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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

15 most underrated NFL players in 2017

Alex Smith Chiefs

The 2017-2018 NFL season is nearing its end with only the Super Bowl left to play. Accordingly, the stamp has been put on the performances for most players and now the debate is on: who was the best, who was the worst, who was over-looked, and who ended up being a letdown?

Here’s a look at 15 of the NFL’s most underrated players in 2017:

15. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

It’s hard to believe Michael Thomas, who has more receptions in his first two seasons than any wide receiver in history, could be considered underrated or overlooked, but it’s become apparent that he is. Thomas finished third among receivers in receptions (104), sixth in yards (1,245), third in first downs (70) and second in PFF grades (93.0), but failed to earn an All-Pro nod and was left off the PFWA All-NFL Team. He was voted into his first Pro Bowl, but he deserves much more recognition.

14. Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts

Jack Doyle made his presence known in 2016, but he still wasn’t really on anyone’s radar outside of Indianapolis entering this season. Despite the lack of attention, Doyle continued a steady progression, finishing second among tight ends in receptions (80), sixth in receiving yards (690), seventh in first downs (34) and 10th in Pro Football Focus grade (77.5). Even with the impressive credentials, Doyle remains underrated and overlooked, failing to earn a Pro Bowl nod, a spot on the AP All-Pro Team or any honors courtesy of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

13. Blake Martinez, LB, Green Bay Packers

Blake Martinez is young, talented and appears to have a very high ceiling. However, outside of Green Bay and the NFC North, he’s not widely known. He’s certainly not a household name. He wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl, didn’t receive an All-Pro nod, PFF All-NFL nod or any honors courtesy of the PFWA. Why is that relevant? Because Martinez finished tied for the league lead with 144 tackles, tied for second with 96 solo tackles and for good measure, added nine passes defensed, one interception and one sack. Sooner rather than later, Martinez will be a more well-known name.

12. Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears

Jordan Howard made a name for himself as a successful rookie in 2016, earning a Pro Bowl nod and a place on the PFWA All-Rookie Team. And while Howard’s numbers dipped a bit in 2017, he still finished the year with 1,122 yards, which was sixth-most in the NFL among running backs, and nine touchdowns, which was tied for third-most in the league. But even as one of only nine backs with more than 1,000 yards, Howard was overlooked and blanked when it came to honors and awards. Even with a PFF grade of 73.6, Howard was passed over for the Pro Bowl, All-Pro Team and all other PFF and PFWA honors.

11. Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars

A third-round pick in 2016, Yannick Ngakoue may be one of the most talented up-and-comers in the NFL that most have not heard of. After being named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team last season, Ngakoue improved his game and his numbers this season, but had less to show for it in terms of awards. Despite 30 tackles (24 solo), 12 sacks and a league-leading six forced fumbles, Ngakoue was snubbed from the Pro Bowl, left off the All-Pro Team, passed over for the PFWA All-NFL Team and didn’t earn a spot on the PFF All-Pro Team (84.7 grade).

10. Damon Harrison, DT, New York Giants

Damon Harrison is arguably the league’s best run defender, having led the NFL in run stop percentage for the fifth consecutive season. He also finished with a league-leading 40 run stops, which marked the third straight year in which he topped that number — three times as many as the rest of the NFL combined over the last decade. His 90.4 PFF grade was also sixth-highest among interior defenders this season. But all of that success failed to yield a spot in the Pro Bowl, on the All-Pro Team or on the PFWA All-NFL Team. It didn’t even warrant a spot on the PFF All-Pro Team.

9. Robbie Gould, K, San Francisco 49ers

A kicker listed as one of the NFL’s most underrated? That thought alone makes Robbie Gould worthy, but the fact that he was arguably the league’s most automatic kicker and came away with nothing to show for it warrants his placement here. He converted on 95% of his field goal attempts (39 of 41) and 93% of his point after attempts, but was still snubbed for the Pro Bowl, left off the All-Pro rosters, passed over for the PFF All-NFL First Team and ignored when the PFWA handed out their honors.

8. Antoine Bethea, S, Arizona Cardinals

Antoine Bethea is a well known veteran around the league, having appeared in three Pro Bowls during his 12-year career. However, 2017 was arguably his best season as a pro, and few seemed to notice. Bethea finished the year with 57 tackles (47 solo), 14 passes defensed, one sack, one forced fumble and five interceptions, which was tied for fifth-most in the league. He also finished with an impressive 86.7 PFF grade. He still did not receive a Pro Bowl nod, All-Pro nod or any other PFF or PFWA awards.

See Nos. 7-1 on Page 2

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