This is the second week of my underestimated player spotlight, where I discuss players who are not usually acknowledged by the national media. This week I highlight a player who is not on a great team and is a defender. Being a defensive player on a team with a poor or average record is difficult. Even if it is not their direct fault, they will not be discussed amongst the top players in the league. This week’s underestimated player spotlight is Colts Linebacker Zaire Franklin.
Underestimated Player: College Years
Zaire Franklin played football at Syracuse for four years before entering the NFL. He played all four seasons as a linebacker. As a freshman, in 2014, Syracuse went 3-9, also having a 1-7 conference record in the ACC according to Sports Reference. Franklin totaled 44 tackles, five tackles for loss, and one forced fumble.
Franklin’s second year at Syracuse was statistically his best year. The university went 4-8 in 2015, with a 2-6 conference record. The record alone is better than the previous year, although just by one game. That season, Franklin had 81 total tackles and 11 tackles for loss. One reason for the increase in his stats is that Franklin played in 12 games, as opposed to nine in his freshman year. As for turnovers, Franklin had one interception for 21 yards, and two forced fumbles.
Throughout his collegiate career, Franklin had 310 total tackles and 187 solo tackles. His turnover stats over the course of four years were not great, with five forced fumbles and only two interceptions. Perhaps if his turnover numbers were higher, he would have been drafted earlier and not be an underestimated player.
Underestimated Player: Career Stats
Zaire Franklin was drafted in the 7th round of the 2018 NFL draft. As a late draft pick, it is evident he was an underestimated player in the league. He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts and remains their Linebacker to this day. Despite being known by Colts fans, those who do not follow Indianapolis football may not know much about him.
Although he has been playing in every season, Franklin did not start often, according to Pro Football Reference. Franklin did not earn a starting position early in his career, resulting in his early stats being nothing impressive. The linebacker did play in the Colts’ playoff games since he joined the league, but nothing much came from that. He totaled one combined tackle in their 2020 playoff matchup.
By 2021, Franklin began to start for the Colts, which paved the way for him to become an underestimated player. Over the course of five years, including the 2022 season so far, Franklin has 160 combined tackles and four tackles for loss. In addition to that, he also has two quarterback hits. Although the stats are not overly high, he did not begin to start often for the team until 2021. Franklin has even been voted a team captain, demonstrating the value he brings to his team.
Pro Football Reference also lists him as having one fumble recovery and one interception for eight yards. Turnovers are an important aspect of the defense, and by contributing to that, he is greatly helping his team win.
Underestimated Player: 2022 Stats
The Indianapolis Colts have a 3-2-1 record. Despite the three wins, there is still a lot of doubt about the colts; however, the AFC South is a wide-open division and anything can happen.
This season, only six weeks in has been Franklin’s best career season statistically speaking. The linebacker has 41 solo tackles, which is tied for first in the league according to ESPN. He also has 66 combined tackles. One of the most important stats may be low but important in order to get wins.
Franklin has no interceptions this year, but two pass deflections, according to ESPN. One pass deflection was against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Colts ended up winning that game 20-17. While now it is only a what-could-have-been situation, the game was only a three-point difference. Who knows what could have happened if the ball was never deflected? It could have turned into a big play by Kansas City. The Chiefs only were down by a field goal and could have easily tied or won that game.
With this year being Franklin’s best season yet, as long as he avoids any injuries, he is on track to be a top-linebacker. If the Colts win more, perhaps he will also be discussed by the major media. Unfortunately until then, he is a severely underestimated player that football fans should pay closer attention to. The defense has let up 121 total points, averaging about 20.1 points per game against them.
The Colts are set to face the Tennesee Titans this Sunday in an AFC South matchup. For those watching, keep track of Zaire Franklin, as he is an underestimated player in this league.
For more NFL and NCAA football content:
Read my first underestimated player spotlight to see who I chose last week. Also, check out my latest article on the famous Penn State Whiteout, and its importance to the school.
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