Most NFL players are assessed fairly based on their talent. However, some end up being overrated or underrated due to a variety of factors.
Here are the most underrated players at every position.
Quarterback: Drew Lock
Lock’s is a fascinating story. Expected to be the Broncos’ first-round pick in 2019, he fell into their lap in the second round of the draft. The Missouri product went 4-1 in five starts last year, completing 100 passes on 156 attempts for 1,020 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions. Now, after adding a pair of receivers in the first two rounds of the 2020 draft, the Broncos have put Lock in a position to show off his talent.
Running Back: Rashaad Penny
Picking a backup was a difficult decision, but Penny should see more success in his third year in the NFL. He has yet to start a game, but he’s appeared in 24 and accumulated 150 rushes and 17 catches for a total of 948 yards and six touchdowns. In a backfield that witnesses injuries year in and year out, it shouldn’t be long before Penny proves himself to be a reliable starter.
Wide Receiver: Mecole Hardman
From the instant the Chiefs drafted Hardman, he drew comparisons to one of the league’s top receivers in Tyreek Hill. A speedy threat who excels in the kick returning game, Hardman is expected to see a high number of targets in 2020 (In 2019, he made the Pro Bowl for a 26-catch, 536-yard season.) Come Week 1, the Georgia product will be ready to showcase his skills as the Chiefs look to protect their Super Bowl title.
Tight End: Darren Fells
One of Deshaun Watson‘s favorite red zone targets in 2019, Fells snuck into various tight end leaderboards in his first year in Houston. The 34-year-old finished the year with 14 starts, but appeared in all 16 games. Along the way, he notched 34 catches for 341 yards and seven touchdowns. With DeAndre Hopkins gone, Fells will likely receive more attention in 2020, setting him up with a great opportunity to prove himself.
Fullback: Patrick DiMarco
Any fullback could have been mentioned here because they are all vastly underappreciated, but DiMarco stands out. Last season, the 31-year-old tallied five catches for 41 yards while adding another seven yards on the ground. The former Pro Bowler has been a reliable and versatile option, protecting quarterbacks and blocking for running backs in the backfield.
Guard: Joe Thuney
Thuney was a lesser-known lineman before 2019, but another strong performance in his fourth pro season prompted the Patriots to place the franchise tag on him, proving his reliability and talent in the trenches. Thuney has started all 64 games of his career, winning two Super Bowl rings along the way. He should continue to prove himself come next season.
Tackle: Lane Johnson
While not unknown, Johnson’s dirty work in the trenches often goes unnoticed and is very underappreciated. The 30-year-old is arguably the key player in the best offensive line in football, and likely has another six or seven years at this elite level. The Oklahoma product has spent seven years in Philadelphia, tallying three straight Pro Bowl selections and one First Team All-Pro nomination.
Center: J.C. Tretter
Tretter opened his career with the Green Bay Packers and only started to make an impact in his third and final season in Wisconsin. He landed with the Cleveland Browns in 2017 and has started every game since then (48). More impressively, he has been on the field for every Browns offensive snap since 2017, proving his strength and reliability as a core member of Cleveland’s offensive line.
Defensive Tackle: Stephon Tuitt
After a quiet rookie season in 2014, Tuitt burst onto the scene in his sophomore campaign. In the past five years with the Steelers, he’s started all 60 games in which he’s appeared. He has, however, been inactive for 20 games (10 of which came in 2019), which is a concerning sign. Despite that, he’s tallied 23.5 sacks, 69 quarterback hits, and 201 tackles (38 for loss) while playing a vital role in one of the league’s best defenses.
Defensive End: Jerry Hughes
Entering his age-32 season, Hughes is poised for another big year. He spent his first three seasons in Indianapolis, but has been a member of the Bills for the last seven. Making 95 starts over the past six seasons, Hughes has missed just one game. He’s been snubbed in Pro Bowl conversations numerous times, but continued to make his name heard with 46.5 sacks, 303 tackles (69 for loss), 99 quarterback hits, 12 forced fumbles, and three recovered fumbles.
Cornerback: Shaquill Griffin
Griffin made an immediate impact with the Seahawks after they drafted him in 2017. In 41 starts over 45 games, he’s notched three interceptions, 36 passes defended, 186 tackles (seven for loss), and one sack. The Central Florida product was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2019 and is bound to succeed as he continues to display his talents in the Seahawks’ scary defensive backfield.
Linebacker: Chandler Jones
It may seem strange to say that a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time First Team All-Pro player is “underrated.” However, Jones is just that. Despite being the league’s best defensive player, Jones never receives credit for his elite production. In his past four seasons with the Cardinals, the Syracuse product has totaled 60 sacks, 210 tackles (67 for loss), 98 quarterback hits, 17 forced fumbles, and six recovered fumbles.
Safety: Justin Simmons
One of the best safeties in the game, Simmons has yet to garner the attention and recognition he deserves. In four seasons with Denver, the Boston College product has recorded 11 interceptions (one pick-six), 28 passes defended, 289 tackles (eight for loss) and two sacks. He possesses every trait necessary to be a star safety in the league and deserves more recognition.
Kicker: Brett Maher
Maher’s struggles in 2019 ultimately led to his mid-season release, but his impressive leg cannot be ignored. The Nebraska product’s accuracy is a concern, but his strength makes him one of the league’s most underrated kickers. In 29 games with the Cowboys between 2018 and 2019, he nailed 10 field goals from beyond 50 yards, including a franchise-record 63-yard kick. He has never missed from under 39 yards, and should only improve moving forward.
Punter: Jake Bailey
The football community was shocked when the Patriots committed to the rookie Bailey over veteran Ryan Allen in 2019, but it proved to be the right choice. As a kickoff specialist, Bailey notched 65 kicks for 3,973 yards and 38 touchbacks, good for an average of 61.1 yards per kick. Still, punting was his strength. On fourth downs, he accumulated 81 punts for an average of 45 yards, with his best kick finishing at 65 yards.
Returner: Travis Benjamin
Though he’s appeared and excelled in both punt and kickoff returns, the former is Benjamin’s area of expertise. Between four years in Cleveland and three with the Chargers, Benjamin finished with 109 returns for 1,189 yards and a long of 93 yards. He also added four touchdowns along the way. His 10.9 yards per return is good enough for third-best among all active punt returners.