Offseason: check. Regular season: check. Conference championships: Check.
In one of the most exciting seasons in NFL history, the postseason period is almost over. We know that the Cincinnati Bengals and the LA Rams will be battling it out next weekend at Super Bowl LVI. But first, all eyes this weekend will be on the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, as the NFL’s all-star game takes place. Two stacked rosters from the NFC and AFC have travelled to Nevada to take part in the 2022 Pro Bowl.
Using rich data and unique stats, here are 8 players to watch out for on Sunday evening.
Trevon Diggs, CB – Dallas Cowboys
Diggs earns his first Pro Bowl invitation and first start in only his second year in the NFL. Diggs was one of the biggest boom or bust players in the NFL. He led the league in interceptions, 11, but gave up the 4th most passing yards as the nearest defender, 714. Diggs is a dynamic player and incredible athlete. According to Next Gen Stats he reached 20+ mph on 24 scrimmage plays, good for 3rd most in the NFL and 8 more than any other defender.
Micah Parsons, LB – Dallas Cowboys
Parsons is the only rookie starting for the NFC in the Pro Bowl after putting up an incredible rookie season that placed him as a front runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The rookie linebacker was truly versatile and lined up as an EDGE rusher or inside defensive lineman 46% of the time and linebacker 50%. As a pass rusher, Parsons created the 9th most QB pressures (49) despite having the 98th most pass rushes. 20.2% of his pass rushes led to a QB pressure. He wasn’t just a pass rusher. In coverage, Parsons forced a tight window 22.6% of the time, the fewest among linebackers.
Deebo Samuel, WR/RB – San Francisco 49ers
Deebo Samuel was arguably the best athlete in the NFL this past season. The dynamic wide receiver for the 49ers also played running back for the team and finished the season leading the team in receiving yards and second in rushing yards. His production as a running back increased late in the season with Samuel lining up in the backfield 41 times, second most for any WR, since week 10. As a wide receiver, Samuel gained +269 yards after catch over expected, the only wide receiver to have more than 200 YAC over expected. As a running back, his +116 rushing yards over expected this season was best among wide receivers and 10th overall.
Justin Herbert, QB – Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers quarterback is one of the most exciting young players in the NFL. Though his team fell just short of making the playoffs this year, Herbert has been thrilling to watch. He leads the NFL with 638 passing yards and +14.5 EPA on throws with less than a 25% completion probability, meaning he isn’t shying away from tough throws and is successful doing so. He is also a big play machine, accounting for 3 of the top 10 longest completion by air yards since entering the league in 2020. Herbert is must see TV teaming up with all the dynamic AFC playmakers in the Pro Bowl.
Aaron Rodgers, QB – Green Bay Packers
There are hardly any weaknesses in the expected back-to-back MVP quarterback. Rodgers has been difficult to rattle as he was the second quickest to get rid of the ball, 1.85 seconds from snap on average. On those quick passes, Rodgers finished the year with 16 TDs and 0 INTs. Part of his quickness is offensive scheme. Rodgers targets the flat 19% of the time, more than any other quarterback. Make no mistake, Rodgers is not only a “checkdown Charlie.” The Packers quarterback was 1 of 4 quarterbacks to have a positive completion percentage over expected at all levels of throws.
Johnathan Taylor, RB – Indianapolis Colts
Johnathan Taylor turned in one of the most impressive seasons by a running back. On top of leading the league with 1,811 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, Taylor was one of the most impactful running backs. According to Next Gen Stats, Taylor created +37.4 expected points added from rushing, the most of any running back since 2016. To put this in perspective, Taylor adds +0.11 EPA every rush. The average running back loses 0.08 EPA per carry. Expect Taylor to put up some highlight reels during the Pro Bowl, as he is second in the NFL with plays over 20 mph (second only to Tyreek Hill).
T.J. Watt, OLB – Pittsburgh Steelers
T.J. Watt has been an absolute terror for offenses since he entered the league. His 2021 season will go down in history for tying the single season sack record with Michael Strahan (22.5). Watt’s production has truly been unmatched as he is sacking quarterbacks on 6.1% of pass rushes, the highest rate ever since Next Gen Stats started tracking. While defense isn’t often a highlight in the Pro Bowl, expect the projected DPOY to make plays all over the field.
Myles Garrett, EDGE – Cleveland Browns
A staple of the Cleveland Browns defense is Myles Garrett. When on the field, the Browns pressure quarterbacks 31.8% of dropbacks compared to 23.7% when he is not on the field. A large part of Garrett’s success comes from his get-off. It takes him an average of 0.77 seconds to cross the line of scrimmage from the snap, ranking first in the NFL this season (min. 250 snaps). Once he does get to the quarterback, he has forced 21 turnovers from pressure since entering the league in 2017, 3 more than the next closest player.