Underrated. That's a great adjective to describe the Ravens as a football team. They always seem to perform best when slapped with that label, they're never the favorites it seems, but they're content with that. The Ravens team, and its fanbase seem to have grown used to being underrated, it is just a part of being a Raven. So it's only fitting that three Ravens players were selected to NFL Media Analyst Elliot Harrison's 'All-Underrated Team'. Let's look at the nominees.
RB: Justin Forsett
One of only two Pro Bowlers on this list. While fantasy owners were well aware of his productivity with the Ravens in 2014 (1,266 yards, eight touchdowns), apparently those looking for a free-agent running back this offseason weren't, based on the lack of buzz Forsett sparked and the deal -- $9 million over three years -- he finally landed to stay in Baltimore. Forsett has always been effective when given the chance. A decisive runner, Forsett averaged nearly 5 yards per carry even before his breakout last season.
Harrison notes that Forsett is one of only two Pro Bowlers on his 'team', the other being Chris Harris Jr. This makes Forsett's 'underratedness' even more unfair. It's unbelievable that his contributions last year went widely unnoticed outside of Baltimore. On 235 attempts (10th in the league), he generated 1,266 yards (5th), while averaging 5.4 YPC (1st for RBs). Not to mention, he also contributed significantly in the receiving game. Keep in mind, he had only started just seven games in his six-year career, and never eclipsed over 650 yards in a season. Justin is criminally underrated, perhaps another strong showing will propel him to stardom.
OG: Kelechi Osemele
Osemele might not be a household name, but Ravens fans certainly know his value. He and teammate Marshal Yanda formed the top guard tandem in pro football last year, as both were maulers in the run game. Osemele also allowed a scant two sacks.
I covered Kelechi just a few days ago, so if you'd like to know more about this talented guy, I encourage you to read that. However, to be straight to the point, Kelechi is a beast, and he and Yanda did indeed form the best guard tandem in the league. Pretty soon, Kelechi Osemele should be a name known outside of Baltimore.
ILB: Daryl Smith
When Smith hasn't been hurt, he's been consistent ... and consistently underrated. At 33 years old, the former Jaguar is the oldest player on our list, having entered the league back in 2004. He's always performed viably in coverage, as we saw when he picked off Tom Brady in a key spot in last year's playoff thriller. Rookie C.J. Mosley got all the pub last year in Baltimore, but Smith was just as good.
I'll be honest, when we brought in Smith in the 2013 offseason, I thought it was a good signing, but I really didn't expect that much out of him. I thought he would be a decent starter for a year, then slowly fade away. Boy was I wrong, and Smith has blown my expectations out of the water. I knew he had been a very solid, yet unappreciated player in Jacksonville, where careers of talented players go to die. Thankfully that level of play he had in Jacksonville stayed with him, and he posted a very solid stat line, with a career high in combined tackles last year (128). Smith can also come up big as a ballhawk, as he posted four picks in two seasons with the team.
Hopefully, the 33-year old can defy the odds, and continue to play injury free, and at a high-level at such an older age.
- Baltimore was tied for first for the most players on the list, (3) the Panthers also had three.
- Redditor /u/reedsgrayhair made this smart remark about the list: "Jimmy Smith is so underrated he isnt even rated enough to get on an underrated team." However to be fair, the CBs picked were very worthy of the honors, Chris Harris Jr. and Desmond Trufant. Still, it would be nice to see Jimmy finally get some well-deserved recognition.
And so there you have it, these are the guys finally getting some of the recognition they rightfully deserve. Hopefully more prestigious accolades and recognition are in their near future, we certainly appreciate their contributions to the team, and it's about time some of the outsiders appreciate them too.