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.
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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.
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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.
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