by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro)
Whilst we have been let down as fans from attending the majority of live sports this year, leaving a bitter taste, there has been one teaspoon of something sweeter to swallow, the avoidance of the farcical contest that is more commonly known as the AFC v NFC Pro Bowl.
The game, which descended to depths beyond imagination when Hall of Famers such as Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders were made honorary captains of ‘fantasy draft’ teams, will not be played in 2021, in its place a good old game of Madden.
If anything the ‘virtual’ event will not only spare us the televised ‘walkthrough’ of a game, it will also avoid rosters being filled by replacements for those who have opted out (due to injury, or attendance in the Super Bowl). For once the Pro Bowl rosters will remain intact as there will be no trip to Florida or Hawaii.
Further nonsensical decision making
So, with the game itself being fought with joysticks and pixels, and not face to face combat, we must focus on some of the surprise selections and shocking snubs. Here are five of each.
Evan Engram – TE, New York Giants
Ok Engram was not voted in as the starter, but he made the team, and even Giants fans must be scratching their heads. Engram is averaging under 41 yards a game, and has scored a whopping 1 receiving TD all season. Evan has had just one noteworthy game this season, 6-129 on Week 12 in a win against the Bengals. in December Engram has caught 10 balls for 96 yards. The more I research this the more I can imagine a bunch of virgin Giants fans sitting in their parent’s basements, surrounded by crusty Kleenex submitting online Pro Bowl ballots until they only have enough wrist energy to change the channel to late night entertainment.
David DeCastro – G, Pittsburgh Steelers
Since Week 7 the Pittsburgh Steelers have gone over 100 team rushing yards just once, and in five of the last seven the Black and Gold have failed to muster 50 rushing yards. Yes James Connor has been injured, but a team that was 11-0 at one point should be able to muster some semblance of a running game. This has not been the case and the likes of David DeCastro have not helped. DeCastro is a beneficiary of ‘name over actual output’, as casual fans are not going to scroll through game tape evaluating offensive guards, they are just going to tick a recognised name. As of Week 14 David is rated #27 for Guards, behind the likes of Washington’s Wes Schweitzer and second Rams year road-grader David Edwards.
James Bradberry – CB, New York Giants
A second surprise package from the NFC (L)East and a second helping of Big Apple pie in the form of former Panthers CB James Bradberry. In his fifth season, and first with Big Blue, Bradberry has been a pleasant surprise, gaining three interceptions and two forced fumbles for a defensive unit that was the predominant read on for a shock 4-game win streak. His 17 passes defended is impressive and is more in 13 games played in 2020 than he managed in any of his four seasons with Carolina. The Giants are hoping for a miracle in Week 16 against the Ravens to keep their season alive, and Bradberry covering Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown will be a key matchup. This is Bradberry’s first Pro Bowl nod, and judging on his performance in 2020 it will not be his last. He is currently ranked #6 in PFF overall CB ratings, and is #10 in terms of defensive snaps for his position (874).
Younghoe Koo – K. Atlanta Falcons
Not a surprise because he gained the nod, Younghoe Koo has been a surprise achiever all season, connecting on 35 of 36 field goals for the Atlanta Falcons in 2020. The prospects of being a Pro Bowl performer was highly unlikely after a rather underwhelming start to his career. An undrafted free agent signing in 2017 by the Chargers, Koo was unceremoniously cut after missing game winners two weeks in a row. Koo had a year owl and then joined the Atlanta Legends of the show-lived Alliance of American Football (AAF). Staying in Atlanta in 2019 he signed with the Falcons and converted 88.5 percent of field goal attempts. Koo currently leads the NFL in scoring (133 points), and he was the NFC Special Teams player of the month for November. The only blemish on Koo is his three missed extra points.
Chase Young – DE/Edge, Washington Football Team
No this is not a typo, Chase Young is a remarkable young man who will go on to deserve many, many Pro Bowl invites, but one could argue 2020 was a little premature. Young, the #2 pick in the 2020 draft, has had some individual outstanding performances, but this dominance has not been sustained throughout the season, and in patches he has looked like a rookie learning on the job. Young’s 5.5 sacks leads rookies, and his fumble recovery touchdown agains the 49ers was a game-changing play in the literal sense. It might be a bit cruel to say but ‘the Predator’s’ profile as a high pick and College superstar has made his selection by fans as a bit of a lazy one. Fellow DE/Edge Montez Sweat has arguably had a bigger impact this season as an entire body of work, and has better run defense and pass rush ratings according to PFF. What puts Young above Sweat in overall PFF defensive rating is pass coverage. Young can help Washington to reach the post-season, but he needs two big games to end the regular season.
J.C. Jackson – CB, New England Patriots
Voters selected the wrong Patriots CB this season to the Madden Bowl 21. Jackson has 8 interceptions in 14 games, putting him second only behind the Dolphins Xavien Howard who has 9. Between Week 6 and 10 Jackson had a pick in each game. J.C. is top 10 in pass deflections (13) and 6th in the NFL with 3 fumble recoveries. Now in season three, Jackson has managed to raise his pick count from 3 to 5 to now 8. The rationale behind no love to Jackson is likely linked to the Patriots 2020 season overall. 6-8 and out of the playoffs, and a likely general hate (jealousy) of the most successful team in the past 20 years, its likely if the Pats were a playoff team then Jackson would be getting a bit more recognition. Jackson stands a legit chance of ending the season with double digit picks – so no Pro Bowl recognition is going to be disappointing.
Robert Tonyan – TE, Green Bay Packers
If one player can be labelled as this season’s most reliable red zone target it is third year Green Bay Packers TE Robert Tonyan. In the Pre-Season the buzz was that second year pro Jace Sternberger would be a sleeper about to awaken in 2020. That never happened, and instead Tonyan, who averaged 7 catches a season entering 2020, has been an absolute sensation. 14 weeks in he has 10 touchdowns on 49 catches, and is caching just under 9 of every 10 balls thrown his way. Heading into Week 15 Tonyan has snagged a TD in 5 consecutive games. Tonyan has had 5 or more catches in half the games he has played in 2020, making him a trusted target for MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay are looking like the best offensive unit in the NFC, and Tonyan has been an important part of the 2020 success.
Wyatt Teller – G, Cleveland Browns
The Browns have done a fantastic job this season, a two figured win record and an opportunity to win their division with two games left. Part of the reason for Cleveland’s successful has been the under-appreciated offensive line, led by the PFF #1 rated G, not Joel Bitonio (who was rightfully recognised by Pro Bowl voters), no it was Wyatt Teller. In 10 games this season Teller has posted a 93.8 PFF rating, the top overall rating for ALL offensive linemen. Included in the evaluation is a 93.6 run block rating. The Bills 2018 5th round pick is 8-2 in 2020, the only two losses being against the Baltimore Ravens. The Browns as a unit have rushed for over 2,100 yards, and with a few monster games from Kareem Hunt (and I mean King Kong/Godzilla type performances) Cleveland could boast two 1,000 yard running backs, emulating the 1k pairing of Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack from the 80s.
Andrew Van Ginkel – LB, Miami Dolphins
This snub is really about recognising the fact the Dolphins defense should have had more than one Pro Bowl selection. Only CB Xavien Howard gained recognition in 2020. Second year LB Andrew Van Ginkel may not have the gaudy stat line, and he may wear a funky shirt number (#43), yet he is the pounding heartbeat of a Dolphins defense that has fought and clawed its way to a 9-5 record, and as it stands a Wild Card berth. Van Ginkel is probably a season away from really blossoming, using 2020 as a way to show that he is a tough guy who is inspiring team-mates to raise their game. The number #14 PFF rated edge rusher, Van Ginkel has posted solid numbers against the run as well as antagonising signal callers. He leads the ‘Fins with 3 forced fumbes and has a fumble recovery TD and 2.5 sacks
James Robinson – RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
There has been no bigger surprise in 2020 than undrafted free agent RB James Robinson, currently ranked 3rd in rushing yards (1,070), 4th in all purpose yards (1,414) and 3rd in touches (289). Robinson has already broken the combined yardage record for an UDFA, passing the previous record held by former Colts RB Dominic Rhodes. A glowing C.V. but one that has not been recognised because Robinson is sitting on a 1 win team who are now the heavy favourites to finish 2020 as the rock bottom team in the NFL. Robinson has had 4 100+ yard running games, averaged 4.5 yards a carry and scored double digit overall touchdowns. Robinson deserves to be recognised for his remarkable output this year, as he has been consistent throughout the season, producing quality fantasy numbers with the likes of Jake ‘Bedfordshire Bomber’ Luton under center.
Do you agree or disagree with the above 10 surprises and snubs? Let us know your thoughts!
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