The NFL season may be over for all but the two teams in the Super Bowl, but many of the league's best players get to play one more game in the form of the 2016 Pro Bowl.
The Pro Bowl will continue using the revised game format that debuted with the 2014 game, with NFL Legends captains having final say over Pro Bowl Draft decisions. The Pro Bowl will remain "unconferenced," and players who were selected to the game via voting by fans, coaches and players will be assigned to teams via the Pro Bowl Draft.
Pro Football Hall of Famers Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice will serve as NFL Legends captains for their Pro Bowl squads – Team Irvin and Team Rice – and will select their coaching staff.
Five-time Pro Bowler Darren Woodson (Team Irvin) and two-time Pro Bowler Eric Davis (Team Rice) will serve as defensive co-captains. The NFL legends will also each be assisted by one NFL.com fantasy football champion in the draft process.
In addition, four player captains will also assist in the selection process. They are Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., paired with Team Rice and Falcons running back Devonta Freeman and Bengals defensive lineman Geno Atkins, paired with Team Irvin.
Unfortunately, we rarely see the best players in this game as they're either playing in the Super Bowl, or simply bowing out due to injury or lack of interest in the event. As of Tuesday afternoon, the official number of players either voted to the Pro Bowl or added as an alternate had reached 133, according to ESPN. That would be the highest number in NFL history, breaking the previous record of 119 after the 2009 season.
Needless to say, we're going to see some players in this game who probably aren't considered among the NFL's best, at least this year.
Take Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton for example. He's played in the Pro Bowl twice (2012 and 2015), but didn't truly live up to the Pro Bowl billing during those seasons. However, Dalton more than earned a spot in the game this year after finishing with 25 touchdown passes and 3,250 yards vs just seven interceptions, good for a career-high 106.3 passer rating (second best in NFL). He also rushed for three scores and helped lead the Bengals to a 10-2 start and were atop the AFC standings before going down.
But Dalton won't play in this game as he recovers from said thumb injury. Dalton was a first alternate, not voted in outright, which says something in itself. With two Pro Bowl quarterbacks sitting out of the Pro Bowl due to injury and others sitting out in protest (Tom Brady), injuries or fear of worsening injuries, the only quarterback originally selected for the game who will play is Russell Wilson. That's paved the way for guys like Derek Carr, Jameis Winston and Teddy Bridgewater to play in the game. While they may not deserve it this season, this hopefully is a preview for Pro Bowl seasons they'll have in the future, just as the case was with Dalton.
Here is everything you'll need to watch the Pro Bowl Draft festivities on Wednesday night.
2016 NFL Pro Bowl Draft
DT Geno Atkins
TE Tyler Eifert
WR A.J. Green
OT Andrew Whitworth
CB Adam Jones (replaces Patrick Peterson)
ST Cedric Peerman (replaces Matthew Slater)
DE Carlos Dunlap (replaces Muhammad Wilkerson)
*FS Reggie Nelson (replaced by Reshad Jones due to injury)