Nick Shook has chosen one prime candidate from each team to earn a first Pro Bowl nod in 2022. Below are his NFC picks.
Brown received his wish during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft when Baltimore sent him to Arizona, where the receiver known as "Hollywood" will reunite with former Oklahoma teammate Kyler Murray. They already have quite a rapport established from their Sooner days, and with DeAndre Hopkins facing a six-game suspension, Brown will man a significant role with the Cardinals from Week 1. Perhaps Kliff Kingsbury and Murray can unlock Brown, who's coming off his first 1,000-yard season, in ways the Ravens couldn't. If that happens, we just might see Brown in the Pro Bowl.
This might be the safest bet of any player on this list regardless of conference. Terrell landed atop my top 10 coverage defenders in the NFL last season, but he's been trending toward much greater achievements since entering the league in 2020. Terrell is on the verge of becoming a household name, and if the Falcons are relevant in 2022 while Terrell continues on his upward trajectory, he should earn a trip to Las Vegas.
For a solid portion of last season, the Panthers had one of the stingier defenses in the NFL. Seeing as their quarterback situation still isn't settled, I'm essentially forced to look on the defensive side of the ball, and I'm going with a player with plenty of upside. Chinn wasn't as impressive in 2021 as he was in his 2020 rookie campaign, but that's OK. Sophomore slumps happen, and if Chinn can reverse course, I could see him getting some Pro Bowl attention. (If Brian Burns hadn't already made a Pro Bowl, well, he'd be my choice here.)
Smith has earned two second-team All-Pro selections, yet he hasn't received a Pro Bowl nod to this point. Something is off with that. The Bears aren't expected to be a serious contender this season, but if we have to pick a player with the best chance of reaching the Pro Bowl on Chicago's roster, the obvious choice is Smith. I mean, the rest of the football world is going to get wise eventually, right?
This is going to be tough to pull off because Pollard isn't a featured back. But Pollard brings three-down ability to the field, and I'm very bullish on his potential in 2022. He posted career numbers in 2021, and I don't see his role decreasing. Dallas boasted the league's top offense last season while Pollard outgained the top running back on the depth chart, Ezekiel Elliott, by more than a full yard on a per-carry basis. Add in his 39 receptions for 337 yards and you have a running back who is seeing enough touches to make a difference. Pollard will catch some eyes, should Dallas remain competitive in 2022.
St. Brown's finish to the 2021 season built considerable momentum entering 2022, and he has some quality new running mates, including first-round pick Jameson Williams. That might lead one to believe St. Brown will see fewer targets once Williams returns from injury, which could be true, but he'll also attract less attention since there are now more threats at the position. St. Brown quietly flirted with 1,000 yards last season, and although it'll be difficult for him to crack a position group that's always loaded on both sides of the conference split, he has one of the best chances of any Lion to do so.
The logic here is that offenses will be avoiding newly extended cornerback Jaire Alexander, meaning Douglas is going to see enough attention to get some chances to make plays. And in 2021, after signing with the Packers in early October, Douglas made plenty of them, including a career-best five interceptions, two of which he returned for scores. Stretch his production over an entire season, and I expect Douglas to receive the attention necessary to garner consideration for the Pro Bowl -- especially if the Packers continue to make life tough for opponents.
Floyd finally found his form when he moved to Los Angeles, recording 20 total sacks over his first two seasons with the Rams. He's been overshadowed by more notable names on his team, but when considering he played through injury in 2021 and still flirted with 10 sacks, it's reasonable to think his age-30 season might see him earn a career high if he's fully healthy. There's no better time than the present for Floyd to finally add a Pro Bowl to his résumé.
The Vikings are in a strange state for this exercise. They have plenty of returning Pro Bowlers, but the younger portion of their team doesn't offer many slam dunks (yet) for future accolades. I'm going to turn to special teams, then, and choose an overlooked returner who took two kicks back for touchdowns in his rookie season. Nwangwu probably won't see much action as a running back, but he proved to be a weapon in the kick return game despite only fielding 18 kickoffs last season. Give him the job over a full season and we might even see that total hit three, at which point he can no longer be overlooked.
Davenport's nine sacks might have been the quietest collection of quarterback takedowns we've seen in some time. He played in just 11 games, missing time due to injury, yet he averaged nearly a sack per game. While he's overshadowed by teammate Cameron Jordan, that might not be true for much longer if Davenport can stay healthy for a full season (he has yet to play a full regular-season slate). He's entering a pivotal fifth and final year of his rookie deal, and if he keeps up the production he displayed when available in 2021, we just might start seeing him as the future on the edge in New Orleans.
Ojulari stormed out of the gate in his first season, recording a sack in each of his first three games, and set a new single-game, career-high mark with 2.5 sacks in New York's Week 7 win over Carolina. The rookie wall hit him, though, with Ojulari matching that total in his remaining games and finishing with eight sacks on the year. Ojulari enters Year 2 with a top talent -- first-round choice Kayvon Thibodeaux -- rushing opposite him, which should make the going a little easier for him. Defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale isn't afraid to turn up the heat, either, placing Ojulari on a course for greater success in 2022.
I could choose DeVonta Smith here, considering he welcomed an excellent new running mate in A.J. Brown this offseason, but since the Eagles' passing attack still has something to prove, we'll go with a guy who clearly deserves the attention. Reddick, who signed with Philly in the offseason after spending 2021 with the Panthers, has racked up 23.5 sacks in the last two seasons combined. He's grown into the player Arizona envisioned it was selecting with its first-round pick in 2017, and if he follows this track through another season, it'll be hard to ignore his candidacy for postseason recognition.
The 49ers enjoyed quality production from Mitchell as a rookie, with the former Louisiana star becoming San Francisco's bell-cow back and averaging close to five yards per carry. Add in the experience gained from 2021 to a Kyle Shanahan-led offense that can be counted on to maximize running back potential, and you have a player who should take the next step. If that comes in 2022 -- and if the 49ers replicate their success from last season -- Mitchell's name is going to become a popular one.
With the current state of Seattle's quarterback position following the departure of Russell Wilson, I expect the Seahawks' defense to be on the field more often in 2022. Brooks has been anointed as the defensive-leader replacement for Bobby Wagner, so he should get plenty of opportunities to prove his worth this season. Brooks seemed like he was always in position to make a timely play last season, and I believe his trajectory puts him on a path toward a Pro Bowl berth. That might come in 2022.
The Buccaneers initiated some changes along their defensive front this offseason, moving on from Ndamukong Suh, drafting Logan Hall and placing Tryon-Shoyinka in a prime role to break out in Year 2. Used primarily as a rotational defender last season, Tryon-Shoyinka is in line to become an every-down difference-maker in 2022, Todd Bowles' first season as Bucs head coach. I see him as a pass-rushing weapon for the Buccaneers, which could mean a gaudy sack total -- and a trip to the Pro Bowl.
No matter how you feel about Carson Wentz, McLaurin's talent is undeniable. A player I once saw as an elite No. 2 receiver has proven he's actually a premier No. 1 pass-catcher. Now, all he needs is a quality quarterback. Wentz landed on my list of the top 10 deep passers of 2021 (surprising, I know), and did so without a receiving talent like McLaurin. If he can work out the kinks underneath, the newly paid McLaurin just might have a career year -- and his first Pro Bowl selection.