The New England Patriots had four players reach the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl: QB Tom Brady, LB Dont’a Hightower, FS Devin McCourty, and ST Matthew Slater.
There are so many more that could have made the team. Who was the biggest snub?
Running back LeGarrette Blount
Lost to: Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell, Bills RB LeSean McCoy, Titans RB DeMarco Murray
Blount ranks 5th in the AFC with 1,060 rushing yards and an NFL-leading 15 rushing touchdowns. Blount might have been the fourth running back to make the Pro Bowl, but it’s hard to argue against the three that made it.
Bell (1,747 yards from scrimmage), Murray (1,585 yards from scrimmage), and McCoy (1,462 yards from scrimmage) rank 1, 2, and 3 in the conference in yards from scrimmage. Blount ranks 11th.
Fullback James Develin
Lost to: Ravens FB Kyle Juszczyk
Develin holds the best run blocking grade for fullbacks according to Pro Football Focus and his role has expanded since the loss of TE Rob Gronkowski. Unfortunately, Develin’s lack of production in the passing game has greatly limited the attention he can receive on a national scale.
Juszczyk’s receiving ability gives him the edge over Develin, despite being marginally less stout as a blocker.
Tight end Martellus Bennett
Lost to: Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, Titans TE Delanie Walker
Bennett also should have emerged with the loss of Gronkowski, but an ankle injury has limited the tight end all year. Bennett ranks 3rd in receiving yards for AFC tight ends with 649 yards, behind Kelce (957) and Walker (742), but Bennett is one of the top blocking tight ends in the league.
Kelce clearly deserves to make the Pro Bowl and has the best case to be named First Team All Pro, but Walker and Bennett should be a toss-up. With Bennett finally healthy, maybe he can surpass Walker in the final two weeks of the year.
Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon
Lost to: Browns OT Joe Thomas, Raiders OT Donald Penn, Titans OT Taylor Lewan
Thomas has reached his 10th consecutive Pro Bowl and he’s arguably the top tackle in the NFL, despite suffering in Cleveland. Penn has been the face of a resurgent Raiders offensive line that features three Pro Bowlers. But Lewan might not even be the best tackle on his own team.
On the other hand, Cannon has been outstanding all season and was recently seen stonewalling Broncos Pro Bowl pass rusher Von Miller. Perhaps if voting extended another week, Cannon would have made the event.
Defensive tackle Alan Branch or Malcom Brown
Lost to: Bengals DT Geno Atkins, Dolphins DT Ndamukong Suh, Titans DT Jurrell Casey
It’s hard to make the Pro Bowl when you don’t really play against the pass in a passing league, but Branch and Brown deserve consideration for their elite performance against the run.
“I mean, Alan Branch, my God, he doesn’t get enough (outside credit),” Hightower said via the Herald. “In my eyes, the guy is a Pro Bowler. He has done so much for us since he’s been in New England.”
Brown and Branch rank 2nd and 3rd in the AFC in rushing yards allowed over the average, behind Jaguars DT Abry Jones. But they would need to play against the pass in order to make the Pro Bowl.
Cornerback Malcolm Butler
Lost to: Broncos CB Aqib Talib, Chiefs CB Marcus Peters, Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr., Chargers CB Casey Hayward
Talib and Harris hold down the cornerback spots in the best secondary in the NFL, while Hayward leads the NFL with 7 interceptions and 19 passes defended. Peters is tied for 2nd with 5 interceptions and 3rd with 17 passes defended and 3 fumble recoveries.
Butler only has 2 interceptions and 15 passes defended. Even though Butler has done a pretty great job of limiting opposing receivers on a weekly basis (Steelers WR Antonio Brown notwithstanding), I feel like some still think of Butler only as the Super Bowl hero and not as a legitimate #1 cornerback.
Special teamer Nate Ebner
Lost to: Patriots ST Matthew Slater
Ebner is tied with Dolphins LB Mike Hull for the NFL lead with 16 tackles, but Ebner’s 10 solo should earn him the tiebreaker. But let’s hear Slater’s thoughts:
“I think Nate deserves it the way he's played this year," Slater said on Tuesday. "I haven't really seen anybody playing the way he's played so I'm definitely pulling for him so we'll how it turns out. I know what type of year it's been for me and dealing with injuries and things like that and I'm always happy to see my teammates have success.”
Slater has missed time for injuries, while Ebner has been one of the most reliable players on the team.
Who was the biggest snub?