At the end of the day, the NFL Pro Bowl is a popularity contest. Name recognition, draft status, and team success often times trump actual on-field performance. Unfortunately, Pro Bowl accolades still matter for contract negotiations and Hall of Fame candidacies, so let's take a look at the top players to get the shaft this season—as well as whose spots they should be filling on the 2017 Pro Bowl roster.
Snub: Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
Should replace: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
Luck and Roethlisberger make for a great case study because they currently have the exact same number of passing attempts (476). It’s Luck, though, that has more yards and touchdowns with fewer interceptions. Even beyond that, Luck is having to do far more on his own. The Colts' offensive line is 31st in pass-blocking efficiency this season, while the Steelers' is third. 61.3 percent of Luck’s yards have come through the air, compared to 56.9 for Roethlisberger (meaning Pittsburgh receivers are doing more after the catch). Grade wise, it’s no comparison, as Luck is second overall in PFF's system, while Roethlisberger is currently 18th for the 2016 season.
Snub: Matt Paradis, C, Broncos
Should replace: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Steelers
This is no knock on Pouncey—he’s one of the better centers in the NFL—but to overlook what Paradis has done this season is pure name-recognition bias. The former sixth-round pick is barely on the national radar even after playing extremely well for the Broncos down the stretch last year in the playoffs, and continuing that into this season. He’s arguably been the best stretch-zone center in the NFL, but often gets overlooked because the rest of the Denver line does him no favors. Paradis is currently the third-highest graded-center in the NFL.
Snub: Josh Sitton, G, Bears
Should replace: Brandon Scherff, G, Redskins
If you're a top-five pick in the NFL draft as a guard and turn out not to be a bust, you can basically write your ticket to the Pro Bowl every season. Individual offensive line play—especially on the interior—can’t easily be deduced on one viewing, so it’s natural to expect voters to turn to name recognition and reputation. What is easy to do, though, is simply rewatch and tabulate how many times a guy is beaten in pass protection. For Scherff, that number this year was 39; for Sitton, it was only 10. Now, Sitton has missed a couple of games, but it’s not hard to see why we would have gone with the Chicago guard here.
Snub: Cameron Jordan, DE, Saints; and Brandon Graham, DE, Eagles
Should replace: Any NFC Pro Bowl DE selection
Jordan and Graham have been the best two defensive ends in the NFL this season, so leaving them off of the NFC roster seems like a fair oversight. Jordan, especially, has been basically unblockable, rarely losing one-on-one encounters. Both players have 68 total pressures on the season—more than any DE that made the NFC roster.
Snub: Terence Newman, CB, Vikings
Should replace: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Vikings
Rhodes is having a terrific season in his own right, but we would have liked to see the 38-year-old get his due for an unprecedented season. Newman is allowing only 4.19 yards per target into his coverage this year, the best mark for any cornerback in the NFL. To put that somewhat into perspective, the most ineffective quarterback in the NFL this season is averaging only 5.5 yards per pass attempt. He may only have one interception, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t changed games with his play.
Snub: Sean Lee, OLB, Cowboys
Should replace: Thomas Davis, OLB, Panthers
Of all the players selected to the Pro Bowl this season, Davis was probably the least deserving. His numbers are down across the board from a year ago, and he was a fringe Pro-Bowler then. To put him in over Sean Lee, who has been the lifeblood of a rejuvenated Dallas defense, is a head-scratcher. Lee’s 55 total stops are the most of any linebacker in the NFL, and he has only 11 missed tackles on 143 attempts.
For the full 2016 Pro Bowl roster, click here.