Even before his well-publicized recent arrest for DUI, Knowshon Moreno was considered a bust in terms of his NFL production. Likewise, there are several other Denver Broncos who are more hype than performance.
Following a season that saw proclaimed messiah quarterback Tim Tebow lead Denver back from a seemingly lost season to a playoff berth, Denver has much rebuilding to do to become truly relevant in the NFL, and many players on the roster are question marks at this point.
Taking into account salaries, expectations and actual value to the franchise, these seven players rank among the most overrated players on the roster.
A core special teams player for Denver over the past several seasons, Matt Willis took on a much larger responsibility in 2011 than in past seasons since his signing prior to the 2009 season. In turn, this new responsibility revealed a lack of true NFL talent.
With the trade of Brandon Lloyd midseason, Willis stepped into the lineup in a thin receiver corps. In 15 games this season, Willis totaled 18 catches for under 300 yards and a single score while showcasing poor receiving instincts and skills.
According to the Washington Post, Willis hauled in 50 percent of targets, a statistic that in itself would not be shocking if not for a mere 36 targets for the entire 2011 season in which Willis ran relatively easy routes to accommodate his lack of experience and playing time. Willis also twice dropped passes and additionally fumbled twice during the season as a receiver with limited appearances returning kicks.
Denver's offensive coordinator Mike McCoy attempted as the season went on to get Willis more involved in the passing offense, including the controversial Hail Mary attempt late in the Week 5 game against San Diego. Many of these attempts included forced passes due to Willis' inability to get open or incomplete passes due to Willis' inability to haul in passes.
Denver cannot afford to keep such a limited receiver on the roster who has little impact outside of special teams when attempting to run an offense that features Tim Tebow and has proven to be unfriendly to receivers. Eddie Royal could possibly leave via free agency this offseason, leaving Denver with a gaping hole at receiver behind Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas.
Brought in by previous head coach Josh McDaniels on a five-year, $20.4 million contract, Andre' Goodman has played opposite veteran Champ Bailey for the past three seasons as one of the better cornerback tandems in the NFL.
In 2009, Goodman flourished with one of his best seasons, intercepting five passes and deflecting a further 17 passes while registering the lone sack of his career. He also had a defensive touchdown on a fumble return. 2010 was a disappointment, with Goodman missing half the season with injuries and playing much of his eight starts with injuries as well. He registered no interceptions and averaged a single pass deflection per game.
Goodman showed his age in 2011 amongst criticism of having lost a step in coverage. He totaled two interceptions and 10 pass deflections in 16 games, a tremendous step down from the 2009 season that inspired fans. Outside of the key pick-six against the New York Jets, Goodman had little impact during the season, and was often burned for deep passes.
Goodman will turn 34 just prior to the regular season's start, and is beginning to show his age on the field. Barring a big addition in the form of a free-agent corner or a rookie via the draft, Goodman will most likely don a Denver uniform again this season. In the final year of his contract, there is little chance that Goodman will be re-signed following the 2012 season.
Chris Kuper has been a fixture on the Denver offensive line ever since his promotion to the starting lineup in 2007, having started 73 games from 2007 to 2011 and having missed only two games due to injury. Kuper's consistency was rewarded with a six-year, $29 million contract prior to the 2010 season.
Despite consistency, Kuper has graded out as only a decent blocker over his career, not a great one like a six-year contract would usually tell someone. Kuper is a remainder from the Mike Shanahan era, and was endorsed by Josh McDaniels as a power blocker, but with such a young offensive line, Kuper may not fit into John Fox's future schemes going into next season at age 29.
Kuper has never made the Pro Bowl, and yet is considered an anchor on the offensive line—which speaks to the state of Denver's blocking abilities.
Kuper missed the 2011 playoffs with a broken leg, suffered in Week 17. Backup Russ Hochstein replaced Kuper and seemed to be very little of a downgrade. Kuper's contract is not tremendous, but neither is his impact on the offensive line.
Going into next season, Kuper's recovery needs to be monitored closely, as injuries that seem to have healed fully have still affected greater talents such as current left tackle Ryan Clady.
A 2007 fourth-round draft pick, Marcus Thomas started more than five games for only the second time in his five-season career in 2011. With Denver's move to a 4-3 defense, Thomas received more playing time this season than he's had in the past two seasons combined.
Looking back at 2011, Thomas made little of the opportunity he was given.
Thomas recorded 29 tackles in 2011, the same as the previous season when he started only two games, compared to the 11 starts this season. Thomas missed time due to injury early in the season for the first time in his career, and failed to make any impact in the pass rush.
To this point in his career, Thomas has never totaled 30 solo tackles in a single season. An impending free agent, Denver could end up passing on re-signing Thomas this offseason.
Kevin Vickerson was acquired as a free agent prior to the 2010 season, and played well in an otherwise miserable Denver defense. He had 33 tackles, two sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and three pass deflections playing defensive end in the 3-4 defensive scheme employed at the time.
Vickerson was rewarded with a two-year $4.75 million contract prior to the NFL lockout even though the organization knew a move to a 4-3 defense was coming under new coach John Fox.
In 2011, Vickerson was moved to tackle and was penciled in at starter opposite new acquisition Brodrick Bunkley. Vickerson made little impact, being placed on IR early on in the season having only played in five games and recording a mere four tackles. Vickeson has never played a full season in the NFL, and there's nothing to say he'll stay healthy in 2012.
Although signed for the upcoming season, Vickerson is one of several defensive linemen who may not return for the 2012 season.
Hold on, Tim Tebow fans. He may be one of the most controversial and talked-about figures in the media today, but Tebow has not justified all the hype he receives on the field just yet.
Tebow's positives and negatives are well-known. The fourth-quarter comeback kid who appears unable to play quarterback for the rest of the game shows dependability in clutch situations and yet makes fans and critics alike cringe when watching inaccuracy that would embarrass most college quarterbacks.
In 2011, Tebow struggled to complete passes to the tune of 46.5 percent completion rate, the worst in the league, and showed very little pocket presence with 33 sacks. Yet Tebow showcased an impressive 2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.
He also rushed for 660 yards and six scores for 5.4 yards per carry, yet fumbled an atrocious 14 times during the season. His quarterback rating for 2011 was a low 72.9, one of the worst in the league.
Tebow may be the proclaimed chosen one, but he needs to improve as a passer in order to remain a starting quarterback in the NFL; that much is clear.
Thus far in his career, Knowshon Moreno has been a disappointment to Broncos fans as much as to the Denver organization. Prior to tearing his ACL, he went into the season as the starting running back. After a poor showing in Denver's Week 1 game, in which Moreno had only 22 yards on eight carries, head coach John Fox quickly decided to go with Willis McGahee as his starting runner.
Excluding significant playing time against Detroit where McGahee missed most of the game, Moreno had little to no impact with no scores and a fumble on 37 carries in 2011. Injuries limited Moreno to 13 games in 2010, most of which were played while on the injury report. Even in his rookie season, where Moreno almost reached the 1,000 yards rushing on 247 carries with seven touchdowns, he had four fumbles and was the owner of a 3.8-yards-per-carry average.
Since his rookie season, Moreno has managed a 958 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns while fumbling four times and missing time with injuries. Through his first three seasons, Moreno has fumbled eight times while scoring 12 times on the ground. He is the owner of a career 4.1-yards-per-carry average and under 2,000 rushing yards, both underwhelming statistics for the 12th overall pick in 2009.
After yet another injury-riddled season and now off-the-field concerns, Denver needs to take a serious look at Moreno's value to the team. Since he is a draft pick of former head coach Josh McDaniels, Fox could consider cutting losses and releasing Moreno rather than letting him play out his rookie contract.