The Most Overrated and Underrated Player on Every NFL Roster
Not every player on an NFL roster can be a legitimate superstar. While most players strive to earn their place among the league's elite, the reality is that some are overrated and some are completely overlooked.
Over the next several pages, we will take a look at the most overrated and underrated players on every NFL team. We're talking about the players who have been lauded by the media, the fans and by fellow professionals who are not realistically deserving of the accolades.
We will, of course, also examine the unheralded few who deserve the type of credit that is given to their overrated counterparts.
This list is not meant to be a prediction of future success. It is a look at the players who have received far too much credit and those who haven't received nearly enough.
Overrated: RB C.J. Spiller
Running back C.J. Spiller is one of the few offensive stars for the Buffalo Bills. He is a popular name during fantasy draft season because of his breakaway speed and ability to gain yards (he averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season).
However, his 2013 campaign wasn't particularly impressive. While he did manage to rush for 933 yards in 15 games last season, he reached the end zone only twice. He was also ranked a disappointing 51st overall among running backs for the season by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Underrated: DT Marcell Dareus
Sadly, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus seems to be gaining notoriety for troubles off the field instead of for his stellar play on it.
While the fourth-year player may have some growing up to do as a professional, he leaves few questions about his ability on the field. In addition to racking up 71 tackles and 7.5 sacks in 2013, he was rated sixth overall among defensive tackles by Pro Football Focus.
Overrated: WR Mike Wallace
During his first four seasons in the league, wide receiver Mike Wallace developed enough of a reputation as a game-breaking deep threat that the Miami Dolphins were inclined to sign him to a massive $60 million free-agent contract last offseason.
He rewarded the Dolphins with 930 yards receiving and five scores in 2013, which is good but certainly not elite production.
Underrated: CB Brent Grimes
Cornerback Brent Grimes has developed a reputation as a gritty, physical pass defender and played well enough to earn a late spot on the NFL Network's top-100 players list for 2014.
Yet, few would probably label him as the second-best cornerback in the entire NFL. Pro Football Focus does, however, rating him at No. 2 overall at his position behind only Darrelle Revis. Fortunately, Miami recently locked up Grimes with a new four-year contract.
New England Patriots
Overrated: WR Danny Amendola
Wide receiver Danny Amendola was the New England Patriots' prize free-agent acquisition last offseason. The team handed him a five-year, $28.5 contract to step in as Wes Welker's replacement in the Patriots offense.
Due to injuries, he suited up for just 12 games and provided a mere 633 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns. That's $1 million per score based on his 2013 base salary.
Underrated: CB Kyle Arrington
Unless you are a true New England sports fan, you may not even know of cornerback Kyle Arrington.
An unheralded player on the Patriots' under-appreciated 10th-ranked defense (scoring, 21.1 points per game allowed), Arrington registered 62 tackles, 2.0 sacks and an interception in 2013. He was rated as the league's 19th-best cornerback overall by Pro Football Focus.
New York Jets
Overrated: QB Geno Smith
Leave it to the New York Jets to overhype one of their own players.
The Jets have tabbed Geno Smith as their quarterback of the future and have made it clear that the second-year pro has the inside track over veteran Michael Vick in this year's quarterback competition.
If Smith really is the future of the Jets organization, then the team is banking on a player who produced 25 turnovers and was ranked 41st among quarterbacks in 2013 by Pro Football Focus.
Underrated: RB Chris Ivory
While the Jets offense was far from impressive last season (ranked 25th, averaging 318.1 yards per game), running back Chris Ivory did get a few opportunities to shine.
The former New Orleans Saints backup rushed for 833 yards with a 4.6 yards-per-carry average. These numbers wouldn't be particularly impressive if Ivory were a more-heralded player (see C.J. Spiller), but he is far from a star. Ivory earned just $750,000 in base salary last season, which is a bargain price for a capable NFL running back.
Overrated: QB Joe Flacco
Quarterback Joe Flacco helped to deliver a Super Bowl to the Baltimore Ravens a couple of seasons ago. Doing so earned the former Delaware star a fat contract that will pay him more than $14 million in 2014 (including bonuses).
This seems like a pretty steep price for a quarterback who tossed more interceptions (22) than touchdowns (19) in 2013 and was ranked 37th overall among quarterbacks by Pro Football Focus.
Underrated: K Justin Tucker
Believe it or not, kickers are still an important part of the NFL landscape.
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker was one of the best in the game last season, tying for the league lead with 39 successful field-goal attempts (out of 41). He did not miss an extra point (26-of-26) and averaged a respectable 63.4 yards per kickoff with zero returned for touchdowns.
Overrated: TE Jermaine Gresham
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham was once considered a rising young star in the NFL. However, the former first-round pick has developed into a weak link of sorts in the Cincinnati offense in recent years.
While he did produce 458 yards with four touchdowns, he also lost three fumbles on the year. He is a subpar blocker and was ranked a dismal 63rd overall among tight ends by Pro Football Focus for the 2013 season.
Underrated: LB Vincent Rey
Middle linebacker Vincent Rey was given a few opportunities to make a name for himself this past season with three starts, and he made the most of them.
The former undrafted free agent racked up 57 tackles with 4.0 sacks, two interceptions and a defensive score in 2013. He was rated ninth overall among middle linebackers by Pro Football Focus but was given a very reasonable two-year, $4.2 million contract by the Bengals this offseason.
Overrated: QB Johnny Manziel
To be fair, we have no idea what Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel is capable of at the pro level.
However, "Johnny Football" is easily one of the most hyped players to enter the league in recent memory. He seems to make headlines for everything he does, including taking recreational (and apparently profitable) trips to Las Vegas.
Manziel will have an opportunity to prove he can live up to the hype in the coming year, but this is an awful lot of attention for a player who has yet to take a meaningful professional snap.
Underrated: G John Greco
No one will blame you if you are unfamiliar with guard John Greco, even if you are a Browns fan.
The seventh-year pro has never been a star, but his versatility makes him an important piece of Cleveland's offensive line. He has played 24 games at left guard and three at right guard over the past two years, and he was ranked as the league's 32nd best guard overall by Pro Football Focus for the 2013 season.
Overrated: CB Ike Taylor
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor is entering the final season of a massive four-year, $28 million deal. Don't be too surprised if the Steelers decide not to invite him back on another long-term contract next offseason.
Despite starting all 16 games for Pittsburgh last season, he produced zero sacks and zero turnovers. He was ranked 97th overall by Pro Football Focus for the year.
Underrated: WR Antonio Brown
Though he has started to make a name for himself as of late, wide receiver Antonio Brown never seems to be in the discussion involving the league's top wideouts. Yet, he was one of the league's best in 2013, ranking behind only Josh Gordon with 1,499 yards receiving on the year.
Brown also appears to be a team-first player. His offseason contract restructuring helped free up nearly $4 million in cap space, according to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio.
Overrated: RB Arian Foster
As was the case last year, Arian Foster is the pick for most overrated Houston Texan and mostly for the same reasons.
While he is a very good running back, he is not one of the few truly elite players. His 2013 season was cut in half due to injury; however, his stats projected over a full season would have put him just less than 1,100 yards with two rushing touchdowns for the year.
This is good but definitely not elite production.
Underrated: C Chris Myers
Center Chris Myers has been a mainstay on the Texans offensive line since 2008 and has shown few signs of slowing down at 32 years of age.
While he was named to the Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2012, he isn't exactly a high-profile player. However, he is a high-production lineman who has started every game in his Houston career.
Myers was rated as the league's sixth-best center by Pro Football Focus for the 2013 season.
Overrated: RB Trent Richardson
We have to consider Indianapolis running back Trent Richardson overvalued because of the simple fact that the Colts surrendered a first-round pick in order to acquire him from the Browns last season.
Indianapolis didn't get a whole lot in return from Richardson, though a full offseason with the team may allow him to become a better player.
He produced just 458 yards with three touchdowns and a 2.9 yards-per-carry average with Indianapolis last season.
Underrated: LB Jerrell Freeman
Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman is easily one of the better defenders on the Colts roster, and he will be around for the 2014 season at the bargain price of $570,000.
That's nearly $4 million less than the Colts are paying fellow inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson this season in base salary alone. Jackson was ranked as the 42nd-best inside linebacker by Pro Football Focus for the 2013 season.
Freeman was ranked 17th.
Overrated: QB Chad Henne
When there is virtually no national buzz surrounding a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars, it can be difficult to pinpoint a player who is truly overrated.
Therefore, we're going to zero in on quarterback Chad Henne here, simply because the team seems to feel so confident about heading into the regular season with Henne as the starter.
The journeyman signal-caller passed for just 13 touchdowns with 14 interceptions in 2013 and was rated as the league's 42nd-best quarterback by Pro Football Focus.
Underrated: RB Toby Gerhart
Considering the lack of attention given to the Jaguars, there should be plenty of underrated players already residing on the roster. However, we're going to look at new addition Toby Gerhart, who has the potential to break out in the coming season.
Though he has never been given a full workload at the pro level (which actually means less wear on his body), he has flashed tremendous potential.
For his career, Gerhart has carried the ball 276 times for 1,305 yards and a 4.7 yards-per-carry average. Jacksonville will have a chance to get that type of production from him in one season in 2014.
Overrated: DE Kamerion Wimbley
Once touted as a rising sack artist, Titans defensive end Kamerion Wimbley is now merely a role player on the Tennessee defense.
Of course, that doesn't mean he is a cheap role player. He is due to earn $9 million over the next three seasons. This wouldn't be a bad deal if Wimbley were a highly productive player, but he isn't.
He amassed just 11 tackles and 3.0 sacks last season and was rated 38th overall among all 4-3 defensive ends by Pro Football Focus.
Underrated: LB Colin McCarthy
Middle linebacker Colin McCarthy isn't one of the league's best-known players, but he is an effective linebacker who may be ready to jump into the national spotlight.
He racked up 55 tackles last season to go with a forced fumble and an interception. He was rated 23rd overall among all inside linebackers by Pro Football Focus for the 2013 season.
Overrated: WR Wes Welker
Is Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker still one of the better slot receivers in the NFL? Sure.
However, he took a major step backward in the production department in his first season in Denver, and it will be interesting to see how the team handles him moving forward.
After catching 118 passes for 1,354 yards in 2012, he grabbed just 73 balls from Peyton Manning for 778 yards last season. Welker did score 10 touchdowns, but he was also credited with 10 drops on the season.
Underrated: DT Terrance Knighton
Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton was a relative unknown before arriving in Denver on a modest two-year, $4 million contract. While he did begin to creep into the spotlight during the Broncos' run to the Super Bowl, he is still not a superstar.
However, Knighton is a beast on the football field. He racked up 31 tackles, 3.0 sacks and an interception in 2013 and was ranked ninth overall among defensive tackles by Pro Football Focus.
Kansas City Chiefs
Overrated: CB Brandon Flowers
If you've watched a good deal of pro football over the past few years, you have probably heard Brandon Flowers' name mentioned a time or two. However, name recognition does not necessarily make a fantastic player. Neither does a high-dollar contract.
Flowers is currently in the midst of a six-year, $49.35 million deal. He earned $3.35 million in base salary last season and is set to make $5.25 million in 2014. Yet, he was far from a game-changer last season, logging just one interception and a single sack.
He was rated 87th overall among cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus.
Underrated: QB Alex Smith
Quarterback Alex Smith didn't produce a ton of eye-popping plays in 2013, but he was steady and efficient for this surprise playoff team. While running back Jamaal Charles stole most of the offensive attention (and rightfully so), Smith played his part.
The former first overall pick passed for more than 3,300 yards with 23 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He also scrambled for 431 yards on the season.
Overrated: RB Darren McFadden
Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden is the epitome of an intriguing injury risk.
He is extremely talented but has had a seriously difficult time staying healthy in his pro career. During his six years in Oakland, he has missed a total of 29 games.
Unfortunately, McFadden hasn't even been all that impressive when healthy over the past couple of years. He averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in 2012 and 2013.
Underrated: CB Tarell Brown
Oakland got a relative bargain when it inked former San Francisco 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown to a one-year, $3.5 million free-agent contract this offseason.
Despite not being a household name, Brown has performed very well for the 49ers over the past seven seasons and may be able to parlay his one-year deal into a sizable long-term contract if he can continue that play with the Raiders.
He was rated the league's 32nd-best cornerback by Pro Football Focus last season.
San Diego Chargers
Overrated: RB Ryan Mathews
Though he did manage to make the Pro Bowl following the 2011 season, San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has yet to live up to the expectations of being a former first-round selection.
He has been a solid but very unspectacular running back throughout his four years in the league. He has missed 10 games due to injury and has fumbled the ball 14 times since entering the league in 2010.
The good news is that he put together the best season of his career in 2013 and may be on the verge of making the Chargers appear very smart for sticking with him.
Underrated: S Eric Weddle
Safety Eric Weddle is a two-time Pro Bowler (2011, 2014), so we're not going to pretend that he is a complete unknown.
However, he never seems to be in the conversation when talking about the league's top overall safeties. He came in at No. 92 on the NFL Network's top-100 players list for 2014, though he should probably be ranked quite a bit higher.
According to Pro Football Focus, Weddle was the NFL's seventh-best safety last season, both overall and in pass coverage.
Overrated: CB Morris Claiborne
You're probably expecting us to pick on quarterback Tony Romo at this point. Well, we won't.
Instead, we're going to look at Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, who has done very little to impress in his two professional seasons.
The former first-round pick has produced just two interceptions in his career and was ranked 90th overall among cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus last season.
Underrated: G Mackenzy Bernadeau
We won't blame you if you have never heard of guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (and we won't blame you if you cannot pronounce the name). However, he is a vastly underrated lineman who has developed into a solid piece of the Cowboys offense.
Bernadeau appeared in all 16 games last season (11 starts) and was rated the 22nd best guard in the NFL overall by Pro Football Focus.
New York Giants
Overrated: QB Eli Manning
Sure, Eli Manning has helped to bring a pair of Super Bowl titles to the New York Giants, but that doesn't change the fact that he was incredibly bad in 2013.
He tossed 29 interceptions and lost two fumbles while throwing just 18 touchdowns on the season. His passer rating of 69.4 was the lowest of his career since his rookie season in 2004.
Manning was ranked 32nd overall among quarterbacks by Pro Football Focus for the year, one spot below Brandon Weeden.
Underrated: FB John Conner
Fullbacks are often overlooked in today's NFL, so it is of little surprise to see one make our underrated list.
Though he did not log a single carry for the Giants in 2013, John Connor managed to rank fourth overall among fullbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. This is mainly a testament to his blocking ability; he ranked third among fullbacks in blocking.
Overrated: WR Riley Cooper
Wide receiver Riley Cooper put up some pretty impressive numbers for the Philadelphia Eagles last season. However, it is fair to wonder if he was merely a product of head coach Chip Kelly's system.
Cooper provided the Eagles with 835 yards and eight touchdowns on just 47 receptions. Yet, he was ranked just 42nd overall among wide receivers by Pro Football Focus for the 2013 season.
Underrated: OLB Trent Cole
Philadelphia's 29th-ranked defense (394 yards per game allowed) might have been a major liability last season, but that doesn't mean that every player on the unit was a disappointment.
Outside linebacker Trent Cole was a force in 2013, racking up 56 tackles, 8.0 sacks and three forced fumbles on the year. He was ranked seventh overall by Pro Football Focus among all outside linebackers.
While Cole is a two-time Pro Bowler, he hasn't been to the game in Hawaii since 2009. It seems that his time in the spotlight has faded, even if his play on the field hasn't.
Overrated: QB Robert Griffin III
Many members of the media continued to treat Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III like an elite quarterback last season, though it was clear that he was not.
Though many of his struggles were likely due to injury, he failed to capture the same magic that catapulted him into stardom as a rookie and helped the Redskins earn a division title in 2012.
Last season, Griffin saw his passer rating drop nearly 20 points (from 102.2 to 82.4). He was rated as the league's 30th best quarterback by Pro Football Focus. Fortunately, he will have an opportunity to show that 2013 was an aberration if he can rebound and stay healthy next season.
Underrated: OT Trent Williams
Starting left tackle Trent Williams has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons but has yet to enter the conversation about the league's best pass-protectors.
This is a tad confusing, especially when you realize that he was rated as the NFL's best overall tackle for the 2013 season by Pro Football Focus.
Overrated: OT Jermon Bushrod
It is difficult to imagine an NFL team giving $7 million per year to the 50th-best player at any position. Yet, this is exactly what the Chicago Bears are doing with starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who was ranked 50th overall among offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus last season.
Even more alarming is the fact that he was tied for the fifth-most quarterback hurries allowed by an offensive tackle. He is playing on a five-year, $35.96 million deal.
Underrated: G Matt Slauson
Not every member of the Bears offensive line was a disappointment last season. In fact, guard Matt Slauson was actually one of the better players at his position in the league in 2013.
A former sixth-round pick of the Jets, Slauson has never been named to a Pro Bowl. However, he was ranked as the sixth-best guard in football last season by Pro Football Focus.
Overrated: TE Brandon Pettigrew
Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew continues to be a high-profile player mostly due to his status as a former first-round draft pick.
However, he has been mostly unspectacular on the field for the Lions, which may be why the team decided to draft tight end Eric Ebron 10th overall in May's draft.
Pettigrew caught 41 passes for a pedestrian 416 yards this past season with just two touchdowns. He was rated as the league's 55th-best overall tight end by Pro Football Focus.
Underrated: DT C.J. Mosley
Defensive tackle C.J. Mosley was a valuable depth player for the Lions last season, even though he never produced big numbers.
Though he was overshadowed by guys like Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, Mosley was an important member of the defensive line rotation and was rated 24th overall among all defensive linemen by Pro Football Focus for the 2013 season.
Green Bay Packers
Overrated: CB Tramon Williams
Cornerback Tramon Williams is a former Pro Bowler and one of the more recognizable names on the Green Bay Packers defense. However, he is due to earn $6.9 million in base salary alone for the 2014 season, which seems high when you consider where he actually ranks among cornerbacks.
While Williams did manage to defend 11 passes and come away with three interceptions on the season, he was rated just 39th overall among cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus. The player ranked one spot above Williams, Jaguars cornerback Dwayne Gratz, is due to earn just $533,000 in base salary this season.
Underrated: WR Jordy Nelson
While Williams appears to be overpaid, one could argue that wide receiver Jordy Nelson deserves to be paid more. Due to earn a little more than $3 million in 2014, Nelson comes relatively cheap as far as top-tier receivers go.
He produced 1,314 yards in 2013 and was rated as the league's second-best overall receiver by Pro Football Focus. Yet Nelson is hardly ever mentioned when discussing the top receivers in the NFL today.
Overrated: WR Greg Jennings
From 2007 to 2011, wide receiver Greg Jennings was one of the league's most consistent and productive receivers. Those years, of course, came with the Green Bay Packers.
He wasn't a total disappointment in his first season with the Minnesota Vikings (804 yards receiving, four touchdowns), but it is worth noting that he was outranked by fellow Vikings receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Jerome Simpson by Pro Football Focus for the year.
Underrated: C John Sullivan
You can probably bet that center John Sullivan paid a lot of attention to the mammoth contract recently signed by Browns center Alex Mack during the offseason.
Sullivan is due to earn just over a third of what Mack will make in 2014, even though Sullivan was rated a superior center by Pro Football Focus for the 2013 season. In fact, he was ranked as the third-best center in the entire league.
He has never been named to a Pro Bowl.
Overrated: WR Roddy White
Atlanta Falcons wideout Roddy White is supposed to be one of the top all-around receivers in the entire league, right?
Well, that perception wasn't the reality in 2013, as he amassed just 711 yards and three touchdowns in 13 appearances for the Falcons. While 2013 may have simply been a down year for him (his first non-1,000-yard campaign since 2006), it was very down.
White was ranked 91st overall among wide receivers by Pro Football Focus.
Underrated: WR Julio Jones
Receiver Julio Jones is a budding star, but it was difficult to gauge his true value until the Falcons were forced to play without him for the majority of the 2013 season due to injury.
With Jones lost for the year after Week 5, the Falcons offense struggled, and the team stumbled to a 4-12 record. What is really interesting is the fact that Jones produced just 131 fewer yards and one less touchdown than White, despite appearing in eight fewer games.
Overrated: QB Cam Newton
Let's be clear here. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is a terrific player and is growing into the role of franchise quarterback, but he still has some evolving to do as a passer.
He posted a career-high passer rating of 88.8 last season, which is very good but certainly not elite (though he didn't exactly have a ton of reliable weapons around him). He was also ranked just 15th overall among quarterbacks by Pro Football Focus, which again is good but not great.
As a passer (a fairly important role for quarterbacks), Newton was ranked 30th, which places him below guys like Brandon Weeden and Matt McGloin.
Underrated: TE Ben Hartsock
Blocking tight ends rarely gain attention because they don't make exciting plays or pump out fantasy points.
Such is the case with Ben Hartsock, who didn't log a single reception in 2013. Despite not catching a pass, he was rated as the league's fourth-best overall tight end by Pro Football Focus.
New Orleans Saints
Overrated: RB Mark Ingram
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram continued his slide into mediocrity in 2013, posting career lows in rushing attempts (78) and yards (386).
On the bright side, the former first-round pick and Heisman Trophy winner did finally manage to rush for more than 3.9 yards per carry (his average during his first two years). However, he was still unimpressive enough that the Saints chose not to pick up his fifth-year contract option this offseason.
Underrated: OT Zach Strief
Elite offensive linemen typically don't go underrated, especially when they are protecting a high-profile quarterback like Drew Brees.
However, starting right tackle Zach Strief has gone relatively unnoticed during his lengthy Saints career, even though he has developed into one of the game's premier pass-blockers.
New Orleans rewarded him with a five-year, $20 million contract this offseason. That's quite a bargain for a player who was ranked third among all offensive tackles in pass protection by Pro Football Focus last season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Overrated: WR Vincent Jackson
Former Chargers star Vincent Jackson has performed admirably since joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent two years ago.
However, he is entering the middle year of a five-year, $55.55 million deal and hasn't exactly helped the Buccaneers turn the franchise around since coming to town.
While he topped the 1,200-yard mark in each of the past two seasons, he was rated just 46th overall among wideouts by Pro Football Focus for 2013. This seems like too low of a ranking for a player who is due to earn $10 million in base salary next season.
Underrated: LB Mason Foster
Middle linebacker Mason Foster might be on the verge of becoming a Pro Bowl player, but few fans outside of Tampa are probably even aware of him.
In addition to being a tackling machine (197 tackles over the past two seasons), he is a difference-maker. He produced 2.0 sacks, a forced fumble and three interceptions in 2013 to go with two defensive touchdowns. He was ranked 32nd overall among inside linebackers by Pro Football Focus.
Overrated: CB Patrick Peterson
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson is a solid cover man and a terrific all-around athlete, so we're not here to say he is a bad player by any stretch of the imagination.
However, he has a goal of becoming the league's highest paid cornerback. The problem is that he isn't even one of the 15 best cornerbacks in football. He was rated 16th overall among corners last season by Pro Football Focus, which is impressive. However, 16th overall is probably a lot lower than you would expect to find a player with Peterson's reputation.
Underrated: DB Tyrann Mathieu
Tyrann Mathieu brought plenty of attention with him to the NFL and not always for the right reasons. However, he performed exceptionally well as a rotational defensive back in 2013, especially when filling in at the cornerback position.
According to Pro Football Focus, he was actually the third-best overall cornerback in the league last season, which is probably not where most fans envision him.
Unfortunately, Mathieu's rookie season was ended prematurely by a serious knee injury, and it may take some time for him to get back onto the playing field and prove that he can maintain his high level of play for more than a single season.
San Francisco 49ers
Overrated: QB Colin Kaepernick
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick provided quite a few highlights during the team's march to the NFC Championship Game.
However, it is difficult to justify the fact that the 49ers just handed him a new contract that could be worth up to $126 million.
After all, he has just 23 regular-season starts under his belt and can be fairly inconsistent in the passing game (which is somewhat important for a quarterback). He passed for 175 yards or less eight different times last season and was rated just 18th overall among quarterbacks by Pro Football Focus.
Underrated: K Phil Dawson
Ask pretty much any 49ers fan how he felt about kicker David Akers in 2012, and you might get an idea why Phil Dawson was important to San Francisco's improvement in the special teams department last season.
Dawson connected on 32 of 36 attempts in 2013, with 14 successful kicks from 40 yards out or longer.
Overrated: OLB Bruce Irvin
Let's be honest, when a team that is full of selfless players is coming off a dominating Super Bowl victory, it can be difficult to find one who is truly overrated.
While he is developing into a solid all-around player (he ranked 10th overall at his position by Pro Football Focus last season), outside linebacker Bruce Irvin might not be the sack artist he was made out to be during his rookie campaign.
After amassing 8.0 sacks in limited action as a rookie in 2012, he produced just 2.0 this past season in 12 starts. Beginning the season with a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs didn't help.
Underrated: QB Russell Wilson
Perhaps more underpaid than underrated, quarterback Russell Wilson was a major part of the Seahawks' Super Bowl puzzle in 2013. While the defense tends to get most of the credit for last season's rise to the top, Wilson did plenty to ensure the team wouldn't fail.
He posted an impressive 101.2 passer rating during the regular season and was ranked fourth overall among quarterbacks by Pro Football Focus for the year. His rookie contract paid him just more than $526,000 for his efforts.
St. Louis Rams
Overrated: WR Tavon Austin
Former No. 8 overall pick Tavon Austin was supposed to be one of the league's most exciting rookies in 2013. While the St. Louis Rams receiver did provide some special teams excitement, his contributions to the passing game were not particularly impressive.
He hauled in just 40 passes for 418 yards and four touchdowns during his inaugural NFL campaign. He was ranked 58th overall among wideouts by Pro Football Focus for the season.
Underrated: DE William Hayes
Though he is often overshadowed by fellow defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn, seventh-year pro William Hayes is an important contributor on the Rams defensive front.
A product of Winston-Salem State, he has been consistent and productive in his two seasons with the Rams. Despite logging zero starts over the past two years, he has provided St. Louis with 63 tackles, 12.0 sacks and an interception.
He was ranked 11th overall among 4-3 defensive ends by Pro Football Focus last season.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!