Talented players win football games. The more Pro Bowl caliber players your team has, the better your odds are of winning your Division and having a chance at the ultimate prize. If a team is thin on talent, they will be low on wins. Coaching matters, health matters, team chemistry matters. But it all starts and ends with talent. You will not find a losing team with 10 Pro Bowlers and conversely you will not find a Super Bowl team with only one or two Pro Bowlers.
The number of Pro Bowlers on a team is a solid indicator of how good the overall team is. Look no further than to last year's Pro Bowl roster to see what I mean. Good teams had multiple players and bad teams had one or two. In the NFC South, who collectively had a miserable year, there were only seven total. Two from each team with the exception of Tampa Bay who had only one (league minimum). The Denver Broncos alone had more than that with nine. While other teams that were undoubtedly successful had at least five such as Seattle, Dallas and Green Bay. It takes talent to have a good team and the number of Pro Bowl players is a good indication of how much talent a team has.
I believe the Panthers currently have 10 "Pro Bowl Caliber" players on their roster. Below is a look at those 10 players. I predict that if they all stay healthy that five of these will actually get the nod. But ten are "Pro-Bowl caliber" players.
10. Star Lotulelei- Star had an outstanding rookie season and was a little less impressive in year two. But he as the skill set and ability to be a Pro Bowler. If he reaches that potential this season, the Panthers will be very tough to beat.
9. Mike Tolbert- Interestingly enough, this Pro Bowl caliber "Full Back" may not even make the team. JP Wary recently wrote that he should be replaced by Lee Ward, how is a "true Full Back." His point has validity, but the Toldozer was a Pro Bowler two seasons ago and in fact was an All Pro. So he has the talent, no question. But the question is can this 29 year old bounce back from an injury-riddled season.
8. KK Short- This is a player on the rise and could become a perennial Pro Bowl player. On the last C3 podcast, which airs every Tuesday night at 10:00, Anthony Dunn says he predicts nine sacks this year for KK. He penetrates and disrupts plays as good as any Dlineman not named JJ Watt.
7. Josh Norman- Speaking of guys on the rise, here is a guy that I believe can and will be an top five CB on a regular basis. He only gets better every season and he should be a Pro Bowler this season. Mark my prediction down. I'm not the only one that thinks he is ready to take over.
6. Jonathan Stewart- The key question is will he be healthy. When he is, he is one of the best. As a matter of fact, over the last five games last season, he was among the very best in the league. He lead the league for a stretch in yards per carry and was a stud for the Panthers during our playoff push. Do it again this year, with an enhanced Offensive Line, and he will be a Pro Bowler.
5. Charles Johnson- Big Money has never made the Pro Bowl and that is criminal. He is a key cog to our Topflight Defense. As long as he stays healthy, this will be his year to break through and get his recognition. Watch these highlights, thank me later.
4. Thomas Davis- Speaking of players that have been snubbed. Thomas Davis is a Pro Bowl caliber player and is starting to finally get recognition as a great player and a great man. Not a guy that rebounded from three ACL tares. 2015/2016 is his time.
3. Greg Olsen- Greg is one of our only two Pro Bowlers from last season and with added weapons on Offense, he has the potential to do it again. Gettleman's best offseason move so far has been extending this man's contract.
2. Cam "OH CAM" Newton- He did not make it last year, but he is healthy again. He also will have a better (and Bell-less) line in front of him, with some much needed weapons around him. As the Panthers said today on Twitter, the best is yet to come for this guy.
1. LUUKE- Until proven otherwise, Luke is the best player on the Panthers and is the best Linebacker in the NFL. And was the second of our two Pro Bowlers from a year ago.
Some "honorable mentions," or folks that I think could grow to that level are: Bene "Stiki Wiki" Benwikere, Trai Turner, Kelvin Benjamin and Shaq Thompson.
Those are my thoughts. How many Pro Bowlers do you anticipate the Panthers having this year?