The Broncos have, far and away, the longest streak of seasons in which at least one of their players was originally named to the Pro Bowl. That streak stands at 38 seasons; you have to go all the way back to 1980 to find the last time the Broncos were shut out of the Pro Bowl–and the only reason it did is because Randy Gradishar somehow missed a nod despite being named in both the three seasons prior, and the three seasons after. The Broncos had some close calls in these 38 seasons: only a punter named in 1988, and only the bizarrely great season Brandon Lloyd saving their butts in the disastrous 2010 campaign.
Only three other teams (Cowboys: 1989, Dolphins: 1997, Steelers: 1999) have a streak that goes back into the 20th century, and half of the league has been shut out at least once in the past five seasons.
But amid a 4-8 season in which the Broncos have a lower recognizable talent that’s been healthy, there could be worry that one of the franchise’s most impressive streaks could come at an end in 2019. A sign of this came when not one Bronco led the fan voting at any AFC position as of late November.
Let’s look at the players that could help the Broncos keep this streak going.
Between he and Bradley Chubb, it seemed close to fait accompli that the Broncos would have at least one edge rusher named. But Chubb was lost to a torn ACL early in the season, and Miller’s statistical production has suffered as a result, with only six sacks and eight tackles for loss. To add insult to injury (almost literally), Miller also missed a game to injury last week.
The good news for Miller is that he has extensive name recognition, and also that the AFC competition is weak. It was first made weak when Miller’s fellow AFC Pro Bowl outside linebackers from 2018, Jadeveon Clowney and Dee Ford, got traded to the NFC, and made weaker when Myles Garrett got suspended for the rest of the season for his helmet-swinging shenanigans.
TJ Watt should be a lock with 12.5 sacks and 11 TFLs, but after that you a second year player (Harold Landry) next up on the sack list with nine. As always, Joey Bosa should be a fierce competitor to Miller in the reputation department, and Matt Judon might be a dark horse threat on a strong Ravens defense.
Chris Harris, Jr.
Harris has always been excessively ignored by those who award postseason honors. Will that change in 2019? On the one hand, the breakout Pro Bowler from 2018 that nudged out Harris, Xavien Howard, is on IR, and another competitor from last year, Jalen Ramsey, has been traded to the NFC. But the departure of Ramsey from the conference via trade is offset by the rearrival of Marcus Peters via trade. Stephon Gilmore will remain a fierce competitor, especially given how well the Patriots’ defense is playing. So will Denzel Ward, named as a rookie last season, even though he has been hurt much of the season. Tre’Davious White could also get his first Pro Bowl bid as he was a first round pick and is part of an excellent Bills defense.
Sutton is quietly (at least, outside of Broncos Country) having a breakout second season. As of now, Sutton has received 906 yards and six touchdowns. Sutton is further helped by the fact that the grand majority of the heavy hitters at wide receiver are in the NFC. The AFC leader in receiving yards, at ninth, is actually a tight end, Travis Kelce.
Sutton is further helped that several of the traditional Pro Bowl WRs from the AFC have been injured (AJ Green), similarly stuck with 4-8 records (Keenan Allen), or disgraced (Antonio Brown). Tyreek Hill has sustained both injury and disgrace, but don’t underestimate the power of his name overriding that.
Statistically, Sutton’s toughest competition is DeAndre Hopkins, Jarvis Landry, and Julian Edelman. Hopkins, of course, has much Pro Bowl pedigree, but Landry has only played in the Pro Bowl game as a promoted alternate, and Edelman has never even played in the game–and don’t estimate the vast Patriots fanbase trying to do their part in the fan voting.
One dark horse competitor to Sutton could be DJ Chark, who, also in his second season like Sutton, actually leads the AFC in receiving touchdowns with eight.
Lindsay made history last season when he because the first undrafted offensive rookie to make the Pro Bowl, with over 1,200 all purpose yards and 10 total touchdowns. But this season, he has much tougher competition in the AFC. Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, and Josh Jacobs are all over 1,000 in rushing yards alone (Lindsay’s at 766), and all have scored more touchdowns than Lindsay. It’s hard to see how Lindsay is going to pass any of them.
Risner has had an excellent rookie season, taking the left guard position by the firm reins. But with offensive lineman selections perhaps having the strongest bias to name recognition due to the lack of traditional statistical measurement, and last year’s AFC representatives in David DeCastro, Marshal Yanda, and Quenton Nelson still regularly contributing, Risner would be a very long shot to beat any one of them out.
Among last season’s AFC free safety Pro Bowl representatives, Derwin James missed 11 games, while Eric Weddle is now in the NFC. But Earl Thomas has moved over to the AFC in the name recognition department, while Minkah Fitzpatrick is playing lights out for Pittsburgh. Despite the excellent contract year that Simmons is having, he may be having it too quietly in order to sneak in there over Thomas and Fitzpatrick.
Now we’re really getting down to desperate measures. Like Simmons, McGovern is having an excellent contract season. Competition from the Pouncey brothers, regularly named to the Pro Bowl, is also lessened–Mike is on IR and Maurkice was suspended two games for his retaliation against the aforementioned Myles Garrett. Rising star Matt Skura of the Ravens also just went down for the year. Nonetheless, McGovern getting named should be seen as an extreme long shot.
Anthony Lynn asked Kreiter to be his long snapper for the Pro Bowl last season. But since long snappers are not chosen by the regular Pro Bowl process, I’m not sure how valid it will be to continue the streak if he is the only Bronco that is ultimately represented.