ESPN this week published an article naming the most underrated player on all 32 NFL teams (subscription required), and two former Clemson defenders made the list.
ESPN tabbed former Tiger safety Jayron Kearse as the Dallas Cowboys’ most underrated player.
Following his breakout season with the Cowboys in 2021, Kearse re-signed with the team in March on a reported two-year deal worth $10 million, with the ability for Kearse to earn as much as $11 million.
After signing with the Cowboys last spring on a deal worth around $1.1 million (with $137,000 in guarantees), Kearse had a career season in Dallas last year, leading the team with 101 tackles (67 solo) to go with 10 pass breakups and two interceptions.
“While it’s very easy to point to Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs as key factors in Dallas’ defensive turnaround last season, the improvement from Darian Thompson and Xavier Woods to Kearse at the safety position was as big as any,” stated the ESPN article. “Kearse hit free agency off a career-high 15 starts and 67 solo tackles. He was underrated enough that nobody made a real play for him, and he settled for a two-year, $10-million contract with Dallas. His sure tackling and solid coverage probably deserved more of a push from an outside team.”
Former Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell also made ESPN’s list as the Atlanta Falcons’ most underrated player.
Terrell is coming off a breakout season last year in which he tallied 81 total tackles (52 solo), a sack, a forced fumble, 16 passes defended and three interceptions in 16 games (16 starts).
A two-time All-ACC selection at Clemson, Terrell didn’t allow more than 32 yards in coverage in a game last season, allowed fewer than 20 yards in 13 games last season and also recorded the lowest passer rating allowed (47.5) and the lowest completion percentage allowed (43.9), according to Pro Football Focus. Additionally, per PFF, the Atlanta native yielded only 200 yards over the course of the entire season.
“Terrell somehow missed the Pro Bowl last season, despite significant praise from the advanced stats community. By our numbers, he was the best cornerback in football last season,” ESPN wrote. “He allowed 3.3 yards per target, which didn’t just lead the league; it was the best number for any qualified cornerback since Darrelle Revis in 2010.
“Some of that comes from there being little reason to challenge Terrell considering the state of the rest of the Atlanta secondary last season, but Terrell’s play when he was targeted was exemplary. Those who know the game already have Terrell grouped among the top players at his position. It shouldn’t take long before the casual fans find about him, too.”
–Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
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