Over the last 10 years, the Cowboys have sent 64 players to the Pro Bowl, more than the Giants (33) and Redskins (30) 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:
To a certain degree, the Pro Bowl is a popularity contest, but it is a popularity contest that is heavily skewed towards the most successful teams at the end of each season. And being a popular team doesn't automatically guarantee you any Pro Bowlers (The Patriots are pretty popular, but only had four Pro Bowlers last year). And even being a Cowboy is not an automatic shoe-in: the Cowboys have oscillated from a high of 13 in 2007 to lows of three in 2011 and 2012, and despite finishing with their best record of the last 10 years in 2016 only sent seven players to the Pro Bowl.
The long and short of it is that the Cowboys have done petty well at drafting and developing future Pro Bowlers both historically and in the recent past. Too bad it hasn't resulted in more post-season success recently.
But back to the topic at hand: We're looking for Cowboys players who could make their Pro Bowl debut this season, so that obviously rules out the 11 players currently on the roster that have already made the Pro Bowl and have combined for 28 Pro Bowl invitations over the last 10 years
7 Pro Bowls: Jason Witten (10x Pro Bowler over entire career)
4 Pro Bowls: Tyron Smith
3 Pro Bowls: Dez Bryant, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin
2 pro Bowls: Sean Lee, Alfred Morris (with Redskins)
1 Pro Bowl: Dan Bailey, L.P. Ladouceur, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott
That still leaves a lot of Cowboys players eligible to make their Pro Bowl debut. One of those players has already taken himself out of the running for a Pro Bowl this year: David Irving is not eligible for Pro Bowl consideration once his suspension is confirmed.
The most obvious place to look for Pro Bowl newbies are former first-rounders who haven't been to the Pro Bowl yet: Byron Jones, honorary first-rounder La'el Collins, and Taco Charlton.
There are also a few veterans who've at least been on the periphery of a Pro Bowl conversation before. Last year, when the Cowboys stormed to a 13-3 regular season record, the following players were ranked in the top 5 of the Pro Bowl fan ballot at their positions, but ultimately didn't make it:
Punter: Chris Jones (4th among punters)
Special Teams: Jeff Heath (3rd)
Returner: Lucky Whitehead (5th)
Other veterans worth considering:
Orlando Scandrick: Scandrick played a Pro Bowl-worthy season in 2014 but missed out on post-season honors due to his suspension.
Tyrone Crawford: Crawford is playing on a Pro Bowl-worthy contract, but injuries have held him back the last two years. is this the year he finally lives up to his contract?
Maliek Collins: Impressed with five sacks in his rookie season, even after missing most of training camp with a broken foot. A full year of NFL strength and conditioning, coupled with more experience, might allow him to improve on his rookie sack total. And if he gets eight or more sacks as a defensive tackle, he's in the Pro Bowl conversation.
Jonathan Cooper: It's far from certain that Cooper will even make the final 53-man roster. But if he does, he has three important things going for him: A first-round draft pedigree is always a bonus for voters; he has the type of name recognition that's always a plus in the Pro Bowl process; his would be a comeback story that's bound to resonate beyond just the Dallas fans.
You may want to add more names for consideration, but I think the 10 names above are a good group from which to narrow down the discussion to three names. So without further ado, here are the three players I think could make their Pro Bowl debut this season.
La'el Collins: 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 especially if he plays well at the more visible right tackle spot, his chances are good to receive an invitation to Orlando.
Maliek Collins: 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 Collins doesn't really have much name recognition outside of Dallas. Which means he'll have to impress with the only stat that counts for the Pro Bowl voters: sacks.
According to Pro Football Reference, 78 defensive tackles have made the Pro Bowl in the last 10 years, only 22 of which posted eight or more sacks in their Pro Bowl season. Eight sacks will probably be the minimum entry threshold for Collins, a double-digit total would be better. Can he do that? There's no reason why he shouldn't be able to improve on his 5-sack rookie total, but will he improve enough?
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, Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown, and Jeff Heath each had one paltry interception. With a little bit of luck, that could change this year, but predicting which defensive back (especially with the influx or rookie DBs) will get the most interceptions is next to impossible, though I think that Byron Jones, may have the best chances.
Who are your choices for the player(s) most likely to make their Pro Bowl debut?