The NFL will announce its 2013 Pro Bowl rosters on Wednesday, revealing the AFC and NFC squads on a special 7:00 p.m. ET edition of NFL Total Access on NFL Network. It remains anyone's guess as to how significantly the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be represented on the NFC team.
The most concrete evidence available is Ronde Barber's win in the fan voting portion of the selection process. Barber, who is in his first season at free safety after making five all-star squads as a cornerback, led all NFC vote-getters at that position in the online balloting that took place between October and December. Since the Pro Bowl selection process is a three-pronged procedure, combining a consensus fan ballot with a consensus player ballot and a consensus coach ballot, that early win for Barber is a very good sign but not a sure thing.
The rest of the vote is even more of a mystery. The Buccaneers have five former Pro Bowlers on their roster, but two of those – guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks – are on injured reserve. The other three are tight end Dallas Clark, wide receiver Vincent Jackson and tackle Donald Penn; the only one of those three with any immediate momentum from a 2012 Pro Bowl appearance is Jackson, though that was on the AFC team.
We certainly can look to the experts to see who they believe should be in the Pro Bowl mix this year. For that, we turn to a six-person panel of analysts on NFL.com…and their selections are certainly encouraging. Between them, Steve White, Bucky Brooks, Daniel Jeremiah, Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, Jason Smith and Gregg Rosenthal, list a total of six Pro Bowl-worthy Bucs at six different positions.
- At running back, half of the analysts include Buccaneers rookie Doug Martin on their list of three. Martin is currently second in the NFC (and the entire NFL) among running backs in total yards from scrimmage, with 1,766. Only Minnesota's MVP candidate, Adrian Peterson, has more, with 2,113. Others who received votes at the position from the analysts include Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, San Francisco's Frank Gore and Washington's Alfred Morris. All of the experts ended up choosing some subset of three from those five options.
- At wide receiver, Vincent Jackson again gets the nod from three of the six analysts, all of whom made four selections, as that is how many receivers are chosen for each Pro Bowl team. Among NFC wide receivers, Jackson is third with 1,334 receiving yards, tied for fifth with eight touchdowns and first with an average of 19.3 yards per catch. Again, there seems to be a small and clearly-defined group of top possibilities, as all of the analysts made four selections from a group of six that included Jackson, Marques Colston, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Roddy White, James Jones and Dez Bryant.
- At tackle, two of the six NFL.com experts called for a return trip to the Pro Bowl for Donald Penn. Penn has helped the Buccaneers produce radically better results this season in both running the ball and protecting the quarterback, despite the losses of Joseph and Nicks. This one appears to be more wide open, as the group brings up a total of eight names for a position that will have three selections. Nobody appears on all six of their ballots; San Francisco's Joe Staley gets the most with four selections.
- At defensive end, the Bucs get a cameo appearance, as Smith includes Michael Bennett among his three selections. Bennett is the Bucs' leader with 9.0 sacks and some advanced metrics suggest he is one of the league's top run-stuffing ends. Again, the picks are all over the board at this position, with no player appearing on more than four of the six expert lists.
- At defensive tackle, Gerald McCoy also gets one nod, as he's on the list of three submitted by Rosenthal. McCoy has 5.0 sacks and, according to Pro Football Focus, is among the NFC leaders at his position in quarterback disruptions. Justin Smith is the top vote-getter here, appearing on all six ballots.
- And at free safety, where each expert made just one NFC pick, Barber gets half of the picks. San Francisco's DaShon Goldson gets two of the other three, with Seattle's Earl Thomas taking the final selection. Barber leads the Buccaneers with four interceptions, which he has returned for 160 yards and a touchdown.
Who will make it to the Pro Bowl from the Buccaneers' roster? Return to Buccaneers.com right at 7:00 p.m. ET tonight for the answer.