The 2020 Pro Bowl rosters were revealed Tuesday night on NFL Network, which means it's time to scan them and then grab our pitchforks before making a big stink out of who wasn't on the list.
If you're looking to save time researching before gathering to protest, here are my 10 biggest Pro Bowl snubs. Let the debate rage into the new year!
1) Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Hey, stop laughing. I'm serious about this! Cousins gets a bad rap for being a quarterback who seldom gets it done in prime time, but for a second straight season, he's statistically wonderful.
Let's start with traditional stats. Cousins has posted the third-highest passer rating in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts this season. Lamar Jackson's 112.8 rating and Drew Brees' 115.3 (boosted by his near-perfect Week 15 outing against Indianapolis) are better than Cousins' 111.1 mark, and only if we relax the criteria to allow for QBs who have at least 200 attempts (Ryan Tannehill has a 114.6 rating on 239 attempts) does Cousins' ranking in the category drop one spot.
Cousins is the fourth-best passer in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus' passing grades. He trails only Brees, Tannehill and Russell Wilson in that category and leads the entire NFL (again, QBs with min. 300 pass attempts) in percentage of throws deemed accurate by PFF analysts at 64.8 percent. His critics might point to the difference in his general accuracy and plus accuracy (plus accuracy is a subset of accurate throws that are deemed especially accurate or out of the norm). He's 19th in the NFL in that category, which is obviously still very good but might explain why folks don't regard him in the same circle as others mentioned in this space.
It comes as no surprise that Cousins is better when supported by a reliably effective running game. When throwing 25 or fewer times since joining the Vikings, Cousins owns a 5-0 record. He's 13-11-1 when he has to throw more than 25 times, per NFL Research. But that's more indicative of team success than a squad winning by not putting the ball in Cousins' hands. Need proof? In the four seasons in which he's played a full 16 games, Cousins has never had a rushing game ranked higher than 20th and he has never finished with a passer rating worse than 93.9. He does the job even when others don't.
Finally, here's the home run of advanced metrics. Cousins is a Next Gen Stats stud, especially since he joined the Vikings. In each of the last two seasons, Cousins has landed among the top three in completion percentage above expectation, with his +6.6 percent mark ranking second to Drew Brees among passers with at least 300 attempts in 2019. If we cut that requirement down to 239 attempts to fit Tannehill in, Cousins falls to third with a number that is still fantastic and would have led all passers in 2018.
The issue we have to consider with these snubs is simple: Of the players who made the Pro Bowl roster, whom do you replace? Brees landing above him in most of these categories makes it difficult to complete that swap, though the Saints QB did miss substantial time with his thumb injury. Cousins has been better than Pro Bowl selectee Aaron Rodgers in many metrics, but A-Rod owns a sterling 24:2 TD-INT ratio. I'd still swap out Rodgers for Cousins this season, because no one is removing Wilson from the roster for Cousins.
2) Tyrann Mathieu, S, Kansas City Chiefs
Here's Thomas' stat line: 45 tackles, 1.5 sacks, four passes defended, two interceptions and one forced fumble as part of the No. 6 defense in the NFL. Here's Mathieu's: 62 tackles, 2.0 sacks, nine passes defended and three interceptions as part of the 18th-ranked defense.
Both are veterans in their first season with their new teams. Both are key pieces of their defenses. One unit is playing better than the other, but both play for division champions headed toward home playoff games.
PFF metrics also place them right next to each other. Thomas owns a 0.4 point advantage in overall defensive grade, thanks to a slightly better coverage grade (82.5 versus Mathieu's 78.6).
These two couldn't be closer statistically, and one could argue Mathieu has done more to help transform his team's defense. After serving as a red and yellow sieve for much of 2018, the Chiefs are playing much better on that side of the ball in 2019, thanks in no small part to Mathieu.
He deserves a Pro Bowl selection as much as Thomas, if not more. It's a shame there wasn't room on the roster for him.
3) Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders
Jacobs has been a fantastic addition to the young Raiders, who desperately needed a bell-cow running back after saying goodbye to Marshawn Lynch and Latavius Murray in recent years. They now have one in the former Alabama runner, who has racked up 1,150 yards with his hard-charging, explosive style. He's averaging 4.8 yards per carry and has reached the end zone seven times on the ground.
That last stat might be why he was left out. Of the AFC running backs who made the Pro Bowl, only Nick Chubb has less than 10 rushing touchdowns this season (he has nine), and he likely made it because of his place atop the rushing yards leaderboard. However, Jacobs has out-rushed 2020 AFC Pro Bowler Mark Ingram by 187 yards despite playing in one fewer game. His per-carry average is slightly less than Ingram's 5.0, and his team is not the hottest squad in the conference. He also doesn't give postgame podium speeches that become viral sensations, so his notoriety likely isn't as high, and as we all know, these types of things tend to be about popularity.
Nonetheless, Jacobs has an extremely bright future and will likely find himself on a Pro Bowl roster before long if he keeps this pace.
4) Anthony Harris, S, Minnesota Vikings
Harris went undrafted in 2015, in part because of a preexisting injury that hurt his stock, but he was still tabbed by NFL Media's Bucky Brooks and Charles Davis as one of the five best safeties in the draft. He's living up to that billing in a big way in 2019, recording 57 tackles, nine passes defended and five interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) in his first season as a full-time starter.
According to PFF, Harris is the NFL's seventh-best safety in pass coverage, posting a grade of 90 and forcing an incompletion on 22.2 percent of targets.
Harris undoubtedly benefits from playing in a defense that features sack master Danielle Hunter and a fearsome front seven that causes problems for nearly every offense it faces, but that shouldn't exclude him from consideration for such an honor (Cardinals safety Budda Baker, a Pro Bowl starter for the NFC, plays in the same defense as stud edge rusher Chandler Jones). The luxury of playing in a quality defense shows in the few targets Harris has faced (16) as opposed to the 45 Baker has had to defend, but the difference in their PFF coverage grades is significant (Harris owns a 90 mark, while Baker ranks 48th at 64.9). We're not trying to take away an honor earned by the up-and-coming Baker, but Harris has a solid case to replace the Arizona safety or fellow 2020 Pro Bowler Eddie Jackson, who ranks lower than Baker in the same category (62.8 coverage grade on 37 targets).
5) Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions
Golladay is an excellent example of how a good receiver can overcome unfortunate quarterbacking circumstances. The wideout is in the midst of a second-straight 1,000-plus-yard season, he's doubled his touchdown receptions from 2018 (10 this year) and he's doing it despite having the likes of backup QBs Jeff Driskel and David Blough throwing the ball to him in the second half of the season.
Those two names should explain this interesting insight from Next Gen Stats: Golladay and teammate Marvin Jones were tied for the league lead in tight-window receptions (less than one yard between receiver and nearest defender at pass arrival) with 13 each as of Week 13 (a week before Jones suffered a season-ending injury). Golladay's average target separation of 1.9 yards is the lowest in the NFL among receivers with at least 50 receptions entering Week 16.
In short, he's doing the most with the least. Golladay owns a +6.9 catch percentage above expectation, and quarterbacks have a 105.1 passer rating when targeting him. Golladay continues to get better with each year and should find himself on a Pro Bowl roster sooner rather than later -- especially if he can play a full season with a healthy Matthew Stafford.
6) Darren Waller, TE, Oakland Raiders
After operating in complete obscurity (total career receptions before 2019: 18), Waller has exploded onto the scene this season, catching 80 passes for 1,001 yards in Year 2 with the Raiders.
While no one's going to argue with Travis Kelce's inclusion on the AFC roster, there's a case to be made that Waller should have received the nod over the conference's other selectee at tight end -- Baltimore's second-year pass-catcher Mark Andrews, who has become a favorite target of Lamar Jackson and a somewhat frequent presence on the much-circulated Ravens highlight reels. Waller far outpaces Andrews in receptions and yards, but Andrews' eight touchdowns are more than double Waller's total. That said, a dive into the advanced metrics shows how effective Waller has been in 2019. The tight end owns a +7.4 percent difference between expected and actual catch percentage and has helped Derek Carr post a 108.8 passer rating when targeting him (Andrews: +1.4 percent, 108.2 passer rating when targeted).
7) Josh Allen, edge rusher, Jacksonville Jaguars
We're going to make a cross-conference comparison here for the sake of illustrating how two similar performances sometimes don't receive the same level of acclaim.
Through 14 games, Allen has 39 tackles, 10 sacks and two forced fumbles. The rookie has quietly put together a very solid debut campaign for an otherwise forgettable Jaguars squad. On the other side of the conference divide exists fellow rookie Nick Bosa, whose stat line reads: 41 tackles, nine sacks, three passes defended, one interception and one forced fumble.
Those numbers are pretty similar, right? Yes, Bosa's production in passes defensed gives him a slight advantage, but aside from that, there isn't a significant difference between the stat lines.
Well, here's a difference: Bosa's team is in the heat of a tight division race, while Allen's Jaguars have been eliminated from postseason contention. One has also received a lot more attention than the other in all forms of media.
Bosa is a 2020 Pro Bowler. Allen is not. Now, PFF's metrics justify this selection, ranking Bosa as the eighth-best edge defender in the NFL with a defensive grade of 88.7. Allen ranks 47th at 67.7. Allen receives a slight boost in pass-rushing grade, moving up to 42nd, while Bosa remains at eighth.
It's worth mentioning that Allen's Pro Bowl chances probably weren't helped by teammate Calais Campbell, who earned a spot on the AFC roster and the No. 2 grade among all edge defenders (13th in pass rushing). What makes this a snub, though, is the inclusion on the AFC team of Frank Clark, who posted a somewhat similar stat line (34 tackles, six sacks, three passes defended, one interception, three forced fumbles) but finds himself outside of the top 50 in PFF grades among edge rushers. Clark's 64.9 mark lands him at 60th, among the likes of rookies Brian Burns and Maxx Crosby, and his pass-rushing mark still leaves him at 54th.
Then again, Clark's offseason move to Kansas City and resulting payday makes him a name voters definitely recognize on a ballot. And sometimes, that's the difference between a Pro Bowler and a snub.
8) Joe Schobert, LB, Cleveland Browns
Schobert made the 2018 Pro Bowl as an injury replacement for Ryan Shazier thanks to his 144 tackles and three sacks, but his 2019 performance is arguably the best of his career. Schobert has been all over the field for the Browns, racking up 116 tackles and nearly matching his 2017 pace of nine tackles per game with an average of 8.28 this campaign. His 10 hustle stops (defensive stops where the player covers 20+ yards of distance from snap to tackle) rank in the top 10 of all linebackers with at least 300 defensive snaps played, and his 55 stops (tackles that result in a successful play for the defense based on the yards to go by down) are fourth best among that same group across the league, per Next Gen Stats.
He's recorded two sacks this season, but more importantly, he's become a bit of a ballhawk, snagging four interceptions in a span of two games this season. He also made a key scoop of a Jared Goff fumble just before halftime of a close Week 3 meeting between the Browns and Rams on Sunday Night Football.
The Browns as a whole have been very disappointing in 2019, but not Schobert, who has thrived in a contract year. I take no issue with Darius Leonard and Dont'a Hightower making the Pro Bowl over Schobert, but it's time to add a third middle linebacker spot to the roster. In the meantime, we'll see if a deep playoff run by the Patriots opens up a place for Schobert to make a return trip to Orlando.
9) Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Carson is similar to Josh Jacobs from a production standpoint, but there's one glaring weakness that can explain why he's not on the NFC Pro Bowl roster: fumbles. Carson has fumbled the ball more times (six) than any of the league's other top 50 rushers who aren't quarterbacks, and opposing teams are undoubtedly looking to strip the ball loose when attempting to tackle the 222-pound running back. Look beyond the fumbles, though, and you'll find a running back who ranks fourth in rushing yards with 1,190, and among the top 10 with seven rushing TDs. In the past two seasons he has returned a legitimate rushing attack to a Seahawks team that lacked one since the departure of -- guess who -- Marshawn Lynch.
Carson is a big reason why Seattle is 11-3 and humming offensively. If there were a fourth roster spot for running backs -- or if he weren't in the same conference as Christian McCaffrey -- Carson would likely be receiving a trip to Orlando.
10) Cory Littleton, LB, Los Angeles Rams
Littleton has stuffed the stat sheet since becoming a full-time starter in 2018. The fourth-year veteran has recorded 114 tackles (two away from a new career high), 2.5 sacks, eight passes defended, two interceptions and two forced fumbles this season. He's doing a little bit of everything for a linebacking corps that sorely needed a standout to emerge.
Littleton's 25 hustle stops since 2018 are the third most in that span, ranking behind only Luke Kuechly and Lavonte David. Kuechly and Bobby Wagner are the Pro Bowl inside 'backers for the NFC, two players that were very deserving of the honor. But again, if a third slot existed, it would be filled by Littleton, who could still stand to replace Wagner if the Seahawks reach the Super Bowl.