Few men understand what it’s like to be overlooked like Akiem Hicks. He never got a fair shake in New Orleans because they couldn’t get their defensive coaching staff right. New England traded for him in 2015 but wasn’t willing to spend enough money to keep him. Not until 2016 when the Chicago Bears came calling did he get the love he’d sought.
Since then fans have made it a mission to tell more people around the country that Hicks is the real deal. He is one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game. This has been true since he first arrived in the building. Yet even today there are a lot of people who don’t acknowledge him nearly enough. That is why he’s only been to one Pro Bowl.
Cynthia Frelund set about rectifying that injustice. She created a data-driven rankings of the most underappreciated players in the NFL. Hicks not only made the list, he came in at a respectable 3rd. Only Eagles center Jason Kelce and Titans safety Kevin Byard ranked ahead of him.
Akiem Hicks is among the most complete DL in football
What stands out most for Frelund is the fact that Hicks has no glaring weak spot. His ability to squeeze the pocket and get after the quarterback is what he’s most celebrated for. This can overshadow how good he’s been against the run as well. He is a specimen who never has to leave the field.
“While it’s true that the sum of all of the value components is the reason for the Bears’ league-leading results, Hicks’ individual contribution metric ranked fourth among interior defensive linemen in my model last season. Pro Football Focus credits him with 51 pressures (tied for ninth-most among interior D-linemen) and 34 run stops (second-most among interior D-linemen) last season, which helps give context to his value.
My favorite computer vision note from my model? Hicks’ ability to get within five or fewer feet from opposing quarterbacks (a proxy for pressure) increased in the second half of games last season. Only two other interior defenders ended the season getting “faster” as games went on.”
There is no doubt Hicks would be considered a top name in the sport today had he gotten a fair shot when he first got to the league. That is just how things go sometimes. The Bears would not change a thing of course. Him being in Chicago and playing with a massive chip on his shoulder is exactly how they want it. Let everybody overlook him. He’ll just continue dominating.