Is DeMarcus Lawrence really the most underrated player on the Cowboys?
Pro Football Focus recently released an article picking the most underrated player on every NFL team. The answer for the Dallas Cowboys was a bit surprising. Although the writer did make it clear that the list was comprised of players who may get a bad rap over certain stats without looking at the whole, the choice feels odd. Sam Monson, a PFF writer, believed that the player for the Cowboys was DeMarcus Lawrence.
Let’s start off by saying what Monson himself said about Lawrence. He is “widely regarded as an excellent player.” The defensive end’s importance as a leader in the locker room alone proves his worth to this team. He’s also an incredibly talented edge rusher who often causes fear in quarterbacks, which is exactly what he’s supposed to do. So, why did the Cowboys wait so long to sign Lawrence to an extension? Why does PFF believe he’s underrated? Because as an edge rusher, he doesn’t put up good sack numbers.
Monson points out that across the league around 15% of pressures usually end up in sacks. That number for Lawrence was just 11.1% in 2021. In the DE’s two Pro Bowl seasons (2017 and 2018), he had 14.5 and 10.5 sacks. In the three seasons since that, his highest sack total was 6.5 in 2020. Last year, he had just 3.0. But, does that take away from his skill as a defender? I’d say no. He still makes a huge impact on this team and fans and Cowboys coaches know it.
So, is DeMarcus Lawrence the “most underrated player” on the Cowboys? No. It’s fair to argue that the franchise does see his value given his 3-year, $40 million contract despite a lack of sacks. There are other players on this roster who may be less valued than the DE.
Is PFF selecting DeMarcus Lawrence as the most underrated player on the Cowboys fair?
If Lawrence proves anything, it’s that while sacks are important, they certainly don’t paint the entire picture. He is valued and appreciated. But there are still other players on this roster who get more overlooked despite numbers and talent. Let’s take a look at two of those:
Jayron Kearse, S: Unlike Lawrence, Kearse was playing on a one-year, prove-it deal in 2021. His sixth year in the league with the Cowboys was his best. After being a free agent who floated around before 2021, Kearse collected 101 tackles, two interceptions, and 10 pass breakups. After leading the team in tackles, the safety got a much more frugal two-year, $10 million deal. His PFF score shot up from 55.7 to 76.8. Yet, when you think of Dallas’s defense, it’s highly likely you think of Lawrence’s name before Kearse’s.
Tony Pollard, RB: Here we are again. Making a case that Pollard is grossly undervalued, underused, and underappreciated. PFF themselves even graded him as a top 4 rusher in the league despite being considered a backup on the depth chart. He also had the highest rushing grade (90.3) of all backs in the entire NFL. Yet, Pollard is still set to make rookie money in 2022 and will likely start behind Ezekiel Elliott once again.
While Lawrence may be underappreciated based on his sack numbers, it’s hard to argue that he is truly “underrated” compared to others on the roster. His impact seems to be widely appreciated and ultimately known by both fans and the front office.