NFL News & Analysis

Most underrated player on all 32 NFL teams: Paulson Adebo, Trey Smith and more

2TC96YM New Orleans Saints cornerback Paulson Adebo (29) runs onto the field as he is introduced before an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

• Paulson Adebo continues to trend upward: His 78.7 PFF overall grade in 2023 ranked 15th among cornerbacks, and he orchestrated a three-game stretch between Weeks 8 and 10 as the NFL’s highest-graded cornerback in coverage (94.6).

• Former sixth-rounder Trey Smith is excelling with the Chiefs: He is one of just three players to have played more than 4,000 snaps over the past three seasons, and his 76.5 overall grade over that span ranks 11th among guards.

• Check out PFF's fantasy football rankings: PFF’s fantasy football rankings include ranks from our experts, projections and our strength of schedule metric.

Estimated Reading Time: 12 minutes


Following free agency and the 2024 NFL Draft, the 32 teams’ rosters are starting to get finalized as training camp nears. With that in mind, here is a look at 32 players who we believe should get more recognition for their efforts.


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Arizona Cardinals: C Hjalte Froholdt

The Danish center bounced around the league as a backup for a couple of years before signing with the Cardinals last offseason and winning the starting position in the middle of the offensive line. While many might have expected the position to be a liability for Arizona, Froholdt played well and was PFF’s 19th-highest-graded guard during the 2023 season. He earned the second-highest grade among all centers during the last third of the regular season.


Atlanta Falcons: C Drew Dalman

With all other Atlanta offensive linemen being top-40 picks in their drafts — including three first-rounders — the former fourth-round pick Dalman could have stood out in a negative way, but that was not the case. The Stanford product built on a promising 2022 campaign and ended up as the third-highest-graded center in the NFL in 2023 (82.3).

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Baltimore Ravens: CB Brandon Stephens

Stephens, who mostly played safety during his rookie season in 2021, has transitioned into a perimeter cornerback. After playing situationally in his first two seasons, he was thrust into action due to injuries in 2023 and ended up playing more snaps than any other Baltimore defender last season. His 67.4 PFF grade in 2023 was the highest among all Ravens outside cornerbacks.


Buffalo Bills: CB Christian Benford

After playing just 363 snaps in his rookie season, Benford won one of the starting cornerback positions in 2023 and was on the field for 837 snaps despite injuries. He was the entire NFL’s highest-graded cornerback over the last two weeks (92.0). However, he played just 13 snaps in the postseason, hurting Buffalo’s chances of advancing.


Carolina Panthers: T Taylor Moton

Admittedly, there were not many bright spots on the 2023 Carolina Panthers. However, overlooking the entire roster makes Moton, who once again performed at a high level, quite underrated. In fact, from Week 10 on, Moton was the fifth-highest-graded offensive tackle in the NFL. He also earned the highest pass-blocking grade among all right tackles during that span.


Chicago Bears: G Teven Jenkins

Jenkins, who was moved inside from tackle following his rookie season, showed in 2023 that his solid performance at guard in 2022 was not a fluke season but a sign of things to come. While he missed time due to injury and needed to line up at both guard positions last season, Jenkins still finished the season as PFF’s 14th-highest-graded guard in 2023 (72.6).


Cincinnati Bengals: S Jordan Battle

Battle flashed potential early in 2023 and then broke into the starting lineup and won the starting safety position toward the second half of his rookie campaign. After being named a starter in Week 11, Battle was the ninth-highest-graded safety in the entire NFL during the remainder of the season (80.7).


Cleveland Browns: DI Maurice Hurst

Although his season was cut short due to an injury, Maurice Hurst was playing the best football of his career in his sixth NFL campaign in 2023. In fact, after the first eight weeks of the season, Hurst ranked seventh among interior defenders in PFF overall grade (87.9). Admittedly, he was used as a role player in Jim Schwartz’s defense, but he was very efficient in that reduced role.


Dallas Cowboys: EDGE Sam Williams

Williams continued to flash potential in his second NFL season as a situational pass rusher for the Cowboys. He generated pressure on 14.1% of pass plays during the regular season, which ranked 36th among edge defenders in the NFL. His PFF pass-rushing grade also ranked 41st at the position in 2023.

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Denver Broncos: G Quinn Meinerz

Meinerz, a former third-round pick, put together encouraging performances in his first two NFL seasons; however, 2023 was truly a breakout year for him. He played a career-high 1,038 snaps last season, which tied for the 27th most among guards in 2023. Even more impressive is that he ranked third at the position with an 85.2 PFF overall grade while his 88.7 run-blocking grade was good for second best among guards.


Detroit Lions: DI Alim McNeill

McNeill might have been one of the most improved players of the 2023 season. The former third-round pick went from earning a 69.8 PFF overall grade in his second season to an 86.9 mark in 2023, which ranked seventh among interior defenders. He was one of just six players at the position to earn 75.0-plus run-defense and pass-rush grades last season.


Green Bay Packers: WR Dontayvion Wicks

There are multiple candidates here, considering the Packers' young, ascending offense, but second-year receiver Dontayvion Wicks finished as Green Bay’s highest-graded receiver in 2023 (77.8). The then-rookie was playing at a high level toward the second half of the season, earning an 83.6 PFF overall grade from Week 11 onward, which ranked 10th among wide receivers. He caught 95.1% of his catchable targets in 2023, which ranked second among all wide receivers.


Houston Texans: DI Folorunso Fatukasi

It is not easy to find an underrated player on a team that is getting as much hype as the Texans. However, Fatukasi’s signing is flying under the radar. If he can get back to his old form that he showed with the Jets, he can be a valuable piece to this defense. While he did not live up to expectations in Jacksonville, during the 2019 and 2020 seasons Fatukasi earned a 90.4 run-defense grade, which ranked third among interior defenders — behind only Aaron Donald and Cameron Heyward.


Indianapolis Colts: EDGE Samson Ebukam

Ebukam lived up to expectations in his first season with the Colts in 2023. His 84.4 PFF overall grade ranked 14th among edge defenders, and it was also Ebukam’s highest grade in his career. He has mainly excelled as a situational pass rusher up until now, but he could remain in a featured role as first-round rookie Laiatu Latu gets up to speed.


Jacksonville Jaguars: LB Devin Lloyd

Although Lloyd was a first-round pick, he was benched during his rookie season and saw his playing time reduced. However, he more than bounced back in 2023, proving why Jacksonville picked him so early two years ago. His 966 snaps ranked 23rd among linebackers, while his elite 90.3 run-defense grade ranked fourth at the position.


Kansas City Chiefs: G Trey Smith

The Chiefs' offensive tackles got a lot of attention last season for all the wrong reasons, while Joe Thuney and Creed Humphrey continued to excel on the interior. But there was not much talk of right guard Trey Smith’s performance despite him being one of the most consistent guards in the league. He is one of just three players to have played more than 4,000 snaps over the past three seasons — with Humphrey and Patrick Mahomes being the other two — and his 76.5 overall grade over that span ranks 11th among guards.

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Las Vegas Raiders: S Tre’von Moehrig

Not many draft picks of the Raiders' recent draft picks have developed into above-average players. Moehrig, the former second-round pick, seems to be one of the exceptions, as he was among the better safeties in the NFL in two of his three seasons since he entered the league. His 83.3 PFF overall grade over the last three weeks of the 2023 season ranked sixth among safeties.


Los Angeles Chargers: S Alohi Gilman

The Chargers re-signed Gilman earlier this offseason, which is no surprise after his standout 2023 season. The Notre Dame alumnus played nearly as many snaps in his fourth year as he did in his first three seasons combined, and his 86.1 PFF overall grade ranked seventh at the position. He was also one of just seven safeties to earn grades above 75.0 both for his play in coverage and his work against the run.


Los Angeles Rams: LB Ernest Jones

Naturally, Aaron Donald received all the attention on the Rams' defense over the past decade. His retirement means Jones should get more recognition, especially if he continues to play like he did in his third season. He finished the 2023 campaign with an 86.2 PFF overall grade, which ranked 13th at the position. He was also one of just three linebackers to earn run-defense and pass-rush grades above 80.0.


Miami Dolphins: DI Zach Sieler

Although Sieler is not an unknown player, he had been living in Christian Wilkins‘s shadow on Miami's interior defensive line. Wilkins' departure in free agency means more eyes will be on Sieler, especially if he can get back to his 2021 form when he was the third-highest-graded interior defender in the NFL. Since he joined the Dolphins in 2019, Sieler has earned an 80.8 PFF overall grade, ranking 22nd among interior defenders.


Minnesota Vikings: LB Ivan Pace Jr.

Pace burst onto the scene as an undrafted rookie in 2023 and was the third-highest-graded linebacker in the entire NFL after three weeks. While his performance tailed off a bit and his playing time was reduced, he remained very productive on pass plays. Pace was one of just two linebackers to earn PFF grades over 77.0 for both coverage and pass rush, the other being Fred Warner.


New England Patriots: G Sidy Sow

New England’s rookie guard went through some growing pains during his first NFL season, putting together four games in which he allowed at least four pressures — including a season-high six in his NFL debut. However, Sow finished the season as the NFL's highest-graded rookie guard (65.3), while his 71.3 run-blocking grade ranked 14th among all players at the position.


New Orleans Saints: CB Paulson Adebo

Although Adebo has earned a lot of playing time since the Saints drafted him in the third round in 2021, it was not until 2023 that he put it all together and started playing as one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. His 78.7 PFF overall grade ranked 15th among cornerbacks in 2023, and he orchestrated a three-game stretch between Weeks 8 and 10 as the NFL’s highest-graded cornerback in coverage (94.6). Adebo recorded four interceptions over those three weeks.


New York Giants: LB Bobby Okereke

Okereke was everything and even more that the Giants might have hoped for when they signed him as a free agent in 2023. Not only did he play a career-high snap total, but his 1,128 snaps over the regular season ranked second among all linebackers. In addition, his 78.9 overall grade ranked 12th among linebackers.

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New York Jets: CB D.J. Reed

It is not easy to find an underrated Jet amid a roster with so many first-round picks and players who have been playing at a high level in recent seasons. Reed gets the nod because he has been overshadowed by Sauce Gardner over the past two seasons. His 3,690 snaps since 2020 rank eighth at the position, and his 85.3 overall grade is the sixth-best mark among cornerbacks.


Philadelphia Eagles: DI Milton Williams

Williams, a former third-round pick, has been one of the best rotational interior defenders in the entire NFL over the past two seasons. While his 968 snaps over that period rank just 64th at the position, his 73.2 PFF overall grade places 32nd. Williams was playing the best football of his career before an injury in 2023, with his 77.6 overall grade between Weeks 5 and 11 ranking 14th among interior defenders.


Pittsburgh Steelers: G Isaac Seumalo

Seumalo was part of arguably the NFL's best offensive line while in Philadelphia, and although he did not get off to a good start in Pittsburgh, he soon proved why the Steelers signed him as a free agent in 2023. Excluding the first two weeks, he earned a 78.3 PFF overall grade, which ranked sixth among guards during that span.


San Francisco 49ers: CB Deommodore Lenoir

While Lenoir, a former fifth-round pick, became a starter in 2022, his true breakout came in 2023 in his third season. After recording a 60.9 PFF overall grade in 2022, Lenoir improved to 75.8 in 2023, which ranked 23rd at the position. He also lowered his passer rating allowed number from 89.0 in 2022 to 75.7 this past season.


Seattle Seahawks: EDGE Uchenna Nwosu

Nwosu’s 2023 season was cut short due to an injury after just seven weeks, but he might still be Seattle’s best pass rusher. The former Los Angeles Charger will be looking to get back to his 2022 form when he earned a 74.0 overall grade in his first year in Seattle, which ranked 27th among edge defenders.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers: T Luke Goedeke

Goedeke moved from left guard to right tackle between the 2022 and 2023 seasons — an already impressive shift — and even managed to play better at his new position. While his 73.4 PFF overall grade in 2023 ranked 27th among all offensive tackles in the NFL, he was one of just seven right tackles to earn 70.0-plus pass-blocking and run-blocking grades.


Tennessee Titans: LB Jack Gibbens

A former undrafted free agent, Gibbens had a rollercoaster second NFL season but put together enough good plays and games to make Titans fans hopeful about his third year. His 71.2 PFF overall grade ranked sixth out of 14 first- and second-year linebackers in 2023. While he did not rush the passer very often, his 77.4 pass-rush grade placed 14th among all linebackers.


Washington Commanders: T Andrew Wylie

Wylie came over from Kansas City with offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to play right tackle for the Commanders. Although he gave up a sack in each of his first four games with Washington, Wylie got better as the season went on and eventually earned a 69.2 PFF overall grade — a career-high mark for him on his way to ranking 16th among right tackles.

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