Draft Status of 2016 NFL Pro Bowl Selections

By Chris Malumphy

Each year the NFL Pro Bowl provides the top players at each position with a free trip to Hawaii and the opportunity to blow out a knee in a meaningless televised match that can only be of interest to fantasy football fans who need one last fix before the Super Bowl. But the invitation to play in the game is recognition that the player is considered among the best at his position. That being so, the Pro Bowl selections provide insight into what teams need to do on draft day to obtain top caliber personnel.

In short, and to the obvious point, teams must use their first round picks wisely and with the greatest of care. More than 50% of the players invited to play in the 2016 Pro Bowl were first round draft picks. Moreover, at least 50% of the players selected at each offensive and defensive position (except fullback, tight end and defensive tackle) were first round choices. Just because a position lacks overall importance in comparison to others doesn't mean that you are likely to be able to get top talent at that spot later than in round one of the draft. For instance, much talk has been heard in recent years as to how running backs have been devalued. And it is undoubtedly true. Nevertheless, if you wanted to have a Pro Bowl running back in 2016, you would have benefited from the foresight of knowing that four of the eight were drafted in the first round, including three in the top 13 picks, with another in the second round. Of the three who were not early picks, one was drafted in the fourth round with the 103rd choice and the other two (a sixth rounder and an undrafted player) were not originally selected to play in the game but were rather chosen as replacements for those who could not attend.

Still, a few late round selections are worthy of selection, including some who have been or are likely to become perennial choices like: Quarterback Tom Brady (6th round, 199 pick), wide receiver Antonio Brown (6th round, 195th pick) and defensive backs Richard Sherman (5th round, 154th pick), Josh Norman (5th round, 143rd pick) and Kim Chancellor (5th round, 133rd pick). But those are the exceptions, not the rule. While teams can often find serviceable players late in the draft, if they want a chance at having a top dog at a position, they have to draft them early.

As one might expect, that is most true for quarterbacks. Eleven quarterbacks were selected for the 2016 Pro Bowl, six initial choices and five replacements. Of the 11, seven were selected in the first round, including four with the top pick in their draft. The only non-first rounders initially selected to play in the game were Tom Brady and Russell Wilson (3rd round, 75th pick). Two others selected outside of the first round were chosen as replacement players: Derek Carr (2nd round 36th player and Tyrod Taylor (6th round, 180th player), whose stats didn't match the production of Drew Brees or Curt Cousins, who weren't selected. That Brady wasn't selected in the first round is THE biggest oversight in the drafts past 20 years. That Wilson didn't go earlier was a lack of recognition on both how the game has been transformed in recent years and the fact that their is something intrinsic and perhaps inexplicable in the ability to lead others on the field and never give up on a play that is far more important than physical size.

As a group, it is well known that wide receivers regularly include some of the most self-possessed and self-centered players on the field. You can probably find psychological studies on the topic. Their inconsistency and the disruption that such a player can cause to team dynamics persuades many general managers to shy away from drafting them early--often to their own detriment. Bet that former Browns general manager Ray Farmer won't continue to overlook wideouts if he ever gets another chance to have the final say at the draft table. Of the 11 wide receives invited to the 2016 Pro Bowl, seven were first rounders, including five chosen within the first six picks in their draft. Of the four non-first rounders, two were selected as replacement players. The NFL has many very serviceable wide receivers that can help any team. But if you want to have one of the best, and the passing game is what modern day football is all about, you will need to draft one nearly as early as you would pick a quarterback.

NFL scouts have little trouble identifying who the best tackle prospects are on draft day. Tackle is the one position that most closely matches quarterbacks for the need to draft them early if you want to obtain the best. Of the six tackles invited to the 2016 Pro Bowl, four were drafted in the first round, three within the top nine picks. Another was drafted in the second round with the 55th pick. Only Jason Peters, a perennial Pro Bowler, was inexplicably overlooked and went undrafted.

In the past, it was the case that centers and guards need not be drafted early to obtain top flight talent. Not so if you wanted a Pro Bowler in 2016. Five of the six centers were first rounds and the lone exception was drafted in round two. Eight guards were invited to the 2016 Pro Bowl. Four were drafted in the first round. Seven were taken in the first 92 picks of their drafts.

Overall, on the offensive side of the ball, 59 players received 2016 Pro Bowl invitations including 32 first rounders (50.8%), seven 2nd rounders, six 3rd rounders, three 4th rounders, one 5th rounder, five 6th rounders and five who had gone undrafted.

Defensively, 52 players were invited including: 30 first rounders (54.2%), seven 2nd rounders, four 3rd rounders, two 4th rounders, four 5th rounders, two 6th rounders and three undrafted players.

Pass rushing defensive ends are in high demand to thwart the modern reliance on the passing game. Five of the seven defensive ends invited to play in the 2016 Pro Bowl were selected in the first round. Only Seattle's Michael Bennett was drafted after the 54th pick in a draft.

Defensive tackle was one of the few positions that did not have at least half the players invited to play in the 2016 Pro Bowl drafted in the first round. However, three of the seven were and all three were among the first 13 picks including Gerald McCoy who was selected with the 3rd choice in his draft. Two others were selected in the second round. All seven were drafted in the first 120 selections.

Three of the five inside linebackers were first rounders. All five were selected within the first 91 choices.

Like defensive ends, outside linebacks who can rush the passer are in tremendous demand. Eleven received 2016 Pro Bowl invites. Six were first rounders, three more came from round two, with another in each of the third and fourth rounds. All 11 invitees were selected within the top 126 picks.

The greatest divergence in draft status was among the cornerbacks. Twelve received 2016 Pro Bowl invites. Seven were drafted in the first round. None came from rounds two, three or four. Two others were selected in round five, another in round six and two were undrafted. It is truly amazing that not ones was drafted in those early to mid rounds. Is it coincidence. Or is the top talent so easily discernible that after the top players are taken everything else is a complete crap shoot.

For conversational purposes, the free and strong safeties are merged together here, although the positions are separated in the table below. Ten safeties were selected with six having been drafted in the first round, one in the 3rd, two in the fifth and the last being undrafted.

Most teams don't give much thought to drafting punters, place kickers, return specialists or special teamers. The 2016 Pro Bowl players selected for these positions tend to be those who were selected in the mid to late rounds or who were undrafted.

Note that none of the 2016 Pro Bowl players was drafted in the seventh round and that there were nearly as many players drafted in round six (10) or that went undrafted (11) than were selected in rounds four and five combined (7 and 5, respectively). This seems to show that teams are not doing a good job in those middle rounds where they may be taking speculative chances, looking for backups or special teamers.

Draft Status of 2016 Pro Bowl Selections
Carson PalmerCardinals2003111BengalsUSCReplaced
Eli ManningGiants2004111ChargersMississippiReplacement
Cam NewtonPanthers2011111PanthersAuburnReplaced
Jameis WinstonBuccaneers2015111BuccaneersFlorida StateReplacement
Ben RoethlisbergerSteelers200411111SteelersMiami (OH)Replaced
Aaron RodgersPackers200512424PackersCaliforniaReplaced
Teddy BridgewaterVikings201413232VikingsLouisvilleReplacement
Derek CarrRaiders20142436RaidersFresno StateReplacement
Russell WilsonSeahawks201231275SeahawksWisconsin  
Tyrod TaylorBills2011615180RavensVirginia TechReplacement
Tom BradyPatriots2000633199PatriotsMichiganReplaced
Running Backs
Adrian PetersonVikings2007177VikingsOklahoma  
Todd GurleyRams201511010RamsGeorgia  
Jonathan StewartPanthers200811313PanthersOregonReplaced
Doug MartinBuccaneers201213131BuccaneersBoise State  
LeSean McCoyBills200922153EaglesPittsburghReplaced
Devonta FreemanFalcons201443103FalconsFlorida State  
LaTavius MurrayRaiders2013613181RaidersCentral FloridaReplacement
Chris IvoryJets           Washington StateReplacement
Marcel ReeceRaiders           Washington  
Mike TolbertPanthers           Coastal CarolinaReplaced
Patrick DiMarcoFalcons           South CarolinaReplacement
Wide Receivers
Calvin JohnsonLions2007122LionsGeorgia TechReplaced
Larry FitzgeraldCardinals2004133CardinalsPittsburghReplaced
A.J. GreenBengals2011144BengalsGeorgia  
Amari CooperRaiders2015144RaidersAlabamaReplacement
Julio JonesFalcons2011166FalconsAlabama  
Odell Beckham Jr.Giants201411212GiantsLouisiana State  
DeAndre HopkinsTexans201312727TexansClemson  
Allen RobinsonJaguars201422961JaguarsPenn StateReplacement
T.Y. HiltonColts201232992ColtsFlorida InternationalReplacement
Brandon MarshallJets2006422119BroncosCentral FloridaReplaced
Antonio BrownSteelers2010626195SteelersCentral Michigan  
Tight Ends
Tyler EifertBengals201312121BengalsNotre Dame  
Greg OlsenPanthers200713131BearsMiami (FL)Replaced
Rob GronkowskiPatriots201021042PatriotsArizonaReplaced
Travis KelceChiefs20133163ChiefsCincinnati  
Gary BarnidgeBrowns200856141PanthersLouisvilleReplacement
Delanie WalkerTitans20066617549ersCentral Missouri StateReplacement
Joe ThomasBrowns2007133BrownsWisconsin  
Trent WilliamsRedskins2010144RedskinsOklahoma  
Tyron SmithCowboys2011199CowboysUSC  
Joe Staley49ers20071282849ersCentral Michigan  
Andrew WhitworthBengals200622355BengalsLouisiana State  
Jason PetersEagles           Arkansas  
Zack MartinCowboys201411616CowboysNotre Dame  
Mike IupatiCardinals20101171749ersIdahoReplaced
David DeCastroSteelers201212424SteelersStanford  
Logan MankinsBuccaneers200513232PatriotsFresno StateReplacement
Richie IncognitoBills200531781RamsNebraskaReplacement
Marshal YandaRavens200732386RavensIowa  
Trai TurnerPanthers201432892PanthersLouisiana StateReplaced
Josh SittonPackers2008436135PackersCentral Florida  
Mike PounceyDolphins201111515DolphinsFlorida  
Alex MackBrowns200912121BrownsCalifornia  
Eric WoodBills200912828BillsLouisvilleReplacement
Travis FrederickCowboys201313131CowboysWisconsin  
Ryan KalilPanthers200722759PanthersUSCReplaced
Defensive Ends
Ezekiel AnsahLions2013155LionsBrigham Young  
Khalil MackRaiders2014155RaidersBuffalo  
J.J. WattTexans201111111TexansWisconsin  
Chandler JonesPatriots201212121PatriotsSyracuse  
Muhammad WilkersonJets201113030JetsTempleReplaced
Carlos DunlapBengals201022254BengalsFloridaReplacement
Michael BennettSeahawks201564180JaguarsOhio State  
Defensive Tackles
Gerald McCoyBucs2010133BuccaneersOklahoma  
Fletcher CoxEagles201211212EaglesMississippi State  
Aaron DonaldRams201411313RamsPittsburgh  
Kawann ShortPanthers201321244PanthersPurdueReplaced
Calais CampbellCardinals200821950CardinalsMiami (FL)  
Jurrell CaseyTitans201131377TitansUSCReplacement
Geno AtkinsBengals2010422120BengalsGeorgia  
Inside Linebackers
Luke KuechlyPanthers2012199PanthersBoston CollegeReplaced
Derrick JohnsonChiefs200511515ChiefsTexasReplacement
Clay MatthewsPackers200912626PackersUSC  
Bobby WagnerSeahawks201221547SeahawksUtah State  
NaVorro Bowman49ers20103279149ersPenn State  
Outside Linebackers
Julius PeppersPackers2002122PanthersNorth CarolinaReplacement
Von MillerBroncos2011122BroncosTexas A&MReplaced
Anthony BarrVikings2014199VikingsUCLAReplacement
DeMarcus WareBroncos200511111CowboysTroyReplaced
Thomas DavisPanthers200511414PanthersGeorgiaReplaced
Tamba HaliChiefs200612020ChiefsPenn State  
Jamie CollinsPatriots201322052PatriotsSouthern Mississippi  
Sean LeeCowboys201022355CowboysPenn StateReplacement
LaVonte DavidBuccaneers201222658BuccaneersNebraskaReplacement
Justin HoustonChiefs 20113670ChiefsGeorgiaReplaced
Elvis DumervilRavens2006429126BroncosLouisvilleReplacement
Patrick PetersonCardinals2011155CardinalsLouisiana State  
Adam JonesBengals2005166TitansWest VirginiaReplacement
Darrelle RevisJets200711414JetsPittsburgh  
Marcus PetersChiefs201511818ChiefsWashington  
Aqib TalibBroncos200812020BuccaneersKansasReplaced
Desmond TrufantFalcons201312222FalconsWashingtonReplacement
Vontae DavisColtes200912525DolphinsIllinoisReplacement
Josh NormanPanthers201258143PanthersCoastal CarolinaReplaced
Richard ShermanSeahawks2011523154SeahawksStanford  
Chris HarrisBroncos200567181BearsLouisiana-MonroeReplaced
Brent GrimesDolphins           ShippensburgReplacement
Malcolm ButlerPatriots           West Alabama  
Free Safeties
Malcolm JenkinsEagles200911414SaintsOhio StateReplacement
Earl ThomasSeahawks201011414SeahawksTexasReplaced
Reggie NelsonBengals200712121JaguarsFloridaReplaced
Harrison SmithVikings201212929VikingsNotre DameReplacement
Tyrann MathieuCardinals20133769CardinalsLouisiana StateReplaced
Reshad JonesDolphins2010532163DolphinsGeorgiaReplacement
Strong Safeties
Charles WoodsonRaiders1998144RaidersMichigan  
Eric BerryChiefs2010155ChiefsTennessee  
Kam ChancellorSeahawks201052133SeahawksVirginia TechReplaced
Mike AdamsColts     DelawareReplacement
Sam KochRavens2006634203RavensNebraska  
Johnny HekkerRams           Oregon State  
Stephen GostkowskiPatriots2006421118PatriotsMemphis  
Dan BaileyCowboys           Oklahoma State  
Return Specialists
Tyler LockettSeahawks20153569SeahawksKansas State  
Darren SprolesEagles2005429130ChargersKansas State  
Special Teamers
Justin BethelCardinals201267177CardinalsPresbyterian  
Cedric PeermanBengals2009612185Ravens VirginiaReplacement
Matthew SlaterPatriots           UCLAReplaced