There are so many stars in the NFL, but there are also great players that get buried under more popular names and are never shown the respect they deserve. You’ll find that this list contains players who are household names but aren’t held up as the All-Pro caliber players they are and players who are young and still maturing.
Overall, there’s a fairly decent mix of players for us to talk about. While many of these players are beloved by their local fanbases, they haven’t received enough recognition on a national scale. That’s why I feel confident about putting some bigger names on this list.
Unfortunately, I did not manage to mention every underrated player. Sometimes it’s hard to make the distinction. Plus, there are so many NFL players, it’s hard to comb through them all. Feel free to comment players you think I missed.
1. Lavonte David OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
David is a victim of the defensive system he plays in. The outside linebackers that receive the most recognition post large sack totals, but David isn’t asked to play a big role in the pass rush. David has only been to one Pro Bowl during his career, which is just wrong. This man recorded 120 combined tackles in 14 games last season. In 16 games, he would have reached 137 tackles, which would have been the fifth-most in the NFL last season. He also contributed 3.5 sacks.
2. Malcolm Jenkins DB, Philadelphia Eagles
The only positions the Eagles haven’t asked Jenkins to play are defensive end and defensive tackle. Jenkins takes snaps at cornerback, linebacker, and safety. He simply does everything the Eagles need him to do, but it doesn’t feel like he gets enough recognition for his work.
3. Duane Brown LT, Seattle Seahawks
Despite not making the Pro Bowl, Brown was selected as a Second Team All-Pro last season. The former Houston Texan is charged with protecting Russell Wilson, one of the best quarterbacks in the league today, and he does a fine job but receives little fanfare.
4. Devin McCourty S, New England Patriots
Age has not dulled McCourty’s senses. He hasn’t had a year with multiple interceptions since 2014, but McCourty remains one of the best safeties in the game today. He’s the leader of New England’s defense and has been at the heart of so many successful teams.
5. James White RB, New England Patriots
Because his main contributions come through the air, White is often forgotten in the grand scheme of running backs. White finished the 2018 season with 1,176 yards from scrimmage and 12 rushing and receiving touchdowns. He did all that on just 181 touches (6.49. yards per touch).
6. Jonathan Allen DE, Washington Redskins
You can’t be blamed for not knowing the ins and outs of the Redskins roster. Most people don’t. However, a lot of people could know Allen’s name soon. The third-year defensive end recorded 61 combined tackles last season and eight sacks. He’s a breakout candidate for this season.
7. Marlon Humphrey CB, Baltimore Ravens
The Alabama product showed a lot of improvement last year and looks like he’ll be ready to take on larger assignments this season. The Ravens haven’t had a shutdown cornerback in a long time, but Humphrey could be their guy.
8. DeForest Buckner DT, San Francisco 49ers
The fourth-year defensive tackle showed out last season, posting 67 combined tackles and 12 sacks. While he did make the Pro Bowl last year, I don’t think people have elevated his name enough yet. This guy is a top-five defensive tackle in the league.
9. Cameron Heyward DE/DT, Pittsburgh Steelers
The 2017 First Team All-Pro doesn’t post monster sack totals. His flashy stats have declined slightly since he began taking more snaps as an interior player, but he makes a huge impact for the Steelers defense. Heyward has 96 combined tackles and 20 sacks over the past two seasons. His play contributed to Javon Hargrave and T.J. Watt having career years last season.
10. Ryan Kerrigan OLB, Washington Redskins
He has been overshadowed by fellow members of the 2011 draft class, like Von Miller and J.J. Watt. However, Kerrigan has been building a legacy of his own. The Purdue product has made the last three Pro Bowls and has 122 combined tackles, 37 sacks, and eight forced fumbles during that time.
Brandon Graham DE, Philadelphia Eagles
You have to read between the lines to see how efficient and effective Graham can be for the Eagles. His seasonal stats are never that impressive, but they’re a poor reflection of what he brings to Philadelphia’s defense.
Chris Harris CB, Denver Broncos
The shutdown corner suffered a fractured fibula late last season, but he was having a great year before the injury. With the downfall of the Broncos over the past several seasons, Harris’ name has wrongly slipped from the top ten cornerback conversation.
Danielle Hunter DE, Minnesota Vikings
Hunter is a very year-by-year player. If we go based off of his 72 combined tackles and 14.5 sacks last season, he’s significantly underrated. If we go off of his 2017 season, then he’s leaning more towards overrated. 2019 will help settle the debate.
Cooper Kupp WR, Los Angeles Rams
It’s hard to tell if Kupp is under or overrated at this point. I loved what I saw from him last season and I think he can be a 1,000-yard receiver in the NFL. He just has to stay healthy.
Emmanuel Sanders WR, Denver Broncos
If he hadn’t gotten hurt last season, Sanders would have made 94 receptions for 1,156 yards, according to his season averages. Sanders is still a versatile receiver who can put up good numbers. Injuries and poor quarterback play have kept him down these past few seasons.
Telvin Smith OLB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Technically, Smith has said he won’t play this season, but it still doesn’t feel right leaving him off of this list. The man only made one Pro Bowl despite his crazy athleticism and tackling production.