NFL Twitter is full of posts about who are the most underrated players in the NFL. It never fails that the Cincinnati Bengals are brought into these conversations. Jessie Bates III and Tyler Boyd are current players named in every thread as being “underrated.” Long form articles have been published over the last two months singing the praises of both players so much that they don’t seem underrated anymore. Who are the true underrated Cincinnati Bengals players? Let’s take a closer look.
The Three Most Underrated Cincinnati Bengals Players
The Not-So-Underrated Bengals
Jessie Bates III is unquestionably the number one answer for the Bengals when underrated players are discussed. His name has been brought up so many times that it seems silly to talk about Bates being underrated. Bates was the highest rated safety last season by Pro Football Focus, so talk of him being underrated needs to end. Bates is close to signing a position defining contract. That doesn’t happen to underrated players.
Tyler Boyd is the other Bengal that most comes up in underrated conversations. The past three seasons have been extremely strong for Boyd with 1028 yards in 2018, 1046 in 2019, and 841 in 2020. He easily would have reached 1000 yards last season if Joe Burrow was not injured. He is without a doubt one of the top slot receivers in the NFL, if not the best. A lack of national recognition does not mean he is underrated.
The True Underrated Cincinnati Bengals
Drew Sample was a controversial second round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft for the Bengals. The pre-draft buzz did not have Sample rated highly enough to be taken in the second round, so fans have been slow to warm up to him. While not known as a receiving threat, Sample was the top blocking tight end in the 2019 draft. Sample has not been targeted often in his first two seasons, but he has made the best of what has come his way. In 2019 Sample caught 83.3% of the balls thrown his way. In 2020 that number was 75.5%. His career total of 76.3% is higher than Darren Waller’s career catch average of 73.9%. While no one is confusing Sample for Waller, Sample is a safe target that will keep the defenses honest this season. Expect to see Sample finish this season with over 650 yards and five touchdowns.
Taken in the third round of the same 2019 NFL Draft was Germaine Pratt. In 2019, the Bengals defense was in a steep decline, but that allowed for quick playing time for Pratt. He played in all 16 games that season, and he started nine of those games. The 2020 season saw Pratt start 15 of 16 games while showing slight gains in all defensive statistical categories over the previous season. Pratt’s production has not been at an All-Pro level yet, but the experience gained has been valuable. This season should see Pratt take a strong leadership position as the senior member of a young linebacker corps. A good goal for Pratt would be to lead the team in tackles while picking up a couple of interceptions.
Quinton Spain was brought on board in November of 2019 after being cut by the Buffalo Bills. Previous to his short stint with the Bills, Spain was the starting left guard for the Tennessee Titans for over three and a half seasons. Spain played the first week after being claimed off waivers, and he started eight more games last season. He committed two holding penalties in 543 snaps while switching to right guard. Now we will see what Spain can do with a full off-season with the team to truly learn the position from Coach Frank Pollack. This season should see Spain lock down the starting right guard position without allowing any sacks. Continuing his track record of staying penalty free will rub off on the rest of the offensive line.
Outlook for This Season
Underrated has been mistaken for lack of positive attention from the media. The Bengals as a whole will continue to be “underrated” until wins come. Bates and Boyd are true stars that are not underrated in the eyes of any true talent evaluators. Sample, Pratt, and Spain will continue to grow their roles this season and help lead the Bengals to the playoffs. When that happens, underrated will not be a word often used with the Bengals in the future.
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