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The Most Overrated and Underrated Player on Every NFL Roster

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterJune 18, 2013

The Most Overrated and Underrated Player on Every NFL Roster

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    Who is the most overrated and underrated player on every NFL team? 

    To answer that question you must first decide who is doing the overrating and underrating. The media, NFL teams, teammates in the form of the NFL Network Top 100 Players, or fans of the game. What if you took that all into account to truly find the players we pay too much attention to, and the players that we're mistakenly overlooking?

    This isn't a prediction of who will be underrated in 2013, but a look at the players we've given too much credit (or money), and the players the league has somehow forgotten about.

Buffalo Bills

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    Overrated: DE Mario Williams

    Mario Williams makes a lot of money but, based on his 2012 season, he doesn't put out the production needed to justify his top-10 ranking as one of the highest paid defensive ends.

    You can blame his poor season on a new scheme, injuries or whatever else you'd like, but the fact remains that Mario Williams' name is bigger to fans than it is to NFL offensive coordinators. He's not even the scariest player on his own defensive line.

     

    Underrated: DT Marcell Dareus

    The player teams need to worry about on the Bills defensive line is Marcell Dareus. The second-year defensive tackle was at his best in 2012, showing the speed and strength to be a terrorizing force in the middle of a 4-3 defense.

    The Bills' change to a 40 front was great for Dareus. He's one of the NFL's top young pass-rushers but, because of Buffalo's small market and the fact that he's overshadowed by Williams, not enough of the league is aware of his ability. Yet.

Miami Dolphins

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    Overrated: WR Mike Wallace

    Mike Wallace is a talented deep threat and a player with the speed to change a game, but that doesn't make him worthy of a $12 million per year salary. Not even close to it.

    Wallace could prove me wrong and play up to his contract in Miami, but there is no doubting that, right now, the team overpaid. Here's hoping some production follows.

     

    Underrated: SS Reshad Jones

    You might not even know who Reshad Jones is unless you're a diehard Miami Dolphins fan or an avid reader of our NFL 1,000 series, but you should. Jones, based on 2012, is the game's best strong safety.

    Jones has playmaking ability in coverage and against the run, showing the dynamic ability to play well on every down, which is crucial to today's defenses. Jones' abilities in man coverage make him a dangerous player for any offense to scheme around.

New England Patriots

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    Overrated: WR Danny Amendola

    Danny Amendola is being counted on as Wes Welker's replacement in New England, which is leading many in the media crowning Amendola as the next great slot receiver. Except, he's not.

    Amendola has a rough injury history, which by itself should give anyone in a Tom Brady jersey pause when prematurely awarding him Welker's old spot. The two may play the same position, but Welker's vision, football IQ and toughness are what make him so special. Amendola hasn't shown those same skills yet.

     

    Underrated: LB Dont'a Hightower

    The Patriots defense has taken a bad rap over the last five seasons, and by overlooking the defense many people overlooked the excellent play of rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

    How good was Hightower in 2012? Pro Football Focus ($) ranked him as a top-10 outside linebacker, while we at Bleacher Report ranked him as our No. 5 outside linebacker. Not bad for his first season in the pros.

New York Jets

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    Overrated: OLB Quinton Coples

    Quinton Coples' rookie season was solid, as he notched 5.5 sacks in part-time duty and showed promise as a 3-4 defensive end. That should be good enough for New York Jets fans who could use a shot of promise amongst the team's draft picks. But it's not.

    Instead, Jets fans are ready to proclaim Coples an elite player. Could Coples be great? Maybe, although I have a hard time seeing him as a 3-4 outside linebacker—a role Rex Ryan has put him in this preseason. Coples is solid, but let's hold off before giving him too much praise.

     

    Underrated: RB Chris Ivory

    In an offseason of questionable decisions, new general manager John Idzik did hit on one move—the addition of bruising running back Chris Ivory. A No. 4 running back in New Orleans, Ivory struggled to receive consistent carries. When on the field, however, he showed the tough running style and second-gear speed to be a high-level contributor. Now he'll get his chance.

    Of the two backs added this offseason—Ivory and Mike Goodson—it's the former Saint who deserves the carries in New York.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Overrated: QB Joe Flacco

    I'm ready for you, Ravens fans. 

    The most overrated player on your roster is quarterback Joe Flacco—and you can thank Ray Lewis for retiring and opening up this spot at the top of the list. Flacco was great in the playoffs, but how was he in the regular season? Average.

    I'm not a Flacco-hater, but I do think a quarterback should have better than 59.7 percent accuracy and a 22:10 touchdown-to-interception ratio before you give him a six-year, $120 million contract.

     

    Underrated: CB Lardarius Webb

    Lost in the self-fueled debate between Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis is Lardarius Webb, who just quietly goes about his business. Were it not for an injury in 2012, Webb would be in the conversation with Sherman and Mr. Island when discussing the game's top cornerbacks. 

Cincinnati Bengals

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    Overrated: RT Andre Smith

    Could it be anyone else?

    Andre Smith turned in one very good season, in a contract year, and cashed in on the Bengals' fear that they wouldn't be able to replace him at right tackle.

    Smith signed a three-year, $18 million contract this offseason, and then proceeded to miss training camp. Not only is that insane, it's immature. Not bad for a guy who has only started the last two seasons and in that time allowed 10 sacks. Add it to the growing list of reasons why Andre Smith isn't just the most overrated player for the Bengals, but the most overrated right tackle in the NFL.

     

    Underrated: QB Andy Dalton

    Andy Dalton has been in the NFL for two seasons. In those two seasons, the Cincinnati Bengals have won 19 games and made the playoffs in consecutive years. Before he arrived, the team hadn't seen back-to-back winning seasons since 1981-1982. 

    It's not all on Dalton, but he's yet to receive the recognition around the league that his play merits. Dalton's mistakes are instead amplified and used as case studies for why he can't succeed or be a franchise quarterback. The trouble with that logic is that Dalton is already succeeding as a franchise quarterback.

Cleveland Browns

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    Overrated: RB Trent Richardson

    When Trent Richardson entered the 2012 NFL draft, I ranked him as the third-best running back I had ever scouted. I still feel that way, but that promise doesn't matter once a player is in the league. Now it's time for Richardson to produce.

    I, as much as anyone, am willing to give him a pass on his rookie season due to injuries and the lack of a consistent passing attack in Cleveland. But Richardson has to shed the injury-prone label and start playing like the top-five talent he is.

    Richardson has the talent to be the best back in the league, but it's that potential and lack of production that's causing him to be overrated.

     

    Underrated: RT Mitchell Schwartz

    Quick: Who is the best right tackle in the NFL?

    You might say Anthony Davis or Michael Oher, and both are good answers, but a player who belongs in that conversation is Mitchell Schwartz.

    Based on film study and statistical evidence, Schwartz's rookie season was above average. Throw in the raw potential he has as a right tackle—a position he didn't play in college—and it's easy to build an argument for him as one of the game's up-and-comers. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Overrated: C Maurkice Pouncey

    A three-time Pro Bowler and 2011 First Team All-Pro, Maurkice Pouncey, on paper, would seem to be one of the best players at his position. Turn on game film of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and you get a different story.

    Pouncey is a quality player, but it's possible to be both good and overrated, and that's what you have in the former University of Florida prospect. There is a Pouncey worthy of the accolades, but his name is Mike and he plays for the Dolphins.

     

    Underrated: QB Ben Roethlisberger

    It may seem crazy to list Ben Roethlisberger as underrated, but that's what he is. 

    Too often, the NFL works in very short-sighted ways. We look only at those players who were dominant in the previous season instead of looking at long-term success. That's what happens when fans and media members list the best quarterbacks. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are mainstays, but Roethlisberger should be too, considering his level of play over the last nine seasons.

    The fact that Big Ben has made just two Pro Bowls goes a long way in validating why Pro Bowl voting is a joke.

Houston Texans

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    Overrated: RB Arian Foster

    Before the mob heads north to Missouri, give me a chance to explain this one.

    Arian Foster is a very good running back, but he is not elite. He is, however, the perfect fit for the Houston Texans' zone-blocking scheme. There is no shame in being a great system running back—I would compare Foster to Emmitt Smith in that regard. But his successes are as much a result of the players around him and the scheme being ran.

    Ask yourself one question: "Could a healthy Ben Tate do the same thing Foster is doing?"

     

    Underrated: LT Duane Brown

    What makes the Texans' scheme so powerful and successful? It all starts with left tackle Duane Brown.

    I've not been afraid to call Brown the best at what he does—better than Joe Thomas or Jake Long when you look at the last two seasons combined. Brown is an elite run-blocker, showing the upfield burst and vision to dominate as a leader on the edge. In the passing game, however, he's damn-near unbeatable, allowing just four sacks over the last two seasons.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Overrated: RT Gosder Cherilus

    A top-10 earner as an offensive tackle—and yes, that includes left tackles—Gosder Cherilus fleeced the Indianapolis Colts into giving him a massive deal in the offseason. For that, he makes our list as the team's most overrated player.

    What did Cherilus do to earn his contract? How about allowing nine sacks and 27 quarterback hurries in 2011 and four sacks and 27 hurries in 2012? Those are not the numbers of an elite right tackle—and that's how the Colts are paying him.

     

    Underrated: ILB Jerrell Freeman

    You may not know who Jerrell Freeman is, but he's worth dialing up on NFL Rewind to find. 

    The first-year player from tiny Division III Mary Hardin-Baylor made an instant impact as an inside linebacker in the Colts' 3-4 defense, quickly supplanting veterans and establishing himself as a building block for the young defense. 

    Freeman's 90 tackles, two sacks and interception on the year perfectly exemplify the unsung-hero nature of the Colts' 2012 defense. As a future leader of the team, he's the most underrated on a roster full of underrated studs.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Overrated: DT Tyson Alualu

    To be completely fair, the Jacksonville Jaguars don't have any players that are overrated by the national media or the fanbase. This is one of the most realistic groups of fans you will find—something likely built on years of poor play and crushed hopes, but realistic nonetheless.

    As a former top-10 draft pick, Tyson Alualu was supposed to be better than he is, which is a mid-level defensive tackle with nice potential, but a lot of untapped assets so far. Is he overrated nationally? Not a chance, but is he a player that too many are holding out high hopes for based on his draft position? Absolutely.

     

    Underrated: QB Chad Henne

    Allow me to beat the commenters to the punch here: I have taken my medication today. I'm not on drugs and I do watch football, thank you for asking.

    Chad Henne is not a high-level NFL starter, but he did show late in 2012 that he's the team's best option moving into 2013. Henne, not former first-rounder Blaine Gabbert, would be my pick to handle the team's starting quarterback job after the way the former Michigan quarterback handled the last seven games of the 2012 season.

Tennessee Titans

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    Overrated: WR Kenny Britt

    Kenny Britt has all the talent in the world, but his off-field problems are keeping him from playing up to that potential. And for that, he's overrated.

    It can be tough to see the difference between talented and productive, and Britt is a good case study in how a player can be good in terms of talent, but poor in terms of production. And it leads to him being overrated because we think of a player's talents and not what he's done on the field.

     

    Underrated: LB Colin McCarthy

    Injuries have kept the former Hurricane from establishing himself as a top inside linebacker, but that day is coming for Colin McCarthy.

    McCarthy has the all-around game to be elite in the middle of the Titans' 4-3 defense, and even looking at his play when healthy, you see a very good young linebacker. McCarthy has the strength to stop the run and has shown the hips and hands to be effective in coverage.

    Injuries keep McCarthy from being a nationally known player, but his day is coming.

Denver Broncos

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    Overrated: CB Champ Bailey

    Is Champ Bailey a bad cornerback? No. Is he the second-best cornerback in the NFL? Absolutely not. So why is he paid that way?

    Bailey has been an amazing cornerback for a long time, but he's lost a step over the last few seasons and struggled at times in 2012. Bailey is an example of a good player whose status is pumped up by his pay and his past, not his current level of play.

     

    Underrated: FS Rahim Moore

    Everyone remembers one play from a 17-game season instead of looking at what Rahim Moore did over the course of the year. 

    Yes, he made a bad play that aided a playoff loss, but that doesn't define Moore as a player. Instead, look at his 72 tackles and how he held offenses to just 21 receptions throughout the season. Moore made one bad play on national TV in the playoffs, and too many people wrote him off for it. And those people are missing out on a quality safety the Broncos could build around.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Overrated: SS Eric Berry

    Eric Berry has played in two complete seasons in the NFL, missing one with an ACL injury. After each season, he's made the Pro Bowl, once based on merit (2010) and once based on name recognition (2012). 

    Berry is a fine player and was considered to be one of the more talented safety prospects of the last decade when he was coming out of Tennessee. But his potential and one good season in 2010 have led to his being overrated by fans and national media.

    Berry's 2012 wasn't pretty—he allowed a passer rating of 107.2—but his name recognition and past Pro Bowl nomination led to too many assuming he was once again elite.

     

    Underrated: QB Alex Smith

    Over his last two seasons, Alex Smith led the San Francisco 49ers to a 19-5-1 record and took them to the NFC Championship Game after the 2011 season. Matt Cassel and Co. were a train wreck in Kansas City during that time, but that didn't keep Chiefs fans from revolting when Andy Reid and John Dorsey traded for Smith.

    There are numerous underrated players on the Kansas City roster, but Smith takes the lead. He's proven himself as a game manager and gritty, accurate passer the team needs, but fans and local media didn't rush to welcome him to the heartland. 

Oakland Raiders

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    Overrated:  RB Darren McFadden

    Talented? Yes. Dependable? Not at all.

    If we were making a list of the most talented-yet-frustrating players on each team, injury-prone running back Darren McFadden would show up as the Raiders' representative. In fact, he might lead the NFL in that category.

    That's the only category McFadden could lead the NFL in, as the superbly-talented runner can't stay healthy long enough to produce at the levels expected of him. 

     

    Underrated: DE Lamarr Houston

    Lamarr Houston isn't flashy, and he doesn't produce sexy stats like other defensive ends, but he is quickly becoming one of the better young players in the game at the position.

    He may have notched just five sacks last season, but Houston shows up big on film by hurrying the quarterback, getting hits on the passer and stopping the run. His last four games of the 2012 season were some of the most dominant from any 4-3 defensive end that I saw all season.

    Houston isn't a household name yet, but he's someone diehard football fans would fall in love with if given the chance.

San Diego Chargers

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    Overrated:  QB Philip Rivers

    Fans of the History Channel have often seen Ancient Aliens expert Giorgio Tsoukalos talking about the mysteries of the universe—as well as being featured in many memes. Where am I going with this?

    We need to hire Tsoukalos to figure out what the hell happened to Philip Rivers.

    Prior to the 2011 season, you could make a strong case for Rivers as one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, but since that time, he's fallen apart. Rivers sees ghost pass-rushers, throws into traffic too quickly and has seen his mechanics regress at a point in his career where he should be automatic.

    It's not been pretty, and as Chargers fans wait for the old Rivers to return, too many are overrating him based on what he used to be, instead of accepting who he is.

     

    Underrated: DE Corey Liuget

    When the San Diego Chargers drafted Corey Liuget out of Illinois, I wasn't a fan of the pick. Liuget was a conventional 4-3 defensive tackle, not someone you could force into a 3-4 scheme. Or so I thought.

    In his two NFL seasons, Liuget has transformed his play and quickly become a leader among the best young defensive ends in the game. The fact that he's been hidden on an underachieving team has pulled the rug over his play, but as soon as San Diego starts winning again, Liuget's recognition will come.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Overrated:  QB Tony Romo

    It has become too easy to pile on to Tony Romo as an overrated quarterback, especially since he's not that overrated nationally as a quarterback. So, why is he listed here?

    Jerry Jones gave Romo $17 million per season to be his quarterback; that's why. I'm not one of those people who think Romo is cursed, or incapable of winning a playoff game, but I will go out on a limb, tongue firmly in cheek, and say that the Cowboys have overrated their own quarterback's value.

     

    Underrated: DE Anthony Spencer

    In 2012, Anthony Spencer was better than DeMarcus Ware. That's not to say he will be forever, but judging the two rush-ends on last season, Spencer comes out on top.

    If you asked casual fans, or those who focus on teams other than the Cowboys, about Spencer, you might get blank stares or made-up answers. But fans in Dallas will tell you that when the team needed an elite pass-rusher to replace Ware's production while he struggled with injury, Spencer stepped up.

New York Giants

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    Overrated:  DE Justin Tuck

    There was a time when Justin Tuck was a high-level pass-rusher for the New York Giants. That time ended after the 2010 season.

    Since that time, Tuck has struggled to consistently stay healthy—playing in just 27 games—and to get to the quarterback. His nine sacks during the 2011 and 2012 seasons are less than he had in 2007, 2008 and 2010 alone.

    Tuck still gets media attention because of who he used to be, and because of his face mask, but until he proves he's the 2010 edition, I'm not sold. 

     

    Underrated: CB Prince Amukamara

    Multiple writers have tabbed Prince Amukamara as a potential breakout player in 2013, but looking back on his play in 2012, he's doesn't have far to go before earning the praise many are waiting to put on him.

    Amukamara had a rough transition to the NFL, but during his sophomore season, he showed the cover skills to be a high-level, No. 1 cornerback. He allowed under 53 percent of all passes thrown his way to be completed, and while he may not be an interception machine, Amukamara keeps quarterbacks from looking his way.

    He may not be Darrelle Revis-level, but Amukamara is being underrated by those who are waiting for him to breakout. He's already good enough.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Overrated:  QB Michael Vick

    Michael Vick will always be a polarizing player due to his freakish athletic ability and his off-field record. That can lead to an interesting value of the player regionally and nationally.

    There are some Eagles fans who believe Vick to be the patron saint of quarterbacking, while others take a more realistic, rational approach and realize that he can be good and frustratingly bad at times.

    Vick may be the best quarterback on the depth chart this season, but his value is still dramatically over-inflated due to his polarizing style of play and athletic ability.

     

    Underrated: OLB Brandon Graham

    An underrated pass-rusher from the defensive end position last season, Brandon Graham quickly caught my eye and that of the NFL 1,000 team when evaluating the Eagles' 2012 season. His quickness off the edge and strong pass-rushing moves make him a budding star at the position.

    Graham doesn't yet receive the big national praise that a player of his production might, but if he can turn his 2012 stats into full-time ability, he'll quickly be known nationwide.

Washington Redskins

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    Overrated: CB DeAngelo Hall

    NFL offensive coordinators preach to their quarterbacks about attacking the weak cornerback and avoiding the better cover man. That's important to know when noting that DeAngelo Hall was the second-most targeted cornerback in the NFL last season.

    Hall has made Pro Bowls and become a well-known cornerback thanks to his interception numbers, but his actual cover skills leave much to be desired. If you're making an All-Overrated team, he is one of the starting cornerbacks.

     

    Underrated: LT Trent Williams

    Trent Williams hasn't yet reached the level of Russell Okung, Joe Thomas and Duane Brown, but he's on the next tier below them and ready to move up.

    In 2012, Williams allowed just four sacks while protecting rookie Robert Griffin III, but in previous seasons, he's shown the same level of production while protecting players like Rex Grossman and John Beck.

Chicago Bears

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    Overrated:  LT Jermon Bushrod

    Jermon Bushrod may not be overrated by fans or national media, but the Chicago Bears' front office felt good enough about the former New Orleans Saint to give him a five-year, $35.9 million deal. That's big-boy money from a left tackle that was helped by a quarterback, Drew Brees, with some of the best pocket presence in the game.

    The Bears found themselves in a position where they had to add a starting-caliber left tackle, and they panicked by over-paying for Bushrod. 

     

    Underrated: QB Jay Cutler

    Take a look at what Jay Cutler's stats have been like since being traded to the Chicago Bears—I'll even provide a link—and then look at who his offensive linemen were.

    J'Marcus Webb. Roberto Garza. Chris Williams. Gabe Carimi. Frank Omiyale. And these are the names of starters!

    Cutler has never had an offensive line worthy of his style of play, which is why general manager Phil Emery had to overpay for Bushrod and spend a first-round pick on Kyle Long. Cutler is hated by fans because of his demeanor, but if you were hurried 130 times, hit 35 times and sacked 43 times in 16 games, you'd be mad too.

Detroit Lions

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    Overrated:  TE Brandon Pettigrew

    I've never understood the passes that Brandon Pettigrew gets in Detroit. A former first-round draft pick, he's never developed into the secondary target the team needs with Calvin Johnson stretching the field. 

    Pettigrew is in an offense tailor-made for him to work the seam and pick up easy one-on-one catches, but he's failed to make his mark there. In fact, Pro Football Focus ranked him No. 57 among tight ends in 2012, while our NFL 1,000 project had him at No. 47.

    It's time to get busy or get out of the lineup for Pettigrew.

     

    Underrated: DT Nick Fairley

    Nick Fairley often gets lost in the large shadow of Ndamukong Suh, but looking at the two former first-round defensive tackles during the 2012 season, Fairley more than held his own against his more famous linemate.

    Fairley's slow start to his NFL career has led to some not quite realizing just how productive he was in 2012, but by taking a look at the Lions' film, you see a player who is living up to his status and then some.

Green Bay Packers

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    Overrated:  TE Jermichael Finley

    Packers fans will argue at length that Jermichael Finley's job in the offense is to be a distraction and open up the outside passing attack for the talented wide receivers on the roster. That may be the case to some extent, but the Packers aren't paying Finley $4.45 million to be a decoy.

    There are few tight ends in the NFL right now with Finley's athletic ability, but his dropped passes and lapses in concentration have long been an issue. With his contract up in Green Bay after the 2013 season, Finley has motivation to finally produce at the level he's hyped up to.

     

    Underrated: LT Bryan Bulaga

    Bryan Bulaga will make the move to left tackle in 2013, a position he hasn't played since his days at Iowa. Based on the damage he did to defenses as a right tackle, it's clear that Bulaga is one of the more underrated players in the league.

    Injury hurt Bulaga's play in 2012, but going back to 2011, he was the game's No. 2 rated right tackle by us. The Packers offensive line takes some heat in league circles, but in Bulaga, they have a cornerstone player to build around.

Minnesota Vikings

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    Overrated:  WR Greg Jennings

    Greg Jennings hit free agency this past spring and was pursued by two teams—the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. That tells you much of what you need to know about how he's perceived in league circles.

    Jennings is a fine player and a good possession receiver, but he's not the game-changing wide receiver fans of the Vikings have hoped he'll be for them. Jennings won't replace Percy Harvin's open-field ability, but instead, he'll provide a good short-to-intermediate target for Christian Ponder. 

    There's value in that, but Jennings isn't the savior at wide receiver the team needs.

     

    Underrated: C John Sullivan

    The Vikings' run to the playoffs in 2012 was fueled by a stingy defense, a damn good running back and an offensive line that played better as a unit than its individual parts. A big piece of that was center John Sullivan's emergence as a top-level player.

    Sullivan's ability in the run game wasn't elite, but his pass protection and pre-snap adjustments helped the team get into position to make plays. Sullivan was a little-known player before the 2012 season, but heading into 2013, he has to be considered one of the best in the game.

Atlanta Falcons

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    Overrated:  RB Steven Jackson

    Steven Jackson turns 30 before the 2013 season, an age in which most NFL running backs start thinking about a second career. He'll turn 30 with 2,395 carries—the most among active running backs. 

    With all that information readily available, fans of the Atlanta Falcons and members of the media treated Jackson's signing like the reincarnation of Walter Payton in a Falcons jersey. He's not, and the hype created by his signing goes to show that an aging running back can move the needle on a slow news day.

     

    Underrated: LB Sean Weatherspoon

    The Falcons defense came alive in 2012, frustrating elite quarterbacks like Peyton Manning while finding its footing in the secondary and at the linebacker position. A key to that resurgence of the defense was athletic linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.

    A blur when moving sideline-to-sideline, Weatherspoon is the perfect fit in today's NFL as teams look for quickness, instincts and coverage skills from their outside linebackers. While he may not be a pass-rusher like Von Miller, Weatherspoon is close to putting himself in the top tier of 4-3 linebackers.

Carolina Panthers

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    Overrated:  LB Luke Kuechly

    Luke Kuechly isn't a bad linebacker, at all, but he is overrated by fans of the Carolina Panthers and those who will blindly subscribe to tackle numbers distributed by the team.

    When Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher retired in the same offseason, I tweeted that Patrick Willis was the best middle linebacker in the game—and had been for some time. Panthers fans replied en masse that Kuechly was the rightful heir to the top inside linebacker title. After one season.

    I'm not saying Kuechly isn't a good player with potential to be special. I'm just saying we need to slow down on pumping him up.

     

    Underrated: QB Cam Newton

    How can a former Offensive Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowler be underrated? It happened in Carolina.

    The criticism surrounding Cam Newton's play and personality in the 2012 season was surprising, especially given the production he showed in his first year. Instead of admitting that defenses adjusted to Newton and the then 23-year-old passer struggled to counter, critics jumped on him and trashed everything from his press conference attitude to his facial expressions following a failed third-down conversion.

    Newton wasn't great in his sophomore season, but there's a reason they call it a "sophomore slump." He has the potential to be very good, maybe even elite, moving forward.

New Orleans Saints

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    Overrated:  RB Mark Ingram

    Two seasons after the New Orleans Saints made Mark Ingram the No. 28 pick of the 2011 NFL draft, we're still waiting for him to show the goods of a first-round pick.

    Ingram is a solid between-the-tackles runner, but he's been overshadowed by Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and, at times, Chris Ivory while trying to find his place in the Saints backfield. Having never averaged more than 3.9 yards per carry in his career, Ingram is still highly thought of because of his football pedigree (his dad played nine seasons in the NFL), his Heisman trophy, the fact that he went to Alabama and his first-round draft pick status.

     

    Underrated: RB Pierre Thomas

    It's fitting that one Saints running back is overrated, while another is the definition of underrated.

    Pierre Thomas, when given touches, has produced. He may not register outside of the Saints fanbase, or even inside it at times, but on a team without a crowded backfield, Thomas could be a 1,000-yard rusher without a doubt.

    His blend of power, vision and burst make him a threat between the tackles and on the edge, with an added bonus of receiving ability in the flats. It's Thomas who deserves the lion's share of the carries in New Orleans.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Overrated:  QB Josh Freeman

    My take on Josh Freeman is well-documented. After scouting his season for our NFL 1,000 project, my team and I ranked him No. 32 among NFL quarterbacks. If anything, three months ago, I would have said some were underrating him due to the Buccaneers entertaining and then drafting a quarterback in the third round.

    But then I saw that Freeman is making $8.43 million to play the 2013 season and nearly coughed up my breakfast.

    At that price, Freeman is the No. 9 highest-paid quarterback in the entire NFL this season. Would anyone like to rank him in the top 10, or even top 20, quarterbacks available?

     

    Underrated: LB Mason Foster

    Mason Foster stepped into the Tampa defense and started producing immediately, but how many casual fans have heard his name?

    The middle linebacker position isn't a hidden one, and a player with Foster's production and ability should be recognized. In two seasons, he's started 31 games and shown remarkable improvement. His 80 tackles in 2012 showed a tough, rangy, athletic middle linebacker with the tools to start moving his way into the top tier of players at the position.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Overrated:  CB Patrick Peterson

    Patrick Peterson is being overrated as a cornerback. As a return man or all-around athlete, I'm open to a healthy debate, but his play in coverage has been glossed over because of his exceptional return ability and big plays. But what does he do when locked up one-on-one?

    Peterson ranked No. 18 in the league last season when you look at what percent of passes thrown his way he allowed—also known as a "burn rating." He also allowed six touchdowns to go with his seven interceptions.

    This isn't to say Peterson is a bad cornerback; in fact, I would say he has the talent to be a top-five cornerback moving forward, but he's not there yet. The fact that many want to put him in the top tier prematurely has contributed to his being overrated.

     

    Underrated: OLB Sam Acho

    If you look at stats, Sam Acho will get lost on your radar because he doesn't produce double-digit sacks, or at least hasn't yet in his two-year career. Instead, Acho brings solid all-around play, highlighted by coverage skills that put him in the upper echelon of NFL outside linebackers.

    The Cardinals were focused on using Acho to cover and rush, as opposed to most 3-4 outside linebackers who only rush the quarterback, and that leads to less opportunities to accumulate sacks. It didn't help that the Cardinals offense failed to put the team into positions where the opponent was forced to pass to win games.

    Acho's on the brink of becoming special, and in the Cardinals' new-look defense, he could be a star.

St. Louis Rams

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    Overrated:  CB Janoris Jenkins

    Janoris Jenkins may someday be the best cornerback in the NFL, but he's not there yet. For now, he's not even the best cornerback on his team, but don't tell fans that.

    Jenkins had a great rookie season in terms of turnovers and big plays, but he has a ways to go in his every-play production as a cover man. He can do better in limiting receptions, eliminating targets and playing better overall coverage. Until he learns the intricacies of the position, Jenkins is a potential player. 

    In time, Jenkins could be very good, but the jump to crown him as a top cornerback was too hasty after one strong season.

     

    Underrated: QB Sam Bradford

    The NFL universe is quick to write off or criticize Sam Bradford as a former No. 1 overall pick who hasn't produced staggering results yet. Those people would be wise to look at the support he has had so far.

    In three seasons, Bradford has been sacked 105 times playing behind a patchwork line that was never a cohesive group. When the offensive line was good, there was the issue of talented wide receivers to throw to. Bradford's best receiver over the last three years was the oft-injured slot receiver Danny Amendola, never an outside presence who could stretch the field.

    To make matters worse, Bradford's three seasons saw three different offensive coordinators—Pat Shurmur, Josh McDaniels and Brian Schottenheimer. In his fourth season, Bradford will have continuity at the offensive coordinator spot, a legitimate left tackle in Jake Long and a receiving corps with the talent to match his arm.

San Francisco 49ers

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    Overrated:  CB Carlos Rogers

    It was tough to pick an overrated player for the San Francisco 49ers, as most of their "name" players tend to produce at a high level. Looking deeper into stats, contracts, Pro Bowl votes and fan reactions, Carlos Rogers was the most logical pick.

    Rogers left Washington for San Francisco and instantly produced a six-interception, Pro Bowl season in 2011. Expectations were high in 2012, but Rogers' play slipped as the team saw Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver emerge as the two best cover men on the team.

    Rogers is still living slightly off his previous reputation, but on the field, he should see his play moved to more of a third option at corner for the 49ers.

     

    Underrated: OLB Ahmad Brooks

    Everyone who watches football regularly knows about the 49ers linebackers, but how many fans could name all four of them?

    Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith are automatic, and even NaVorro Bowman has picked up a nice national following, but does anyone remember Ahmad Brooks? They should, as Brooks' role in the defense is what makes the 49ers a complete unit.

    Brooks has the ability to play the run, rush the quarterback and attack in coverage. The fact that he never has to leave the field and can shift into the role the team needs him to fill makes Brooks one of the more underrated players in the league at any position. 

Seattle Seahawks

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    Overrated:  DE Bruce Irvin

    It's well-known that I was not a fan of the Seahawks drafting Bruce Irvin when they did, and fans and co-workers are quick to point out that Irvin posted eight sacks on the year—including one devastating performance against Green Bay in Week 3. But let's look closer at a player too many people are already convinced on.

    Irvin managed that total thanks to three games in which he posted two sacks. The rest of the season, he was largely invisible or not on the field as the Seahawks kept him under wraps except in the perfect situation for his speed-rush.

    Is a one-dimensional player worthy of the praise Irvin has received? Not in my book. There's no saying he can't become the next Aldon Smith or DeMarcus Ware, but it will be harder to do that in 2013 with a four-game suspension to start the season.

     

    Underrated: OC Max Unger

    The Seattle Seahawks have a roster full of underrated players. Guys like Brandon Browner, Golden Tate, Michael Robinson and Bobby Wagner all merited serious discussion for this spot, but there's one player who gets no recognition despite being elite at his position.

    Center Max Unger was arguably the best center in the NFL during the 2012 season, something that earned him a ranking of No. 3 overall in our NFL 1,000 series. Unger's play in the passing game with a rookie quarterback behind him was masterful, and his line calls helped Seattle establish an offense that was as dynamic as any in the game.

    A list of the best centers in the NFL probably won't feature Unger, but you should start hearing his name more from smart football fans soon.

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