The Most Overrated and Underrated Player on Every NFL Roster
Who is the most overrated and underrated player on every team?
That depends on whether they're grossly overpaid or underpaid or simply overlooked or viewed as much better than they really are. It's a largely subjective look—obviously it depends on the surrounding players on the team and at the position—but one that is gaining increasing objectivity as our evaluation tools improve.
With a heavy nod at advanced statistics and individual player ratings, here are the most overrated and underrated players on each NFL squad heading into the 2014 season.
Overrated: Patrick Peterson, CB
Patrick Peterson is a great cornerback. But is he arguably the best in the league?
After Seattle peer Richard Sherman signed his massive extension this offseason, Peterson said he was worth more. He would go on to say he does much more than Sherman due to scheme differences, per ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss.
He does one thing few cornerbacks do—cover the opposing team's best receiver all game long. Perhaps that is why Peterson allowed seven touchdowns while grabbing just three interceptions en route to a 91.3 NFL rating for opposing quarterbacks throwing his direction last season.
Covering the opponent's top receiver week in and week out is a tall task, to be sure. Regardless of scheme, Peterson has not exactly been a shutdown cornerback.
Underrated: Andre Ellington, RB
He isn't underrated in the fantasy football community, but running back Andre Ellington might make the biggest impact on that Cardinals offense this season.
We saw glimpses of that last season when he averaged 5.5 yards per carry, the league leader among backs with 50 or more carries. Head coach Bruce Arians chose to limit his snaps to keep him from wearing down.
That will no longer be the case this season, at least according to Arians, who boasted Ellington would get 25-30 touches per game, according to Weinfuss.
That figure seems a tad high, but it's clear the Cardinals view him as a difference-maker for the upcoming season.
Overrated: Matt Ryan, QB
It's no easy task to make the postseason four out of your first five years in the league as a starting quarterback.
That is precisely what Matt Ryan did, quite unexpectedly after being handed the Michael Vick mantle in 2008. It garnered him a reputation as a winner, perhaps one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
We all saw what happened to him when the talent around him faltered last season, however.
With a porous offensive line and without receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White for much of the season, Ryan and that offense were doomed to a 4-12 record. He was tied for seventh in the league with 17 interceptions and fell to 12th in NFL rating at 89.9. Pro Football Focus rated him 14th-best at his position, smack in the middle of the pack.
Of course, quarterbacks unfairly shoulder the blame for team records—though the praise is equally unfair when the team is good—but Ryan was clearly unable to lift the team onto his shoulders without the guys around him to prop him up.
Granted, his 4,516 yards and 26 touchdowns were pretty good, all things considered. He is still a franchise quarterback deserving of accolades. It was clear last season, however, that Ryan does not elevate his teammates like a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.
Underrated: Desmond Trufant, CB
All eyes were on Dee Milliner and Xavier Rhodes at cornerback in last year's draft, but Desmond Trufant quietly had a fantastic season for the Falcons.
It was quiet because the Falcons were so bad defensively, for the most part, that Trufant's exploits went largely unnoticed. The only rookie to do better last year was Tyrann Mathieu, at least as far Pro Football Focus' ratings are concerned.
Trufant allowed just 53.4 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed, and he was among the top 10 cornerbacks in the league with 17 passes defensed.
Overrated: Joe Flacco, QB
Based on last season's performance, Joe Flacco shouldn't be heralded among the league's best at his position, though the great PFT Commenter might beg to differ.
The sad truth is that Flacco is among the top-paid quarterbacks in the league, however, and that is problematic for a team without a plethora of offensive talent. Flacco is no Matt Ryan, and we have already seen that the Falcons quarterback is overrated himself.
Flacco wasn't even mediocre last season—he was flat-out bad. Pro Football Focus rated him one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. He was tied for the second-most interceptions in the league with 22, and he threw just 19 touchdowns to boot.
Super Bowl hangover?
Part of the reason for his poor season was a lack of weaponry, but Flacco has simply never been a great quarterback. He had been good in the past, but hardly worth a top-shelf contract after one torrid postseason.
Underrated: Jimmy Smith, CB
Red flags caused cornerback Jimmy Smith to fall down the draft board a bit in 2011, and he spent much of the first two seasons of his career adapting to the NFL. Here is what Bleacher Report's Shehan Peiris had to say about Smith toward the end of the 2013 season:
The sample size is small, but the results have been exciting for Baltimore. Smith has turned the corner and is playing the best football of his life right now.
His breakout year is flying under the radar, but he’ll start to earn the recognition he deserves when he makes plays on a bigger stage like in the playoffs (if Baltimore can hold on to their postseason ticket). Until then, the Ravens are happy knowing they struck gold with their first-round pick of the 2011 draft.
Smith is on track to become a stud in that defense for the Ravens.
Overrated: C.J. Spiller, RB
Running back C.J. Spiller is one of those tantalizing players who oozes potential. It looked like he was ready to break out and dominate the league last season after a 2012 campaign that saw him average 6.0 yards per carry.
It wasn't meant to be.
Spiller has battled injuries during the past couple of seasons, and he had trouble staying on the field last year due to performance reasons. Old man Fred Jackson kept getting significant playing time despite a waning burst, while Spiller looked like he was running straight into the pile every other play.
He certainly has the potential to explode, as we saw in 2012. But Spiller has been smoke and mirrors for much of his career.
Underrated: Stephon Gilmore, CB
Stephon Gilmore suffered through a bit of a nightmarish rookie season back in 2012 for the Buffalo Bills
The former first-round pick was penalized a league-high 13 times, and he was rated as one of the worst cornerbacks in the league. Gilmore intercepted just one pass while allowing three touchdowns, contributing to the 91.0 NFL rating he allowed opposing passers on balls thrown his direction.
An injury kept him out of the first part of the 2013 season, and he got off to a similarly rough start when he came back, thanks to a wrist injury he was still protecting. The second half of the 2013 season saw Gilmore come into that first-round form the Bills expected when they drafted him, however.
Gilmore allowed just over 50 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed from Week 8 on last year, and his play improved as the season wore on and his injury faded. It was a strong finish, encouraging for Gilmore and the Bills going forward.
Overrated: Charles Johnson, DE
Three years ago, defensive end Charles Johnson signed a massive deal with the Carolina Panthers. At the time, his six-year, $76 million contract seemed steep, but fair. Johnson was coming off of an 11.5-sack season at 24 years of age, and he looked like an anchor for that defensive line for years to come.
Johnson has been pretty good since then, amassing 32.5 sacks in the three years after he signed that mega deal. But has he been worth the massive contract?
His $16.4 million cap number for 2014 was a big reason the Panthers had cap issues that forced frugality in free agency and the unceremonious release of longtime starting receiver Steve Smith.
Underrated: Kawann Short, DT
Last season was all about Star Lotulelei in the middle of that defense. The rookie played up to his top-five billing—he only fell because of concerns about a heart condition—earning some consideration for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
His partner in the middle, Kawann Short, was less heralded despite having a better season—at least as Pro Football Focus rated him. Short was the more well rounded of the two, and he was a nice complement to the run-stuffing Lotulelei.
Overrated: Jared Allen, DE
The Chicago Bears needed an upgraded defensive line, and they most certainly got one this offseason.
Defensive end Jared Allen came over from the Minnesota Vikings, replacing released Julius Peppers. Allen is younger and has been more productive than Peppers, and the former is on the books for far less this season to boot.
While Allen might be an upgrade, he isn't quite the man he was for most of his time in Minnesota. Double-digit sacks notwithstanding, Allen has seen his play dip in recent seasons, at least according to Pro Football Focus.
Underrated: Brian De La Puente, C
Roberto Garza has been a rock at center for the Bears since 2005, one of the best centers in the league during a long stretch.
The 35-year-old is still on the roster, but the Bears may have no choice but to let him go with De La Puente on the roster.
Overrated: Andy Dalton, QB
If you ask the general public their opinions on quarterback Andy Dalton, you might get mixed results.
On the one hand, Dalton has had a rather Matt Ryan-esque start to his career, having led the Bengals to the postseason in each of his first three seasons in the league.
On the other, he has had a terrible go of it in the playoffs, amassing just one touchdown to six interceptions in three games, all losses. It's a symptom of bigger issues for Dalton, who has lacked ideal arm strength and consistency since coming into the league.
Pro Football Focus has rated Dalton 28th, 27th and 17th at quarterback in each of his first three seasons in the league. That is certainly the right direction, but he isn't necessarily irreplaceable.
That hasn't stopped head coach Marvin Lewis from saying Dalton "is the football team," per Cincinnati.com's Paul Dehner.
Underrated: Andre Smith, OT
One of Dalton's protectors is offensive tackle Andre Smith, who has been a solid contributor for the Bengals since coming into the league.
Smith has quietly been one of the better right tackles in the league in recent years, rating positively over at PFF and boasting solid pass-blocking efficiency since permanently taking over the job in 2011.
Overrated: Joe Haden, CB
Much like Patrick Peterson, Joe Haden is a good cornerback who seems to be a bit overrated at this point in his career.
Don't take my word for it, however. Here is what Bleacher Report's Cian Fahey had to say after breaking down Haden's 2013 tape:
Joe Haden is an adequate starting cornerback who could excel in a scheme that allows him to play more zone coverage or as part of more Cover 2 looks. His ball skills are exceptional and his physical talent is easy to become infatuated with.
At 25 years of age, Haden needs to be better than what he currently is.
The consistency in his footwork and overall technique in man coverage simply isn't good enough. Not only is he not a shutdown cornerback, but he is also not even an above average cornerback in man coverage.
"Adequate" is not a particularly good term to describe a cornerback who just got a ridiculous $67.5 million contract extension, making him the highest-paid cornerback in the league.
Haden has given up 12 touchdowns and snagged just seven interceptions in the past two seasons. He can hang with the best of them, but for how long?
Underrated: Ahtyba Rubin, DT
Simply put, Ahtyba Rubin has been one of the more underrated defensive linemen in the league for some time now.
Rubin has been asked to play defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme—where he thrives—and defensive end in a 3-4, and he has been successful to varying degrees. He is a run-stopping force in the interior of that Cleveland defensive front, one the Browns could ill-afford to lose.
Overrated: Morris Claiborne, CB
The Dallas Cowboys have needed cornerback help for quite a while. That's why they drafted Morris Claiborne in the first round of the 2012 draft.
Since then, Claiborne has been a disappointment for the Cowboys. He has rated among the worst cornerbacks in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, with injuries hampering his development in the first two seasons of his career.
Hopefully he can cash in on the potential he showed to get him drafted No. 6 overall by the Cowboys, but so far, it hasn't shown.
Underrated: Henry Melton, DT
Henry Melton was on the rise, becoming one of the better defensive tackles in the league with the Chicago Bears in the years leading up to his ACL injury. That injury put him out of commission for most of the 2013 season, and his free-agent stock took a big tumble as a result.
The Cowboys snapped him up on a one-year contract that could become a four-year deal if Melton proves his worth, and he should do just that if he can get healthy and stay there.
Melton was a fantastic pass-rusher in the middle who was turning into a well-rounded defensive tackle before the injury. Teams underestimated his talent in free agency, and the Cowboys are going to reap the benefits.
Overrated: Aqib Talib, CB
The Denver Broncos were widely praised for snagging Aqib Talib in free agency, even if it seemed like they overpaid a bit. He got six years and $57 million to move west from New England, the richest free-agent contract awarded this offseason.
Talib was signed to replace Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but is he really an upgrade? The former has been viewed as a great press cornerback for the past few seasons, but the numbers indicate otherwise.
For starters, Talib has ranked 98th and 53rd over at Pro Football Focus in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Part of that has had to do with injuries he has dealt with in that span, but he was perfectly healthy during portions of those years when he wasn't at his best.
There have been times when Talib has taken on a top receiver and prevailed, but his inconsistency and injury history point to being grossly overpaid in Denver.
Underrated: Chris Harris, CB
The cornerback who isn't overrated in Denver's secondary? That would be Chris Harris, who has long been an underrated member of that defense.
Whereas Talib has ranked poorly in recent years, Harris has been fantastic.
The former undrafted rookie has far exceeded expectations in the NFL from the very beginning. He has allowed just five touchdowns while intercepting seven passes over the past three seasons. He has consistently rated well with PFF, landing in the top 10 in each of the past two seasons.
Granted, Harris isn't tasked with covering the opposing offense's best receivers, but he has been a rock in that Denver secondary that will prove to be more valuable than the man the Broncos just signed.
Overrated: Matthew Stafford, QB
The Detroit Lions had to give Matthew Stafford a big contract extension before the 2013 season.
They had a 25-year-old franchise quarterback with loads of potential on their hands at the time, and they needed to avoid the same fate the Baltimore Ravens met when they were forced to hang the albatross that is Joe Flacco's contract around their necks last year.
Stafford does have incredible potential thanks to his rocket arm. The question is whether he has the brains to maximize that potential.
Now 26, Stafford has been plagued with erratic play that has been rather costly at times. There is also a bit of a "chicken and the egg" debate about Stafford and whether his gaudy statistics are a mere product of having the best receiver in the league—Calvin Johnson—on his team.
Underrated: Larry Warford, OG
Not only was Larry Warford the best rookie guard last season, but he was als one of the best guards in the entire league.
Warford was the fourth-highest rated guard in the NFL, according to Pro Football focus, last season. He didn't allow a single sack and had just 15 total quarterback pressures from the right guard position, impressive for a rookie.
Green Bay Packers
Overrated: Tramon Williams, CB
Three years ago, Tramon Williams was an up-and-coming cornerback on a defense that had just been a big part of a Super Bowl run. It has been a precipitous fall since then for Williams and that Packers secondary.
Williams was one of the top-rated cornerbacks in the league back in 2010. His play was key to the Packers' postseason run. The years after that have seen him fall from grace.
Last year was a bit of a bounce-back season for him, but Williams still has a long way to go before we can call him a quality starter again. He was the league-leader in penalties at cornerback last season, and he has allowed six touchdowns to just five interceptions in the past couple of years.
Underrated: Josh Sitton, OG
The Packers have had an oft-maligned offensive line in recent years, but Josh Sitton is one player who can entirely escape blame.
Sitton has been among the best offensive guards in the league, ranking in the top 10 at his position over at Pro Football Focus in each of the past five seasons.
Overrated: Brian Cushing, LB
The Houston Texans are relying on Brian Cushing to anchor the middle of what should be a stout defense this coming season. The question is whether his body will allow him to do so.
Cushing has been the victim of injuries the past couple of seasons, totaling just 12 games played in that span. The "injury-prone" label is tough, given injuries are generally unlucky. But Cushing has had a rough go the past couple of seasons.
What's more is Cushing hasn't been great when he has been on the field, merely good.
Underrated: Chris Myers, C
The Houston offensive line has been among the best in the league in recent years, the abysmal 2013 season notwithstanding.
One of the players contributing to that solid offensive line play has been Chris Myers, a Texans stalwart at center since coming over from the Broncos in 2008. His Pro Football Focus rankings have been telling—he has been rated sixth-best in the league at center on average since 2008, coming in the top 10 every year but one.
Quite simply, Myers has been consistently great at center for more than a half-decade in Houston. He might be getting a bit long in the tooth at 32, but there is little reason to believe Myers will fall off a cliff.
Overrated: Vontae Davis, CB
For much of his career, Vontae Davis never lived up to his first-round status. He was underwhelming with the Miami Dolphins, which is why they traded him to the Indianapolis Colts in 2012.
His first season in Indianapolis was similarly lackluster, but a much better 2013 season netted him a shiny new contract to stay with the Colts.
It was a big improvement for Davis, who was ranked the third-best cornerback last season over at Pro Football Focus. But one good season out of five is a bit suspect, especially when that good season included eight touchdowns given up to just one interception.
Underrated: Arthur Jones, DE
One of the better moves of the offseason came when the Colts snagged defensive end Arthur Jones away from the Baltimore Ravens.
Jones really came on last season with Baltimore, his first full season as a starter in the NFL. He had slowly worked his way into that role, and he was a fantastic run defender in particular.
The fifth-year defensive end will bolster the Colts defensive line in a big way.
Overrated: Luke Joeckel, OT
It's difficult to find a truly overrated player on the Jacksonville roster. While the team might be climbing out of the cellar bit by bit, there aren't many players who are highly touted just yet.
One of those players who was last year, though, was offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, whom the Jaguars took in the first round of the 2013 draft.
To be fair, Joeckel was playing a bit out of position at right tackle last season, but he was among the worst in the league before an injury knocked him out for the year. His pass-blocking efficiency was particularly poor, as he allowed three sacks and 15 total quarterback pressures on just 280 total snaps.
Joeckel is young, and there is plenty of time for him to turn things around this season. But right now, he is overrated
Underrated: Sen'Derrick Marks, DE
The Jacksonville Jaguars liked Sen'Derrick Marks so much that they quietly gave him a four-year, $22 million extension. That's not chump change.
Marks has started all but two games over the past couple of seasons in Jacksonville, and he has been a quality defensive tackle. He is no Ndamukong Suh, but Marks is part of a deep defensive line and is a solid pass-rushing tackle.
Kansas City Chiefs
Overrated: Alex Smith, QB
Wins are the ultimate goal in the NFL. But wins are a team statistic, and quarterbacks get entirely too much credit—or blame—for team records. Alex Smith is one of those who gets too much credit.
Whereas some might falsely accuse Seattle's Russell Wilson of being a "game manager," the label fully applies to Alex Smith. While he has developed into a quarterback capable of minimizing mistakes like few others, Smith has always lacked the upside of a true franchise quarterback.
He doesn't have a deep game, relying on short and intermediate passes to run the offense. Smith has done a fantastic job avoiding mistakes and leading his team to victory over the past couple of seasons, but he is hardly a top-tier passer in the league.
Underrated: Donald Stephenson, OT
Branden Albert is gone. Eric Fisher is moving to left tackle. Who is going to man the right tackle position?
That would be Donald Stephenson, who played plenty of snaps at the position last season and figures to be the permanent starter going forward.
Overrated: Mike Wallace, WR
This may have been the easiest call on this list.
Mike Wallace is a fine receiver. He has speed to burn for days, and quarterbacks have had trouble gauging just how far to throw the ball to him over the years.
But is he a No. 1 receiver worthy of a $60 million contract? Absolutely not. He never was, either.
Wallace was once described by his own coach as a "one-trick pony." While he has worked to buck that label with moderate success, the fact remains that he is best known as a deep threat.
Underrated: Olivier Vernon, DE
The defensive attention always goes to defensive end Cameron Wake, but last season, one of his running mates quietly broke out in the second year of his career.
Olivier Vernon had a nice year, quietly amassing 11.5 sacks opposite Wake. The third-year defensive end is primed for a big 2014 campaign if he can continue to progress.
Overrated: Sharrif Floyd, DT
One of last year's first-round picks for the Minnesota Vikings, Sharrif Floyd has proven to be a bit of a bust.
Floyd was highly touted by some in the draft community, but the doubters got their due when Floyd flopped in 2013. He was among the worst defensive tackles in the league, per Pro Football Focus, hardly proving he was worth that first-round pick.
The former Gator had his moments, but he will need to improve to show he deserved to be taken 23rd-overall last year.
Underrated: John Sullivan, C
One of the more underrated centers in the league plies his trade in Minnesota.
John Sullivan has rated in the top three at his position in each of the past three seasons. Sullivan is a great run-blocker, a reason why running back Adrian Peterson has had so much success with the Vikings. Here is what Grantland's Robert Mays had to say about him prior to the 2013 season:
The 27-year-old Notre Dame graduate is the second-longest tenured member of the Vikings offense, and like his MVP running back, Adrian Peterson, he has proven to be perhaps the NFL’s preeminent player at his position. For the most part — whether it’s his lack of that barrel chest or the plainest Irish name imaginable — that fact has gone mostly unnoticed. What’s remarkable about Sullivan’s success is just how unremarkable it appears — a product of acumen and subtle physical tools that, while easy to miss, have made him one of the best football players in the world.
That held true last season, and it should continue to be the case until either the Vikings let him go for some unimaginable reason or he hangs it all up.
New England Patriots
Overrated: Tom Brady, QB
Is he still elite?
We aren't talking about career accomplishments here, just players heading into the 2014 season. That's where the question gets tricky for quarterback Tom Brady, who is coming off of a down year.
It was something Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson answered at ESPN.com (subscription required), arguing that Brady is no longer a top-five quarterback based on statistics. Bleacher Report's Cian Fahey had similar sentiments a few days later.
They have a point.
Brady's completion percentage, accuracy rating, average yards per attempt and average yards per completion have all declined over the past three seasons, not to mention his decline in yardage and touchdowns.
Injuries, inconsistency and scandal among his receivers and tight ends have certainly played a part in the decline, but there is something else at play here—age.
Brady turns 37 this summer, and he has never quite had the tactical prowess that his main rival, Peyton Manning, has been able to utilize to overcome physical deficiencies brought on by age.
It's not that Brady has been awful—he still threw for 4,343 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, and he was able to complete five fourth-quarter comebacks for the Patriots—but we might be seeing a future Hall of Famer hitting the twilight of his career.
Underrated: Devin McCourty, S
When he first began his career, Devin McCourty was beaten like a drum at cornerback. The Patriots moved him to safety, however, and he has been stellar ever since.
In fact, McCourty was rated the top safety in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus. McCourty was targeted just 27 times on 1,039 defensive snaps and 585 snaps in coverage last season, one of the best ratios in the league.
He may be tested more with Darrelle Revis setting up shop on one side of the field this coming season, but McCourty might prove to be the linchpin in that secondary for the Patriots.
New Orleans Saints
Overrated: Champ Bailey, CB
He has earned a place in NFL lore and, some might think, a Hall of Fame bid after he hangs it all up. But Champ Bailey is just a name today.
He may have found that out the hard way in free agency, as Bailey languished on the market for a few weeks before the cornerback-needy Saints came calling.
Bailey's distinguished career cannot hide the fact that he has lost a step with age. The 36-year-old has not only been burned all too often in recent years—remember Denver's 2013 AFC divisional game?—but he also has been bitten by the injury bug as well.
He comes to the Saints as a presumptive starter across from Keenan Lewis, where he could be a liability for New Orleans unless he has found the fountain of youth in the bayou.
Underrated: Zach Strief, OT
Zach Strief has been a rock at right tackle for the New Orleans Saints over the years.
Like a rock, Strief has been quiet in his work. He was the top-rated right tackle in the league last season according to Pro Football Focus, allowing just three sacks and 33 total quarterback pressures from the right side.
The Saints recognized the value he brought to the table, and they were able to sign him to a contract extension with a bit of a "hometown discount" this past offseason, per The Advocate's Guerry Smith.
New York Giants
Overrated: Victor Cruz, WR
Victor Cruz broke out in 2011, salsa dancing his way into the hearts of New York Giants fans and fantasy football owners alike.
Ever since then, Cruz has been a bit of a disappointment, particularly last season. Drops plagued him in 2012, when he was tied for fourth in the league with 12. He rectified that problem last season, but his production took a beating in a lost season for the Giants.
Cruz had just 998 receiving yards and four touchdowns last season, the second consecutive year in which he saw a statistical decline. Quarterback Eli Manning's abysmal play was a part of the problem, but Cruz has simply not returned to his 2011 form.
In truth, Cruz is a quality slot receiver who is being asked to do too much on the outside. His target count from the slot has dipped in each of the past two seasons, significantly so in 2013 when he had just 68.
Underrated: Prince Amukamara, CB
Prince Amukamara has been a bit of a disappointment for the Giants since they drafted him in the first round. But he has gotten better each season, and he is poised to break out in 2013.
Amukamara's PFF ratings have steadily climbed since he was drafted in 2011, and he will be an integral part of the Giants defense this year.
New York Jets
Overrated: Eric Decker, WR
Eric Decker isn't just a product of Peyton Manning's magnificence.
Sure, he probably wouldn't have had 2,352 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons, but he showed he was capable of a nice career when Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow was his quarterback.
Good, sure, but great? That might be a stretch. Decker is no Calvin Johnson, and he will be asked to do a lot more in New York than he was in Denver.
Decker was wooed in free agency by the New York Jets to be their top receiver. He signed a five-year, $35 million deal to do so—hardly No. 1 receiver money, but he sits atop the depth chart nonetheless.
Underrated: Darrin Walls, CB
The Jets have been in a bit of a tailspin at cornerback since Darrelle Revis was injured and ultimately forced his way out. Antonio Cromartie steadily declined until the Jets let him go, too, and last year's first-rounder Dee Milliner had a horrendous season until the past few weeks.
Darrin Walls has been a bit of a surprise for the Jets, however.
The former Atlanta Falcon stepped in and stood his ground at the end of the 2012 season, and he did a fine job off the bench last season. He isn't a shutdown cornerback by any means, but Walls could prove to be a valuable asset in that secondary.
Overrated: Charles Woodson, FS
His career exploits have garnered him a future Hall of Fame nod, but Charles Woodson is no longer the player he was years ago.
That much is evident in statistics alone. Woodson allowed an eye-popping 119.2 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks targeting him in coverage last season. He allowed 78.9 percent of passes thrown his direction to be completed, intercepting just one all season.
Woodson turns 38 this fall, and he remains on track to start for the Oakland Raiders this season. He will be a leader for the defense, but he might be a defensive liability in the process.
Underrated: Tarell Brown, CB
General manager Reggie McKenzie had boatloads of money to spend in free agency. He chose quantity over quality—at least in terms of contract sizes—filling up a roster that had more holes than the Swiss soccer team.
One of those signings was Tarell Brown, who heads across the bay from San Francisco to play for Oakland. Brown should step in as the nickelback right away, vastly improving the position for the Raiders.
Overrated: Nick Foles, QB
Last season was a magical one for quarterback Nick Foles, who took over for Michael Vick in Philadelphia and led the Eagles to an improbable postseason berth.
Foles played like a seasoned veteran, amassing 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions and threatening the all-time passer rating record, ultimately finishing at 119.2 on the season.
For starters, his interception rate is a bit misleading—opposing defenses seemed to have butterfingers at times, dropping several would-be interceptions throughout the season. Foles also benefited by playing many of the worst pass defenses in the league, and having a guy like LeSean McCoy to take the pressure off of the passing game was a massive boost.
That is not to say McCoy won't be there to do the same this season, but Foles may not enjoy the same success in his second year as the starter. After all, he was merely the 16th-best quarterback in terms of PFF ratings last season despite his fantastic numbers.
In other words, the tape showed room for improvement, and Foles may have already hit his ceiling.
Underrated: Jason Kelce, C
One of the reasons Foles had such success last season was fantastic offensive line play. Jason Peters and Lane Johnson were great on the outside, but a less heralded member of that line was rated the best in the league at his position.
That would be center Jason Kelce, who signed a well-deserved contract extension this offseason.
Granted, Kelce's strength is in the running game, where he has been fantastic in the middle for running back LeSean McCoy.
Overrated: Ike Taylor, CB
The Pittsburgh Steelers seemed to need help at cornerback this offseason, but they didn't do too much to address the position in free agency or the draft.
That means they were satisfied with their starters, including Ike Taylor, who, by his own admission, had a "so-so" season, per Mike Wilkening of Pro Football Talk. By PFF standards, Taylor had an abysmal season, allowing six touchdowns while intercepting zero passes. Opposing quarterbacks throwing at his receiver had a whopping 110.6 passer rating.
Taylor just turned 34, so he doesn't have youthful potential to fall back on and recover going forward.
Underrated: Cortez Allen, CB
Taylor's counterpart, Cortez Allen, really came on last season for the Steelers. The young cornerback out of Citadel has turned into quite the catch for Pittsburgh.
Allen was selected in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, a big small-school cornerback with potential. He finally began cashing in on that potential last season, ascending to starter and doing a pretty good job there for the Steelers.
San Diego Chargers
Overrated: Antonio Gates, TE
Father Time catches up with the best of us.
Antonio Gates has long been a legendary tight end in the NFL, steps behind Tony Gonzalez in the same era. Unfortunately for him, Gates might be steps behind Gonzo in retirement, too.
Gone are the dominant years, replaced by mediocrity and injury. Gates did catch 77 balls last season—his first fully healthy one since 2009—but only for 872 yards and four touchdowns. His heir apparent, Ladarius Green, was making waves for the Chargers last season.
Gates is a future Hall of Famer, but he is on the downswing of his career.
Underrated: Corey Liuget, DE
Corey Liuget hasn't been a world-beater at defensive end for the Chargers, but he has quietly been a quality contributor on that end of the ball.
Liuget has started every game for the past two seasons and, while he is not an immovable object at defensive end, he has been a decent run defender and pretty good pass-rusher as a 5-technique end.
San Francisco 49ers
Overrated: Antoine Bethea, S
Last offseason, Dashon Goldson left for greener pastures in Tampa Bay. This year, Donte Whitner did the same, signing with the Cleveland Browns.
The San Francisco 49ers replaced Whitner with Antoine Bethea, who came over from the Indianapolis Colts. There is a reason the Colts—who aren't terribly deep in that secondary—let him go, however.
Bethea has had a solid tackle count for much of his career, to be sure. But the deeper numbers show he may not be quite worth the $21.5 million contract San Francisco gave him to replace Whitner.
The eight-year veteran has ranked among the worst safeties in the league in recent seasons, according to Pro Football Focus, coming in 69th and 53rd in each of the past two seasons, respectively. Perhaps the fact he gave up a 103.1 NFL rating to opposing quarterbacks throwing his direction might have something to do with it.
Also, for a guy who makes a lot of tackles, Bethea's run-stop percentage has been abysmal during that span.
Underrated: Glenn Dorsey, DL
San Francisco's defense has been pretty good over the years. A lot of big names like Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Justin Smith have contributed to that quality, but there have been some less heralded players buoying the unit, too.
One of those players last season wasn't unheralded coming out of college, but he had been a big disappointment in the NFL prior to landing with the 49ers.
Glenn Dorsey was awful with the Kansas City Chiefs, and there was little reason to believe he would turn his career around. Yet here he is, a positive addition to that stout 49ers defense.
Overrated: Percy Harvin, WR
When he is healthy, Percy Harvin can be the most dynamic receiver in the league. But there is the rub—Harvin has had trouble staying healthy.
That was no more apparent than last season, when Harvin played in just one regular-season game, during which he re-injured himself and nearly missed the entire season. He was able to come back for the tail end of Seattle's Super Bowl run, but Harvin was a massive bust in his first season with the Seahawks.
Seattle may be relying upon Harvin even more in 2014 than they hoped to last season with Golden Tate out of the picture. Hopefully he can stay in one piece.
Underrated: Russell Wilson, QB
How can a Super Bowl-winning quarterback all over the airwaves on advertisement deals be considered underrated?
True, Wilson has not been asked to chuck the ball 600 times a season, but should that be held against him? He plays on a run-oriented team with a fantastic defense, but does that make him a "game manager?"
The fact of the matter is Wilson is a fantastic quarterback.
For starters, Wilson was the fourth-best quarterback in the league in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus. He didn't just get there by avoiding mistakes, he did it by being a great quarterback.
Wilson had a 101.2 NFL rating while averaging 8.2 yards per passing attempt last season. He threw 26 touchdowns to nine interceptions.
Best of all, thanks to injuries at the wide receiver position, Wilson did this with a no-name receiving corps led by Golden Tate, who led the team with 898 receiving yards and five touchdowns.
St. Louis Rams
Overrated: Tavon Austin, WR
It was a bit of a surprise to see the St. Louis Rams not only take receiver Tavon Austin highly in the 2012 draft, but they also traded up to No. 8 to get him.
The former West Virginia star possesses some tantalizing talent to be sure. He is a quick-footed, sometimes electrifying receiver capable of making opposing defenders look silly. The problem is that he is 5'8" and 176 pounds soaking wet.
The Rams underutilized Austin last season—he played just 434 offensive snaps and garnered a measly 65 targets—but his size may be a big factor for him at this level, at least as a receiver. With that diminutive stature, the offense will need to get creative to get Austin the ball in space.
Underrated: Joe Barksdale, OT
Injury and declining play relegated Rodger Saffold to a role on the interior, a move from right tackle to guard in St. Louis. His replacement? Joe Barksdale, who kept the starting gig after Saffold returned from injury last season.
Despite being thrown into the fire, Barksdale had the 15th-best pass-blocking efficiency last season at 95.3 percent, allowing just 27 total quarterback pressures on the year.
Barksdale was good enough to keep the job going forward, it seems, as Saffold is slated to start at guard despite signing a five-year, $31.35 million deal, per ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Overrated: Josh McCown, QB
Last season was an unexpectedly good one for quarterback Josh McCown as a backup pressed into starting for the Chicago Bears. He averaged 8.2 passing yards per attempt and managed to come sixth in Pro Football Focus' ratings.
It was his first quality season after a journeyman career. He will be 35 in July.
Why, then, has he been handed the starting job for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Granted, Mike Glennon has his flaws, but the second-year quarterback also showed he was capable of playing well last season.
Not to mention McCown is no longer under the tutelage of quarterback whisperer Marc Trestman, who took over as head coach in Chicago last year.
Underrated: Lavonte David, OLB
The best 4-3 outside linebacker in the league plays in Tampa Bay.
Lavonte David hit the ground running with the Buccaneers as a rookie in 2012. He took the league by storm, coming in as the fifth-best outside linebacker over at Pro Football Focus as a rookie and rising to second last year.
David had the sixth-best tackling efficiency, the highest pass-rushing productivity and, by far, the best run-stop percentage in the league last season at his position. He is also a not bad in coverage on the weak side.
He may well be the best linebacker in the league heading into his third season, yet there is little public discussion to that effect.
Overrated: Andy Levitre, OG
When he hit free agency last offseason, Andy Levitre was one of the best offensive guards in the league.
Not much has changed since then. Levitre turned in a fine inaugural season with the Tennessee Titans despite being injured in the preseason. So why is he overrated?
Well, for starters, is any guard worth a six-year, $46.8 million deal? Teams are running amok with money these days, but that is offensive tackle money for an interior lineman. His cap hit for this season is $8.4 million, just below Larry Fitzgerald's.
Also, Levitre was good, but fell off a bit last season—he rated 13th in the league at his position over at Pro Football Focus, a drop from ninth the season before.
Underrated: Mike Martin, DL
In a rotational role ever since the Titans drafted him, defensive lineman Mike Martin has done a solid job there every season.
Martin was so good as a rookie in 2012 that he was the 10th-highest rated defensive tackle on all of Pro Football Focus despite playing just 435 snaps. He had the third-best run-stop percentage and fourth-best pass pressure percentage in the league that year.
He did it as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 base defense, though, so it will be interesting to see how he transitions to a 5-technique defensive end in defensive coordinator Ray Horton's 3-4 base. It's also a bit of a mystery why his snap count fell to 237 in his second season.
Martin seems to have been underrated by his own team, but Horton knows how to maximize his talent.
Overrated: DeAngelo Hall, CB
Since when does DeAngelo Hall merit a four-year, $17 million contract?
Granted, Washington gave him just $5.65 million guaranteed, but the 30-year-old cornerback has long been a shell of his former self. This isn't 2010, and he's not playing Jay Cutler every game.
Hall has been rated as one of the worst cornerbacks in the league by Pro Football Focus for the past three seasons. He may have 11 interceptions in that span—including two he returned for touchdowns last year—but overall, his coverage has been less than stellar.
The most amusing aspect of Hall's overratedness is his apparently inflated sense of self, as evidenced by the Twitter trash talk aimed at Richard Sherman earlier this offseason. Sherman would go on to sign a massive contract extension, having a hearty last laugh.
Underrated: Trent Williams, OT
Trent Williams is one of the best offensive tackles in the league, yet we don't often hear his name when discussing the top guys at his position.
In fact, by Pro Football Focus' metrics, Williams was the best offensive tackle in the league last season. He had a fantastic pass-blocking efficiency that was good for eighth in the league, and he was a solid run-blocker to boot last season.
Williams has steadily improved in the years leading up to last year's top billing. He is, and will continue to be, an integral part of the Washington offense.
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