Underrated AFC players, plus top 20 safeties entering 2024 and ranking the NFL's greatest dynasties

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Jordan Dajani here for your daily NFL news roundup, and I hope you and yours had a fantastic Fourth of July. I pray your beers were more plentiful than the safeties on the free agent market, your wines aged like Tom Brady and the fireworks more explosive than the Miami Dolphins offense against a team that won’t be making the playoffs.

While the NFL world is still on the summer vacation that precedes training camp, there are still notable things happening, so please subscribe to our newsletter right here. Now, let’s jump into some news and opinions from around the league.

1. Underappreciated players on each AFC team

The NFL may appear to be built on star power, but it is very much a team game. The league possesses plenty of underappreciated talent, so our Tyler Sullivan decided to go through every AFC team and select one player flying under the radar that shouldn’t be. Here are a few players he highlighted: 

Buffalo Bills- CB Christian Benford: “If you’re outside of Buffalo, you may not know who Christian Benford is yet, but he’s slated to take on a rather significant workload in the Bills secondary in 2024. After Tre’Davious White departed in free agency, Benford is in line to take on a starting spot on the boundary opposite Rasul Douglas. The former sixth-round pick out of Villanova started 14 of his 15 regular season games for the Bills last season. In that stretch, he broke up 10 passes, recorded two interceptions and held opposing quarterbacks to a respectable 88.8 passer rating when targeting him.”

Kansas City Chiefs- LB Drue Tranquill: “Tranquill ended up being a key piece for the Chiefs en route to their second consecutive Super Bowl title last season, especially when fellow linebacker Nick Bolton missed time due to a wrist injury in the middle of the year. In his first season in Kansas City, he routinely made plays within Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, finishing the year tied for third on the team in tackles and tied for fourth in sacks, in addition to forcing two fumbles. Tranquill continued that production in the playoffs with 21 total tackles in four games.”

New England Patriots- S Jabrill Peppers: “Peppers has been one of the more underrated signings the Patriots have executed in recent seasons. The versatile safety has been a key piece to a defense that is oftentimes headlined by Matt Judon, Christian Barmore and fellow safety Kyle Dugger. Last season, Peppers ranked fourth on the team in tackles (78), led the team in pass breakups (eight), and was tied for the most interceptions (two).”

For Sully’s full list on underappreciated players in the AFC, click here.

2. Top 20 safeties in the NFL entering 2024

We continued our CBS Sports top 20 positional rankings Friday with safeties, as Jared Dubin power-ranked the men that usually serve as the last line of defense for their respective teams. Dubin’s list included some surprises, as Derwin James and Talanoa Hufanga fell out of the top five, while a free agent made the top 15! There’s also an interesting name at No. 1. 

Here are half of Dubin’s top 10 safeties entering this season:

10. Tyrann Mathieu, Saints
9. Kyle Dugger, Patriots
8. Derwin James, Chargers
7. Xavier McKinney, Packers
6. Marcus Williams, Ravens

For Dubin’s entire list, click here

3. Ranking the NFL’s greatest dynasties of the past six decades: Where do Chiefs fall?

When we talk about NFL dynasties, our minds immediately go to what Bill Belichick and Brady were able to accomplish through the 2000s. That Patriots squad is indeed probably the No. 1 dynasty of all time in the NFL, but we may be in the midst of one that could eventually surpass it with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. 

CBS Sports’ resident historian Bryan DeArdo ranked the top NFL dynasties over the last 60 years — and the modern day Chiefs did indeed make the list. However, there are a handful of dynasties ahead of them. That includes the 1970 Pittsburgh Steelers, who came in at No. 2:

“The Steelers dominated an era that included Don Shula’s Dolphins, Tom Landry’s Cowboys, and John Madden’s Raiders. The Steelers’ success not only made Pittsburgh a football-crazed city, it helped popularize the NFL nationwide during a time when pro football firmly surpassed baseball as America’s new pastime. 

“Furthermore, while the Patriots have the greatest run of success in NFL history, the 1970s Steelers continue to hold the mantle as the greatest team of all-time, a team that went 4-0 in Super Bowl competition.”

For DeArdo’s full list of top NFL dynasties, click here.

4. Biggest needs for AFC teams ahead of training camp

We are just a couple weeks away from NFL training camps, where the unofficial football calendar turns from offseason to preseason. While the big waves of free agency are behind us, there’s still work to be done on each roster. Our Josh Edwards sat down this week and listed the biggest needs for each AFC team ahead of training camp, and he came up with some pretty interesting answers.

Steelers: WR

“Prior to the Diontae Johnson trade, the conversation would have centered around the cornerback and offensive tackle positions. Left tackle Dan Moore Jr. and cornerback Donte Jackson give them options, but either starting would bring frustrations over the course of the season. The franchise then drafted Troy Fautanu to fill a starting offensive tackle spot.”

Texans: DT

“Defensive tackles Sheldon Rankins, Maliek Collins and Teair Tart are gone from last year’s roster. They signed veterans Folorunso Fatukasi and Denico Autry, but that remains a position to monitor. As much respect as I have for Autry and the career he has made for himself, he is 33 years old.”

Bills: Interior OL

“Wide receiver, defensive tackle, safety and linebacker are a few positions that may have answers already on the roster even if there is more for the group, as a whole, to prove. 

“The choice was either cornerback or the interior offensive line. Rasul Douglas played really well after coming over from Green Bay in a trade. Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam are once again being asked to lockdown the other side now that Tre’Davious White has departed for Los Angeles. Connor McGovern moved from offensive guard to center this offseason, then the team signed David Edwards in free agency. It may work out fine but there are a lot of moving parts from last season.”

For Edwards’ full list, click here.

5. What’s going on with Matthew Judon?

The new-look Patriots front office has been busy as of late handing out extensions to their players, but one important piece is still looking for his money: Matthew Judon. 

The pass rusher is entering the final year of a four-year, $56 million contract. He skipped out on some of the voluntary workouts this offseason, but was present for mandatory minicamp. Wednesday, Judon posted some interesting material on social media that could suggest his time with the Patriots is nearing an end. 

An X user tagged Judon in a post imploring the Patriots to “pay the man what he wants.” Judon responded saying, “Ion think that’s about to happen.” He also posted a GIF of Nickelodeon star SpongeBob SquarePants exiting a room snapping his fingers at his boss with the caption, “Ight Imma head out.”

Is Judon really on his way out? For Sully’s story and some potential landing spots for Judon, click here

6. Extra points!

Want more NFL news? Here are some other noteworthy headlines from across the league:

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