San Francisco 49ers defensive end Justin Smith was voted the most underrated player in the NFL by an SI players poll. If you’re reading this and wondering who Justin Smith is, then I suppose you proved their point.
Smith is in his 12th season after being a first-round draft pick (4th overall) by the Bengals in 2001. He played seven seasons in Cincinnati and is in his fifth season with the Niners. He’s only missed one game his entire career, recorded at least 54 tackles in every season, and he has 73 career sacks. Perhaps it’s his failure to record more than nine sacks in a season that kept him from getting major recognition, but true observers of the game know how good he is.
Here are the rest of the results based on the 198 NFL players who responded to SI’s players poll:
- - Justin Smith, 49ers DE 6%
- Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars RB 5%
- Fred Jackson, Bills RB 5%
- Andre Johnson, Texans WR 4%
- Matt Forte, Bears RB 4%
SI says 117 players received at least one vote in the poll, while only Smith, Jones-Drew and Jackson were named 10 or more times. SI says 10 of the 12 votes for Smith came from offensive players (nine of whom were linemen), which shows a clear respect they have for his ability. Only two quarterbacks—the Giants’ Eli Manning (four votes) and the Bears’ Jay Cutler (two)—were named more than once.
I think that list is pretty solid, though after winning last season’s rushing title, I think most people know who Maurice Jones-Drew is. Unless players were trying to say that he is that good, then it’s hard to call MJD underrated these days.