This edition of Dark-Horse Pro Bowl candidates was going to predict Aaron Hernandez’s entry onto the AFC roster. Luckily Week 2 provided optimism for replacements to the lineup from both the AFC and the NFC to numb the loss of Hernandez due to injury.
Tight ends are becoming a more dangerous part of franchises’ offenses in the NFL because of how much their talent, size and athleticism can be manipulated on the field. There are three notable players this season that are geared to take those top spots.
Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles (NFC)
Philly faithfuls should not expect a 157-yard performance from Celek every week, but against a stout Ravens defense, the plus-100 yard stat was impressive. A lot of fantasy owners are going to flock to Celek after the Baltimore game, but what’s more important to his election to the 2013 Pro Bowl is that he not only puts up stable numbers, but that he becomes a more lethal red zone threat for Michael Vick.
His athleticism and his reliable hands are what make him such a threat in 15-plus yard gains and he has only improved since the 2010 season. Becoming Vick’s favorite target against the Ravens hybrid defense, although it was without its most talented linebacker, will work wonders for the perception of Celek’s reputation in the league.
He will garner much more attention after hurdling Ravens Ed Reed, but his athleticism and speed will allow him to consistently be a threat. Bursting onto the scene always works wonders and that is what Celek is about to do this season.
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers (NFC)
Vernon Davis and the San Francisco 49ers are ready to be crowned as the best team in the NFC. Regardless of Randy Moss’ signing, Davis remains the superstar of the Niners offense.
The only aspect of the position that Davis is not absolutely superb on is being a dominant drive blocker. With that sole exception, Davis is in the top five at his position, cascading more closely to being the most elite with a rare combination of speed and athleticism that always exposes less than stellar secondaries.
This season the 49ers are looking to make that next leap into being a Super Bowl contender instead of simply being a playoff entry. QB Alex Smith is still being groomed, although he showed a lot of improvement against the Detroit Lions. Therefore, he will lean heavily on the superstar effort of his receiving corps, especially Davis, to make him look good on the field.
With Smith becoming a less conservative quarterback and taking more chances with the deep ball, Davis will have a much larger influence on the success of the franchise.
Why wouldn’t the most devastating offensive fraction of a Top 5 team in the NFL be given a Pro Bowl roster spot?
Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions (NFC)
The Detroit Lions looked like a franchise without an identity against the Niners and there was speculation that Matthew Stafford was relying too heavily on Calvin Johnson. The jig has always been up when it came to targeting Johnson for those game-changing plays late in Lions contests.
NFL franchises understand that Megatron will promptly be called upon when the game needs to be won in the air with the absence of a solid running game to move the chains.
Pettigrew was used much more in the game against the St. Louis Rams than he was against San Francisco and it was likely because of the Niners’ smothering defense. However, the fact that Stafford played incredibly out of character and the Lions look to those short passes to make up for a lack of rushing attack, Pettigrew should see a lot more touches.
The Lions’ offense looked entirely out of whack, but do not shut Pettigrew out. He will become a more integral part of the Lions’ game plan.
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