Ravens 2012 Awards: Underrated Player of the Year

Ravens 2012 Awards: Underrated Player of the Year
February 7, 2013, 8:45 am
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The Ravens' remarkable run is over, the parade route is finally cleared out, and the Lombardi Trophy is safely locked up at the Ravens' Under Armour Performance Center, with the players' fingerprints all over it -- remember, they would not touch or even look at it before the Super Bowl on Ray Lewis' orders.

So with the Super Bowl hoopla finally subsiding, we are handing out our 2012 Ravens end-of-season awards.

Previously, we had the Coaching Move of the Year and the Offseason Signing of the Year.

Now, we have the Underrated Player of the Year:

When he was signed by the Ravens last March, the news hardly made a splash. In fact, the news was muted by the fact that Brendon Ayanbadejo re-signed with the team on the same day. Even through the first part of the season, many Ravens fans still didn't know much about cornerback Corey Graham.

Over time, though, they learned. As one player after another went down on the Ravens defense, the onus fell on others to be the next man up, and Graham delivered. Signed primarily for his work on special teams after five seasons with the Bears, Graham felt he was labeled a special-teamer in Chicago and wanted a chance to play in the secondary.

He got it, too, after injuries to Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith. Graham suddenly went from occasional nickel and dime back to starting corner opposite Cary Williams, and he was superb over the last two months of the season. Graham finished the regular season with 60 tackles, including six on special teams, two interceptions and eight passes defended.

But his defining moments came in the Divisional Round playoff game at Denver, when he intercepted Peyton Manning twice. He returned one for a touchdown, and the other set up Justin Tucker's game-winning field goal in the Ravens' epic 38-35 win. Sports Illustrated called Graham the best defensive player on the field that day.

"Corey is just a great football player," Coach John Harbaugh said a few days after that game. " He’s got very good ball skills. He’s got very good feet. He’s got tremendous understanding of the game. He understands the coverages and things like that. [He has] good body control. So, he’s got all the things that make for a good defensive back.”

Graham said after the Broncos game that other than getting married, coming to the Ravens was the best decision in his life.

"Coach [John] Harbaugh gives guys a chance to come out and play,” Graham said. “He told me before I signed here that if I deserved to play I would. He is a man of his word. He has given me the opportunity to play and that is all I’ve asked for.”

Up next: Play of the Year