It’s that time of year once again where the PFF staff collates all of our grades and views up to the end of Week 15 and put together our Pro Bowl ballots, as ever, before the season has even finished. Not our preferred methodology for sure.
We won’t be swayed by gaudy stats in only one facet of a player’s game or by a teams win/loss record; we look solely at the player’s performance irrespective of the success of the team.
Here we’ll take a look at our NFC Pro Bowl ballot which features amazing debut seasons. Read on to see who made it from your team.
Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers (GB), Matt Ryan (ATL) and Robert Griffin III (WAS)
Rodgers and Ryan are already champions of the NFC North and South and were easy choices but the third spot saw some debate. In the end it was Griffin who took the honors on the PFF ballot on the back of his playmaking ability and efficiency in helping the Redskins to compete for a playoff spot. Good overall season though he had, early mistakes and inconsistency from Drew Brees contributed to the Saints falling quickly out of the playoff race.
Running Backs: Adrian Peterson (MIN), Marshawn Lynch (SEA) and Alfred Morris (WAS)
There could only be one man to lead the backfield for the NFC in this year’s Pro Bowl and that is of course Adrian Peterson. Still in the reckoning to set a new NFL single season rushing record his yards AFTER contact this season would rank him 8th in the NFL in rushing if it were his total rushing yardage. Filling out the roster is Marshawn Lynch, who has now blended consistency with the physically explosive ability he has shown throughout his career and Alfred Morris whose bruising and determined running style makes him one of the toughest running backs in the league to bring down. Morris just edges out fellow rookie Doug Martin who exploded onto the scene around mid-season but has been somewhat inconsistent in the last month as the Buccaneers have fallen away from the playoff race.
Fullback: Bruce Miller (SF)
Yet another high-functioning cog in the machine which is the 49ers running game. Miller has not only played more snaps than any other NFC fullback but done so at a high level throughout.
Wide Receivers: Calvin Johnson (DET), Brandon Marshall (CHI), Vincent Jackson (TB) and Percy Harvin (MIN)
The NFC is stacked with a group of prototypical “#1” wide receivers that have been extremely productive and a number of players have missed out through sheer weight of numbers. Like Peterson our top ranked player (Johnson) is in the running for an NFL single season record whilst Brandon Marshall’s consistent playmaking ability has surely made him one of the best off-season bargains. Up until recently Jackson was the catalyst to a dramatically improved passing attack but even he can only take a QB so far. The fourth spot was a tough call but in spite of missing almost half the season we simply couldn’t overlook the impact of Harvin on an anemic Vikings’ passing game in the first half of the season. Roddy White, who just misses out, has only just surpassed Harvin’s receiving grade in spite of playing more than twice as many snaps and Harvin’s 1400+ all purpose yards from little more than eight games is simply too much to ignore.
Tight Ends: Tony Gonzalez (ATL) and Jason Witten (DAL)
We have often banged the drum about a tight end being more than a receiver and how their blocking is an important part of their game too. However when they are such a difference maker as a receiver it would be foolhardy to overlook them and that is why Tony Gonzalez makes the roster in spite of some dreadful run blocking. Meanwhile the backup spot goes to Witten who recovered from injury at the start of the year to become the dependable target and reliable blocker we’ve been used to.
Edit: Initially we had Martellus Bennett in instead of Jason Witten, but this came as a product of an error in our voting process. We’ve now corrected this but apologies for the mix up.
Offensive Tackles: Joe Staley (SF), Tyson Clabo (ATL) and Trent Williams (WAS)
We have rarely seen a season of run blocking as dominant as Joe Staley has displayed this year and though he has allowed eight sacks that accounts for more than two thirds of total pressure meaning he has allowed little else besides. This has been a much improved season for tackle play and Trent Williams has continued his development in Washington excelling in both areas of his game whilst Tyson Clabo has performed well enough to save us from the discussion on whether a right tackle should be forced onto the ballot ahead of more deserving left tackles. Seemingly destined for his fifth straight season grade of +15.0 or better Clabo is arguably the most consistent right tackle of the PFF era.
Offensive Guards: Evan Mathis (PHI), Alex Boone (SF) and Mike Iupati (SF)
It’s all too easy to overlook the season that Evan Mathis has had in Philadelphia with the utter shambles around him as the Eagles lost offensive linemen left and right but you simply cannot fault his effort and production at guard, he simply hasn’t allowed any defensive player to get the better of him this season. He is joined by the pair of San Francisco guards who have led the most physical run blocking unit in the league. No offensive line has more consistently taken opposing defensive lines to pieces than the 49ers and the highest yards per carry average for San Francisco running backs is off left guard (6.1) and right guard (5.7).
Centers: John Sullivan (MIN) and Will Montgomery (WAS)
Ever since the light went on for Sullivan last season he has been the league’s most consistent center and his inclusion was a no brainer with him leading Adrian Peterson to a 6.4 yard per carry average on A-gap carries. Behind him there was a traffic jam with any one of four centers worthy of the accolade in a vintage season for NFC centers. In the end the consistency and fine pass protection (one game aside) of Will Montgomery ensured the Redskins’ center edged the competition. Brian De La Puente (showing his replacement of Olin Kreutz was no single season blip), Max Unger (much improved run blocking from last season and allowing no sacks for the second straight season) and Jonathan Goodwin would all have been worthy additions to this Pro Bowl roster. An embarrassment of riches for the NFC.
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