Making first-team All-Pro is a greater honor than making the Pro Bowl. Only 28 players make first-team All-Pro, while 86 players are chosen to the Pro Bowl even before late replacements are added. And All-Pro voters, while they don’t get it right every time, have fewer biases and personal connections to players than do the fans, players and coaches who vote for the Pro Bowl.
So when a player makes first-team All-Pro, that means more than making the Pro Bowl. And when a player who makes first-team All-Pro didn’t make the Pro Bowl, it’s a good bet that the Pro Bowl voters were the ones who missed out.
This year, seven players have been chosen first-team All-Pro despite getting snubbed at playoff time:
Cam Heyward, the Steelers defensive lineman who had a career-high 12 sacks this season and was indisputably one of the best defensive linemen in football this year.
Jason Kelce, the Eagles center who somehow skipped the Pro Bowl voters’ minds despite being widely regarded as the best center in football.
Andrew Whitworth, the Rams left tackle whose arrival in Los Angeles after 11 seasons in Cincinnati was a big part of the Rams’ turnaround.
Andrew Norwell, the Panthers left guard who came in first at a very crowded position; 12 different left guards received a first-team All-Pro vote.
Harrison Smith, the Vikings safety who was as crucial as anyone in Minnesota’s surprise run to the NFC North title.
Kevin Byard, the Titans safety who tied for the league lead with eight interceptions.
Jamal Agnew, the Lions rookie punt returner who led the league in punt return yards, average and touchdowns this season.
So congratulations are in order particularly to those seven men, who were well deserving of the honor they received — and the lesser honor they did not receive.