BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Tuesday morning found me on a quest to find out who the New England Patriots believe is their most underrated player.
It started out strong. There were 10 players scheduled to speak at podiums inside the Mall of America in Minnesota. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy is usually a pretty honest dude, and there was a smaller scrum around his podium than that of, say, quarterback Tom Brady. Apparently media members from Boston, Philadelphia and scattered around the world would rather know Brady’s thoughts prior to Super Bowl LII than Van Noy’s. Who knew?
That’s not to say Van Noy was unpopular. The room was dense with media members surrounding Patriots podiums. It took a solid five minutes to get in a question to Van Noy, and he delivered with a predictably good answer.
“I mean, I wouldn’t say attention, because I don’t like attention, but I’d put myself in that underrated category, and I like it that way,” Van Noy said smiling. “I feel like our whole defense is underrated. Everyone talks about the offense, but I feel like you could name every player on our defense and say they’re underrated or not talked about.”
Great. One point for Van Noy. And maybe a half point for everyone else on defense.
David Andrews’ podium was the next destination, where a larger group of reporters surrounded the Patriots’ starting center. The wait to ask Andrews a question was even longer. A solid 12 minutes in, Andrews said there are many players on the Patriots who are underrated, without listing any names, and that’s what makes the team great.
One point each for a handful of unnamed Patriots who may or may not overlap with Van Noy’s list.
After waiting around the outskirts of Trey Flowers’ podium for another nine minutes or so without getting in a question, all hope was lost for the original point of the story. So we pivot.
Who is the Patriots’ most underrated player?
Van Noy has a strong case. He’s far better than his 47.8 (out of 100) overall Pro Football Focus grade. He also was named by Bleacher Report as one of the five worst 4-3 linebackers in the NFL back in December. That’s simply preposterous.
That list later was amended to name him the 23rd best 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL. That’s better.
Some other candidates include Trey Flowers, who doesn’t put up gaudy sack totals but is one of the best run-defending edge players in the NFL, Patrick Chung, who is never talked about as one of the NFL’s best safeties, and Shaq Mason, who played at a Pro Bowl level this season but didn’t earn the honor.
It’s probably Van Noy. Flowers ranked 46th in Bleacher Report’s defensive ends rankings, which is equally as ridiculous as Van Noy’s original ranking. (BR put Flowers’ teammate, rookie Deatrich Wise, above him on the rankings! You read that right.) But PFF grades Flowers appropriately. Chung is rarely written about, but he’s properly rated by Bleacher Report and PFF. Bleacher Report doesn’t do guard rankings, and PFF likes the starting offensive lineman.
It turns out Van Noy assesses himself pretty darn well. Told you he’s an honest dude.
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