Even though the Pro Bowl itself has become little more than an offensive exhibition, getting selected to the team is still one of the top individual honors a player can receive for any given season. That part of it still means something.
While there are no shortage of prime candidates from Peyton Manning to Adrian Peterson to J.J. Watt, there are just as many second-tier, overlooked players that deserve attention. They didn't get as much hype, but they still played at a Pro Bowl level.
With that in mind, let's take a look at three players who should receive trips to Honolulu for their efforts throughout the 2012 season.
C.J. Spiller (Buffalo Bills)
One of the great mysteries the season produced was the lack of touches given to Spiller in Buffalo. He's the type of dynamic running back that deserves to get the ball 25 times per game and instead Bills head coach Chan Gailey continuously held him back.
He's still accumulated nearly 1,600 offensive yards with one game to go. His yards-per-attempt mark (6.5) ranks first among qualified running backs and he turned the ball over just twice. If they would have got him more involved, things would have been different for the Bills.
Just because Gailey didn't utilize him right doesn't mean he doesn't deserve a Pro Bowl nod. His playmaking ability is a perfect fit for the wide-open game and it will allow him to showcase the skills that were kept under wraps by the Bills' coaches.
Rob Ninkovich (New England Patriots)
Ninkovich is the type of player that tends to get overlooked when it comes to the Pro Bowl. He isn't dominant in any one area, which means his stats don't stand out from the crowd, but his versatility makes him a valuable member of the Patriots' defense.
Through 15 weeks, the defensive end has racked up 57 tackles, eight sacks and five forced fumbles. New England asked him to defend the run, rush the passer and drop into coverage, and he did it all without missing a beat.
His improvement as a pass-rusher should get him noticed on a wider scale. Whether or not that will be enough to get him a spot on the roster is yet to be seen, but he definitely deserves it after another strong season for the Patriots.
Stevie Brown (New York Giants)
Brown is a 2010 seventh-round pick who failed to make an impact in his first two seasons with the Oakland Raiders and Indianapolis Colts. He shined after joining the Giants and taking the spot of the injured Kenny Phillips.
The unheralded safety has 70 tackles, two forced fumbles and seven interceptions for a league-leading 259 return yards. In one season, he's gone from a player who couldn't hold down a job to a reliable starting safety and Pro Bowl candidate.
It's always nice to see players like Brown get a chance because of the long-shot story attached. He's still not well known on a national scale, however, which means he would have needed to make a real impact on coaches and his fellow players to get in. He certainly earned it.
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