Five underrated offensive players in the SEC for 2013

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There are underrated players on every team in every league across college football who never truly get recognized for the job and the production they bring to the table.

Well, I’m here to recognize five offensive skill players who haven’t gotten their due, not only in this year, but in their career as well.

Related: SEC home attendance for 2013

Let’s roll…

Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama: I know TJ Yeldon is a dynamic talent, but Kenyan Drake is Alabama’s spark plug. When things were slow on offense, Doug Nussmeier and Nick Saban would insert Drake into the lineup, and he would make things happen. One memorable game was LSU, and when the offense was lethargic, Drake was inserted and became the spark plug early in the second half. Drake doesn’t get the hype or the projections that Yeldon does, but he could start for eight other SEC teams tomorrow. He rushed for 694 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. He also caught 12 passes for 135 yards and one touchdown.

James Franklin, QB, Missouri: Boy, Maty Mauk has a high ceiling the next few years. That’s all anyone wanted to talk about when James Franklin was hurt. But Franklin makes the offense more efficient, and his legs have played a nice part in the offensive scheme and plan this season. Franklin missed four games due to a shoulder injury, but he’s the reason the Tigers are in the position they are in. Wins against Ole Miss and Texas A&M only prove that. Furthermore, had Franklin played against South Carolina, the Tigers may be 12-0 and the top-ranked team in college football. Still, Franklin has thrown for 1,952 yards, 16 touchdowns and four INTs, along with rushing for 412 yards and three touchdowns.

Related: SEC Championship preview

Tre Mason, RB, Auburn: Finally, Mason may be getting some love in the national spotlight, but he’s still one of the most underrated players in the country. He leads the SEC with 1,317 yards and 18 touchdowns, and he’s the lifeblood of Gus Malzhan’s physical spread attack. Mason may not wow you with his size like Todd Gurley or TJ Yeldon, but his compact 5-10, 205-pound frame allows him to bounce off or run through any tackle. Then, he hits you with a jet sweep and he can house it on any play. He’s a complete player, and he’s an explosive player. Mason is the total package at running back who will never get the ink he deserves because of the system that he plays in.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt: Is it possible that Jordan Matthews can be underrated despite being the SEC’s all-time leading pass-catcher? I’ll argue he can, and he’ll likely be a first-round pick. I’ll contend he should be up for the SEC Offensive Player of the Year Award. He was the most consistent player in a conference that’s known for consistently dominating other conferences and funneling defensive backs into the NFL. All Matthews has done is catch passes. He’s totaled 257 catches for 3,616 yards and 22 touchdowns. He’s smooth, and he’s physical. Matthews will never get the credit he truly deserves because he doesn’t play in a wide-open offense, and he doesn’t play for a consistent national championship contender.

Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina: How fitting Connor Shaw’s name comes alphabetically last on this list. South Carolina’s signal caller is 17-0 at home and has helped lead Williams-Brice Stadium to become the SEC’s best home field venue. I wrote a whole piece on this last year, but he never ceases to amaze anyone. Shaw likely won’t be a first-, second- or third-team All-SEC quarterback; he won’t ever win an SEC Championship; he’ll never get his due, and his legacy will be just the best quarterback to ever have played at South Carolina. He’s thrown for 21 touchdowns and only one INT this season. No big deal either.

Photo Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

COMMENTS

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  • Underrated? Really? Maybe some investigative research would uncover some very underrated offensive players other than the All SEC list above. Weak

    • Aside from Mason and Matthews, who’s All-SEC on that list? You don’t think Connor Shaw is underrated? You don’t think James Franklin is underrated? Neither will be 1st, 2nd or 3rd team All-SEC QBs. Best WR in the conference? Folks will tell you Mike Evans or Donte Moncrief and not even talk about Jordan Matthews. Best RB in the conference? Everyone will tell you Todd Gurley, TJ Yeldon or Jeremy Hill and not even talk about Tre Mason. Weak.

      • Yeah…I mean underrated/overrated is all relative. I mean just because someone is all SEC doesn’t mean they get the attention they deserve. However I have heard Mason being mentioned lately as a distant Heisman candidate. Jon: please tell me you’re gonna do an OVERrated list as well.

      • You started with Kenyan Drake; good call. Very talented and I’ve never heard his name outside a Bama game. Everyone else, meh. I’ll grant you that the article is titled simple “5 under-rated” and not “the 5 most under-rated” but does it really give us new info on the other 4 guys? If this was for a national audience, sure, but it’s for people plugged into SDS. We know that Franklin can shred a secondary, Mason has been embarrassing LBs, Matthews and Shaw both made Vandy and SCar into real teams almost by themselves.

        Under-rated list, more Drakes, fewer Shaws.

    • J Dub – You must be an Ole Miss fan? Seems your feelings are little hurt from the Egg Bowl. Or maybe you’re a Tennessee fan. I dunno. All those players are underrated.

  • I agree with all of your picks Jon. Drake was overshadowed by Yeldon, Franklin not considered for heisman or QB of the Year due to injuries, Mason and Matthews could easily win position of year honors in any other conference, and Conner Shaw is one of the toughest QB’s in the conference. Well done Jon.

  • I would add Rajion Neal to this list. Dude rushed for 1,124 yards and 12 touches. He was our only offense at times.

  • Who the heck is underrating Jordan Matthews…Here’s a guy (damn you Gruden) that has been talked about as an NFL caliber receiver all year? He is just hidden because he plays for Vandy and nobody gives a crap about Vanderbilt.

    But that doesn’t make him underrated. Every team he played had to scheme specifically for him. That doesn’t make him underrated.

    Drake is the only person on this list that to me, fits the under-valued definition.

  • Totally agree on Conner Shaw. He made a trip back home for me miserable. Yet I felt I seen something truly amazing. I know Mizzou blew the 2nd over time but they were hitting Conner Shaw repeatedly. He was Amazing. How do you beat 20-1 TD to Int . Just an incredible player.

  • I’d say Shaws 21-1 TD:INT ratio is extremely impressive. Will be glad to see him gone after this year. Always gave UGA’s D fits.

    • Connor Shaw never got his due because of two things…..first and foremost, he is finishing up his college football career on what has been a historically underachieving South Carolina Gamecock program, as proof being the program had not had consecutive 11 win seasons EXCEPT during Shaw’s tenure. When folks look back after Shaw is gone, it will only be then that everyone will realize how good this young man was. Second, no one has ever heard Shaw saying “Me Me Me” because this young man was obviously raised not just in a football family, but also to be humble and respectful at all times, which he has always been. Shaw is a great role model if anyone remembers that term anymore, especially in this day and age when everything gets published in some form or another. Also, I am sure Shaw is really sorry about throwing that one interception this year! Congrats Connor Shaw on a great college career…

      • Well put. I’d say injuries also played a part in him not getting his due. He is one tough dude, but without the injuries, he probably would’ve shined even more.

  • Connor Shaw will be missed. USC was lucky to have him!

  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see Connor Shaw end up making it on a NFL roster next year at the TE or WR position if nothing else. He could’ve played and fit in well playing the game 100 years a go when football was more akin to rugby!