Pro Bowl voting is now open for fans over at NFL.com, as the Bucs try to eclipse the franchise-record nine Pro Bowlers they boasted back in 2000. They’ve got an outside shot at hitting the mark, but with six games left on the schedule, a lot remains to be seen.
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QB Tom Brady OG Ali Marpet
There is no shortage of deserving quarterbacks this season, but Brady’s production should be good enough to get him to his 15th Pro Bowl this year. Fourth in the NFL in touchdown passes and in passing yards, Brady’s raw numbers aren’t quite as good as the top guys, but with his wide receiving corps finally stabilizing, a strong second half should lock him in as one of the six most-deserving signal callers in the league.
Marpet has never been to the Pro Bowl despite being very deserving, but his play this year should lock him in if he’s able to return from injury soon. Marpet hasn’t allowed a sack all season, and has been in the conversation for best guard in the NFL. The only thing that could slow his rise is getting shredded by Aaron Donald on the national stage of Monday Night Football in his first game back from injury. Knowing Marpet, that won’t happen.
RB Ronald Jones C Ryan Jensen OT Tristan Wirfs TE Rob Gronkowski
I know it’s going to sound a little bit crazy to say that Ronald Jones or Rob Gronkowski could be Pro Bowlers this year, but look at their position groups across the league right now.
At running back, Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry are in a two-man race for the rushing title, but Jones is third in the NFL with 730 yards! Injuries to Nick Chubb, Saquon Barkley, Austin Ekeler, Raheem Mostert and Christian McCaffrey have left the door wide open for Jones to take advantage.
Look at the names below him on the rushing yards list: Josh Jacobs, James Robinson, Kareem Hunt, Kenyan Drake, Clyde Edwards-Helaire. There aren’t a lot of sure-fire stars that are close to Jones’ production on the ground this season, which could help push some votes his way unless McCaffrey or Chubb go off during the final seven weeks of the season. Right now, Jones has a way better shot than most people realize at making his first Pro Bowl, just don’t ask me if I think he’s deserving of the award.
As for Gronkowski, he’s in a very similar situation to Jones, except he’s got more name recognition and star power on his side too. In a vacuum, you wouldn’t think Gronkowski’s good-not-great 2020 season would be deserving of a Pro Bowl nod, but after Travis Kelce, the pickings are slim at tight end.
With George Kittle hurt and unlikely to return this season, Gronkowski is currently 100 yards behind the 49ers tight end, who is second in the NFL in receiving yards for tight ends. Between Gronkowski and Kittle are Darren Waller, Hayden Hurst, Hunter Henry and Dalton Schultz, none of whom have even eclipsed 435 yards on the season. Gronkowski currently sits at 374 yards, and has more touchdowns (4) than all four of the aforementioned tight ends edging him in yards.
This position group has underperformed this season to such a significant degree that there is almost certain to be a few breakout candidates over the last seven weeks of the year. If Gronkowski can hold his own through that stretch, there’s a solid chance he could grab a spot as one of the six tight ends to pick up Pro Bowl accolades this season.
As for Tristan Wirfs, he’s easily the most deserving of the four players on the Under Consideration list, but will a rookie get that kind of respect already? The award should be solely based on performance during the 2020 season, which clearly qualifies Wirfs, but we all know the Pro Bowl has never worked that way. There’s a lot of excellent tackles in the NFL right now, so Wirfs may have to wait his turn until year two.
Jensen has been good this season, but I wouldn’t typically think of his 2020 performance as Pro Bowl caliber. However, with the center position slipping across the league, Jensen has a decent chance at getting some attention.
Sidebar: How good would you have thought the Bucs would be on offense this season if I had told you that they’d have zero wide receivers in contention for a Pro Bowl bid? It’ll take some monster performances by Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to get into the Pro Bowl conversation this year, but the fact that the Bucs offense is so good despite those guys not having crazy production is a real testament to Tom Brady and their depth at the skill positions.
LB Lavonte David
CB Carlton Davis
The best linebacker in the NFL this year has been Lavonte David. He’s got tape, pedigree, stats (73 tackles, 7 tackles-for-loss, 1.5 sacks, 4 pass breakups, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble) and now, finally, media attention on his side. If David doesn’t make the Pro Bowl this year, shoot the event to the moon.
In his third season, Carlton Davis appears poised to make his first Pro Bowl, in part due to excellent tape, but largely due to his four interceptions, which is tied for third-best in the NFL. He’s traveled against some of the leagues best receivers and consistently held their outputs to below average, which is especially impressive considering how little he’s permitted to play press man coverage, his biggest strength. Davis needs to close out the season strong, but he looks to be in good position for post season honors if his excellent play continues.
LB Devin White
EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul
Devin White will be one of the most polarizing players in this year’s Pro Bowl voting. He’s one of Pro Football Focus’ worst-ranked linebackers, (which I do not agree with) while many other fans believe he’s one of the brightest young stars in the NFL (eh, not yet). White’s snap-to-snap play isn’t deserving of the Pro Bowl by a long shot, but his highlight reel might get him there. 88 tackles, eight tackles-for-loss, five sacks and a forced fumble are really impressive numbers, even if they don’t tell the whole story.
For fan voting, the NFL still (somehow) doesn’t group all off-ball linebackers together, which could help push votes White’s ways on the inside linebacker ballot, with players like Demario Davis and Myles Jack on the outside linebacker ticket. It’s a ridiculous system that is incredibly outdated, it could matter in getting White the fan portion of the award. White also has pedigree and is well-liked around the league, which will matter in the coaches and players’ votes for the award.
I think White will get in, but, as much as I enjoy the second-year linebacker’s game, I bet there will be more deserving players.
As for Jason Pierre-Paul, his 7.5 sacks are tied for seventh in the NFL, which gives him an outside shot at getting recognized. JPP hasn’t made a Pro Bowl since 2012 however, so he’ll need some big numbers over the final six games of the season to pick up the honor.
Sidebar: Shout-out to Vita Vea, who probably would have made the list if not for his season-ending injury against the Bears. If he can build on his start to the 2020 season in 2021, we’ll be talking about him on next year’s ballot.
Kicker Ryan Succop has missed just two field goals and two extra points this season, and three of those four misses were blocks due to poor blocking in front of him. Succop has only missed a single kick of his own accord during the 2020 season, which in a normal year would probably have him as the NFL front-runner for the Pro Bowl.
But kickers are feasting on the current lack of crowd noise and pressure in the NFL this season, as Succop’s field goal percentage of nearly 91 percent is only good enough for 13th in the NFL! He’s still in the Pro Bowl conversation however, which would be a first-time honor for the 12-year veteran.