The NFL is full of world class athletes that have amazing skill sets, which makes the great players of the NFL so impressive. Players like Aaron Rodgers, Todd Gurley, and Deandre Hopkins make playing in the NFL look like a walk in the park. If I went into the gym and saw a guy that was 6 foot, 200 pounds, and was absolutely ripped, I would think, that guy looks ridiculous. Truth is, that is an “undersized” corner in today’s NFL. The point I am trying to make here is that everybody in the NFL is a great athlete and has amazing skills, those who are considered the “best” are on a different level and draw more hype and fame than most players in the league. There are several players however, that quietly, are among the best in the NFL, yet do not receive the same amount of fame and fortune that is deserving of their play. I have devised a list of 6 (3 defensive and 3 offensive) of the most underrated NFL players heading into 2019, who deserve a lot more love.
3. Danielle Hunter:How does a guy that looks like Danielle Hunter end up on this list? Well he is quiet, does his job well, and has other icons on the same defense that soak up more attention. With the Vikings defense having players like Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Anthony Barr, and Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter gets lost in the crowd. Do not be mistaken, the dude is a stud. The Vikings handed Hunter a nice contract before the 2018 season, and Hunter delivered with a great year in 2018. He finished with 14.5 sacks, 19 qb hits, and 71 tackles. He achieved high remarks across Pro Football Focus in Run Defense, Pass Rush, and even in Coverage. He finished with an grade of 77.8 which puts him at the 18thranked PFF ED. Even with great all around stats, Hunter isn’t put into the conversation when it comes to the top defensive line talent in the league. While other names are hyped by the media, Hunter is performing like a top talent and doing it quietly.
2. Minkah Fitzpatrick:
The Miami Dolphins struck gold when Minkah Fitzpatrick fell into their laps at Pick 11 in the NFL Draft. One of the most versatile players already in the NFL, Minkah spent time in all defensive back positions in 2018, as a rookie! The dude is an elite talent with great football IQ. He qualifies as “underrated” due to his rookie status, being on a talent deficient team that doesn’t get mentioned a lot, and due to an average overall PFF grade. However, if we dive into his stats more, Minkah is ranked first among corners in passer rating allowed, first among slot corners in passer rating allowed when targeted, and third among safeties in yards allowed per coverage. He is a swiss army knife, and one who is elite in all aspects of the field. Fitzpatrick deserves to a lot more love than he has been shown in his first year. Maybe it will take the dolphins to win more than 8 games for people to realize how good Minkah really is. (He might have to wait a while)
3. Desmond King:Perhaps King doesn’t get the hype because the Chargers as a whole do not receive as much attention around the league. He deserves it though. Towards the end of the year, people started realizing how good Desmond King was. His elite Pro Football grade of 90.4 ranks him as the second best corner in the league. Many do not view him as an elite corner, and some people think that he is still the second best corner on his team behind Casey Hayward. He does damage from all over the field as an outside corner, slot defender, and kick returner. He is a smaller corner at 5’10 but plays with a great drive. 2018 proved to be a breakout year as he was thrown into a starting role with Jason Verrett getting injured again. While he was still snubbed of a Pro Bowl Selection, the second year pro finished the regular season with 61 tackles, 3 interceptions, 10 passes defended, and a return TD. He will be in a full time role in 2019 and will have a chance to prove he is one of the elite corners in the NFL and become a household name.
3. Nick Chubb:Coming into the season, nobody knew what the Browns were planning to do with their backfield consisting of a recently extended Duke Johnson, free agent acquisition Carlos Hyde, and second round rookie Nick Chubb. Well Hyde was traded and Johnson was faded out of the game plan. In came Nick Chubb and he exploded onto the scene when he was giving the starting role in Week 7. Grading out as the top ranked running back on the PFF scale, Chubb was a wrecking ball. He finished just shy of 1,000 yards rushing despite seeing only 16 carries before week 7. That is something people overlook. With Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry taking credit of the offense, Chubb was often an afterthought. However, with a full offseason as the workhorse and a opportunity to work on his passing game chops, Chubb will enter the 2019 season as a dark horse to lead the NFL in rushing yards and needs to be valued more going forward.
2. Tyler Lockett:I have always been a big fan of Lockett due to his versatility, play making ability, and fit within the Seattle offense. This year, Lockett brought home the goods as he was one of the best playmakers in the league. He is often overlooked as a good wideout in the league as he is a considered a “deep threat” by many. Fact is, he led the Seahawks in catches, yards, and touchdowns. He was actually amongst the league leaders in touchdown catches with 10. Falling just short of 1000 yards receiving while playing in the run heaviest offense in the league is something that should be praised. Lockett is one of the reasons that Russell Wilson is enjoying one of the most efficient quarterback seasons in history. In 2019, look for more catches out of Lockett.
1. Robert Woods:How does the number one wide receiver on a premier offense in the NFL get overlooked? Because most people assume Brandin Cooks is the number one wide receiver on the Rams. Woods paced himself in an amazing 2018 season, he finished with 86 catches, 1219 yards, and 6 touchdowns. He is quietly one of the most productive wide receivers in the NFL yet he is not even in the whispered within the conversation of the best wide receivers in football. Yes, he isn’t the most athletic wide out in the league, but he runs great routes, has strong hands, and has a good football IQ. Going into the 2019 season, Woods will still be part of the 3 headed wide receiver attack in L.A. but he is the most trusted of the three. Finishing as the 8th best graded Wide Receiver according to PFF, Woods was undervalued and deserves a lot more credit going forward into the 2019 season.