Now that we are about halfway through the regular season, it is time to start considering which players are deserving of a Pro Bowl selection. For this series, we will look at the three most deserving candidates for each team. Obviously, some teams will have more or less than three players selected to the Pro Bowl, but for simplicity purposes, we will discuss the top three either way.
TOP MIDSEASON PRO BOWL CANDIDATES: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The New England Patriots are currently 7-0 and quarterback Tom Brady is a huge reason why. The former Michigan Wolverine is averaging 344 passing yards per game (tied for first) this season, while completing 68.9 percent of his passes. Brady has thrown 20 touchdowns (tied for first) so far in 2015, while throwing only one interception. Those are some strong numbers.
In his 16th season in the NFL, the 38 year old quarterback (second oldest quarterback in the league), is having one of his best seasons ever. That’s saying something considering he is a future Hall of Famer. Brady’s 2007 and 2011 seasons were remarkable and this season he might be doing more with less. Yes, Brady gets to throw to tight end Rob Gronkowski, the best tight end in football, and wide receiver Julian Edelman, who is really good. But the Patriots do not have a prototypical, take the top off of a defense, wide receiver. In addition, the Patriots’ offensive line has been really subpar this season, which Brady has had to counter by getting rid of the ball really quickly. His time-to-throw average of 2.22 seconds is the fastest in the league this season.
There is a lot of football left this season, but the Patriots look like one of the favorites in the AFC and Brady being the best in the NFL at his position this season is a big reason why.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is the best at his position in the NFL and he’s proving it again in 2015. Gronk is averaging 92.3 receiving yards per game, which is first among tight ends and ninth among all receivers. His 13 catches of over 20 yards is the second most in the league (tied with Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.) and most among tight ends. The former University of Arizona Wildcat has seven touchdowns this season, which leads all tight ends and has him tied for the most in the NFL among all receivers. This season Gronk is on pace for 91 receptions, 1,477 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.
Gronk’s combination of speed, size and hands make him one of the toughest covers in the NFL. He is also one of the best red zone targets in the league, and that can be extremely beneficial for a team and a quarterback. Players should be selected to the Pro Bowl because they are the best at their position that season, and Gronk has proven that he is.
There were multiple players who were deserving of this final spot. Linebacker Jamie Collins has recorded 51 tackles (leads team), 4.5 sacks and he has forced three fumbles. Defensive end Chandler Jones has amassed 23 tackles, 8.5 sacks (leads team) and he has forced a fumble. Cornerback Logan Ryan has three interceptions (tied for most on the team) this season along with 32 tackles and four passes defended. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower has recorded 38 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one pass defended so far in 2015.
But while all of those players are certainly worthy of this third spot, I went with place kicker Stephen Gostkowski. The former Memphis Tiger has not missed this season. He is 17-for-17 in field goal attempts, including a long of 57, this season. Gostkowski is 4-for-4 from 20-29 yards, 4-for-4 from 30-39 yards, 6-for-6 from 40-49 yards and 3-for-3 from 50 plus yards. In the third quarter of the Patriots Week 8 contest against the Miami Dolphins Gostkowski made a 36-yard field goal, which was his 26th consecutive made field goal. With that made field goal, Gostkowski broke the team record previously set by Adam Vinatieri.
He is also 28-for-28 in extra point attempts this season. In the third quarter of the Patriots Week 3 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars Gostkowski set the NFL record for consecutive successful point-after attempts at 423. This is a record he continues to extend.
Gostkowski is one of the best in the league at his position and he is definitely deserving of a Pro Bowl selection.
FOXBORO, MA – JANUARY 18: Rob Gronkowski #87 and LeGarrette Blount #29 of the New England Patriots react against the Indianapolis Colts of the 2015 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)