Every year, we know the stars who will shape the NFL season. We know Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow will impact the Super Bowl race, and we know non-quarterbacks like Justin Jefferson, Trent Williams and Micah Parsons will play huge roles in their teams’ successes. They’re stars for a reason.
Trying to determine under-the-radar difference-makers is a tougher task. First, we must define “under-the-radar.” Are they under-appreciated? Do they play a position not often recognized? Do they have teammates who overshadow them? Do we just not know them … yet? Have we forgotten about them? A mix of some or all of those things?
And then these players have to be able to make a big impact, too. Do they play a crucial position? Are they major question marks? Are they X-factors in teams or teammates reaching expectations? It’s a delicate balance.
With that in mind, and with 50 days until the Chiefs and Lions kick off the 2023 season, here are 50 under-the-radar players who could shape the 2023 season:
It’s hard for quarterbacks to be under the radar. One could argue they are the radar. But four in particular — for various reasons — fit into this category right now.
1. Kyler Murray, Cardinals: No, Kyler Murray the player isn’t under the radar, but Kyler Murray the situation is. Will he play in 2023, and if so, how much? Murray tore his ACL in mid-December and didn’t have surgery until January. The Cardinals are projected to be the worst team in the NFL, and if they’re out of the playoff picture early, is there a compelling reason for Arizona to hurry Murray back? Furthermore, the Cardinals have their own pick and the Texans’ pick in the first round in 2024, a class that features quarterbacks Caleb Williams and Drake Maye.
2. Brock Purdy/Trey Lance/Sam Darnold, 49ers: The fact that the team with the third-shortest odds to win the Super Bowl doesn’t know who its starting…