Everything is so much cooler when you give it a subtitle. It’s why this year’s Pro Bowl: Unconferenced promises to be… well, exactly the same as years gone by. Only there’s no more AFC or NFC team and we’re left with Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders leading teams into battle with the top two vote getters picking the team.
So at Pro Football Focus we’re presenting our own Pro Bowl roster. We’re not going to break it down into Team Jerry or Team Deion, but we will give you the starters and let you know who we think should be the captains.
Since this is our official 2014 Pro Bowl team, we’re ignoring the NFL ballots and positioning people where we see fit.
Quarterback: Peyton Manning (DEN) and Philip Rivers (SD)
Backups: Russell Wilson (SEA), Drew Brees (NO), Matthew Stafford (DET) and Tom Brady (NE)
We decided to be controversial and go with Manning as a starter. He’s had a pretty decent year however you break it down. The other starter, Rivers, is one of three players with a better adjusted accuracy percentage and has been reborn with an offense that gets the ball out of his hands quicker. Of the backups they all picked themselves but it was the inadequacy of others that cemented the selection of Stafford. He’s been poor recently but should we forget his fine start to the year?
Running Back: LeSean McCoy (PHI) and Jamaal Charles (KC)
Backups: Eddie Lacy (GB), DeMarco Murray (DAL), Adrian Peterson (MIN) and Marshawn Lynch (SEA)
Slightly boring that we’ve gone with the two running backs with the most yardage, but there’s a reason why they’re leading that category and it owes a lot to their own ability. Again on the backup front we’ve gone with guys who can run the ball chiefly, so Darren Sproles might feel slighted in that regard for his fantastic work as a receiver.
Full Back: Anthony Sherman (KC) and Mike Tolbert (CAR)
Sherman is our top ranked pure lead blocker, and by some distance. We initially scoffed when the Chiefs brought him in but it’s been a masterstroke. We felt uncomfortable giving Tolbert the nod given his good work as a running back, but there was no outstanding candidate to give us another option.
Wide Receiver: Antonio Brown (PIT), Calvin Johnson (DET), Brandon Marshall (CHI) and Andre Johnson (HOU)
Backups: DeSean Jackson (PHI), Alshon Jeffrey (CHI), Jordy Nelson (GB) and Josh Gordon (CLE)
Talk about competitive. We could have gone any number of ways here so we’ll understand fans of Anquan Boldin, A.J. Green and Demaryius Thomas siding against this. As it is can you really argue against any of those selections?
Tight End: Jimmy Graham (NO) and Vernon Davis (SF)
Backups: Jason Witten (DAL) and Tony Gonzalez (ATL)
If only Rob Gronkowski had featured a little more. His 390 snaps were far too few to be considered which is a shame because there isn’t a receiving weapon like him. That left us scrambling to find three guys to fit next to the ever excellent Jimmy Graham. In the end Davis gets the start over Gonzalez for his superior blocking, while Witten is really the best all rounder out there in something of a down year for tight ends.
Tackle: Joe Thomas (CLE), Andrew Whitworth (CIN), Demar Dotson (TB) and Phil Loadholt (MIN)
Backups: Jordan Gross (CAR) and Joe Staley (SF)
Damn our own system. The truth is the standard of left tackle play has been much higher than that on the right side, but we’re committed to playing left and right tackles which means we had a very difficult choice between Zach Strief, Loadholt and Dotson. It was an even tougher task separating the left tackles where Trent Williams and Jake Long can consider themselves extremely unlucky to miss out. Special mention for Whitworth who filled in when his team needed him at left guard most admirably, with our good selves opting not to hold that against him.
Guard: Evan Mathis (PHI), Josh Sitton (GB), Louis Vasquez (DEN) and Larry Warford (Det)
Backups: Brandon Fusco (MIN) and Travelle Wharton (CAR)
You know the drill with Evan Mathis, who for a third year is our top ranked guard by some distance. Perhaps this is the year he gets his due with a trip to Hawaii. Sitton has done exceptionally well moving over to the left side of the line while our right guards really picked themselves with rookie Warford a revelation and Vasquez well worth the money. The biggest point of contention then came down to picking between Wharton and Matt Slauson, with the former Jet surprising everyone with his play in Chicago. In the end the more consistent Wharton won out.
Center: Alex Mack (CLE) and Chris Myers (HOU)
Backups: John Sullivan (MIN) and Jason Kelce (PHI)
A lot of teams are going to be monitoring the contract situation of Mack very closely. Centers like him rarely hit free agency but he’s nearing it. He’s having a fine year. Myers got the nod over Kelce … just. The logic being that when Myers was bad (see Week 16), he wasn’t nearly as bad as Kelce (see Week 5). The last spot was fought out by three men, with Travis Frederick bowing out courtesy of his poor pass blocking and John Sullivan winning due to his superior consistency over Manny Ramirez.
Turn the Page for the Defense
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