INDIANAPOLIS — During this somewhat slow window of the NFL offseason, we can take this time to reflect on some of the standout performances that players have given over the years.
So with that being said — and with this year bringing us the start of a new decade — Sports Illustrated's Nick Falato is looking back at some of the most underrated NFL players of the last 10 years.
Falato recently constructed his 2010s NFL "All-Decade Underrated Team," placing former Indianapolis Colts players — safety Mike Adams and running back Frank Gore — on his list. Here's what he wrote on each:
Mike Adams, San Francisco (2004-06), Cleveland (2007-11), Denver (2012-13), Indianapolis (2014-16), Carolina (2017-18), Houston (2019)
Adams came into the league as an undrafted rookie out of Delaware but had a solid career for several different teams. Although he was never a top athlete at his position, he has been a great tackler, who was smart and played with a high football IQ.
Run down every defense of which Adams was part until his retirement, and you'll find he played a significant role.
Adams, a native of Paterson, New Jersey, made the Pro Bowl in two seasons out of his 14-year career (2014 and 2015) and personified professionalism.
He finished his career with 930 tackles, 83 passes defensed and 30 interceptions. Again, not flashy, but he was the very picture of consistency and professionalism whose contributions elevated his teammates.
Everyone knows all about Gore, so we'll start with Adams, who is a perfect selection for this All-Underrated Team as a seldom spoken-about playmaker.
One of the NFL's best ballhawking safeties during his tenure with the Colts, Adams was graded as the NFL's sixth-best safety by Pro Football Focus in his first season with the Colts in 2014.
He started all 44 games with the Colts between 2014-16 and totaled 241 tackles (three for loss), 1.0 sack, seven forced fumbles, five fumbles recovered, 12 interceptions, 19 pass breakups.
Those numbers resulted in the only two Pro Bowl appearances in Adams' career. He was a critically-important veteran leader with the Colts, and much like Gore, Adams performed at a high level well into his 30s.
After stops with the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans, Adams announced his retirement from the NFL this offseason at the age of 39.
Frank Gore: San Francisco (2005-14), Indianapolis (2015-17), Miami (2018), Buffalo (2019), New York Jets (2020)
Fantasy football will make the running back and wide receivers well-known, but Gore has been so consistent throughout his entire Hall of Fame career.
Since 2010, Gore has had five 1,000-yard rushing seasons and seven 900-yard rushing seasons. In the decade, Gore ranks second in rushing yards with 9,786 and 10th in rushing touchdowns with 47.
He's finished in the top-10 league-wide in rushing attempts seven seasons (including 2013-17), and his 3,548 rushing attempts and 15,347 rushing yards both rank first among active running backs in the NFL. His 95 career touchdowns (receiving and rushing) puts him 25th on the all-time list.
He's a five-time Pro-Bowler who was named to the NFL's 2010s all-decade team. Still, when people talk about the great running backs in the game, Gore's name doesn't quite garner the same level of chatter as his younger contemporaries like Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, and so forth.
Even when Gore was a young buck himself, he was never really considered as a top running back option. His statistical longevity will benefit him when it comes to finding his way into Canton, but Gore never really had enough respect among average NFL fans.
While Gore was actually selected to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 2010s, the fact he's also listed on this "All-Underrated Team" is a perfect representation of a player whose production and consistency over the years is hard to ignore, yet still it doesn't seem as if he gets the full respect he deserves.
When the Colts signed Gore as a free agent in 2015, he brought stability to a backfield that needed it after several years of high hopes but inconsistency.
In three years in the Colts' running back group, Gore dominated the touches. He averaged 984.3 rushing yards per season, and in 2016 achieved the Colts' first individual 1,000-yard rushing season since 2007.
Gore started all 16 games each season between 2015-17, totaling 784 carries for 2,953 yards (3.8 avg.) and 13 touchdowns to go with 101 receptions for 789 yards (7.8 avg.) and six touchdowns.
Gore's longevity has been nothing short of outstanding. Playing a position that usually has a shelf life around the age of 30, Gore is still running at the age of 37. He currently ranks third all-time in NFL history in rushing yards behind only Emmitt Smith (18,355) and Walter Payton (16,726).