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INDIANAPOLIS – Last year, it took the alternate route for the Colts to continue their streak of multiple Pro Bowlers in 19 straight seasons.
The Colts shouldn’t have to wait until January this year to see if they have any Pro Bowlers.
Pro Bowl rosters will be announced next week, with the voting coming from a 1/3 fan vote (which ends Thursday night), a 1/3 player vote and a 1/3 coach vote.
Let’s break down the Colts’ candidates for the 2019 Pro Bowl:
-Quenton Nelson: Part of being a Pro Bowler is having enough hype around your name. Nelson has garnered that thanks to being a rare guard who seems to have weekly highlights going viral. On the field, Nelson hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been good enough to earn one of the 3 AFC Pro Bowl guard spots in 2018.
-Eric Ebron: Travis Kelce and Ebron should be the 2 AFC tight ends. Normally, Rob Gronkowski would be the obvious lock at tight end from the AFC. But injuries have limited Gronk to just 10 games this season and he only has 3 touchdowns on the year. Ebron’s 12 touchdown receptions tops any other tight end in the league. It’s hard to make a compelling case for any other AFC tight ends to truly be above Kelce or Ebron.
-Darius Leonard: Similar to Nelson, Leonard created some strong hype for himself early in the season, and added to that in October and November. For a rookie linebacker to be a Pro Bowler he must have a really strong resume. Leonard certainly has that by easily leading the league in tackles and making plenty of impactful plays in the sack/turnover departments (7 sacks and 4 forced fumbles). When looking at the AFC, it’s not a very strong linebacker group.
Could Go Either Way
-Anthony Castonzo: I would not be surprised at all if the Colts ended up with 2 offensive linemen in the Pro Bowl. Castonzo, IMO, is the most likely option to join Nelson, but the alternate route probably has to be used. Missing the first 5 games of the season won’t help Castonzo, although he should receive more attention than normal with the Colts offensive line being a league-wide storyline in 2018. A month ago, you would have thought Ryan Kelly as getting a very strong look at center. But him missing the last 3 weeks won’t help his cause at all.
-T.Y. Hilton: Hilton has been to the last 4 Pro Bowls, benefiting from the alternate route a couple of times. Hilton will easily eclipse 1,000 yards and set a career-high in touchdowns, despite missing two games this season. For Hilton to go to a 5th straight Pro Bowl, the alternate route might be his way in, with the likes of Tyreek Hill, DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown ahead of him. Plus, you also have receivers like Keenan Allen and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the AFC. Could Hilton be the odd man out for the 4-man group to be voted in initially? Hilton’s ‘quieter’ months of September and Ocotber will hurt his chances to be voted in right away.
-Andrew Luck: It’s crazy to have Luck in this category just a couple weeks after he was a legit candidate to be on an MVP ballot. But at last check Luck was 8th among quarterback fan voting, 5th for AFC QBs. Now, Luck will definitely benefit from coaches and players thinking more highly of him. Still, is Luck really going to get the nod over Patrick Mahomes, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady? That trio doesn’t even include Ben Roethlisberger, who is 2nd in the league in passing, or Deshaun Watson currently quarterbacking a team that has won 9 of its last 10 games. The Steelers and Texans fan bases dwarfed the Colts in fan voting. For Luck to be chosen this season, he might also need to make the game via the alternate route. It’s just a loaded position group this season. Like Hilton, Luck won’t benefit that much from playing so well lately, compared to earlier in the season.
-Rigoberto Sanchez: This is an under the radar deserving player on the Colts. Sanchez ranks 1st in the AFC in net punting average, despite a busted blocking assignment which led to a block last month. With specialists though, name recognition can turn this more into a popularity contest. So maybe Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt is the AFC rep over Sanchez.
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