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#pounditTuesday, October 26, 2021

5 under-the-radar NFL players performing at a Pro Bowl level

Robby Anderson

The 2020 regular season is now beyond the midway point and as we’ve gone over in recent weeks, there have been plenty of surprises as well as plenty of letdowns.

But the surprises tend to run more deep and extend beyond just unsuspecting players performing at a high level. There are also several household names who have exceeded expectations and are playing at a Pro Bowl level.

Here is a look at five of those players.

5. Garett Bolles, OT, Denver Broncos

Over the first three seasons of his career, Garett Bolles looked like a potential draft bust in the making. During that span, he was among the most penalized offensive lineman in the game. He even drew the public ire of his general manager, John Elway. Outside of the penalties, Bolles was average at best, and at his worst, struggled in pass protection. Here in 2020 however, the former first-round pick has completely — and we mean completely — turned a corner. Not only has Bolles seen a dramatic decrease in the number of penalties called against him, he leads all tackles with a 90.2 Pro Football Focus grade and is top four in both pass protection and run blocking grades (1st). That’s Pro Bowl stuff any way you slice it, and the reason why he got a big contract extension from Denver.

4. Brandon Graham, DE, Philadelphia Eagles

Brandon Graham feels like a player who will forever be underrated, and it’s no different here in 2020. Through eight games this season, the relentless smack-talking Graham has recorded 7.0 sacks, which is just 2.5 shy of his career high. His 80.5 Pro Football Focus grade is also tops among Eagles defenders, second overall on the team, and within the top 15 (11) league-wide at his position. Graham is consistent and can be relied upon for a certain level of play each week and that speaks volumes about his overall value to the team away from statistics, numbers and analytics. What’s even more remarkable is that he’s played well for 11 consecutive seasons and never once been named to the Pro Bowl. That could very well change this year.

3. Leonard Williams, DL, New York Giants

When the Giants acquired Leonard Williams from the New York Jets in 2019, general manager Dave Gettleman faced overwhelming criticism. However, it may be Gettleman who gets the last laugh after all. Williams is second on the Giants (250-plus snaps) with a 79.9 Pro Football Focus grade and leads the defense with 6.0 sacks. Always stout against the run, Williams has drastically improved his pass rush, and he’s arguably the best all-around player in East Rutherford. His play has helped elevate a defense that has unexpectedly kept the Giants in all but one game this season.

2. Robby Anderson, WR, Carolina Panthers

Robby Anderson spent an entire career with the New York Jets hovering around 750-800 yards per season with the sole exception of 2017 when he broke out, finishing the year with 941 yards and seven touchdowns. It was a glimpse of what Anderson could achieve, but a plateau he never reached again — until now. Anderson signed with the Carolina Panthers this offseason, and that appears to have been the right move for his career. Through 12 games this season, Anderson has hauled in 75 receptions for 912 yards and two touchdowsn. His 74.7% catch rate also represents a career high by nearly 20%. If Anderson gets those TD numbers up, there’s no denying that’s Pro Bowl-level play.

1. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Miami Dolphins

Entering his fifth NFL season, Emmanuel Ogbah had never recorded more than 5.5 sacks, which he did twice in his career — first as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns and then again in 2019 as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Through 11 games in 2020, Ogbah leads the Dolphins with 8.0 sacks and 14 QB hits. But his impact is not exclusive to rushing the passer. Ogbah also has three forced fumbles and is third on the team with five passes defensed. Collectively, those numbers also make him one of the most successful all-around defensive ends in football and should warrant serious Pro Bowl consideration.

Photo: Jeffrey Beall/Wikimedia via CC-BY 4.0


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