For most of the season the San Diego Chargers have flown under the radar, and at 8-7, it's been deservedly so. Their losses have come to teams with a combined record of 45-60, so it's hard to feel sorry for this team if they don't make the playoffs.
Back when we did our BFTB pre-season staff predictions, I thought San Diego would win 9 games (based on how pathetic the AFC was), but I had no idea the players who would help them achieve that success would be the ones that ultimately contributed this season. So now that San Diego has a winning record, just how many players on the roster deserve to go to the Pro Bowl?
Full Disclosure: I understand that the Pro Bowl is a joke and the voting is largely a popularity contest. I'm also aware that stats don't tell the whole story. This was just an exercise to see how many Chargers are truly worth it.
A slam dunk, in my opinion. If you go down the list of the top metrics that anyone uses, Philip Rivers is going to be top 5, at worst, on that list.
|Stat||AFC RANK||NFL Rank|
|Yards Per Att||T-4th||T-2nd|
|PFF Pass Grade||2nd||2nd|
I chose 7 stats. 4 are the more traditional, yet effective stats to determine how well a QB is playing. Then I threw a few advanced stats from Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders in the chart. DVOA/DYAR can be explained in depth here.
I don't feel like I need to spend much time on this. Had the Chargers won only 6 games, that would be the only argument for Rivers not to make the Pro Bowl. He's having the best season of his career and Rivers should be in contention for a more prestigious award.
After Jamaal Charles, it's a whole bunch of clutter in the AFC. Many teams, including San Diego, don't have one true feature back. So that tends to bring down the numbers for some of these guys.
|Stat||AFC RANK||NFL Rank|
|Yards Per Att||7th||20th|
|Yards after Contact||2nd||9th|
From a yardage standpoint, Mathews would be a lock. Then you get into the advanced stats, and his argument for him becomes much tougher. Some have told me I've been too hard on Mathews and I'm not his biggest supporter, but I do think this is where the subjective grading of PFF comes into play.
My examples are the Jacksonville and Miami games, where I thought Mathews played some of the best football he's ever played, running as hard as we've seen and bouncing off tackles. In those games, Mathews rushed for 237 yards combined, and 44% of those yards he created after contact. Yet his rushing grade for each was 0.3 & 0.2 respectively.
The verdict is up in the air for Mathews, but looking at his traditional numbers, I think he'll earn the nod.
For what it's worth, Danny Woodhead is 6th in DVOA, as are 2 other "spell RBs" in the top 10.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
This one will be tougher for San Diego to get a player into the Pro Bowl, based on popularity. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I make hyperbolic statements all the time about the Chargers rookie receiver. For example:
Keenan Allen or Jerry Rice. Discuss.— Kyle Posey (@The_KP_Show) December 13, 2013
I think it's incredible that we're even having the discussion whether or not Allen is deserving of a Pro Bowl nod, considering the other players who are likely to make it have at least 40 more targets than Allen.
Let's look at the numbers.
|Stat||AFC RANK||NFL Rank|
|Yards Per Reception||7th||15th|
I included catch percentage to show the value of Allen. When you throw the ball his way, the odds are high that he catches it. He's not a "volume" receiver like a Josh Gordon, or dare I say, Calvin Johnson or even A.J. Green. Obviously, all 3 are great players and the latter 2 are the best in the game.
My point is those 3 are only catching 57%, 56%, and 58% of the passes thrown their way, respectively. Allen is catching 71.7% of his passes, which is tops in the NFL. Would that number drop if he had as many targets as the others? Sure. He would also have the gaudy numbers and there wouldn't be much of a debate, either.
The verdict for Allen is I don't think he'll get to the Pro Bowl this year, even if he is more valuable than someone who will make it.
As for Tight Ends, Antonio Gates is 4th in receptions & 3rd in yards. While he hasn't had his strongest season — 14th rated TE by PFF, 23rd/21st in DYAR/DVOA — this is where the popularity contest will come in. Him being near the top in the traditional stats makes me believe Gates will get the nod & be a Pro Bowler.
For what it's worth, Eddie Royal is 2nd in DVOA amongst WR's. BFTB favorite Ladarius Green is the 6th–highest rated tight end per PFF, he's also 9th in DYAR & 1st in DVOA. If he improves his awareness, and route running even just slightly over the offseason, he's a top–5 tight end for years to come.
If you let the media tell you the story, then the offensive line is struggling. That just hasn't been the case this year. If we go by Football Outsiders offensive line rankings, each stat explained here, San Diego is 1st in "Stuffed Rank", 8th in "Power Rank", and 8th in "Adjusted Sack Rate." Despite what media pundits will tell you, this has been a top–10 line in the NFL.
So which individual is deserving?
King Dunlap's injury hurt both tackles. D.J. Fluker did an adequate job filling in at left tackle, but make no mistake he's better suited at right tackle. Fluker has been as close to dominant as a rookie offensive tackle in recent memory, far exceeding expectations. Had he been able to start each game at right tackle, I wouldn't be surprised if his name was brought up more for Pro Bowl consideration, even as a rookie. At right tackle he's graded out at PFF +6.6, compared to -11.4 at left tackle.
Meanwhile Dunlap has bought into everything Joe D'Alessandris has asked him to do and played about as well as any OT in the NFL. The problem is he's missed 5 games. Even missing 5 games, only 4 OT's have graded higher than Dunlap per PFF in the AFC. Going back to Football Outsiders' offensive line rankings, the Chargers are 1st & 3rd in "Adjusted Line Yards" when they run outside Dunlap, or right behind him. These factors would lead me to believe Dunlap is more than deserving to be a Pro Bowler.
Nick Hardwick was very deserving, for the 1st half of the season. His play has kind of dipped the 2nd half, not at an alarming rate, just hasn't been playing at a Pro Bowl level.
Even with the recent "success" of the defense, they're still far and away the worst defense from a DVOA standpoint, and give up 6.2 yards per play, which is dead last in the NFL. So it's hard to find a bright spot on this side of the ball.
Editor's note: though the Chargers' defense is worst in total DVOA, they've climbed to 29th in weighted DVOA, which takes into account more recent games instead of the whole season. That said, the points below still stand.
We know none of the corners deserve to go. San Diego is 20th in stopping the opponents #1 WR, and even worst at stopping the #2, at 32nd in DVOA.
No linebacker is close to being a Pro Bowl caliber player this year, and the only lineman who's been the closest is Corey Liuget. But his porous run defense and knuckle–headed penalties come to mind far too often.
Enter Eric Weddle.
The most amazing stat about Weddle is he's played all 900 snaps on defense this year, and 45 more on special teams. He started the year relatively slow, especially by his standards, missing 8 tackles in the first 3 games. He was literally asked to do everything on defense. He played dime LB, slot CB, he covered TE's, and against the Titans, he lined up outside at CB at times. He's also rushed the passer 47 times this year. This all just speaks volumes to how great a player Weddle is.
Weddle has since cleaned up his play, having missed only 4 tackles in the past 12 games. He's also returned to more of the "center field" role, and his coverage has returned to an All–Pro level. Only 3 safeties in the AFC rank higher than Weddle. I think there's no doubt he deserves to be on the team after he's bounced back from some early season struggles to be the cream of the crop player we all know he's capable of being.
Only stupid Chargers fans think Eric Weddle isn’t an elite player. Sorry, I’m not sorry.— Patrick Green (@patrickpgreen) December 26, 2013
There's my list. I think 5 Charger players should make the team. Now it's your turn to tell me how many, or who do you think is deserving?