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ESPN believes Colts star DeForest Buckner was snubbed from the Pro Bowl—and they aren’t wrong

Colts DT DeForest Buckner was surprisingly snubbed from an initial Pro Bowl nod—after a stellar 2023 season, and ESPN’s advanced analytics only prove it.

Los Angeles Rams v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

According to ESPN Analytics Seth Walder, Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner was among the league’s standout players that was snubbed from this year’s Pro Bowl (and we wholeheartedly agree, as he’s not wrong):

DeForest Buckner, DT, Indianapolis Colts

Who he should replace: Quinnen Williams, DT, New York Jets

It might have been under the radar in Indianapolis, but Buckner has had a seriously strong 2023 season. The 7.0 sacks are solid, but it is his 18% pass rush win rate at defensive tackle — third best at the position — that stands out. The volume has been there, too, as his 53 pass rush wins are the second most among defensive tackle qualifiers.

Buckner was passed over at his position in the AFC for the Kansas City Chiefs Chris Jones, the New York Jets Quinnen Williams, and the Baltimore Ravens Justin Madubuike.

Per ESPN Analytics, Buckner’s pass rush win rate of 18% (while facing a 67% double team percentage) is tied for third best among all NFL defensive tackles—and the highest in the AFC among all players at his position.

During 16 games (15 starts), Buckner has 75 tackles (44 solo), 10 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, 49 total QB pressures, 29 QB hurries, 12 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery (returned for a touchdown).

Buckner has once again become one of the best pass rushing defensive tackles in all of football, as he’s truly special at his position in that regard. He’s the catalyst along the Colts defensive line for defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s defense, and the high impact and attention he commands along the interior, frees up extra opportunities for his teammates.

While there were other Colts players who were also deserving and have their own beef over being surprisingly snubbed, namely breakout starting linebacker Zaire Franklin, who currently leads the league in total tackles (170); as well as starting center Ryan Kelly, who’s had a career revival—regaining his prior Pro Bowl form, Buckner’s omission is the most egregious to me during 2023.

He’s already a nationally recognized name and been consistently the Colts best player all season, and the advanced stats reflect that he’s been truly elite during the 2023 campaign.

It confirms what we already knew, with the fan vote comprising 13 of the total Pro Bowl vote balloting, this isn’t the best reflection of how good any particular player has been this season—and is again, more of a glorified popularity contest. As a Pro Bowl alternate, Buckner may eventually make the Pro Bowl, but it should’ve never gotten to that point.

NFL All-Pro honors simply mean a lot more.