Everyone knows the big names: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, so on and so forth.
These guys go out on the field every week, play full games, and are always considered an integral part of the game plan of their particular team.
While that is all fine, often times this causes the unsung heroes of the League to fall into the shadows and miss out on the respect that they deserve.
So, that having been said, here is a list giving respect to the 10 most underrated players in the NFL as of right now.
There are a lot of people in San Diego who are more than happy at seeing the recent increase in the playing time that Mike Tolbert is getting, and there is a reason.
Mike Tolbert is a beast on the football field.
I don't say that in the "Adrian Peterson is a beast because he puts up more than 100 yards in almost every game" kind of way, I mean that in a "You do not want to get in front of a guy who is 5'9" tall and 243 lbs who runs a 4.65 40 yard dash" kind of way.
Tolbert is a very effective weapon. He is a player who uses his weight so effectively that he is hardly ever stopped behind the line of scrimmage. He is also surprisingly shifty and hard to tackle in the open field.
Most people are unfamiliar with Tolbert on account of the fact that, since joining the Chargers four years ago as an undrafted free agent, he has been buried on the depth chart. He has, for those four years, been behind Jacob Hester as the Chargers fullback, and has only recently been put in a position to take snaps at running back.
If Ryan Mathews continues to miss time, make it a point to watch this guy, or even pick him up on your fantasy team. He will entertain, and he will get it done on the field.
The decision by the New York Jets to cut Danny Woodhead still baffles me today. They chose to go with a gamble in LaDainian Tomlinson, and while LT does seem to be panning out, Woodhead is silently putting together a very impressive performance for the New England Patriots.
Woodhead is a situational back, mind you, but he does exactly what the Patriots ask of him, and he has some of his best games against top opponents (see his performance against the Baltimore Ravens).
While his rushing average is certainly impressive (4.9 yards per carry), the best part about Woodhead has to be his dual-threat factor.
Woodhead has very good hands, and can be a dangerous receiver both as a check down option and on screen passes.
Considering how well he is playing within the Patriots system, and how little the Patriots are sacrificing to have him on their team, I would think of Woodhead as probably one of the best value players right now. It's too bad he isn't getting the recognition he deserves.
It seems to me that a lot of people have formed the clear opinion that Fitzpatrick is a bad quarterback and that that is what is keeping the Bills from being successful.
I'm here to officially say that Fitzpatrick is not the Bills problem.
Everything else is.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is so close to being a good quarterback that it is frustrating to watch him play, simply because I know that he has the potential to be better.
While it is hard to base an argument on guess work, which is ultimately what I am about to do, consider these things:
- The Bills lack a competent offensive line. If Ryan Fitzpatrick could stand in the pocket for more than two or three seconds without having to think about fleeing imminent pressure, he wouldn't be forced into making some of the bad decisions that he has made.
- If the Bills had a well rounded receiving corps, it would do wonders for Fitzpatrick. As it stands right now, the Bills completely lack a tight end (their three-deep has combined for 10 receptions for 79 yards and 1 touchdown). They also lack a real standout wide receiver (Lee Evans and Steve Johnson are good but neither of them are that good).
- Considering the fact that the Bills typically cannot play defense, the burden often falls on Fitzpatrick to win games, and it is hard for any quarterback to lead his team to comeback victories.
I'm not saying the Bills shouldn't look at drafting another quarterback sometime soon, but what I am saying is that perhaps there are other needs that they should address first before calling it quits on Ryan Fitzpatrick.
It's odd to think that just last year people were starting to wonder whether or not the Buccaneers would keep Josh Freeman.
While it is still a little early to jump to any conclusions about where that rumor stands right now, it is fair to say that Josh Freeman has really come into his own as a player and a leader, and one look at the record of the Bucs can prove that.
While Freeman is starting to get a lot of attention, it seems to me like a lot of people are still on the fence about the quarterback (myself included). However, it really does seem like he is on his way to becoming a good quarterback, and a player that Tampa Bay can rely on to lead them from behind when he is needed most.
There was a time when James Hall was on the radar. Back in 2004, when Hall played for the Detroit Lions, he racked up an impressive 48 tackles, 11.5 sacks, four pass deflections, one interception, and four forced fumbles.
After that, though, his numbers dropped, and has thus fallen into the shadows, and playing for the St. Louis Rams hasn't helped him.
In a defense that, arguably, has no real big name star (OJ Atogwe is hurt too often), Hall has become another face in the crowd.
This should not be the case.
In the span of the first eight games of the season, Hall has posted 6.5 sacks, one pass deflection, and three forced fumbles.
If there is any one player that is truly flying under the radar on defense right now, it is James Hall.
While most analysts are very familiar with Jon Beason, it seems like the common NFL watcher is not aware of just how good he is, and that is probably partially on account of the fact that he plays for the Carolina Panthers.
Beason has yet to register a sack or an interception this season. Some might consider this bad. You know what is actually causing this though? No one wants to throw the ball towards him. Last year, Beason had seven pass deflections and three interceptions. Not many quarterbacks would feel safe throwing to his area of the field.
Looking past the big plays, though, Beason has also posted an impressive 53 tackles in seven games. Again, while this number is not extraordinarily high, what it really indicates is that most people who come at him go down, and not many people go at him.
Pisa Tinoisamoa will never put up numbers that will wow crowds. He will never be the kind of player you want to center your defense around.
However, Tinoisamoa is a very consistent player, something that was evident even in the beginning of his career in St. Louis.
He may never have another year like he did in 2008, he is still a solid 4-3 linebacker who is playing very well for the Chicago Bears right now.
Hillis is catching on quick right now, and I'm still wondering why it took so long.
The first time I watched Hillis play in Denver, I knew he was special, which is why I was so surprised when, despite rampant injuries to their running backs, the Denver Broncos decided to part ways with Hillis.
Well, their loss, I suppose.
The Browns feel so confident in Peyton Hillis that they were willing to trade away Jerome Harrison, who was expected to be the next great Cleveland running back.
Peyton Hillis plays a tough, downhill kind of football, which is a lot of fun to watch, and he couples that strong play with good moves and, apparently, decent leaping ability (if you haven't seen him jump before, watch him leap over an Atlanta Falcon).
If you've never watched him play, you should, he makes watching the Browns great fun.
While Austin Collie has gotten some recognition, he is still living in the shadow of fellow receivers Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon, an unfortunate fate for such a great player.
Collie benefits from having the great Peyton Manning under center, but his sure hands and his shiftiness have earned him six touchdowns so far this season, including one for 73 yards.
Collie is only in his second year in the League, which is why many people are likely still unfamiliar with him, and his recent injury is not going to help. He should be back with the Colts in the next week or two, though, and should have the opportunity to do big things for this Indianapolis offense.
I was very hesitant at first to put Hernandez on the list, but to me it seems perfectly logical.
Hernandez is unknown largely for two reason:
- He is a rookie.
- He plays for the Patrios (a.k.a. he's surrounded by talent, and thus drowned out)
It shouldn't stay like that for long.
Hernandez is a physical freak. He has the size of a tight end, the speed of a wide receiver, and the shiftiness of a running back, and all of this combines to make him one fun player to watch.
If Hernandez can get the ball in space, he is often able to post a lot of yards after the catch, whether that be running straight up field or, occasionally, reversing the field.
Hernandez is probably the Patriots' best secret weapon, and should only get better as time goes on.
I'm sure you all have players to add to this list, so put them in the comments section. Who knows, I may put together an even larger list.
Like what you see? Follow me on Twitter @chriseggemeyer
(PS: I discovered this video via Joe Posnansky's blog: http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/2010/10/hawaii-chair.html. I would highly recommend reading the post after watching the video)