Evaluating NFL Pro Bowlers and the Correlation Between Draft

The 2019 NFL Pro Bowl rosters were announced on Tuesday night. While most fans and media tend to dismiss this game as meaningless and irrelevant, the rosters do indicate the top players in the league at each position.

86 players in total were named Pro Bowlers.  Excluding special teams players that’s 78 Pro Bowl players. How many of them were high draft picks? How many were high profile free agent signees? 

2019 Pro Bowl Roster Evaluation

45 Pro Bowlers were first round picks (25 in AFC, 20 in NFC)

4 number one overall picks (Jadaveon Clowney, Eric Fisher, Myles Garrett, Jared Goff)

3 undrafted free agents (Philip Lindsay, Alejandro Villanueva, Adam Thielen) – Lindsay also became the first undrafted rookie 

4 of the 6 quarterbacks were first round picks (Aaron Rodgers, Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, Philip Rivers). The other 2 QBs were Tom Brady (6th) and Drew Brees (2nd)

4 of the 6 running backs were first round picks. All three NFC running backs were first round, top 10 draft picks (Ezekiell Elliot, Saquon Barkley, Todd Gurley). Two of the three AFC running backs began training camp as a presumed back ups (James Connor and Philip Lindsay). Melvin Gordon was the other first round pick. 

There were 8 Wide Receivers selected in total only two (one from each conference) were previous first round picks – DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones. Davante Adams and Michael Thomas were both taken in the second round. Keenan Allen (3), Tyreek Hill (5), Antonio Brown (6), and Adam Thielen (undrafted) round out the receivers. 

6 of the 8 Cornerbacks selected, were first round picks, and the other 2 were second round picks. First rounders – Patrick Peterson, Byron Jones, Kyle Fuller, Jalen Ramsey, Stephen Gilmore, Denzel Ward. Xavien Howard and Darius Slay were both second rounders. 

All 3 AFC Defense Ends (Myles Garrett, Melvin Ingram, JJ Watt) were first round draft picks. 

Out of the 8 AFC Offensive Lineman, 6 were first round picks. Out of the 8 NFC Offensive Lineman, 4 were first round picks, 1 second rounder, and three third round picks. Only 1 of the 4 Centers has not left the team that drafted them (Maurkice Pouncey in Pittsburgh)

Only 12 out of the 78 non-special teams players in the Pro Bowl are representing a team that did not draft them (they signed via free agency or were traded) 

All 6 Outside Linebackers were first round picks (Von Miller, Jadaveon Clowney, Dee Ford, Khalil Mack, Ryan Kerrigan, Anthony barr) 

Specific team breakdowns 

Chargers led the league with 7 Pro Bowlers, 6 of whom were drafted by the team. Only one was signed as a free agent (Mike Pouncey)

Steelers and Chiefs were both second in the AFC with 6 Pro Bowlers each. All 6 of the Steelers players began their careers with Pittsburgh (5 drafted, Alejandro Villanueva undrafted, but spent rookie year with Pitt). For the Chiefs, they have one defensive player and five offensive and only Fullback Anthony Sherman wasn’t drafted by them. 

In the NFC, Cowboys, Bears, Saints each had 5 Pro Bowlers, leading the league. 

Of the Cowboys 5 Pro Bowlers, all 5 originated with the team and 4 were first round picks (Demarcus Lawrence was a second rounder) 

Bears drafted just 1 of their 5 Pro Bowlers in the first round (Kyle Fuller). They acquired Khalil Mack, who was a first round pick, via trade for a first round pick. Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson were drafted in the fourth round by the team. Akiem Hicks was signed as a free agent and was a third round pick. 

Only one of the Saints 5 Pro Bowlers was a first round pick – Cam Jordan. Three of the players were second round picks – Drew Brees was signed as a free agent, Max Unger was acquired via trade, and Michael Thomas drafted by the team. Terron Armstead was a third round pick. 

For more NFL talk, you can follow me on twitter @msschneid or instagram @mikedropsports 

Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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