By Steve Silverman
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Pro Bowl voting may have less legitimacy than nearly any other election. Players vote for their peers, and those votes are usually based on reputation, campaigning and one or two games that players may have seen of their opponents on television or during film study.READ MORE: Eviction Moratorium: What Happens To Renters When The CDC Ban Expires?
Few players take the time to study or care about who they are voting for, and that has been the case for many years.
Coaches may be even less reliable than the players, and they account for one-third of the vote. The same holds true for the fans, who often vote with their hearts and don’t rely on facts or film when they cast their ballots.
There’s no arguing with selections like the Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger, the Saints’ Drew Brees, the Rams’ Todd Gurley and some of the other Pro Bowl selections. However, there are other players who deserved to be voted in but weren’t.
Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams
It took more than a half-season for Goff to get on the field last year, and when he did, he led the Rams to an 0-7 record as a starter. He completed 54.6 percent of his passes and threw for 1,089 yards (155.6 yards per game), along with five touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Fast forward to the 2017 season, and Goff is a completely different player. He has been tutored well by rookie head coach Sean McVay, and both his numbers and demeanor are completely different.
Goff has completed 274 of 439 passes (62.4 percent) for 3,503 yards with 24 TDs and seven interceptions, and he has been one of the five best starting quarterbacks in the league.
The biggest reason for his improvement is that he has applied the lessons that McVay has taught him. He had little command in the huddle a year ago because he had minimal understanding of what was expected from him. That’s what McVay cleared up right away, and Goff was able to develop a more commanding presence with his teammates.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars are one of the most impressive teams in the league this year, and while their defense has gotten quite a bit of credit for the turnaround, with defensive ends Calais Campbell (14½ sacks) and Yannick Ngakoue (11 sacks) being the two glamour players.
While the defense is undeniably effective – third in yards allowed – that unit couldn’t have done it without improved play by the offense.
The first reaction is to give credit to quarterback Blake Bortles, who is better than he was in the past, but Fournette has had a superb rookie year and helped turn the Jaguars into a dangerous team. Fournette is a big, powerful back at 240 pounds, and he wears down opposing defenses on a regular basis.
He has rushed for 923 yards and eight touchdowns, and he has just one fumble in 231 carries. Fournette has been a warhorse and should have been a Pro Bowler.READ MORE: Cuomo: New York State Hospital Workers Must Get Vaccinated, No Testing Option; New CDC Guidance Under Review
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions
When Jones was with the Cincinnati Bengals for the first four years of his career, he was clearly the backup to A.J. Green. The Bengals tried to promote Green as one of the two or three best receivers in the league, along with Brown and the Falcons’ Julio Jones.
Green wasn’t that good because he would often follow his best games with disappearing acts. Eventually, Jones tired of his role with Cincinnati because it was clear he would never be a No. 1 receiver there. He was in a purely complementary role, and he faced a lower ceiling for what he could accomplish.
It’s a different story with the Lions, with whom he signed a free-agent deal to replace the suddenly retired Calvin Johnson prior to the 2016 season. Jones got his feet wet in Detroit by catching 55 passes for 930 yards and four touchdowns last year. And with two games to go this season, he has caught 54 passes for 970 yards and eight TDs.
He works very well with fellow wideout Golden Tate, but it’s Jones who is the big-play threat. He has 18 plays of 20 yards or more.
Jones is capable of turning any game around and doing it quickly. He is hurt by the fact that the Lions are a one-dimensional team without a running game, and that means opponents know Jones is coming.
Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants
It has been the most miserable of seasons for the Giants, one that has cost their head coach and general manager their jobs.
It’s likely to be very close to the end for quarterback Eli Manning, who often looks like he is about to get swallowed up by opposing defenses. Unlike other older quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Brees and Roethlisberger, Manning struggles to get away from the pass rush and looks like an old man at this point.
But it is just the beginning for Engram, who has caught 63 passes for 710 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie, with 11 plays of 20 yards or more. Engram may not develop into the next Rob Gronkowski, but he is one level below and may be better than Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz or Seattle’s Jimmy Graham, the two tight ends chosen to represent the NFC in the Pro Bowl.
Damon Harrison, DT, New York Giants
Good players on bad football teams regularly get overlooked in Pro Bowl voting, and that is exactly the case with Harrison, a first-team All-Pro last season.
He is a tackling machine with 66 stops, an impressive total for an interior defensive lineman. It’s one thing for a defensive lineman to pressure the middle of the offensive line; it’s another thing to throw away blockers and make the tackle.
Harrison has just 1½ sacks, so that hurts him, but he has batted down four passes and intercepted one.MORE NEWS: Remington Offers Families Who Lost Loved Ones In Sandy Hook Massacre $33 Million Settlement
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