Anthony Sherman is not a starter for the Chiefs. But he is a starter for the AFC Pro Bowl team. Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones is one of the best players in football this season. But he’s not a Pro Bowler.
Those two Chiefs represent a significant problem with the way the NFL assembles the Pro Bowl rosters: The positions used are outdated, and more in line with what football looked like in 1960 than what it looks like in 2018.
Let’s start with Sherman, who is the AFC’s starting fullback. The fullback position, once a staple of NFL offenses, is now so little-used that Sherman has played less than 10 percent of the Chiefs’ offensive snaps this season, even though he’s been healthy and available for all 14 games. There’s just no reason that there should be one starting fullback and two starting wide receivers, even though NFL teams use a third wide receiver far more often than they use a fullback. Designating three receivers as starters would make more sense.
If the NFL doesn’t want to take fullbacks out of the Pro Bowl running altogether, it would be wise to change the rosters to add a flex position where voters could choose to select a fullback, or a second tight end, or a third receiver. That’s what PFT said the Associated Press should do three years ago to update its All-Pro teams, and that’s what the AP then did.
But while Sherman didn’t belong on the Pro Bowl team, Jones did. Yet he didn’t make it, and that again shows a problem with the Pro Bowl rosters: Versatile defensive linemen who line up at both end and tackle, like Jones, are too easily overlooked. The Chiefs listed Jones as an end, where he was beaten out by J.J. Watt, Myles Garrett and Melvin Ingram, but he might have made it if he had been listed as an interior defensive lineman.
Again, however, the NFL might be better off allowing for more versatility in the Pro Bowl positions: Perhaps there should be at least two spots available for defensive ends, at least one for a defensive tackle, and then the other three defensive linemen could be either ends or tackles. A versatile player like Jones would have a better shot of making the roster in that scenario.
We can quibble about Pro Bowl “snubs” all day, and we can ask whether anyone even cares about the Pro Bowl enough for it to matter. But as long as the Pro Bowl still exists, the best players ought to get rewarded. And there’s something wrong with a system that leaves Anthony Sherman as a Pro Bowl starter, and Chris Jones off the team entirely.