Pro Bowl  


2015 Pro Bowl Draft: J.J. Watt, Andrew Luck would top my board


Could you pick between Cris Carter and Michael Irvin?

A couple of decades ago, that was a difficult proposition, about as tough a call as as there was. In 1995, Carter caught 122 balls (for the second consecutive year), racking up 1,371 yards and 17 touchdowns. Irvin, meanwhile, grabbed 111 passes for a whopping 1,603 yards and 10 scores. He also finished that season hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with his Cowboys teammates in Arizona.

This week, these two Hall of Famers are back in the desert -- and they'll be making some decisions of their own, as Carter and Irvin are charged with building this year's Pro Bowl teams. The prime-time segment of the draft will be broadcast live on NFL Network at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday night. Irvin will be assisted by the player-captain tandem of Joe Haden and DeMarco Murray, while Carter will be helped by J.J. Watt and Antonio Brown. And, of course, the two legendary wideouts will try to fill out their respective rosters with the best players available, aiming to put the most competitive team on the field. (For more on the specific rules, click here.)

I was asked what my top five picks would be if I were in either's shoes. Let me tell you, I have seen Irvin's shoes -- he's got way more expensive kicks than me. I am still more stylish, however ... OK, that's debatable. What's not debatable is that sorting through all the talent on the Pro Bowl roster spurs some interesting conundrums.

What follows is essentially my dream draft -- the initial approach I would take to win this thing. Would love to hear what your strategy would be: @HarrisonNFL is the place for such banter.

1) This captain combo should have gone first: J.J. Watt and Antonio Brown

After winning the coin flip at Tuesday's Pro Bowl press conference, Irvin elected to forgo the first pick in the pre-selection and prime-time drafts in favor of choosing Haden and Murray to be his captains. All due respect to Irvin, but this is not what I would've done, especially because there appears to be such a big discrepancy between the two tandems. 

Watt is the best defensive player in the game. Brown is the top wideout (with apologies to Calvin Johnson). I just wouldn't put Haden or Murray up there with those two. While both are outstanding players, I don't think either is the No. 1 guy at his position (like Watt and Brown currently are).

2) My top individual player pick: Andrew Luck

Luck had a magnificent season, though I don't think he is the premier quarterback in the draft pool. So why take him this high?

I'm looking at the motivation factor. Tell me Luck won't be hell-bent on showing how much better he is than what we just saw in the AFC Championship Game. Some guys don't care about that stuff, but Luck strikes me as a dude who does. Given that he is such a young player, getting respect from his peers might be a little bit more important to him than it is to some of the veteran QBs who have been there, done that. Luck's supreme mobility is an added plus, especially with the running lanes that present themselves -- and the lack of truly bone-shattering hits -- in this game.

3) Get cornerback covered: Vontae Davis

If I were Irvin or Carter, Davis would get a long look with my next pick. With Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis preparing for Super Bowl XLIX (and thus not playing), Davis is the corner I'd want in this draft. He can cover almost anyone in the league, and he's not afraid to play against the run. He also allowed quarterbacks a sub-40 passer rating on throws in his direction, lower than Sherman, Revis or Broncos standout Chris Harris. Holy cow; I'm loading up on Colts. I guess I figure getting faceplanted on national television in a conference title match will motivate some guys in what is otherwise a more laissez-faire-type game. That's French for "selecting ticked-off Colts players who are good."

4) Snag the 2014 sack king: Justin Houston

This is such an easy choice. There is no blitzing allowed in the Pro Bowl. Cite player safety or blame it on the complexity of blitz schemes -- and the inherent impossibility of trying to cohesively block blitzes with a bunch of guys who've never played together before. If you can't blitz, why not take this season's best pass rusher in terms of sacking the quarterback?

Now, if you're thinking Watt is the best overall pass rusher, especially when you add in hurries and knockdowns, you'll get no argument from me. That's why both are on this draft board! When it comes to pure sacks, though, Houston topped the NFL with 22, while Watt ranked second with 20.5. Having Watt and Houston together will be exactly like having Watt team up with Jadeveon Clowney on the Texans this past year! Oh, wait ...

5) Double down at QB: Tony Romo

Hey, it's a quarterback's league, right? There are two really good reasons to draft Romo here:

a) He had the best season of any quarterback who will be playing in the Pro Bowl.
b) You prohibit your opponent, be it Carter or Irvin, from getting Luck and the Dallas quarterback.

Romo was splendid in 2014. Remarkably, most fans (and many analysts) probably don't realize he posted the highest quarterback rating in the NFL. (Yes, that includes Aaron Rodgers.) Oh, and he led the league in completion rate, too, falling one completed pass short of 70 percent. His mobility and willingness to throw the ball down the field spell trouble for loosely coordinated secondaries. Not to mention, his playing style is just plain fun to watch.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.



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