After causing quite a stir by listing the ten most overrated players in the league, it’s only fair that we share players that are not put in the spotlight but deserve to be, as well. When a player is put on a pedestal by the media, part of it is marketing, part of it is personality, and of course there usually has to be an outstanding skillset to go with it. When a player doesn’t get the credit he deserves, it can be any combination of playing in a small market, not being as outspoken, and perhaps playing a position that garners less attention in general. Those are just a few factors that play into the complicated equation of why (or why not) a player gets recognized. Here are the ten players most deserving of having their name come up more often.
10. Brandon Boykin, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
He may just be a slight framed nickel corner that was drafted in the 4th round, but the production he gave his team in 2013 with 6 interceptions in undeniable. He’s a budding player with serious ball skills.
9. Andrew Whitworth, T, Cincinnati Bengals
He’s been to one Pro Bowl in his career but when people talk about the elite tackles in the league he’s never mentioned. That must largely be due to his playing in Cincinnati. Whitworth is one of the few players that has been able to be equally good at both guard and tackle in his career, and his switch to left tackle has been completely seamless. He doesn’t get talked about nearly enough for being a premiere tackle in the league.
8. Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers
When is the last time we saw a rookie come into the NFL and post the production like 71 catches for 1,046 yards and 8 touchdowns? That’s as a 3rd round draft choice, no less. That is an incredible stat line in an era when it takes most receivers a full season or two to fully understand NFL route concepts and have it translate on the field. Allen should gain some traction in fantasy drafts this year but because the Chargers don’t seem to get as much talk around the league he was quite a bit under the radar last year. He could very quickly become a superstar in this league if he improves.
7. Josh Sitton, G, Green Bay Packers
While Sitton has been to one Pro Bowl in 2012, most don’t realize just how dominant of a player he is. For a former 4th round draft choice, I’d say he turned out pretty good, and at 28 he’s still young enough to have many productive seasons ahead of him. And while he went to the Pro Bowl in 2012, Pro Football Focus graded his seasons as 2010 and 2013 as even better. He’s as well rounded and solid of an interior lineman as there is in the NFL.
6. Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints
Somehow Colston has never been to the Pro Bowl despite posting six 1,000 yard seasons in eight years in the NFL. The other two seasons he had 760 yards in 11 games and 943 yards. Every single season he does everything you could ask for in a receiver. He is a very willing and capable blocker, he goes over the middle and takes a beating, and he plays through pain. Most notable is his return to the field from a broken collarbone injury in two weeks. Colston is one of the quieter players in the league so he will never get his due in part because most high profile receivers like to talk, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a player more consistently elite throughout his career on the field.
5. Jurrell Casey, DT, Tennessee Titans
The average NFL fan has probably never heard of this guy. But as a former 3rd round pick and interior defensive lineman, to post 10.5 sacks in a season is eye opening. Casey has that rare blend of huge size, athleticism and quickness to go with it that you almost never see and it’s paid off in spades for the Titans. And before you go assuming he’s a specialist, he’s incredibly good against the run as well.
4. Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
The guy just plays really efficient football and does all the right things to help his team win. He’s not going to be a 5,000 yard passer, ever, and he’ll never blow you away with his arm strength. But over the last three seasons he’s 30-9-1 as a starting quarterback. During that same span he’s thrown for 53 touchdowns and just 17 interceptions. And while, yes, he’s played on some really good teams he’s also done a good job of managing the talent around him while putting them in a position to do what they do best. His 104.1 QB rating in 2012 in particular is pretty impressive. He’s not an elite quarterback, but he’s definitely a guy you can win with consistently.
3. Brent Grimes, CB, Miami Dolphins
He’s been to the Pro Bowl twice but he’s never mentioned in the same sentence with the Richard Shermans, Patrick Petersons and Darrelle Revises of the world. He should be, though, because he’s every bit the cover man and ballhawk that those guys are. The fact that he bounced back from such a devastating injury to return to elite status in 2013 at 30 years of age makes it even more impressive.
2. Brandon Mebane, DT, Seattle Seahawks
He’s lost in a sea of big names on a Super Bowl champion team, but make no mistake, he’s the wheel that makes the whole thing go. He not going to pile up huge stats, get the record setting contract, or wow you with the big play, but Mebane dominates inside and plays a huge part in why the Seahawks’ defense is so once in a generation special.
1. Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He’s posted a whopping 284 tackles in two seasons. He’s yet to go to the Pro Bowl despite being, in my opinion, one of the very best young defenders in the entire league. Last year he had 5 interceptions, 7 sacks and 145 tackles. He’s all over the field and is constantly making plays. Pretty scary to wonder what Lovie Smith will be able to do with him.