New England Patriots: 6 Underrated Players Responsible for the Patriots' Success

James Brown@@chasingballgameSenior Analyst IMay 27, 2011

New England Patriots: 6 Underrated Players Responsible for the Patriots' Success

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    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 02:  Jerod Mayo #51 of the New England Patriots congratulates Vince Wilfork #75 in the second half against the Miami Dolphins on January 2, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The New England Patriots are one of the most successful NFL franchises in recent years.

    That success has been mostly attributed to quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. If the 2011 NFL season kicks off, the Patriots will be considered a front runner to win a Super Bowl.

    While this success could not be achieved without Brady and Belichick, there are several other players that do not always get the credit. Here are six underrated players responsible for the Patriots success in the past and in the future.

Jerod Mayo

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    FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 08:  Jerod Mayo #51 of the New England Patriots celebrates making a stop as Chad Henne #7 of the Miami Dolphins looks on November 8, 2009 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Dolphins 27-17.  (Pho
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Patriots defense does not get as much attention as the offense, but that will change in the future. The Pats are rebuilding their defense with a youth movement and the emerging leader of that group is linebacker Jerod Mayo.

    Mayo was a tackling machine in 2010 as he led the league with an astonishing 175 tackles. Out of those 175 tackles, 114 were solo tackles, proving that he is an irreplaceable cog on an improving defense.

    Mayo is becoming a leader on the field as he is mentoring a young defense and will become a fixture on defense for many years to come.

    Mayo is just one of the many underrated players on New England’s defense.

Devin McCourty

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    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 02: Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots is congratulated by teammate Jerod Mayo #51 after McCourty intercepted a pass by the Miami Dolphins on January 2, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/
    Elsa/Getty Images

    In his first year in the league, cornerback Devin McCourty played like a seasoned veteran. The young rookie automatically upgraded a Patriots secondary that was in desperate need of help.

    McCourty became the shutdown corner for the Patriots and drew the toughest assignment in every game. He responded brilliantly by nabbing seven interceptions.

    The first round pick out of Rutgers did not shy away from contact. McCourty accumulated 82 tackles, forcing three fumbles and even sacking the quarterback. McCourty was underrated coming out of the draft, but is quickly becoming a cornerback that opposing quarterbacks avoid.

    McCourty is not the only rookie that was once underrated but is now turning heads.

Rob Gronkowski / Aaron Hernandez

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06:  (L-R) Aaron Hernandez #85 and Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots celebrate a play against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won 45-3. (Photo by Jim Rog
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski joined forces with rookie Aaron Hernandez to give Tom Brady two pass-receiving weapons.

    The pair combined for over 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns in their initial campaign.

    Hernandez is basically another wide receiver, possessing a long lanky frame and unusual speed for a tight end.

    Gronkowski offers a big target for Brady to throw at and that made him a valuable asset in the end zone.

    The tandem allows the Patriots offense to be flexible with offensive sets and they should not be overlooked as run blockers. That leads us to the next underrated player on the New England Patriots.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

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    CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 12: BenJarvus Green-Ellis #42 of the New England Patriots breaks away from Lance Briggs #55 of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Patriots defeated the Bears 36-7. (Photo by Jonathan Da
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Let’s face it; the Patriots are a pass first team. The run may seem unimportant for the Patriot fan-base as Tom Brady is the man, but the numbers suggest something else.

    BenJarvus Green-Ellis is not only an underrated running back, but he is vital to the team. If the Patriots do not try to set up the run at all, it will allow opposing defense to focus on Brady and send blitzes from all angles.

    Green-Ellis keeps defenses honest. 

    Last year Green-Ellis rushed for over 1,000 yards and led the Patriots in touchdowns. He found pay-dirt 13 times and became the premiere rusher in the Patriots backfield. His numbers alone show just how crucial he is to the Patriots present and future.

    Sometimes statistics do not show how important a player can be and that is the case with the next player on the list.

Vince Wilfork

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    FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 20:  Vince Wilfork #75 of the New England Patriots smiles during warm ups gainst the Cincinnati Bengals during their preseason game at Gillette Stadium on August 20, 2009 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    At first glance Vince Wilfork may not seem all that impressive. Last season he tallied 46 tackles and did not play in every down, but he is one of the Patriot’s most underrated players.

    Wilfork is a huge presence on the defensive line and always demands double teams. He is a lane- clogger that forces opposing runners to switch directions. His leadership on and off the field is exceptional and the Patriots coaches and ownership have taken notice.

    In fact, after signing a five-year $40 million contract, Wilfork became the highest-paid nose tackle in the NFL. This speaks volumes into how important a player he is for the New England Patriots.

Role Players

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 26: Danny Woodhead #39, Benjarvus Green-Ellis #42, and Fred Taylor #21  of the Patriots celebrate a touchdown in the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    The Patriots have built a successful franchise off a team-concept and a belief that no player is above the organization.  

    While Tom Brady is obviously the MVP of the team, future success may rely on the underrated players on the team.This combination of superstars and underrated players is what makes the Patriots a Super Bowl contender.

     James Brown is a B/R Featured Columnist, feel free to contact James at