The Ten Most Underrated Players in Chicago

CBSSports.Com just published its ten most underrated and overrated players in the NFL. Matt Forte made the underrated list and not surprisingly, Jay Cutler made the overrated list. Who are the most underrated and overrated players in Chicago?

Here are the ten most underrated players first, to be followed later by the ten most overrated.

Jonathan Toews

Toews became the face of the franchise almost immediately since he stepped on the ice as rookie in 2007. Much like Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, Toews and Patrick Kane are the perfect complement of style and substance.

Gretzky was dominant like no other player in the history or North American sports, but it was Messier who was one of the greatest two way players in the history of sports.

Toews provides the Hawks an incredible two way player that also is one of their best special teams players as well.

He finished the truncated 2012-13 season with a career high of plus 28 and tied for the league lead with 19 even strength.

Its not often superstar players are underrated, but the former Conn Smythe winner is a humble player that is not self promoting.

After missing 21 games last season, Toews returned to lead the Blackhawks to their first President’s trophy since 1991. Toews averaged more than a point per game this season, the first time he accomplished that. He finished with 23 goals and 25 assists in 47 games.

Corey Crawford

Crawford teamed with Ray Emery to win the Jennings Trophy signaling the NHL’s lowest goals against average. He finished the 2013 season 19-5-5 with a 1.94 goals against average. There has been a lot of criticism directed Crawford’s way before this season. Many have questioned whether or not he is a top flight goaltender and if he could lead a team to a  Stanley Cup.

This was the second time Crawford finished in the top ten in GAA. He finished seventh with a 2.30 GAA in 2011.

Jimmy Butler

Despite finishing only seventh in the NBA’s most improved player vote that Butler was vastly improved this year. After averaging only 8.5 minutes and 2.6 points per game in 42 appearances in 2012, Butler averaged 26 minutes and 8.5 points in all 82 games.

He has increased that significantly during the playoffs. Butler has had a breakout playoffs. He has arguably been the Bulls best player. Butler is averaging 12.9 PPG in 39.6 MPG during the 2013 NBA Playoffs.

Against Miami, Butler has been the primary defender on LeBron James and is averaging 15.7 PPG and 7.3 RPG in the three game Eastern conference semifinal series against the Heat.

James Russell

Russell has improved each year with the Cubs. His ERA has dipped from 4.96 as a rookie in 2010, to 0.68 this season. In an otherwise disastrous bullpen in 2013, Russell and Kevin Gregg have provided Dale Sveum with consistency. Russell was 7-1 with a 3.25 ERA last season

Kirk Hinrich

Hinrich has been the steadying influence in the backcourt during his two stints with the Bulls. He was drafted in 2003 after Jay Williams career ended prematurely.

Hinrich has played alongside two of the biggest Bulls stars in the post Jordan era, Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose.

With Rose out this season, it has been Hinrich’s play at point guard that played a significant roll in 45 regular season wins and their first round victory over Brooklyn.

The Bulls have not played as well without the Hinrich in the lineup. Nate Robinson has been a revelation in the playoffs, but he is a score first point guard. Hinrich’s 5.4 Assists Per Game led the Bulls during the regular season.

Throughout his career, he has been clutch player in the playoffs. Hinrich averages nearly a point more per game in the playoffs and he reduces his turnovers.

Before suffering a calf injury in game four against Brooklyn, Hinrich was averaging 11.3 PPG and 5.8 APG, significant improvements over the regular season.

Lance Briggs

Briggs has played in Brian Urlacher shadow for the first ten years of his career. Urlacher likely has likely played his last game as a Bear.  The leadership of the Bears defense shifts to Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman.

In ten seasons Briggs has only missed four games. He has been selected to seven pro bowls and was named all-pro once.

 He has finished in the top 50 in the NFL in tackles in eight of his ten seasons. He has led the Bears in tackles five times in his ten seasons.

 His time to truly shine could be forthcoming with Urlacher’s departure.

Jose Quintana

In just over one season in the major leagues, Quintana has quickly established himself as a mainstay in the White Sox rotation. With Jake Peavy injury prone and John Danks missing most of last year and Gavin Floyd out for the season this year, Quintana has Given Robin Ventura an arm he can count on almost every time out.

 Quintana has a an 8-7 record with a 3.75 era in his career. Quintana suffered from a lack of run support as a rookie. Six times in 2012, Quintana gave up two runs or less and did not get the win.

 He should be a building block for the White Sox rotation with Chris Sale for the foreseeable future.

 Jesse Crain

Crain was a mainstay of the Twins bullpen that went to six postseasons in ten years. He made four of those trips. He was 44-28 with a 3.14 ERA in seven seasons in the Twin Cities. Crain won 12 games in 2005 and finished eighth in the rookie of the year voting.

 He joined the White Sox for the 2011 season and has his numbers have improved across the board. Crain has gone 11-7 with a 2.35 ERA in Chicago. He has also upped his strikeouts per nine innings from 6.2 to 10.6, his hits per nine from 8.0 to 6.4 and hit WHIP from 1.25 to 1.18. His walks have inched up a bit from 3.3 to 4.2.

 In a season that has seen the bullpen struggle at times, Crain has been the most dominant relief pitcher. He has a 1-1 record with a 1.06 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 17 innings.

Drew Crawford

Crawford missed most of the 2012-13 season with a torn labrum. His absence virtually killed all hope Northwestern had of reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

Crawford has been a mainstay of the Wildcats since debuting as a freshman in 2009. He has started 110 of 111 games during his career. At the conclusion of his freshman year, Crawford became the first Northwestern player to earn Freshman of the Year honors.

 Crawford will finish near the top of many of Northwestern’s career lists. He 1,418 career points currently places him tenth on the all time list. He is 620 points behind the Wildcats career scoring leader John Shurna. Crawford would have to average about 18 points per game to catch Shurna.

 New coach Chris Collins should infuse some excitement in Evanston and give Crawford a chance to shine in his last season at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

 Cleveland Melvin

DePaul hasn’t had a winning season since Jerry Wainwright's second season in 2007. They have not made an NCAA Tournament appearance since Dave Leitao’s second season in 2004.

 Melvin and classmate Brandon Young have provided Oliver Purnell with a consistent threat on the offensive end during one of the darkest eras in DePaul history. Melvin won the Big East’s rookie of the year award in 2011 and been steady throughout his career.

 He has averaged 16.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG and blocked 90 shots in 100 career games.

As Young and Melvin enter their Senior seasons, DePaul begins a new era in the revamped Big East. Being able to compete against other schools that don’t play FBS football should allow the Blue Demons to be able to compete better.

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