CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Not all of the most deserving players will make it to the Pro Bowl

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Most teams who face the Patriots have trouble bringing down tight end Rob Gronkowski. (US Presswire)  
Most teams who face the Patriots have trouble bringing down tight end Rob Gronkowski. (US Presswire)  

The NFL will announce the 2012 All-Popular teams Tuesday.

Oops, I mean Pro Bowl teams.

But you get the drift. The Pro Bowl teams are rarely made up of the players who deserve to be there.

It's more popularity than production. That's in large part because of the fan vote.

Just ask the Green Bay Packers fans. They stuffed the ballot box for their Packers and many of them led the fan voting, even if they didn't deserve to be on the team.

To help balance the popularity contest that has become the Pro Bowl, I have my 2012 Pro Bowl rosters.

These rosters are based on watching tape, talking to scouts, attending games and none of the choices have to do with popularity.

These are Pro Bowl teams, which is why some of the names you will see aren't the usual names and many of them won't even be on the real teams, which is sad.

AFC

Quarterback

Tom Brady, Patriots. Reserves: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers; Philip Rivers, Chargers.

 Just missed: Andy Dalton, Bengals.

 Comment: The first two picks, including Brady as a starter, were easy. But the quarterback pool in the AFC isn't very good. Went with Rivers over Dalton. Tim Tebow did not get consideration -- nor should he.

Running back

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars. Reserves: Arian Foster, Texans; Ray Rice, Ravens.

 Just missed: Reggie Bush, Dolphins.

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 Comment: Jones-Drew leads the NFL in rushing and Foster and Rice were easy picks. Bush got started late with his success, otherwise he might make it tougher to leave him off.

Fullback

Marcel Reece, Raiders. Reserve: None

 Just missed: Vonta Leach, Ravens

 Comment: I went with a guy who isn't a great blocker, but adds a ton to the Oakland offense. Leach is a guard playing fullback.

Tight end

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots. Reserve: Aaron Hernandez, Patriots.

 Just missed: Owen Daniels, Texans; Anthony Fasano, Dolphins.

 Comment: Gronkowski is second in the AFC in catches with 82 and has 15 touchdown passes. Hernandez has 72 catches and six touchdowns. In a weak year for AFC tight ends, he gets the nod.

Wide receiver

Wes Welker, Patriots; Mike Wallace, Steelers. Reserves: A.J. Green, Bengals; Brandon Marshall, Dolphins

 Just missed: Vincent Jackson, Chargers; Antonio Brown, Steelers.

 Comment: Welker leads the NFL in catches and was an easy choice. Wallace edges out Marshall, who has really come on, and the rookie Green.

Tackle

Jared Veldheer, Raiders (LT); David Stewart, Titans (RT) Reserve: Joe Thomas, Browns (LT).

 Just missed: Andrew Whitworth, Bengals; Ryan Clady, Broncos; Michael Roos, Titans; David Stewart, Titans; Duane Brown, Texans.

 Comment: Veldheer got off to a great start, had a rough go against Julius Peppers, but has been good other than that. Stewart tops a bad right tackle class.

Guard

Andy Levitre, Bills (LG); Marshall Yanda, Ravens (RG). Reserve: Brian Waters, Patriots.

 Just missed: Stefen Wisniewski, Raiders,

 Comment: Levitre was dominant at left guard before moving to left tackle because of injuries. He was one of my highest-rated players early in the season. He finished back at guard and again played well. Yanda was a mauler most of the season, but he had a tough time with Geno Atkins in one game.

Center

Nick Mangold, Jets. Reserve: Chris Myers, Texans.

 Just missed: Mike Pouncey, Dolphins.

 Comment: When Mangold was injured early, the Jets line really struggled. He came back to solidify it.

Kicker

Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders. Just missed: Josh Scobee, Jaguars; Rob Bironas, Titans.

 Comment: Can you believe Janikowski will be going to his first Pro Bowl (he was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2010)? Wow.

Defensive end

J.J. Watt, Texans; Elvis Dumervil, Broncos. Reserve: Jeremy Mincey, Jaguars.

 Just missed: Brett Keisel, Steelers; Carlos Dunlap, Bengals.

 Comment: This is a bad position in the AFC, especially since I count Terrell Suggs as an outside linebacker.

Defensive tackle/nose tackle

Geno Atkins, Bengals; Ahtyba Rubin, Browns. Reserve: Broderick Bunkley, Broncos.

 Just missed: Haloti Ngata, Ravens; Richard Seymour, Raiders; Tommy Kelly, Vince Wilfork, Patriots; Sione Pouha, Jets.

 Comment: Atkins has eight sacks and has been a force all season long. Rubin is a run-stuffing player who doesn't get his due playing on a bad team.

Outside linebacker

Terrell Suggs, Ravens; Tamba Hali, Chiefs. Reserve: Von Miller, Broncos

 Just missed: Connor Barwin, Texans; Cameron Wake, Dolphins; Jarrett Johnson. Ravens.

 Comment: Suggs is having a huge year with 13 sacks and Hali has 12. Miller edges out Barwin, a surprise player on this list.

Middle/inside linebacker

Brian Cushing, Texans; Derrick Johnson, Chiefs. Reserve: Paul Posluszny, Jaguars.

 Just missed: Ray Lewis, Ravens; David Harris, Jets; D'Qwell Jackson, Browns.

 Comment: Cushing and Johnson were easy picks, especially after Lewis got hurt. Posluszny was a great pickup by the Jaguars in free agency.

Cornerback

Darrelle Revis, Jets; Champ Bailey, Broncos. Reserve: Johnathan Joseph, Texans.

 Just missed: Brandon Carr, Chiefs; Brandon Flowers, Chiefs.

 Comment: Revis hasn't been as good as he's been in the past, but he's still the best. Bailey continues to play outstanding man defense, edging out Joseph.

Safety

Eric Weddle, Chargers (FS); Tyvon Branch, Raiders (SS). Reserves: Jairus Byrd, Bills.

 Just missed: Ed Reed, Ravens; Dawan Landry, Jaguars.

 Comment: Weddle has been a ball-hawking player in the back end for the Chargers and tackles better than people think. Branch has been all over the field for the Oakland defense.

Punter

Shane Lechler, Raiders. Reserve: none.

 Just missed: Zoltan Mesko, Patriots; Brandon Fields, Dolphins.

 Comment: Lechler leads the NFL with a 50.7 average.

Kick returner

Antonio Brown, Steelers.

 Just missed: None.

 Comment: Brown isn't just a great receiver, but he's a scary return man.

NFC

Quarterback

Aaron Rodgers, Packers. Reserves: Drew Brees, Saints; Matthew Stafford, Lions.

 Just missed: Tony Romo, Cowboys.

 Comment: It was close between Rodgers and Brees, but I went with the guy with more touchdown passes. Stafford edged out Romo.

Running back

LeSean McCoy, Eagles. Reserves: Frank Gore, 49ers; Michael Turner, Falcons.

 Just missed: Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks.

 Comment: I took the top three rushers in the conference with Turner edging out Lynch.

Fullback

Jed Collins, Saints. Reserves: None.

 Just missed: Ovie Mughelli, Falcons.

 Comment: If Mughelli doesn't get hurt, he gets the nod. Collins has been a nice surprise for the Saints.

Tight end

Jimmy Graham, Saints. Reserve: Tony Gonzalez, Falcons.

 Just missed: Jason Witten, Cowboys

 Comment: Graham was as easy a pick for the NFC as Rob Gronkowski was for the AFC. It was close between Gonzalez and Witten, but Gonzalez was a tad better.

Wide receiver

Calvin Johnson, Lions; Victor Cruz, Giants. Reserves: Roddy White, Falcons; Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals.

 Just missed: Hakeem Nicks, Giants; Jordy Nelson, Packers.

 Comment: We expect to see Johnson on this list, but Cruz? He's had an amazing season.

Tackle

Jason Peters, Eagles (LT); Tyron Smith, Cowboys (RT). Reserve: Jordan Gross, Panthers (LT).

 Just missed: Todd Herremans, Eagles (RT); Anthony Davis, 49ers (RT).

 Comment: Peters reverted to his dominant form again this season, while Smith was as impressive a rookie as there was in the league.

Guard

Carl Nicks, Saints (LG); Chris Snee (RG), Giants. Reserve:Josh Sitton, Packers (RG).

 Just missed: Jahri Evans, Saints.

 Comment: Nicks is the best guard in the NFL. Snee solidified the Giants line when it seemed to be coming apart.

Center

Ryan Kalil, Panthers. Reserve: Scott Wells, Packers.

 Just missed: John Sullivan, Vikings.

 Comment: Kalil is a big reason why the Panthers had the offensive success they had with a rookie quarterback.

Kicker

David Akers, 49ers.

 Just missed: Mason Crosby, Packers; Dan Bailey, Cowboys.

 Comment: Akers set an NFL record for field goals made with 42.

Defensive end

Justin Smith, 49ers; Jared Allen, Vikings. Reserves: (tie) Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants; Jason Babin, Eagles.

 Just missed: Chris Long, Rams; Calais Campbell, Cardinals.

 Comment: This is a deep position in the NFC. All six of these players were worthy of being on the team.

Defensive tackle/nose tackle

Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Henry Melton, Bears. Reserve: Isaac Sopoaga, 49ers.

 Just missed: Jay Ratliff, Cowboys.

 Comment: This isn't a strong position in the NFC. Melton is a young player who emerged this season, while Jenkins was strong in his first season with the Eagles.

Outside linebacker

DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys; Sean Weatherspoon, Falcons. Reserve: Clay Matthews, Packers.

 Just missed: Chad Greenway, Vikings

 Comment: Ware is the most explosive edge rusher in the game and Weatherspoon was by far the best defender on the Falcons roster, a run-and-chase player with great speed.

Middle/inside linebacker

Patrick Willis, 49ers. Reserve: London Fletcher, Redskins.

 Just missed: NaVorro Bowman, 49ers; Sean Lee, Cowboys.

 Comment: Willis is the best inside backer in the game, and Fletcher had one of his best seasons at the age of 36.

Cornerback

Carlos Rogers, 49ers; Chris Gamble, Panthers. Reserve: Brandon Browner, Seahawks.

 Just missed: Charles Woodson, Packers; Tramon Williams, Packers; Corey Webster, Giants. Comment: This is not a great position in the NFC, but Rogers had a good season for the 49ers. Gamble bounced back from a bad 2010 to play well this season. Browner was horrible against the Steelers early, but he has been good since. He has had have a lot of penalties called on him.

Safety

Adrian Wilson, Cardinals (SS); Earl Thomas, Seahawks (FS). Reserve: Kam Chancellor, Seahawks (SS).

 Just missed: Roman Harper, Saints; Kenny Phillips, Giants.

 Comment: Wilson reverted to his Pro Bowl form, even playing with a torn biceps muscle. Thomas is a rangy safety who fits perfectly with the modern game.

Punter

Andy Lee, 49ers. Reserve: None.

 Just missed: Thomas Morstead, Saints.

 Comment: Lee has been the league's best punter this season, leading in net yards with a 43.5 average.

Kicker returner

Patrick Peterson, Cardinals. Reserve: None

 Just missed: Devin Hester, Bears; Ted Ginn, 49ers.

 Comment: Peterson has four punt returns for touchdowns. This is an easy choice.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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