The NFL announced the full rosters for the 2019 Pro Bowl on Tuesday, and while the 88 players who have been picked for the game are surely deserving of praise, there are always significant players who don’t make it — snubs, if you will. Of course, being snubbed doesn’t necessarily imply that a player was left out of the Pro Bowl for nefarious purpose — it just means that some of these guys really deserved the honor.
There are, of course, limited spots available in the Pro Bowl. There’s usually more than three quarterbacks in each conference who have been particularly exceptional, for instance. On sheer numbers alone, some guys just can’t make it. But there are a few big names that come to mind.
Last year, some notable players that we highlighted as snubs included Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford, Damon Harrison, and a few others.
Let’s go over some of our picks for snubs this time around.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
It’s hard to argue against Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley, and Ezekiel Elliott making the Pro Bowl, but it’s also hard to argue against McCaffrey’s overall production. He’s not that much further behind the three in rushing yardage (with significantly fewer carries), and boasts a better per-carry average than Elliott and Gurley. Where McCaffrey really shines is his 768 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns, better than all three who made it. McCaffrey is 14th in the NFL overall in receiving yardage, including receivers and tight ends.
Chris Jones, DE, Chiefs
J.J. Watt has had a great season, but Jones shows up better on the stat sheet than both Myles Garrett, and especially Melvin Ingram. Jones has 14 sacks for a loss of 111 yards (the most yards lost on sack in the NFC), in addition to five passes deflections and an interception. Garrett has 12.5 sacks and has been good overall, but Ingram, with just 7 sacks for a loss of 55 yards, it’s hard to see why he’s above Jones.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers
Smith-Schuster has had a breakout season, eclipsing the production of his Pro Bowl teammate Antonio Brown. He’s been Ben Roethlisberger’s most frequent target in a year where he’s had to throw for 400+ yards multiple times. Smith-Schuster is nearing a 1,500-yard season and brings enough to the gridiron to have earned Bill Belichick’s respect. He’ll be on the short list of alternates.
Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
Kamara had a legitimate claim as a fringe MVP candidate early this season, and while his pace has fallen off in recent weeks, his dual-threat playmaking has been a major reason why the Saints have the best record in the NFC. He’s already scored more touchdowns and is on pace for more yards from scrimmage than his 2017 season, where he was named to the Pro Bowl and earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. But, like McCaffrey, he was squeezed out of an absolutely stacked NFC roster not due to talent, but due to space.
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Cowboys
There really should be three inside linebackers nominated to the Pro Bowl, because Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner have certainly been great this season. But Vander Esch has been the saving grace of a banged up Dallas defense, and he’s been flying all over the field all season. He does everything extremely well, and while picking one of those two to kick out in favor of Vander Esch is a tall order, him not making it is a shame. The rookie is third in the NFC in tackles and has two interceptions to go with seven pass deflections.
DeForest Buckner, DT, 49ers
Nobody rational could argue that Aaron Donald should be usurped as the starting DT for the NFC, but the players behind him are far more questionable. Fletcher Cox and Akiem Hicks both got the nod over Buckner, who had a breakout season for the 49ers. Neither player compares to Buckner on the stat sheet (Cox: 7.5 sacks, 41 tackles, 9 tackles for loss; Hicks: 6 sacks, 41 tackles, 11 TFL; Buckner: 11 sacks, 60 tackles, 16 TFL), though the case for Cox is a lot weaker than Hicks’, based on Hicks’ ability at simply eating up space and being extremely good at doing it. He’s at least as good as Donald in that realm, but doesn’t necessarily finish plays himself. Cox, on the other hand, doesn’t do those things quite as well, and also didn’t have the stats.
David Bakhtiari, OT, Packers
That’s three seasons and three snubs in a row for a left tackle dubbed a future Hall of Famer by none other than Aaron Rodgers. He’s been one of the best left tackles again this season, the second-best overall according to Pro Football Focus. And he was a second-team All-Pro for the last two years. Bakhtiari stayed healthy as injuries ravaged the rest of the Packer offensive line, giving the club some much needed stability in a tumultuous season.
Darius Leonard, LB, Colts
The Colts have gone from the league’s 30th ranked defense to a borderline top-10 unit, and much of that transformation can be attributed to the pace Leonard has set in the middle of the field. The rookie out of South Carolina State has 146 tackles and seven sacks in 13 games this fall, teleporting from sideline to sideline against the run and providing a valuable blitzing presence in the pass rush. Andrew Luck — another snub — has been the main factor in Indianapolis’s return to playoff contention, but Leonard’s dirt-cheap contributions aren’t far behind.
Damontae Kazee, FS, Falcons
The second-year safety is tied for second in the NFL with six picks (but no pick-sixes). Still, Kazee’s been a breath of a fresh air for a Falcons defense that doesn’t have much to celebrate this season.
Rodney Hudson, C, Raiders
The Raiders have been a laughing stock this season, and for good reason. But Rodney Hudson has been, far and away, the best-performing player on that team and it has nothing to do with the hilariously low bar that implies. He’s been playing at an extremely high level, and has only allowed seven pressures in 2017-18 combined, per Pro Football Focus. He should be the starting center for the AFC, over both Pounceys.
Jason Kelce, C, Eagles
In a similar vein as Hudson, I just can’t see how either player who made it in the NFC made it over Kelce. Alex Mack and Max Unger are both good starting centers, but both are already past their best football, and Kelce has had a phenomenal season. He’s also Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded center in the entire NFL this season.
Jared Cook, TE, Raiders
There aren’t many bright spots for the Raiders this season, but Cook’s one of them. He’s got career highs in touchdowns (6) and receiving yards (848) and he leads his team in those categories, by a lot. Those are more yards than Eric Ebron’s put up this season too.
Chandler Jones, DE, Cardinals
When you play for a crummy team, you’re gonna get snubbed, no matter how good you are. Jones, last year’s sack leader, has 12 this year, and it’s safe to say that his Cardinals wouldn’t have three wins without him.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
OK, sure, Patrick Mahomes and Philip Rivers are obvious choices. But Matt Ryan’s stats are better than Jared Goff’s or Aaron Rodgers’, two of the three QBs named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
Wilson doesn’t have gaudy numbers, but he’s been his typically efficient self, recording a 31:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio despite a receiving corps that lacks much name recognition behind an oft-injured Doug Baldwin. Seattle was supposed to rebuild in 2018; instead, Wilson has the club in prime position for a Wild Card bid. He’s on pace to set career highs in touchdown passes and passer rating — better numbers than in any of the four previous seasons he was named to the Pro Bowl.
Will Lutz, K, Saints
In a season where kickers have been anything but clutch, there’s Lutz. He’s missed exactly ONE field goal this season. And just one extra point, which he gets to kick a lot of thanks to the Saints offense.
The 2019 Pro Bowl will take place on Jan. 27 from Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. It will be broadcast simultaneously on ESPN and ABC.