Matthew Stafford and the Top 2017 Pro Bowl Snubs
The NFL announced its 2017 Pro Bowl rosters on Wednesday. The Oakland Raiders led all AFC teams with seven players named to the roster, while the Atlanta Falcons led the way for the NFC with six. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, to the surprise of nobody, was selected for an 11th time, which is first among active players.
As is the case every year, though, not every deserving player wound up making the cut. The following are some of the more noteworthy snubs that were not selected to participate in the event in Orlando next January.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
How did this happen?
The Lions are at 9-5 heading into Week 16 with a one-game lead over the Packers for the top spot in the NFC North. Stafford has had to do almost everything for this team offensively thanks to a suboptimal rushing attack that ranks just 29th in the league in yards per game.
Stafford is not only in the MVP discussion, he has a viable claim to the award. Where would this team be without him?
He is on track to throw the fewest interceptions of his career (excluding the season in which he played just three games) and looks more composed and collected than he ever has before. Calvin Johnson’s abrupt retirement figured to throw a wrench into the Lions’ passing attack, but if anything, Johnson’s absence has opened things up for everybody else.
It’s a setting in which Stafford has thrived. Without needing to relentlessly pound the ball to Johnson into triple coverage, Stafford is now unshackled and can pick the passes he wants. His overall numbers may not be as gaudy as some of the quarterbacks that did make the cut, but he deserves recognition for a stellar individual season.
However, there was one passer with huge numbers that did get snubbed, as well…
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
The 6-8 Saints aren’t very good this season, but Brees certainly has not been what ails them. The undersized 37-year-old doesn’t seem to have lost a step at all, and is once again posting gargantuan individual numbers.
Brees’ 4,559 passing yards through 14 games leads the league by a wide margin, and his 34 touchdown passes is two ahead of both Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan for tops in the NFL.
His 14 interceptions are also the sixth-most, but when you’re chucking more than 42 passes a game there are going to be some picks mixed in. If he keeps going at this current pace, he’s going to set new career-highs for both completions and attempts this season.
Brees has the unenviable weekly task of digging his team out of huge holes. The Saints’ defense is hemorrhaging nearly 30 points per game, which is the third-worst mark in the league. Opposing teams score an average of 29.5 points in games the Saints actually win, which tells you all you need to know about the amount of work Brees has to do to get this team over the top.
The QBs that did make the NFC Pro Bowl roster were Rodgers, Ryan and Dak Prescott. Those three have all enjoyed five seasons, but it is also a tad unfair that Prescott made the cut over Stafford and Brees. Prescott has been incredibly impressive for a fourth-round rookie, but his numbers don’t stack up well.
There’s a strong chance both Stafford and Brees wind up making the trip as others de-commit, but they should have been there to begin with. Brees’ top pass-catcher, Brandin Cooks, was also snubbed.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers
Some of Nelson’s numbers are down a bit this season compared to some of his most outstanding campaigns, but he’s still on pace to wind up with ridiculous numbers.
He missed all of last season after suffering a knee injury during the preseason, but it’s clear that he’s back to 100 percent.
Aaron Rodgers’ top target has hauled in 82 passes for 1,037 yards with 12 scores on the year. Rodgers is the one that draws all the headlines, but the Packers’ offense would be lost were it not for Nelson’s steadying presence on the outside.
His 12 scores are the most receiving TDs in the league, one ahead of Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown.
Nelson has been vital in Green Bay’s four-game winning streak, as he’s caught at least six passes in each of the four victories and has found the end zone three times. His crucial 60-yard reception in the waning moments last Sunday in Chicago put the Packers in position to kick the game-winning field goal and capped a 124-yard afternoon.
It’s hard to argue with the trio of pass-catchers that did make it over him (Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, Larry Fitzgerald), but Nelson is plenty deserving of a spot on the roster.
Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals fell woefully short of expectations this season, but Campbell is most certainly not to blame.
The two-time Pro Bowler has done a little bit of everything for Arizona. His six sacks ranks third on the club, and he’s also racked up 46 tackles, six passes defended, an interception, a safety, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He scooped up one of those fumbles and rumbled 53 yards to pay dirt, to boot.
The Cardinals’ defense has been stout as a whole, and Campbell deserves plenty of credit. They may struggle to keep him this offseason as the 30 year old is set to be a free agent and figures to be in for a massive payday.
Campbell’s contributions to one of the league’s better defenses likely went largely unnoticed due to his team’s overall failures, and that’s a shame. The Cardinals were the talk of the league last season, but this time around they’re an also-ran.
They could have found a spot for him in place of one of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril or Everson Griffen.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots
Tom Brady deservedly draws the majority of the headlines, but LeGarrette Blount has been a consistent beast for the Pats this season.
He was given the lion’s share of the carries early in the year when Dion Lewis went down, and even more was put on his plate during Tom Brady’s absence for the first four games.
Blount was more than happy to take the reigns. The journeyman back has clearly found a home with the Patriots, and he’s established new career-highs in several areas in his seventh professional campaign.
He’s toted the ball 265 times for 1,060 yards and a whopping 15 touchdowns this season. The carry and yardage totals are the best marks he has ever put up, and his 15 rushing touchdowns is two more than both David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott for the NFL lead.
Blount is a constant force for one of the best offenses in the league that has found the end zone in all but three games so far this season. New England isn’t force feeding him the ball the way they were before Lewis returned, but he remains a vital cog in the team’s Super Bowl aspirations.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks
Graham fell off the face of the earth in his first year with the Seahawks last season, but he has rebounded in a huge way in year two.
After catching just 48 passes in a subpar and injury shortened 2015, Graham has already snagged 59 balls for 816 yards and five scores for the ‘Hawks this season.
The offense has clearly missed the bruising effects of Marshawn Lynch, but Graham has done well to try and restore that physical element. While his numbers aren’t as gaudy as they were during his time with the Saints, Graham has emerged as a trusted option of Russell Wilson in what has been an above average passing attack.
Graham is averaging 13.8 yards per reception, which is tied for 31st in the league and is second among tight ends behind only Greg Olsen. There aren’t many at his position that provide that kind of downfield threat, and he has certainly made the most of his relatively limited chances.
He has been targeted just 85 times all season, which ranks 54th among all players and only eighth among all tight ends.
It is also clear that Graham has improved his once maligned blocking skills, which has helped transform him into one of the better all around tight ends in the league.