Ten Possible First-Time NFL Pro Bowlers in 2024

Frankie Luvu, Alex Highsmith, De’Von Achane and a surprising young QB are among the players who could earn recognition this season.
Luvu, Highsmith and Achane are among the candidates to earn Pro Bowl recognition this season.
Luvu, Highsmith and Achane are among the candidates to earn Pro Bowl recognition this season. / Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports (Luvu); Sam Greene/The Enquirer/USA TODAY Network (Highsmith); Bill Ingram/The Palm Beach Post/USA TODAY Network (Achane)

The Pro Bowl is now what it should have been years ago: a kind of made-for-television skills competition that manages to celebrate the best the game has to offer while keeping everyone involved from sustaining devastating injuries. So, one could argue that the real focus shifts to All-Pro nominations as a true measure of a player’s skill, but I believe that a Pro Bowl nomination still means something. 

That’s why we’re back projecting 10 first-time Pro Bowlers for 2024. That doesn’t mean we’re down on any of the players we projected last year who did not earn those honors (there is one holdover back on this year’s list), but this is a fun and instructive way to look at the season and explore a kind of underratedness or future greatness we envision for some players. However you want to look at it. Last year, our big hits were Baltimore Ravens center Tyler Linderbaum and a far less adventurous projection in San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy. 

As a note, I do not include rookies. Now let’s try to bat .300 this year, shall we? 

Frankie Luvu, linebacker, Washington Commanders, seventh season 

Luvu plays such an exciting brand of football, and I’d venture to say that if he were not on the worst team in the league last year (the Carolina Panthers), his 125 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hits would have brought him more in the vein of Pro Bowl consideration. I love Luvu because he is incredibly effective in multiple spots. He can rush the A-gaps like a Todd Bowles off-ball linebacker, he can cover backs out of the backfield and he can lean on his smaller edge-rushing style of defensive play from college. Luvu played under one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL last year (Ejiro Evero) and now heads to Washington where he can be similarly featured by Dan Quinn. With Bobby Wagner in the lineup eating a lot of the lead blocks, is it possible that Luvu will be freed up to continue making more plays and amassing a high volume of high-impact tackles? Luvu had a pick-six in 2022 and, in each of the past two seasons, he’s had at least one forced fumble. 

Trey McBride, tight end, Arizona Cardinals, third season 

McBride was one of the best tight ends in the NFL last season, with a combination of Joshua Dobbs and Kyler Murray at quarterback. Murray was coming off a torn ACL from the season before and was easing his way back into a regular rotation. Starting around Halloween, when Zach Ertz went on IR and McBride had a 14-target game against the Ravens, he was essentially the team’s featured wide receiver down the stretch. He excelled on the shorter-range choice routes that can help bail Murray out of sticky situations. While Marvin Harrison Jr. will certainly take on a larger target share, one could argue that any attention he gets can draw more defenders out of the middle of the field, where McBride is a smooth operator. Evan Engram was the Pro Bowl alternate with 963 receiving yards and four touchdowns. That’s a bar McBride can clear in 2024 after his 81 catches for 825 yards in ’23.  

Devin Lloyd, linebacker, Jacksonville Jaguars, third season

One fact we know about new Jaguars defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen is he capitalizes on his team’s strengths. While I wanted to put Travon Walker here, I think that’s too much pressure. Walker, the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft, has the skills but no one around him has had the vision. Lloyd, meanwhile, played like a borderline Pro Bowl player for the Jaguars a year ago. He’s had 15 pass breakups in two seasons and, for a time, led off-ball linebackers in pass breakups, according to Pro Football Focus. His ability to cover the pass consistently puts him in a position to generate game-changing highlight plays. Any time a linebacker is in the neighborhood of the ball that often, it’s a coin flip as to whether he comes away with a position-leading number of tackles and picks. The Jaguars’ defense is primed for a massive turnaround this year, with Lloyd possibly earning the accolade.  

Alex Highsmith, edge, Pittsburgh Steelers, fifth season

Last year against the 49ers, Highsmith was holding his ground while the best outside-zone running game in the league went right at him, splitting multiple defenders to bring down the best running back in the NFL, Christian McCaffrey. He’s also pretty hard to manipulate with mobile quarterbacks running zone read, as we saw from that incredible first game against the Cleveland Browns last year. On top of that, of course, Highsmith has had a high volume of sacks, which he’s always going to have to share with T.J. Watt. But sack numbers, outside of the top three pure heavyweight edge rushers, don’t really mean much to me, especially when considering the fact that Highsmith’s QB hit numbers (59 in four years) have remained pretty consistent. Pittsburgh is going to be playing with a lead more frequently this year by virtue of the Steelers having upgraded their QB room. The opportunities for him to net more big plays and make his résumé more attractive to voters will be there.  

Christian Benford, cornerback, Buffalo Bills, third season

Benford blossomed last season, with almost triple the number of starts he had during his rookie year, which led to double-digit pass breakups and a pair of forced fumbles. As Buffalo undergoes the challenge of turning over a secondary somewhat static during Sean McDermott’s tenure, Benford’s development becomes critical in maintaining a safety net against the pass. The AFC East, assuming Aaron Rodgers’s health, is going to put up some vintage Big 12 numbers this year, between Rodgers and Tua Tagovailoa. Benford has a chance to play against a handful of elite wide receivers and cement his bona fides. 

Alim McNeill, defensive tackle, Detroit Lions, fourth season

McNeill is a 3-technique defensive tackle and one of the best interior players in the NFL. He’s now firmly established as one of the Lions’ top defensive players, period. Why do I like him as a Pro Bowl candidate? Because in pairing McNeill with the savvy and experienced D.J. Reader, the Lions are going to open up so many possibilities for stunting, twisting and other up-front games. McNeill didn’t really need all that much help once he got the hang of the professional game, but Reader is elite when it comes to punishing one-on-one defenders, batting down passes and blowing up complex running plays behind the line of scrimmage. Just watch the Cincinnati Bengals’ game against the Browns last year that Reader completely took over. Now, imagine that Detroit has two of those players. I’m not a gambling man, but taking an over on an Aidan Hutchinson sack total isn’t the worst idea, either, now that we’re on the subject. 

De’Von Achane, running back, Miami Dolphins, second season

The Dolphins’ backfield is a crowded one, but a third of Achane’s snaps came as a wide receiver last season, showing Mike McDaniel’s understanding that he is a special player who needs to be on the field regardless of the circumstances. Achane is simply going to be put in a lot of positions to run with an open field, and when he does the results could be devastating for opponents. In just 11 games, he posted 800 yards and eight touchdowns. On a per-snap basis, when combined with 27 receptions on 37 targets, that’s wild. When he’s healthy and available, the chance that he gets the ball when it’s not filtered to Tyreek Hill is extremely high. Manufacturing touches for Achane helps keep Tagovailoa in rhythm as well, which is a priority for McDaniel. 

Jonathan Greenard, edge, Minnesota Vikings, fifth season

I had Marcus Davenport on my list last year and now Greenard, the former Houston Texans standout, seems to be standing in as a replacement. A super speedy and rangy edge player, Greenard was great before the arrival of DeMeco Ryans in Houston, with an eight-sack season in 2021, and he logged a career-high 12.5 sacks last season before departing in free agency. His speed-first, multi-tooled approach is going to find a welcome home in Brian Flores’s defense. While we should note that the Texans chose not to pay him and that his best, high-volume sack games came against the dismal Panthers, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans, Greenard showed he can consistently destroy lesser opponents and does not sink to the level of the blocker he’s facing. Most of the league is going to have a soft spot on its offensive line, and Greenard is skilled enough to take advantage.  

Andrew Thomas, offensive tackle, New York Giants, fifth season

Thomas was on my list last year. Rarely do you see a stalwart anchor tackle in a big market who has had second-team All-Pro honors not have a Pro Bowl to his name. Thomas, unfortunately, was injured last year and the Giants’ offensive line suffered massively from an optical standpoint due to a few really bad performances. Like the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense, I think the Giants’ offensive line is in for a big perception shift thanks to a coaching change. Evan Neal and John Michael-Schmitz Jr. are highly drafted young players who need a lifeline and must collectively improve in order to buoy this offense. If that happens, a lot of the credit also needs to go to Thomas. 

Will Levis, quarterback, Tennessee Titans, second season

In an episode of The Simpsons, Ned Flanders, after seeing a vision of Homer past the Pearly gates, says: “It looks like heaven is easier to get into than Arizona State.” I’m not saying it’s easy to make the Pro Bowl, but if we’re counting alternates, last year’s class included Gardner Minshew II. Minshew threw 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions last year, and Levis can absolutely get there and wedge his way into the conversation for QB5 in the AFC. I understand that we may be getting full seasons out of Joe Burrow, Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers in 2024, which reverts the conference back to quarterbacking murderer’s row status we talked about last summer, but we don’t know that for sure. We may not get a full season out of Tagovailoa or Lamar Jackson, for example. I know that quarterback evaluations are all over the map, but I talked to one position coach I respect before last year’s draft who felt like Levis had comparable skills to a young Matt Ryan. The Colts are always going to go with traits first in a prospect, so while it’s not surprising they took Anthony Richardson, another team at No. 4 could have absolutely selected Levis with that pick.

I say that just to say this: He’s got a higher ceiling than some might think, and when paired with a QB-specific coach such as Brian Callahan, there’s a chance we’ll see him go from eight touchdowns and four interceptions (in nine games) a year ago to something more like 20 TDs and 12 INTs in a full second season. 

Conor Orr


Conor Orr is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, where he covers the NFL. He is also the co-host of the MMQB Podcast. Conor has been covering the NFL for more than a decade. His award-winning work has also appeared in The Newark Star-Ledger, NFL.com and NFL Network. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children and a loving terrier named Ernie.