Last night, the NFL announced its initial Pro Bowl selections for the 2021 season. These selections will not make up the final roster, as many of these players will simply decline to attend because the Pro Bowl, while a fun and cool accolade, is not a particularly meaningful game for anybody involved.
However, Pro Bowl nominations are valuable for players in the sense that they can be leveraged in contract negotiations and even in Hall of Fame talks way down the road for a select few. Which is dumb, considering those nominations are largely determined by fan vote, but we don't make the rules here.
All this means that when a player gets very obviously snubbed, it's worth talking about. So here are some of the biggest snubs from both conferences.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Allen has undoubtedly been a bit worse in 2021 than he was in 2020. That does not mean he has been bad. The Bills QB has thrown for 3,734 yards and 31 touchdowns with 12 interceptions this year. He's added 555 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Allen hasn't missed a game all season. Yet he was passed over for Lamar Jackson, who is an electric talent but worse statistically in literally every measure except rushing yards and missed three games. The purest and simplest example of how a fan vote can ignore a more deserving player in favor of the walking highlight reel.
Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
Stafford's play has taken a dive over the last month and change and that is most likely why he was left off the Pro Bowl roster this year. But, like Allen, it's less about his flaws and more about who got a spot instead. Enter Kyler Murray, who is a great quarterback but missed five weeks in the middle of the season. Five weeks! Fair or not, that should've put a hole in any argument to be made that he deserved a Pro Bowl spot. Availability matters. The decision looks especially bad after Week 15 saw Murray crumble in the face of the intimidating Detroit Lions defense. Stafford's last month has been bad but his counting stats are still supremely impressive (4,142 yards, 35 TDs, 10 INTs) and he was deserving of a slot over a guy who missed the entire middle section of the season.
Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
Ekeler's case is another example of fans choosing the shiny highlight machine over the better overall player. Nick Chubb is the machine in question, and a highlight machine he really is. Chubb is liable to rip off a big run at any given moment and his 1,017 yards gained on the ground suggests his production matches the highlight reels. But Ekeler has simply been better this season. He has 789 yards rushing on the year but has added 558 yards receiving for a total of 1,347 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns. Chubb is a great player but Pro Bowls are about production and Ekeler has Chubb outpaced. He should have been rewarded for that.