Barnwell's 2019 All-Underrated team: Picking 24 NFL players, from Tannehill to Judon

ByBill Barnwell ESPN logo
Monday, November 25, 2019

Even by 2019 standards, Sunday in the NFLwas strange. The Jets outscored the Cowboys and Patriots -- combined -- with 12 points to spare. The best quarterback performances of the day belonged to the Browns and Titans. The Saints won after overcoming a pass interference penalty that was triggered by a review against their defense. The only comforting, familiar story was the Bengals losing for the 11th straight time this season, and even that involved a Devlin Hodges appearance.

With that in mind, I decided to go in a different direction for my Monday column this week. I wanted to try to honor the players who have been more impressive than public perception this season. To the extent that anybody can be underrated in 2019, I wanted to reward the players who deserve your attention or a reevaluation. I pieced together a 24-man starting lineup for my All-Underrated team.

Keep in mind that this is strictly considering how these players are performing right now as opposed to a career consideration, which is why you won't see someone like Frank Gore. It's a comparison of their current performance level to what I believe popular opinion holds about their level of play, which is why there are players all across the spectrum here. I've listed some virtually anonymous players who might actually be competent starters. In other spots, I've listed players who get chatter as above-average players when I think they're actually superstars. What matters is the difference between perception and reality, not their level of play in a vacuum.

Finally, I picked only one or two players at each position. There's a chance your favorite player might be underrated and didn't make it here. There's also a chance I think a player is really good but appropriately rated, which is true for players such as Julian EdelmanandDeForest Buckner. I'll go position-by-position and start with a surprising signal-caller ...

Jump to a position:

QB | RB | WR | TE

OT | G | C | K | P

EDGE | DT | LB | CB | S


Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

OK, in 2019, when cameras are trained on quarterbacks from the moment they get off the bus on Sundays, it's almost impossible for a signal-caller to actually be underrated. Given how bad young quarterbacks are often feted for their moments of competence by fan bases that desperately want them to succeed, the most likely quarterbacks to be undervalued are actually guys who have been around for a while and written off as irrelevant.

There was little to lose when the Titans inserted the former Dolphins starter into the starting lineup earlier this season. Tennessee scored 38 points over Marcus Mariota's final four starts, with 24 of those coming against the bad version of the Falcons' defense. Mike Vrabel didn't even seem to have much faith in Tannehill when making the move, solely hoping that the decision would spark a moribund offense.

It has! The Titans have won four of their past five games under Tannehill to get back in the playoff race at 6-5, including an upset victory over the Chiefs before the bye. After losing 20-7 to the Jaguars in September under Mariota, Tannehill and the Titans scored six touchdowns in a 42-20 blowout victory on Sunday. The Texas A&M product went 14-of-18 passing for 259 yards and two touchdowns and further chipped in by scrambling seven times for 40 yards and two additional scores. He finished with a 92.3 Total QBR, which is his best single-game performance in just over three years.

Since Tannehill took over, the Titans rank sixth in the league with 2.43 points per drive and second behind the Ravens in offensive points scored per game at 28.2. Derrick Henry unquestionably plays a huge role in making that happen, but Tannehill is playing the best football of his career. As Tennessee's starter, he ranks fifth over the past six weeks in passer rating at 114.9. He also has chipped in by turning his 23 carries into three touchdowns and eight first downs, with the latter figure tied for fifth among quarterbacks over that time frame.

Even beyond the numbers, though, Tannehill looks incredibly comfortable throwing the football. Look at his highlights from Sunday and you'll see a quarterback who is not just finding the right receiver but hitting them in stride. There's noticeable zip on his passes. He looks confident under pressure and is using his athleticism to create opportunities as opposed to mindlessly extending plays without ever getting his eyes back upfield. He looks like the quarterback the Titans were hoping Mariota would turn into after all these years.

As constituted, this offense just works. It's not the most exciting or cutting-edge attack, but the Titans have a big back who bulls over opposing defenses and receivers who can make people miss after the catch off play-action. Since taking over in Week 7, Tannehill is averaging a staggering 13.5 yards per pass attempt off play-action, the best mark in football.

The Titans are in the thick of the AFC South race, with a game against the Colts and a home-and-home against the Texans still to come. When you look at the quarterbacks on teams competing for the sixth spot in the AFC playoffs -- Mason Rudolph, Jacoby Brissett, Derek Carr, even Baker Mayfield -- Tannehill is playing better than any of them right now.

Running back: Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

It has been lost in the shuffle amidPhilip Rivers' collapse, but Ekeler remains a wildly valuable part of the Chargers' offense. Even with Melvin Gordon taking over as the primary runner, Ekeler has been the league's most efficient receiving back by a comfortable margin, topping even Christian McCaffrey.

Ekeler has generated 32.1 expected points as a receiver this season; to put that in context, he's been worth more as a receiver by EPA than any running back has generated as a runner. The future of this offense is uncertain with both Gordon and Rivers hitting free agency after the season, but Ekeler is going to be a valuable option for the next Chargers quarterback. As a restricted free agent in 2020 in a league that is coming to realize just how valuable receiving backs can be, he's not far off from an extension, either.

Wide receiver: John Brown, Buffalo Bills

Brown has a well-earned reputation as a downfield burner from his time in Arizona, but when the Bills signed Brown away from the Ravens on a three-year, $27 million deal, it was to serve as Buffalo's primary wideout. In 2019, he has proved that he can be more than just a deep threat. It's telling that Josh Allen's 34-yard touchdown pass to Brown past Chris Harris Jr. on Sunday was Allen's first completion in 16 attempts on a pass traveling 30 or more yards in the air in 2019.

That's not a criticism. Allen and Brown have been able to form a productive relationship without having to rely on desperate heaves downfield, with both maturing in the intermediate game. Brown has caught 36 passes thrown between 5 and 15 yards in the air, which ranks ninth in the league alongside superstars such asDeAndre Hopkins (37), Keenan Allen (36), Amari Cooper (34) and Julio Jones (30). The 29-year-old is being targeted on just under 25% of the routes he runs, which is right in line with guys such as Cooper (24.6%) and Allen Robinson (also 24.6%). The field-stretching ability finally showed up on Sunday, and given Allen's arm and Brown's legs, I doubt it will be the last long touchdown for the Pittsburg State product.

The Bills hoped Brown would become a No. 1. Their hopes were answered.

Wide receiver: Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos

Sutton was erased from the game on the other side of the field Sunday, which was a product of another player on this list. Even after a day in which he caught just one of eight targets for 27 yards, the second-year wideout has emerged as one of the best draft picks of the post-Super Bowl era for the Broncos. It was Sutton's worst performance since a 40-yard Week 2 performance against the Bears; over the eight games between those contests, Sutton racked up 645 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

Those are good numbers, but they're even more impressive when you consider that Sutton has spent that time with Joe Flacco and Brandon Allen at quarterback. About the only thing Sutton doesn't have that you want from a top-level wideout is great speed. Given his size (6-foot-4) and agility (a 96th-percentile performance in the three-cone drill), he has a natural smoothness in and out of his breaks and the size to box out opposing defensive backs. He terrorized the Vikings in Week 11, racking up 113 receiving yards and completing a 38-yard pass as Mike Zimmer tried to cycle through his options and find somebody who could cover the 24-year-old.

I'm a little worried that he's going to be the next Allen Robinson and spend years covering up for the mistakes of bad quarterbacks, but Sutton has become a guy opposing defenses are worried about all game.

Wide receiver: Marvin Jones Jr., Detroit Lions

Jones made his most significant impact during that four-touchdown game against the Vikings, but the former Bengals wideout ranked seventh in both DVOA and DYAR heading into Week 12. He had a relatively modest day against Washington, catching five passes for 46 yards on 11 targets, but we're again dealing with replacement-level quarterback play in Jeff Driskel.

DVOA and DYAR for individual receivers don't tell the whole story, but there really aren't many players with Jones' profile. He has caught more than 70% of the passes thrown in his direction this season despite an average depth of target more than 13.9 yards downfield. When you look over the past decade, there are just two players who have caught 50 or more passes through the first 12 weeks of the year while keeping their catch rate above 70% and their aDOT over 13 yards: Jones and Tyler Lockett, who pulled this off in 2015 and 2018. Those are arbitrary endpoints, but it's hard not to be extremely valuable when you're catching a lot of deep passes.

Tight end: Ryan Griffin, New York Jets

The Jets' offense has been a wasteland for most of the season, but one of the few bright spots for Adam Gase and the organization has been Griffin, who signed a three-year extension to stick around with Gang Green last week. Griffin celebrated Sunday by scoring his fifth touchdown of the season on yet another example of the tight end leak concept that most offenses in the league have used at one point or another this season. He only needed a yard but easily could have scored from 30 yards out on the play. The 34-3 rout over the Raiders was Gase's best game of the season as a playcaller by a considerable margin.

Griffin, who was released by the Texans this offseason, never seemed to find a consistent role during his time in Houston. In part by necessity, he has become a reliable target for Sam Darnold and a red zone threat. The 6-foot-6 tight end is surprisingly agile for his frame, with 24-yard touchdown against the Jaguars as an example of what Griffin can do in open space. The Jets seemed to spend all season waiting for Chris Herndon to play and got only 18 snaps out of their nominal starter before Herndon hit IR with a rib injury. Griffin has been a more-than-competent replacement.

Offensive tackle: Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles

Conspicuous by his absence on Sunday was Johnson, as the Eagles sputtered out on offense in a 17-9 lossthat was hard to watch at times. First-round pick Andre Dillard, who was filling in for Johnson, struggled so badly during the first half that the Eagles benched him at halftime for Hal Vaitai. A Seahawks pass rush that has been lacking without the injured Jadeveon Clowney this season sacked Carson Wentz three times and knocked down the Eagles star nine times on 48 dropbacks, forcing three fumbles.

I've mentioned them several times in the past, but Wentz's splits with and without Johnson on the field continue to grow even more concerning:

Wentz has taken about 32% of his career snaps without Johnson on the field, so there's a pretty big sample at hand here. The franchise quarterback is now 25-13 in games in which Johnson plays and 3-10 when Johnson sits out entirely. Johnson wasn't the only missing party on Sunday -- the Eagles are down Jordan Howard, Alshon Jefferyand DeSean Jackson, then lost star guard Brandon Brooks in the first quarter -- but this offense isn't the same without its right tackle.

Offensive tackle: Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints

I wanted to name two right tackles, given that left tackles get most of the (limited) attention afforded offensive linemen. While Johnson is usually in the small group of players considered to be the best right tackles in football, Ramczyk is the hands-down top option for me this season. He hasyet to allow a single sack this year, per Stats LLC, despite playing against guys such asJ.J. Watt, Khalil Mackand Yannick Ngakoue.

With the Saints losing Andrus Peat for six weeks and Terron Armstead going down during Sunday's win over the Panthers, Ramczyk's stability on the right side makes him absolutely essential. He has been one of the best offensive linemen in football.

Guard: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens

I wouldn't typically characterize a player as experienced and well-regarded as Yanda as underrated, but what we've seen from him this season is even better than his established level of play. If anything, it's incredible that Yanda is still playing at a high level, given that he suffered a catastrophic knee injury in his second season, changed sides to play through a torn-up shoulder in 2015, and missed 14 games in 2017 after breaking his ankle. There aren't many 35-year-olds playing football at all with that sort of injury history.

Yanda has instead elevated his game. He's the best run-blocking lineman in the league's most dominant rushing attack. He leads all guards in ESPN's pass block win rate(PBWR) statistic, with his 207-5 record in our automated analysis producing a win rate of 97.6%. He has done this without committing a single penalty through 10 games, all while playing in front of the sort of quarterback whose brilliance in extending and lengthening plays can occasionally lead to penalties in Lamar Jackson. Yanda should be a first-team All-Pro for the third time this season, and in doing so, he should start engendering serious Hall of Fame discussion.

Guard: Elgton Jenkins, Green Bay Packers

Introduced into the lineup in Week 3 after Lane Taylor tore his biceps muscle, the rookie second-round pick has stepped in for the Packers and quickly made the left guard spot his own. Nobody on the Packers' line had a good night against the 49ers in Week 12, but Jenkins has been a revelation, both as a run-blocker for Aaron Jones and a pass-blocker, where his 97.1% PBWR ranks third among guards. Aaron Rodgers can also be a difficult quarterback to block for at times given how he loves to extend plays, but Jenkins has done his part on the interior.

Center: Ben Jones, Tennessee Titans

The Titans have one of the league's splashier offensive lines, given the presence of two top-11 picks (Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin) at tackle and former Rams standout Rodger Saffold at guard. Lewan and Saffold have both struggled this season, though, and the center with the anonymous name has stood out.

Jones was a modest free-agent addition from the Texans in 2016, and after signing a two-year extension in August, he is having his best year. It's notable that in the one game he missed, Tannehill was sacked four times and the combination of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis carried the ball 17 times for 83 yards. Jones is a key part of the offensive line for the run-first Titans and has helped Tannehill's ascension into the starting role.


Edge: Matthew Judon, Baltimore Ravens

Nominally a linebacker for the Ravens, Judon is a sound run defender who also happens to be one of the most quietly devastating pass-rushers in all of football. Over their six-game win streak, a Ravens defense that struggled to start the season has improved to seventh in points allowed per drive, third in takeaway rate and fourth in pressure rate. Over that time frame, Judon produced 14 quarterback knockdowns across six games. The only pass-rusher who knocked down the opposing passer more frequently was T.J. Watt, who had 15 hits.

Judon's six sacks only hint at the havoc he wreaks. The fourth-year linebacker has been absolutely essential to a rebuilding Ravens defense. Baltimore's passer rating allowed increases by nearly 16 points with him on the sidelines, while opposing rushers average nearly 1.5 full yards per carry more without him between the lines. Judon is already well-known, but he needs to be treated like a superstar. Some team is going to pay the unrestricted free agent like he is one this offseason.

Edge: Robert Quinn, Dallas Cowboys

After missing the first two games of the season via suspension, Quinn has stepped in as a force for the Cowboys' defense. He now has at least a half-sack in eight of his first nine games with the team, including a strip sack of Tom Brady on Sunday. Quinn knocked down Brady three times amid dismal conditions in Foxborough, bringing the former Rams standout up to 18 knockdowns in nine games this season.

Quinn flashes on tape, and ESPN's machine learning analysis loves the 29-year-old. In 2018, Quinn posted a pass rush win rate (PRWR) of 33%, which was comfortably the best mark in football. (Nobody else even topped 29%.) That might seem like an aberration, but in 2019, he has posted a PRWR of ... 32.9%, which again leads the league. I wouldn't take that analysis to find that Quinn is the best pass-rusher in football, but given that he has now excelled for two different teams over the past two years, he deserves to be thought of as an upper-echelon pass-rusher when he's on the field.

Defensive tackle: Vita Vea, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vea made headlines Sunday for catching a touchdown pass during Tampa's 35-22 win in Atlanta, but there's more to the former first-round pick than a soft set of hands. Vea has combined with Ndamukong Suh to disrupt opposing rushing attacks this season. The Bucs are a mess of a pass defense, but they lead the league in just about every rushing category this season, including DVOA. On Sunday, they held the Falcons' running backs to 34 yards on 17 carries, with just three of those runs resulting in first downs.

The former Washington standout added a sack and two passes defensed to his totals against the Falcons, although he's admittedly still a work in progress as a pass-rusher, where his limited wingspan may play against him. Vea is more realistically an example of the old George Young/Bill Parcells "Planet Theory" approach to the draft, where you recognize that there are only so many 300-plus pound human beings with truly elite athleticism on the planet and draft them when you see them.

Vea, who was a change-of-pace running back in high school, is the sort of player Parcells would have loved. He's quickly growing into a rare difference-maker for the Bucs' defense.

Defensive tackle: Matt Ioannidis, Washington

If you saw the crowd shots from Sunday, you know nobody is paying much attention to Washington right about now. (Predictably, the organization responded by getting angry at Dwayne Haskins for taking selfies with some of the few fans who weren't dressed like empty seats while the clock was at all zeros.) While this has been a disastrous, irrelevant season for the franchise, one of the few smart things the team did was quietly re-sign Ioannidis to a three-year, $21.8 million extension just before the draft.

Ioannidis has responded with his best season, racking up seven sacks and 11 knockdowns with five games to go. It's impressive for a 310-pound interior pass-rusher who the team once played as a nose tackle to hit those marks, but it's another when you consider the players around him. ESPN's automated analysis suggests Ioannidis has been double-teamed on 61.4% of his pass-rush attempts this season, which ranks among the 20 highest rates in football. Despite the attention, he has helped create eight sacks this season. As a sound run defender, Ioannidis is one of the few draft-develop-retain success stories for Washington.

Linebacker: Demario Davis, New Orleans Saints

I was skeptical when the Saints gave Davis a three-year, $24 million deal in free agency before the 2018 season, given that the Browns had basically dumped him back off to the Jets for draft bust Calvin Pryor in June 2017. Davis promptly refocused on football and had his best pro season with the Jets, but it was one good year. Given that inside linebacker wasn't even really a position of need for the Saints, I thought the Saints could have used their money more effectively elsewhere.

Wrong. Davis has been fantastic for the Saints and deserves serious Pro Bowl consideration alongside Cory Littleton of the Rams, who could also make this list. The Saints are deep at inside linebacker, but it's telling that Davis virtually never comes off the field, as he has taken 96% of the defensive snaps in 2019. His best game of the year came against Tampa in Week 11, when Davis defensed four passes, including an interception on O.J. Howard's bizarre drop in the first quarter. While Davis checked off a ton of free-agent red flags, he's arguably been the Saints' best free-agent signing since Drew Brees and a great leader on defense for the 9-2 Saints.

Linebacker: Vince Biegel, Miami Dolphins

One Dolphins player had to make it on this list. I had to sneak him onto the roster at linebacker when he's realistically an edge defender, but it was a pretty easy choice. Biegel, who was acquired from the Saints in the Kiko Alonso trade, has turned into one of the few bright spots in Miami's tankathon. He has two sacks and 11 knockdowns while playing about half of the Dolphins' defensive snaps, including a sack of Tom Brady in Week 2.

Biegel is more likely to make his long-term impact as a special-teams contributor, and he's already 26, but one of the goals in a tanking season should be to find a few guys on the bottom of NFL rosters who might plausibly contribute in some role to your organization in a couple of years. Biegel fits that premise.

Linebacker: Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers

One of the many 49ers who excelled during Sunday's blowout victory over the Packers, Warner has been forced to assume a bigger role in the defense with Kwon Alexander done for the season. His ascension into one of the league's rangiest, smartest coverage linebackers in Year 2 has been extremely fun to watch; few linebackers fly to the flats to make plays as fast as Warner.

He unsurprisingly led the 49ers with 11 tackles during Sunday's night win, filling up the stat sheet with a tackle for loss and the strip sack of Rodgers on the opening drive that set the tone for the romp to come. Teammates DeForest Buckner and Jaquiski Tartt just narrowly missed this list, but Warner is the next great 49ers inside linebacker.

Cornerback: Tre'Davious White, Buffalo Bills

We've all come to a conclusion that Stephon Gilmore is the best cornerback in football. I'm not going to disagree, especially after he erased Amari Cooper from existence during Sunday's win over the Cowboys. If we're trying to pick the second-best cornerback in football, though, you could do a lot worse than White, who repeatedly doesn't get the attention he deserves while anchoring one of the league's best defenses.

While Gilmore was locking down Cooper, White was the one shutting down Courtland Sutton for 27 yards on eight targets, despite giving up five inches to the Broncos standout. The Bills don't always have White shadow the opposing team's No. 1 wideout, but he has helped shut down those guys. Opposing No. 1s have caught an average of just four passes for 53 yards against the Bills this season, and the only top wideout to catch a touchdown pass was DeVante Parker, who caught the touchdown when White wasn't covering him. Like Gilmore, the Bills have built their defense around encouraging opposing quarterbacks to challenge their best corner, with White the closest defender in coverage 65 times already this season. White has allowed a passer rating of just 43.1 on those throws, the fourth-best mark in football. He's a superstar.

Cornerback: Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore Ravens

Likewise, if Humphrey isn't quite at Gilmore or White's level, he's hardly far off. The Ravens blitz more than 50% of the time, which almost always leaves their corners behind in man coverage. Humphrey is the one whom coordinator Don Martindale relies upon most, trusting him to cover the opposing team's top receiver a fair amount of the time, regardless of where they line up. Humphrey has responded by allowing opposing passers to complete only 51.8% of their throws when he's the closest defender in coverage, one of the best marks in football.

His abilities also have made it easier for Marcus Peters to quickly transition into an every-down player in Baltimore, where he has looked far more like the superstar Peters once was with the Chiefs than the corner who seemed lost and destined for the bench in Los Angeles.

Safety: Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints

It might be more fair to suggest that Williams isn't properly rated, given that the one memory everyone has of the Saints safety is his famous whiff on Stefon Diggs in the Minneapolis Miracle during the 2017 playoffs. Some defenders struggle to move on from their critical mistakes; remember that Rahim Moore, who failed to stop Joe Flacco's Hail Mary against the Broncos in the 2012 playoffs, was never again the same player.

Williams has not only powered through -- he has gotten better. Williams took a Jameis Winston interception to the house during the Week 11 win over the Bucs, his fourth interception of the season. He also has a forced fumble and is one of the deep safeties on a team that has allowed just a 74.4 passer rating on downfield throws this season, the ninth-best rating in football. The Saints have allowed the league's fifth-lowest passer rating when they don't get pressure; some of that is having Marshon Lattimore when he's healthy, of course, but even without Lattimore, Williams has been a critical part of one of the league's deepest secondaries. He's yet another standout player from the Saints' 2017 draft, which might be one of the best in league history through three years.

Safety: Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos

Vic Fangio has a habit of turning safeties into superstars. In San Francisco, it was Dashon Goldson. In Chicago, Fangio molded Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson into difference-makers. In his new digs, Fangio's standout safety has been Simmons, who has suddenly transformed into one of the league's best safeties in his contract year. He was responsible for the biggest defensive play in Sunday's loss to the Bills, when he picked off an overthrown pass for his third interception of the season.

Fangio generally prefers to have his safeties in interchangeable roles. Simmons can do it all. At 202 pounds, Simmons has the size to fill run lanes and tackle the league's larger backs. He's going to make his money in coverage, though, and he has been brilliant there. The 26-year-old has three interceptions and six passes defensed as the closest defender in coverage this year while allowing 65 yards on 14 targets. The only safeties with a better passer rating allowed as the closest defender in coverage over 200 or more coverage snaps are Earl Thomas and Rodney McLeod.

Thomas got an enormous deal in free agency, and while Simmons isn't quite on that same Hall of Fame track, the Broncos are going to need to open their checkbook this offseason. Denver has nearly $68 million in cap space, a figure that would rise by at least $10 million more if it cuts Joe Flacco. John Elway already made Kareem Jackson one of the highest-paid safeties in the league when he signed the former Texans corner to a three-year, $33 million deal last offseason. Two critical members of the secondary are now set to be free agents in Simmons and cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who wasn't able to come to terms on a long-term extension with the team before the season.

Do the Broncos want to use the franchise tag on Harris? Do they want to commit something north of $10 million per season to a second safety in Simmons? Would they move Jackson back to corner if they lose Harris? There's a lot of uncertainty here, but the smart money is on the Broncos re-signing Simmons and figuring the rest out afterward.


Kicker: Chris Boswell, Pittsburgh Steelers

Boswell took a lot of flak after a disastrous 2018 season, when the Rice product hit just 65% of his field goals, including misses on a pair of last-second kicks against the Browns and Raiders. Sometimes, those sorts of disastrous seasons can ruin kickers, even if it's just a small sample on paper.

Other times, the paper wins out. Boswell has been back to his usual self this season, as he has started 21-of-23 on field goals. Football Outsiders'kicker stats, which account for degree of difficulty, had Boswell as the fifth-best kicker in the league on scoring plays heading into Week 12. He also added value on kickoffs, where the Steelers also ranked in the top 10 at FO. With Matt Gay having an ugly week against the Falcons, I think you can make a case that Boswell has been the best mortal (i.e. not Justin Tucker) kicker in the league in 2019.

Punter: Jake Bailey, New England Patriots

There were versions of this team with guys such asDanny Shelton, Joe Thuneyand Jamie Collins on the list, but at the end of the day, the only Patriots player to make the All-Underrated team was a punter. You probably could have guessed that it would take a great prospect for Bill Belichick to give up his love for lefty punters and turn things over to the right-footed Bailey, whom the Pats drafted in the fifth round.

Bailey has played like a 10-year veteran. Aided by the efforts of Matthew Slater and the newly acquired Justin Bethel in what amounts to a special-teams superhero squad, the Patriots lead the league in value generated off of punts. (Part of that includes blocking punts, although FO's numbers don't incorporate Sunday's block in the win over the Cowboys yet.) Bailey has punted a ton for a Patriots offense that rarely turns the ball over but hasn't been good enough to score very much, which helps drive that figure. He also has fielded most of the work on kickoffs, where the Patriots ranked sixth at FO heading into the week. I wouldn't count out Belichick secretly teaching Bailey how to punt lefty for a key punt sometime in January, either.

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