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#pounditThursday, February 25, 2021

5 NFL players flying under-the-radar

Michael Gallup

The 2020 NFL regular season has reached the midway point and contenders are beginning to separate themselves from pretenders. And on a more individual basis, stars are beginning to separate themselves from the under-performers.

But there is somewhat of a middle ground.

There are some players who are performing well but still somehow avoiding the limelight. Here’s a quick look at five such players.

5. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

A second-round pick of the Colts in April, Jonathan Taylor was somewhat of an afterthought entering the season. He was originally slated to serve as the backup to Marlon Mack, the team’s leading rusher in 2019, but a ruptured Achilles ended Mack’s season and changed the plans in Indianapolis. Taylor was thrust into the starting role and he’s done nothing but quietly excel. Through eight weeks, Taylor leads the Colts with 389 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and is on pace to finish just shy of the 900-yard mark. However, should Taylor’s workload increase over the second half of the season, we may see him finish in the top 15 (or even top 10) in rushing league-wide.

4. Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys’ offense is loaded with talent, especially at the wide receiver position, where Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb take up residence. But it’s actually Michael Gallup, their WR3, who leads Dallas in yards per reception (16.6) by a wide margin. He has six plays of 20-plus yards so far this season, which is even more impressive when you consider he has just 26 receptions — 20 of which have gone for a first down. Gallup is on pace to finish the year with 864 yards, two touchdowns and 40 first downs. Not bad for a guy who is clearly being overshadowed, overlooked, and should demand a trade.

3. Scotty Miller, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As a rookie sixth-round pick in 2019, Scotty Miller didn’t really factor in for the Buccaneers last year. He hauled in 13 receptions on 26 targets for 200 yards and scored one touchdown, which came in a late-season romp of the Detroit Lions. However, with Tom Brady now under center in Tampa Bay, Miller’s production is off the charts. Through eight weeks, “Scooter” is tied for third on the team with 25 receptions and leads the way with 400 yards and a per-catch average of 16.0. With so many weapons on Brady’s disposal, it speaks volumes about Miller that he’s established himself as the most productive of the bunch. And even with Antonio Brown soon arriving on the scene, ole Scooter isn’t likely to fall off the map any time soon.

2. Jamel Dean, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers have not just one, but two players performing at an unexpectedly high level who remain under-the-radar for the time being. That’s likely to be short-lived however, as both the aforementioned Scotty Miller and Jamel Dean are playing exceptionally well. A third-round pick in 2019, Dean took a while to get his feet under him, but ultimately finished the season strong. In 2020, he’s come out on fire and is fifth among all cornerbacks with a Pro Football Focus grade of 81.2. Dean could be headed toward both a Pro Bowl and All-Pro nod.

1. Brian Burns, EDGE, Carolina Panthers

As a first-round rookie in 2019, Brian Burns established himself as a quality pass rusher, picking up 7.5 sacks on the season. However, he struggled against the run and was far from a solid tackler, which led some to believe that he might be a one-dimensional player. Burns clearly took that to heart and returned in 2020 improved across the board. Through eight games, Burns has already recorded 31 tackles and three stuffs, which are both career highs. And while he’s registered just three sacks to date, his Pro Football Focus grades show a vastly improved all-around player. Currently, he has an 84.4 overall grade, while his tackling grade is 71.3, up from 42.1 as a rookie. His run defense grade has almost improved from 55.2 to 63.4.

Photo: All Pro Reels/Flickr via cc by-sa 2.0

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