Drew Brees and Robert Quinn are the two most valuable 2014 Pro Bowl captains—at least in the opinion of Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice.
The former San Francisco 49ers great selected Brees and Quinn as his two captains for Team Rice at Sunday's Pro Bowl after winning a predraft coin toss, per Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer:
Deion Sanders, the other captain for the NFL's All-Star game, selected Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles and Texans defensive end J.J. Watt for his two spots. As part of the structure of the event, Sanders will also have the first pick of the draft, a two-day affair that began Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network.
In an effort to reinvigorate interest into the Pro Bowl—an oft-criticized and mostly staid affair—the NFL enlisted Rice and Sanders as captains and gave them some level of autonomy in selecting their dream teams. The structure is similar to that of a fantasy draft, with Rice and Sanders alternating picks while having to fill certain position quotas.
It's essentially a melding of the NBA's Rising Stars Challenge—where TNT analysts Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley draft the teams—and the NHL's All-Star Game—which has had actual All-Stars serving as team captains.
Sanders and Rice have gone on the offensive trying to create a fun atmosphere, with the former even teasing that he would suit up for the appropriately titled Team Sanders. Neon Deion has also gone about antagonizing the more reserved Rice, boastfully teasing a dominant performance from his team.
"I think it is going to be a blowout," Sanders said, via Oskar Garcia of the Associated Press. "I don't think Jerry has strategized."
By taking Brees and Quinn, it looks like Rice is focused on the passing game. Quinn is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate after putting up 19 sacks and proving a stellar force against the run as well—in just his third season in the NFL.
Brees, a yearly staple at the Pro Bowl, recorded his NFL-record fourth 5,000-yard passing season in 2013 and helped the Saints to a playoff berth. The 35-year-old signal-caller is making his eighth Pro Bowl appearance.
Here is a look at how the rest of Team Rice played out following Day 1, which saw offensive and defensive linemen, fullbacks and special teamers go off the board, per NFL Communications:
|Team Rice Day 1 Roster|
|Jason Hatcher||DT||Dallas Cowboys|
|Marcell Dareus||DT||Buffalo Bills|
|Kyle Williams||DT||Buffalo Bills|
|Jahri Evans||OG||New Orleans Saints|
|Ben Grubbs||OG||New Orleans Saints|
|Evan Mathis||OG||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Ryan Kalil||C||Carolina Panthers|
|Nick Mangold||C||New York Jets|
|Mike Tolbert||FB||Carolina Panthers|
|Justin Bethel||ST||Arizona Cardinals|
|Johnny Hekker||P||St. Louis Rams|
|Matt Overton||LS||Indianapolis Colts|
|Drew Brees||QB||New Orleans Saints|
|Robert Quinn||DE||St. Louis Rams|
Sanders won't be without players to chase Brees around the field, though—not by a long shot. Watt, also in his third year, didn't quite repeat his DPOY effort of 2012, but he was still one of a few positives for a woebegone Texans team. He recorded 10.5 sacks and 80 tackles en route to his second straight All-Pro selection.
"Don't think we forget Jerry picked them first," Watt said, playfully indicating being second fiddle will prove as motivation, per Garcia.
And though the running game is a rarity in Pro Bowls, having Charles on hand and ready to explode is never a bad thing. The Chiefs back finished with 1,980 total yards (rushing and receiving) and 19 touchdowns in 2013, setting career highs while leading Kansas City to the postseason.
Here is a look at how Team Sanders wound up shaking out:
|Team Sanders Day 1 Roster|
|Ndamukong Suh||DT||Detroit Lions|
|Gerald McCoy||DT||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Dontari Poe||DT||Kansas City Chiefs|
|Marshal Yanda||OG||Baltimore Ravens|
|Logan Mankins||OG||New England Patriots|
|Kyle Long||OG||Chicago Bears|
|Mike Pouncey||C||Miami Dolphins|
|Alex Mack||C||Cleveland Browns|
|Marcel Reece||FB||Oakland Raiders|
|Matthew Slater||ST||New England Patriots|
|Brandon Fields||P||Miami Dolphins|
|J.J. Jansen||LS||Carolina Panthers|
|Jamaal Charles||RB||Kansas City Chiefs|
|J.J. Watt||DE||Houston Texans|
Rice and Sanders will continue selecting players Wednesday, when the players selected on Day 1 will be joined by skill-position guys. Whereas Tuesday's proceedings were taped, Wednesday's will be a three-hour live special on NFL Network.
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