NFL Pro Bowl: Who Made It From the NFC and Who Should Have?
The rosters for the annual popularity contest in the NFL have been announced. Today, we look at the starters on offense within the NFC and see who is a worthy addition to the 2021 NFL Pro Bowl and who were the biggest snubs.
By Greg Spires.
The Packers have dominated offensively this year, capturing the headlines and fantasy titles (and an MVP winner??) in an exciting year for NFC offenses. I’ll discuss who was outstanding in their position and find two players who are arguably the worst Pro Bowl selections since last year. Some MVP candidates, some amazing turnarounds, and career-years for others, as well as some underachievers with family connections – let’s delve into the Rubik’s cube that is the NFC Offensive Pro Bowl selections.
*Denotes starter for the official NFL Pro Bowl roster.
Aaron Rodgers* – Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is in the MVP race once again after motoring the Packers offense to an average of 394 offensive yards per game and 1st seed in the NFC with an 13-3 record with relative ease. Rodgers has thrown the most TDs in the league with 48 and features in the Top 5 in many other categories such as total yards and completion percentage. If the Packers can put together a strong run in the post-season, then he could be looking at an MVP title or a Super Bowl ring too. First name on the NFC team sheet for me and arguably the league MVP after dominating consistently this season.
Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson started the season on absolute fire and there were more than murmurs of an MVP title for the long-serving Seahawks QB. Russell Wilson has proved his importance to the Seahawks once again, extending plays and being a difficult to contain QB by rushing for 513 yards and 2 TDs alongside throwing for 4,212 yards and 40 TDs (joint 2nd behind Rodgers). Wilson has been a class above a lot of other quarterbacks this year and an easy call to select him for the virtual Pro Bowl in January.
Kyler Murray – Arizona Cardinals
Kyler Murray has been a nightmare to contain for many teams this year, surpassing his TD total from last year with 26 already and the addition of DeAndre Hopkins have seen his numbers improve in the passing game too. His 11 rushing touchdowns puts him second amongst QBs (behind Cam Newton). Someone who has been unable to maintain an elite level every week but certainly has the tools to be a top-five QB in the league very soon if thing can click in Arizona. A joy to watch and without a doubt a franchise QB for Arizona moving forward, a warranted selection for this year’s Pro Bowl.
Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams
Goff has been spearheading the underrated Rams all season with precision and intelligent plays orchestrated by Sean McVay. His 3,952 yards sees him just outside the top-five QBs in the league but his inability to extend plays or get passes away quickly has seen them struggle at times, culminating in collapsing to defeat against the 0-13 Jets in Week 15. A decent year from Goff with 20 TDs but he’s still a long off from being an elite QB in the NFC, although he is up against some of the greatest to play the game in Brady and Rodgers so breaking into the Pro Bowl is a hell of a task.
Tom Brady – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
TB12’s move to Tampa Bay in the off-season caused quite a stir and a multitude of speculation about his ability to replicate success outside of a Belichick system. Brady has 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns this year in what has been a stacked Buccaneers offense. Brady’s first year in Tampa rendered an awful lot of attention and he’s been able to replicate his elite level of play this year under such scrutiny. However, his 12 interceptions have proved costly in some matches and the underperforming Buccaneers offense has dragged him out of Pro Bowl contention.
Dalvin Cook* – Minnesota Vikings
Dalvin Cook has been amazing this year. 1,557 yards (second in the NFL) and 16 TDs (joint most in the NFL among running backs) speaks for itself really. An amazing ball carrier who is capable of gaining 10, 15 or even 20-yard gains with his elusiveness and acceleration. He leads the NFL among running backs for gaining the most first downs (91) and has been integral to keeping the Vikings offense on the field. A fantastic year for Cook on what has been an underwhelming Vikings team that has been let down by their defence.
Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints
Kamara has amassed 932 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns (second in the NFL) this year in an all-action Saints offense. He has displayed his elite receiving ability too with 756 receiving yards and 5 receiving TDs. Kamara had an incredible game in week 16 where he scored six touchdowns which equalled the NFL record for most scores in a game. He has shown how vital he is for the Saints in their dynamic offense, with Kamara deservedly taking his place on the NFC roster for the Pro Bowl. A definite selection for me, as I can’t get enough of watching his acceleration and exciting runs every Sunday.
Aaron Jones – Green Bay Buccaneers
An impressive Packers offence in 2020 has been established on Rodgers’ game management and throwing ability but Aaron Jones has quietly been very productive. He has 1,104 rushing yards (fourth in the NFL) and nine rushing touchdowns to his name this year with an average of 5.5 yards per carry (3rd in NFL). Add in another 312 receiving yards and four receiving TDs and he looks like a guaranteed Pro Bowler. However, I believe there may have been better relative performances elsewhere in the NFC…
David Montgomery – Chicago Bears
Montgomery has 1,070 rushing yards (3rd in the NFC, 5th most in the NFL) and eight rushing touchdowns as well. Montgomery has been resilient and a reliable option for a Bears team who have not been near their best on offense all year. His last seven games have seen him amass 667 rushing yards and eight scores, with some very impressive touchdown runs from 20+ yards out. Playing with a significantly weaker offensive line than Aaron Jones and having to produce some magic to get his team into the endzone more often than not, gives him the right to feel harshly left off the NFC roster. I would have him in my team as he has been a real spark in a bleak offense this year and created touchdowns out of nothing on occasion.
Ronald Jones – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers acquired Leonard Fournette from the Jaguars in the off-season, but it was Ronald Jones that has been stealing the headlines in Tampa Bay. 978 yards and seven touchdowns for Jones who has gone up a gear since becoming a regular in their offense last season. An impactful player who has been able to quietly be very productive while the media focus on Brady and the start-studded receivers down in Tampa Bay. An impressive year for Jones that sees him harshly left-out due to some big team favouritism and an overly impressive Packers offensive line.
Gridiron Xtra Change: Aaron Jones out, David Montgomery in.
Kyle Juszczyk* – San Francisco 49ers
Full backs don’t really get noticed all that much and some say they’re a bit of a dying breed and I’m hard pressed to disagree. Kyle Juszscyk has rushed for 64 yards and two TDs this year with an average of four yards per carry. He’s also been part of a 49ers team that has had QB issues and a misfiring offense due to the thousands of ACL injuries they had this year. A competent blocker and dual threat ability earned Juszczyk selection for his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl, proving those who play the game appreciate his talent.
Deandre Hopkins* – Arizona Cardinals
Hopkins has the third most receiving yards with 1,407 yards and has six touchdown grabs in the NFL this year. His ability to create separation has been astounding and finding ways to convert third downs has seen the Cardinals offense become one of the most exciting in the NFC. Hopkins continues to prove he is a top-three receiver in the league with outstanding catches, crisp route running and athleticism that only few possess. My head is still sore from scratching it wondering why the Texans decided to trade such an incredible talent for such little return.
Davante Adams* – Green Bay Packers
Adams has been exceptional this season, producing 18 catches for six (most in the NFL) and over 1,374 yards too (fifth most in the NFL). Adams has been the go-to receiver for Rodgers yet again and has consistently provided the Packers with 100-yard plus games and important touchdown catches. Only his second 1,000+ yard season and his highest TD return on a season to boot – it was inevitable he would be included in the NFC receiving group for the Pro Bowl.
DK Metcalf – Seattle Seahawks
DK Metcalf is a physical specimen, there’s no denying that. His physical size has been the topic of conversation since he was entering the draft in 2019, but this year he began to produce like an elite receiver instead of just looking like one. 1,303 yards (seventh in the NFL) and 10 TDs (tied eighth most in the NFL) are very impressive returns for a second-year receiver. However, inconsistency still spoils his game and, while he’s had games against the Eagles with 177 yards and against the 49ers where he had 161 yards and two TDs, there have been four matches of 50 yards or fewer which makes me doubt his Pro Bowl selection. A fantastic athlete that’s been statistically good but the inconsistencies in his production makes me question whether Calvin Ridley would deserve his spot more.
Justin Jefferson – Minnesota Vikings
Offensive Rookie of the Year for me. 1,400 receiving yards and seven TDs has been a highly successful year for the rookie, with Vikings fans asking, “Diggs who?” after Jefferson’s amazing performances. He broke the rookie season record for receiving yards in the Super Bowl era in week 17 and came within 73 yards of beating the all-time rookie record set by Bill Groman in 1960. He has been a gem in the Vikings questionable offense this year and is fully deserving of his selection this year; the Vikings will hope he can repeat his production next year as they look to break back into the playoffs in 2021.
Calvin Ridley – Atlanta Falcons
Ridley has been fantastic this year, over 1,374 yards (fourth in the NFC, sixth most in the NFL) and nine scores that has seen him shine on a high-scoring Falcons offense in 2020. He has had eight games of over 100 receiving yards and averages 91.6 yards per game (fourth highest in the NFL). Ridley has been impressive in an unimpressive Falcons team that have been let down by woeful defending and inability to hold onto leads. If he had the physical frame of DK Metcalf or played on a more successful team like the Seahawks, would he have been selected? I think so.
Adam Thielen – Minnesota Vikings
Thielen has 925 yards and 14 TDs (third in the NFL) in the 2020 season, an impressive return for the veteran receiver in Minnesota. Always a reliable catcher in the Endzone and his ability to move the chains is one of the best in the NFL. His inconsistencies have let him down in his bid for a spot on the NFC roster as he has seven games of under 50 receiving yards but also three games of over 100 receiving yards and 1+ TD. Unlucky to miss out but with only 70 receptions this year, he’s been effective at attracting defensive attention which has allowed Jefferson to shine.
Terry McLaurin – Washington Football Team
Washington have had a year of changes, a year of being the headlines for all the wrong reasons due to staffing and franchise decisions. While their defense has been one of the best in the NFL, McLaurin has been their only reliable star on offence with 1,118 yards and four touchdowns this season. With the quarterback in Washington changing weekly, it’s hardly been a surprise that they haven’t been firing on all cylinders on offense but McLaurin’s ability to consistently get first downs and get momentum going for Washington has been very impressive. Not enough touchdowns and a poor team overall has held him back from making the Pro Bowl unfortunately, but his future looks very bright, nonetheless.
Gridiron Xtra change: DK Metcalf out, Calvin Ridley in.
TJ Hockenson* – Detroit Lions
Hockenson gets better every time I see him play. He always seems to pop up on third down and make a play, gets the team some vital yards and keep the offense on the field. His 723 yards and six touchdown receptions have been a massive improvement on his rookie year and his improvement has been brilliant to watch. A handy tight end when he isn’t receiving and he’s beginning to show why the Lions drafted him eighth overall in 2019. A fully deserved Pro Bowl selection, I think he’ll be even better next year if Detroit can keep Matt Stafford.
Evan Engram – New York Giants
This one absolutely astounds me. Engram is a phenomenal athlete with athleticism and speed that only a few tight ends in the league possess. 654 yards and one touchdown is not a terrible year for someone who has Daniel Jones at quarterback, but he has five games of under 25 receiving yards and multiple dropped catches that have seen the Giants punt or settle for a field goal. Engram is a great athlete without doubt but his stats this year are similar to Noah Fant (673 yards and three touchdowns) and Logan Thomas (670 yards and six scores) who are not even in the Pro Bowl conversation. I think there were other deserving candidates this year but playing for a team in a big city works wonders in a public vote.
Robert Tonyan – Green Bay Packers
Tonyan has been impressive this year, although it does seem that anyone could be plugged into this Packers offense and produce. His 586 yards and 11 touchdowns (second out of all tight ends) are fantastic offensive numbers and Tonyan has progressed significantly after two very poor years in the NFL. Coming into his own as another weapon for Rodgers to target, I believe Tonyan deserves to be in the Pro Bowl over Engram.
Gridiron Xtra change: Evan Engram out, Robert Tonyan in.
David Bakhtiari* – Green Bay Packers
Offensive linemen are arguably the most underappreciated and overlooked players in the league but when you sign a four-year $103.5 million contract extension that’s a record for an offensive lineman then you must be something special. Bakhtiari has been a rock in Green Bay for years now and he’s rightly selected for his third Pro Bowl. In games where the Packers franchise tackle has played, Rodgers has only been sacked 19 times this year (with Bakhtiari not allowing a single one of those) and he has been crucial to keeping the QB on his feet and slinging it into the endzone. A season-ending knee injury means that he will be a huge miss for Green Bay as they embark upon their playoff run.
Trent Williams* – San Francisco 49ers
A man mountain at left tackle for the 49ers, Williams has been immense yet again this year. His mobility at his size has been crucial and he’s been able to create blocks for the running backs to squeeze yards on offense and keep drives alive. After a year of not playing in 2019, being traded to the 49ers in 2020 was a brilliant move as he continues to stake a claim as one of the best tackles around the NFL. Videos of him tossing defensive lineman around like they’re a nobody brought me a lot of amusement and I suggest you have a look to see just how dominant Williams can be at the line of scrimmage. See one of such highlights below:
Terron Armstead – New Orleans Saints
Armstead has been impressive for the Saints who have established an effective rushing and passing offense. His consistency has been key this year, allowing few rushers at Drew Brees and Taysom Hill and displaying an ability to create space for Alvin Kamara to work his magic down the left-hand side of the field. A deserved Pro Bowl selection, with the team only allowing 25 sacks this year and Armstead leading by example and being rewarded with his third consecutive Pro Bowl appearance.
Tristan Wirfs – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A rookie selected number 13 overall by the Buccaneers, he has been immense on the offensive line. Brady has been sacked just 21 times and Wirfs has been almost immovable in the right tackle position. An impressive year from the rookie who will no doubt continue to be in the Pro Bowl over the next year or two if he can continue to prevent edge rushers getting anywhere near his QB.
Elgton Jenkins* – Green Bay Packers
As previously mentioned, Rodgers has been sacked amongst the fewest amount of times in the league and Jenkins has been integral to preventing D-lineman blowing up the middle and getting to the future Hall of Fame QB. Jenkins has come on a lot since his first year and a second-round selection at number 44 is beginning to prove a steal as his athleticism and mobility continue to be a blessing for the Packers. Making his first appearance at the Pro Bowl but it won’t be his last for sure.
Brandon Scherff* – Washington Football Team
Making his fourth Pro Bowl whilst playing on a weak Washington team has been a great achievement for the lineman. Scherff has been incredibly consistent and reliable on the offensive line, creating space for rookie running back Antonio Gibson to shine. Scherff has only allowed two sacks all season and been very impressive, in what has otherwise been an underwhelming, depleted and uninspiring Washington offense.
Andrus Peat – New Orleans Saints
An understandable selection as the Saints offense has been firing this season and the line have been integral in allowing Brees time in the pocket and affording Kamara space to do his thing. Peat will be in his third Pro Bowl and has no doubt been a very good offensive lineman in previous years. Peat and his line have allowed just 27 sacks this year. However, with the way that Ali Marpet has dominated this year I was surprised to see him omitted from the NFC roster and would have him in my team in Peat’s place.
Ali Marpet – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A monstrous athlete on the offensive line for the Buccaneers, Marpet has begun to show why he’s one of the best in the league at his position. Brady has been sacked just 21 times this year and his pass blocking has been incredible, earning him the third highest PFF ranking in the NFL. He’s allowed zero sacks and only seven QB hits all year which has kept Brady clean and allowed them to be a relatively high-scoring, efficient offense.
Zack Martin – Dallas Cowboys
The demise of the Cowboys this year has been nothing short of amusing for many fans. The defense has been woeful, and Prescott’s injury has been a major stumbling block for the offense but that hasn’t stopped Martin showing his prowess. He’s already been to six Pro Bowls and boasts a load of other achievements in his esteemed career at the core of the Cowboys offensive line, and this year was no different. Despite being put on Injured Reserve in December, he only allowed one sack in the ten games he played, with some time spent at right tackle due to injuries. A warrior on the line who will hopefully be back to his best for the 2021 season.
Gridiron Xtra change: Andrus Peat out, Ali Marpet in.
Frank Ragnow – Detroit Lions
I think this was a sure selection. The Lions have not been great offensively but Ragnow has been, and continues to prove that he is, one of the NFL’s best centers in his short career so far. He has not allowed a single sack all year despite Stafford being sacked 37 times (sixth highest in the NFL). PFF have ranked Ragnow in the elite category for total pressures allowed and hits allowed too. A warranted selection for the center who is a joy to watch and a staple of the Lions offensive line.
Jason Kelce* – Philadelphia Eagles
This selection surprised me because every time I flick over to the Eagles games on Sunday, Carson Wentz seems to be picking himself off the ground after being sacked to make it third and 46! The stats back me up on this too. Kelce has allowed the joint second most sacks for centers in the league (four) and committed the most penalties out of all centers in the league (eight). Ill-disciplined Kelce can be costly for the Eagles and force them into difficult positions offensively. He has been excellent in previous years but this year I don’t think he warrants a selection for the NFC team. Perhaps sharing a surname with his more famous brother Travis helped him pick up votes?
Corey Linsley – Green Bay Packers
Yes, the Packers have been great this year and without making the whole NFC team exclusively players from Green Bay, Linsley has been great this year. He has not committed a single penalty and only allowed one sack all season in what’s developing into a dominant offensive line in Green Bay. A lack of snaps (625 which is the 28th most out of all centers in the NFL) may have cost him some exposure and therefore some votes but without doubt he’s been impressive at center this year.