CHICAGO, IL – OCTOBER 09: Harrison Smith #22 of the Minnesota Vikings reacts after intercepting the football in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on October 9, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
It’s that time of the year again, when the NFL polls fans, players, and NFL coaches to come up with the rosters that populate the annual Pro Bowl. Ostensibly a list of the best performers at every position in the league, the process is fraught with flaws, and we often get left with a pair of rosters with some glaring omissions, even if they may ultimately make it once the annual round of drop-outs takes place.
But let’s take a shot at fixing the NFL’s Pro Bowl mistakes by running through the 10 biggest snubs to miss the list, and this is by no means an exhaustive group.
The NFC really made a mess of the safety position this season. Smith has been the league’s best safety and a player who could justifiably have been slotted into either free or strong safety given how the Vikings deploy him. Smith is versatile enough that he has spent significant time as a free safety (39 percent), in the box, or even manning up covering receivers in the slot. He has the highest overall PFF grade among all safeties at 94.6 and one of the highest overall grades of any player at any position, and there is no justifiable reason for him not to make the team beyond simply not watching enough tape.
PFF grade: 93.8
David is a victim of the Pro Bowl ballot being unable to categorize players without tying itself in knots. Instead of running with edge defenders, interior defenders, and off-the-ball linebackers, the Pro Bowl lumps edge rushers in with off-the-ball outside linebackers, meaning elite players like David get bumped because edge rushers with sacks draw votes like moths to a flame. David has been back to his best this season, forcing five fumbles, recovering a league-leading five, and posting the third-best run-stop percentage among linebackers, with the second-most stops in the run game.
PFF grade: 89.1
I get that Bakhtiari missed some time to start the year with injury, and that the Packers have had less luster on their season with Aaron Rodgers hurt, but Bakhtiari has been the league’s best pass-blocking tackle – by a distance – and in a league that passes 62 percent of the time, that’s kind of important. The Packers left tackle has played in 10 games, and allowed six total pressures. Say that again slowly to yourself because it’s not like he’s had a quarterback getting rid of the ball as quick as possible to manufacture that number. There are tackles in the league who have surrendered 77 total pressures over the season, while Bakhtiari has allowed a little more than half a pressure per game.
PFF grade: 89.6
This one is perhaps the greatest irony of this year’s Pro Bowl rosters. Usually the players with the gaudy box score stats make it whether they deserved it or not, but Byard is actually tied for second in the league in interceptions, having led for most of the voting period, and somehow missed despite actually matching that box score stat with his overall play. Byard has been an excellent cover safety for the Titans, really making a statement in the heart of that improved secondary, and breaking up a further seven passes (leading all safeties) on top of the six he has picked off.