The 12 Most Underrated Players in the NFL Right Now
The word "underrated" is overrated and overused almost as much as the word "overrated" is overrated and overused. I certainly overused the word "over" in that sentence, but you could be underestimating the impact accomplished by repetition.
My point—yes, I have one—is that it's tough to find the line that separates perceived underrated and overrated performers from everyone within the margins. This is subjective, but subjectivity breeds the best kinds of sports debates.
Here, along with supporting statistics and comparisons, is my subjective look at the NFL's 12 most underrated players.
12. Anthony Spencer, Dallas Cowboys
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Just a warning: Somehow, someway, this list will include not one, but two members of America's most popular football team, the Dallas Cowboys. Odd, because usually the teams that get all of the press wind up with more overrated players and fewer underrated players, but this Dallas team is an exception.
Anthony Spencer never got a lot of love playing in DeMarcus Ware's shadow for years, but his sack totals were never high enough anyway. But in 2012, he finally had a double-digit-sack season while outplaying Ware and becoming the glue that held the Cowboys defense together when everyone else was hurt.
Despite that, Ware was still elected to the Pro Bowl and Spencer was snubbed.
11. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals
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Once a player is called underrated for a long enough of period of time, he sort of naturally loses his underrated label. I'll admit that after receiving first-team All-Pro honors in 2012 Geno Atkins is about to hit that plateau, but Haloti Ngata still earned more Pro Bowl votes than he did this past season.
In terms of sheer defensive dominance in 2012, only Von Miller and J.J. Watt performed as well as Atkins did.
10. Duane Brown, Houston Texans
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Ryan Clady and Joe Thomas get all of the love, but there isn't a better all-around offensive tackle in the NFL than Duane Brown. Give the Associated Press credit for awarding him an All-Pro spot over Thomas, but casual fans still don't seem to realize how good Brown is.
The 2008 No. 26 overall pick has given up only four sacks in his last 38 starts, according to Pro Football Focus.
9. Mike Pouncey, Miami Dolphins
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Because he's a former first-round pick with a famous older brother, Mike Pouncey's name is known. But he was one of the biggest Pro Bowl snubs in the league after a dominant second season with the Dolphins.
Maurkice wasn't even close to as good, but he received more credit from the fans and the media, earning a Pro Bowl nod and All-Pro honors ahead of his younger bro.
8. Kyle Williams, Buffalo Bills
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I think Kyle Williams has been victimized by playing in Buffalo. He was no Geno Atkins in 2012, but there wasn't another defensive tackle in the league that was better than the 29-year-old.
Williams did earn his second Pro Bowl berth, but he continues to be unfairly overshadowed by big names such as Ndamukong Suh, Haloti Ngata and Vince Wilfork.
7. Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints
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Lance Moore might not deserve as much credit as Marques Colston or Jimmy Graham, but he's been flying under the radar as a versatile and extremely reliable member of the Saints offense since 2007.
He's also a playmaker who sits only five back of Colston with 34 touchdown catches in his last five seasons. The 29-year-old dropped just seven passes between 2009 and 2011 before busting out with his first 1,000-yard campaign in 2012.
Bleacher Report's James Dudko has more on the underrated Moore here.
6. Alterraun Verner, Tennessee Titans
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Forget Cortland Finnegan. Alterraun Verner flew under the radar as one of the best all-around cornerbacks in the league in 2012. He rarely gives up big plays and touchdowns and is solid in run defense.
Partly due to the fact that his employer stinks, fans don't know his name yet, but Verner's career is on a Pro Bowl trajectory.
5. Kareem Jackson, Houston Texans
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As a rookie in 2010, Kareem Jackson was absolutely terrible. He wasn't much better in 2011, giving up an opposing passer rating of 110.9, according to PFF. But in 2012, he completely redeemed himself with a season in which he allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete only 46.8 percent of their passes.
The 2010 first-round pick was especially good in December and January for the Texans, putting him on track to become stud in his fourth season. In spite of that, his name is still synonymous with the term "goat."
4. Wesley Woodyard, Denver Broncos
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Wesley Woodyard hasn't become a household name just yet, but the veteran made Broncos fans completely forget about D.J. Williams in 2012, leading the team in tackles while picking up 5.5 sacks in support of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.
In coverage, PFF rated him as the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the league.
3. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
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Ben Roethlisberger might be biased, but he's said he thinks Heath Miller is the best all-around tight end in the NFL. He's never had 80 catches, 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns, but he's extremely consistent and rarely screws up. Plus, he's a solid blocker.
"He's underrated because of the media's interest with fantasy football," Steelers tight ends coach James Daniel told Pro Football Weekly in November. "When you talk about fantasy football, you don't talk about guys who block and do the little things."
Sadly, the eight-year veteran has never been named to an All-Pro team.
2. Rob Ninkovich, New England Patriots
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Rob Ninkovich broke out with eight sacks, five forced fumbles and a number of impact plays that didn't show up on the stat sheet in 2012, but it seems only Patriots fans noticed. It didn't help that he seemed to fade a bit down the stretch, but Ninkovich made up for that with two sacks, an interception and 12 tackles in the playoffs and was one of the most valuable players on a Super Bowl contender.
1. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
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Tony Romo is the best quarterback in the NFL without a Super Bowl ring. He take a lot of criticism because he's under such a microscope and because his supporting cast has often been weak, but his numbers are undeniably superb and he's also a top-notch improviser.
Cliff's notes: Romo is great in December, despite what you've heard. Romo is great in the fourth quarter, despite what you've head. And it takes more than a good quarterback to win in the playoffs, despite what you've heard.