The NFL’s Next Wave

Players like Blake Bortles and DeVonta Freeman surprised in a season when Andrew Luck and Ameer Abdullah were getting all the hype. What other players are quietly finding themselves in conversations with the elite?

The last NFL season was full of surprises; at the top of that list was DeVonta Freeman, going nuts and becoming arguably the best dual-threat running back in the league. But until his breakout, his name was hardly ever mentioned. For Blake Bortles, the only attention he got was negative, but still he ended up as a top 5 QB. This happens every year: some players garner all the attention, but barely make it onto the field, while players whose names you don’t even know become Pro Bowlers. Here are some of the league’s best players who haven’t received the attention they deserve.


Dont’a Hightower: This New England linebacker is an underrated and underappreciated player. He doesn’t put up ungodly numbers like J.J. Watt or Luke Kuechly, but that’s because he plays a position where he’s asked to take on the role of both. Hightower has been the anchor of that defense since being drafted, and without him that young defense falls apart.


Ryan Tannehill: The quarterback of the Miami Dolphins is not an elite quarterback–yet. He has quietly been putting together a few very good seasons in a row, including his 2015 campaign, which was comprised of 4,200 yards and 24 touchdowns. This efficiency, along with his ability to scramble, makes Tannehill one of the toughest players to game plan against. If you’re looking for a player that has break-out potential, Ryan Tannehill would be a prime target. The Dolphins’ wide receiver core is beginning to come together, and could turn Tannehill into a 4,500 yard, 30 touchdown season kind of guy.

navorro bowman

Na’Varro Bowman: Everyone knows that Bowman is a good football player. But, since entering the league, he is arguably the most consistent linebacker in the NFL. Apart from his rookie season, Bowman has made over 140 combined tackles each year in which he was active (didn’t play in 2014 due to injury). To put that into perspective, during Ray Lewis’ 17-year NFL career, he had over 140 combined tackles for six of those years. Bowman has already achieved the same in four of five seasons.

For whatever reason, some players just don’t gain attention no matter how well they play. Whether it’s a matter of personality, or because of the team they play for, some guys are just ignored. Switch on the TV, watch these three teams play, and see for yourself just how special these players really are.

Michael Hersey