NFL's Most Underrated: AFC Edition

By Phil Gentile - Posted on 11 January 2011

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AFC East

New England Patriots: Devin McCourty, Cornerback

Before the 2010 season the major knock on the Pats was their inexperienced defense, especially in the secondary. McCourty, a rookie out of Rutgers, has come in and played beyond expectations. He also lead the team with seven interceptions.

New York Jets: Brad Smith, Wide Receiver

A quarterback in college, Smith is one of the most versatile players in the league. Smith mainly plays receiver but this season he's been a difference maker on special teams. He also lines up as QB in wildcat formations. If I were building a team Brad Smith would be a guy I would covet. He does alot of things really well.

Miami Dolphins: Cameron Wake, Linebacker

Wake went undrafted out of college and spent two years in the CFL before the Fins picked him up last season. All he's done since then is record 15 sacks in 24 career games in Miami.

Buffalo Bills: Kyle Williams, Defensive Tackle

Originally planning on going with punter Brian Moorman, I chose Williams after seeing his dominant performance Week 12 against the Steelers. The Bills lost but not because of Kyle Williams, who seemed unblockable and caused problems for Big Ben all day, sacking him twice. His 59 tackles this season are the most by any defensive lineman.

Dolphins linebacker Cameron Wake celebrating a sack

 AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: Marshal Yanda, Tackle/Guard

If you live outside of Baltimore you might not know him. Unless your Peter King of course. King came to Baltimore over the summer and did a Q&A session with some fans (including myself). Somehow I found a video of the chat and a cool story about Yanda's toughness.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Lawrence Timmons, Linebacker

The Steelers have always been great at developing big play linebackers and Lawrence Timmons seems to be the next one in line. Through 25 career starts Timmons has 232 tackles and 15 sacks. At 24 years old he should only get better for the Steel Curtain.

Cincinnati Bengals: Andrew Whitworth, Tackle

Whitworth has been one of the few bright spots on an inconsistent Bengals roster. At 6"7 335 lbs. Whitworth has been one of main reasons running back Cedric Benson as emerged as an effective running back again.

Cleveland Browns: Ahtyba Rubin, Nose Tackle

Our boy Ryan from Football Sickness helped us out with this selection. Rubin has played with a high motor all season and came out of nowhere to be a defensive force for the Browns. Rubin has 53 tackles and two sacks on the season. At 24 he's one of the several defensive linemen on this list that represent the future of the NFL.

Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons in action

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts: Kelvin Hayden, Cornerback

Players have come and gone (including Bob Sanders about 300 times) but Hayden has been a consistent contributor in the Colts secondary. Some safeties are known for their cover skills. Some are known for their tackling. Hayden is one of the few who is good at both. Eventually he'll be great at both.

Tennessee Titans: Jared Cook, Tight End

This one is a little off the radar but if your looking for a future stud (especially for fantasy football) look no further than Cook. I got to watch Jared alot since he went to my Alma mater South Carolina and the guy is a freak. He has JerMichael Finley potential if he ever gets a chance to start in this league.

Houston Texans: Amobi Okoye, Defensive Tackle

A young defensive force who might not be dominating the stat sheets just yet but since he was 19 years old when he got drafted he has been given time to develop. In his fourth year Okoye has opposing teams taking notice. Remember the name before he blows up in 2011.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Marcedes Lewis, Tight End

Finally breaking out in his 5th season, Lewis is without a doubt a top 10 tight end in the league yet hardly gets mentioned with the elite. His eight touchdowns this season is 2nd to only Antonio Gates. Also, at 26 years old he will be the future of the TE class once guys like Tony Gonzalez retire.

Jaguars found a great tight end in UCLA alum Marcedes Lewis

 AFC West

Denver Broncos: Kyle Orton, Quarterback

Of all the elite quarterbacks in the league Orton is the one who doesn't get the credit he deserves. After the Broncos went out and spent a 1st round pick on Jesus' brother Tim Tebow, Orton has put together a great season, throwing 20 touchdowns with 3,370 passing yards. Even though Tebow appears to be the future in Denver, Orton will land somewhere and produce.

San Diego Chargers: Antoine Cason, Cornerback

The Chargers decided to part ways with troubled cornerback Antonio Cromartie partly because of the development of Cason. He is the #1 cornerback on the top ranked defense in the league. In a division with young receivers like the Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe and the Broncos' Brandon Lloyd the Chargers better hope he sticks around.

Kansas City Chiefs: Brandon Flowers, Cornerback

You NEVER hear his name but he's one of the best young corners in the game today. The 2nd round pick out of Virginia Tech has gotten better and better every year and should elevate to elite status in 2011.

Oakland Raiders: Tyvon Branch, Safety

One of the few Draft Day decisions that has paid off for the Raiders. Branch has quickly developed into one of the best young safeties in the league. If he didn't play in Oakland he would be much more well known. I see alot of Pro Bowls in his future.

Tyvon Branch is one of the best young safeties in the NFL

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