Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Don't Sleep on These Players: Picking the NFL's All-Underrated Team for 2024

Brent Sobleski

Patrick Mahomes. Travis Kelce. Aaron Rodgers. Myles Garrett. DK Metcalf. They're seen on commercials. They've won numerous awards. These are but a handful of the superstars found in the NFL.

At one point in time, they were just trying to establish their names. They weren't known quantities at the game's highest level. Instead, they were packed with potential.

Which NFL players are ready to break through for the 2024 campaign? Who are the guys that have been overlooked to a degree with the potential to become premium performers?

Bleacher Report looked at each major position group and identified young, ascending players who have yet to receive significant recognition for their play. Each is within the first three years of service, without earning a Pro Bowl nod, All-Pro honors or a Rookie of the Year trophy.

Their skill sets indicate they won't operate under the radar much longer as the '24 season ensues. Buy low on these talents now, because their stock is about to escalate.

QB Will Levis, Tennessee Titans

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The quarterback position is always in the spotlight. To highlight one as working a little under the radar seems counterintuitive. But the Tennessee Titans' Will Levis can be described as overlooked, even in his own division.

The AFC South also features three other extremely talented young signal-callers in the Houston Texans' C.J. Stroud, Jacksonville Jaguars' Trevor Lawrence and Indianapolis Colts' Anthony Richardson.

Levis is actually the oldest of the four, and most consider him the division's fourth-best option, which explains why the second-year signal-caller's overall talent level and supporting cast are being overlooked.

Last year's 33rd overall pick experienced an awesome debut with four touchdown passes against the Atlanta Falcons. Things were rocky from that point forward, but the rookie was playing as part of one of the league's worst rosters, including a horrifically bad offensive line.

This offseason, the Titans hired an offensive-minded head coach, Brian Callahan, and arguably the league's best offensive line coach, Bill Callahan. Tennessee brought in wide receivers Calvin Ridley and Tyler Boyd, as well as running back Tony Pollard. General manager Ran Carthon also provided the O-line with some upgrades by signing veteran center Lloyd Cushenberry III and drafting JC Latham with the seventh overall pick.

"We feel like we've added really high-end pieces at positions that we needed it, and we have a team that is going to be competitive," Brian Callahan said, per the Nashville Post's John Glennon. "A lot of that has to do with what I saw from Will, [what] the organization saw from Will in his time as a starter. The things you see in Will are [what] you want to see in your quarterback.

If everything comes together smoothly, Levis will be set up to succeed this fall.

RB Jaylen Warren, Pittsburgh Steelers

Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Jaylen Warren is the Pittsburgh Steelers' best running back. Well, that's why he's included, right? But those within the organization continually lean toward Najee Harris being the lead back. He shouldn't be when Warren is more than capable of a featured role.

While the gap in usage decreased last season, Harris still carried the ball 106 more times. However, the duo played a similar number of snaps, with the 2021 first-round pick playing slightly more.

This usage should start to shift, because Warren is one of the most effective and explosive backs when on the field. He alongside the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Christian McCaffrey, were the only two running backs with 105 or more carries to average 5.3 yards per tote. The former undrafted free agent was one of the league's most elusive backs, too.

Warren is also an excellent target in the passing game. His 61 receptions last season finished fifth among running backs.

Pittsburgh made a concerted effort this offseason to add talent to their trenches and get more physical. Head coach Mike Tomlin wants to win at the point of attack. With the first- and second-round additions of right tackle Troy Fautanu and center Zach Frazier, the offensive line is now loaded and capable of serving as the squad's tone-setter.

With a big, physical front leading the way, a thumper like Harris isn't necessary. To his credit, he has posted three straight 1,000-yard campaigns. Still, his yards per carry average stuck around 3.8-4.1. In contrast, Warren can be a difference-maker with a leading role.

WR Drake London, Atlanta Falcons

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Drake London has been a 1,000-yard wide receiver waiting to happen since the Atlanta Falcons drafted him with the eighth overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft.

The 6'4" target came somewhat close a year ago when he posted 905 yards as the Falcons' leading receiver. Imagine how well he'll perform with good quarterback play.

To understand just how much a poor quarterback situation held back the Falcons offense, Atlanta's group of wide receivers contributed 1,650 receiving yards last season, which was the team's lowest total in 17 years.

Today's NFL is geared toward throwing the ball. The game is slanted in the offense's favor. League owners want more scoring and explosive plays. Yet the Falcons' entire group of wide receivers managed fewer receiving yards than the league's top two targets, the Miami Dolphins' Tyreek Hill and Dallas Cowboys' CeeDee Lamb.

It's certainly not because of a lack of talent at the skill positions. London has been good. Tight end Kyle Pitts is a mismatch waiting to happen. Mack Hollins is another big, physical target, though he's no longer with the squad. Bijan Robinson is a weapon out of the backfield.

The Falcons had to fix their quarterback setup and likely did this offseason, with the free-agent signing of veteran Kirk Cousins and first-round selection of Michael Penix Jr. Furthermore, general manager Terry Fontenot upgraded the wide receiver position as a whole by bringing in Darnell Mooney and Rondale Moore.

All of this should dramatically work in London's favor. Atlanta's WR1 will benefit greatly from improved quarterback play, plus extra threats out wide that can open up the field to some degree. As a result, the 22-year-old should easily eclipse the 1,000-yard plateau this fall.

"I want to go out there and make a stand for myself," London said, per Amna Subhan of the Falcons' official site. "I know what I can do. I know what type of player I am."

TE Trey McBride, Arizona Cardinals

Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Coaches talk about the light going on for players at different points in their careers.

For Arizona Cardinals tight end Trey McBride, the switch flipped when veteran Zach Ertz suffered an injury during a Week 7 contest. Over the course of the next 10 games, McBride caught 66 passes for 655 receiving yards on his way to become the Cardinals' No. 1 target. Ultimately, he finished fifth and seventh among tight ends in receptions and yards, respectively.

Arizona enters its second season in Drew Petzing's offensive scheme, with a big-time weapon added in this year's fourth overall draft pick, wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. McBride won't be the primary focal point for opposing defenses, which makes him more dangerous as a target.

The third-round selection of fellow tight end Tip Reiman is interesting for McBride, too.

Reiman is a ready-made Y-tight end to work inline. McBride spent just over 50 percent of his snaps in in the slot last season. That number could actually increase, thus keeping him where he's most comfortable and effective.

Arizona's 12 personnel looks could be quite effective with the upgrades the organization made this offseason, because Petzing knows he has something special in his top tight end.

"The sky is the limit for [McBride]," Arizona's offensive coordinator said during a December interview on Adam Schefter's podcast. "... You've seen that success on Sunday when he's put in those situations making unbelievable catches in traffic, winning his one-on-one versus man.

"The thing I've been most pleased with after calling him on is becoming a more complete tight end. I've seen the speed. I've seen the hands. But can you separate versus man? Can you win in contested catch situations? Can you show up in the run game? ... He's embraced that role."

OT Bernhard Raimann, Indianapolis Colts

David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bernhard Raimann's first career start went about as poorly as anyone can possibly expect. My how things have changed.

During that baptism to the NFL—a nationally televised contest against the Denver Broncos—officials whistled the third-round rookie for four penalties while he allowed multiple pressures. Many were quick to write the Indianapolis Colts' left tackle off after one performance.

But a funny thing happened. Raimann didn't allow one game to define him and quietly got better every week.

"Encouraged by him, very encouraged," general manager Chris Ballard told reporters after the end of the 2022 campaign. "Early was rough, as it is for most left tackles. I mean, we want them to be Jonathan Ogden the second they walk in the league or (Anthony) Castonzo. We forget Anthony [a 10-year starter for Indianapolis] had his struggles early."

The native Austrian, who initially played tight end at Central Michigan, continues to grow.

Last year, Raimann graded among the league's best offensive tackles, which included names such as the San Francisco 49ers' Trent Williams, Detroit Lions' Penei Sewell and Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Tristan Wirfs.

Functional playing strength was a knock early in his career. Raimann came into the league as a 303-pound prospect. He said that he gained 15 pounds last offseason. Now, he'll play this season around 330 after gaining 15 more pounds this offseason, according to ESPN's Stephen Holder.

As long as the left tackle's movement skills aren't hampered, Raimann's game could be elevated into elite status as one of the game's best left tackles.

OG Quinn Meinerz, Denver Broncos

Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

With Ryan Jensen's retirement this offseason, the Denver Broncos' Quinn Meinerz enters the chat as arguably the nastiest blocker in the entire NFL.

Interior offensive linemen don't often hear their names called unless they're truly special as dominant forces. Highlights of the Indianapolis Colts' Quenton Nelson and Cleveland Browns' Wyatt Teller can be found all over social media, because the physical presence they bring sets the tone for the entire team while deflating opponents forced to face them.

Meinerz is already at that level as a run-blocker. According to Pro Football Focus, he graded first in run blocking last season. But it's not just about getting good fits and understanding the scheme. It's becoming more than what's seen in the play design.

The Division III product isn't satisfied with making a block; he wants to finish it. Meinerz will drive defenders into the dirt (or turf). He'll run them 15-20 yards downfield. He'll find a smaller defender when working in space and obliterate them.

Just how good is the guard when he pulls?

"The Broncos guard proved to be a wrecking ball on the move, amassing the league's best interior run-blocking grade when pulling (88.3)," PFF's Mason Cameron wrote. "While he was limited to just 17 pull blocks this past season, his incredible 41.2 percent impact block rate ranked first among interior linemen with 10 or more."

The 6'3", 320-pound guard has room to improve as a pass-blocker. Having a quarterback, even a rookie in Bo Nix, with the capabilities to work on time and in rhythm will certainly help, though.

Meinerz is already the best player on the Broncos offense. Hopefully, an improved performance from the unit in Year 2 under Sean Payton will garner the guard more recognition.

C Joe Tippmann, New York Jets

Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas knew he had to go into yet another offseason with offensive line repairs being a focal point. But one spot seemed settled thanks to the play of a rookie last season.

The Jets drafted Joe Tippmann during last year's second round. He proved to be a reliable option as the season progressed.

"You look at Tip—he's gotten so much work," offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett told reporters in January. "He wasn't even starting in the beginning of the year, he had to play right guard [after Alijah Vera-Tucker's season-ending injury], so he got valuable experience there. Now he's gotten a ton of valuable experience at center. You see him slowly improve every single game and I think that's all you can ask for, for the future and just for now, so that's been great."

With Tippmann at center, Douglas could go to work. He brought in veterans Tyron Smith, John Simpson and Morgan Moses to man left tackle, left guard and right tackle, respectively. He then drafted Penn State tackle Olu Fashanu with this year's 11th overall draft pick. Vera-Tucker is also expected back after yet another injury-plagued campaign.

Tippmann is the one constant, with the potential to grow into a premium pivot after a solid rookie campaign. Added talent around him and improved health (crosses fingers), specifically quarterback Aaron Rodgers, will allow the center's game to blossom.

Tippmann's agility in the run game and ability to climb in pass protection will make the entire unit better, even though he's the lone holdover from the starting unit that finished last season.

Edge Tuli Tuipulotu, Los Angeles Chargers

Ric Tapia/Getty Images

When a defensive front already features Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, it's easy to get overlooked to some degree. However, the Los Angeles Chargers' Tuli Tuipulotu greatly impressed after being a second-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft.

Tuipulotu will enter the upcoming season in a rotational role since last year's starting experience occurred because of injuries. However, he's already earned the respect of Bosa and Mack, both of whom have been elite defenders during their careers.

"I love Tuli. I think he does everything right, everything you can ask for from a rookie and more," Bosa previously said about Tuipulotu. "Everything you can ask for from any player honestly. He's just great, he's in his book, he knows everything.

Bosa added: "He just knows his stuff really well, you can plug him in any position and he's going to do his job. At the same time, he just really wants to learn and get better which, I've said this before, he's like a sponge and he just practices his craft really hard every single day really consistently and I think he's getting better fast."

With Bosa missing eight games last season, the Chargers were forced to rely on the rookie more than the team initially anticipated. He thrived, particularly as a run defender. Tuipulotu graded as the league's fourth-best edge defender against the run, according to Pro Football Focus. Among rookies, he finished second with 51 quarterback pressures.

Even with a fully healthy set of veteran bookends, the sophomore defender can be a large part of the Chargers defense because of his versatility. Tuipulotu can play up and down the line of scrimmage, giving defensive coordinator Jesse Minter options with sub-packages and getting his three best front seven defenders on the field at the same time.

DL Kobie Turner, Los Angeles Rams

Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams' Kobie Turner could have easily been named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year this past season and no one would have blinked. The Houston Texans' Will Anderson Jr. was a deserving choice, of course. But Turner was also superb in his debut campaign.

Turner led all rookies with nine sacks. His 50 total pressures ranked among the first-year leaders.

The third-round draft pick is an upfield penetrator capable of consistently disrupting offensive schemes. Aaron Donald's presence certainly helped matters. With the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year retiring this offseason, Turner is now the Rams' defensive focal point and opponents will adjust.

However, the Rams staff has a plan to build upon Turner's early success.

"He's going to be a guy who's on the field a ton," defensive coordinator Chris Shula told Fox Sports' Eric Williams. "We love to have the flexibility to move those guys around, depending on the personnel group that's in the game. We're lucky, because he can play multiple spots pretty easily, whether it's physically or mentally.

"We can keep people guessing where we can kind of move him around. And the nice thing about Kobie is he's so selfless, he's always going to do what's best for the team. So it will be fun to use that chess piece accordingly."

Furthermore, the Rams added significant talent to the front to help. First- and second-round rookies Jared Verse and Braden Fiske will try to offset the monstrous loss the Rams incurred this offseason.

When edge-rusher Byron Young is factored into the equation after he and Turner combined for more pressures than any rookie tandem since 2018, the Rams' front can still be special.

LB Leo Chenal, Kansas City Chiefs

Ryan Kang/Getty Images

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Leo Chenal was a wrecking ball during Super Bowl LVIII.

During KC's 25-22 overtime victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Chenal registered six total tackles, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble, a quarterback hit and a blocked extra point. He emerged from the contest as the game's highest-graded player, according to Pro Football Focus.

Here's the thing: Chenal isn't even an every-down player. But he's already careening toward impact performer status.

Previously, Nick Bolton, Drue Tranquil and Willie Gay primarily served as the Chiefs' off-ball linebackers. Gay did leave this offseason to sign a free-agent deal with the New Orleans Saints. But Chenal was most effective when working as the Sam 'backer, where he can consistently win at or near the line of scrimmage.

However, the continued growth curve seen in Chenal's game can't be denied. As a rookie, he graded better than any other linebacker, per PFF. His performance in the Super Bowl wasn't a one-game aberration, either. Chenal graded as the league's best defender for the entire 2023 playoffs.

Some concern arises with his utilization, because Chenal was primarily viewed as a downhill option entering the league. Even so, the 250-pound defender is an awesome athlete. As Pro Football Network's Kent Lee Platte noted, Chenal's relative athletic score ranked third among all linebackers over the last 37 years.

While a bigger and more physical 'backer, the third-year pro is adept in zone coverage. He's just not as fluid covering quicker options in space. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo can offset that by continuing to use Chenal in a hybrid role where he rushers the passer in certain packages.

Either way, the Chiefs saw what type of impact Chenal can create when securing another ring.

CB Derek Stingley Jr., Houston Texans

Ryan Kang/Getty Images

The Houston Texans' Derek Stingley Jr. is already one of the NFL's best pure cover corners.

Significant injury concerns were the primary knock on Stingley entering the league, though. So far, the defensive back has played in 20 of 34 professional games. As a rookie, he dealt with a strained hamstring. Another hamstring issue plagued him last season as well.

When he was on the field, though, few were better.

"Stingley's 85.3 PFF coverage grade tied for the fifth-highest among all cornerbacks in 2023, as he allowed just a 74.3 passer rating," Zoltan Buday wrote.

Once the postseason began, head coach and defensive play-caller DeMeco Ryans took advantage of Stingley's natural coverage skills by having him travel with Cleveland Browns wide receiver Amari Cooper, who posted 265 receiving yards when the two teams met in the regular season.

During the opening round of the postseason, the Texans clocked Cleveland, with Stingley covering Cooper on 83.3 percent of his routes before garbage time, per NFL Next Gen Stats. The cornerback allowed one catch during those instances for minus-six yards.

When a coach has the ability to switch his top guy onto the opposition's counterpart and forget about that decision in a critical contest, that individual is priceless in today's pass-happy game.

Stingley will be helped by the fact that Houston beefed up its pass rush by signing veterans Danielle Hunter and Denico Autry. Hunter finished top-five overall with 16.5 sacks last season, while Autry has been one of the game's premier interior rushers.

With Houston expected to be counted among the AFC's best, Stingley will be a key component to whatever success the Texans experience.

S Jevon Holland, Miami Dolphins

Perry Knotts/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins roster is built around a high-octane offense led by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Jevon Holland developed into that type of player on the other side of the ball.

Holland fell into the second round of the 2021 NFL draft after sitting out the COVID-19 stricken '20 campaign. As a result, his selection status didn't necessarily warrant his overall talent.

As a rookie, the safety started 13 games. He took on an even bigger role the following year but struggled to a degree. Holland emerged as one of the game's best safeties this past season.

His overall grade made a huge leap. At one point, Holland was the highest-graded safety in the entire game, according to Pro Football Focus, though he fell slightly behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Antoine Winfield Jr. over the final month of the season.

Holland is a versatile back-line defender capable of playing single high, down near the box or over the slot. He'll have yet another new play-caller—his third in the last three years—as Anthony Weaver takes over for Vic Fangio.

"Weave is super dope, man, like as a person, as an ex-player, as a coach," Holland told reporters on Tuesday, per Pro Football Network. "You can just feel he understands where we're coming from, wants to hear us and our input on the defense and then is able to put that into how the defense is called and how the defense is taught."

The fourth-year pro will be joined in the defensive backfield this season by Jordan Poyer after Brandon Jones left in free agency to join the Denver Broncos. The two safeties should be interchangeable in Weaver's aggressive scheme.


Read 132 Comments

Download the app for comments Get the B/R app to join the conversation

Install the App
Bleacher Report