It has been said a time or two that we live in a media-driven society. There is no greater example of this than in the National Football League, where the media can easily manufacture the league’s next big superstar. Often times, this is due to players having vivacious personalities or being magnets to off the field controversy. When a player that fits this description rises to stardom, it is almost always at the expense of a much more deserving player who simply goes about his business in a professional manner and flies under the radar. In this article, we will be looking at five of the most underrated players in the NFL today.
In building the following list, we first took into account the player grades that our friends over at Pro Football Focus (PFF) established by using their in-depth analytics and watching every play of every game during the 2014 NFL season. After that, we considered Pro Bowl voting – which has turned into nothing more than a popularity contest at this point – and All-Pro selections. The five players we chose might surprise you, but each and every one of them deserve far more recognition than they have gotten up to this point in their careers. Without further ado, here is a look at the five most underrated players in the NFL today.
1. Andrew Whitworth, offensive tackle, Cincinnati Bengals
- PFF Grade: 36.8
- PFF Position Ranking: 2
For reasons that are beyond our comprehension, Whitworth continues to fly under the radar despite consistently grading out as one of the top offensive tackles in the league on a yearly basis. In 2014, PFF rated him the second-best tackle in the league, behind only Jason Peters of the Philadelphia Eagles. While he did earn second-team All-Pro honors a year ago, his peers around the league and NFL fans around the world, snubbed him when it came time to vote for the Pro Bowl. That said, our guess is that none of this bothers Whitworth, and we’d be shocked if the 33-year-old isn’t one of the top offensive tackles in the league again in 2015.
2. Chris Harris Jr., cornerback, Denver Broncos
- PFF Grade: 28.4
- PFF Position Ranking: 1
It may be a surprise to see Harris on this list, as the 26-year-old cornerback made the Pro Bowl and was named a second-team All-Pro in 2014. However the fact remains that Harris’ simply doesn’t get the respect he deserves. For the past three seasons, the former undrafted free agent has finished no worse than eighth in PFF’s cornerback rankings, and in 2014 he graded out as the best corner in the game. Still, he is rarely mentioned among the likes of Darrelle Revis, Richard Sherman, or Patrick Peterson in the conversation regarding the best cornerback in the league. That should change with another strong season in 2015.
3. DeAndre Levy, outside linebacker, Detroit Lions
- PFF Grade: 23.9
- PFF Position Ranking: 3
Levy is another guy who earned second-team All-Pro honors, but received the cold shoulder from his peers and NFL fans when it came to Pro Bowl voting. As it turns out, the people who failed to recognize Levy’s talents are the ones who look foolish, as PFF ranked the 28-year-old as the third-best outside linebacker in the league in 2014. Don’t be surprised if 2015 is the year Levy finally lands a spot on the NFC Pro Bowl roster.
4. K.J. Wright, outside linebacker, Seattle Seahawks
- PFF Grade: 13.5
- PFF Position Ranking: 6
Wright is the unsung hero of the Seahawks’ dominant defense. Fellow linebacker Bobby Wagner, defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, and the Legion of Boom in the secondary tend to steal the show, but there is no arguing Wright’s importance in the Seahawks’ run to two-straight NFC titles. We believe 2015 is the year the 25-year-old linebacker plays his way onto the NFC Pro Bowl roster.
5. Kelvin Beachum, offensive tackle, Pittsburgh Steelers
- PFF Grade: 21.7
- PFF Position Ranking: 5
There may not be a more underrated player in the NFL than Kelvin Beachum. He was PFF’s fifth-best offensive tackle a year ago, finishing ahead of the likes of perennial All-Pro candidates Tyron Smith, Branden Albert, and Ryan Clady. Surprisingly, not only did Beachum get left off the AFC Pro Bowl roster, but he also didn’t receive a single vote for the 2014 All-Pro team. That will surly change with a repeat performance in 2015.