The NFL Pro Bowl rosters were announced on Monday night, and while three Indianapolis Colts players earned such ‘AFC all-star team honors’: center Ryan Kelly, offensive guard Quenton Nelson, and linebacker Darius Leonard, one obvious ‘should’ve been lock’ did not, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner:
Kelly has made 13 starts for the Colts offensive line this season. Per PFF (subscription), the former 2016 first rounder has received a +69.3 grade overall. The Colts standout center has allowed 2 sacks, 3 QB hits, 6 QB hurries, and 11 total QB pressures—while committing a single penalty during 2020.
It’s a consecutive Pro Bowl appearance for Kelly, who’s bloomed into one of the league’s best centers—having overcome some injuries earlier in his career.
Meanwhile, his interior partner-in-crime, a man who needs no introduction to the Pro Bowl, 2x First-Team All-Pro ‘Big Q’ is in for the third straight season of his season—as he’s never not made a Pro Bowl.
Nelson has made all 14 starts for the Colts offensive line. According to PFF, he’s earned a +80.0 grade overall, as he’s allowed a sack, 4 QB hits, 7 QB hurries, and 12 total QB pressures—although he’s committed 9 penalties on the season.
Lastly, 2x All-Pro linebacker Darius ‘The Maniac’ Leonard did not get snubbed this year—although he did his rookie season in 2018. Leonard has a team-high 109 tackles (74 solo), 5 passes defensed, 2.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries during 12 starts.
He’s received a +69.0 overall grade from PFF in 2020 and earned his second straight Pro Bowl appearance.
However, one Colts defensive player was shockingly missing.
All-Pro DeForest Buckner, who only behind the Los Angeles Rams Aaron Donald, is arguably the best defensive tackle in all of football right now:
DeForest Buckner among all interior defensive linemen in the NFL this year:— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) December 21, 2020
— 2nd in sacks (7.5)
— 2nd in QB hits (24)
— 2nd in total tackles (52)
(sidenote: damn Aaron Donald is really good)
Buckner has made 12 starts for the Colts, recording 52 tackles (33 solo), 8 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks (tied for the team-high), a pass defensed, 2 forced fumbles, 47 total QB pressures, a safety, and a fumble recovery.
Per PFF, Buckner has earned a +89.6 grade overall, as the league’s 5th best rated defensive tackle overall. He’s the engine that powers the Colts defense, as when he’s been absent from the lineup, Indianapolis’ vaunted unit gets noticeably weaker.
Simply put, he’s been an absolute interior monster for the Colts defense, as a certified game wrecker—and even in a crowded AFC defensive tackle group that saw Chris Jones, Cameron Heyward, and Calais Campbell all voted in ahead of him—there’s no way that should’ve happened:
DeForest Buckner: 52 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 8 TFL, 24 QB hits, 1 PBU, 2 FF, 1 FR— Joel A. Erickson (@JoelAErickson) December 22, 2020
Cameron Heyward: 42 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 TFL, 17 QB hits, 3 PBU, INT
Calais Campbell: 27 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 TFL, 10 QB hits, 6 PBU
Buckner was snubbed, end of story.
He’s a superstar that belongs in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year conversation, yet the Pro Bowl voters couldn’t even find a spot for him on the AFC’s bench?
Also snubbed was Colts cornerback Kenny Moore, as it’s wild to me that in the year 2020, the NFL still does not have a separate designation for a slot cornerback positionally in the Pro Bowl—given its importance and niche in any NFL team’s secondary.
Otherwise, other Colts who should’ve been under strong consideration, but ultimately did not earn this year’s initial Pro Bowl nod include: placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, right tackle Braden Smith, linebacker Bobby Okereke, and special teamer George Odum.