Five in, five out: Pro Bowl swaps that we would have made

December 20, 2018

The Pro Bowl popularity contest was unveiled Wednesday night, and as sure as eggs is eggs, there were some gripes from fans and media alike.

Here are some more for you to consider. But we wanted to make sure that before we just dished out a list full of snubs that we also had players who were less deserving at those respective positions who easily could be swapped out.

And lest you dismiss these Pro Bowl selections as a meaningless event, consider this: One day there will be Pro Football Hall of Fame voters who cite Pro Bowl selections as merit for getting in — or not getting in. The Pro Bowl, whether you watch it or care about it, actually does kind of matter.

So it’s easy to say who should have made it, but this club has a one-in-one-out policy. This is who we feel should be in — and which players they easily could have replaced for the 2019 Pro Bowl.

IN: Colts QB Andrew Luck

OUT: Patriots QB Tom Brady

I’m as big a Brady fan as you’ll find, y’all. I really am. No one has been better in the NFL over the past 15 years, and he might go down as the best at his position. But let’s look at Luck’s brilliance this season and Brady’s occasionally ordinary play as evidence that this pick is just wrong. There’s nothing foul with leaving Brady out this year; heck, he tends to skip the event most years, whether he has to (because the Patriots are in the Super Bowl) or not. Luck has been absolutely tremendous with a very young team and a still-thin roster.

IN: Falcons QB Matt Ryan

OUT: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Again, it’s OK to leave a legend off the list. And like Brady, Rodgers is a quarterback with nearly unimpeachable credentials — surely one of the five best ever at the position. By the time he hangs it up, Rodgers might surpass Brady (and others). It’s just that he hasn’t been that guy this season. Good, sure, and occasionally great, but too often risk-averse and not on the same page with his receivers. Ryan has more talent with which to work, you could argue, and his team has been worse — somehow — than the Packers. But Ryan has absolutely been fantastic despite a bad line in front of him and inconsistencies with the run game. He has been better than Rodgers this season.

IN: Chiefs OT Mitchell Schwartz

OUT: Chiefs OT Eric Fisher

There’s a high likelihood that Schwartz is your favorite right tackle’s favorite right tackle. He’s tough, disciplined, nasty and dominant. Those are good things, yeah? Schwartz has given up two sacks this season, facing the likes of Von Miller (twice), and the Chiefs average 7.54 yards per run through his gap. Fisher is a good tackle, mind you, but he’s here over his teammate based on reputation — as the former No. 1 overall pick — and not from the eye test.

IN: Chiefs DE Chris Jones

OUT: Chargers DE Melvin Ingram

Welcome to the Chiefs hive. Kidding. But honestly, this is an absurd omission. Even if we assume zero voters have seen Jones play this season, all one needs to do is look at the sack stats, for crying out loud. Ten straight games with a sack! And though Jones is listed for Pro Bowl roster purposes as an end, he’s really an interior guy. No 300-pound player has had more sacks than Jones’ 14 since Warren Sapp in 2000. (Side note: I love love love Pro Football Reference and abuse that website on a weekly basis, but I don’t think their weights on Mario Williams and Calais Campbell, who played more in the 280-290 range, are correct here.) Also, I am an Ingram fan, but he just wasn’t the same guy this season before Joey Bosa returned from injury. There’s no way he’s more deserving than Jones.

IN: Colts LB Darius Leonard

OUT: either Texans LB Bernardrick McKinney or Jadeveon Clowney

Allow me to be the 398th NFL writer to point out this atrocity. Is it because Leonard is a rookie? Because he played at South Carolina State? Because many felt he was a draft reach? Because the Colts are not appointment viewing for some, sadly? Whatever the case, he leads the NFL in tackles (solo and combined) despite missing a game with injury, and no matter your feelings on the subjectivity of that statistic, he has a huge lead in both. Leonard also has seven sacks — as an off-the-ball linebacker! — four forced fumbles, two recoveries, a pick and 12 tackles for loss. Put another way, only eight other NFL players besides Leonard have tallied 120 or more tackles, six or more sacks, one or more picks and three or more forced fumbles in a season since the 1970 merger, and all did it in 16 games played. I’d be inclined to remove McKinney or Clowney. Both are quality defenders, but the fact that we’re lumping Clowney in with “stack” linebackers means that the Pro Bowl position allotment system is flawed as heck.

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