I decided to continue with this series, and will also do overrated players on offense and defense. So don't worry!
The majority of the players who don't get the recognition they deserve are on the defensive side of the ball. Player's who get the credit in today's NFL are the playmakers. Players who get 15 sacks or more than five interceptions.
What about the players who put these playmakers in the position to make these plays?
On offense, I did it by position and will do the same here, but will include both 4-3 and 3-4 front seven positions.
Out of all 4-3 ends, he is the best against the run.
He made 77 tackles last season and had nine sacks, so he isn't half bad when it comes to rushing the quarterback, either. His play is helped by the magnificent defensive mind of Jim Johnson (get well soon) and it will be interesting to see if he plays at the level of the past two years, where he had 21.5 sacks.
Playing on the most underrated defense in the NFL, Cole simply does not get the credit he deserves.
No picture could better show what Smith does for the best defense in the NFL.
It is Smith's eating up of blockers which allows the edge rushers, in particular LaMarr Woodley, to have so much success. For most of Woodley's 11.5 sacks, he had a clean run to the quarterback because Smith commanded the blocking of the man who should have been covering Woodley.
Smith is also a big reason, along with Casey Hampton, for the Steelers' excellent run defense.
At a typically underrated position Smith is probably the most underrated player in the NFL.
Another Eagles lineman, Bunkley is one of the best all-round defensive tackles in the game.
Apart from Haynesworth and Kevin Williams, his overall play is better than any tackle in the NFL. He and Mike Patterson combine to make the best pocket-pushing duo in football.
The best example of this was in the NFC Championship game. At 4th-and-1, the Cardinals tossed it to the outside, instead of the traditional push up the middle, because Bunkley had dominated the game in those situations.
Filled in at nose tackle for Kelly Gregg last season and acted as a catalyst for the Ravens defense.
At 6'4" and 345 pounds, Ngata is a monster, but what makes him really special is his athleticism. He has a burst that should not be possible at his size. He also drops back in zone coverage in some plays, and made two key interceptions last year.
Last season saw a big comeback year for Ray Lewis and the emergence of Bart Scott as an elite linebacker. Ngata was a big part of that, keeping blockers off them and enabling them to make plays.
In today's NFL, the highest rated OLBs are the ones who get sacks in the 3-4 system. Bulluck, however, is one of the best, but doesn't get the recognition for it because of a relatively low sack total.
He hasn't got elite speed, but makes plays all over the field. He hits hard and very rarely misses a tackle.
He had eight sacks last year on a team that really lacked in that area. He also recorded a decent amount of tackles for a pass rusher. Along with Patrick Willis, Haralson will be a cornerstone of a defense, and team, with a bright future.
Overall, Haralson is an underrated player in a position which is one of the most overrated in the NFL. That goes to show how little recognition he gets.
Then Jets coach Eric Mangini ultimately got it wrong when he picked Vilma to star in the 3-4 system. His physical attributes are much better suited to the MLB position in the 4-3.
He showed this with a magnificent first year with the Saints and was a bright spot on a dreadful defense that cost the Saints a place in the playoffs.
He finished the season with 132 tackles and also made some important big plays. With improved knowledge of the Saints defensive system he should be even better this year.
Cooper played very well on a defense that performed badly last year. In 12 games he recorded 98 tackles and picked off four passes.
He plays a hugely important role in the Chargers defense and is very influential.
In the games he missed, the four opening games, the Chargers gave up an average of 28 points per game.
In the 12 he played, they gave up 19.6 ppg. Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera had a lot to do with that improvement, but there can be no doubt about Cooper's value to this defense.
A total unknown, McDonald gets absolutely no coverage, partly because he plays on a bad team.
All the same, he did have 75 tackles and also made five interceptions. Why are we not hearing more about this player? If he played with a more physical edge, he could make the jump to an elite corner.
This picture tells a story. Weddle should have been carried off the field like this after every game.
With one or two exceptions, he carried the Chargers defense last season. He was among the leading tacklers in the NFL last year, but gets no credit for the high level of his play.
He should have made the Pro Bowl and definitely should have made it ahead of Chris Hope.
When Jim Johnson was asked why he was able to blitz so much, he said that the play of his safeties allowed him to do so.
Last year, the better of those safeties was Mikell. He made 93 tackles and chipped in with picks and sacks also.
His positional sense allowed Brian Dawkins to freelance quite a bit and make those big plays for which he is famous.