The Denver Broncos have had a great season and it’s no surprise that five players were selected to represent the AFC in the Pro Bowl.
Peyton Manning and Champ Bailey were selected for the 12th time and trail only Tony Gonzalez among active players for number of Pro Bowl selections. Von Miller, Ryan Clady and Elvis Dumervil were also selected.
Manning, Miller and Bailey were selected as starters. It’s been Manning and Miller who have carried the Broncos to a 12-3 record in 2012. Bailey has also been very good, but probably made it as a starter only because of his tremendous reputation.
Two other players that have heavily contributed to Denver’s great regular season were snubbed—Chris Harris Jr. and Demaryius Thomas. Both Thomas and Harris were more deserving that Dumvervil.
Thomas has nine touchdowns; three of the wide receivers that made the Pro Bowl in front of him have five or less. Thomas also has more yards per reception than all of the other receivers that made the Pro Bowl in the AFC.
Thomas’ 26 catches of longer than 20 yards is second only to Calvin Johnson in the entire NFL. Thomas has just three fewer yards than Reggie Wayne and more yards than Wes Welker. Thomas shouldn’t have been the odd man out based on his performance.
Unfortunately for Thomas, there were five deserving wide receivers and he had the shortest track record of success. It would have made more sense to make Welker an alternate because he catches mostly short passes from a great quarterback, but Pro Bowl selections don't often make sense.
For all practical matters, Thomas will either be playing in the Pro Bowl or the Super Bowl. All four of wide receivers that made the Pro Bowl in the AFC will have a chance to make the Super Bowl, which means the first alternate will be needed unless the team that makes the Super Bowl is the Broncos.
Harris is the other snub and he’s basically come out of nowhere and become a great starting cornerback opposite Bailey. Harris came on strong enough that the teams decided they didn’t really need Tracy Porter anymore and relegated him to fourth string.
According to ProFootballFocus, Harris is the third-best cornerback in coverage in the AFC and third-best in run support in the entire NFL. Not bad for a cornerback that went undrafted in 2011.
The Broncos should probably have six players headed to the Pro Bowl: Manning, Miller, Clady, Thomas, Harris Jr. and Bailey with a potential seventh being left guard Zane Beadles, who was selected as a third alternate.
The Pro Bowl and many similar accolades are often a popularity contest, which explains why Dumervil made the Pro Bowl over more deserving candidates. Thomas will have to repeat his performance next season at a statistics-driven position, but a good showing in the playoffs could earn Harris a selection next season.