Underappreciated players on every AFC team 2024: Evan Engram, Raheem Mostert headline list


Sometimes you need to shine the light on the unsung heroes. In the NFL, quarterbacks and the other superstar positional players get the majority of the glory and a boatload of the salary cap. That said, football is a team sport with 53 men on a given roster, and each one of them contributes to the winning product. 

In that spirit, we’ve combed through the rosters of each team in the AFC and decided to highlight one player on every squad that has gone a bit underappreciated. These players range from semi-star receivers who produce like studs to middle-of-the-roster guys who are key cogs in the overall operation. 

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Fullbacks are a dying breed in the NFL, but Ricard continues to be a key cog for the Baltimore Ravens. The 30-year-old has reached the Pro Bowl four times throughout his career and is coming off a 2023 campaign where he was named second-team All-Pro. While Ricard has already proven himself to be among the best fullbacks in the league, he is currently gearing up for a 2024 season where he’ll be paving the way for not only Lamar Jackson in the running game but also star running back Derrick Henry. For as much success as Henry is expected to have, it’ll be, in part, thanks to Ricard. 

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If you’re outside of Buffalo, you may not know who Christian Benford is yet, but he’s slated to take on a rather significant workload in the Bills secondary in 2024. After Tre’Davious White departed in free agency, Benford is in line to take on a starting spot on the boundary opposite Rasul Douglas. The former sixth-round pick out of Villanova started 14 of his 15 regular season games for the Bills last season. In that stretch, he broke up 10 passes, recorded two interceptions and held opposing quarterbacks to a respectable 88.8 passer rating when targeting him. 

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Ted Karras has been a great find for the Bengals since they brought him in as a free agent in 2018. After working as a swing interior lineman in New England and having a one-year stint as the Dolphins starting center to begin his career, Karras found his footing in Cincinnati. In the past two seasons, Karras has been a team captain and started every game he’s played at center. Recently, he was ranked as the No. 8 center in the league by Pro Football Focus after a strong pass-blocking grade for the 2023 campaign.  

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Cooper is probably the most high-profile player on this list, but there’s a case to be made that he’s slept on when talking about the top receivers in the league. Despite the Browns starting five different quarterbacks last season, the 30-year-old wideout put together a career year hitting a high of 1,250 receiving yards, which had him inside the top 10 in the league. Cooper is currently set to enter the final year of his contract and is seeking an extension from the Browns. While he may not have the ceiling of some of the other wideouts in the NFL, he’s a star in his own right that isn’t exactly treated as such. 

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After being drafted in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, Meinerz has blossomed into a reliable piece on the interior of Denver’s offensive line. He is coming off a 2023 season where he started all 17 games for Denver at right guard and was the fifth-highest-graded interior lineman in the league, according to PFF. He was also the best in the league among interior linemen in run-blocking when pulling. 

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Harris was selected by the Texans in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft out of Alabama and could be gearing up for a career year as he enters his third season in the league. In 16 games played for the Texans in 2023, he totaled 101 tackles (second-most on the team) and two sacks while breaking up seven passes. He was an underrated piece of their success last season and could prove to be a stud linebacker under head coach DeMeco Ryans as the franchise looks to continue its ascent in 2024. 

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Ebukam proved to be a heck of a find for the Colts last offseason and an ideal replacement for Yannick Ngakoue along Indy’s defensive line. The veteran mirrored his sack totals with a team-leading 9.5 in 2023 (a career-high) and also finished the year with 57 tackles, 17 quarterback hits three forced fumbles. In a defense that features DeForest Buckner, Kwity Paye, and first-round rookie Laiatu Latu, don’t sleep on Ebukam. 

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Engram is perennially slept on as one of the best receiving tight ends that the NFL has to offer. Last season, the 29-year-old erupted with 114 receptions and 963 yards, which were both career-highs. To put Engram’s season into better context, he was fourth in the league among pass-catchers in receptions behind only CeeDee Lamb, Tyreek Hill and Amon-Ra St. Brown. While he won’t be lauded for his ability as a blocker, he’s shown to be a reliable pass-catching weapon at the position. 

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Tranquill ended up being a key piece for the Chiefs en route to their second consecutive Super Bowl title last season, especially when fellow linebacker Nick Bolton missed time due to a wrist injury in the middle of the year. In his first season in Kansas City, he routinely made plays within Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, finishing the year tied for third on the team in tackles and tied for fourth in sacks, in addition to forcing two fumbles. Tranquill continued that production in the playoffs with 21 total tackles in four games. 

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Meyers continues to be one of the more underrated receivers in the NFL. While almost anyone will be lost in Davante Adams’ shadow on a given depth chart, Meyers produced in a major way in his first season with the Raiders. He was second in the team in both receptions and receiving yards, only trailing Adams. He matched his star teammate with eight receiving touchdowns but added two more on the ground to give him 10 total scores on the season (a team-high). Meyers also caught 67% of his targets. 

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It feels like Slater is looked at as a fringe top-10 offensive tackle in the NFL, but there’s room for him to climb even higher. After missing most of his sophomore season in 2022, Slater played all 17 games for the Chargers and logged 100% of the team’s offensive snaps. In that bounce-back season, PFF graded him as the fifth-highest among pass-blocking tackles. With Jim Harbaugh now running the show in L.A. and another year removed from his biceps injury, Slater could push to be considered a top-five tackle in the league by the end of the year. 

Miami Dolphins

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It sort of feels like Miami has been trying to find a long-term answer at running back over the last couple of seasons and ended up settling back with Mostert. And the 32-year-old back has only continued to produce. While Christian McCaffrey took a bunch of the running back limelight last season, Mostert matched his league-leading 21 total touchdowns on the season and bested him with 18 rushing scores. The veteran’s 1,012 rushing yards were also a career-high. While De’Von Achane could finally unseat Mostert this coming season, he has proven to be a reliable piece in Mike McDaniel’s offense. 

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Peppers has been one of the more underrated signings the Patriots have executed in recent seasons. The versatile safety has been a key piece to a defense that is oftentimes headlined by Matt Judon, Christian Barmore and fellow safety Kyle Dugger. Last season, Peppers ranked fourth on the team in tackles (78), led the team in pass breakups (eight), and was tied for the most interceptions (two). 

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Conklin has been a worthwhile addition to the Jets ever since they signed him to a three-year deal in 2022. Even with erratic quarterback play, the tight end has been a steady hand and one of the most productive pass-catchers. Conklin was second on the team with 621 receiving yards in 2023 — only looking up to Garrett Wilson — while his receptions ranked third. According to PFF, Conklin has caught 21 contested targets over the past two years, which is the second-most in the league. 

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Freiermuth is coming off an injury-plagued season, so his numbers did dip. That said, he’s a wildly talented tight end who isn’t exactly talked about as much as his skill should warrant. He’s only 25 years old and has two 60-catch seasons under his belt along with a 2022 campaign where he logged 732 yards. With the Steelers likely to get improved play under center in 2024 and Freiermuth back to full strength, he should put himself in the conversation as one of the better young tight ends the game has to offer. 

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A lot of attention in the Titans receiver room will be paid to the arrival of Calvin Ridley, but don’t sleep on how important of an addition Tyler Boyd was. The veteran has been a reliable and underrated pass-catching option throughout his career and should help Will Levis tremendously as he steps into Year 2. Over the past four seasons, Boyd has caught 70.6% of his targets. 





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