The NFL's Top 10 Unsung Heroes
Media Darlings: Favorite players of those in the media
Everyone has their favorite players, and the talking heads on TV love to push their favorites on the fans.
This leaves certain players unmentioned. Players that help lead their team to championships. Players that rack up the stats but don't play for a winning team. Or just players that don't provide the stories that a Terrell Owens or Ochocinco do.
No, I'm not talking about the fantasy sleepers, so don't go out and draft some of these guys just because they contribute.
But these are the players that I feel don't get the recognition they deserve.
10. Brandon Stokley
OK, Brandon Stokley will never put up the numbers that Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson will, but there is a reason he's been in the league since 1999.
In 2004 he was a part of that Colts offense that saw three different 1,000 yard receivers. Stokley, being the slot receiver for that team, totaled 68 receptions for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns.
While his numbers haven't exactly been the same since, he's been a vital part to each team he's played on. A solid slot receiver, he can easily be the go-to guy on third downs.
Last season against Cincinnati in the season opener, Stokley caught a deflected pass and ran it in for an 87-yard game-winning touchdown in the closing seconds. He had great awareness to come down with that tipped pass.
So at the very least, he provides good veteran presence and leadership.
9. Derrick Mason
As one of the older players in the league, Derrick Mason just will not go away.
Year after year he goes out and provides his team a legitimate wide receiver to throw the ball to. He's not the fastest player any more, but he continues to get open.
Since 2000 he has put up 10,481 yards and 56 touchdowns. He also has had a thousand yards receiving in each of those years except 2000 and 20006 (895-750).
Playing for the Tennessee Titans from 1997-2004, and the Baltimore Ravens from 2005-present, Mason has a career record of 121-87. So while his numbers will go down this season with Anquan Boldin in town, he is a proven winner that will help his team do just that.
8. Lee Evans
In six seasons for the dismal Buffalo Bills, Lee Evans has missed two games.
He has a career 5,356 yards and 39 touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who plays for the Bills, who have a 41-55 record since Evans' rookie season.
His most remarkable talent however, may be his loyalty.
With all the contract disputes over money, team, or length, Lee Evans has remained silent and gone out year after year and played for the team that drafted him in 2004.
His best season was in 2006 where he caught 82 passes for 1,292 yards and eight touchdowns. Yet after that, he still did not demand a new contract.
7. Chester Taylor
Chester Taylor, the career backup.
From 2002-2005 he backed up Jamal Lewis in Baltimore.
Then in 2006 he got his chance to start in Minnesota and he came through with 1,216 yards and six touchdowns on 303 attempts (a 4.0 average).
Then of course in 2007 he lost his starting job to rookie Adrian Peterson.
Yet Taylor has made a living out of being a backup, racking up over 4,000 yards rushing and 2,000 yards receiving.
6. Jericho Cotchery
Jericho Cotchery has been the Jets leading receiver for the past four seasons.
Yet when you hear anything about the Jets receivers you hear "Braylon Edwards this" or "Santonio Holmes that." Cotchery is the forgotten man.
While he doesn't wow you with speed, or tower you with size, or stupify you with his mouth, he has been as consistent as they come.
His best season came in 2007 when he caught 82 passes for 1,130 yards.
He will be the the starting receiver again this year, at least until Holmes comes back from suspension. And yet again for some reason I expect him to lead this team in receiving.
5. Panthers' Offensive Line
Number five won't exactly be a player but a group: the Carolina Panthers offensive line.
Last season Carolina accomplished one of the rare feats in the NFL. They had two different 1,000 yard rushers.
Jonathan Stewart carried the ball 221 times for 1,133 yards (5.1 average) and 10 touchdowns.
DeAngelo Williams carried the ball 216 times for 1,117 yards (5.2 average) and seven touchdowns.
Yet the offensive line got no credit.
This group, comprised of Jordan Gross, Travelle Wharton, Ryan Kalil, Keydrick Vincent, and Jeff Otah, paved the way for the combined 2,250 yards and 17 touchdowns.
This year they return four of those five lineman, so expect another big rushing season in Carolina.
4. Kirk Morrison
Kirk Morrison has been a monster since coming into the NFL in 2005. His career tackle numbers are:
Like Lee Evans though, because he played for the Raiders, Morrison has not gotten the recognition he deserves. He was the leader on the Raiders' defense every season he played there.
This year he moves to Jacksonville in hopes of a chance at the playoffs.
In reality, he jumped from the pan straight into the fire.
3. Aaron Smith/ Brett Keisel
Here is another position where I chose more than one player.
You could really interchange these two with any successful 3-4 defensive ends. I chose them though because the Steelers are the most consistent.
When you think about the Steelers defense you think Polamalu, Harrison, Woodley, etc.
What you don't hear is all the double teams that Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel command up front, allowing the linebackers to roam free.
Or how on every run play they are in the backfield disrupting the run.
James Farrior called Aaron Smith, "the most important player on the Steelers defense," and that was very evident last season when Aaron Smith was injured.
2. Ryan Grant
To listen to the talking heads on the TV, the best running backs in the NFL are as follows: Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, and Frank Gore.
Ryan Grant has never been considered one of the best, but has been the Packers No. 1 back since 2007 (when he won me my fantasy league).
His numbers have gone up every year since.
He is one of the few work-horses left in the NFL, and doesn't get the recognition he deserves.
1. Eli Manning
I had a hard time trying to pick who would be No. 1, and I know many people will disagree with me, and some might even call me stupid.
However when writing this article, I was watching ESPN's Fantasy Football Special where they had Eli Manning ranked out of the top 20 in Quarterbacks.
How is a QB who threw for 4,021 yards and 27 touchdowns last season ranked so low?
How is a QB who has thrown for 3,000+ yards and 21+ touchdowns the past five seasons so disrespected?
He came in to the NFL with fellow QB's Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, both of which the media loves.
Eli has a Super Bowl. Can Rivers say that?
Eli had questionable receivers going into last season. Can Roethlisberger say that?
Eli Manning has been a true leader and a great quarterback for the Giants and should get more respect than he does.
We have seen many players come and go in this league, and not all of them get the media recognition of the media darlings.
It could be a player that comes out of nowhere to make a Super Bowl helmet catch like David Tyree.
Or it could be a mainstay like Aaron Smith on the Steelers' defense.
But there are many players I may have missed on this list, or a couple you may feel don't belong on this list.
Leave a comment and let me know who you think should or should not be on here!