NFL Pro Bowl: Who Made It From the AFC and Who Should Have?
We covered the NFC offense yesterday and so today, we look at the starters on offense within the AFC and see who is a worthy addition to the 2021 NFL Pro Bowl and who were the biggest snubs.
By Greg Spires.
The AFC has been exciting to watch this year, with several star players balling out and players having career years left, right and centre. The Chiefs had the most total yards of offense per game in the NFL and the most passing yards per game too. Several other AFC teams were top 5 teams in the NFL offensively, including the Bills, Texans and Titans. With some incredible individual performances, let’s delve into who exceeded expectations and who I think got voted in purely based on bias.
*Denotes starter for the official Pro Bowl roster.
Patrick Mahomes* – Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes has yet again been an elite QB in the league and is hunting down his second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. A strong year with 38 TDs and just six interceptions alongside 4,740 passing yards (second in the NFL in 15 games) has seen the Chiefs consistently outscore opponents and motor to an 14-1 record in the games where Mahomes has played. Mahomes continues to blend intelligence with composure and athletic ability as he shows off a skillset that everyone can only dream of possessing. An elite QB who could I could easily seeing become one of the greatest if he continues to play like this. We may as well start writing about his Pro Bowl selections for 2022, 2023, 2024 as I have no doubt he’ll be the first name on the AFC team sheet.
Josh Allen – Buffalo Bills
As a Bills fan, watching Josh Allen over the last two years has been like what I imagine watching your child grow up and succeed feels like, with stats now comparative to some of the elite quarterbacks in the league. 37 passing touchdowns and ten interceptions with a completion percentage over 69% is a massive ‘up yours’ to all of the doubters about his ability to be accurate and consistent with his enormous arm strength. A serious player who is yet to throw an interception in the RedZone in his career, Allen is becoming an excellent QB whom I can see being a Bills legend for many years to come. A Pro Bowl selection in 2020 well deserved, however being the underdog has played to Allen and the Bills’ strength in previous years and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle more hype and scrutiny next year.
Deshaun Watson – Houston Texans
Deshaun is a baller. No doubt he’s on a tough team who decided to trade DeAndre Hopkins in the off-season (you idiots) which left him with very few weapons to work with in 2020. He still amassed 4,823 passing yards (most in the NFL) as well as throwing 33 touchdownss with only seven interceptions whilst having a completion percentage of over 70% (third highest in the NFL). Amazing statistics when you consider how unlucky he’s been to have been on such a poorly run franchise. He’s suffered 49 sacks and managed to drag the Texans to a 4-12 record this season. A shining light in an otherwise forgettable year for the Texans, a deserved platform for Deshaun Watson to showcase his talent at the Pro Bowl in 2021 will be a welcome change.
Baker Mayfield – Cleveland Browns
Is he a bust? Is he a baller? There has been nothing but controversy and discussion around what Mayfield is capable of doing and in 2020 he began to pay dividends after going No.1 overall in the 2018 draft. 3,563 yards, 26 TDs and just eight interceptions later he’s beginning to become a leader for the Browns. Although his stats aren’t elite, his game management has been much better than previous seasons and he’s come up clutch on several big-time plays when his team needed him this year (except the Jets loss in Week 16). Clearly there are only three Pro Bowl slots for QBs but Mayfield will lead the Browns to their first playoff appearance since 2002 and deserves credit for evolving into a good QB with a bright future for the Browns.
Derrick Henry* – Tennessee Titans
Henry leads the league in rushing yards with 2,027 and has 17 rushing TDs (most in the NFL) after another monster year. The physicality of Henry’s play and ability to be unstoppable at times has seen him produce some immense stiff arms (see Norman, J in week 5 (video below), see also Myers, A in week 15) which has provided priceless entertainment and shock for fans. His second consecutive Pro Bowl selection and a fully deserved one at that, I look forward to seeing him bury a few more defenders in the post-season.
Nick Chubb – Cleveland Browns
Nick Chubb has been fantastic this year. Supported by a great offensive line, he’s been very hard to stop in 2020. His stats are 1,067 yards, 12 TDs and 5.6 average yard per carry (fourth most in the NFL) in an entertaining Browns offense. A career high year in terms of touchdowns and his second successive season of over 1,000 rushing yards. Establishing himself as an elite running back with pace and power in abundance, he’s a very hard man to stop once he’s motoring up the hashes. His second successive Pro Bowl selection and it wouldn’t surprise me if he continued to be selected with the offensive line in Cleveland and Chubb’s speed and ability to get yards after the tackle.
Josh Jacobs – Las Vegas Raiders
The second year running back has put up great numbers yet again with 1,065 rushing yards and 12 TDs in 2020. Jacobs has been impressive for the Raiders but his average yards per carry is way lower than other elite running backs at just 3.9 yards (44th highest in the NFL) and makes me doubt whether he merits his place at the Pro Bowl. A key part of the Raiders’ offense but two fumbles and two fumbles lost this year really prevents him from being seen as a top three running back in the AFC. I believe he will get stronger in time and if he can stay fit, will deservedly be back in the Pro Bowl (hopefully when it’s in person and not on EA’s glorified gambling machine that is Madden 21).
James Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars
Robinson going undrafted could be one of those stats that gets used in quizzes for years to come if he can produce more of what he’s done in 2020. He has the 3rd most rushing yards in the whole NFL with 1,070 as well as 7 TDs in just 240 rushing attempts (100 fewer attempts than Derrick Henry and 18 fewer than Josh Jacobs). An incredible year for the young running back that provided Jacksonville with a ready-made replacement for Fournette. Hopefully Robinson will be recognised by those that get a say in who makes the Pro Bowl next year, but he’s a definite on my list of AFC running backs for this year.
Gridiron Xtra change: Josh Jacobs out, James Robinson in.
Patrick Ricard* – Baltimore Ravens
Again, fullbacks are a bit of a dying breed and so they get minimal attention which makes it harder to debate who’s the best. Ricard is a big guy for a fullback at 6’3” and 311lbs and is playing on an underwhelming but under-the-microscope Ravens team. They’ve been disappointing but Ricard remains a difficult person to get past when it comes to blocking and has afforded Lamar Jackson the space to rush for over 900 yards this year. 9 receptions for 45 yards shows he still has an element of utility about him and can be serviceable in the backfield for the Ravens. Couldn’t think of another fullback that deserved it desperately because they’re only noticed when they mess up a block so Ricard it is.
Tyreek Hill* – Kansas City Chiefs
Hill possesses lightning feet and incredible agility, earning the nickname ‘Cheetah’ and his performances this year have been nothing less than spectacular. 1,276 receiving yards (eighth most in the NFL) alongside 15 touchdowns (second most in the NFL) with an average of 14.7 yards per reception he has been a thorn in many defenses this year. While Kelce has been playing on a different level this year, Hill has also amassed 57 first down catches too – crucial for the Chiefs and their ability to move the chains. An easy selection for the Pro Bowl and it will be a joy to see him virtually showcase his skills.
Stefon Diggs* – Buffalo Bills
Diggs was traded to the Bills in the off-season and has been a franchise record-breaker (not sure if that shows how good he is or how poor the Bills have been). Diggs has showed elite catching ability, route running and a turn of pace that has seen him rack up 7 games of 100+ receiving yards. He leads the NFL in receptions with 127, receiving yards with 1,535 and has eight TDs in a stellar year for the six-year pro. A fantastic addition in Buffalo and Diggs has been key to their success so far this year, with an eye on an AFC Championship title in the post-season. Diggs was arguably the best receiver in the whole NFL this season and is one of the first names on my Pro Bowl list for 2021.
Keenan Allen – Los Angeles Chargers
Allen had to build a new relationship with his rookie QB this year in Justin Herbert, who has been entertaining and ballsy. Allen produced 992 yards, 8 TDs and has been integral to Chargers’ point scoring with 100 receptions too. While he doesn’t have the physical blessings of someone like Tyreek Hill, his catching is excellent and he has been crucial in helping Herbert settle into the NFL, with 61 first down receptions. However, Allen also has three fumbles and two fumbles lost (joint most of all wide receivers in the NFL) which doesn’t bode well on a team where they need receivers to be reliable and build confidence for the young QB.
A.J. Brown – Tennessee Titans
Brown had a very good year in 2020, compiling a season of 1,075 receiving yards as well as 11 touchdowns this year. A successful campaign from the second-year pro who has had back-to-back seasons of 1,000+ receiving yards. He received more targets this year as WR1 in Tennessee, but Derrick Henry stole the show on the Titans offense which diverted much of the attention away. A fantastic athlete who is entertaining to watch and it appears that NFL fans have taken notice of his brilliant performances this year and have voted him into his first Pro Bowl, and I find it hard to disagree with them as he’s been unguardable at times this year.
Corey Davis – Tennessee Titans
Davis has been excellent in his contract year at the Titans, providing himself with a strong platform to earn money with a contract in the summer. Davis had 945 yards and 5 TDs in just 60 receptions this season – with 47 of his 60 receptions creating a first down for the Titans. In 40 fewer receptions than Keenan Allen, Davis has almost as many yards and has a higher average yards per game (72.7 compared to Allen’s 70.9). Davis has not been the only real receiving weapon in Tennessee and has therefore seen slightly fewer targets, but I believe he’s done more with those receptions than Allen. Career highs in receiving yards and TDs shows how much Davis has improved and I would’ve like to have seen this recognised with a Pro Bowl appearance ahead of Allen.
Cole Beasley – Buffalo Bills
This may seem biased but hear me out. Beasley is having a career high year in receiving yards with 967, average yards per catch with 11.8 and receptions with 82 and there’s a big disparity with his previous year’s stats too. Beasley has been integral to helping the Bills be one of the best team’s at converting on third downs and has been reliable for Josh Allen for picking up 6/7 yards across the midfield all season. A very impressive year from the 31-year-old whom nearly sneaks into the Pro Bowl conversation if it wasn’t for a terrible trim and being looked down upon for being less than inspiring at the Cowboys.
Gridiron Xtra change: Keenan Allen out, Corey Davis in.
Travis Kelce* – Kansas City Chiefs
This guy astounds me. Every time I see the Chiefs play and Mahomes throws it forward, he is always the one to be there catching it and getting the first down. He’s earnt the Chiefs 79 first downs (most in the NFL), has 105 receptions and has now broken the record for the most receiving yards for a tight end in NFL history with 1,416 yards (second most receiving yards in the whole NFL). The best tight end in the league by far and deservedly making his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl.
Darren Waller – Las Vegas Raiders
Waller has been incredible in 2020 and his 3-year $27 million contract extension is looking like a steal every week. A wide receiver turned tight end, Waller has 107 receptions (fourthmost in the NFL) with 1,196 yards and nine TDs in a very impressive year in Las Vegas. Incredible size, speed and reliable hands have been evident from Waller all year as he has had a career high year in receptions and touchdowns. A deserving Pro Bowler who is beginning to enter the conversation of being a top three tight end in the league.
Mark Andrews – Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens offense has still been good despite everyone’s high expectations of Lamar Jackson and the star-studded offence. Andrews was key to their success last year and he didn’t disappoint this year either, with 701 receiving yards and seven TD’s in the 2020 season. His stats are not as impressive as last year, and the less than consistent Ravens offense may have played a factor in him not being selected despite having the fourth most receiving yards and joint fifth most touchdowns out of all tight ends in the league. Two elite tight ends playing in the AFC means Andrews misses out for this year.
Mike Gesicki – Miami Dolphins
Gesicki impresses me every time I see him play for the Dolphins. A big, athletic guy who can leap and makes outstanding catches, often getting the first down – there’s a lot to like about him. 703 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns from just 53 receptions is a very good return, especially with a rookie QB in Tua Tagovailoa taking the reins for the second half of the season. A very underrated player who deserves some accolades for his performances, definitely someone to look out for next season but unfortunately, he won’t be making the Pro Bowl as Waller and Kelce are just too good at the moment.
Laremy Tunsil* – Houston Texans
Tunsil has been a part of what has been an extremely woeful offensive line in Houston that has allowed 49 sacks on Deshaun Watson. The four-year pro is going to his second consecutive Pro Bowl after only allowing two sacks this season. However, six penalties and inconsistencies in the whole offensive line have tainted his season and reflects their 4-12 record pretty accurately. Personally, I don’t think Tunsil has been a Pro Bowl left tackle in 2020 however, this season will go down in reflection as a year of poor offensive lineman and multiple changes in circumstances that may or may not have affected team performances.
Eric Fisher* – Kansas City Chiefs
Fisher has been a rock on the Chiefs’ offensive line, playing the third most snaps of any tackle in the league this year. The Chiefs have dominated teams offensively and a lot of that comes from protecting your QB well. However, Fisher gave up three sacks this year as well as four penalties that have made it difficult for the Chiefs to continue their offensive momentums at times. Having said that, four penalties is fewer than he has made in any previous season for the first-round selection from 2013. Another tough call but the way that Mahomes scored so many points while he’s been protected may have played a factor in why people voted him into the Pro Bowl.
Orlando Brown Jr – Baltimore Ravens
Selected for his second consecutive Pro Bowl, Brown Jr has been ever-present in the Ravens offensive line this year. The Ravens have allowed just 29 sacks this year and Jackson has relished the pressure of defenders and amassed over 900 rushing yards thanks to excellent run blocking by Brown Jr. He hasn’t had the most impressive year with 3 sacks allowed and 4 penalties to his name, but his consistent ability to phsyically move people off the line of scrimmage in the run game is still astounding for a 24-year old. Probably deserves his place in the Pro Bowl but the Ravens will expect more consistency and resilience from their offence next year.
Mekhi Becton – New York Jets
Becton was selected 11th overall in the 2020 draft and the man-mountain has been impressive in a dire Jets team that have a 2-14 record. He actually received the most votes for a tackle in the whole AFC, yet he wasn’t selected for the Pro Bowl – which begs the question if any vote in the US will ever be without interference. Seven sacks allowed and seven penalties is not a great return but with better management of his injuries than by Adam Gase and with experience, Becton can become a proper player in years to come. Becton has raised eyebrows in his rookie year with excellent presence in the run game and using his monstrous size to outmuscle defensive ends and that’s why I’d have him in my Pro Bowl team.
Michael Onwenu – New England Patriots
Onwenu spent much of his college career at right guard but debuted at right tackle for several games in his rookie season and looked like a natural. Versatile across the offensive line and a powerful figure, Onwenu has surprised many this year as a rookie. Newton was sacked just 28 times and Onwenu allowed three of these, but with a lot of changes in the franchise as well as the O-line, the rookie hasn’t been bad at all. Someone to look out for in the future and definitely worthy for his performances in a sinking ship in Foxborough.
Gridiron Xtra change: Laremy Tunsil out, Mekhi Becton in.
Quenton Nelson* – Indianapolis Colts
Nelson is arguably the best guard in the whole NFL. Consistent and reliable in the run and pass game, Nelson has been a big part of one of the best offensive lines in the league in Indianapolis. He’s allowed just one sack this year after playing over 1,000 snaps which is monumental for someone in his third year in the league. A deserved Pro Bowl selection this year in my opinion, although surprisingly he has committed nine penalties (second most in the NFL).
Joel Bitonio* – Cleveland Browns
The Browns have started to live up to the hype in 2020 and much of that has come from a consistently good offensive line, in which Bitonio is a staple. 1,061 snaps played and only one sack allowed are great figures for the seven-year pro who has been selected to his third consecutive Pro Bowl. Bitonio’s pass blocking ability has been integral to Baker Mayfield being able to get passes off and keep the offense rolling. A deserved selection in what is a strong group of guards in the AFC.
David DeCastro – Pittsburgh Steelers
Selected for his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl after allowing zero sacks all year, DeCastro has been dominant this year. The Steelers have established a solid running game as well as a dynamic passing game in 2020 and DeCastro’s immense blocking ability has been crucial to creating space for Big Ben and James Conner to do their jobs. He missed three of the Steelers’ first five games of the season with injury which has helped keep his stats clean and maybe inflated his excellence to fans who may have not noticed.
Wyatt Teller – Cleveland Browns
Another big part of the Browns offense that has allowed just 26 sacks on Baker Mayfield, Teller has improved massively on his first season in Cleveland. Teller had one of the highest PFF grades of any player back in mid-December, only beaten by Aaron Rodgers which has left Browns fans stunned at his omission. Allowing three sacks and committing four penalties is a fairly good return for a third-year offensive lineman but not quite Pro Bowl calibre in my opinion.
Shaq Mason – New England Patriots
Another solid offensive lineman from New England, Mason had previously been considered one of the top five guards in the NFL after winning two Super Bowls with Brady at the helm. While it was a year of transition in New England, Mason’s game dipped but still had flurries of his best in 2020. Mason allowed three sacks but only drew two penalties in a year that started with a broken hand in late August. Hopefully Mason can get back to his best next year as the Patriots seek to prevent a complete fall of a cliff.
Maurkice Pouncey* – Pittsburgh Steelers
The nine-time Pro Bowler was selected for his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl and it’s clear to see why. Allowing just one sack and committing one penalty all year went a long way to maintaining the Steelers’ 11 game win streak to begin the 2020 season. His ability to lead from the front has been exceptional and helped the younger stars on offense to perform to an elite level. He continues the Steelers’ record of having an offensive lineman selected to the Pro Bowl for the seventh straight year. Excellent player with an excellent record in 2020, can’t really argue he shouldn’t be there.
Ryan Kelly – Indianapolis Colts
The Colts arguably have the best offensive line in football so it’s no surprise Ryan Kelly was voted to the Pro Bowl. He allowed just one sack this year and committed just the single penalty in a year that has seen the Colts go very under-the-radar for the majority of the season. His run-blocking has been amazing, creating all sorts of Dwayne Haskins ego-sized holes for Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines to glide through. An understandable selection for the five-year pro who goes to his second consecutive Pro Bowl.
Rodney Hudson – Las Vegas Raiders
Hudson has been a rock at the heart of the Raiders’ offense for years, but he misses out on his fourth Pro Bowl selection due to the more impressive Steelers and Colts offenses. Hudson is yet to allow a sack in his last 46 games, his last coming in the 2017 campaign – which is frankly ridiculous from the 31-year-old center. A rock on the Raiders line with elite pass blocking ability, I feel he was harshly left out of the Pro Bowl although it’s clear to see people have selected lineman from teams that have dominated offensively.