5 Most Overrated Players in the NFL According to Advanced Stats
More and more, new, advanced statistics are helping redefine how we value (and sometimes overrate) NFL players.
Sites such as Pro Football Focus, Football Outsiders and Advanced NFL Stats are providing analysts and fans alike with new ways to evaluate every single player on a game-to-game and season-to-season basis.
And as more and more individuals begin accepting such statistics, we've come to a very obvious conclusion: Some players, who were previously held in high regard, are much more overrated once the cold, hard facts start rolling in.
In the following slides, we'll present a few of the NFL's biggest examples. Keep in mind, this list is not designed to present five players we think are no good; rather, just five players that don't hold up against the advanced stats but are otherwise well-regarded.
WR Mike Wallace
While considered by some to be the best vertical receiving threat in the game, current Miami Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace simply wasn't anything close to that during his final season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In 2012, Wallace finished second-to-last in deep passing catch rate at Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Of the 21 eligible receivers for the stat (50 percent or more of team's total deep targets, or passes that travel 20 or more yards in the air), Wallace finished 20th.
The numbers weren't pretty.
Steelers quarterbacks targeted Wallace on deep passes 31 times (accounting for over a quarter of his total 2012 targets) and completed just six of those passes. Wallace dropped two of the eight catchable attempts.
By the end of 2012, Wallace had finished with a total PFF grade of -4.5, far and away his worst finish to a season in his professional career.
Advanced Football Stats agreed, as the site had Wallace dead last among receivers (78 eligible) in win probability added.
Wallace was obviously much better in previous years, but his steep drop off in 2012 is alarming. The Dolphins will hope the overrated version of Wallace vacates in 2013.
LB London Fletcher
For so long, London Fletcher was considered so criminally underrated in NFL circles that he eventually became somewhat well-known for it. He's now played in 240 consecutive games, but only over the last four years has he's been recognized for his efforts (four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, including in 2012).
Maybe the tables are starting to re-correct for the aging middle linebacker.
And remember: This is not to say Fletcher is no good. But he's no longer worthy of the underrated label. Quite the opposite.
In terms of his position last season, Fletcher was better than only one qualified inside linebacker in PFF's run stop percentage and only three in PFF's overall tackling efficiency. Both stats are damning to Fletcher's case as a starting NFL linebacker.
Run stop percentage takes away the value in volume tackles and then determines which tackles are providing a negative play for the offense. The translation here: Fletcher gets ball-carriers on the ground, but the impact in those tackles is mostly minimal.
Tackling efficiency is as simple as it sounds. Yet Fletcher missed 20 total tackles, including 10 against the run and 10 more in the passing game. When compared to his total tackle chances, Fletcher ranks above just three players at his position.
Fletcher was named a second-team All-Pro in 2012. The stats say he didn't deserve it.
QB Jay Cutler
Back in 2009, the Chicago Bears dealt two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Denver Broncos for quarterback Jay Cutler.
While he's led Chicago to an NFC title game and likely would have anchored a few more trips to the postseason had he not been injured, Cutler was woefully average as a healthy quarterback in 2012.
According to Advanced NFL Stats (ANS), Cutler finished last season ranked 27th among starting quarterbacks in win probability added (WPA) and 24th in expected points added (EPA). Both are strong indicators of quarterback success.
A few names above him in WPA? Only Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Palmer.
And EPA? Alex Smith beat him in just 10 starts, as did Fitzpatrick, Sam Bradford and Christian Ponder.
The Bears will hope the entrance of Marc Trestman into Cutler's world will make a difference in 2013. But at least last season, Cutler was no better than a bottom-third starting quarterback.
RB Darren McFadden
The 2012 season was not kind to former first-round pick Darren McFadden.
Despite being fed the football 215 times on the ground, McFadden gained just 716 yards and scored two touchdowns for a bad Raiders team. The advanced stats were far worse.
According to Football Outsiders, McFadden ranked dead last among running backs with at least 99 carries in DYAR, or defensive-adjusted yards above replacement. He was second to last in DYOA, or defensive-adjusted yards over average. Both are telling statistics for how poor McFadden was as a runner last season.
Pro Football Focus wasn't much kinder. According to PFF, McFadden ranked 20th in elusive rating and last in overall grade, by a wide margin (McFadden finished at -19.2; the next running back was Chris Johnson at -9.3).
Finally, McFadden finished dead last among running backs at Advanced Football Stats in win probability added and expected points added.
Remember, McFadden was once considered one of the game's potential elite backs. He's now coming off a season in which he was arguably the very worst.
RB Chris Johnson
Like McFadden, all three advanced stats sites were unkind to Titans running back Chris Johnson.
While outside circumstances played a part (injuries across the offensive line, especially in the interior) in his season, Johnson simply wasn't a very efficient or effective running back in 2012.
According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson graded out at -9.3, above only McFadden among eligible running backs. It was Johnson's second-straight season of finishing as the second-worst graded back in the NFL.
Advanced NFL Stats had Johnson as the 73rd best running back in win probability added and 80th (out of 83) in expected points added.
Finally, Football Outsiders placed Johnson at No. 33 in DYAR and No. 32 in DYOA.
Johnson did finish his season with 1,243 yards and a 4.5 yards per carry average. Both are very respectable numbers and shouldn't be disregarded. But according to the advanced stats, his worth as a pure runner was much less after peeling back a few layers.