Last week, NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal wrote an article listing nine players who are primed to make their Pro Bowl debut in 2016. While no Cowboys made his list, that doesn't mean there aren't any Cowboys players who could make their Pro Bowl debut.
Over the last 10 years, the Cowboys have sent 64 players to the Pro Bowl, more than the Giants (32) and Redskins (27) combined, and more than any other team in the league. Here are the five teams that sent the most players to the last 10 Pro Bowls:
As we're looking for those Cowboys players set to make their Pro Bowl debut, that rules out the ten players currently on the roster that have already made the Pro Bowl and have combined for 26 Pro Bowl invitations.
8 Pro Bowls: Jason Witten
4 Pro Bowls: Tony Romo
3 Pro Bowls: Tyron Smith
2 Pro Bowls: Dez Bryant, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Alfred Morris
1 Pro Bowl: Dan Bailey, L.P. Ladouceur, Sean Lee
That still leaves a lot of Cowboys players eligible to make their Pro Bowl debut. Like any other team, the Cowboys' chances of getting players to the Pro Bowl is strongly linked to the team's regular season performance, even if the Cowboys enjoy a built-in advantage of having the largest fanbase and being nearly ubiquitous in the media. The better the Cowboys start into the season, the higher the likelihood of getting one or more players their Pro Bowl debut.
Two of those players have already taken themselves out of the running for a Pro Bowl this year: Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are not eligible for Pro Bowl consideration due to their suspensions.
Beyond those two, the most obvious place to look for Pro Bowl newbies are the three former first-rounders who haven't been to the Pro Bowl yet: Ezekiel Elliott, Byron Jones, and Morris Claiborne.
Additionally, there are a number of established veterans who've been in the Pro Bowl conversation before. In 2014, when the Cowboys stormed to a 12-4 regular season record, the following players were ranked in the top 10 of the Pro Bowl fan ballot but ultimately didn't make it:
OT Doug Free (ranked 5th among all tackles)
ILB Rolando McClain (7th)
FS Barry Church (7th)
Special Teams: (4th)
Other veterans worth considering: Orlando Scandrick (who may have missed out on post-season honors in 2014 due to his suspension), Tyrone Crawford, and La'el Collins. You may want to add more names for consideration, but I think the 12 names above are a good group from which to narrow down the discussion to four names. So without further ado, here are the four players I think could make their Pro Bowl debut this season.
Ezekiel Elliott: Over the last 10 years, 47 players made the Pro Bowl in their rookie seasons, including five running backs (Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Doug Martin, Eddie Lacy, and Todd Gurley) all of whom ran for between 1,106 and 1,454 yards in their rookie seasons. In Dallas, Elliott joined a team with one of the best O-lines in the league and a determination to run the ball. The Cowboys will be careful not to overuse Elliott, but provided he stays healthy, there's no reason he shouldn't get the type of yardage that gets you a Pro Bowl berth. Add a few break-away highlight plays that will run on heavy rotation on Sports Center, and Elliott looks to be 12th Pro Bowler the Cowboys have drafted since 2006.
: Despite his status as an undrafted free agent, or perhaps precisely because of that, Collins has the name recognition that's so vital for offensive linemen to get voted to the Pro Bowl, as there aren't a lot of stats by which to measure individual accomplishments for linemen. But as part of the Cowboys O-line, and if he continues to knock down linebackers like bowling pins, his chances are good to receive an invitation to Orlando.
: Like with offensive linemen, it can be harder for defensive linemen to make the Pro Bowl if they don't have some name recognition, and Crawford doesn't have any name recognition outside of Dallas. Which means he'll have to impress with the only stat that counts for the Pro Bowl voters: sacks. 73 defensive tackles have made the Pro Bowl in the last 10 years, 20 of which posted eight or more sacks in the Pro Bowl season. Eight sacks will probably be the minimum entry threshold for Crawford, a double-digit total would be better. Can he do that? He recorded five sacks last year with a rotator-cuff issue so severe he had to brush his teeth with his other hand. He had surgery on the shoulder in January, and there's no reason why he shouldn't be able to improve on last year's sack total with a healthy shoulder.
A yet-to-be-determined defensive back. Just like sacks are the Pro Bowl currency of choice for defensive linemen, interceptions are the gold standard for defensive backs. Last year, Byron Jones, Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick (injured) combined for exactly zero interceptions. That's going to change this year, but predicting which defensive back will get the most interceptions is next to impossible, though I think that Byron Jones, now playing free safety full time, may have the best chances.
Who are your choices for the player(s) most likely to make their Pro Bowl debut?