Panthers in the Pro Bowl conversation

Christian McCaffrey Pro Bowl graphic
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RB Christian McCaffrey

The case could be made that McCaffrey is the most deserving player of Pro Bowl honors on the entire team. He ranks seventh in the NFC with 64.3 rushing yards per game. He also ranks third among backs in the conference with 48.8 receiving yards per game, and his 54 receptions puts him 11th among all NFC players. He's one of five NFC running backs with at least 1,000 all-purpose yards.

He leads the Panthers with eight total touchdowns (four on the ground and four through the air), and he's hardly ever coming off the field. He continues to lead all NFL running backs in snap percentage at 96.3.

Three running backs are selected to each team, and the competition is heated in the NFC. Todd Gurley is the league leader in rushing yards (988) and total touchdowns (17), and Ezekiel Elliott and Adrian Peterson are behind Gurley for the conference rushing title. Then there's Saquon Barkley and Alvin Kamara, who are both producing big numbers in the run and pass game like McCaffrey.

As is often the case, there will be legitimate gripes with so many deserving candidates.

QB Cam Newton

Speaking of competition, let's assess the quarterback battle. Newton, the NFL MVP in 2015, is playing arguably the best football of his career. But is it enough to earn one of the three Pro Bowl spots?

Drew Brees is a front-runner for league MVP with his 77.3 completion percentage and his 21-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. That all comes out to an NFL-best passer rating of 123.8. Jared Goff leads the NFC with 22 touchdown passes and Matt Ryan leads the league with 335 passing yards per game (their passer ratings are 113 and 113.2 respectively).

Newton is up there with 17 touchdown passes to his five interceptions, but his 232 passing yards per game are behind all the legitimate Pro Bowl candidates. He obviously makes up ground on the ground. Newton leads all NFL quarterbacks with 352 rushing yards and four rushing scores.

LB Luke Kuechly

Carolina's star middle linebacker has been named to the Pro Bowl each of the last five seasons. The only year he didn't make it was his rookie season in 2012 when he took home NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

At this point, he's essentially an automatic Pro Bowler.

DE Mario Addison

The unheralded defensive end is pacing the Panthers with 7.5 sacks, which is the sixth-highest total in the NFC. Last year, Addison posted 11 sacks and it wasn't enough to earn his first Pro Bowl nod. He'll likely need to surpass that number to beat out the bigger names in the conversation.

CB Donte Jackson

The second-round corner from LSU has four interceptions, the most of any cornerback in the NFL (Atlanta safety Damontae Kazee leads the league with five). Jackson has had some ups and downs like all rookies do, but racking up picks is the fastest way to a Pro Bowl spot, especially without much name recognition.

CB James Bradberry

The case for Carolina's No. 1 corner is a hard sell for Pro Bowl voters who tend to be drawn to numbers. Bradberry doesn't have an interception, so you have to look at the numbers being posted against him - namely the 11 receptions for 128 yards and no touchdowns posted by the trio of Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Mike Evans.

S Mike Adams

The 37-year-old safety has three interceptions to go along with 47 tackles. He's been to two Pro Bowls and might get to a third if he can snag a few more picks.

OT Taylor Moton

The former second-round pick from Western Michigan has been fantastic as a first-year starter. According to Pro Football Focus, he's allowed just one sack and eight hurries all season. And for what it's worth, his 79.8 overall grade on PFF puts him 10th among offensive tackles league-wide.

C Ryan Kalil

With all the injuries Carolina was forced to deal with up front, the veteran team captain has steadied the ship. He's started every game this season after playing just six last year and eight the year before. One more Pro Bowl would give Kalil six to close out his decorated career.

K Graham Gano

Gano went to his first Pro Bowl last year and he's been excellent again in 2018, making all 11 of his field goal attempts while going 24-for-26 on extra points. Gano was NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October.

P Michael Palardy

Palardy ranks ninth overall in punting net (40.8) and average (45.4). He's also put 18 punts inside the 20-yard line, which puts him 10th.

What about TE Greg Olsen & LB Thomas Davis?

The foot injury that forced Olsen to miss three games puts him behind in this race. A huge second half of the season could thrust the three-time Pro Bowler into consideration, but that'll be tough. Right now, Olsen has 22 catches for 258 yards and three touchdowns.

As for Davis, his three-year Pro Bowl streak will come to an end. Players suspended for PED violations are not eligible for the Pro Bowl.

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