The Correct AFC Pro Bowl Roster (Defense/Special Teams)

The Pro Bowl rosters of 2021 were hilariously awful. While they are snubs every season, this season had some genuine head-scratchers.

Here is what the rosters should have looked like:

An asterisk indicates that the player was not included in the Pro Bowl roster.

AFC Defensive Tackles: Chris Jones – Kansas City Chiefs, DeForest Buckner* – Indianapolis Colts, Cameron Heyward – Pittsburgh Steelers

Lost Spot: Calais Campbell – Baltimore Ravens

This is the single worst selection on either team. Not only did Campbell miss a few games, he frankly was not good in 2020. He had a handful of solid games, but he was a liability at times. This is not even a case of too few talented players as Buckner had an extraordinary year for the Colts. He dominated week-in and week-out and got zero recognition. It is disgusting from the NFL.

AFC EDGEs: T.J. Watt – Pittsburgh Steelers, J.J. Watt* – Houston Texans, Joey Bosa – Los Angeles Chargers, Myles Garrett – Cleveland Browns, Carl Lawson* – Cincinnati Bengals, Jerry Hughes* – Buffalo Bills

Lost Spots: Frank Clark – Kansas City Chiefs, Matt Judon – Baltimore Ravens, Bradley Chubb – Denver Broncos

For semantics, the defensive end and outside linebacker positions were combined to form EDGE so both can be judged against similar players.

These are not egregious misses (besides Judon), but J.J. Watt, Lawson, and Hughes were more productive than Clark and Chubb. On a per-snap basis, Lawson produced more pressure than anyone outside of T.J. Watt and Bosa. Hughes is in a similar boat with mammoth pressure numbers on only 350 pass-rush snaps. J.J. Watt did not have a particularly dominant pass-rushing season, but he was one of the best run defenders among EDGEs.

Judon successfully played average football and made another Pro Bowl. This was a bizarre selection.

AFC Linebackers: Darius Leonard – Indianapolis Colts, Myles Jack* – Jacksonville Jaguars

Lost Spot: Tremaine Edmunds – Buffalo Bills

Jack was the best linebacker in football for much of the season before tailing off late in the year. Edmunds was abused in coverage, and he was far from his 2019 form for the entire season. For as bad as the Jaguars were, Jack was not a problem. He was a great player in 2020, and he deserves to be recognized.

AFC Cornerbacks: Xavien Howard – Miami Dolphins, Bryce Callahan* – Denver Broncos, Marlon Humphrey – Baltimore Ravens, Tre’Davious White – Buffalo Bills

Lost Spot: Stephon Gilmore – New England Patriots

Gilmore was not even the best Patriot cornerback as J.C. Jackson had a wonderful season (besides Week 16). Callahan did miss six games, but in the 10 he played, he was unquestionably the best pure slot corner in the NFL. Then, the Broncos had to shuffle around their cornerbacks and Callahan was excellent at the outside corner until he got hurt.

AFC Safeties: Jessie Bates* – Cincinnati Bengals, Justin Simmons – Denver Broncos, Minkah Fitzpatrick – Pittsburgh Steelers

Lost Spot: Tyrann Mathieu – Kansas City Chiefs

Nothing against Mathieu. Bates was the best safety in the NFL by the widest margin of any position in the NFL. His lack of a Pro Bowl nod is a pure travesty. The NFL royally screwed this selection up.

Bates allowed a 42 passer rating, picked three passes, and had a 90.1 PFF grade. There were none better than Bates. Even after two subpar weeks to end the season, Bates finished several laps ahead of every safety in football.

AFC Special Teams: Morgan Cox (long snapper) – Baltimore Ravens, Jake Bailey (punter) – New England Patriots, Justin Tucker (kicker) – Baltimore Ravens, Ray-Ray McCloud* (return specialist) – Pittsburgh Steelers, George Odum* (special teamer) – Indianapolis Colts

Lost Spot: Andre Roberts (return specialist) – Buffalo Bills, Matthew Slater (special teamer) – New England Patriots

Roberts and McCloud had similar seasons. Roberts had more total returns, and he was more efficient on kickoff returns. McCloud was more efficient on punt returns. They both muffed two punts. They are the second and third-best returners in the 2020 NFL.

Slater has been to nine of the last 10 Pro Bowls. He is not necessarily undeserving in 2020, but Odum led the AFC in special teams tackles, and he ended with an elite PFF grade. Odum gets the nod here.

AFC Offense

NFC Offense

NFC Defense