Adam Thielen, WR, (Underrated)
There might not be a better combination of “great player on a great contract” than Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. A savvy route-runner out of the slot position, Thielen finished with the fifth-most receiving yards in the NFL last year (1,276), and the eighth-most catches (91).
And yet, the Vikings have him on a contract in which his salary cap number in 2018 is only $6.1 million, which is an absolute steal. As of this writing (Week 13) Thielen has 93 receptions for 1,138 yards and 8 touchdowns. There’s no denying he has blossomed into one of the top receivers in the NFL.
Melvin Gordon, RB, (Underrated)
Despite winning the Doak Walker award in college (given to the best running back in the nation), being selected with a first round pick in 2016, and finishing with just under 1,500 combined yards from scrimmage in 2018, we still don’t fully accept Melvin Gordon as one of the best running backs in the NFL.
Yet Gordon has had 12 combined touchdowns in each of the past two years, and has been a true dual-threat running back, catching 41 passes for 419 yards in 2016 and 58 catches for 476 yards in 2017. He was much more deserving of a Pro Bowl selection in 2017 over LeSean McCoy, who was selected in place of him.
Jordan Howard, RB, (Underrated)
Since entering the league in 2016, Jordan Howard has finished among the top six running backs in the NFL in rushing in each of his first two seasons, averaged 4.6 yards per carry in those seasons, caught at least 20 passes, and scored at least seven total touchdowns in both seasons.
Yet, the majority of NFL fans often fail to mention him in the conversation of the top running backs in the NFL, largely because his Chicago Bears haven’t been very successful on offense. With head coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, who both favor running the football, Howard could be in for a huge season in 2018.
Geno Atkins, DT, (Underrated)
He doesn’t get the national notoriety because he doesn’t play for a “premier market” team, he doesn’t put up gaudy sack totals, and he hasn’t had a prolonged holdout for a new contract, but defensive tackle Geno Atkins is one of the very best at his position in the NFL.
Prior to the start of the 2018 season, NFL.com ranked Atkins as the 4th-best defensive tackle in the NFL, only behind Aaron Donald, Gerald McCoy, and Fletcher Cox. Atkins has been named an All-Pro three different times in his career, and yet most NFL fans don’t fully give him credit for good he actually is.
Dion Lewis, RB, (Underrated)
If you ask any of the more knowledgeable fans of the New England Patriots, they would probably admit that losing running back Dion Lewis in free agency was one of their toughest losses in recent memory. Despite standing only 5’8 and 195lbs, Lewis was a tremendous dual-threat player for the Patriots, acting as a reliable outlet receiver for Tom Brady, and even one of the most effective running backs when rushing between the tackles.
There were many people who believed that he could actually be a more productive runner than Derrick Henry when Lewis signed with the Tennessee Titans, and the fact that Lewis had more carries than Henry over Tennessee’s first two games of the season might be proof of that.
Mike Evans, WR, (Underrated)
It’s not like we don’t already consider Mike Evans to be one of the better wide receivers in the NFL. However, because of the fact that there’s currently a boom of super-talented receivers in the league, and because of the fact that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had such a disappointing season in 2017 (after so much hype coming into that year), Evans tends to get pushed out of the conversation of the top five to seven receivers in the league, even though that’s firmly where he belongs.
This is still the same guy who had four-straight thousand-yard seasons entering the NFL, and 33 touchdown catches in that span. Although it feels like he’s been in the NFL forever, Evans is still just 25-years old.
Phillip Rivers, QB, (Underrated)
If the NFL ever offered an annual “Rodney Dangerfield ‘I don’t get no respect’ award,” quarterback Phillip Rivers should almost always be one of the nominees. Despite finishing with the second-most passing yards in the league in 2017, and despite throwing for more than 4,200 yards in eight of the past nine seasons, Rivers often gets neglected in the conversation of top five quarterbacks in the NFL.
Rivers has thrown for 28 or more touchdown passes in each of the last five seasons, which is something even Tom Brady hasn’t accomplished. Yet, Rivers has never been named to the NFL’s All-Pro team a single time.
AJ Bouye, CB, (Underrated)
The loquacious and brash Jalen Ramsey gets all the spotlight when it comes to cornerbacks on the Jacksonville Jaguars, and while he does back up every bit of it with his stellar play on the field, there’s a very good chance that fellow cornerback AJ Bouye is just as good as Ramsey.
After riding a career year in 2016, when he very quietly emerged as one of the best young corners in the league with the Houston Texans in 2016, Bouye signed with the Jaguars prior to the 2017 season and helped transform Jacksonville’s defense into one of the most fearsome groups the NFL has today.
Jarvis Landry, WR, (Overrated)
Nobody can deny the fact that Jarvis Landry has been one of the most productive players in the NFL over the last four years, at least when it comes to the number of passes he’s caught. But there’s a chance that Landry is one of those “good stats, bad team” type of players. Although, as far as good stats, how do you reconcile the fact that Landry averages 10.3 yards per reception?
How many people realize that 88 different receivers averaged more than 10.3 yards per reception last year, and 107 different players had a higher yards per catch than Landry’s 8.8 in 2017? Yet, the Cleveland Browns still thought those types of numbers merited giving Landry a five-year deal worth $75.5 million. Go figure.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, (Overrated)
There’s a good chance that we’re all simply biased towards Jimmy Garoppolo because he’s an absolutely unfairly good-looking guy; even guys would admit that. But as far as what he’s done on the field? Don’t let his 5-0 record toward the end of the 2017 season distract you from the fact that he never had more than two touchdown passes in any of those games, and threw an interception in four of those five games.
At the start of the 2018 season, Garoppolo threw three interceptions in San Francisco’s opener against Minnesota, and had a QB rating of less than 41 in his first two starts in 2018. Let’s not go declaring him as the second coming of Joe Montana just yet. With Jimmy G out for the season, NFL fans and the 49ers organization will have to wait and see if the young stud is worth the handsome 5-year $137.5 million deal he signed this past off-season.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, (Overrated)
If anyone ever tries to tell you that Alshon Jeffery is still one of the best receivers in the NFL, you should rudely remind them that the last time Jeffery had more than 821 yards receiving was back in 2014. Over the last three seasons, Jeffery has had less than 60 catches and under 825 yards receiving; 42 players had more receptions than that, and 32 players had more receiving yards than that last year.
The only thing Jeffery should be known for is constantly being injured, having missed at least four games twice in the past three years, and starting out the 2018 season again recovering from an injury. As you’ve heard one million times, the best ability is availability. More often than not, Jeffery isn’t available.
Dak Prescott, QB, (Overrated)
Dak Prescott might be the pound-for-pound most overrated player in the NFL today. Yes, Prescott had a very good rookie season in 2016, but you can make the argument that a lot of quarterbacks would look really good behind one of the best offensive lines in recent memory, and a running game spearheaded by a running back who ran for more than 1,600 yards and had 15 rushing touchdowns.
The following year, when he didn’t have Ezekiel Elliott to rely upon, Prescott threw only 22 touchdown passes (outside the top 10 in the NFL) along with 13 interceptions (tied for the 7th-most in the NFL). The Cowboys’ offense has stagnated under Prescott, regardless of how you feel about the coaching he receives.
Josh Gordon, WR, (Overrated)
Josh Gordon is going to go down as one of those players we look back upon as having all the physical gifts you could possibly ask for, but too many personal issues to ever make good upon all his talents. Yet, NFL fans continue to look at Gordon as some type of superstar player who’s on the cusp of exploding, even though Gordon has played in only six games since 2014, and was out of the league for two full seasons working on his off-the-field issues.
At some point, we have to realize that he’s running out of chances, and there are circumstances bigger than football that are affecting his livelihood. As most NFL fans know, the best ability is availability.
Joe Flacco, QB,(Overrated)
If you really want to blow the mind of a fan of the Baltimore Ravens, ask them how Joe Flacco isn’t anything more than a glorified version of Trent Dilfer: a below-average quarterback who caught the proverbial “lightning in a bottle” and helped his team win a Super Bowl, only to have the clock strike 12 and turn right back into a pumpkin afterwards?
Since winning the Super Bowl after the 2012 season, Flacco has not only guided the Ravens to one playoff appearance, but been a below-average quarterback in the meantime. His enormous contract is also a reason the Ravens have never really been able to build themselves into a team that can win a postseason game.
Eli Manning, QB, (Overrated)
A lifetime achievement award-winner for “barely average quarterback who rode memorable defenses to Super Bowl championships,” Eli Manning has never been considered a top five-to-seven quarterback in the NFL at any point in his career, but will likely be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday by virtue of the fact that he was the quarterback of two Super Bowl-winning teams.
Never mind the fact that both of those New York Giants teams that defeated the New England Patriots did so, in very large part, through stifling defense that limited quarterback Tom Brady. Instead, people will remember how Manning “led” New York to those Super Bowl wins. Here’s a stat to chew on… Until Week 5 of the 2018 season, the Giants had not scored 30 points in a game since 2015. That is not a typo.
Josh Norman, CB, (Overrated)
In truth, Josh Norman is one those guys who’s trading off having one stellar season and a massive contract right on the heels of said season. Norman was absolutely one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in 2015, when he was named to the All-Pro team. But after Carolina decided not to re-sign him to a lucrative deal, the Washington Redskins did so, making him one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL.
But since coming to Washington, Norman has had a grand total of three interceptions, which includes zero interceptions in 2017. He’s also not nearly the same “shut down”-type cornerback everyone made him out to be when he signed there.