Sports' Most Underrated Players This Week


By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek

March 8, 2013

Underrated: NHL – Sidney Crosby

He’s arguably the most popular and most marketable player in the National Hockey League, yet Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby barely cracks the Bloomberg “Sportfolio” / Horrow Sports Ventures Power 100, coming in at No. 98 overall. In fairness to Crosby, he returns to the list after falling off last year, missing the better part of two seasons due to head injuries. However, the 98th spot is a long way from his peak rank at No. 31 in 2011. For a guy currently leading the NHL in points and assists, he’s not even the most powerful player on his team. That distinction goes to Evgeni Malkin, ranking two spots ahead at No. 96.

Crosby’s “power” extends off the ice, where he makes $4 million annually in endorsement deals from companies including Reebok, Tim Hortons, Bell Canada, and Gatorade. Of all active NHL players, he has the highest Nielsen/E-Poll N-Score, a measure of marketability. When he’s healthy and plays for the Penguins, the local TV audience increases a whopping 38%. Regardless of where the Power 100 puts him, the Penguins understand his value. That’s why they gave him a 12-year, $104 million contract extension that runs through 2025.

Underrated: NFL – Joe Flacco

Keeping in mind that the Bloomberg “Sportfolio” / Horrow Sports Ventures Power 100 focuses on the 2012 calendar year explains why Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco ranks only No. 92 overall. Before the New Year, Flacco was having a solid season, leading the Ravens to an AFC North title and a fifth-straight playoff appearance. When the calendar turned to 2013, things went from good to great for Flacco. He and the Ravens went on an incredible Super Bowl run, upsetting Power 100 mainstays Peyton Manning and Tom Brady en route to the title.

Since winning the Super Bowl, Flacco signed the richest contract in NFL history, a six-year, $120 million deal with $52 million guaranteed. Endorsement opportunities have flooded in to his marketing agent, including one Flacco signed with Haribo Gummy Bears. He also went on the obligatory Super Bowl MVP visit to Disney World and toured the talk show circuit. Assuming he has another strong season in 2013, there’s little doubt Flacco will shoot up next year’s Power 100 rankings.

Underrated: MLB – Mike Trout

Los Angeles Angles outfielder Mike Trout took Major League Baseball by storm in 2012. He became the first rookie to hit 30 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season, and was a unanimous selection for the American League Rookie of the Year award. He even received six votes as the league’s Most Valuable Player. Arguably no one made a bigger impact on the MLB season than Trout. That’s why it might seem surprising that he would rank only No. 63, in this year’s Bloomberg “Sportfolio” / Horrow Sports Ventures Power 100, finishing behind nine other MLB players.

But Trout’s ranking isn’t as surprising as it seems. 20% of a player’s on-field score comes from the previous season, in Trout’s case, when he was still a minor-leaguer. Additionally, Trout is ranked just 55th among active MLB players by the marketability measurement Nielsen / E-Poll N-Score, a testament to his lack of time on the national stage. Trout slowly is signing high-profile endorsement deals, and counts Subway, J&J Snack Foods and Nike as sponsors. But with a contract that pays him just $510,000 this season, there’s no doubt that Trout is the most undervalued MLB player in the 2013 Power 100.

Underrated: NBA – Blake Griffin

Between national commercials and highlight reel dunks, whatever Blake Griffin does both on and off the court ends up on TV. While finishing at No. 49 in the Bloomberg “Sportfolio” / Horrow Sports Ventures Power 100 is commendable, the Griffin eye test makes his ranking lower than expected. Paired with teammate and fellow Power 100 member Chris Paul, Griffin has turned the historically downtrodden Los Angeles Clippers into a NBA power. The Clippers rank in the top ten teams in the NBA in merchandise sales, a feat that seemed impossible just two years ago. The boost is due in large part to Griffin having the 8th best-selling jersey in the league.

Though Griffin ranks behind seven other players in this year’s Power 100, in 2012, he appeared in more national TV ads than any of them. He already leads NBAers in new 2013 TV spots with three. National exposure is a clear perk for an athlete who counts deep-pocketed media spenders Nike, Kia, Subway, and Red Bull as sponsors. If the Clippers keep winning and his awareness keeps growing, Griffin will be much higher ranked on next year’s Power 100.

Overrated – Ryan Braun

Over the last two years, few athletes have been more dominant in their respective sport than Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. Braun won the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player award, and followed that up with a second place finish in the 2012 voting. Primarily because of his incredible on-field accomplishments, Braun ranks No. 23 overall in the Bloomberg “Sportfolio” / Horrow Sports Ventures Power 100. The lofty ranking also makes him the most overvalued athlete on the list.

There are both on-field and off-field concerns with Braun’s total score. Of the top 25 athletes in this year’s Power 100 list, Braun has by far the lowest off-field ranking. The reason? A positive steroids test that, though thrown out for violating testing protocols, hurt his reputation. Of course, Braun may have been able to overcome the bad PR if his name didn’t resurface in a new HGH investigation. It’s possible his incredible on-field score, which ranked fourth among all athletes, was inflated by the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Don’t be surprised if Braun falls in next year’s rankings.




© 2011 Human Kinetics  
Contact Us// Privacy Policy
Terms & Conditions