After the 2022 Pro Bowl rosters were revealed Wednesday night, several ESPN NFL analysts were shocked to learn that the Broncos had zero players make the league's annual all-star game on its initial roster.
"No Broncos being selected is glaring," Jeremy Fowler wrote. "Denver's roster is stocked with talent, most notably in the secondary, where [Justin] Simmons is elite and rookie Patrick Surtain II has displayed shutdown capability. Other teams without a Pro Bowler are the Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Lions and Texans -- and the Broncos don't belong in that class."
In particular, Simmons' absence seemed like the biggest oversight. He was a Pro Bowler a year ago, and he's been even better in 2021.
Mike Clay, picking his five biggest Pro Bowl snubs, included Simmons on his list.
"Several deserving safeties made the AFC roster, but it feels like a mistake to not have Simmons on the list," Clay wrote. "One of the league's most reliable and impactful players over the past several seasons, Simmons has played 100% of Denver's defensive snaps in all but one game this season and has delivered in all areas, with 68 tackles (four for a loss), two sacks (only three safeties have more), a position-high five interceptions and 12 passes defensed (only Pro Bowler Kevin Byard has more). Simmons is way too good to not be participating in his second consecutive Pro Bowl."
Matt Bowen echoed that sentiment, as well.
"You have to find a spot for Simmons here," Bowen wrote. "With five interceptions and 12 pass breakups, he has the production to make it, and the tape tells us that he is one of the most complete safeties in the game."
Surtain also earned some love here, as Jordan Reid picked the rookie cornerback as one player who didn't make this year's Pro Bowl but will do so next season.
"The rookie has already turned into a No. 1 corner on one of the best defenses in the NFL," Reid wrote. "With four picks so far, the No. 9 overall pick has proven his worth."
NFL.com's Nick Shook agreed with them in his list of Pro Bowl snubs, as he put Simmons and Surtain on his list of 15 players who were overlooked.
"My gripe with Pro Bowl selections often comes down to position allowances," Shook wrote. "I think there should be four total safety spots -- two each for free safety and strong safety -- per conference instead of the current setup that allots for only three. There was only one free safety spot available this year, and though Kevin Byard is certainly deserving of his recognition, Simmons has also produced a Pro Bowl-worthy campaign. In his first season after signing a lucrative extension with the Broncos, Simmons is tied for the fourth-most interceptions in the NFL (5) and ranks sixth in targeted expected points added (-11.5) and third in ballhawk rate (27.5%) among free safeties (min. 25 targets, per NGS). Simmons has to be near the top of the list of alternates."
Like Reid, Shook also wrote that he expected Surtain to make the Pro Bowl in the years to come, but he noted that his performance as a rookie has been impressive.
"Surtain has been excellent at taking away opponents' scoring opportunities, posting the fourth-best targeted EPA (-23.0) in the entire league (among corners with a minimum of 40 targets), and his four interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown) are tied for ninth most in the NFL," Shook wrote. "Surtain has quickly lived up to his draft billing, and he should eventually earn a Pro Bowl selection. He could've found room in the spot occupied by Denzel Ward, but again, sometimes it's about name recognition as much as it is performance."
Below the Fold
RB Javonte Williams continued his streak of impossible-to-bring-down highlights vs. Cincinnati in Week 15, turning a would-be loss of yards (and a potential safety) into a first down.
Williams has been a wrecking ball on the field, continually churning out yards after contact and turning no-win situations into big gains. The rookie rusher has been a challenge to bring down, and he holds a league-best mark in both forced missed tackles (57) and forced missed tackles per attempt (.34), according to Pro Football Focus.
Williams has also been a versatile addition to Denver's offense, hauling in three receiving touchdowns (tied for first among rookie RBs), all while splitting carries out of the Broncos' backfield.