On Monday, Pro Football Focus released their annual list of secret superstars on every NFL roster. PFF's target with this exercise is to highlight some of the league's lesser-known stars who may have performed well, but may not yet have received the recognition they deserve.
The Dallas Cowboys' secret superstar is defensive lineman David Irving.
2016 snaps: 486
Key stat: Spent 35.3 percent of his snaps on the edge and the rest on the inside of the Dallas defensive line.
Irving has just cost himself the first four games of the 2017 season thanks to a suspension, but his 2016 in particular showed some impressive potential, and he recorded 39 total pressures and 14 defensive stops. Irving played just 486 defensive snaps and had the fifth-best pass-rushing productivity score of 8.5 among defensive tackles.
His suspension notwithstanding, Irving is certainly a good choice for PFF's list. But is he the best possible choice?
Here are a few other options that might warrant consideration.
CB Anthony Brown
2016 defensive snaps: 717
Key stat: Allowed the fewest yards per coverage snap of any NFL cornerback in the final month of 2016.
Over the last five weeks of his rookie season, Cowboys CB Anthony Brown allowed the fewest yards per coverage snap of any NFL cornerback. pic.twitter.com/W9W0AjK88o— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 31, 2017
A combination of injuries to other defensive backs, along with his own outstanding play, resulted in Brown starting 10 games for the Cowboys last year. That's quite astonishing for a sixth-round pick. The comparison is bit premature, but fifth-round pick Richard Sherman also started 10 games in his rookie season before becoming the player he now is.
DT Maliek Collins
2016 defensive snaps: 656
Key stat: His five sacks led all rookie defensive tackles in 2016, and were the third-highest total recorded by any Cowboys rookie, be it an inside or outside pass rusher (DeMarcus Ware had 8 in 2006, Jimmie Jones had 7.5 in 1990).
Collins played so well he made NFL.com's Next Gen Stats rookie team.
Cowboys DL Maliek Collins proved to be effective as a pass rusher from the Dallas interior defensive line. Averaging 4.28 seconds from snap to sack, Collins recorded the fastest average time to sack among rookie interior defensive linemen and was also 5th among all interior pass rushers in fastest average time to sack.
LB Jaylon Smith
2016 defensive snaps: 0
Technically, Smith may not qualify for PFF's list because he didn't play a single NFL snap yet. But there's little doubt that if he regains full functionality of his leg, he could be a the secret superstar for the Cowboys.
S Jeff Heath
2016 defensive snaps: 243
Key stat: Over his four-year career with the Cowboys, Heath has played more special teams snaps (1,216) than defensive snaps (1,078).
Between 1992 and 2014, USA Today provided an alternative take to the more established postseason awards by releasing its All-Joe Team, honoring "first-rate players who receive second-rate recognition." Only players who had never been named to the Pro Bowl during their careers were eligible for a place on the All-Joe Team.
Heath would have made a terrific addition to that team of players who never got much public attention but who willingly took on some of the game's grittier jobs. Perhaps all that hard work on special teams and as an injury sub on defense has prepared Heath to finally step out into the spotlight himself.
Who would you pick as the secret superstar for the 2017 Dallas Cowboys?
This poll is closed