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NFC unsung heroes: Allen Robinson, Vonn Bell outpaced buzz

Time now for Part 2 of our look at the Unsung Heroes of 2019, this time covering the NFC teams. Of course, if you didn't catch the first part, on the Unsung Heroes of the AFC, you might want to go ahead and click here. Not that you need to read that side first. It's not like this is The Mandalorian or something, where if you miss the first installment, you've find of missed everything. Just wanted to get you sorted.

Without further ado, here are the Unsung Heroes (on the field, of course) of the NFC.

ARIZONA CARDINALS: Kenyan Drake, running back. I swear, I'm not trying to make this about guys who positively impacted my fantasy team. But NFL fans likely thought it was curious when Arizona traded for Drake in October -- and then they were probably really curious as to why he never clicked with the Dolphins after watching Drake do his best Barry Sanders impression in his first appearance in a Cardinals uniform, gashing the 49ers for 162 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. Now, if the future free agent returns to Kliff Kingsbury's offense, we can only imagine what he'll do in a full season working with Kyler Murray.

ATLANTA FALCONS: Grady Jarrett, defensive tackle. Obviously, Julio Jones and the explosive Falcons offense is what you think of first when you think about Atlanta. Well, that and the fact that they have a Chick-fil-A in the stadium. But Jarrett was the Falcons' most consistent non-Julio Jones player in 2019, finishing with 7.5 sacks, 16 quarterback hits and 12 tackles for loss. Jarrett proved it was pretty smart to ink him to a four-year extension heading into the year.

CAROLINA PANTHERS: James Bradberry, cornerback. I almost want to slot Christian McCaffrey here, because as praised as he was, it almost seems like he wasn't given enough respect in 2019, seeing as he served as the team's top runner (1,387 rushing yards, 15 rushing TDs) and receiver (116 catches). But it's clear Bradberry deserves love when you consider the NFC South -- home to headliner receivers like the Saints' Michael Thomas, the Falcons' Julio Jones and the Bucs' Mike Evans and Chris Godwin -- might be the toughest division for a cornerback to play in. The 2020 free agent was one of the best, even while going against some of the business' most elite pass-catchers.

CHICAGO BEARS: Allen Robinson, wide receiver. Taking the high road, Robinson said he wouldn't "lose sleep" over his Pro Bowl snub. But I certainly did. Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration -- I didn't actually lose sleep over it. Still, Robinson's absence from the Pro Bowl is clearly preposterous after he had one of the best seasons of his career, with 98 receptions for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns. And while I'm not going to use this forum as an opportunity to bash the quarterback, it's important to note that this production came on a team that ranked 25th in passing yards and 29th in overall offense.

DALLAS COWBOYS: Dak Prescott, quarterback. I tried to avoid listing any quarterbacks in either conference, because it's tough to be unsung while playing the game's highest-profile position. And when I did choose one, I really wanted it to stand out. I already covered Ryan Tannehill in the AFC half of this exercise, so let's have a word about Dak, who is currently without a contract for 2020. It's amazing to me that there are still people who question whether he can lead this team into the future. Let me give you the short answer: He certainly can. He damn near threw for 5,000 yards this season and had 30 touchdowns. I guess the expectations surrounding the position, and maybe some frustration over missing the playoffs, are probably fueling the Dak doubt. But let me tell you, as a fan of a Bears team that has struggled to get it right at the quarterback position for years, the Cowboys are set. So please stop questioning him.

DETROIT LIONS: Trey Flowers, defensive end. The Lions were a disappointing 3-12-1 in 2019, but you could sense that things were starting to trend in the right direction, especially defensively. One player who consistently stood out was Flowers. From Week 3 on, he tied for 10th in the NFL in pressures (45), according to Next Gen Stats. He also racked up seven sacks and was a general nuisance up the middle for the Lions.

GREEN BAY PACKERS: Tramon Williams, cornerback. The Packers got some great play in the secondary from Williams and Jaire Alexander. And while Alexander might have been expected to ball out, given his first-round pedigree and age (22), Williams was out there playing at a high level as both a slot-corner and outside cornerback as a 36-year-old in a contract year on his second go-around with the team. And while the optics of the NFC Championship Game, in which the Packers failed to stop the 49ers' ground attack, will no doubt linger in your mind, their defense played well in 2019, and Williams was a huge reason why.

LOS ANGELES RAMS: Cooper Kupp, wide receiver. Obviously, Kupp means a lot to people who participate in fantasy football, but I'm curious how much of a hero he remains to the casual fan. It's sort of unbelievable that he was able to return from 2018's ACL injury and lead the Rams in receptions (87), receiving yards (1,062) and touchdowns (10) in 2019. Although the offense changed a bit down the stretch, and we saw more of tight end Tyler Higbee as the season went on, Kupp still had a touchdown in each of his final five games of the season.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Anthony Harris, safety. Consistently overlooked, Harris rarely misses a tackle and is a pretty good ballhawk, having posted nine interceptions over the last two seasons. If the Vikings allow him to walk as a free agent, he'll be considered one of the top players available, maybe next to Amari Cooper. If Minnesota is going to remain competitive in the NFC North, this team needs to hang on to players like Harris.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Vonn Bell, safety. Don't be the person who wants me to mention Taysom Hill. He became one of the most popular players in the league, and his praises were sung more than Purple Rain. So let's give a little bit of love to Bell, who stood out in the secondary for the Saints in the final year of his rookie contract. He created turnovers and led the NFL with five fumble recoveries. He scored a touchdown this season. He provided a stabilizing force on the back end of the Saints' defense, which ranked seventh against the pass and ninth overall.

NEW YORK GIANTS: Kaden Smith, tight end. Tight end Evan Engram was poised for a breakout season in 2019, but injuries limited him to eight games. Smith, meanwhile, raised questions about Engram's expendability with his performance as Engram's replacement. Dude had at least five receptions in four of the last six games for the Giants -- not bad for a guy who was cut by the 49ers. (It's about time somebody benefited the other way from that.) Smith was at his best in his final two games, posting a pair of touchdown receptions against the Redskins, including the winner in overtime, in Week 16, then tallying eight receptions for 98 yards against the Eagles in Week 17.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Greg Ward, wide receiver.Carson Wentz went down with a head injury during the team's playoff loss to the Seahawks, and his backup, Josh McCown, played despite having his hamstring ripped from the bone. Now, if McCown hadn't been able to continue, do you know who would have been his replacement? That's right: Ward, who played quarterback at the University of Houston. That would have only added to the legend of Ward, who had already become a huge part of the Eagles' offense as a receiver, with injuries hitting that position as well.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Arik Armstead, defensive end. The 49ers enjoyed a lot of success in 2019 thanks to bounce-back seasons from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and cornerback Richard Sherman -- but Armstead's breakout year was just as big. The 2015 first-round pick had never quite lived up to his potential with 49ers, but in the final year of his rookie contract, he registered career highs in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (11). That sack total topped his results from his previous four seasons combined and also led the team.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Joey Hunt, center. Everyone celebrated the return of Marshawn Lynch to the Seahawks, but some of the success of the running game in 2019 -- including the great campaign Chris Carson put together before being lost with a hip injury in Week 16 -- could be attributed to what Hunt was able to do up front. Hunt, working on a one-year deal, started eight games at center after taking over for Justin Britt, who was lost for the season with an ACL tear in Week 8. But what's more incredible is that Hunt suffered a fracture in his fibula in Week 9 and continued to play through it for the rest of the year.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Carlton Davis, cornerback. Davis is poised to become one of the big names at the position in the coming years. He took a larger role with the team after former first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves was released in November, and the Buccaneers became one of the toughest teams to throw on over the final eight games of the season, with Tampa finishing 5-3. From Week 12 (the first game of the post-Hargreaves era) to Week 17, the Bucs posted a passer rating allowed of 70.5, third best in the NFL over that span. Davis was often asked to lock down the opponent's No. 1 receiver, and he often delivered. It's funny; I know, fantasy-wise, people loved to play opposing players against the Bucs' defense. That stopped in the second half of the season. Most notably because of Davis.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Quinton Dunbar, cornerback. There were few, if any, corners who played at a higher level than Dunbar in 2019. He allowed a passer rating of just 56.9, which ranked in the top 10 among cornerbacks, per PFF. And before he landed on injured reserve in December, he moved past Josh Norman as the cornerback who is most crucial to the Redskins success. Dunbar should be a key part of Ron Rivera's defense moving forward.

Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @adamrank.

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