With a hat tip to SBNation Bay Area's James Brady, the thought of which Dallas Cowboys players could make their first Pro Bowl appearance in 2012 crossed my mind. Now, obviously, the Pro Bowl isn't the end-all-be-all to being one of the best players in the league at your particular position. The way the nomination is initially determined pretty much adds extras in there. The Pro Bowl starters are decided by one part fan vote, one part player vote and one part coaches vote.
The fan vote is normally nothing more than a popularity contest. Fortunately for Cowboys players, when the team has a good season, that's turns out to be a helping hand rather than a hindrance. The player vote isn't much more discriminatory, as each player mainly only has knowledge of those in the position group opposite them, and only for the 13 teams on their schedule for that year. That gives a big advantage to players with established reputations. It's really only the coaches that have to game plan against entire teams that have a complete overview of most of the league's players.
So which Cowboys can overcome these obstacles to become first-time Pro Bowlers in 2012? Normally, a breakout season for someone cracking the starting lineup won't be enough, unless it's a skill position player with a year like Miles Austin had in 2009. Normally it will be someone that is already on the radar but uses the current season to push himself into the upper echelon at his position.
The conversation has to start with Sean Lee, inside linebacker. Lee had a breakout season in 2011, leading the team in interceptions with four and also having seven pass breakups. A season where Chuck Norris avoids injury and continues to develop into the leader of the Cowboys defense could easily see him making the trip to Hawaii in February. Only two slots each season however, and Patrick Willis and Brian Urlacher are pretty comfortable.
KDP's Odds- 7:1
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Despite his recent arrest and assuming no lengthy suspension, the next candidate has to be Dez Bryant. Before this past weekend, all of the talk surrounding Bryant had to do with how much the offseason program has helped develop him into a better route-runner and more responsible player. He seemed destined for a breakout season as a 2010 number one pick. If he plays more than 14 games as Tony Romo's number one target, he'll have the numbers to earn the free vacation. The NFC is stacked at receiver though and barring injury you can pretty much pencil in Megatron for one of the three slots.
KDP's Odds- 15:1
What about DeMarco Murray? In games where he had a true fullback leading the way, he averaged eight yards a carry. Eight. Of course, a running back is only as good as his offensive line; so whether or not Dallas improved theirs in the offseason will have a lot to do with Murray's production. Running back is always a crowded field for the Pro Bowl and the best runner in the game might be in the same division (McCoy).
KDP's Odds- 12:1
Second-year tackle Tyron Smith has been moved to Tony Romo's blindside for 2012. If he can keep Romo from taking unexpected hits, expect his pedigree and growing admiration via the media to propel this young stud to the forefront of the conversation. The fact that the division and possibly the conference's best left tackle is out for the season (Jason Peters) helps out Tyron's chances a great deal, but not as much as a full offseason, Bill Callahan and a drive to be the best will.
KDP's Odds- 6:1
Free agent cornerback Brandon Carr has never sniffed a Pro Bowl, but that could change in 2012. If Dallas' defense greatly improves and the only significant change they made was to the cornerback position, you'd assume Carr has plenty to do with it. He's improved in each of his first four years in the league and the noteriety of being a Cowboy certainly won't hurt his chances. The cornerback field in the NFC is wide open for turnover based on the players that were nominated in 2011-12 (Charles Woodson, GB | Brandon Browner, SEA | Carlos Rogers, SF | Charles Tillman, CHI).
KDP's Odds- 10:1
What about the kicker? If Dan Bailey doesn't regress to the mean, then he might be in line for a Pro Bowl nod; especially with some noteworthy game-winning kicks along the way. He has a boatload of well-known kickers ahead of him and will need to improve on his great 86.5% as a rook, but anything is possible.
KDP's Odds- 25:1
Long Odds: Felix Jones, Jason Hatcher, Sean Lissemore, Victor Butler
So what do you think BTBers? Who do you think has the best odds to make their first Pro Bowl at the end of the upcoming season?