Cam Newton, Todd Gurley among future Pro Bowl fixtures


When Tom Brady was announced as one of the players included on the 2016 Pro Bowl roster, it marked the 11th time that the Patriots QB has been so honored. And he's not the only old Pro Bowl hand. DeMarcus Ware and Charles Woodson have made nine. Adrian Peterson and Darrelle Revis have made seven. Calvin Johnson has made six.

But there are plenty of younger players represented, too, from rising stars like Cam Newton and Russell Wilson (three Pro Bowls each) to first-timers like Todd Gurley and DeAndre Hopkins. While the older players aren't, by any means, done for, there will eventually be a generational shift, when they’re replaced by the perennial Pro Bowlers of tomorrow. So I thought I'd try to get ahead of the curve. Below, you'll find 10 pairs of players: one veteran Pro Bowler toward the end of his career, and one youngster (three Pro Bowls or less) who will replace him as an all-star fixture of the near future.

QB: Tom Brady will be replaced by Cam Newton

Brady has been so good for so long, you hope the Patriots QB never leaves the league. But of course, no one can really play forever. Newton is having his best season, posting a passer rating of 98.7 and a 14-0 record despite working with the Panthers' subpar receiving corps. And he's still just learning the position, given that he came into the NFL with relatively little college experience. He's taken huge strides in 2015, improving his footwork and learning to finesse the ball when needed. He's a huge ground threat, having never rushed for less than 500 yards in any given season. And, like Brady, he's a proven winner with some big-time victories on his résumé.

QB: Carson Palmer will be replaced by Russell Wilson

Palmer is in a great position in Arizona, with a stellar receiving corps and team around him. But he's 35 years old. Nobody has started their career like Wilson has -- his 45 wins are the most by any quarterback in their first four years in the NFL. Wilson has also taken a big step with the Seahawks this season. He's on a heckuva run: 19 TDs vs. zero INTs over his past five games. He can make plays with his feet, plus he's got the arm to throw the ball through tight windows, negating his apparent size disadvantage.

RB: Adrian Peterson will be replaced by Todd Gurley

Peterson is in his ninth NFL season -- and the Vikings veteran is running as well as he did as a rookie. Still, he turned 30 in March, meaning he's at the age when running backs historically tend to decline. Gurley is only 21 years old and on pace for nearly 1,200 yards, despite first entering the Rams' starting lineup in Week 4. He's a good blocker, a good receiver and he's got great football speed. Gurley and Peterson are built almost exactly alike -- and they're both among the toughest players on their respective teams. Gurley is not quite as strong as Peterson, and he can't run over quite as many people, but he's agile and can make things happen in the passing game, which Peterson struggled with early in his career.

WR: Calvin Johnson will be replaced by DeAndre Hopkins

Johnson is one of the all-time great receivers to ever play in the NFL, largely because of his size (6-foot-5, 237 pounds) and speed. He's not slowing down that much when you look at the big picture -- this will be his sixth straight 1,000-yard season -- but the Lions' mainstay is 30, and he has had limited production recently, posting two catches for 35 yards over his past two games. Hopkins is a more fluid route runner with better hands who has improved every year. Now that the third-year pro's receiving ability has caught up to his athleticism, watch out -- especially if the Texans ever add a good quarterback to the mix.

CB: Darrelle Revis will be replaced by Josh Norman

Revis has never had more than six picks in a season -- he has four with the Jets this year, and finished with just two in each of the last two seasons -- but that's because no one wants to throw the ball anywhere near him. He's athletic and knows how to body up on a receiver. Norman plays in a manner that is very similar to Revis; the Panthers' breakout defensive star is confident and excels at high-pointing the ball. He's just two years younger than Revis, but he's on his fourth season, whereas Revis is on his ninth. Norman is a tough tackler who has been burned on just 47 percent of throws in his direction, with just three touchdowns allowed.

S: Charles Woodson will be replaced by Harrison Smith

The Raiders' Woodson, who recently announced this season will be his last, spent the early part of his career playing corner, racking up 10 picks in his first three seasons -- the same number as Smith through his first three seasons, which have all come at safety. Smith's numbers are down this year, but he's also been hurt, and has missed three games, including the last two. The bottom line is, he's a very instinctive player who can man the strong or weak spot and be a factor versus the run and the pass. He has great leadership qualities and is the guy who gets everyone in the Vikings' back seven lined up correctly.

OLB: Tamba Hali will be replaced by Anthony Barr

Hali's best attribute is his ability to rush the passer (6.5 sacks this season, giving him 86 for his career). But the Chiefs veteran is 32 and in his 10th pro season. The 6-5, 255-pound Barr is a huge, extremely athletic presence for the Vikings who can go forward or backward and be equally good stopping the run or dropping into space against the pass. He competes until the whistle blows -- and he's still just learning his position, given that he spent the first two years of his college career at running back.

OLB: DeMarcus Ware will be replaced by Jamie Collins

Ware is a speed rusher who relies on quickness. Though the 33-year-old has missed five games with the Broncos this year, he still has 6.5 sacks. But he is in his 11th season. Collins can line up all over the field for the Patriots -- he can even split out and cover the wide receiver, as he's done on occasion. His versatility is reflected in his well-rounded numbers: 76 tackles, 5.5 sacks, four passes defensed, four forced fumbles and one pick in 10 games. The former high-school quarterback is still learning the position; once he develops a consistent toughness on every play, people will start to wonder how the former second-round pick lasted as long in the draft as he did.

OT: Jason Peters will be replaced by Terron Armstead

The Eagles' Peters is a pretty good player -- eight Pro Bowls is a lot -- who is 33 years old and in his 12th pro season. Armstead is a very good pass protector, with toughness, long arms and excellent feet. He's always been athletic -- in fact, I thought he would have made a decent pass rusher coming out of college -- but the third-year pro has also gotten stronger with the Saints. He did a great job against Lions pass rusher Ziggy Ansah on Monday.

OT: Joe Staley will be replaced by Tyron Smith

Staley might not be sensational at any one thing, but he does his job and he does it well for the 49ers. Smith hasn't played to an exceptional level this season with the Cowboys, having allowed seven sacks thus far, but that might have something to do with the turnover at the offensive line coach position heading into the year. He's a very athletic and talented player who you can pencil in for Pro Bowl-caliber play for about 15 years or so.



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