First, this is not a send-off as aloha means good bye and hello in Hawaiian. Rather, this is for my picks for which Bills players should be and definitively deserve to be playing in the Pro-Bowl this year. In the past, Bills players have been snubbed, albeit by decent players, despite putting up a solid year. Stats/rankings are courtesy of Yahoo Sportsshould you want to check them out yourself. Here are my top 11 players deserving to go to Hawaii in order of most likely with the rationale below:
DT Kyle Williams, DT Macell Dareus, LB Kiko Alonzo, DE Mario Williams,
SS Aaron Williams, CB Leodis McKelvin, K Dan Carpenter, FS Jairus Byrd,
OT Cordy Glenn, RB Fred Jackson, and WR Marcus Easley.
DT Kyle Williams
Kyle Williams has been the best player for the Bills in the last several years. A former 5th rounder from LSU due to his shorter size, Kyle is explosive and can be seen blowing his way in the backfield a dozen times per game which in turned earned him Pro-Bowl nods in 2010 and 2012 (on IR in 2011). He can line up anywhere on the D-Line and produce as evidenced by his league leading 10.5 sacks (for DTs and 65 tackles (3rd among DTs). He also had a FF and a pass defended too.
DT Marcell Dareus
Dareus is a beast of a player and has some of the highest potential on the Bills roster. The former third overall pick of the 2011 draft, Dareus has finally elevated game from good to groundbreaking with his solid play on the line. Dareus leads DTs with 67 tackles (several for losses), has 7.5 sacks (5th among DTs), 1 FF and 3 passes broken-up. Like Kyle Williams, Dareus’s size and physical ability allow him to line up anywhere on the D-Line, making him a perfect fit for Pettine’s defense.
LB Kiko Alonso
This has been the best pick for Buddy Nix of the 2013 draft. A mid-second rounder from Oregon, Kiko has been outstanding, playing all defensive reps for the Bills at middle line-backer and being able to stop the run, defend the pass and blitz on occasion. While he sits now 4th overall in total tackles, that’s due to the defense shutting down Miami completely last Sunday, atop of picking up the scraps from the two guys above. I don’t think there is a team out there with a linebacker producing as much with such a dynamic duo in front of him. Bear in mind Kiko can go coast-to-coast with his ability and is still learning so he can be better yet... Kiko currently has 145 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 5 passes broken-up and 4 picks (tied 3rd among linebackers),
DE Mario Williams
Mario started off the year with a bang with double digit sacks, and despite a lack of production as a result of more double teams, he has allowed others like our DTs and Jerry Hughes to get sacks instead. Mario was the 1st overall pick from N.C. State in 2006 to the Texans where he had mixed success and two Pro-Bowls. Mario has gotten flack for not living up to his $100 million deal, but it’s been a while since the Bills has had a player with double digit sacks 2 years in a row. Mario currently sits 3rd among pass rushers with 13 sacks in the league and also has 34 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 4 passes broken-up.
SS Aaron Williams
Williams struggled as a corner in his first two years with the Bills, but the former 34th pick has really blossomed at strong safety with the ability to kick out to corner this year. Aaron’s instincts have been better as a safety as well. This year, Williams has made 82 tackles, 4 picks (tied 3rd among safeties including Jim Leonhard and Byrd), 1 FF and 11 passes defended (tied 2nd). Teams are starting to have to think twice before throwing in his direction…
CB Leodis McKelvin
Many people would be surprised to learn that McKelvin has been one of the better corners in the league. The former 11th overall pick by the Bills in 2008 from Troy, McKelvin had often struggled before finding his niche (and garnering a contract extension) as a punt returner. With Gilmore injured for the first several games (and he being out two games), McKelvin found himself as the Bills top corner and has produced nicely. While McKelvin has struggled in the punt return game (after averaging 19 yards a punt return and 3 TDs over the last two years), he has made 66 tackles (7th among corners), 1 interception, 1 FF and 20 passes defended (3rd among CBs).
K Dan Carpenter
Carpenter is currently 12th in the league in terms of FG% at 91.2% having missed three field goal attempts (two misses were wide from 50+ yards out). He has made 31 out of 34 tries in tougher weather with a long of 55 yards and has been perfect with extra point attempts. Carpenter was picked up undrafted from Montana by the Phish and earned a Pro-Bowl appearance in 2009 (and is having an even better year in 2013 than then). He has done a great job starting in place of rookie K Dustin Hopkins, but faces an uphill battle with some really good kickers this year including Denver’s Matt Prater – a likely lock amid his record 64 yard FG this year.
FS Jairus Byrd
Obviously there’s mixed feelings with Byrd sitting out camp before missing five games due to plantar fasciitis. Still it’s undeniable that he has been one of the better safeties in the NFL for the past few years and he has gone to 2 Pro-Bowls (2009 and 2012). The former second rounder from Oregon in 10 games has amassed 45 tackles, 1 sack, 4 picks (tied 3rd among safeties) and 6 passes broken-up. Byrd making the pro-bowl this year would likely convince teams, including the Bills, to dole out more money for him or at least for the Bills to use a franchise tag again for over $8 million.
OT Cordy Glenn
There have been some question marks with the first round selections of the Bills in the past few years, but Nix did a nice job with the second round and Glenn is no exception to that. Taken last year as a tackle, Glenn has started at left tackle all season and has given up one, maybe two sacks so far. Glenn has been a better pass protector than run blocker, but has been very good overall. According to Mark Belcher in mid-November, "Glenn was 5th most efficient in pass blocking and 14th best overall among tackles" and has risen since then.
RB Fred Jackson
Jackson would have likely gone to the Pro-Bowl in 2011 with his NFL leading of total yardage for RBs before landing on the IR after 10 games. Jackson does not have elite speed, but always seems to be able to break a tackle and drag a guy with him. Jackson, an undrafted player from Coe College, can also block and catch the ball, making him a triple threat. Splitting duties almost evenly with Spiller and hobbled by injuries hurt his stats this year, but despite these, he’s been on the field every game and producing. As of Week 16 he has 193 carries for 836 yards (4.3 avg) and 8 rushing TDs for 15th in the league (Spiller is at 16th for comparison). He also has caught 44 passes for 334 yards (7.6 avg) and a TD while not losing a single fumble.
WR Marcus Easley
As a receiver, Easley has been on the bottom of the totem-pole of the corps. But he makes this list as a special teams’ coverage man. In this Mark Belcher (article II), Easley has been a stalwart special teamer/gunner averaging a kick return tackle in almost each game this year with 6 behind the 20 and 8 punt return stops with an average return of 4.1 yards. With the Bills have struggled with punt coverage, Easley has rarely been the problem player.
While it is unlikely all these players will make the Pro-Bowl, they clearly have earned the respect of Bills fans, teammates and players around the league. They are hardworking, driven guys whom we hope to see producing at this level for years to come AND go to the Pro-Bowl as a reward for their outstanding work!