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The NFL's best players without a Pro Bowl on their resumé: Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert and more

2M9NMAX Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) yells as he is introduced to the fans and runs onto the field before an NFL football game between the Houston Texans and the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)

Brandin Cooks‘ year? The 29-year-old has earned a 70.0-plus receiving grade in seven of his nine professional seasons, and his 84.9 career receiving grade stacks him up well with guys like Jordy Nelson, DeSean Jackson and Demaryius Thomas, all of whom made the Pro Bowl at some point.

• One of the best tight ends in the NFL: Dallas Goedert has finished in the top eight at his position in overall grade in all five years of his career. His 89.9 career overall grade ranks fourth in that span, behind only Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Mark Andrews.

Jamel Dean makes his case: Over the last four seasons, Dean’s 88.9 coverage grade ranks third among 123 corners who have played at least 1,200 snaps in that span. He trails only Jaire Alexander and Jalen Ramsey, two elite players at the position. 

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

The Pro Bowl voting and selection process is often murky and based on name recognition rather than performance on the field. Sometimes, reputation is all that matters, and it can feel like a full-blown crapshoot some years (see: Ravens QB Tyler Huntley being selected this past season).

However, many deserving candidates have yet to be chosen and could very well earn a Pro Bowl berth in the near future. Here are some of those players. 

WR Brandin Cooks, Dallas Cowboys

It may be shocking to learn that Brandin Cooks has never been to a Pro Bowl. After all, he’s had an excellent career that includes six 1,000-yard seasons, and he may have had a seventh had he played all 17 games in Houston last season.

To put this in perspective, it is very possible that Cooks could finish this season inside the top 60 all-time in receiving yards, and he will have done that without ever being selected to a Pro Bowl.

The veteran's grading profile doesn’t lack production, either. The 29-year-old has earned a 70.0-plus receiving grade in seven of his nine professional seasons, and his 84.9 career receiving grade stacks him up well with guys like Jordy Nelson, DeSean Jackson and Demaryius Thomas, all of whom made the Pro Bowl at some point.

Cooks may have a hard time getting there this year with a loaded NFC that boasts Justin Jefferson, A.J. Brown and teammate CeeDee Lamb as legitimate options, but he still deserves the proper recognition for his production.

Receiving yards from deep passes since 2006 (passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield; regular season only)
Name Targets Receptions Receiving yards
DeSean Jackson 321 128 5,194
Julio Jones 281 118 3,943
A.J. Green 279 102 3,825
T.Y. Hilton 222 99 3,632
Calvin Johnson 312 101 3,595
Mike Evans 270 105 3,514
Vincent Jackson 262 96 3,457
Tyreek Hill 192 89 3,442
Steve Smith 235 90 3,319
Brandin Cooks 209 89 3,238
Antonio Brown 269 99 3,128
DeAndre Hopkins 247 97 3,105
Larry Fitzgerald 278 98 3,057
Jordy Nelson 161 73 2,906
Tyler Lockett 166 81 2,837

WR Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins & WR DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles

Two young receivers out of Alabama. Two budding superstars. 

Waddle has lit the league on fire since his arrival in 2021. He set an NFL record with 104 catches as a rookie, and his 84.2 overall grade ranks 12th among qualifying receivers over the last two seasons. He has incredible speed and is as dynamic after the catch as any player in football. He is a top-20 receiver right now, and it would be shocking not to see him in a Pro Bowl very soon.

Smith hasn’t set records like Waddle, but his receiving grade in each of his two seasons has placed him in the top 25 in the NFL. His 2,270 snaps played so far is the most of any receiver in the NFL over the last two years, putting to rest any doubts about his size and durability. He is a spectacular route runner and forced 15 missed tackles after the catch last season. As Jalen Hurts continues to develop, Smith will ascend to superstar status.

TE Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles

Goedert doesn’t stuff the traditional stat sheet, but he is undoubtedly one of the five best tight ends in the NFL.

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