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By John McMullen, NFL Editor - Archive - Email
Examining the Pro Bowl rosters
Being named to the Pro Bowl is still a big deal for the players.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Let's face it, All-Star games, no matter the sport, are tedious exhibitions.

Even when bumbling Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig comes along and tries to make the actual athletic contest mean something, it rarely has much of an affect.

Unless, of course, your favorite team finishes 10 games ahead of its competition and loses home-field advantage in the World Series because Detroit's Justin Verlander felt mingling with Kate Upton was more important then actually showing up for the game.

Over in the NFL, the Pro Bowl is probably the worst of the major All-Star games simply because the game of football doesn't lend itself to a free-wheeling, laissez-faire atmosphere.

The game is what it is, and many of us have politicked for its removal from the calendar.

So, while we can all agree the contest itself is meaningless, the honor is certainly not.

Being named to the Pro Bowl is still a big deal for the players.

Whether it's a veteran like Peyton Manning or first-timers like Robert Griffin III and Blair Walsh, the label of Pro-Bowler remains quite the compliment. On the other hand, missing the cut, especially if you have a hefty bonus tied up in he process can be a hard pill to swallow.

So, with that in mind, let's look at the 2012 Pro Bowl rosters and see if the three-tiered voting process, which includes the fans, players and coaches, got it right.

NFC:

QUARTERBACKS:
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay; Matt Ryan, Atlanta; Robert Griffin III, Washington -- Nailed it here. You could probably make an argument for Drew Brees over RG3 but Brees was a little more inconsistent than usual this season and committed some uncharacteristic mistakes over two down stretches. Griffin, meanwhile, has the Redskins poised to win the NFC East if they can hold serve against the Cowboys on Sunday.

RUNNING BACKS: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota; Marshawn Lynch, Seattle; Frank Gore, San Francisco -- Peterson and Lynch are no-brainers but two rookies, Alfred Morris in Washington and Doug Martin in Tampa, have outplayed Gore in 2012.

FULLBACK: Jerome Felton, Minnesota -- It's hard to argue with this choice. As good as Peterson is, he's had a career-year because this is the first time he's had a true fullback for lead-isolation plays since Tony Richardson was in Minny. Felton has been blowing people up all season and his pancake of A.J. Hawk in Week 13 is already film room legend. That said, Felton only plays in about 35 percent of the Vikings' snaps and San Francisco's Bruce Miller plays more and has been effective, although not as dominant as Felton.

WIDE RECIEVERS: Calvin Johnson, Detroit; Brandon Marshall, Chicago; Victor Cruz, NY Giants; Julio Jones, Atlanta -- "Megatron" and Marshall certainly belong but Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson, Dallas' Dez Bryant and Jones' teammate in Dixie, Roddy White, should have all been chosen before Cruz or Jones. Jackson is the major reason Josh Freeman has been putting up gaudy numbers in central Florida, Bryant has turned into a superstar outside the numbers in Big D while White is the far more consistent option for Matt Ryan in Dixie.

TIGHT ENDS: Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta; Jason Witten, Dallas -- The Giants' Martellus Bennett is talented and Minnesota's Kyle Rudolph has a nose for the end zone but Gonzalez and Witten have been head and shoulders above the rest of the NFC's tight ends.

CENTERS: Max Unger, Seattle; Jeff Saturday, Green Bay -- Saturday is the most egregious mistake on either roster. The guy was actually benched by Green Bay in favor of Evan Dietrich-Smith. So he's not good enough to start on a mediocre Packers offensive line but he's on the NFC's Pro Bowl team? The Vikings' John Sullivan has been the best center in football and Washington's Will Montgomery isn't far behind.

GUARDS: Jahri Evans, New Orleans; Mike Iupari, San Francisco; Chris Snee, New York Giants - Reputation took over here with Iupati the only choice who belongs although Evans and Snee certainly aren't at a Saturday-like level just yet. Underrated Philadelphia guard Evan Mathis should have gotten some love as should Green Bay's Josh Sitton and the Niners other guard, Alex Boone.

TACKLES: Joe Staley, San Francisco; Russell Okung, Seattle; Trent Williams, Washington -- All three are very good players but Vikings rookie Matt Kalil should have gotten the nod over Williams. Minnesota inserted Kalil on Day 1 and hasn't had to help him since.

DEFENSIVE ENDS: Julius Peppers, Chicago; Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants; Jared Allen, Minnesota -- Talk about lazy. All the big names are here and none of them deserve it. Peppers has been OK but nothing more and JPP has taken a major step back this season. Allen, meanwhile, has been hampered with nagging injuries all season. Veteran Falcons' pass rusher John Abraham, Arizona's Calais Campbell and the Panthers' duo of Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy have all played at a higher level than the three default settings here.

INTERIOR LINEMEN: Justin Smith, San Francisco; Henry Melton, Chicago; Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay -- It's nice to see Melton and McCoy get rewarded although Melton should have been an alternate to injured Lions' tackle Nick Fairley, who brings a little more athleticism and explosion to the table.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: Aldon Smith, San Francisco; DeMarcus Ware, Dallas; Clay Matthews, Green Bay -- Smith is a one-hit wonder but the hit, in this case pass rushing, is like Lou Bega's Mambo No. 5 -- a monster. Matthews is the heart and soul of a mediocre Packers defense but Ware has been outplayed by his own teammate, Anthony Spencer.

INSIDE/MIDDLE LINEBACKERS: Patrick Willis, San Francisco; NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco -- If the Cowboys' Sean Lee had stayed healthy, he was on his way to usurping Willis, who is starting to show a little wear and tear, at least when it comes to range. Bowman has actually surpassed Willis as a player and should have been named the starter.

CORNERBACKS: Charles Tillman, Chicago; Tim Jennings, Chicago; Patrick Peterson, Arizona -- Chicago's two turnover machines certainly deserved the recognition but the talented Peterson is far too inconsistent to take over a player like the Seahawks' Richard Sherman.

SAFETIES: Donte Whitner, San Francisco; Dashon Goldson, San Francisco; Earl Thomas, Seattle -- Arizona's Kerry Rhodes has been the most consistent safety in the NFC and the Vikings' Harrison Smith would be here if he wrapped up better in run support. That said, the 49ers' tandem is certainly the best unit in the game and Thomas is an imposing presence on the back end.

PUNTER: Thomas Morstead, New Orleans - Morstead has had a great year but if you're backed up, you will want Andy Lee's leg.

PLACEKICKER: Blair Walsh, Minnesota - Since the University of Georgia product already set an NFL record by going 9-for-9 on 50-plus yard field goals and can boom a touchback anytime he wants, it's tough to question this selection.

KICK RETURN SPECIALIST: Leon Washington, Seattle -- The classic north-south returner. Coaches should show this guy's tape to everyone. Absolutely no wasted movement. Washington explodes to the hole and goes from there, capturing every available yard.

SPECIAL TEAMER: Lorenzo Alexander, Washington -- Solid choice but the Eagles' Colt Anderson is a little better.

AFC:

QUARTERBACKS:
Peyton Manning, Denver; Tom Brady, New England; Matt Schaub, Houston - Manning and Brady are all-world. Schaub's lack of mobility and inability to make things happen when he's forced off his spot will hurt the Texans at some point but no one deserved the third spot more than him.

RUNNING BACKS: Arian Foster, Houston; Jamaal Charles, Kansas City; Ray Rice, Baltimore -- Has anyone noticed C.J. Spiller is averaging more than 6.0 yards a carry and is far more explosive than anyone in the NFL not named Peterson or Charles? He gets my third spot ahead of Rice.

FULLBACK: Vonta Leach, Baltimore -- Vonta is almost a cliche at this point but he remains the best lead-iso guy in the business.

WIDE RECEIVERS: A.J. Green, Cincinnati; Andre Johnson, Houston; Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis; Wes Welker, New England -- Big names and big production here but Denver's Demaryius Thomas has to replace Welker since speed and production on the outside always trumps a possession receiver, no matter how good the possession guy is.

TIGHT ENDS: Rob Gronkowski, New England; Heath Miller, Pittsburgh -- Since Miller in injured anyway how about looking toward Colts rookie Dwayne Allen, who may be the best combination tight end in the game after the Steelers veteran.

CENTERS: Chris Myers, Houston; Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh -- Myers is a solid choice but they got the wrong Pouncey. Miami's Mike Pouncey is a little bit better than his twin brother.

GUARDS: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore; Logan Mankins, New England; Wade Smith, Houston -- Logan Mankins? While not as bad as the Saturday pick in the NFC, this earns the biggest stinker in the AFC. Rookie Kevin Zeitler of the Bengals is one of many who have played at a much-higher level this season.

TACKLES: Duane Brown, Houston; Joe Thomas, Cleveland; Ryan Clady, Denver -- No arguments here although if you want to give some love to a right tackle, look at Cincinnati's Andre Smith, who has turned from the lazy kid on "Hard Knocks" into quite an anchor.

DEFENSIVE ENDS: J.J. Watt, Houston; Cameron Wake, Miami; Elvis Dumervil, Denver -- Watt deserves his own special designation and Wake has been spectacular this season. The Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson, however, is a better all-around player than Dumervil, although he won't get the recognition until the sack numbers go up.

INTERIOR LINEMAN: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati; Vince Wilfork, New England; Haloti Ngata, Baltimore -- A very strong position in the AFC. Tennessee's Jurrell Casey is a very good player on a bad team but how do you take him over these other three?

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: Von Miller, Denver; Tamba Hali, Kansas City; Robert Mathis, Indianapolis -- Similar to the NFC is that the lesser-known Justin Houston has outplayed Hali in Kansas City. Miami's Kevin Burnett, meanwhile, may be the best all-around 'backer in the AFC but it's all about sacks here.

INSIDE/MIDDLE LINEBACKERS: Jerod Mayo, New England; Derrick Johnson, Kansas City - The Chiefs sure have a lot of good players for such a bad team. The Dolphins' Karlos Dansby is right there with these two but Mayo and Johnson are both deserving.

CORNERBACKS: Johnathan Joseph, Houston; Champ Bailey, Denver; Antonio Cromartie, NY Jets -- Can we stop with the Bailey stuff at some point? He was an elite corner but right now he's an above average player, nothing more and nothing less. In fact, he's not even the best corner Denver has -- that's Chris Harris. Joseph is a great player but he was hampered by injuries this season. Cromartie is a no-brainer -- just ask him. The Titans' Alterraun Verner should have been taken over both Joseph and Bailey, and Cleveland's Joe Haden may be the best corner in the AFC but probably hasn't played enough due to the Adderall suspension and concussion.

SAFETIES: Eric Berry, Kansas City; Ed Reed, Baltimore; LaRon Landry, NY Jets -- This was the reputation position in the AFC. The Chargers' Eric Weddle is the best safety in football and should have went while Buffalo's Jairus Byrd and Miami's Reshad Jones also significantly outplayed the bigger names.

PUNTER: Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City -- Let's stop with the Chiefs' stuff and look to the 12-3 Texans with monster-legged Donnie Jones.

PLACEKICKER: Phil Dawson, Cleveland -- Could have went the duel rookie route and taken Baltimore's Justin Tucker but Dawson is also a solid choice since he's missed just once all season (28-of-29 field goal attempts).

KICK RETURN SPECIALIST: Jacoby Jones, Baltimore - Buffalo's Leodis McKelvin is probably a better duel-returner but Jones has taken a punt back and two kickoffs, becoming the only player in NFL history to record two kickoff returns of at least 105 yards. That's a strong resume.

SPECIAL TEAMER: Matthew Slater, New England - Hard to argue with the gunner and special teams captain of such a fundamentally sound group.