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Projecting a first-time Pro Bowler for each AFC team

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The Pro Bowl is far from the peak of pro sports, but the honor of being named to the NFL's annual all-star game still matters to players -- and their agents.

For every star quarterback who bows out of the action, hundreds of players dream of finishing the year with a Pro Bowl nod. The vast majority won't get there, but every team is laced with a handful of blossoming stars ready to make the leap. In some cases, a Pro Bowl appointment is already overdue.

Without further delay, we give you one player from every AFC team poised to potentially make his first Pro Bowl in the 2017 season.

Baltimore Ravens

Brandon Williams, nose tackle: The Ravens wasted no time this offseason in making Williams the league's highest-paid nose tackle with a five-year, $54 million pact. A dominant force along the line, the 28-year-old has graded positively against the run in all but six of his past 34 games. Named as a second alternate for last season, Williams should vault into the all-star exhibition with another strong campaign, barring another untoward snub.

Buffalo Bills

Sammy Watkins, wideout: Plenty of Buffalo's defensive stalwarts have already earned Pro Bowl nods. Same goes for quarterback Tyrod Taylor and star back LeSean McCoy. Watkins is under pressure to generate a massive season after the Bills refused to pick up his fifth-year option and appear reluctant to sign him to an extension. Seemingly endless injuries have made Watkins a disappointment, but the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft is clearly the No. 1 guy ahead of Andre Holmes, Corey "Philly" Brown and rookie Zay Jones. Just 23, the hugely gifted Watkins has a prime opportunity to turn his career around in 2017.

Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon, running back: Coach Marvin Lewis often slow-cooks his rookies, but Mixon is ticketed for major snaps right away. A three-down back with fascinating run and pass-catching ability, the second-round pick is already drawing praise from quarterback Andy Dalton for his versatility and fluid fit in the offense. Mixon's off-the-field history is concerning, but the Bengals felt comfortable enough to take him on. With phenomenal size, speed and footwork, the former Sooner led one scout to say, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "He's Adrian Peterson who returns kicks. Great receiver, not a good receiver. He can line up wide or as a slot. He's a bigger, better Ezekiel Elliott. He can do more." If so, securing a Pro Bowl berth won't be an issue.

Cleveland Browns

Kevin Zeitler, guard: You were expecting Myles Garrett here, weren't you? The first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft will be a natural for Pro Bowl honors if he turns in a monster season, but voters weren't wise enough to send Joey Bosa to the all-star game following the 2016 season. After pouring resources into the offensive line this offseason, Cleveland now sports one of the NFL's toughest cast of blockers on paper. Signing Zeitler away from the Bengals sits at the center of that movement. The league's seventh-ranked guard last season, per Pro Football Focus, Zeitler is entering the prime of his career and will be pinpointed as a catalyst for change if the Browns (finally) show progress on offense.

Denver Broncos

Shane Ray, edge rusher: Set to take over for the retired DeMarcus Ware across from Von Miller, Ray was one of the league's most improved defenders in 2016. After doubling his sack count from four as a rookie to eight last season, the 2015 first-rounder will be given every chance to etch out a role as a quarterback nightmare in Denver's still-frightful defense. With plenty of national airtime as a Broncos starter, Ray can waltz into the Pro Bowl with another jump in his production.

Houston Texans

Whitney Mercilus, edge rusher: He should have made it last year. With J.J. Watt sidelined, Mercilus teamed with Jadeveon Clowney to wreak havoc on opposing attacks. After a disappointing start to his career, Mercilus shined in 2016 against top competition -- just watch his work against star tackle Andrew Whitworth. With teams forced to double up on Clowney and a newly healthy Watt, Mercilus has an opportunity to mount another fierce campaign come September.

Indianapolis Colts

Ryan Kelly, center: A close look at the Colts' roster reveals that plenty of prominent players have already nabbed Pro Bowl berths. That doesn't take away from Kelly, who started all 16 games as a rookie in 2016 and played well from wire to wire. Indy's O-line has been shredded by analysts for years, but the group returns its five core starters this season for the first time in Andrew Luck's career. If the star passer stays healthy and thrives, Kelly's handiwork will be rewarded.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jalen Ramsey, cornerback: Jacksonville's defense is loaded with young talent: Dante Fowler, Yannick Ngakoue, A.J. Bouye, Telvin Smith ... shall we go on? Yes, we shall, in order to name the most promising young star of the bunch in Ramsey. The second-year cover man dazzled on tape as a rookie, showing unusual instincts and zero fear. People are understandably exhausted by Jaguars hype, but this defense has the talent to rise up. Ramsey has the ability to serve as the face of this unit -- with multiple Pro Bowls in his future.

Kansas City Chiefs

Mitchell Schwartz, right tackle: With Kansas City set to make more prime-time TV appearances than any other club in 2017, a strong year for the Chiefs will net another bundle of Pro Bowl nods. Coming off a stellar campaign for the Browns in 2015, Schwartz cooled off a tad during his debut in Kansas City. Still, he was a reliable presence on Alex Smith's right side and should only improve with another year in Andy Reid's offense. If he can hold his own against the likes of Von Miller and Khalil Mack in the AFC West, Schwartz deserves a trip to Orlando.

Los Angeles Chargers

Joey Bosa, edge rusher: It's beyond ludicrous that Bosa was left out of the most recent Pro Bowl. Posting 10.5 sacks over 11 starts, the Chargers rookie operated for stretches as the NFL's most dominant defender in 2016. There's not much else to say here: If he matches that handiwork on any level this autumn, he should flat-out lead all AFC defenders in votes.

Miami Dolphins

DeVante Parker, wideout: Jay Ajayi made the 2017 Pro Bowl after a thunderous campaign on the ground. This time around, how about Miami's fascinating third-year receiver? Sure, there are plenty of mouths to feed in Miami, with Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills also catching passes, but Parker is generating more buzz than anyone else in South Beach this spring. The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero was told by sources that "Parker has been so impressive this offseason he has coaches hopeful he can finally develop into the dominant threat the Dolphins were expecting when they drafted him in the first round in 2015." With a solid coaching staff in place, Parker's in good position to become a top threat for the Fins.

New England Patriots

Trey Flowers, edge rusher: Has Flowers bloomed into New England's most talented player on defense? Coming on strong with seven sacks over the final nine games of the year, Flowers saved his best for last with 2.5 takedowns in New England's epic comeback win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Dont'a Hightower remains the emotional leader of this front seven, but Flowers is a star in the making. Pro Bowls will follow.

New York Jets

Jamal Adams, safety: Peruse the Jets' roster and tell me who you'd pick for the Pro Bowl. Long-suffering fans of this tortured team are in for no relief in 2017. You can't project a skill player to shine, considering New York's ghastly cast of quarterbacks. On defense, Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson have already earned Pro Bowl nods, leaving rookie safety Jamal Adams as one of the few logical in-house options. Following the trade of Calvin Pryor, Adams and fellow rookie Marcus Maye are set to start Week 1. If the sixth overall pick can live up to his pre-draft billing -- he's been compared to Eric Berry and Landon Collins -- Adams will serve as a light for Jets fans during the dark season to come.

Oakland Raiders

Bruce Irvin, edge rusher: It's somewhat surprising Irvin was never included in the annual haul of Pro Bowlers in Seattle. This could be the former first-rounder's time, though, with the quarterback chaser coming off a seven-sack season for a buzzy Raiders team with Super Bowl aspirations. Playing across from Khalil Mack will only help as teams dedicate extra resources to shutting down Oakland's young All-Pro. Irvin has the talent -- and is in the right situation -- to put up double-digit sacks for a club that will spend all year in the spotlight.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Martavis Bryant, wideout: Pittsburgh's squad is flush with Pro Bowlers. Scanning potential first-timers, right tackle Marcus Gilbert deserves consideration, along with talented defensive end Stephon Tuitt. Pro Bowl voting, though, reacts heavily to highlight-reel plays on the big stage, and that's what Martavis Bryant brings to the table. Coming off his year-long suspension, the freaky receiver is expected to see starting snaps across from Antonio Brown, presenting a raging headache for defensive coordinators. Bryant brings an entirely new element to this offense, and the chemistry he showed with Ben Roethlisberger down the stretch in 2015 only hints at what is to come.

Tennessee Titans

Corey Davis, wideout: I've tried to stay away from naming rookies, but Davis is stepping into a major role right away in Tennessee. Plus-sized at 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, Davis offers rare quickness for someone of his dimensions and gives quarterback Marcus Mariota the No. 1-type target the Titans sorely missed last season. Rookie receivers often struggle, but Davis could generate immediate numbers for this up-and-coming club.

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