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How quickly do Pro Bowlers become Pro Bowlers?

Posted by Doug on April 27, 2006

The differing production levels of rookies across positions led me to this question: for players that end up being good, how quickly did they get good?

To get a very quick read on this, I looked at all players whose careers started in 1970 or later and made at least one Pro Bowl in their career. For each such player, I noted the season in which he was named to his first Pro Bowl.

If you look at the 'rb' column, for example, you'll note that 23.2 percent of all running backs who eventually made a Pro Bowl made it in their rookie season, another 24.6 percent made their first Pro Bowl in their second year, and so on.


========== percentage of pro bowlers who made their ======
=========== first pro bowl in the given season ==========
POS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10+
================================================================
qb 1.4 23.9 12.7 14.1 9.9 4.2 12.7 4.2 5.6 11.3
rb 23.2 24.6 13.8 13.8 8.0 5.8 2.9 4.3 1.4 2.2
wr 10.8 25.0 20.0 17.5 13.3 5.8 2.5 1.7 1.7 1.7
te 10.4 20.8 16.7 14.6 10.4 6.2 14.6 2.1 2.1 2.1
ol 1.5 9.6 13.3 16.3 10.4 12.6 11.1 8.9 5.2 11.1
dl 2.1 15.0 23.6 12.1 20.0 10.7 7.1 5.0 1.4 2.9
lb 6.5 13.0 17.9 17.9 14.6 8.1 8.9 6.5 2.4 4.1
db 5.1 18.4 16.5 15.2 17.7 10.1 6.3 5.7 2.5 2.5

It is clear that the learning curves do vary quite a bit by position. For obvious reasons, rookie quarterbacks find it much more difficult to excel than rookie running backs do. Wide receivers and tight ends are somewhere in between.

The lack of rookie Pro Bowlers on the offensive line and on defense probably has as much to do with the Pro Bowl selection process as it does with the learning curve. Since there aren't as many stats to rely on, Pro Bowlers are determined more by reputation at those positions (as I discussed on this other blog before the p-f-r blog was in existence). Hence fewer young players.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 27th, 2006 at 5:38 am and is filed under History, NFL Draft. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.