub will continue to put up huge numbers.
Backups: Andrew Luck and Tom Brady
Luck will be making his first Pro Bowl appearance and Brady will be making his last.
Starter: Aaron Rodgers
I think it would be safe to give Rodgers the Pro Bowl start from here until about 2020 with the way he has been playing.
He is the best quarterback in the league right now and he has just entered his prime. It's scary to think how good he is going to be in the foreseeable future.
Backups: Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton
These are two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. If Newton continues to improve, he is the only quarterback I could see replacing Rodgers as the NFC Pro Bowl starter.
AFC Running Backs
Starters: Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles
Both Foster and Charles are extremely young running backs and they will still be in their prime when the 2015 Pro Bowl comes around.
The only question surrounding these two is their health. Charles will most likely still be recovering from this year's injury and Foster has struggled with injuries this year also. However, if they can both stay healthy, they should be the top two backs in the AFC for many years.
Backups: Ray Rice and Darren McFadden
The backups for the AFC roster will bring a valuable, dual-threat style to the game.
NFC Running Backs
Starters: Adrian Peterson and Trent Richardson
Peterson is going to be a Pro Bowl staple for the rest of his career because he is simply that good. Richardson will already be one of the best running backs in the NFL.
These two players have everything you could want in a running back and they will be absolutely dominating the league year after year.
Backups: Matt Forte and LeSean McCoy
The NFC backup running backs are similar to the AFC in that they are both fantastic runners and receivers. If I had to give the nod to a group, I would go with the NFC because of Forte. He has entered the conversation as one of the best running backs in the league.
AFC Wide Receivers
Starters: Mike Wallace and Andre Johnson
Yes, I'm predicting that Wallace will overtake Johnson as the best wide receiver in the AFC. While Johnson may be more physically gifted, Wallace is a better deep threat.
All I know is that I wouldn't want to be a defensive coordinator trying to figure out how to stop these two with Matt Schaub throwing them the football. It would seriously give me nightmares.
Backups: A.J. Green and Alshon Jeffery
Two young receivers will be representing the AFC in 2015. Green will be making his second straight appearance while current South Carolina Gamecock Jeffrey will be making his first appearance.
NFC Wide Receivers
Starters: Calvin Johnson and Greg Jennings
No real surprise here as Johnson and Jennings are both young and already the top receivers in the NFC. I'll give Johnson the nod as the top Pro Bowl receiver simply because of the statistics he will still be putting up in 2015.
While the AFC receivers are intimidating, the pairing of Johnson and Jennings would also be a scary sight for a secondary. In fact, it's a toss-up between which starters would be more terrifying to go up against.
Backups: Dez Bryant and Julio Jones
I'm predicting that Bryant will get his act together by 2015 and reach his full potential, which is pretty high. I'm also predicting that Jones will overtake Roddy White as Matt Ryan's favorite target and earn his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
AFC Tight Ends
Starter: Aaron Hernandez
Even though Rob Gronkowski is Tom Brady's favorite tight end right now, I believe that Hernandez will be taking that honor relatively soon.
He is simply too talented to not see more targets from Brady. There isn't a catch he can't make, and his ability to make plays after the catch will all help him succeed.
Backup: Jermaine Gresham
I know it may seem crazy to have two Cincinnati Bengals on the Pro Bowl roster, but Andy Dalton is for real and Gresham and A.J. Green are loaded with talent.
NFC Tight Ends
Starter: Brandon Pettigrew
This was a difficult position to decide on for the NFC. There are plenty of tight ends who could make the Pro Bowl.
Pettigrew finally got the nod because of Matthew Stafford and the explosiveness of the Detroit Lions' offense. If the Lions continue to grow together as a team, their offense could be unstoppable.
Backup: Jermichael Finley
If I believed that Finley could ever live up to his potential, he would be a Pro Bowl starter for the rest of his career. Unfortunately, we haven't seen consistent enough play from Finley to give him that honor.
AFC Offensive Line
Starters: Jake Long, Joe Thomas, Logan Mankins, Ben Grubbs and Alex Mack
This is an extremely talented offensive line with Long and Thomas already the two best offensive tackles in the NFL.
With Grubbs, Mack and Mankins dominating the interior of the offensive line, the AFC should be able to have a field day running the football.
Backups: Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles and Mike Pouncey
You may be surprised to see Mike outplay his brother Maurkice, but I see it happened. Yes, I also see the Denver Broncos sending two offensive lineman to the Pro Bowl.
No, I haven't been drinking tonight.
NFC Offensive Line
Starters: Tyron Smith, Gabe Carimi, Josh Sitton, Mike Iupati and Jason Brown
This is an extremely young group of offensive lineman, as everyone on this list is currently under the age of 26. Smith and Carimi have both looked fantastic while on the field this year and they should be the class of the NFC by 2015.
The only question mark on this offensive line is Brown. His play will be crucial to an NFC victory.
Backups: Bryan Bulaga, Carl Nicks and Ryan Kalil
A solid group of backups for the NFC is headlined by Nicks and Kalil. Both have been Pro Bowl starters in the past and will provide nice depth for these younger players.
AFC Defensive Line
Starters (4-3 defense): Marcell Dareus, Elvis Dumervil, Cody Terrence and Phil Taylor
This defensive line would be extremely difficult to do anything against.
Dareus and Dumervil are excellent pass rushers who are only getting better while Terrence and Taylor are big guys in the middle who can slow down the running game.
Backups: Jadeveon Clowney and Haloti Ngata
The big surprise here is Clowney who is currently only a freshman at the University of South Carolina. However, once he gets into the NFL, his size and athleticism will simply be unstoppable which will allow him to make the Pro Bowl in only his first year in the league.
NFC Defensive Line
Starters (4-3 defense): Jared Allen, Charles Johnson, Ndamukong Suh and B.J. Raji
While I like the AFC's pass rush better, the combination of Suh and Raji would be simply unstoppable.
Don't get me wrong, I think Allen and Johnson are extremely talented pass rushers, but they just don't have the athleticism of Marcell Dareus and Elvis Dumervil. However, the AFC's defensive tackles aren't nearly as intimidating as the NFC.
Backups: Jason Pierre-Paul and Nick Fairley
When the NFC wants to bring pressure on the quarterback, I could see them subbing in these two outstanding defensive lineman to give them a boost.
AFC Inside Linebackers
Starter: Lawrence Timmons
Timmons is already one of the better middle linebackers in the AFC and he is just now reaching his peak playing years. It's possible that he is already the best linebacker on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
What Timmons brings to the game is a great intensity. He is passionate and that is what fuels his desire to perform at such a high level.
Backup: Jerod Mayo
Mayo is simply a tackling machine. He isn't outstanding at any one facet of the game, but he blends all of his talents to be a very solid inside linebacker.
NFC Inside Linebackers
Starter: Patrick Willis
Until another linebacker comes along that is as ultra-talented as Willis, I can't see him giving up his perennial starting spot at the Pro Bowl.
Willis has been called the next Ray Lewis and he certainly isn't failing to live up to that high standard. He has been a stud since his first ever NFL game.
Backup: Dont'a Hightower
Hightower is the last college player to make our predictions for the 2015 Pro Bowl. His play is similar to Jared Mayo where he tackles everything he sees. In the right system, he will be a very effective NFL player.
AFC Outside Linebackers
Starters: Von Miller and Mario Williams
This is absolutely the scariest group of players for the AFC.
In his rookie season, Miller is already becoming one of the better pass rushing linebackers in the league. It's hard to imagine how good he is going to be in 2015. We already know how dominant Williams is and with a few more years in a 3-4 defense, he should really begin to thrive as a linebacker.
Backup: Tamba Hali
Hali is a very similar player to Miller and Williams in that he excels as a pass rusher. All I know is I wouldn't want to be the NFC quarterback with these three guys coming after me.
NFC Oustide Linebackers
Starters: DeMarcus Ware and Clay Matthews
Even though Ware will be one of the older players on the team, he is still worthy of a Pro Bowl spot. In fact, Ware will most likely be making the Pro Bowl for many years after 2015.
Matthews is slowly becoming one of the best complete outside linebackers in the game and by 2015, he may very well have that honor.
Backup: Ryan Kerrigan
This will be the first Pro Bowl for Kerrigan. His teammate, Brian Orakpo, will have barely missed out on the final roster spot.
Starters: Darrelle Revis and Joe Haden
Revis is no surprise here and to be honest, neither is Haden. Both of these players are already shutdown corners and they have many more years of continuing to do that.
By this time, Revis could already be one of the best cornerbacks in NFL history and seeing him match up against Calvin Johnson would be extremely enjoyable.
Backup: Johnathan Joseph
What Joseph has done for the Houston Texans' defense in his first year is pretty remarkable, and a few more years with Wade Phillips will make him that much better.
Starters: Patrick Peterson and Tramon Williams
Even though Peterson might be a better punt returner than cornerback in his rookie year, by 2015, he should be a very scary defensive player. There is no doubting his talents and he will only get better.
By this time, Williams should be one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFC, and maybe in the entire league. He has kind of flown under the radar so far, but that won't be the case if he keeps playing like he did last year and so far this year.
Backup: Nnamdi Asomugha
I'm guessing that by 2015 Asomugha will be back in prime form for the Philadelphia Eagles. He may not be as good as he was with the Oakland Raiders, but he will still be good enough to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Starters: Eric Berry and Eric Weddle
By 2015, both Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed will be out of the Pro Bowl picture, opening the doors for younger players like Berry and Weddle. In fact, by 2015, Berry may be considered the best playmaking safety in the NFL.
The reason I went with Weddle over Griffin for the starting free safety spot is because I believe the San Diego Chargers will be a better team than the Tennessee Titans. That will help Weddle's case to the Pro Bowl voters.
Backup: Michael Griffin
Griffin is finally looking like he has reached his potential and is already one of the top free safeties in the AFC. He should be a staple on the Pro Bowl roster for many years.
Starters: LaRon Landry and Earl Thomas
This is the weakest part of the NFC roster. While Landry and Thomas are both very talented players, they aren't as good as their AFC counterparts.
It was difficult leaving Morgan Burnett off the Pro Bowl roster, but it will be a toss-up between Landry and Burnett year after year. This year, the toss went to Landry. Next year, it will go to Burnett.
Backup: Antrel Rolle
I like what Rolle does on the field and he could very well see more playing time than Thomas in the actual Pro Bowl.
AFC Special Teams
Kicker: Sebastian Janikowski
Yep, even in 2015 at the age of 36, Janikowski will still be the best kicker in the AFC.
Punter: Shane Lechler
See above, but exchange 36-years old with 38-years old.
Return Specialist: Jacoby Ford
For the first time ever, the Oakland Raiders sweep the special teams category for the Pro Bowl. While Ford may very well be a talented receiver by 2015, he will still be better known as a return specialist.
NFC Special Teams
Kicker: Mason Crosby
Crosby is having a career year this year and my guess is that he is just getting starter.
Punter: Andy Lee
Lee is already one of the better punters in the NFC and I can't see that changing by 2015.
Return Specialist: Devin Hester
Do I really need to explain myself for this one? Hester is the surest Pro Bowl pick out of the bunch.