Most underrated NFL players on all 32 teams | NFC
With the AFC out of the way, who are the most underrated players in the NFC?
Arizona Cardinals: Kelvin Beachum, OT
Despite his incredibly high waist — seriously, check out his build — Kelvin Beachum has been one of the most underrated tackles in the NFL. He has started every game he has played in since 2014 (with four different franchises). Beachum has lined up at both left and right tackle but displayed superior play on the right side last year for the Cardinals. He is not a dominant run blocker, but Kyler Murray appreciates his pass-blocking prowess.
Atlanta Falcons: Russell Gage, WR
Russell Gage flashed his receiving skill in 2019 but burst onto the scene in 2020. With Julio Jones sidelined due to injury, Gage exploded for 72 receptions, 786 yards, and 4 touchdowns. I am not claiming he is the next star receiver by any means. But he warrants the respect of defenses and fans alike. If the Falcons eventually trade Jones, Gage may see 100-plus targets yet again next season, even with the addition of uber-talented TE Kyle Pitts.
Carolina Panthers: Brian Burns, EDGE
Although Brian Burns is not an under-the-radar prospect anymore, he still does not garner enough attention. Hailing from Florida State, Burns was the fifth edge rusher taken in the 2019 NFL Draft. While Nick Bosa has already cemented himself as the best of the group, Burns is firmly in second.
Succeeding a productive rookie campaign, Burns put his talent on full display in 2020. The Panthers’ young defensive star logged 58 total tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 21 QB hits, and 9 sacks. Expect the former Seminole to torture NFC tackles for years to come.
Chicago Bears: Bilal Nichols, DL
Outside of devoted Bears fans and maybe some Madden players, Bilal Nichols is relatively unknown. The 2018 fifth-rounder began his career as a defensive end but kicked inside to nose tackle as Eddie Goldman opted out in 2020. Nichols excelled in his first year in a new role, posting 40 combined tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 13 QB hits, and 5 sacks (second on the team behind Khalil Mack).
Goldman’s return can stunt Nichols’ growth next season, but the 24-year-old should maintain a steady appearance in the defense.
Dallas Cowboys: Dalton Schultz, TE
Who is the most underrated player on the Cowboys’ stellar offense? Tight end Dalton Schultz. After catching just 13 passes in his first two years, Schultz rose to glory last season. As Blake Jarwin rehabbed a torn ACL after Week 1, Schultz stepped in and rattled off 615 yards and 4 scores off 63 receptions.
They will battle for the TE1 spot this season, but I anticipate Schultz claiming the role. Both are underrated NFL players heading into 2021, which is unfair considering the immense amount of talent already on that side of the ball in Dallas.
Detroit Lions: Jack Fox, P
I am only half kidding with this pick. Jack Fox, a second-year pro from Rice, earned the starting job in Detriot last spring. In his debut month of September, he won NFC Special Teams Player of the Month and continued his success throughout the season. After punting 59 times for the third-best average in the league (49.1 yards), Fox secured Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro merits. With the Lions’ lackluster offense, expect to see a great deal of Fox in 2021.
Green Bay Packers: Adrian Amos, S
Currently, much of the talk in Green Bay is surrounding the Aaron Rodgers situation. Yet, there should be more conversation on Adrian Amos’ impact in the secondary. Sharing a secondary with Jaire Alexander will take some shine away, but Amos has never endured a bad season in the NFL. In each season since 2018, he forced 8-plus pass deflections, 2 interceptions, and 70-plus tackles while allowing just 5 touchdowns.
Los Angeles Rams: Darious Williams, CB
Lining up across from Jalen Ramsey, Williams dominated the opposition’s WR2 last year. Standing at 5’9″ and 187 pounds, Williams conceded just 54% of his 72 targets while intercepting 4 passes and deflecting another 14. His technique is exceptional on the outside, and he can step into the slot when needed. Defensive regression is to be expected, especially for a volatile position such as corner. Regardless, Williams owns the skill set to lock down WRs with Ramsey.
Minnesota Vikings: Brian O’Neill, OT
The Vikings offensive line has been the subject of much scrutiny in recent seasons. Nevertheless, 2018 second-rounder Brian O’Neill looks to have lived up to his draft position and then some. He is a perfect fit for Minnesota’s zone-blocking scheme, and he possesses superb athleticism for a right tackle. As he continues to improve his technique, O’Neill will anchor Minnesota’s line for the foreseeable future.
New Orleans Saints: Second-year players
I considered Michael Thomas here simply for the constant “slant boy” slander, but he still receives love as a top-10 receiver in the league. Thus, let me turn your attention toward the Saints’ second-year trio of OC Cesar Ruiz, LB Zack Baun, and TE Adam Trautman. Ruiz struggled as a rookie, but he was only 20 years old. If he can put on muscle to compete with NFL bodies, he can break out in Year 2.
Baun was making the transition from an outside LB to a more traditional off-ball LB last year. As such, he only saw 82 defensive snaps, but with a year of NFL coaching under his belt and Alex Anzalone gone, Baun should see much more of the field. Finally, we have Trautman, who was impressive in limited reps last season. He is a proven run blocker and gained 9 first downs and 1 touchdown off just 15 receptions. As cryptocurrency advocates say, it is “to the moon” for the 2019 draft picks.
New York Giants: Jabrill Peppers, S
Following two seasons of being misused in Cleveland, the Browns traded Jabrill Peppers to the Giants in 2019. Peppers flourished into an integral part of New York’s defense with a more defined role as a strong safety. Peppers started all but one game since 2017, but his best season came in 2020.
He recorded 91 total tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 11 pass deflections, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. The Michigan alum even returned 15 punts for 187 yards. Peppers has yet to give up a completion rate over 65% in his career while tracking down runners with his athleticism.
Philadelphia Eagles: Josh Sweat, EDGE
Josh Sweat has been an underrated part of the Eagles’ DL rotation over the past couple of years. Since 2019, he generated 16 tackles for loss, 23 QB hits, 10 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, and Derek Barnett receive much of the praise, but Sweat has been nearly as productive despite playing just 37% of defensive snaps.
San Francisco 49ers: Dre Greenlaw, LB
Fred Warner is one of the best linebackers in football, but teammate Dre Greenlaw is more than a sidekick. After entering the league as a fifth-round selection in 2019, Greenlaw racked up 178 tackles (10 for loss) while missing just 6. He also conceded just 7.6 yards per catch with 0 touchdowns on 92 targets. Greenlaw is a former safety, and it shows with his physical traits. “Warner & Greenlaw.” Not bad for a law firm giving you a substantial return on your investment.
Seattle Seahawks: Kerry Hyder, DL
Kerry Hyder is 30 years old and has only seen a significant amount of snaps in two seasons. However, in those two seasons (2016 in Detriot and 2020 in San Francisco), he balled out. In 2016, he produced 36 total tackles (11 for loss), 19 QB hits, and 8 sacks. Then, in 2020, Hyder compiled 49 tackles and led the 49ers in tackles for loss (10), QB hits (18), and sacks (8.5). The Seahawks signed him on a two-year, $6.8 million deal, and Hyder should start across Carlos Dunlap.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cameron Brate, TE
I know some Lavonte David stans will be upset with this pick (looking at you PFN analyst Dalton Miller), but David has NFL pundits vouching for him daily. Do you know who can’t say that (at least until this article posts)? Cameron Brate. Brate spent the past seven years in Tampa Bay but has only been the TE1 in one (2016). Still, he played admirably, totaling 48-plus receptions, 590-plus yards, and 6-plus scores in both.
In 2020, he played second fiddle to Rob Gronkowski and sometimes third fiddle behind O.J. Howard. Yet, in the playoffs and on the road to a Super Bowl, Brate made his presence felt. He reeled in 14 of 19 targets for 175 yards, 9 first downs, and 1 touchdown. Brate is a fan favorite among Buccaneers faithful for a reason.
Washington Football Team: Montez Sweat, EDGE
No, Montez and Josh Sweat are not related. They are, however, related in the sense that they are underrated pass rushers in the NFL. Just a year before Washington selected Chase Young second overall, they took Sweat with pick 26 out of Mississippi State. He hit the ground running as a 3-4 OLB, snagging 8 tackles for loss, 13 QB hits, 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 pass deflections.
Then, last year, Sweat detonated alongside the entire Washington defense. Sweat thrived in Ron Rivera’s 4-3 system as a DE, registering 12 tackles for loss, 20 QB hits, 9 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 6 pass deflections, and even a pick-six. Sweat and Young create an edge duo that gives opposing QBs nightmares.
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