NFL roster cuts: AFC | NFC

NFL Nation: 2011 Underrated players AFC

Underrated players: AFC South

June, 10, 2011
NFC Underrated Players: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A team-by-team look at the most underrated players in the division.

Houston Texans

[+] EnlargeHouston's Chris Myers
Brett Davis/US PRESSWIREChris Myers might not be the center of attention, but he's the center of the Texans -- and a good one.
Chris Myers, center: A team with a good deal of flashy names and stars needs quality players in support roles to be effective. The Texans don’t have enough of them, but Myers is certainly one. I’ve heard from scouts he’s underrated and good at what the Texans ask their line to do. He worked as the man in the middle for the line that helped a guy who wasn’t drafted, Arian Foster, to the NFL rushing title in 2010. Most fans couldn’t name a single Texans linemen, but Myers deserves more recognition. He'll be hard-pressed to get it, though, while Jeff Saturday is still playing center for the rival Colts.

Indianapolis Colts

Jerraud Powers, cornerback: His second season was cut short by a broken arm, buy since entering the league in 2009 Powers has proven to be a very effective player. Colts corners are asked to keep plays in front of them in a relatively simple system in which they usually get safety help over the top. Still, doing that well and tackling consistently are necessities at the spot. He provides that, along with the sort of confidence and poise a team’s best defensive backs typically have. I expect him to continue to get better, to grow into a primary defensive leader and have a long career.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Terrance Knighton, defensive tackle: He’s enormous but has nimble feet and moves very well for such a large man. While his weight is a concern -- and he won’t last as long as the team wants if he doesn’t keep it under control -- Knighton’s a real headache for interior offensive linemen charged with stopping him. Linebackers coming up behind him and linemen beside him are likely to find room to operate and single-blocking because opponents must worry about keeping Knighton at bay. Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh was a phenomenal rookie and his new Detroit teammate Nick Fairley will get a lot of attention. But conversations about the best young interior defensive linemen should include Knighton.

Tennessee Titans

Michael Roos, left tackle: He played just one season of high school football, and wasn’t part of the offensive line until his sophomore year at Eastern Washington. An early low profile has kept him from anything close to the notoriety of players like Joe Thomas and Jake Long, but I’ve had scouts tell me he’s as good or better than those two. While coaching the Titans offensive line, Hall of Fame lineman Mike Munchak hand-picked Roos as the successor to Brad Hopkins. He was a key piece of the line that sprung Chris Johnson for 2,000 yards in 2009 and he’s a building block for a team that’s starting over now and will revolve around Johnson and, eventually, 2010 first-round pick QB Jake Locker.

Underrated players: AFC East

June, 10, 2011
NFC Underrated Players: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A team-by-team look at the most underrated players in the division.

Buffalo Bills

Roscoe Parrish, receiver/punt returner: For five years,Parrish practically begged to be thrown the ball. He made the most of his touches, becoming one of the most dangerous punt returners in the NFL and setting franchise records.

[+] EnlargeBuffalo's Roscoe Parrish
Luc Leclerc/US PRESSWIREBills receiver Roscoe Parrish caught 33 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns last season.
But his listed position was wide receiver, and in the Bills' passing game under head coaches Mike Mularkey and Dick Jauron, the undersized Parrish always seemed to be an afterthought.

That changed last year under new coach Chan Gailey. He played just eight games because of a broken wrist, but Parrish caught 33 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns. The yardage was the most of his career. His TDs tied a career-high. Two more receptions would have matched a career-high.

Miami Dolphins

Kendall Langford, defensive end: On a defense with sack master Cameron Wake, the NFL's highest-paid linebacker in Karlos Dansby, franchise-tagged nose tackle Paul Soliai and Pro Bowl defensive end Randy Starks, a guy like Langford can get overlooked.

Langford, a 2008 third-round pick out of Hampton, has been a starter since his rookie season. Last year, after he gained national fame for being the sap who lost a $50,000 earring on the Dolphins' practice field, Langford produced a quality season for the one of the NFL's better defenses. He notched 47 tackles, three sacks, six tackles for losses, two forced fumbles and four passes defensed.

Langford is adept at controlling blockers and was a major reason why the Dolphins ranked seventh in run defense (100.1 yards per game) and third in average allowed per carry (3.6 yards).

New England Patriots

Gary Guyton, linebacker: Guyton started only eight games at linebacker last season, and half of those were necessitated by Brandon Spikes' four-game suspension. Even so, Guyton made a mark on the Patriots' defense. The undrafted third-year pro from Georgia Tech recorded 63 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), six passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery (returned for another touchdown).

"Gary is someone that fits in our system very well no matter what that role is," Patriots linebackers coach Matt Patricia said during the playoffs. "He's a very [versatile] player for us. He does an excellent job in whatever avenue we ask him to prepare and play. I think he is a guy who is active and plays for us every Sunday, and whatever that role is he's going to go out and do it to the best of his ability. It’s something that we have a lot of confidence in."

New York Jets

Brandon Moore, right guard: The Jets' offensive line has had remarkable star power over the past few seasons. Nick Mangold is an All-Pro center. Left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson went to the Pro Bowl last season. Right tackle Damien Woody has been to the Pro Bowl and owns Super Bowl rings. Alan Faneca, the Jets' left guard in 2008 and 2009, went to nine straight Pro Bowls.

Then there was Moore, an undrafted and often-overlooked workhorse. "Meat," as he's affectionately known by his teammates, has started 105 straight regular-season games. He was a third alternate for the Pro Bowl last year but still hasn't made it to one. In the Jets' locker room, he's respected enough to be a union representative.

"It's a shame that Brandon doesn't get as much of a nod as he deserves," Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said last season. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a better guard than him in all of football."

Underrated players: AFC North

June, 10, 2011
NFC Underrated Players: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A team-by-team look at the most underrated players in the division.

Cincinnati Bengals

[+] EnlargeAndrew Whitworth
AP Photo/Mike McCarnAndrew Whitworth has become a team leader in Cincinnati.
Andrew Whitworth, left tackle: Whitworth has quietly developed into one of the NFL's better left tackles, but you wouldn't know it because of the team he plays for. Whitworth rarely gives up sacks and has held up well against elite pass-rushers such as James Harrison in Pittsburgh and Terrell Suggs in Baltimore. Opponents speak highly of Whitworth, but he's never been to a Pro Bowl and rarely gets much attention outside Cincinnati. Whitworth also has taken over the important role of the Bengals' locker room leader after the departure of Willie Anderson.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Brett Keisel, defensive end: When the beard is more popular than the player, you're definitely underrated. Last season, Keisel received more publicity than ever in his 10-year career for his playoff beard. The beard has its own stories, T-shirts and Facebook page, while Keisel the player remained under the radar. Because of Pittsburgh's 3-4 scheme, defensive ends for the Steelers will never put up gaudy stats or get the recognition they deserve. But Keisel, a former seventh-round pick, has been at the forefront of Pittsburgh's stout run defense for a long time. Keisel earned his first Pro Bowl nod as an injury replacement last season, although he missed the game because of the Super Bowl.

Cleveland Browns

Ben Watson, tight end: The AFC North reception leader for tight ends last season wasn't Heath Miller, Todd Heap or 2010 first-round pick Jermaine Gresham. It was Watson, who caught 68 passes for 763 yards and provided the only consistent receiving threat for the Browns this past season. Watson is expected to be quarterback Colt McCoy's safety valve again in 2011. Cleveland's front office gets plenty of praise for last year's draft class. But the team also quietly hit on several free agents and trades. Watson was among a group of new contributors to Cleveland that included tailback Peyton Hillis and linebackers Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong.

Baltimore Ravens

Jarret Johnson, linebacker: For years, Johnson has been the unsung player on a defense filled with big names like Suggs, linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed. Johnson has been a full-time starter for Baltimore the past four years and is extremely durable. He's only missed one game in eight seasons. Johnson also has the versatility to do whatever the coaching staff needs in a given week. Johnson recorded 50 tackles or more in each of the past four seasons.

Underrated players: AFC West

June, 10, 2011
NFC Underrated Players: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A team-by-team look at the most underrated players in the division.

Denver Broncos

D.J. Williams, linebacker: Williams was a first-round pick in 2004, and the Broncos paid handsomely to keep him a couple of years ago. He is appreciated in Denver, but this athletic, smart linebacker doesn’t get much national notice. He has never been to a Pro Bowl, yet Williams is a tackle machine. He has had at least 119 tackles in three of the past four seasons. He is versatile and has played virtually every linebacker position possible.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Carr
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelCornerback Brandon Carr has 192 tackles and four interceptions after three seasons in Kansas City.
Kansas City Chiefs

Brandon Carr, cornerback: I chose Carr over stout guard Ryan Lilja and play-making linebacker Derrick Johnson. Carr is younger than Lilja and Johnson, and he may eventually get the recognition he deserves. One of the reasons Carr is overshadowed is that he plays opposite fellow four-year cornerback Brandon Flowers. Flowers was a second-round pick in 2008, and Carr was taken three rounds later. The terrific Flowers has gotten most of the accolades, but Carr is standout as well. He is approaching free agency soon, and he’ll hit the cornerback jackpot by getting paid by either the Chiefs or some other lucky club.

Oakland Raiders

Marcel Reece, fullback: The fullback is becoming extinct in the NFL. Many teams just don’t have a use for this position. The fullback, however, thrives in Oakland, a franchise with a rich tradition of fullback play. The Raiders have scored again with Reece. A college receiver, Reece gives Oakland’s offense a delicious variation. He is a key blocker in one of the NFL’s best running attacks, and he is a receiving weapon in short-yardage situations. Plus, the intelligent Reece has become a leader of the unit. The fullback position is alive and well in Oakland.

San Diego Chargers

Antonio Garay, defensive tackle: Garay had an incredible impact on the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL last season. The Chargers’ defense was long ignited by the ferocious nose tackle play of the massive Jamal Williams. When Williams got hurt in the first game of the 2009 season, ending his career in San Diego, the Chargers were worried that their defensive identity was gone. But Garay, a 31-year-old journeyman, took over in 2010. He instantly became an anchor on the defense and dominated the line of scrimmage. The dominance of the nose tackle has continued in San Diego with Garay.