The quarterback, the starting pitcher, the striker, the point guard, there are a lot of positions in sports that people have deemed vital, and franchises are willing to pay a lot of money for these players. However, these are not the only positions that are on the field (or the court, or the ice) that are making all of the plays.
It takes a team effort to make it all the way to the championship, and some of the positions in sports aren’t quite as appreciated as they should be. These positions have players that don’t get a lot of glory, don’t get paid as well and don’t get their face slapped all over products that they have been asked to endorse.
But which positions in sports are the most underappreciated? You might think that some of the positions on this list get enough love, but we might get you to think twice about that. Without further delay, here are the 15 most underappreciated positions in the sports world.
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13 Tight End
Tight ends get a little bit of love since they are included on your fantasy roster, but not as much love as they should be getting. In the modern NFL, you are asking tight ends to be both wide receivers and offensive tackles, without giving them the same amount of money as you would to the other positions. Sure, there are guys like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham that get a lot of recognition and a lot of dough, but that’s rare. Most of the tight ends in the NFL couldn’t be named by the casual fan and they are mainly relegated to blocking. That’s a lot of punishment to take.
12 Pinch Hitter
Being a pinch hitter means that you have to take batting practice with everybody else, but not as much as the big boppers in the lineup. After the game starts, you have to sit on the bench for God knows how long before you get thrown into the game on short notice. Most of the time, you’re expected to get the team out of a tough situation, especially in the National League where you are likely batting for a pitcher that got himself into a jam. It’s hard to come up cold and get a big hit, and pinch hitters aren’t paid nearly as well.
11 Guard (Football)
There aren’t really any rockstars on the offensive line in football, but if there was one, it would certainly be the left tackle. That’s because the left tackle is trusted with guarding the quarterback’s blindside, and the top 11 highest left tackles in the NFL are making more than any guard in the league. Guards are more dedicated to run blocking, which means that their job is even tougher in terms of the toll it takes on their body. It’s not like they don’t have to handle blitzers up the middle, either. It really is a thankless job.
12. Goaltender (Soccer)
In the game of soccer, there aren’t too many shots on goal during a game, and you might have to face half a dozen of them if your defense is getting crushed. If you are able to stop half of those, then people will be ready to send you packing after the game. You have to be pretty much perfect as the goaltender in soccer, and you have to cover a pretty large area, all things considered. The goalie is easy to hate if you are a fan looking for a finger to point, but the goalie can only do so much on the field.
10 Second Baseman
When you think of baseball positions where you are not expected to be a great fielder or hitter, you usually think of second basemen. It’s a lot easier to play on the field than shortstop or third base, but people also don’t expect big things at the plate. The average second baseman makes about as much as the average shortstop, but there is a bit more pressure to produce with the bat, even though you’re stuck pretty far down the lineup in most cases and don’t have many RBI opportunities.
10. Full-back (Soccer)
It’s hard for the casual soccer fan to name that many full-backs, but it’s easy for a hardcore fan to blame a full-back on their team when they blow it. Having to stand back on defense for the entire game and basically act as a wall for players on the run is a lot of pressure that comes with almost no recognition. The modern game has made it nearly impossible for the full-back to find a lot of success. Heck, sometimes there isn’t even a full-back at all on the field as some teams only use center-backs.
9 Strong Safety
Imagine having to defend both the run and the pass while on defense without getting the recognition of a defensive end, outside linebacker, cornerback or even free safety. That’s the job of the strong safety, and most people can probably only name one that isn’t on their favorite team, and that’s Earl Thomas. Strong safeties also get lined up against tight ends quite a bit throughout the course of a game, which means there are a lot of underappreciated matchups that you will never pay attention to.
8 Power Forward
It’s hard to pick an underappreciated position in a sport where there are only five players on the court at a time, but power forward would have to be that position if given the choice. Power forwards have to play tough defense throughout the whole game and get bumped hard while also keeping their jump shots smooth enough to keep their job. It’s a grueling and demanding position with not much appreciation for how hard it is. As a matter of fact, there are just five power forwards in the list of 50 highest paid NBA players.
7 Defenseman (Hockey)
Most forwards in hockey get the points, the highlight plays, the big contracts and the babes. Defensemen get to stay on the ice longer, get grinded down until their bodies are sore and stand in front of shots until they lose all of their teeth. When is the last time you’ve seen a highlight on TV of a defensemen doing something that didn’t involve at least a little dental work? It’s easy to mess up as a defenseman on the ice, but it’s really hard to do something that makes you stand out. At least you get the occasional slap shot from the point to go in for you, unless it gets deflected off of some greedy forward.
6 Defensive Tackle
When people who don’t know too much about football come up with their list of best defensive players, they probably only base it off of tackles, sacks and interceptions. The one position on a football defense that doesn’t get much of those stats is the defensive tackle. Playing up the middle basically means that you are eating up double team blocks so that your teammates on the edge can get to the quarterback and make a lot more money doing it. Some defensive tackles have received a lot of recognition like Ndamukong Suh, but those guys are few and far between.
5 Middle Reliever
The job of the long reliever is not really appreciated, but it’s also seldom used. If you are a middle reliever, however, you usually get called on a couple of times per week because the starting pitcher got chased somewhat early, but not late enough to the point where your team is doing very well. Middle relievers have to come in and usually put out a fire and get the game into the end of the bullpen, and they don’t make nearly as much money as the starters or the closers. If you don’t have a sub 2.00 ERA as a middle reliever, there’s a good chance that people hate you.
Out of all of the positions in football, the one that is least represented in the Hall of Fame is the punter. When a punter does well, people usually only talk about of 30 seconds, saying “Wow, that was a pretty good punt.” When a punter messes up, that’s all anybody talks about for weeks, and even years. Just take a look at what happened in the Michigan vs. Michigan State game just last week. Michigan’s punter, Blake O’Neill, was having a great game that nobody remembered. Then the fumbled snap for a touchdown happened and it’s all anybody has been talking about in college football ever since.
3 Fullback (Football)
There was a time that the fullback on a football field was a glorified position, with guys like John Riggins, Jim Brown and Earl Campbell all gaining a lot of recognition, and yards. These days, a lot of teams don’t even use a fullback on their offense. When they do, their primary job is to block for the halfback, trying to create holes and getting blown up by linebackers in the process. If tight ends are underappreciated, then fullbacks are practically ignored. It’s not a fun job, it pays terribly, and nobody knows who you are. There are just two fullbacks currently making more than $1.75 million in the NFL.
Out of the 50 highest paid players in the MLB, there are just two that play the catcher position. Think about how uncomfortable it is to sit behind the plate for nine innings and having to do it more than 100 times per season. Not only that, but you have to call the game for the pitcher, making sure he hits the right spots. Then you have all of those pesky runners that you have to watch that are ready to steal on you, and it’s hard to throw them out. People also assume you’re an automatic out at the plate in most situations, so you really don’t get the appreciation you deserve as a catcher.
1 Center (Football)
Quick, name five centers that don’t play on your favorite team! It’s pretty hard to do, which is why we have it as the most underappreciated position in sports. Three of the 86 highest paid players belong at the center position. That’s it...three. The center takes a lot of abuse up the middle of the offense, and is tasked with having to identify blitzes to the rest of the offense while making sure the snap gets into the quarterback’s hands. One slip-up where the defense gets the ball, and people automatically look at you with a lot of anger. There are only 11 players that played center exclusively that have made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite all of that hard work.
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