To answer the question posed above, at least one person thinks so — Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com.
Prisco, in a story today on the most underrated and overrated players for each team, leads off with an item saying Mebane, Seattle’s nose tackle, is the most underrated player in the entire NFL.
“He doesn’t pile up big numbers, but Mebane is a key to the Seattle defense. His ability to choke off the run allows the Seattle pass rush to be so effective. When it’s third-and-long, you can do a lot of different things on defense.
Mebane is a 320-pounder who also occupies blockers inside to help free up the Seattle linebackers in the run game. One of the most overlooked things about the Seattle defense is the speed of the linebackers. Mebane’s ability to occupy blockers is a big reason why a linebacker like Bobby Wagner can get to so many tackles.
You look at Mebane’s sack numbers from a year ago, and you’d think I am nuts for putting him on this list. He didn’t get one. But that’s not his game. He is a run stuffer, who makes it tough on first and second downs.
He had some really impressive games doing just that last season, including against Houston and a late game against the Rams in Seattle.”
Hard to argue with any of that, though as Prisco notes, Mebane did not have any sacks last year. One reason is that he usually came off the field on third downs or other obvious passing downs as part of Seattle’s seven-man rotation up front. But working within what Seattle asked him to do last year, the stats back up Mebane did it about as well as could be expected.
Prisco, meanwhile, looked at the player that is essentially Mebane’s opposite on the other side of the ball as the team’s most overrated player — center Max Unger.
”Overrated: C Max Unger — So it’s not (Russell) Wilson or (Marshawn) Lynch, although case could be made for either. It’s Unger, who was named to the Pro Bowl, but didn’t play that well in an injury-plagued season. That’s why the Seattle line struggled in 2013.”
Prisco, of course, has to write his explanations within the confines of his format here, which is one or two sentences on each player. So that means he has no choice but to over-simplify things here. Obviously, the OL issues last year were far greater than Unger — Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini each missed eight games, forcing a re-shuffling of the line and more-than-expected use of rookie Michael Bowie. As we’ve noted often, Seattle’s preferred OL played just seven games together last year. So it’s hard to pin it all on Unger. But the point about Unger’s health last year is more than valid, and a return to health of Unger — who had a series of nagging issues last season — as well as Okung would go a long way toward solving the inconsistency of 2013.