With a sport as big as the NFL, it’s easy to see how talent can get overlooked. It is a shame that these names don’t often get recognition they deserve.
1. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
It is sad to see a name like Matthew Stafford on a list like this. Once upon a time, Stafford was revered as one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He was putting up numbers similar to Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. The fact of the matter is that has not changed. What has changed is that no one is paying attention since Megatron (Calvin Johnson) is no longer on the team. While the Lions overall are doing a rather horrible job each season, Stafford is still doing really well. Lions fans know their games are often close.
Last season, Stafford was only 578 yards behind Brady and just 215 yards behind Brees. That seems like a lot, until other statistics are factored in. Stafford threw for eight fewer touchdowns and the same amount of interceptions. Not to mention, Brady’s division is unequivocally easier to play in. The New England Patriots are head and shoulders above their division rivals. Stafford’s division housed the powerhouse Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings who narrowly missed out on a playoff spot.
2. Tevin Coleman, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Fans well versed in fantasy football know of Coleman for his time on the Atlanta Falcons. He was often drafted in case of an injury to lead running back, Devonta Freeman. While Freeman often missed games due to such injurie (in fact, he missed most of 2018), even when he was in the game, Coleman saw quite a few snaps.
In 2017, Freeman ran for 865 yards, had seven touchdowns and 48 first downs with four fumbles. Coleman ran for 628 yards, achieved 27 first downs and had a total of five touchdowns with one fumble as the secondary back that same year. In 2018, withh Freeman out of most of the season, Coleman ran for 800 yards, had four touchdowns and 36 first downs with one fumble. His numbers are still comparable to Freeman’s. The 49ers’ ground game gained significant value with the addition of Coleman.
3. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Mixon’s underrated value is unfortunate by product of location. A couple of years ago, the Bengals were a team to watch and Mixon would have become a household name. The Bengals were having a rough season in 2018 before quarterback Andy Dalton got injured in Week 11, essentially making watching Bengals games useless. It is a shame, though, because a lot of people missed out of Mixon. He ran for 1,168 yards, had 60 first downs, eight touchdowns and no fumbles. Unlike Coleman, he is already the primary running back for his team so it’s difficult to compare within the team.
But if you look at Alvin Kamara, who is easily considered one of the best running backs on the field right now, Mixon simply outran him. Kamara only ran for 883 yards and 57 first downs, although he did have 14 touchdowns with no fumbles either. While Kamara had been splitting his load with Mark Ingram, the fact of the matter is Mixon is just as good.
4. Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Williams is someone who is not only undervalued by fans, but also by his team and other opposing teams. Last season, Williams was targeted 66 times while Keenan Allen was targeted 136 times. While he was second to Allen on the roster, he still saw less than half the targets that Allen saw. When it came to touchdowns, though, he had 11 while Allen only had six. Allen had more yards with 1,196 and Williams only reached 664. In terms of completions, Williams’ rate was only seven percent less than Allen. If he saw more tries, it’s likely his numbers would increase.
With Tyrell Williams no longer on the team, and quarterback Phillip Rivers’s favorite tight end, Antonio Gates, still not signed for another year, it is likely Williams’s workload will increase-as it should. Allen is well known as one of the great receivers in the league and often draws the double team — which is partially why Williams was open enough for his 11 touchdowns. He was often wide open in the end zone, as if the other teams simply forgot about him.
5. CJ Anderson, RB, Detroit Lions
When Anderson suited up in Denver, he was never one of the more undervalued players on the field. 2018 was his first season away from the Mile High city, which was strange considering he had his best year with the Broncos in 2017, running for 1,007 yards with three touchdowns and 47 first downs — an impressive feat considering the Broncos’ offensive line.
He started last season in Carolina behind Christian McCafferty and saw essentially no work. It was his transfer to the Los Angeles Rams that saw him go behind Todd Gurley that really showed his talent. He had a mere 104 yards in nine games with the Panthers, but 299 yards in just two games with the Rams. He had two touchdowns, one in each game, and was arguably the factor the Dallas Cowboys could not control in the Rams’ first playoff matchup, running for two touchdowns and gaining 123 yards. He played a much smaller factor in the other two games, as Gurley truly shined. It seemed as if the Rams were going to model the Saints and develop their own one-two punch with their running backs.
This season, Anderson finds himself running in second position again, this time behind Kerryon Johnson who, in 10 games last year, only ran for 641 yards. If Anderson is on a team with a decent offensive line, he can really explode. Teams need to stop underestimating him and putting him as running back No. 2. The Broncos have been known for their defensive line the last few years, not their offense. It wasn’t a place for Anderson to show what he had.