Kansas City Chiefs – CB Charvarius Ward
As an undrafted rookie, the Dallas Cowboys traded away cornerback Charvarius Ward to the Kansas City Chiefs for reserve offensive lineman Parker Ehinger. Ehlinger would never play a snap for the Cowboys and has since been released by three other teams. As for Ward, he started all 16 games for the eventual Super Bowl champions in 2020 and was arguably their best cornerback in the playoff run.
Ward played 1,048 snaps on defense last season and allowed a completion percentage of only 47 percent. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 65.2 when targeting Ward, as he allowed only one touchdown all season long. At just the age of 24, Ward has developed into one of the better young cornerbacks in the league, and it cost the Chiefs nothing to acquire him. Not bad.
Las Vegas Raiders – WR Hunter Renfrow
Heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, everyone knew Hunter Renfrow, as he dominated at Clemson. However, he still fell well into the fifth round due to a lack of size and speed. That didn’t stop him from producing as a rookie, catching 49 passes for 605 yards and four touchdowns. Best of all, Renfrow was highly efficient, catching 69 percent of his targets and averaging 12.3 yards per reception. He’s already developed into one of the better slot receivers in the league, and with Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards now on board, even more opportunities should open up inside for the former Clemson star.
Los Angeles Chargers – LB Kyzir White
The Chargers’ defense is loaded with first-round picks and Pro Bowl players, so it’s hard to find an underrated player on the roster. However, linebacker Kyzir White might just be that player, despite playing only 514 defensive snaps over the last two seasons. White started seven games for the Chargers last year, proving his worth in coverage. He could have a hard time finding playing time this season with Kenneth Murray likely starting on Day 1, but White’s coverage skills and athleticism should allow him to find a role on defense.
Miami Dolphins – LB Vince Biegel
After washing out with the Green Bay Packers, LB Vince Biegel found a home with the Dolphins last season. Miscast as an edge rusher in Green Bay, the Dolphins allowed Biegel to play more as an off-ball linebacker, and that saved his career. He still rushed the passer on a majority of his snaps, but his versatility has proven to be his calling card in the NFL. He’s never going to be an elite edge rusher, but his ability to play the run and drop back in coverage when needed has made him a valuable piece in Brian Flores’ defense.
New England Patriots – CB Jonathan Jones
While Stephon Gilmore got a ton of praise for his play last season, cornerback Jonathan Jones deserves some love too, considering how well he played for the Patriots. With Gilmore and Jason McCourty playing on the outside, Jones has found a role as the team’s slot cornerback. While opponents targeted Jones at an increased rate due to the other cornerbacks on the team, he held up well in the slot. However, his best trait is how strong of a run defender he is. Over the last two seasons, Jones has accumulated 109 tackles on just 1,134 defensive snaps. Look for him to continue to dominate from the slot this season with the Pats.
New York Jets – DT Folorunso Fatukasi
With Jamal Adams now out of the picture in New York, their defense lacks a ton of star power. However, they do have several intriguing young players on that side of the ball, including defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi. While he played only 390 snaps last season, the former UConn star was fantastic. On 205 run snaps, Fatukasi tallied seven tackles for loss, proving to be one of the league’s best run defenders.
If Quinnen Williams can improve this season in getting to the quarterback, the Jets could have one of the best young interior defensive lines in all of the NFL. Look for Fatukasi to see even more snaps this season and have an impressive sophomore campaign.
Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Mike Hilton
Slot cornerbacks rarely get a lot of love in the NFL, but Mike Hilton is among the league’s best and deserves more respect. Hilton has been Pittsburgh’s starting slot cornerback in each of the last three seasons and set a career-high in pass deflections (11) during the 2019 campaign. After not being drafted out of Mississippi, Hilton is entering a contract year with the Steelers. If he can continue to produce at this level, he should receive a monster contract from some team next offseason.
Tennessee Titans – LB Jayon Brown
Former first-round pick Rashaan Evans gets a ton of attention in Tennessee and deservedly so. He’s been able to live up to his gaudy expectations after dominating at Alabama. But his teammate, Jayon Brown, has quickly become one of the league’s best overall linebackers. Brown has exceptional speed that allows him to excel in man-to-man coverage, but in recent years, he’s become a much more reliable run defender. At just the age of 25, his best football is still ahead of him, and the combination of he and Evans should be a terrifying thought to opposing offenses.