49ers

2020 Pro Bowl snubs: These 49ers, Raiders alternates should be starters

49ers

First things first: Every player named to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday is damn good. They're all deserving of the recognition, but naturally, some definitely more so than others.

Then beyond the 44 players in each conference named as Pro Bowl starters, there's an abundance of deserving players that were named alternates. As for the two Bay Area teams, both the 49ers and Raiders have at least two alternates that have tremendous arguments as to why they should have been named starters.

While San Francisco had four players named starters, the team also had six players named alternates, including defensive linemen DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, linebacker Fred Warner, offensive linemen Weston Richburg and Joe Staley and safety Jimmie Ward. Of those six alternates, though, it's difficult to explain why none of the first three were named starters.

Only six defensive linemen -- three defensive ends, three interior -- are named starters in each conference. Considering San Francisco rookie edge rusher Nick Bosa was certain to claim one of the starting defensive end spots, the chances were always slim that both Buckner and Armstead would be named starters as well. But it's not as if they don't each have a strong case.

Buckner, for instance, objectively has had a better season than two interior linemen named starters ahead of him -- Philadelphia's Fletcher Cox and Atlanta's Grady Jarrett. Buckner leads 49ers defensive linemen with 56 tackles and has 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and one touchdown. Meanwhile, Cox has 37 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and no recoveries, while Jarrett has 65 tackles, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and no recoveries.

 

Given that Armstead has split time between defensive end and defensive tackle this season, he could have gone either way. However, similar to Buckner, he likely would have stood a better chance as a tackle, as his 10 sacks are three fewer than the two other starting ends besides Bosa.

Warner's case basically comes down to one player -- Carolina's Luke Kuechly. No one would deny that Seattle's Bobby Wagner deserves to be a starter, but one can make a strong argument for Warner being one over Kuechly. Warner has 79 solo tackles, three sacks and three forced fumbles while serving as the leader of one of the two best defenses in the NFL. Kuechly has 71 solo tackles, zero sacks and zero forced fumbles as the captain of one of the worst defenses in the NFL, although he does have two interceptions.

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Across the Bay, the Raiders had two players -- offensive linemen Rodney Hudson and Trent Brown -- named starters, but two of their alternates arguably were more deserving.

Running back Josh Jacobs is the odds-on favorite to be named Offensive Rookie of the Year, and probably should have been a starter, too. He wasn't going to be named one over Cleveland's Nick Chubb or Tennessee's Derrick Henry -- the AFC's two leading rushers -- but one could argue he has been more productive than Baltimore's Mark Ingram, who wasn't even the leading rusher on his own team. Jacobs has averaged nearly 20 more rushing yards per game than Ingram this season, and given that the Ravens had 11 players named starters besides Ingram, the NFL could have thrown Jacobs and the Raiders a bone.

Still, though, Oakland definitely should have had at least one more Pro Bowl starter -- tight end Darren Waller, who was named an alternated behind Kansas City's Travis Kelce and Baltimore's Mark Andrews. While Kelce deserved to be there over Waller, Andrews didn't. 

Waller has 80 receptions for 1,001 yards. Andrews has 58 receptions for 759 yards. Yes, the Ravens' tight end has scored more touchdowns, but sorry, that isn't enough to make up for the vast difference.

The good news for Jacobs and Waller is that starting spots likely will open up as a result of injuries and current starters making it to the Super Bowl. Buckner, Armstead and Warner, however, obviously would rather be in Miami than Orlando.