You have heard it all before. The Pro Bowl is a popularity vote. It doesn’t really matter, and at the end of the day—nobody really cares. But here is the thing, the players care. Yes, it isn’t necessarily the best player at each position that year, but it clearly holds weight for those that get voted in.
For the Detroit Lions, center Frank Ragnow was voted in for the second time in his career, and after a 2021 season that was cut short due to a foot injury, it has been great seeing Ragnow get back to his usual high level of play. He is the cerebral leader of one of the best offensive lines in football and has been battling through some injuries on his way to another excellent year as one of the best centers in the game.
Now let’s talk about those Lions players that were snubbed, and for once as a fan, I really do feel that way towards some of my favorite players not making it. This isn’t some example of one or two players having a big year in Detroit while the Lions are toiling away in obscurity. No, your Detroit Lions are the hottest team in the NFL right now and have won six of their last seven games. Following a rough 1-6 start, they have battled their way back to 7-7 and essentially control their own playoff destiny.
Some of the Lions young stars have been instrumental in the turnaround, starting with second-year wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Despite missing a few games earlier in the season due to ankle and head injuries, St. Brown has been the epitome of consistency at the receiver position. As the top option on one of the most productive offenses, through 14 games, he has racked up 89 catches for 974 yards, and six touchdowns. He has gone over the 100-yard mark four times this season and is second in the NFL in receptions that result in first downs, trailing only Minnesota Vikings’ star receiver Justin Jefferson. What about in yards per route run? Fifth in the league at 2.5 yards, behind only Jefferson, the Miami Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill, Philadelphia’s A.J. Brown, and the Buffalo Bills’ Stefon Diggs. In big moments when quarterback Jared Goff needs to find someone to make a play, more often than not—he is looking the Sun God’s way. First alternate or not, St. Brown should have been an automatic selection to the NFC roster with the way he has performed in only his second season as a pro. Period.
Next, we have another player from general manager Brad Holmes’ inaugural draft class—right tackle Penei Sewell. Like his 2021 draft classmate, Sewell is also a first alternate. And like St. Brown, Sewell picked up where he left off in 2021 and has quickly become one of the best tackles in all of football. Dominant at the point of attack, the former seventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft has gotten even stronger in the run game, while also honing in on his technique in pass protection. His hand placement with his initial punch has been more consistent this season, and his freaky ability to anchor is only getting better with time and repetition. Something I often find myself thinking is that Sewell is still only 22 years old. Just imagine how crazy his skill set may look when he is 26 years old and has had time to develop some more grown-man strength. Having Sewell as a first alternate may not be as egregious of a snub as the Sun God, but a snub, nonetheless.
Last, but certainly not least, we have left tackle Taylor Decker. I get that he plays along the same offensive line as the aforementioned Ragnow and Sewell, but fifth alternate? FIFTH?! All year, Decker has done nothing but play like a top-ten left tackle in football. He went multiple weeks during the Lions’ recent run of success where he didn’t even allow a quarterback pressure, and according to PFF, has only allowed three sacks the entire season. Maybe this hits home harder for me because Decker is the longest-tenured Lion, and has been steadfast in his desire to make the Lions a winner during his time here. He may not attend the Pro Bowl this year, but thanks to the four-year, $60 million extension he signed prior to the 2020 season, I’m sure he feels somewhat appreciated. Considering the importance of the position he plays, you could make an argument that he is one of the more indispensable pieces of this team.
Beyond those three, you could make a case for several other Lions’ players making the cut for the Pro Bowl. Left guard Jonah Jackson is well on his way to becoming a top-tier guard in football, and punt returner Kalif Raymond has easily been one of the best returners in the game in 2022. Kerby Joseph has had his ups and downs as a rookie but has been a turnover-generating machine since stepping into a starting role.
It may sting now, but with this only being year two of the rebuild, I think it is safe to say we can expect more representation in the Pro Bowl from the Lions moving forward, in 2023 and beyond.