What a decade it was!
The 2010-19 NFL seasons were filled with many memorable moments generated by some of the brightest stars of the game.
A great longtime NFL coach in Andy Reid of the Chiefs finally got to hoist a Lombardi Trophy thanks to a rising young talent at quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, who put on a show against a staunch 49ers defense.
There were the Minneapolis Miracle and the famous no-call against the Rams in the playoff game. Eli Manning and the Giants out-dueled Tom Brady and the Patriots in a Super Bowl rematch (XLVI), but Brady and company went on to appear in four other Super Bowls, winning three.
There was a famous power outage that may have swayed the tide in Super Bowl XLVII, a questionable decision to throw the football on the one-yard line in Super Bowl XLIX, and a 28-point deficit that was erased and subsequently conquered in overtime of Super Bowl LI.
It has been a very memorable decade, filled with great players. It’s also a decade with many great players who don’t get the credit they deserve.
With the NFL having announced the 2010s All-Decade team honoring those men who were a part of such an amazing decade, I wanted to pay homage to what I consider to be the NFL's 2010s All-Decade Underrated team.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit (2009-present)
Stafford is an underrated quarterback who has also been a pillar of stability outside of his second season and this past year.
Stafford has never really had a reliable rushing attack in Detroit the former Georgia Bulldog has played for three different coaching regimes.
He’s thrown for over 5,000 yards once (2011) and 4,000 yards six times. Stafford has also thrown for over 41,000 (18th all-time) passing yards and has a touchdown/interception ratio of 256 to 134.
In the decade itself, Stafford ranked 5th in passing yards and 6th in passing touchdowns, 38,758 and 243, respectively.
Through it all, Stafford, for some reason, doesn't seem to get the respect he deserves. A big reason for that could be the lack of success in the postseason.
Stafford is sub-500 in his career, 68-78-1, but that shouldn't be detracted from his arm talent as a quarterback. In a more stable organization, with the right pieces around him, Stafford can thrive and excel.
The Lions, with Stafford at the helm, have had four winning seasons, and have made three trips to the playoffs only to be bounced out in the Wild Card round.
It's hard to put the Lions lack of success all on Stafford, though, because football is a team sport, and the Lions didn’t exactly set Stafford up for success, even when they had Calvin Johnson on the roster.
Frank Gore: San Francisco (2005-14), Indianapolis (2015-17), Miami (2018), Buffalo (2019), New York Jets (2020)
Fantasy football will make the running back and wide receivers well-known, but Gore has been so consistent throughout his entire Hall of Fame career.
Since 2010, Gore has had five 1,000-yard rushing seasons and seven 900-yard rushing seasons. In the decade, Gore ranks second in rushing yards with 9,786 and 10th in rushing touchdowns with 47.
He's finished in the top-10 league-wide in rushing attempts seven seasons (including 2013-17), and his 3,548 rushing attempts and 15,347 rushing yards both rank first among active running backs in the NFL. His 95 career touchdowns (receiving and rushing) puts him 25th on the all-time list.
He’s a five-time Pro-Bowler who was named to the NFL's 2010s all-decade team. Still, when people talk about the great running backs in the game, Gore's name doesn't quite garner the same level of chatter as his younger contemporaries like Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, and so forth.
Even when Gore was a young buck himself, he was never really considered as a top running back option. His statistical longevity will benefit him when it comes to finding his way into Canton, but Gore never really had enough respect among average NFL fans.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle (2011-18)
Baldwin was an undrafted rookie out of Stanford who burst onto the scene in 2011 with 51 catches for 788, and 4 touchdowns.
Although not the biggest guy at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, Baldwin was a technician at the line of scrimmage and had an excellent rapport with Seahawks quarterback Russel Wilson.
Baldwin knew how to manipulate and vary his stems off the line of scrimmage and had several different go-to releases to win against press coverage.
He played in a run-heavy system, which may be one reason he’s not as admired, but he was able to post over 1,000 yards twice, with 14 touchdowns in 2015. Baldwin finished his eight-year career with 493 catches for 6,563 yards and 49 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, injuries during the 2018 season began to take a toll. He underwent numerous surgeries that off-season and then the following off-season (2019), the Seahawks released him with a failed physical designation.
Baldwin, named to PFF's All-Decade Team of the 2010s, has since called it a career, but what a career it was for the two-time Pro Bowl receiver, who went from rags to riches as an undrafted free agent to signing a four-year, $46 million contract in 2016.
Baldwin finished tied for first place in receiving touchdowns (14) in 2015 (with Atlanta's Devonta Freeman, the Jets' Brandon Marshall, and Jacksonville's Allen Robinson).
His 80-yard reception in 2015 is the seventh longest in the game's history.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh (2010-13), Denver (2014-19), San Francisco (2019), New Orleans (2020-Present)
A clutch receiver for years, Sanders now pairs up with Drew Brees and the Saints for one last kick at the proverbial can.
A third-round pick out of SMU in 2010, Sanders was able to dominate in the Peyton Manning-led Bronco era, after which he had three solid, but somewhat injury-plagued seasons after Manning retired.
The Broncos traded the talented receiver to the 49ers for third- and fourth-round selections. He helped solidify the 49ers vaunted rushing attack, as a reliable veteran receiver, while also bringing together a young receiving corps that includes future star Deebo Samuels.
Sanders is a two-time Pro-Bowler (2014, 2016) who has played for three different Super Bowl franchises: Pittsburgh (2010), Denver (2015), and San Francisco (2019), winning one championship with the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
Sanders currently has 601 catches for 7893 yards, and 42 touchdowns.
Golden Tate, Seattle (2010-13), Detroit (2014-18), Philadelphia (2018), New York Giants (2019-Present)
Tate was a second-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2010, and when he entered the NFL, he brought a high level of toughness, savvy, and sure hands.
Tate's route running was always a prominent part of his success. He wasn’t as flashy as some other big-name wide receivers, but his ability to be a security blanket on third down, while operating in the middle of the field, was essential to every team he played on.
He won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks and was a key contributor to the Lions throughout most of the decade. He was traded to the Eagles midway through the 2018 season, and then last year, joined the Giants as an unrestricted free agent.
Tate has never finished with over 100 receptions in a season, but he came close several times during the 2014-17 seasons as a member of the Lions.
Tate had over 90 receptions in each of those campaigns, coming to within one reception of 100 in the 2014 season.
Overall, Tate has 660 career receptions for 7,890 yards and 44 touchdowns, statistics that are close to what Emmanuel Sanders recorded for his career.
Tate received Pro Bowl honors in 2014 when he recorded 99 receptions for 1,331 yards and four touchdowns.
Delanie Walker, San Francisco (2006-12), Tennessee (2013-19)
Walker, a sixth-round pick out of Central Missouri State, played second fiddle to Vernon Davis for the first part of his career in San Francisco. Davis was the sixth overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, so Walker had to wait a bit to shine.
Walker's career took off once he arrived in Nashville, where he posted over 60 catches from 2013-17 for the Titans and was pivotal to their play-action game in the intermediate part of the field.
His blocking, on a run dominate team, was also another reason why he was so valuable in this decade. He was given his due respect, but maybe not as much as he deserved.
Walker was voted to the Pro Bowl three times (2015-17). Currently a free agent, he has 504 career receptions for 5,888 yards and 36 touchdowns.
Terron Armstead, New Orleans (2013-Present)
When healthy, Armstead has a difference-making impact on his offensive line. He’s one of the best tackles in football but can’t stay on the field consistently enough to be compared to the Tyron Smiths (Cowboys) of the world.
Although he's missed 30 games due to injury throughout his time in the NFL, Armstead still warrants a place on the list.
He routinely finishes in the top portion of Pro Football Focus' overall offense and pass-blocking grades, while finishing strong as a run blocker. The film checks out too; Armstead dominates the point of attack and is a true dancing bear for the Saints.
He's a two-time Pro Bowler (2018 and 2019) that came from a small program (Arkansas Pine-Bluff). It's safe to say that general manager Micky Loomis knocked that pick out of the park with the Saints landing Armstead in the third round.
David Bakhtiari, Green Bay (2013-Present)
Somehow, Bakhtiari fell to the fourth round in the 2013 NFL Draft, so he had a slow start at the beginning of the decade. However, he’s been incredibly effective blocking the blindside of Aaron Rodgers.
I feel he’s been much more appreciated this past season, but it took a while. He's a two-time Pro Bowl selection (2016 and 2019) and is currently one of the best pass protectors in the game.
His footwork and mirroring ability are among some of the best in the NFL, yet, you don't typically hear his name mentioned in the "best tackle in the league" debates.
Green Bay extended Bakhtiari's contract in 2016, giving him a four-year, $46 million deal with $16.7 million guaranteed. He'll likely be receiving another considerable payday at the end of the year, as he'll be 29 years old by then.
Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati (2006-16), Los Angeles Rams (2017-Present)
Yes, I’m going to add another tackle onto the list and omit an interior offensive lineman because Whitworth is too good not to make this list.
After toiling away in Cincinnati for ten years, Whitworth has become more of a well-known commodity with the Rams.
As is the case with every other player, age is starting to take its toll on Whitworth, as he was so effective in both phases of the offense for the Bengals. A dominating run blocker, with an excellent anchor in pass protection is the best way to describe the former LSU Tiger.
You can also throw in durable, as other than 2008, he rarely missed any snaps. Whitworth is one of the most underappreciated players of this era, even though he's a four-time Pro Bowler (2012, 2015-17) and a two-time, first-team All-Pro (2015 and 2017).
Interior Offensive Lineman
Brandon Linder, Jacksonville (2014-Present)
Linder has consistently finished at the top of Pro Football Focus’ grades for an interior offensive lineman. Linder, a third-round selection out of Miami, combines power and intelligence as one of the better interior offensive linemen in the game.
The Jaguars must have agreed with my opinion, as they gave Linder a five-year, $51.7 million contract that made him the highest-paid center in league history.
Jacksonville isn't exactly a big market like New York or Los Angeles, so Linder doesn't quite get the exposure that he deserves, though he should.
Interior Offensive Lineman
Kelechi Osemele, Baltimore (2012-15), Oakland (2016-18), New York Jets (2019)
Osemele was drafted in the second round out of Iowa State in 2012 and became a dominant fixture on both the Ravens and Raiders offensive lines.
Osemele took a bit to reach his peak, but it wasn't hard to notice when he did. Osemele, who helped the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII, was selected to two Pro Bowls with the Raiders (2016 and 2017).
One of the things that stands out about him is his 35 7/8" arm measurement, which was 97th percentile for his position, yet he still benched 225 pounds 32 times, which was 88th percentile. Those metrics are insane, and explain why Osemele was so strong at the point of attack.
Many people also forget how good Osemele was because of the time he spent with the Jets this past season, but he was so powerful in the running game, while also being adept as a pass protector.
Osemele, currently a free agent, is only 30 years old and still has a lot to give a team in need.
Akiem Hicks, New Orleans (2012-15), New England (2015), Chicago (2016-Present)
Hicks, out of Canada, was a solid player for the Saints, but he became a great player with Vic Fangio in Chicago.
Hicks was working for Direct-TV out of college and had to take a leap of faith and bet on his extreme skillset. He had an offer to play in the CFL but rolled the dice by betting on himself and tried out for the NFL and hasn't looked back.
Hicks is one of the stoutest players against the run who has some pass-rushing upside as well. The 6-foot-5, 324-pound interior defensive lineman also has 33.5 career sacks.
Since arriving in Chicago, Hicks has recorded 24 sacks. His mental processing is very high, which you can glean when watching his film.
Hicks made the Pro Bowl in 2018 while winning the Brian Piccolo Award in 2019, given to a Bears' player who exemplifies loyalty and teamwork.
Despite his accomplishments, Hicks doesn't deserve the love he deserves, making him a natural fit for the all-decade underrated team.
Cameron Wake, Miami (2009-18), Tennessee (2019)
Wake has been underrated since his days in college. He went undrafted out of Penn State and then assembled five double-digit sack seasons one year after playing in the CFL.
Wake was once on the Giants' 90-man roster back in 2005, but the Giants released him. He went on to play two seasons for the BC Lions, before landing with the Dolphins in 2009.
Wake only had 8.5 career sacks at Penn State because he was being used mostly as a linebacker. But in the just-completed decade, he had 95 sacks in the decade alone, which ranks fourth, just behind J.J. Watt and Chandler Jones, who are tied at 96.
Frequently written off and seemingly undervalued, Wake’s on-field presence was extraordinary. He had eight seasons recording 50+ pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
Wake now has over 100 career NFL sacks and is acknowledged by many, but still seems to fly under the radar when discussions of the game's greatest pass rushers in the last decade comes up for debate.
Ryan Kerrigan, Washington (2011-Present)
Ask Eli Manning, and he'll probably tell you that Ryan Kerrigan is one of the best defensive players of the decade who doesn't get his due.
Drafted in the first round of 2011 out of Perdue, Kerrigan amassed 90 career sacks, which ranks fifth in the decade behind Von Miller, Chandler Jones, J.J. Watt, and Cameron Wake.
Kerrigan has also only recorded less than seven sacks once in his career, which was last year's injury-plagued season.
He’s quietly been one of the most productive pass rushers in the NFL, consistently generating over 50 pressures from 2011-18.
He currently ranks in the top 50 of all-time career sacks, and now the four-time Pro Bowler gets to play alongside Chase Young and Montez Sweat, so he can expect a lot of one-on-one blocking attempts, opening the door for continued production into the new decade.
Mario Addison, four teams (2011-12), Carolina (2013-19), Buffalo (2020)
Addison spent most of his first two seasons jumping from practice squad to practice squad, but once he landed with Ron Rivera and Sean McDermott in Carolina, he was unlocked.
He's a solid overall defender, who is more known for his pass-rushing upside. Addison hasn’t had less than nine sacks since 2015, where he had 6.5, but the public perception of Addison isn’t equivalent to his impact on the field.
Addison started his career as an undrafted rookie free agent and had to earn everything. He may have been almost a decade behind, and a dollar short of fellow Troy alumni and NFL pass-rushing products Osi Umenyiora (Giants) and DeMarcus Ware (Dallas and Denver), but Addison is still effective in his own right.
Addison has reunited with Sean McDermott in Buffalo, where he'll be looking to supplement a pass rush that lost Shaq Lawson, has an aging Jerry Hughes, and has a young player by the name of Ed Oliver. Can Addison earn at least nine sacks again?
K.J. Wright, Seattle (2011-Present)
Wright was the underappreciated defensive player on those dominant Seahawk teams. From 2014-17, he had over 100 tackles, repeating that accomplishment in 2019. (An injury in 2018 broke his streak).
Despite Wright's production, we don’t hear much about his effectiveness. A fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State, Wright is a tackling machine at the second level of the defense.
He offers an imposing 6-foot-4, 246-pound frame, and possesses solid movement skills in coverage. His 34 7/8" arms are of the 98th percentile for linebackers, which is a significant reason why the Seattle Cover-3 model has worked so well.
Linebackers with long arms close throwing windows in the middle of the field, which is especially important when it comes to the seams (a vulnerability in certain Cover-3 defenses).
This factor is likely why Wright has amassed 34 career passes defended. Wright also ranks eighth in the decade with 876 total tackles. He was nominated to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and was a Super Bowl XLVIII champion.
In 2019, he signed a 2-year $15.5 million extension, yet he might be the lesser-known Seahawks linebacker next to Bobby Wagner.
Demario Davis, New York Jets (2012-15, 2017), Cleveland (2016), New Orleans (2018-Present)
Davis has been a tackling machine since he entered the league as a Jets’ third-round selection out of Arkansas State in 2012. Since 2013, he’s never had anything less than a 90-tackle season. Davis has 803 total tackles in his career, which ranks in the top 20 of the decade.
Davis is coming off one of his best seasons in 2019, where he recorded 111 tackles, four sacks, and 11 passes defensed. Now 31 years of age, Davis will look to lead a defensive unit that includes stud pass rusher Cameron Jordan.
It took a while for public perception to appreciate Davis’s skill set fully, but he's started to get the props he deserves. He’s very good as a blitzer, solid in coverage, and operates the line of scrimmage well. A 2019 first-team All-Pro selection, Davis is a playmaker.
Lavonte David, Tampa Bay (2012-Present)
David has success as a run defender, in pass coverage, and as a blitzer. He had a seven-sack season in 2013, 13 passes defensed in 2015, and his record number of tackles is 146 in 2014.
He's everything you could want in a linebacker, yet when people talk about the top linebackers, his name often comes up as an afterthought, if at all.
David’s only had less than 100 tackles once in his career, that being in 2016. In the recently completed decade, David ranks third in tackles with 1,005, behind retired Carolina Panthers star Luke Kuechly.
The other thing that makes the 6-foot, 233-pound David worthy of a spot on this list has been his importance to the middle of the Buccaneers defense.
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles lined him up all over the box, and even some at slot corner last year. He's versatile and dangerous as a tackler near the line of scrimmage.
David, a 2015 Pro Bowler, will not get to lead a run-stuffing defense, while future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady throws passes for his offense.
Johnathan Joseph, Cincinnati (2006-10), Houston (2011-19), Tennessee (2020)
Not many people considered Johnathan Joseph as a top corner in the league, but he was a steady-Eddie for two franchises until injuries started to take their toll during his later years in Houston.
Joseph’s ability to stay in phase while playing man coverage was excellent in his time. He has 31 career interceptions, with a whopping 194 passes defensed, which is incredible (according to Pro Football Reference).
In his 14-year career, he’s been in two Pro-Bowls (2011 and 2012), so some appreciation has been thrown his way. Throughout his career, he’s been a strong tackler with good coverage skills, and disruption at the catch point.
The former first-round pick out of South Carolina will look to earn playing time with the Titans as a 36-year-old. The athletic ability might have faded a bit, but the intelligence and decision-making Joseph has shown continues to get better every year.
Chris Harris Jr., Denver (2011-19), Los Angeles Chargers (2020)
Harris has become much more of a mainstream name since the Wade Phillips defenses of the mid-decade, but he’s still not applauded enough for how good he really is in space.
Some people have used the fact that he's excellent in the slot as some knock against him, which is ludicrous. Being an effective nickel is just as important as being a solid boundary corner.
Offenses always adapt, and we have seen more No. 1 receivers move to the slot every year. It's a game of mismatches and adjustments, so if a team has a nickel vulnerability, it'll be exposed--just look at the Giants last year.
Harris was undrafted in 2011 out of Kansas and slid into the slot role for the Broncos with ease. His man coverage ability is elite, and he currently has more interceptions in his career than he does touchdowns allowed (19 touchdowns/20 interceptions). Harris moved predominately to the outside corner in 2019.
Harris has never really been mentioned in the discussion when it comes to the league's “top 5 corners,” but he should be. During the height of the "No Fly Zone" defense, arguments can be made that Harris was the second most crucial defender on those teams behind edge Von Miller.
Harris moved on to the Chargers, where he'll either look to play rotationally in the slot with Desmond King or look to start on the boundary, as he did for the 2019 Broncos.
Micah Hyde, Green Bay (2013-16), Buffalo (2017-Present)
Hyde is really carving out a special role in Sean McDermott's defense. The undersized corner out of Iowa is now one of the more effective safeties in the league, while also being a good return man on special teams.
According to Pro Football Focus, Hyde is very versatile and has lined up 551 times at free safety, 284 times in the box, 153 times at slot corner, and 40 times on the defensive line in 2019.
Hyde made the Pro Bowl in 2017, his first season roaming in the Bills' secondary. He's also contributed as a punt returner, having recorded returning three punt returns for a touchdown.
Hyde has 44 career passes defensed and 16 career interceptions and has 439 career tackles. While not as big of a household name, but there's little doubt that the Bills’ Mafia has a strong appreciation for his skill set.
Mike Adams, San Francisco (2004-06), Cleveland (2007-11), Denver (2012-13), Indianapolis (2014-16), Carolina (2017-18), Houston (2019)
Adams came into the league as an undrafted rookie out of Delaware but had a solid career for several different teams. Although he was never a top athlete at his position, he has been a great tackler, who was smart and played with a high football IQ.
Run down every defense of which Adams was part until his retirement, and you'll find he played a significant role.
Adams, a native of Paterson, New Jersey, made the Pro Bowl in two seasons out of his 14-year career (2014 and 2015) and personified professionalism.
He finished his career with 930 tackles, 83 passes defensed and 30 interceptions. Again, not flashy, but he was the very picture of consistency and professionalism whose contributions elevated his teammates.