Potential pro-bowler rookies can make some serious waves in the AFC
Denver’s Noah Fant and a Pro Bowl selection is a big reach, but a breakout effort in 2021 is expected, and it could send him to the NFL’s all-star game.
His challenge: There are a ton of reasons why he won’t be a Pro Bowler. Firstly, Fant plays in the best tight-end division in the American Football Conference. All four teams at this position are very solid and the best in the AFC, if not the entire league.
Fant has Travis Kelce at Kansas City to deal with who will be a most certain Pro Bowler. Las Vegas has the best tight end that no one talks about in Darren Waller. The Chargers have a solid veteran in Jared Cook.
Cook has a sophomore quarterback who will give Patrick Mahomes a run for his money, so that will help
Unfortunately, Fant plays on a Broncos offense that will be at the bottom of the division. Plus, a quarterback corps that will be challenged to score points. He plays on an AFC West team that has the worst quarterback corps in the division. It looks like Drew Lock will start, and that will hurt Fant. Teddy Bridgewater will ultimately end up being the starter after several weeks if not sooner and that will help him.
Fant will have his chance: His talent and speed are elite and that puts him in the top 10 of the position which makes him dangerous.
Jerry Jeudy is a pro bowl talent, but his quarterbacks will hurt his chances
The bottom line, Denver needs an offensive threat and I believe Fant is their guy at the tight end position. He is exceedingly difficult to play man coverage on. His ability to change directions and his ball-catching abilities make him the best threat for Denver to score points. That’s why he can be a surprise pick for the Pro Bowl.
Los Angeles (A) has gotten much better defensively and should be the best defense in the league. Kansas City’s defense is still decent but not great. And the Raiders, well, they are still the Raiders. Fant should a Pro Bowl pick for Denver.
Kansas City is going to have their fair share of pro bowl considerations. They have two sports they need to get better at, defense and special teams return game.
Mecole Hardman is possible. He is the only guy that needs to take advantage of what Andy Reid offers him in the return game. Reid is outstanding and producing solid return games that go back to his Philadelphia days. Last year was not a great year for Hardman in the return game. He will be better, but I don’t know about pro-bowl-better
Two rookies in the AFC West could get Pro Bowl nods. One of them should be linebacker Nick Bolton
Why a long shot: He will see a variety of formations and schemes in the west and that will be a lot of for a rookie. It was for 2020 first-round pick, linebacker Kenneth Murray of the Chargers and he missed angles and overplayed. Consistent with rookies at the beginning.
This second-round draft pick was a steal for the Chiefs. The defense needs to get better, but Bolton needs to see the field. Two other defenses in the division have made moves to get better and could be top 10 defenses. The Chiefs need to be one of them.
Chargers Justin Herbert and his new offensive line pose a threat to the Chiefs. Denver will have to run the ball successfully for them to be successful. Derek Carr could play at a Pro Bowl level at any time, with a whole mess of weapons.
Why he could get the nod: Bolton’s ability to run and cover the boundary will be big for the Chiefs. He is in a division that has dangerous talent in the slot. Backfields that can run downhill at them (Denver, Las Vegas).
Who knows if he will start the season, but he will end up a starter sooner than later. He has an extremely high ceiling with speed, tools, and a mean streak. The linebacker will be a huge surprise Pro Bowler if he stays on the field. Outside of the west, he will face will see everything and Andy Reid will have his surprise defensive weapon.
Undrafted linebacker, Raiders Corey Littleton from the University of Washington, rookie signing bonus from the Rams was $15,000
Now he is one of the top linebackers in the game. But the downside is he has been voted into only one pro bowl when he was deserving of three more. He will be a pro bowler this year. But since we are talking first-timers, Hunter Renfrow will get his chance this season.
Hunter Renfrow?: Yes. There is something about the receiver and special teamer that could open up for him this season. He has only had 1,200+ yards receiving in two years and only 265 punt return yards last year.
There’s not a lot of issues with him except he’s not a primary weapon. He doesn’t return kicks and only returns punts, but with a horrible defense, he won’t get many opportunities to shine. John Gruden needs to help with that defensively.
He will be a bigger threat: The thing with Hunter Renfrow is that he just makes plays, he doesn’t make many mistakes if any at all. But most importantly he has the best nickname in football; “third down and Renfrow” for his ability to make plays on third downs. He also has a knack for being able to put the Raiders offense in the red zone.
He is one of the best third-down option receivers in the game
If the Raiders defense gets better, which it should with Littleton, Renfrow’s punt return performance will get him an election to the Pro Bowl on special teams.
The best offensive lineman of the 2021 draft was Rashawn Slater. He could be part of a Charger offensive line that could get three Pro Bowlers; NFL’s best center Corey Linsley, veteran longshot Brian Malaga, if he is healthy, and of course Slater.
Downside: He is a rookie.
Why he will be a Pro Bowler: The numbers are on his side. Since the draft started, 42 offensive tackles have been selected in the first round. 10 of them were rookie Pro Bowlers. Also, many evaluators have noted that he could be the next Joe Thomas and Eric Fischer.
He has an upside that makes him NFL-ready. A remarkably high football IQ grade predicts him to be an opening game starter at left tackle for the Chargers.
The bottom line, as the offensive line goes, Justin Herbert goes. Rashawn Slater will join Corey Linsley in the Pro Bowl.