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Underrated and Overrated NFL Players According to Advanced Statistics

Tyson LanglandNFC West Lead WriterAugust 3, 2012

Underrated and Overrated NFL Players According to Advanced Statistics

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    Every NFL player has some sort of attribute or adjective attached to their name. With the age of growing social media outlets it seems as if every NFL player has been talked about at least once in some fashion over the past few weeks. 

    Especially, this week where every person who has a smartphone is singling out players from all 32 teams. My favorite part about training camp is that every team looks like a Super Bowl contender after a few days. But just wait until the injuries start to pile up and then we will see who the real contenders are.

    Players are usually seen as just players unless their play has stood out enough to earn them some sort of title. Obviously, the least wanted title is overrated and the highest compliment is to be called underrated. 

    By using advanced statistics I dug even farther into the stat sheets to find out who some of the most underrated and overrated players are in the NFL. 

Overrated: DeAngelo Hall

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    I'm not sure how DeAngelo Hall has done it over the years; somehow he fakes clubs into paying him like he is a top-flight cornerback. 

    After the Falcons traded him to the Raiders, Oakland gave Hall a new seven-year, $70 million contract with $24.5 million guaranteed. An incredible amount of money for a player who has  never played consistently well. He would have a really bad game and would bounce back to have a good game, but the problem was his bad games always outweighed the good ones.

    Hall didn't last very long as a Raider. He was released after eight games because of his struggles in their man-to-man defensive scheme. So, Washington came a-knocking and offered a six-year contract that was worth $23 million in guaranteed money and had a maximum value of $55 million. 

    In the past three full seasons with the Redskins he has given up 2,224 yards and 14 touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks have a quarterback rating of 86.8 and a completion percentage of 65.6. Yet, somehow he was selected to a Pro Bowl in 2010 when he gave up over 900 yards receiving and allowed 73 catches on 99 targets. 

Underrated: Evan Mathis

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    When looking at statistics, or more specifically advanced statistics, it becomes very easy to expose a fraud and make a case for an unknown. The hardest position to quantify with baseline statistics is offensive lineman. There is no real stat that tracks them unless one is looking at advanced statistics. 

    Evan Mathis is a perfect example of an underrated player who never got much praise because of late success and mid-round draft status. Since Pro Football Focus started charting and grading players in 2008, Mathis has been one of their top performing offensive lineman year in and year out. 

    Over a four-year span of 2008-2011 he didn't allow a single sack. That's 1,850 snaps of flawlessly protecting the quarterback. Protecting the pass isn't the only thing he does well because last year as his first full season as a starter the Eagles ran the ball right off his backside 57 times for 279 yards.

    His elite level of play was rewarded with a five-year, $25 million contract from the Eagles in the offseason. 

Overrated: Kyle Vanden Bosch

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    By looking at Kyle Vanden Bosch's stat line many would think he had a good year because of his eight sacks, but sacks don't tell the whole story.

    Starts are very misleading because they only show one aspect of a defensive lineman's play. Outside of sacks, it's important to factor in quarterback hits, hurries and their level of play in the run game. 

    Vanden Bosch finished 2011 with a total of 40 hurries. By looking at Jeremy Mincey they will appear pretty equal, based on sack numbers alone; however, when you look deeper into Mincey's stat line it's easy to see he was a much better pass-rusher and run defender.

    He ended the season with a total of eight sacks, 11 hits and 38 hurries. That is 17 more total pressures than Vanden Bosch, not to mention Mincey finished as one of the top defensive ends at stopping the run while Kyle battled Chris Long for the worst run defender spot. 

    Is he really worth his four-year, $26 million deal?

Underrated: Nate Washington

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    Wide receivers are interesting players who usually tend to succeed based on one underlying circumstance. For example, Brandon Lloyd knows his success is tied to Josh McDaniels and his offensive system. Larry Fitzgerald's success is tied to no quarterback or offensive system. He has the ability to be as good as he wants to be no matter what.

    Nate Washington is a player who is never looked at as a top-tier receiver, but he always quietly puts up numbers. Nothing extravagant, but always impressive nonetheless. There are two main areas that put his game over the top this year: deep passing and drop rate. 

    He made the most out of his targets. There were 79 catchable balls thrown his way, and he hauled in 74 of them. His drop rate was lower than Steve Smith, A.J. Green and Hakeem Nicks, which are three very impressive names. 

    The deep passing statistics were even more impressive as Washington was thrown eleven 20-plus yard passes. Out of the 11 thrown he came down with 10 of them, three went for touchdowns. His deep target percentage was 21.2, meaning 21.2 percent of his targets came 20-plus yards downfield. 

    Thanks to Pro Football Focus' signature stats for this information. 

Overrated: B.J. Raji

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    I've heard some fans speak poorly of B.J Raji's play, but most seem to think he is as solid as it gets at the nose.

    I'm definitely siding with the minority on this one because Raji's performance nose dived in 2011. His pass-rushing and run-stuffing ability seemed to disappear. Of the 579 pass-rushing downs played last season he only managed 23 total pressures, 28 less than 2010. 

    At his 2010 rate, Raji managed a pressure once every 12 pass-rush downs and in 2011 there was pressure once every 25 passing downs. Essentially the big man was garnering pressure at double the rate a year ago.

    For B.J. to return to dominance he needs to get back on whatever regimen helped him produce like he did in 2010.

Underrated: Antwan Barnes

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    A relative unknown to most, Antwan Barnes is looking to pick up right where he left off in 2011. Barnes had a "break-out year" and established himself as a consistent edge-rusher who makes the most out of limited snaps.

    in 2011, he finished the season with two multi-sack games and 11 sacks total for the season. His most impressive game by far was Week 15 against Baltimore where he tallied four sacks on quarterback Joe Flacco. Most recognize his speed and burst off the edge as two things that help him succeed. 

    With Shaun Phillips being slated ahead of him on the depth chart the Chargers may never tap his full potential. It's always interesting to think about a player based on repetitions; some players are more effective when snaps counts are low and some are just as effective with a high number of reps. Trial and error is the only way to find out. 

    Based on 2011, Barnes averaged a sack every 24 snaps and a quarterback hurry every nine.

Overrated: Ryan Clady

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    Ryan Clady's 2011 performance was a bit of a surprise considering how well he has played over the span of his career. 

    Was last year's drop off in performance due to Tim Tebow and the different style of offense they ran or was he playing hurt? Whatever the reason, he definitely wasn't deserving of his Pro Bowl selection and his mention amongst the league's best left-tackles.

    Penalties absolutely killed as his 12 penalties were the second-highest number amongst all offensive tackles in the league. The six sacks given up landed him about middle of the pack, but the 32 quarterback hurries placed him 14th worst overall in that category. 

    Clady's run-blocking had always been slightly above average until 2011. When the Broncos ran behind his blocking they averaged a measly 3.4 yards per carry compared to the 6.0 yards per carry they averaged when running behind Chris Kuper and Orlando Franklin. 

    The departure of Tim Tebow and that goofy college offense will help Clady return to form. 

Underrated: BenJarvus Green-Ellis

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    BenJarvus Green-Ellis may not be the fastest guy or even the flashiest, but if I want one tough yard I'm handing it to him.

    What Green-Ellis lacks is breakaway speed and an elusive nature, but he makes up for it with his excellent vision in space and power-running style. Based on his comfort and the Patriots' tendencies, their runs last season favored the left side of the offensive line.

    When he ran to the left side he averaged 4.6 yards per carry. When he ran it to the right side he averaged under four yards per carry. His longest run of the season was 18 only yards, so it will be interesting to see what roll he plays in Cincinnati. 

    He could easily wind up as the short yardage-back with Bernard Scott carrying most of the load, but it wouldn't be surprising if Green-Ellis logged more snaps than Scott, just for the case of keeping him fresh. 

    With only 510 carries in his four-year career, it's safe to say there is plenty of miles left on his tires. 

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