NFL Analysis


8 min read

2024 NFL Pro Bowl Snubs: Brandon Aiyuk, Josh Allen and More

Brandon Aiyuk running with space
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) rushes with the ball during the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Levi's Stadium. (Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports)

The start of the NFL awards season always kicks off with the Pro Bowl. It's as much of a popularity contest as it is anything else, but it does give a good snapshot of which players helped define a season. 

There are always snubs, though. The NFL has too many good players to reward them all. That's just the way it goes. And more often than not, it's players on bad teams or players whose numbers undersell their actual play on the field who miss out on the accolades. 

While it's impossible to talk about every player who might have been snubbed — such as the handful of awesome AFC linebackers who didn't make the cut — there are a few who deserve some special attention. 

2024 Pro Bowl Snubs

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers

Leaving Brandon Aiyuk off the Pro Bowl team is objectively wrong, and voters should feel bad about it. 

From an efficiency perspective, Aiyuk was utterly dominant in 2023. He not only leads the league in yards per reception at 18.3, but he's second only to Tyreek Hill in yards per route run at 3.06. Hill and Aiyuk are the only two players over three yards per route run on the season. 

What's fascinating is the way Aiyuk arrived there. His 14.18 air yards per target rank ninth in the league among qualifying players, per TruMedia. That's right above Mike Evans. Typically, a higher air yards per target would mean a lower yards after catch figure. It's just harder to make the transition to being a ball carrier and find extra yards on downfield throws than it is, say, a slant or shallow crosser. 

Aiyuk breaks the mold. His 4.9 YAC per reception only ranks 29th in the league, but relative to where he's catching his passes, that's an outrageous number. Aiyuk is consistently succeeding on difficult downfield routes while also adding extra value to those throws.

It's not hard to understand why when you watch him, either. He only continues to grow as a player. Aiyuk is as explosive a route runner as anyone in the league, and the way he attacks the ball in the air now is night and day from where he was when he came into the league. Couple that with his instant burst as a ball carrier and devastating long speed, and the result is the best big-play threat in the league outside of Miami. 

Josh Allen runs the ball with Dolphins defenders in pursuit
Bills quarterback Josh Allen tucks the ball and scores a touchdown against the Dolphins. (Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills

It's easy to look at the Buffalo Bills' turbulent season and wave off the idea of their quarterback being a Pro Bowler. They fired their offensive coordinator midseason and are still waiting to secure a playoff berth in the final week of the season. Compared with the three AFC quarterbacks who did get selected — Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Tua Tagovailoa — Josh Allen's season could look lackluster. 

The Bills' weird season isn't Allen's fault, though. He has been as productive as any quarterback in the league. 

Allen's 51.6 percent success rate is second only behind Brock Purdy, per TruMedia. Allen's 0.11 EPA per dropback ranks fifth in the league. By all accounts, he's been efficient and explosive. He also leads the league with 42 combined touchdowns, if you're inclined to lean on the raw counting stats. 

But it's not really a numbers case with Allen. Yes, his numbers are good and deserving of a Pro Bowl nod, but it's more than that. Just watch him play. 

Allen, for all his warts, is very clearly the engine of Buffalo's offense. The passing offense — outfitted with a mediocre offensive line and 1.5 useful pass-catchers — works explicitly because Allen wills it to work.

We think of Allen as this reckless gunslinger, but his success rate and ability to slowly work the ball down the field speaks to how much he's grown as a rhythmic, systematic passer this season. And, of course, all the highlight throws we are used to seeing from him are still as present as ever. 

I understand Tagovailoa's efficiency numbers are slightly better than Allen's, but when you consider the burden each quarterback carries, what Allen has done is more impressive and deserving of a nod. 

Bernhard Raimann looks to his left as the ball is snapped
Indianapolis Colts offensive tackle Bernhard Raimann (79) during the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. (Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)

Bernhard Raimann, OT, Indianapolis Colts

Bernhard Raimann is probably my most "hipster" pick on this list, but the second-year player deserves his flowers for the growth he's shown since last season. 

Raimann was an abject disaster when thrown into the lineup in 2022. Granted, the entire Indianapolis Colts offensive line was a train wreck, but Raimann didn't exactly shine as a rare bright spot. 

A third-round pick in 2022, he looked overwhelmed and unprepared for the NFL at first. He was constantly late working to the edge, didn't know how to combat counter moves and rarely showed the anchor necessary to survive in the NFL. Raimann did improve toward the end of his rookie season but not so much that you were certain he was a starting tackle for years to come. 

Fast forward to 2023, and Raimann looks awesome. 

In one offseason, he has improved so much with regard to his technique and confidence. He's quicker to the edge and tougher to beat with counter moves. He handles twists and games effectively. Once a puppy who didn't know what he didn't know, now you see Raimann mirroring and attacking pass-rushers with a grace and confidence you see from veterans. 

Raimann still surrenders some tough plays with a shaky anchor at times, and he's not exactly a road-grader in the run game. But he's always in front of the dude across from him and does his job more often than not. 

Maybe this is a year early, but I'm fine giving Raimann a shoutout considering one of the AFC offensive tackles who did make the Pro Bowl only started nine games this season (Terron Armstead). 

Ed Oliver puts his arms up near Jalen Hurts to try to block the pass
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) under pressure from Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Ed Oliver (91) at Lincoln Financial Field. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Ed Oliver, DT, Buffalo Bills

Ed Oliver has a case to make first-team All-Pro. The fact he didn't even make the Pro Bowl roster in the AFC is baffling. 

Precious few interior defensive linemen have been as disruptive as Oliver this season. 

As a pass rusher, he has been a force. Oliver's 14.8 percent pressure rate ranks sixth among interior defensive linemen with at least 500 snaps this season. Likewise, his 9.5 sacks are tied for third-most among interior defenders, alongside Chris Jones. The speed and tenacity with which Oliver plays is a huge problem for opposing offensive lines play in and play out. 

Those same traits show up in run defense, an area Oliver has greatly improved in since entering the league. Oliver's 14 tackles for loss are second-most among all defensive tackles, sitting only behind the GOAT, Aaron Donald. Oliver's ability to tear through offensive lines immediately, while sometimes volatile, is a unique weapon and has been a core reason for Buffalo's defense slowly figuring itself out over the back half of the season. 

Oliver is a cornerstone for the Bills' defense. He came into the league as a solid player back in 2019 and has only improved every year since then, finally blossoming into a star. It's a shame Oliver missed out on the accolades he so clearly deserves this season. 

Drake London leaps in the air while Brian Branch has his arms near him while the ball sails away
Detroit Lions safety Brian Branch defends Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London during the second half at Ford Field in Detroit. (Junfu Han-USA TODAY NETWORK)

Brian Branch, DB, Detroit Lions

Call Brian Branch a nickel corner. Call him a safety. Just call him a defensive back. I don't really care what position he gets in as; Branch should be on the Pro Bowl roster. 

Branch stepped into the Detroit Lions' lineup and immediately looked like their best defensive back. That's a low bar, sure, but Branch plays with all the awareness and savvy of a 10-year veteran. He's got the classic Nick Saban-stud-defensive-back shine — a blend of silky smooth athletic ability and an understanding of what opposing offenses are trying to do that is far beyond his years. 

To that point, Branch is incredibly versatile. He's been the Lions' starting nickel cornerback, and he's been a safety. They can line him up in man coverage in the slot just as easily as they can ask him to play a half-field zone on the back end. Branch can trace the quarterback's eyes in coverage on one play and fit the run with the force of a linebacker on the next snap. 

He has some of the counting stats you want, as well.

Branch has 12 passes defended and three interceptions this season. If you recall, Branch's first career interception was a pick-six against Patrick Mahomes in the season opener.

Branch even has racked up seven tackles for loss, tied for fourth in the league among defensive backs and only trailing Mike Hilton, Kyle Hamilton and Kenny Moore, perhaps the league's three most unhinged nickel defenders. 

Even as a rookie, Branch was one of the league's best and most versatile defensive backs. It's easy to understand why a Lions defender would be passed over in favor of others considering the unit's poor results, but Branch has been one of the few bright spots.