The 50 Most Overrated Players in the NFL
Ask yourself: Who is the most overrated player in the NFL today? Who would be on your list of the top 10 most overrated players in the NFL today? If you are struggling to come up with 10 names, maybe you need to think about the question in a different way.
What if we asked who are the first 10 NFL players who come to your mind, the ones who receive far more publicity than their play on the field merits? Is it easier to come up with 10 names from that perspective? What if we plugged in the term "overhyped"? Are the names coming easier now?
NFL players who make more money than their play warrants is another way to identify overrated players. If you are of the opinion that everybody in the NFL is overpaid, then you can ignore the comment.
Another way to think about this topic is, if you see an NFL story on a player and as soon as you either see the player on the screen or hear his name your first reaction is that you want to change the channel, there is a very good chance that you have identified a player who is overrated.
We were asked not to just come up with 10 names, but rather the top 50 NFL players who are the most overrated in the NFL today. To help me out with this assignment—which is sure to make fans of the individual players who are named to this list jump up and defend their player—I am going to turn to some NFL players for help. We located a collective group of 111 NFL players from 31 NFL teams that agreed to participate in a poll by the Sporting News, to identify the NFL's most overrated player.
If you feel the need to question their opinion, then I would have to wonder who else is in a better position to appreciate who the most overrated players are than fellow NFL players? These players voted, and their votes are good enough for me to qualify their choices for the final 17 names on the list. The NFL players surprised me with some of the names that they came up with.
As for the other 33 names, I came up with those, not because I have any personal issue with these players, but because that is my job. Now on to the presentation.
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Ever since Roy Williams was selected as the No. 7 overall draft choice of the Detroit Lions in the 2004 draft, it has been difficult for Williams to live up to the elevated level of expectations placed on him.
He is already on his third team in the NFL, and it would not be surprising if the Chicago Bears part ways with Williams prior to the start of the 2012 season.
In the past four seasons, Williams has failed to reach 40 catches, which shows how far his game has dropped. He will probably always be considered overrated until he retires.
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Ever since Bob Sanders joined the NFL in 2004, he has never played in all 16 games in the regular season. Not once. In fact, from 2004 to the present, he has appeared in at least seven games in any year just twice in his entire career.
In his last four years as a member of the Indianapolis Colts, Sanders only appeared in 10 games total.
Sanders was named the NFL AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2007, and even since then he has been trying to live up to that reputation, failing miserably to do so due to his inability to stay healthy. When you win an award like that, it carries with it a certain level of expectation. Because he was the Defensive Player of the Year, that would imply a certain level of toughness.
But despite the recent track record of being too unreliable to count on, the San Diego Chargers still gave Sanders a contract in 2011 when he became a free agent. The end result was that Sanders was only able to give the Chargers two games for the whole year.
There is no definitive word yet if Sanders will retire or try to come back for 2012. It sure seems like he has some soul-searching to do.
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Ever since Matt Leinart was leading the USC Trojans to national championship games, there has been an expectation that he would deliver in the NFL. It also didn't help that he helped to raise the bar on what he could produce by winning the Heisman Trophy as well.
The Arizona Cardinals made him the No. 10 overall draft pick in the 2006 draft, but Leinart hasn't played up to the level of a top-10 selection. He seems to be content to exist as a backup quarterback, as if he is resigned to the assessment that his days as a starting NFL quarterback have passed him by.
The Houston Texans gave Leinart a great chance to be in the spotlight in 2011, but he couldn't even last one game as the starter after Matt Schaub went down for the year.
At this juncture, it appears that Leinart will be remembered as a very good college quarterback, but that will be the peak of his career.
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Nate Clements has enjoyed a long and productive career as a top cornerback in the NFL. Clements has played 11 years in the league, and he has now played for Buffalo, San Francisco and Cincinnati.
Clements had 12 passes that he broke up in 2011, which was tied for the Bengals lead. While on one hand you might look at that and think that it was a good thing, the reality was that Clements' skills have been starting to fade in pass coverage, so more teams are now throwing his way to pick on him.
It is not out of the realm of possibility that Clements could be moved to safety as he enters the twilight years of his career. A move like that would probably extend his career by several years, and then he wouldn't be considered as much of an overrated defensive back as he is now.
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Whether it all generated from the years of being a starting quarterback at Notre Dame, or maybe it was just his general nature and personality, Carolina Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen has a way of rubbing people the wrong way.
Many teams met with Clausen at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2010, but his personal interviews with teams left something to be desired. Even still, the Panthers drafted him with the No. 48 pick in the 2010 NFL draft.
The Panthers didn't have much trouble in realizing that they made a dreadful mistake by turning over their offense to Clausen in 2010. Luckily, they had Cam Newton sitting there in the 2011 NFL draft to rectify the mistake.
Whether or not any NFL team will ever trust Clausen to run their offense is unknown. But as highly rated as he was coming out of Notre Dame, it wouldn't surprise me if he is holding a clipboard for many years to come.
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Ever since Vince Young led the University of Texas to the comeback win over USC in the national championship game, there has been a high set of expectations placed on him.
One of the more interesting developments of the 2011 offseason, besides his proclamation that he was part of a "Dream Team," Young had no interest from other NFL teams, getting no offers for a starting quarterback position. Maybe Young didn't think he was up for being a starter, and thought serving as understudy to Michael Vick was the better way to go.
Young is a free agent coming into the 2012 offseason, but you really don't hear his name that often as a potential starter for teams that need to upgrade their quarterback situation. You hear about Matt Flynn far more often than you do about Young, which shows you how far he has fallen in recent years.
Either way, the perceived value of Young, compared to what he has produced to date in his NFL career, demonstrates that he is overrated, and has yet to live up to what people expected he could do.
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Dallas Cowboys defensive back Terence Newman is due to earn $6 million in 2012. That seems like a long shot right now because Newman doesn't have the appearance of a player who is worth anywhere close to that.
Newman's coverage skills have continued to fade over the past few seasons, and he is becoming more and more of a liability in pass coverage. There really isn't anywhere safe to hide him, because teams will be looking to go after him if he is out there.
It is noteworthy that the Cowboys can save $6 million in salary cap space if they release Newman after June 1, as per this Star-Telegram.com article. It would be considered a surprise if he is not let go, because his skills don't match his level of compensation.
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Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice is probably thought of as a mystery to many NFL fans. You're not sure how good he is, but you know that he has potential.
I found a good article written by Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Darin Pike that describes why and how Sidney Rice was the most wasted free-agent signing of the 2011 offseason. You can find a link to that here.
The Minnesota Vikings selected Rice in the second round of the 2007 draft. From his rookie year until now, Rice has enjoyed one really productive season in 2009, when he gained 1,312 yards on 83 catches and scored eight touchdowns.
Rice is set to earn a salary of $7 million in 2012. When he joined Seattle, Rice signed a five-year contract for $41 million. From the $41 million, $18.5 million was guaranteed, and Rice also gets a $6 million signing bonus. His 2012 salary is guaranteed, by the way. Now if he could only guarantee the Seahawks that he would produce...
Note that Rice had offseason surgery on both of his shoulders. It is not yet known how long it will take him to rehab from the surgery.
Ever since Rice had the big year in 2009, the Vikings, his fantasy owners and now the Seahawks have been waiting for him to duplicate that season.
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After the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl, it was assumed that the team would continue to improve and dominate in the 2011 regular season. Well, the Packers did have a solid season with a record of 15-1, but the Packers defense took an alarming dive in the NFL rankings.
One of the culprits who didn't enjoy a very good year was linebacker A.J. Hawk. Based on all the acclaim that Hawk received alongside fellow linebacker Clay Matthews Jr., it was safe to think that were held in higher regard around the NFL coming in to 2011.
There was a story from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about how shallow the play of Hawk had become lately. The Packers opted to sign Hawk to a new five-year deal for $33.8 million and let Nick Barnett walk away.
Hawk was graded out by Pro Football Focus as just the No. 35-ranked 3-4 scheme inside linebacker in the league. He is set to earn $4.4 million in 2012.
In the 2011 season, Hawk's production dropped in most key categories. He played in 14 games in 2011, and his tackles dropped from 111 to 84. He defended 10 passes in 2010—that number dropped to three in 2011. He came up with three interceptions in 2010, and had none in 2011. He improved in 2011 from a half sack in 2010 to one-and-a-half sacks in 2011.
We wonder if the Packers are privately wondering if they would prefer to have Barnett back instead of Hawk.
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Michael Crabtree had a prolific college career, catching passes at Texas Tech. That final season suggested that he would become something special in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers helped to validate those beliefs when they made Crabtree the No. 10 overall pick in the 2009 draft.
If you are a top-10 draft pick, there is a certain level of production that is expected from you. So far, after three seasons, Crabtree has averaged the following production: 58 catches, 747 receiving yards and four touchdowns per season. Not exactly what you were expecting from a top-10 draft pick.
Granted, Crabtree's production has been on the rise every year since he turned pro. The third year is the year you are supposed to break out, and it is true that this past year was the best year of his career. But when the San Francisco 49ers were in the national spotlight, playing the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game, Crabtree basically disappeared, as he only caught one pass for three yards in the entire game. That was against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL, ranked No. 29 against the pass.
Crabtree has had the opportunity to work with his quarterback, Alex Smith, for three straight years. By now you would think that their chemistry was such that they would be able to connect more than one pass play in a crucial game. While it is possible that Crabtree can still advance his overall game, for now I prefer to think of him as overrated.
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Prior to Cam Newton entering the NFL in 2011, who was the college player that everybody was most looking forward to seeing play at the next level? For me, that player was Reggie Bush.
Bush took some steps towards respectability with the 2011 season that he turned in with the Miami Dolphins. The 2011 season saw Bush come up with the first 1,000-yard rushing season of his career.
However, as good as Bush was during the past season, it doesn't cancel out how overrated he was during his days in New Orleans. Sure, there were some moments that he shined as a Saints player, but they were too few and far between compared to the level of hype that Bush received coming out of USC.
If Bush needed a model for what he could have been in New Orleans, all he had to do was look at what free-agent Darren Sproles did in 2011. That is exactly what Bush should have been doing.
Bush never rushed for more than 600 yards in any season with New Orleans. His best season as a receiver out of the backfield was his rookie year in New Orleans, and the receptions total continued to spiral downhill from there. His career average of 4.3 yards per rush is OK, but nothing that screams of stardom. His average catch of 7.2 yards is also OK, but in the open field he should be gaining more.
In his career, Bush has scored 40 total touchdowns, including the four he made on special teams. For all of his speed, quickness and amazing moves in the open field, I was expecting to see so much more.
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Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward is still awaiting word to find out if he will be part of the Steelers' plans for the 2012 season.
I had suggested in an article last year that Ward was basically washed up—and Steelers fans were outraged that I could have even suggested such a thing. To his credit, Ward did last the 2011 season, but Steelers fans have to be able to admit that Ward is slowly but surely being phased out of the offense in favor of the Steelers' young stable of faster receivers.
According to this article by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, it appears that Ward's tenure with the Steelers is coming to an end. GM Kevin Colbert says that more terminations are coming, and based on the way the Steelers used Ward in 2011 (or more precisely how they didn't use him), it seems likely that he is done in Pittsburgh.
As emotionally attached as Steelers fans appear to be to having Ward remain with the team, the only way that I can see that happening is if another team signs away Mike Wallace in free agency. That would create a roster opening, and free up money for Ward.
But who would Steelers fans rather have in the lineup, Wallace or Ward? Case closed.
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New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs has seemingly been living on fumes for the past several years. Jacobs was part of the New York Giants' successful run in the playoffs to win Super Bowl XLVI, but for the most part, his 2011 season would have to be judged as sub-par.
During the NFL Network telecast of the NFL Scouting Combine there were reviews of the running backs assembled in Indianapolis, and I overheard the analysts talking about bursting through the hole with speed, something that Jacobs can no longer do. I don't know which analyst said it, since I was writing this article at the time, but I don't believe it is something that people would raise their eyebrows at if they heard it being said.
In 2011, Jacobs seemed to do more dancing at the line of scrimmage than running north and south. His average yards per rush dropped to an unacceptable level of 3.8, which is very close to his dreary results of 3.7 yards per rush for the 2009 season.
Maybe Jacobs has simply taken too much pounding over the years, but with two years of under 4.0 yards per rush in the last three years, it is safe to consider Jacobs as an overrated player.
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On the surface, Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner seems like he had another banner year in 2011. But when I conducted research on players who were overrated in the NFL, I was rather surprised to see how often Turner's name popped up.
From an article by WalterFootball.com, Turner is thought to look sluggish and came up with too many rushes that resulted in negative plays.
If you look at forums for Falcons fans, you will see a number of complaints that Turner's stats are misleading because he has many one- and two-yard runs, and then he will break off a 20-yarder. The stats don't tell the whole story.
To his credit, Turner has logged over 1,400 carries in his career, rushed for 56 touchdowns and gained over 6,500 yards on the ground. He has a career average of 4.6 yards per rush. It is very conceivable that he has taken enough of a pounding over the years that his legs and body are starting to wear out and that he has lost at least a step, if not more.
The end could be coming very soon.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth is going to have to do something drastic to overturn the current image of him being overrated. Ever since he signed his huge deal with the Washington Redskins, Haynesworth's game has gone steadily downhill.
His bank account is huge, in addition to his midsection, but that can be a direct result of having so much money that you don't know what to do with it. Haynesworth has now been on three different teams in a short time span, and it appears that he will have to play for a fourth different team if he wants to extend his career, because Tampa Bay is trying to rebuild with players who are hungry and want to play.
That really isn't where Haynesworth is in his career and place in life right now.
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Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson had a rough 2011 season. It appears that whatever skills he possessed in pass coverage have slowly been abandoning him.
The Falcons are basically in a jam because they have guaranteed a huge sum of money to Robinson, and they may lose some key free agents as a result of not having enough cap room left to keep all the players they want to.
According to this story from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Robinson is scheduled to earn $6 million in 2012, of which $5 million is already guaranteed. It is one thing to be an expensive player on your team, but it is something else to be expensive and play terrible at the same time.
How terrible? According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson was graded out as No. 101 out of 109 possible NFL cornerbacks in the 2011 season. He ranked as No. 105 in pass coverage in 2011. Whose idea was it to give him so much money for the Falcons?
Playing so poorly is a sure-fire way to be known as overrated.
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Chicago Bears running back Marion Barber found that life in Chicago wasn't that much different than it was in Dallas.
Barber has been in the NFL for seven years now, and he has never had a 1,000-yard rushing season. In 2011, Barber spent his first year with the Bears but only managed to gain 422 yards with an average rush of just 3.7 yards per carry.
In fact, in three of the past four seasons, Barber has failed to reach the 4.0-yards-per-carry minimum, which is another way of saying that Barber is an overrated back.
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There is just no two ways about it. Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis had a miserable 2011 season. You can chalk it up to the "Madden Curse" if you want to, but Hillis went from hero to zero in just about one calendar year.
Hillis' production fell off the table in 2011. He went from 1,177 yards in 2010, to just 587 rushing yards in 2011. His touchdowns fell from 11 to just three. His average rush plunged from 4.4 to 3.6.
In addition to being a shell of his former self, Hillis copped an attitude, making him difficult for teammates to deal with.
There is still debate as to if he will return to Cleveland in 2012, but clearly his bubble has burst.
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Matt Ryan is still in the early stages of his NFL career, but due to the level of success that Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons have enjoyed during the 2010 and 2011 NFL regular seasons, it is rather disconcerting that the Falcons are 0-3 under Ryan in the playoffs.
You can relate Ryan to other quarterbacks who receive heaps of praise and acclaim around the league, but until Ryan is able to erase the playoff drought, he will have a hard time shaking this image of being overrated.
In addition, you have to look at how star quarterbacks (which is what we consider Ryan to be) are able to respond to adversity in the playoffs. Despite losing in the playoffs, Alex Smith and Joe Flacco stepped up and played strong games. Ryan, on the other hand, led the Falcons offense to a shutout at the hands of the New York Giants defense.
The memory of this latest playoff disaster will no doubt leave the rest of the NFL with a tainted view of Ryan, and he will have to work hard to eliminate that impression from memory banks all over football.
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Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin had a streak of two straight 1,000-yard seasons coming into the 2011 season. But Austin disappointed the Cowboys and his fantasy owners with a dismal 2011.
Austin's receiving yards have dropped from 1,320 to 1,041 to 579 in the last three years. Is it possible that Austin has peaked already by the age of 27?
How big a role Austin will play in the Cowboys offense in 2012 depends on some factors that he can't control. Will Laurent Robinson return to Dallas, and is Dez Bryant ready to take a step up in 2012?
As for Austin, his fans can only hope that he has a healthy 2012 and that he will come up big once again.
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St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford had a rough sophomore year. He only threw six touchdown passes for the year, which matched his six interceptions.
From his rookie year, his passer rating actually dropped from 76.5 to 70.5. But his completion percentage dropped from 60 percent in his rookie year down to an alarming 53.5 percent in 2011.
New head coach Jeff Fisher has lots of work to do in order to improve Bradford and help him get some confidence back. Bradford has already been sacked 70 times in two years, which is enough to shake anyone's confidence level.
Bradford can only hope that the Rams trade down from the No. 2 overall draft slot so that they can draft multiple players who can help, because Bradford can't afford to be shell-shocked much longer.
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Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley and his agent were sweating out how the free-agent negotiations were going to work, as the agent wanted to claim that he was a wide receiver, while the Packers maintained that Finley was a tight end.
It is all a moot point, since the Packers and Finley were able to reach a new two-year deal this week, valued at $14 million.
Now that the contract is done, Finley can go out and start focusing on catching the football again. In 2011, Finley had nine drops in 13 games, according to this article from the Journal Sentinel.
If the drops continue in 2012, Aaron Rodgers will not have any trouble looking for his other targets. As Finley's level of compensation goes up, so does the expectation that the drops will be a thing of the past.
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New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes enjoyed his finest season in 2009, when he was playing out the final year of his contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Holmes caught 79 passes for 1,248 yards in 2009, and his numbers have just continued to go down ever since.
In the two years that Holmes has been catching passes from Mark Sanchez, he has netted only 1,400 yards, which is only 152 yards more than his final year in Pittsburgh.
The interesting thing is how many targets from Sanchez to Holmes go incomplete. If NFL quarterbacks are expected to complete at least 60 percent of their passes, consider that Holmes only caught 51 of the 102 passes thrown to him in 2011. No wonder Sanchez and Holmes are arguing in the huddle.
As far as 2012, it remains to be seen how the New York Jets will evolve under new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. It seems that the Jets are more likely to become a running team, and the emphasis on Holmes will decrease.
Will he become a diva or problem player if his role is diminished? No matter the outcome, it is clear that Holmes is going to be overrated either way.
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I came across a Bleacher Report article by Oakland Raiders Featured Columnist and Senior Writer Ramone Brown, who listed running back Darren McFadden as overrated. According to Brown, the belief of many Raiders fans is that "all the Raiders have to do is just give McFadden the ball and we will win."
It is that kind of thought process that has kept the Raiders out of the playoffs since 2002.
There is no doubt that McFadden is a talented back, as he was off to a great start in 2011. He has never played a full season yet in his career due to injuries, but 2011 was the fewest number of games he has played so far in any season (seven), and that will no doubt contribute to his detractors who feel that he is overrated.
It will be interesting to see what the Raiders do in the 2012 offseason, due to McFadden's running-back-by-committee-mate Michael Bush being a free agent, and the Raiders are without any top draft picks in the 2012 NFL draft.
If they let Bush walk away in free agency, that is going to put even more pressure on McFadden, and not just to perform, but to be able to play in all 16 games. I am just not convinced that is something that he is able to do.
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Wide receiver Braylon Edwards is currently a free agent in the NFL. Most recently, he was employed by the San Francisco 49ers, who learned what the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns have learned before them—you just don't know for sure what you are going to get from Edwards.
It is safe to say that Edwards truly bombed out in 2011 with San Francisco. Considering that he had a decent year with the Jets in 2010, Edwards went MIA in 2011. His yardage fell from 904 to 181. Catches slipped from 53 to 15. Touchdowns dropped down from seven to none, and his average yardage per catch went from 17.1 to 12.1.
It will be interesting to see if Edwards returns to the Jets in 2012. Since he is a free agent right now, there is nothing to prevent the Jets from signing him. Rex Ryan seems to be interested in Edwards, so we will see what happens.
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The Philadelphia Eagles are currently fielding trade offers on free-agent wide receiver DeSean Jackson, as per this story by Adam Schefter of ESPN. The Eagles can perform a sign-and-trade maneuver with interested teams, as it appears that they recognize other teams might value Jackson more than they do.
With all of the problems that Jackson caused the Eagles in 2011, it appears that they would prefer to let Jackson be somebody else's problem than their own. The Eagles have observed Jackson's game evolving over the years—and not for the better. Jackson has been impacted due to several concussions and he prefers not to run routes over the middle that could lead to some devastating hits.
Not only that, but he has too many drops to be relied on, and then when you factor in his attitude, well, there are other receivers you can turn to who have far fewer red flags.
As highly acclaimed as Jackson is, he is still young enough that he has time to turn his reputation around. If Jackson can show some maturity in 2012, that would be a good start. If Jackson is traded away, and the problems follow him to the new team, then it is conceivable that Jackson will be one of those highly gifted players who never reach their full potential, bouncing around from one NFL team to another.
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The jury is still out on Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. He seems to have cut down on the majority of his off-the-field problems, but we are not suggesting that he has been a saint, either.
What is of more importance to us is how his production numbers will either improve or decline in 2012. So far, there have been enough concerns posted about Bryant that make us wonder how high the ceiling will truly be for him.
As per this article from Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, Bryant hasn't exactly mastered the art of running pass routes. To the extent that Bryant is able to elevate his game in 2012 and live up to some of the hype that he received before he landed with the Cowboys remains to be seen.
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Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was drafted by the Oakland Raiders with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft. Due to Raiders owner Al Davis' (R.I.P.) need for speed, the Raiders drafted the fastest player in the NFL Scouting Combine that year (and Jacoby Ford in the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, for that matter), which created a very high level of expectations for both.
When you are drafted as high as Heyward-Bey, you should be putting up monster numbers every year, but that simply hasn't been the case. It is a given that Davis reached for Heyward-Bey with that pick, but even if we concede that, it doesn't do much to change what the actual perception is.
The pressure for Heyward-Bey will continue to be on him to put up a big season for every year that he continues to wear an Oakland Raiders uniform. After three years in the NFL, Heyward-Bey has only averaged 33 catches for 488 yards and two touchdowns per season. For a No. 7 draft pick, that is simply not enough production.
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Reflect back to the crazy 2011 NFL offseason. When free agency finally kicked in after the CBA was agreed to by the NFL owners and the players association, who was the biggest prize available for any team to sign?
The Philadelphia Eagles signed ex-Oakland Raiders corner Nnamdi Asomugha to a five-year deal for $60 million, of which $25 million was guaranteed. It was believed that Asomugha would be the type of game-changer that would elevate the Eagles to become a playoff team and champs of the NFC East.
Well, we all know how that turned out. The Eagles defense was a unit that was a work in progress in the 2011 season under new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. While the Eagles showed improvement in the final third of the season, the defense didn't excel to the level that most people expected due to the addition of Asomugha.
While there is no doubt that Asomugha is a solid corner, the 2011 season was all the evidence you need for proof that Asomugha is overrated. He didn't make that much of a difference, at least to the level that was proclaimed leading up to the 2011 season.
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Antrel Rolle was the No. 8 overall draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2005 NFL draft. Rolle played for the Cardinals from 2005-2009, and made the Pro Bowl team in his final year with the Cardinals. He was released by the Cardinals in the 2010 offseason, so they wouldn't have to pay Rolle a $4 million roster bonus.
Rolle then signed a free-agent contract with the New York Giants for a five-year deal worth $37 million, which automatically elevated him to the highest-paid safety in the NFL. The weird thing is that Rolle wound up making the Pro Bowl team again in 2010, despite admitting that his mind wandered often with the Giants in his first year with the team. Add in the fact that Pro Football Focus graded Rolle as the 80th-best safety in the NFL in 2010, and his Pro Bowl election is all the more puzzling.
Even though the Giants won Super Bowl XLVI, their pass defense struggled all year. Rolle didn't have a great year in pass coverage and was targeted often by opposing offensive coordinators. There is no doubt that Rolle's reputation doesn't match the level of his play. He is very overrated.
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When James Harrison was awarded the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2008, he immediately placed a very high standard for where the level of his game should be for the immediate future.
But if you watched him play in the 2011 season, you have to wonder if he is able to get back to that lofty level again, or if that player is now gone for good.
It is hard to tell exactly what is going on with Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, but he just doesn't seem to be the same player that we have come to know. Whether he has been affected by all of the fines from the NFL, being the target of scrutiny by the referees, age or injury, something has changed his game to the point that he is not playing to the level that we are accustomed.
In 2011, Harrison didn't have a single interception, defended pass or fumble recovery. He had 59 tackles and did come up with nine sacks in 11 games, so there are parts of his game that are still viable, but he isn't contributing across the board like he used to do. That has to be a concern for the Steelers and their fans.
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Shawne Merriman started out his career with three straight years of double digit sacks. Things have gone steadily downhill since then.
These days the Buffalo Bills linebacker is known for hooting and hollering and doing his sack dance, mostly in the preseason. When it comes to the regular season, Merriman can usually be found in street clothes on the sidelines.
In five games with the Bills in 2011, Merriman had nine tackles and one sack. In 2010, Merriman got injured on the first day of joining the Bills in practice, and was then gone for the year.
There is no way of knowing if Merriman is still capable of playing for an entire NFL season any more. He has never appeared in all 16 games during his seven-year NFL career.
The Bills would be happy with 10 sacks in 10 to 12 games this year. If Merriman can provide that, it would be a start, but compared to the publicity and compensation, he will probably be overrated until it is time to retire.
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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is another overrated player. Despite all of the talent that the Eagles brought in to bolster the 2011 team, Vick's game regressed enough to keep the Eagles out of the playoffs, as he turned out to be a one-man turnover machine.
In 2011, Vick threw a career-high 14 interceptions in just 13 games, and lost three fumbles on top of that. Part of the problem is that Vick doesn't study the game or know it inside and out like he should after all this time in the league. Until he improves his knowledge and work ethic to study more, he will be holding himself back from what he could become.
Vick will probably be considered overrated until he can direct the Eagles to a playoff win, which will help to make up for the many mistakes he has made. But, Vick is running out of time to bring the Eagles faithful a playoff win.
Note: The final 17 slides include the most overrated players as voted on by their peers in the Sporting News poll.
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This is the first slide of the 17 players that received multiple votes in the Sporting News poll that was cited on the cover slide. The poll was taken by 111 NFL players from 31 different teams to find out who was the most overrated player in the NFL, among other topics as well.
So why would Urlacher be included in this group? Perhaps it is a function of his age or that players around the league have perceived that the level of his play is starting to slip, when compared to the perception that he is still one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
The days of Urlacher being a top linebacker are over. He still tries to be a leader for the Bears, but Lance Briggs is probably a better linebacker right now than Urlacher is.
He did get dinged up in 2011, so maybe time is starting to catch up with him to a degree.
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Just like Brian Urlacher, Bart Scott, linebacker for the New York Jets, also received two votes in the NFL players poll as the most overrated player in the NFL.
Scott has been basically a solid linebacker throughout his career. It's not like he has won lots of hardware in his NFL career, as he has only been voted to one Pro Bowl team.
Maybe some NFL players have a problem with Scott's affinity for pro wrestling, but to vote him as the NFL's most overrated player on the surface seems to be a stretch.
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New York Jets corner Darrelle Revis was another player who received multiple votes in the poll.
It is interesting that we have a total of three New York Jets that received multiple votes on the players poll. Either the players resent all of the attention that the Jets team receives because of playing in New York, or they hate the attention that head coach Rex Ryan brings his team with all of his Super Bowl predictions and promises.
Revis continues to be a solid corner, so it is not like his game has slipped or that he is no longer playing at a Pro Bowl level. Revis continues to excel in his game, so I don't agree with the voters that rated him as one of the most overrated players in the NFL.
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Brandon Marshall, wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, also got two votes from the NFL players who took the poll.
Marshall had a great Pro Bowl game, but immediately started hurting his reputation and creating some animosity for Dolphins teammates when he made some strange comments immediately following the game.
Think of how much better Marshall would be if he didn't run his mouth so much. How about if he caught more of the passes thrown to him and didn't drop so many?
It appears that Marshall is sometimes his own worst enemy. He likes to self-promote his own game, so I can see why other players would be happy to vote for him as the most overrated player.
Timing is everything.
The Sporting News poll was taken in midseason in 2011, so we don't know in which specific weeks the voting took place. It can only be assumed that the New York Giants were a .500 team at that point in time, and other NFL players were thinking about some of Eli Manning's preseason comments and noting that the Giants were not that great at midseason.
Manning came 67 yards shy of passing for 5,000 yards in 2011. He came up with a number of comeback wins and played at a high level.
If the poll were taken at the end of the season, it would be interesting to see if Manning would still be receiving multiple votes. I would imagine that he might not receive any votes at all, but this poll proves that you just really can't know how a wide sample group is going to vote.
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Another player his fellow peers thought was overrated is Washington Redskins defensive back DeAngelo Hall. Hall received two votes in the Sporting News poll.
Hall ranks high on this list because of how often he gets beat in pass coverage. He talks a bunch of smack but has a hard time backing up his talking, considering he gets beat so much.
Hall was better earlier in his career when he went to the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2006. But we wonder what the players were thinking when they voted him into the Pro Bowl in 2010, since Hall has not been very good for some time now.
Hall will continue to be a liability in pass coverage for any team he plays for until it is time to retire.
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I have to admit that when I saw that the Jacksonville Jaguars running back had received two votes in the poll for most overrated player in the game, I was surprised.
Jones-Drew is basically the heart and soul of the Jaguars offense, and with so few weapons on board to help him, there is tremendous pressure on him every week to carry the load.
Maybe it has to do with some of the things he says to opposing players that we aren't privy to. For whatever reason, there is a percentage of NFL players who think Jones-Drew is overrated. I will watch him a little bit closer this year to see if there is anything to this characterization.
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Darnell Dockett is another veteran player who has a certain following within the NFL of people who believe that he is overrated. Dockett received two votes in the poll.
Dockett has been elected to three straight Pro Bowl teams (2008-2010) and made All-Pro in 2009. So, since he is getting all this fame and acclaim, it is interesting to see other NFL players voting for him as being overrated, unless they think that his game doesn't warrant the postseason accolades he is getting.
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Philip Rivers had a rough 2011 season. For that matter, Rivers and the San Diego Chargers have run into a dry spell regarding the playoffs, as the team has not won a playoff game since 2008. With all of the talent in San Diego, blame falls directly on Rivers' shoulders for not taking this team further.
In the poll, Rivers received three votes as being the most overrated player in the league, which means that other players are picking up on the lack of success as well.
In 2011, Rivers set career highs for interceptions and fumbles. He had a three-year run of having a passer rating of at least 100 broken, as he tumbled down to 88.7.
Rivers will need a big 2012 to turn around the negative season and change the perception of how other players are reacting to his game.
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Even though he has not been a starting quarterback for very long, enough players have seen Kevin Kolb play, and his peers aren't impressed. The Arizona Cardinals quarterback received three votes in the poll.
Kolb will have to win the competition in training camp to get his starting job back. It does seem, though, that Andy Reid was able to convince the Cardinals organization that Kolb was something more than he is.
The Cardinals were obviously hoping for more from Kolb than what they got. Kolb threw eight touchdowns and eight interceptions, which is a terrible ratio. In addition, he only won one game in 2011, while John Skelton was much better in leading the Cardinals to wins.
Kolb does appear to be overrated, but we will see what he does in 2012 to try to change the perception about him around the NFL.
Prior to the start of the 2011 NFL Playoffs, the Sporting News poll was conducted. Perhaps the players involved were recalling that the New England Patriots had run into a recent dry spell in playoff wins, and Tom Brady specifically was at the controls in those losses.
That could explain why Brady received three votes in the poll. Either that or players were sick of the media gushing on and on about him. Or maybe Brady and the Patriots had been beating them badly on Sundays and they were sick of losing.
Whatever the rationale, Brady is overrated according to a segment of NFL players. I personally don't consider him to be overrated, as Brady carried a Patriots defense in 2011 that was suspect for most of the year.
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For those of you who missed it, Chad Ochocinco is planning to change his name back to Chad Johnson. Apparently Ochocinco only works for Chad when you are catching lots of passes. When you are hardly noticed or aren't part of the game plan, it is easier to take if your last name is Johnson.
Ochocinco turned in as poor of a 2011 season as one could imagine. He caught just 15 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown for the entire season.
Ochocinco dropped passes when he was wide open, and appeared to be lost at times trying to run routes and wind up where Tom Brady expected him to be.
It would be a surprise if Ochocinco is back with the Patriots in 2012.
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Chris Johnson, running back of the Tennessee Titans, received five votes from NFL players as the most overrated player of the game.
For all of the holding out that Johnson did, and all of the money he was able to secure in his new contract, I can see where some NFL players might hold a grudge.
But, when Johnson came back to the Titans, he wasn't in shape or ready to play. He was hurting the team, and with the slow start of the depleted Indianapolis Colts, the 2011 season was a prime season to take over the AFC South division. Too bad that Johnson wasn't ready to capitalize on it with the rest of his team.
Johnson struggled all year long to reach 1,000 rushing yards, and he also struggled to bring his rushing average up to 4.0. He doesn't have any excuses for holding out in 2012, so we will see in what kind of condition he reports to camp this year. If he doesn't rebound in 2012, things could head downhill fast.
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Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh made the list at No. 4 according to the NFL players voting. Suh received six votes in the poll, which shows that there is growing sentiment around the NFL that Suh is just not "all that."
Suh seemed to get his emotions under control in the latter stages of 2011 season, but his production dropped from his rookie year to his sophomore year.
Suh went from 66 tackles to 36 tackles in 2011 and from 10 sacks down to just four sacks. Obviously Suh is still early in his career, but he will need to not only mature emotionally, but return to his dominant level of play in 2010. It would also help if he came back healthy in 2012, as he was playing with a bum shoulder in 2011.
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Since he is the subject of so much of the media attention in New York for his on-the-field play, as well as his off-the-field activities, it really shouldn't come as much of a shock that New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was third on the poll with nine votes.
Rex Ryan keeps trying his best to build up Sanchez and his self-confidence. After the rocky conclusion to the 2011 season, and the negative comments attributed to how the Jets behaved in the huddle and in the locker room, Ryan will be working hard in 2012 to keep his quarterback pumped up.
As for the Sporting News poll, here is a quote from one of the players who voted for Sanchez: "Everybody talks about Sanchez, but I just don’t see what everybody is talking about. Maybe it’s the (New York) market that he’s in." (Jeremy Mincey had similar thoughts about Sanchez.)
If things get worse in 2012 for the Jets, maybe you will hear and see fewer stories on Sanchez. If Peyton Manning winds up going to the Jets, then you probably won't be hearing much about Sanchez at all.
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If you were wondering how other NFL players feel about all the hype and attention that is heaped on Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, here is your answer.
Romo finished with 21 votes, only one vote behind our winner, who can be found on the next slide. There were some specific comments that the Sporting News received from players who participated in the poll.
Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton echoed many of the sentiments we hear from Romo's critics.
“I just think he’s in a position where he has the spotlight," he said. "I don’t think he’s really done anything to be in the spotlight. But being a Dallas Cowboys quarterback, you’re going to have that. I don’t think he does enough to be considered one of the elite (quarterbacks) in the NFL.”
Until Romo starts winning a number of playoff games or the Super Bowl, he will probably remain as one of the most overrated players in the NFL. The Cowboys have only won one playoff game during Romo's tenure, and until that number changes, he will always be thought of as overrated.
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Out of the 341 NFL players who participated in the Sporting News poll, Denver Broncos QB Tim Tebow came up with the most votes (22), to narrowly defeat Tony Romo (21). Those were the only two players who received double-digit votes.
There were 15 other players who received multiple votes in the poll. That group of 17 players accounted for 93 of the 341 votes. There were 13 players who received one vote, while the rest of the voters left it blank.
The participants were voting on a number of topics for the Sporting News, not just the overrated topic only. I would be curious to know how many of those votes were for players who they had trouble with, or had a personal grudge against, but we have no way of knowing that.
During the 2011 regular-season run by Tebow and the Broncos, it was "Tebow Time" 24/7, all day long, everywhere you looked. The saturation of Tebow stories probably alienated Tebow to many players around the NFL. Those same players would probably take great personal satisfaction in sacking him or in intercepting one of his passes.
For all of the publicity, coverage and popularity of Tebow, he sure had trouble completing passes in the NFL. His completion rate of 49 percent from the pocket in 2011 was the lowest percentage in the league. His passer rating of 72.4 was good for No. 29 in the NFL. His average of 6.38 yards per pass attempt ranks him at No. 28 in the league. His performance doesn't justify the degree that he is revered.
It will be interesting to see how things shake out in Denver's training camp in 2012, as they try to determine who will win the competition John Fox is planning to hold for the starting quarterback job. If Tebow wins, this poll shows to a degree that Tebow will have a target on his back.
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