2013 Pro Bowl roster analysis: NFC
- By Gregg Rosenthal
- Updated: Dec. 26, 2012 at 10:05 p.m.
The 2013 Pro Bowl rosters were announced Wednesday night, and we've gone over the biggest snubs and looked hard at the AFC roster. Let's dive into the NFC team:
Wide receiver: Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, Victor Cruz
This was one of the toughest positions to narrow down. Megatron and Marshall make sense as starters, but a strong case could be made for Roddy White, Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston and Dez Bryant as potential reserves. Cruz wasn't as strong as he was last season, but his Chunky Soup ads probably helped. Marshall proved to be everything the Chicago Bears wanted and more when they traded for him.
Tackle: Joe Staley, Russell Okung, Trent Williams
All three players here are deserving choices, but the group is a reminder that we don't have many truly dominant left tackles, like in previous years. Okung and Williams are both third-year pros who could make many more Pro Bowls in the future.
Guard: Mike Iupati, Jahri Evans, Chris Snee
Offensive line spots can be lifetime awards, so it's great to see Iupati rewarded for a breakout season in San Francisco. He defines the term "mauler." Green Bay's Josh Sitton is a strong candidate who could have made the team over Snee. Evans enjoyed a strong bounce-back season after Carl Nicks left New Orleans.
Center: Max Unger, Jeff Saturday
Saturday's inclusion is the best possible argument that fan votes should be minimized. The leading vote-getter of all offensive linemen, Saturday struggled all season before the Packers benched him after Week 16.
Tight end: Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten
So much for passing the torch to the new generation of tight ends. Guys like Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis rightfully will be stuck at home next month because of one Hall of Fame lock (Gonzo) and another strong candidate (Witten) making the team.
Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Robert Griffin III
It's amazing that Eli Manning wasn't that close to making the team. Taking RG3 over Drew Brees is a tough call because Brees has to do so much more for his team, but I have no problem with it. Griffin did everything he was asked at a frighteningly efficient level. Ryan clearly improved this season, and Rodgers remains among the best. It's going to be tough to make the NFC squad at quarterback for a long, long time.
Running back: Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore
Does it get much better than this group? Peterson is having a historic season. Lynch is the key offensive player on a 10-5 team and my pick for the No. 2 running back in the league. Gore is one of the most complete, underrated players of the last decade. Rookies Alfred Morris and Doug Martin were left out for good reason.
Fullback: Jerome Felton
Felton and the Minnesota Vikings' offensive line have enjoyed a nice season opening up holes for Peterson against eight-man fronts. (But let's be honest: Peterson got this spot for Felton, not the other way around.)
Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul, Julius Peppers, Jared Allen
JPP didn't rack up big sack numbers, but he turned into a dominant run-stopper. Allen and Peppers especially were helped by their reputations in relative down years for them.
Interior linemen: Justin Smith, Henry Melton,
Ndamukong Suh has enjoyed an underrated season, but we absolutely love these picks. Melton is the unsung star of the Chicago defense, and McCoy absolutely has dominated at times. Justin Smith was a no-brainer selection and helps make Aldon Smith so great for the 49ers.
Outside linebacker: Aldon Smith, DeMarcus Ware, Clay Matthews
Remember when I wrote it doesn't get much better than the NFC running backs? This group comes close. Aldon Smith isn't quite complete enough as a player to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors, but he's in the top five. Matthews was such a huge difference maker that he deserves a spot as a reserve despite missing four games. Lance Briggs was left off the team.
Inside/middle linebacker: Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman
The 49ers' run defense struggled at times, but I can't quibble with both inside linebackers making the Pro Bowl. OK, I can quibble a little. Daryl Washington actually might be more versatile than Bowman and enjoyed an incredible season.
Cornerback: Charles Tillman,
Tim Jennings, Patrick Peterson
No, Richard Sherman didn't make the team. Yes, that's insane. No, it didn't officially have to do with his potential pending suspension. Unofficially, it couldn't have helped Sherman. Tillman and Jennings were outstanding this season for Chicago. Peterson was more up and down. Cortland Finnegan also had a nice year for the St. Louis Rams.
Safety: Dashon Goldson, Earl Thomas, Donte Whitner
The NFC West is where you go for great secondary play. Thomas actually is the backup to Goldson at free safety, which is a surprise. The 49ers' safeties make their presence felt with huge hits.
Special teams: Thomas Morstead, Blair Walsh, Leon Washington, Lorenzo Alexander
Walsh easily was the best kicker in the league as a rookie. He's the best Walsh from Minnesota since Brenda.