Photo Essays  

 

Published: Dec. 13, 2017 at 05:07 p.m.

My 2018 Pro Bowl team: Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald lead way

The 2018 Pro Bowl rosters will be revealed Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network. But there's still time to squeeze in a last-minute vote -- so be sure to fill out a ballot before voting ends at 12 a.m. ET on Friday.

In the meantime, I thought I'd put together my own Pro Bowl team for this season. While the real Pro Bowl teams will be separated by conference -- one for the AFC, one for the NFC -- I thought it would be more fun to draw up one super-powered all-star team using the entire NFL as my player pool. I also stuck to starters -- except where I decided adding extra players was merited. If you're inspired to advocate for someone who wasn't included below, open up a ballot and add your vote to the mix.

34 Photos Total

  • Wentz is done for the year, <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000891467/article/carson-wentz-suffered-torn-acl-in-win-over-rams">thanks to a torn ACL</a>, but what he accomplished in 13 games (33 touchdown passes, seven picks, 7.5 yards per attempt, 101.9 passer rating) was so impressive, I feel comfortable giving him the top spot. He had one of the better second pro seasons at quarterback in NFL history, up there with Dan Marino's 1984 campaign.<br />
<br />
<b>ALTERNATE: Tom Brady, New England Patriots.</b> Everybody seems to be jumping off the wagon after <a href="http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2017121100/2017/REG14/patriots@dolphins">Monday's loss</a> to the Dolphins, but don't bury Brady yet. He's still posting stellar numbers at age 40 and is my pick for the QB to slot behind Wentz. 34

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Quarterback: Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

    Wentz is done for the year, thanks to a torn ACL, but what he accomplished in 13 games (33 touchdown passes, seven picks, 7.5 yards per attempt, 101.9 passer rating) was so impressive, I feel comfortable giving him the top spot. He had one of the better second pro seasons at quarterback in NFL history, up there with Dan Marino's 1984 campaign.

    ALTERNATE: Tom Brady, New England Patriots. Everybody seems to be jumping off the wagon after Monday's loss to the Dolphins, but don't bury Brady yet. He's still posting stellar numbers at age 40 and is my pick for the QB to slot behind Wentz.

  • Gurley is having a great season -- his ability to both run and catch the ball is what makes the Rams' offense go. With three games still to play, Gurley has already surpassed his 2016 rushing total by 150 yards, with a yards-per-carry mark that is a full yard-plus healthier than last season's (3.2 in 2016, 4.4 in '17). 33

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Running back: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

    Gurley is having a great season -- his ability to both run and catch the ball is what makes the Rams' offense go. With three games still to play, Gurley has already surpassed his 2016 rushing total by 150 yards, with a yards-per-carry mark that is a full yard-plus healthier than last season's (3.2 in 2016, 4.4 in '17).

  • Bell's running style is simply <i>different</i>. The Steelers lean on him heavily -- in the past two seasons combined, he has 694 touches, almost 100 more than anyone else in that span, despite missing four games in 2016 -- but the versatile weapon continues to come through in big spots. Witness his nine-catch effort (with 77 receiving yards and three total touchdowns) in the Week 14 win <a href="http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2017121013/2017/REG14/ravens@steelers">over Baltimore</a>. He breaks tackles, makes people miss and racks up yards after contact. 32

    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Running back: Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Bell's running style is simply different. The Steelers lean on him heavily -- in the past two seasons combined, he has 694 touches, almost 100 more than anyone else in that span, despite missing four games in 2016 -- but the versatile weapon continues to come through in big spots. Witness his nine-catch effort (with 77 receiving yards and three total touchdowns) in the Week 14 win over Baltimore. He breaks tackles, makes people miss and racks up yards after contact.

  • The former college defensive lineman is a good enough athlete that he can fill in at tight end if necessary. 31

    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Fullback: James Develin, New England Patriots

    The former college defensive lineman is a good enough athlete that he can fill in at tight end if necessary.

  • With a league-high 99 catches (he's on track for his fourth consecutive 100-catch season) and 1,509 yards (with nine touchdown catches), Brown has a legitimate chance to win the MVP award. If you need further convincing, check out plays like <a href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-cant-miss-plays/0ap3000000883788/Can-t-Miss-Play-Antonio-Brown-makes-toe-tap-catch-of-the-year">his remarkable sideline grab</a> against the Packers <a href="http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2017112611/2017/REG12/packers@steelers">in Week 12</a>. 30

    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Wide receiver: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

    With a league-high 99 catches (he's on track for his fourth consecutive 100-catch season) and 1,509 yards (with nine touchdown catches), Brown has a legitimate chance to win the MVP award. If you need further convincing, check out plays like his remarkable sideline grab against the Packers in Week 12.

  • Don't be thrown by Jones' up and down season -- he still ranks third in the NFL in receiving yards, and he's still second in receiving yards since entering the league in 2011 (with 8,771). Jones has seven drops this year, which has contributed to his relative inconsistency, but the bottom line is, he's one of the more imposing offensive threats in the game, capable of ripping up the field for a monster gain at any time. 29

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    Wide receiver: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

    Don't be thrown by Jones' up and down season -- he still ranks third in the NFL in receiving yards, and he's still second in receiving yards since entering the league in 2011 (with 8,771). Jones has seven drops this year, which has contributed to his relative inconsistency, but the bottom line is, he's one of the more imposing offensive threats in the game, capable of ripping up the field for a monster gain at any time.

  • Hopkins won't wow you with his speed, but he <i>can</i> get open, and once he does, he tracks the ball down and makes catches. Consider that he ranks sixth in the NFL with 405 catches since entering the league in 2013 -- and that's with quarterbacks like Brock Osweiler, Brian Hoyer, Matt Schaub, Tom Savage and Ryan Mallett throwing to him. 28

    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    Wide receiver: DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

    Hopkins won't wow you with his speed, but he can get open, and once he does, he tracks the ball down and makes catches. Consider that he ranks sixth in the NFL with 405 catches since entering the league in 2013 -- and that's with quarterbacks like Brock Osweiler, Brian Hoyer, Matt Schaub, Tom Savage and Ryan Mallett throwing to him.

  • When I watched Landry at LSU's pro day, I was told he hadn't dropped a single pass in either practice or game action during his final season with the Tigers, and he's shown off those unbelievable hands in the NFL. Landry has 376 career catches, easily the most ever in a player's first four pro seasons. He added two more touchdown catches <a href="http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2017121100/2017/REG14/patriots@dolphins">on Monday</a> for a career-high total of eight this season. Miami's offense overall has disappointed, but Landry is almost impossible to stop. The ballot lists four wide receiver positions, but I want to limit one of them to slot receivers -- and I can think of no more deserving name than Landry. 27

    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Slot receiver: Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins

    When I watched Landry at LSU's pro day, I was told he hadn't dropped a single pass in either practice or game action during his final season with the Tigers, and he's shown off those unbelievable hands in the NFL. Landry has 376 career catches, easily the most ever in a player's first four pro seasons. He added two more touchdown catches on Monday for a career-high total of eight this season. Miami's offense overall has disappointed, but Landry is almost impossible to stop. The ballot lists four wide receiver positions, but I want to limit one of them to slot receivers -- and I can think of no more deserving name than Landry.

  • This position is closely clustered at the top, with Kelce, Zach Ertz and Rob Gronkowski all playing well. Kelce stands out with a strong catch rate (68.2 percent, or 73 catches out of 107 targets) and 56 clutch catches (first downs and touchdowns). He can get open and rack up the yardage -- his average of 5.14 yards after the catch is better than that of any receiver or tight end listed here. 26

    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Tight end: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

    This position is closely clustered at the top, with Kelce, Zach Ertz and Rob Gronkowski all playing well. Kelce stands out with a strong catch rate (68.2 percent, or 73 catches out of 107 targets) and 56 clutch catches (first downs and touchdowns). He can get open and rack up the yardage -- his average of 5.14 yards after the catch is better than that of any receiver or tight end listed here.

  • Ertz has really been a go-to guy for one of the top offenses in the NFL. Though he's not the greatest blocker in the world, as a weapon in the passing game, Ertz boasts speed and amazing hands. 25

    Al Tielemans/Associated Press

    Tight end: Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles

    Ertz has really been a go-to guy for one of the top offenses in the NFL. Though he's not the greatest blocker in the world, as a weapon in the passing game, Ertz boasts speed and amazing hands.

  • Whitworth has proven to be worth every bit of the contract <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000791764/article/rams-set-to-swipe-andrew-whitworth-from-bengals">he was awarded by Los Angeles</a> this offseason. The 12th-year pro has outstanding athletic ability and has played a significant role in helping the Rams nearly double their point production from 2016. He's also a great leader. The Rams can trust him to single up on <i>anybody</i>, which is huge. 24

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Offensive tackle: Andrew Whitworth, Los Angeles Rams

    Whitworth has proven to be worth every bit of the contract he was awarded by Los Angeles this offseason. The 12th-year pro has outstanding athletic ability and has played a significant role in helping the Rams nearly double their point production from 2016. He's also a great leader. The Rams can trust him to single up on anybody, which is huge.

  • Williams <a href="http://www.redskins.com/news/article-1/Kia-MVPs-Of-The-Game-Redskins-Tackle-Trent-Williams-And-Morgan-Moses/8402488f-c8cc-4d45-84fe-97dc7c5fb144" rel="noopener" target="_blank">has played this season</a> with <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/trent-williams-is-at-the-line-between-courageous-and-foolish----and-still-playing/2017/12/07/2ea2172a-db83-11e7-b859-fb0995360725_story.html?utm_term=.8bb0f9c69777" rel="noopener" target="_blank">a knee injury</a> that would have stopped most others in their tracks. Like Whitworth, Williams is smart and strong -- if I needed someone to play tackle for me, Whitworth and Williams are the two I'd go with.<br />
<br /> 
Given Williams' injury issues, if I had to name an alternate, I'd go with Tyron Smith. Dominant in both run-blocking and pass-protection, the perennial Pro Bowler has overcome injuries that held him out of action midseason to continue serving as a rock for Dallas' offense. 23

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Offensive tackle: Trent Williams, Washington Redskins

    Williams has played this season with a knee injury that would have stopped most others in their tracks. Like Whitworth, Williams is smart and strong -- if I needed someone to play tackle for me, Whitworth and Williams are the two I'd go with.

    Given Williams' injury issues, if I had to name an alternate, I'd go with Tyron Smith. Dominant in both run-blocking and pass-protection, the perennial Pro Bowler has overcome injuries that held him out of action midseason to continue serving as a rock for Dallas' offense.

  • Martin has strength, competitiveness and a real mean streak. His man seldom makes a play. Little wonder that he's made the Pro Bowl in each of his previous three seasons. 22

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Offensive guard: Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys

    Martin has strength, competitiveness and a real mean streak. His man seldom makes a play. Little wonder that he's made the Pro Bowl in each of his previous three seasons.

  • DeCastro is the rock on the offensive line of the NFL's fourth-ranked offense. He's an outstanding pass-protector and good run-blocker. 21

    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Offensive guard: David DeCastro, Pittsburgh Steelers

    DeCastro is the rock on the offensive line of the NFL's fourth-ranked offense. He's an outstanding pass-protector and good run-blocker.

  • Frederick can run-block and pass-protect, and the three-time Pro Bowler does a great job getting to the second level, thanks to his speed. He's very strong and smart. Dallas' offensive line might have taken a step back this season without Doug Free and Ronald Leary, but Frederick, Martin and Tyron Smith have all been as good as or better than they've ever been. 20

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Center: Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys

    Frederick can run-block and pass-protect, and the three-time Pro Bowler does a great job getting to the second level, thanks to his speed. He's very strong and smart. Dallas' offensive line might have taken a step back this season without Doug Free and Ronald Leary, but Frederick, Martin and Tyron Smith have all been as good as or better than they've ever been.

  • In his 10th pro season, Campbell is enjoying a career year. A productive player in Arizona, Campbell has kicked it up a notch since signing with Jacksonville; with 12.5 sacks already, he's shattered his previous single-season high (nine). Campbell is a strong leader who will block kicks and play the run very well in addition to making life difficult for quarterbacks. 19

    Tom DiPace/Associated Press

    Defensive end: Calais Campbell, Jacksonville Jaguars

    In his 10th pro season, Campbell is enjoying a career year. A productive player in Arizona, Campbell has kicked it up a notch since signing with Jacksonville; with 12.5 sacks already, he's shattered his previous single-season high (nine). Campbell is a strong leader who will block kicks and play the run very well in addition to making life difficult for quarterbacks.

  • After piling up an impressive 10.5 sacks in 12 games as a rookie, Bosa continued to climb in 2017, with 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and 57 tackles so far. He's an athletic freak with an unbelievable competitive motor. 18

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Defensive end: Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers

    After piling up an impressive 10.5 sacks in 12 games as a rookie, Bosa continued to climb in 2017, with 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and 57 tackles so far. He's an athletic freak with an unbelievable competitive motor.

  • Since becoming a full-time starter in 2014, Griffen has compiled 43.5 sacks (including 13 in 2017), tied for second-most in the NFL in that span. He's one of the main drivers behind the success of this Vikings defense, which ranks third overall and fifth against the pass. 17

    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Defensive end: Everson Griffen, Minnesota Vikings

    Since becoming a full-time starter in 2014, Griffen has compiled 43.5 sacks (including 13 in 2017), tied for second-most in the NFL in that span. He's one of the main drivers behind the success of this Vikings defense, which ranks third overall and fifth against the pass.

  • The defensive tackle position is loaded with talent across the NFL -- but Donald is a cut above the rest. He's strong, athletic and has such great quickness that he sometimes appears to be offside. 16

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Defensive tackle: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

    The defensive tackle position is loaded with talent across the NFL -- but Donald is a cut above the rest. He's strong, athletic and has such great quickness that he sometimes appears to be offside.

  • Cox is as consistent as any defensive tackle out there, the obvious choice for second at the position after Donald, having posted 5.5 sacks, 21 tackles and a forced fumble for the NFL's top-ranked run defense (fourth overall). He's a very powerful player. 15

    Al Tielemans/Associated Press

    Defensive tackle: Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles

    Cox is as consistent as any defensive tackle out there, the obvious choice for second at the position after Donald, having posted 5.5 sacks, 21 tackles and a forced fumble for the NFL's top-ranked run defense (fourth overall). He's a very powerful player.

  • Joseph is a very strong run-stopper who has played a major role in Minnesota's second-ranked run defense. He also posted 10 tackles and a sack last week <a href="http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2017121001/2017/REG14/vikings@panthers">against Carolina</a>. 14

    Scott Boehm/Associated Press

    Defensive tackle: Linval Joseph, Minnesota Vikings

    Joseph is a very strong run-stopper who has played a major role in Minnesota's second-ranked run defense. He also posted 10 tackles and a sack last week against Carolina.

  • I, among many others, thought the former No. 1 overall pick was a bust early in his career. Clowney has since shaken off his slow start to become a defensive force. Even with injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus freeing opposing offenses to focus on Clowney, he's playing <i>very</i> well, with 46 tackles, nine sacks and two forced fumbles this season. He should only get better. 13

    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    Outside linebacker: Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans

    I, among many others, thought the former No. 1 overall pick was a bust early in his career. Clowney has since shaken off his slow start to become a defensive force. Even with injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus freeing opposing offenses to focus on Clowney, he's playing very well, with 46 tackles, nine sacks and two forced fumbles this season. He should only get better.

  • He was seen as the next Willie McGinest when the Patriots drafted him in the first round -- and Jones went on to live up to that projection. Jones is great in space and can put his hand on the ground to rush the passer, as evidenced by his league-leading 14 sacks. Jones seems to be in the picture on every play. He's a continual-effort guy who is in perpetual motion and never gives up. 12

    Greg Trott/Associated Press

    Outside linebacker: Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals

    He was seen as the next Willie McGinest when the Patriots drafted him in the first round -- and Jones went on to live up to that projection. Jones is great in space and can put his hand on the ground to rush the passer, as evidenced by his league-leading 14 sacks. Jones seems to be in the picture on every play. He's a continual-effort guy who is in perpetual motion and never gives up.

  • The secondary tends to get the bulk of the attention in Seattle, but Wagner plays an <i>extremely</i> important role. The tenacious linebacker has a great ability to recognize what the offensive play is and where it's likely to go. In addition to tackling (he leads the NFL since 2014 with 500 in that span), he can play in space, as his two picks this season (eight in his career) show. His competitiveness is off the charts. Yes, he left with <a href="http://seahawkswire.usatoday.com/2017/12/13/linebackers-bobby-wagner-k-j-wright-up-in-air-for-sunday-vs-rams/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">a hamstring injury</a> on Sunday -- but if he can walk, I expect he'll try to play against the Rams this week. 11

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Middle linebacker: Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks

    The secondary tends to get the bulk of the attention in Seattle, but Wagner plays an extremely important role. The tenacious linebacker has a great ability to recognize what the offensive play is and where it's likely to go. In addition to tackling (he leads the NFL since 2014 with 500 in that span), he can play in space, as his two picks this season (eight in his career) show. His competitiveness is off the charts. Yes, he left with a hamstring injury on Sunday -- but if he can walk, I expect he'll try to play against the Rams this week.

  • Kuechly is a football player who just <i>understands</i> the game -- he has great recognition ability and brings a strong presence to the field. He can play traffic cop on defense, but he also shows up for big games, tallying 14 tackles and a sack against Minnesota <a href="http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2017121001/2017/REG14/vikings@panthers">last week</a>. He powers the Carolina defense. 10

    Perry Knotts/NFL

    Middle linebacker: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

    Kuechly is a football player who just understands the game -- he has great recognition ability and brings a strong presence to the field. He can play traffic cop on defense, but he also shows up for big games, tallying 14 tackles and a sack against Minnesota last week. He powers the Carolina defense.

  • Thomas has excelled even though he's had to soldier on without injured secondary-mates Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor; he's probably taken it upon himself to pick up some of the slack with Sherman and Chancellor on the shelf. Thomas has missed seven games over the past two seasons -- and the Seahawks went 3-4 in those contests, which tells you just how important he is. 9

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Free safety: Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks

    Thomas has excelled even though he's had to soldier on without injured secondary-mates Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor; he's probably taken it upon himself to pick up some of the slack with Sherman and Chancellor on the shelf. Thomas has missed seven games over the past two seasons -- and the Seahawks went 3-4 in those contests, which tells you just how important he is.

  • Hyde is having a career year in his first season in Buffalo, posting five interceptions, 11 passes defensed and 65 tackles thus far -- personal bests in all three categories. One thing that stands out about the veteran: He gets the Bills' defense lined up correctly, which is especially important when you're relying on young players like rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White. 8

    Damian Strohmeyer/Associated Press

    Strong safety: Micah Hyde, Buffalo Bills

    Hyde is having a career year in his first season in Buffalo, posting five interceptions, 11 passes defensed and 65 tackles thus far -- personal bests in all three categories. One thing that stands out about the veteran: He gets the Bills' defense lined up correctly, which is especially important when you're relying on young players like rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White.

  • Peterson has the size and speed you want at this position -- he's a premier cornerback who excels at both coverage and tackling. Opposing offenses simply stay away from Peterson's side of the field. 7

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Cornerback: Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals

    Peterson has the size and speed you want at this position -- he's a premier cornerback who excels at both coverage and tackling. Opposing offenses simply stay away from Peterson's side of the field.

  • Ramsey is the young cornerback everyone's looking for: the big, tall guy who will factor in the run game and shut down the pass. He has 17 passes defensed -- second most among defensive backs -- and has allowed just one touchdown in coverage. 6

    Perry Knotts/NFL

    Cornerback: Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Ramsey is the young cornerback everyone's looking for: the big, tall guy who will factor in the run game and shut down the pass. He has 17 passes defensed -- second most among defensive backs -- and has allowed just one touchdown in coverage.

  • Like Peterson, Bouye will cover <i>and</i> tackle, as evidenced by his 45 tackles. He's racked up six picks so far, which accounts for half his career total, and has not allowed a touchdown pass this year, with a burn rate of 42 percent, which is tied for the best in the NFL. Bouye and Ramsey are the main reasons Jacksonville's defense is ranked No. 1 against the pass. 5

    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    Cornerback: A.J. Bouye, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Like Peterson, Bouye will cover and tackle, as evidenced by his 45 tackles. He's racked up six picks so far, which accounts for half his career total, and has not allowed a touchdown pass this year, with a burn rate of 42 percent, which is tied for the best in the NFL. Bouye and Ramsey are the main reasons Jacksonville's defense is ranked No. 1 against the pass.

  • Kern is averaging 51.5 yards per kick, which is about a half-yard better than we've seen in any season since the merger. Anything over 50 is unbelievable. 4

    Damian Strohmeyer/Associated Press

    Punter: Brett Kern, Tennessee Titans

    Kern is averaging 51.5 yards per kick, which is about a half-yard better than we've seen in any season since the merger. Anything over 50 is unbelievable.

  • Tucker has a great leg <i>and</i> a great demeanor, which is important for a kicker. 3

    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Kicker: Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens

    Tucker has a great leg and a great demeanor, which is important for a kicker.

  • Cooper is averaging 28.3 yards per kick return and 11.9 yards per punt return. What makes the sure-handed Cooper doubly valuable is that he can also be a quality backup receiver. 2

    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Return specialist: Pharoh Cooper, Los Angeles Rams

    Cooper is averaging 28.3 yards per kick return and 11.9 yards per punt return. What makes the sure-handed Cooper doubly valuable is that he can also be a quality backup receiver.

  • Drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round in 2016, Grugier-Hill was waived and landed in Philly, where he's proven himself to be a do-everything special teams maven. Grugier-Hill even showed off his leg against Dallas when he was<a href="http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/eagles/kamu-grugier-hill-jake-elliott-eagles-cowboys-score-recap-kicker-20171119.html" rel="noopener" target="_blank">
 pressed into kickoff duty
</a>, thanks to an injury to the Eagles' kicker. He can also play as a linebacker if needed. 1

    Al Tielemans/Associated Press

    Special teamer: Kamu Grugier-Hill, Philadelphia Eagles

    Drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round in 2016, Grugier-Hill was waived and landed in Philly, where he's proven himself to be a do-everything special teams maven. Grugier-Hill even showed off his leg against Dallas when he was pressed into kickoff duty , thanks to an injury to the Eagles' kicker. He can also play as a linebacker if needed.