NFL Fact or Fiction: Is Eli Manning the Most Overrated QB in the NFL?
Evaluating NFL players can be a challenge, but some individuals inexplicably get more love than they deserve.
Is New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning the most overrated player at his position?
Finding the answer is only possible if we compare him to others under center.
Let's assess other prominent passers, compare them to the younger Manning and try to pin down the most overrated quarterback in the NFL.
The Untouchables: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers
These four rank among the best players to ever play quarterback in the NFL.
Their greatness is apparent from their precise passing and quick decision-making.
These skills have allowed them to turn unheralded receivers into Pro Bowl-caliber players (Brady with Wes Welker and Brees with Jimmy Graham).
And by the way, all four have led their franchises to NFL championships.
These "untouchables" have continued to produce in 2011 with the exception of Peyton Manning, whose once-mighty Indianapolis Colts have collapsed without him under center.
Ben Roethlisberger: Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger is just barely outside the top tier.
He has been a elite passer in six of his eight seasons—2006 and 2008 weren't quite at that level.
Roethlisberger's 2011 campaign has been impressive as well. With starting running back Rashard Mendenhall hampered with injury, Roethlisberger is attempting more passes than in any of his previous NFL seasons. As a result, he ranks third in the league in passing yards entering Week 10.
However, one aspect of his game that is overrated is his running ability.
Despite an impressive total of 14 career rushing touchdowns, Roethlisberger does more harm than good with his legs.
He has accumulated only 64 yards on the ground in nine games in 2011. Moreover, Roethlisberger has been sacked a league-high 26 times, a category in which he perennially finishes among the league leaders.
Ben Roethlisberger is not a true dual-threat quarterback, but his pair of Super Bowl victories legitimize the hype around him.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: Buffalo Bills
Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't a big-name player...at least entering the season he wasn't.
The Harvard alumnus—a fun fact the media can't seem to get enough of—has the Buffalo Bills in contention for the first time in this millennium.
The team gave him a generous extension in late October, despite having made just 29 starts with the organization.
Fitzpatrick is fairly accurate and a decent scrambler. Most importantly, he has a high football IQ, which is made apparent by his ability to identify blitzes in time to exploit them.
His work isn't exceptional, but Fitzpatrick was not thought of as a star quarterback to begin with. He is not overrated, but quite the opposite: undervalued.
Matthew Stafford: Detroit Lions
In the best physical condition of his career, Matthew Stafford at last has the opportunity to play 16 games.
His TD-INT ratio is particularly impressive. His lack of turnovers this season has helped the Lions to a 6-2 start.
However, this team cannot be discussed without mentioning wideout Calvin Johnson. Johnson has caught 11 of Stafford's 19 touchdown passes.
Johnson can be targeted anywhere on the field, at any stage of an offensive series, against any defender. Stafford is totally reliant on him given the injuries that have decimated Detroit's running back corps.
Recall from the previous slide that a quarterback should not be labeled "overrated" unless held in high regard across the league.
Consequently, Matthew Stafford is not a contender for this distinction.
Joe Flacco: Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco has posted lousy numbers in 2011. He's slumping in all major statistical categories, yet his Ravens are tied for first place in the AFC North.
On the surface, that would suggest that the team has succeeded in spite of him, but in reality, Flacco should not be criticized.
He has been unlucky to draw matchups with stout defenses like those of the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers (twice).
Baltimore had trouble establishing the run against those opponents, which forced Flacco to attempt 309 passes through eight games.
He showed some heroism on Sunday night when orchestrating a game-winning drive in a 23-20 victory over Pittsburgh.
Josh Freeman: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay's third-year quarterback is like Joe Flacco: an underachiever on paper.
But Josh Freeman is not playing all that poorly.
The Buccaneers lost starting running back LeGarrette Blount for two weeks in October, during which time Freeman was challenged to carry the team through a pair of tough games.
He was up for the task against New Orleans, but not the following Sunday versus the Chicago Bears. Combined, he attempted 92 passes in Weeks 6 and 7.
Freeman set the bar pretty high for himself entering 2011. He committed only nine turnovers in 16 starts last season and developed his rushing.
By that comparison, Freeman has been disappointing thus far.
Matt Schaub: Houston Texans
In the 2009 regular season, Matt Schaub was No. 1 in the NFL in passing yards. Proportional to his stats, his perception around the league soared upwards that fall.
But Schaub regressed a bit the next year and has slipped further in 2011.
Wide receiver Andre Johnson is perhaps most responsible for this trend. He was completely healthy a couple years ago and assisted in Schaub's rise to relevance.
Unfortunately, injuries limited him to 13 games in 2010 and Johnson has already missed five contests this season.
At the same time, Schaub also has running back Arian Foster at his disposal.
Foster was outstanding for the Texans in 2010, putting Schaub in manageable situations and is also a reliable receiver who could turn short passes into magnificent gains with yards after the catch.
Foster continues to play an indispensable role in Houston's offense.
Frankly, he should be garnering more accolades than the overrated Schaub.
Tony Romo: Dallas Cowboys
Tony Romo was baptized by fire in Week 7 of 2006 when starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe succumbed to a career-ending injury.
Romo accepted his new responsibilities in stride and led the Cowboys to the playoffs.
Each of Romo's six seasons as a starter—2011 included—have earned him a QB Rating of 90 or higher.
That false consistency is heavily influenced by his yards per attempt average.
While Romo has always been able to make big plays, Dallas struggles to win games.
This season, the Cowboys are 20th in the NFL in converting on third downs. That ranking is bolstered by the record number of inept teams in the league right now.
Romo has a strong arm and good fantasy value, but he is by no means the elite player that we thought he was years ago.
Philip Rivers: San Diego Chargers
The 2011 San Diego Chargers are an enigma and it all starts with Philip Rivers.
One parallel can be drawn between he and other seemingly out-of-sync passers like Joe Flacco and Josh Freeman: too many pass attempts.
Rivers was relatively mistake-free under center in 2008, 2009 and 2010, but in the first half of 2011, he has totaled six multi-interception games!
His two best performances this year—both San Diego wins—were the only instances where he threw fewer than 32 times.
It would be easy to blame Rivers' nightmarish season on the Chargers' pedestrian running game or an injury to veteran guard Kris Dielman.
Still, if anyone is at fault, it is Rivers himself.
The three-time Pro Bowler is giving the ball away at an embarrassing pace because he's making dumb decisions.
Although he has played good football over a large sample, perhaps we put him on a pedestal too soon.
Michael Vick: Philadelphia Eagles
Michael Vick earned his spot on the wrong end of this list back in the summer by agreeing to a $100 million contract. Outside of "the untouchables" from the beginning of this slideshow, no player is worth that sort of money.
Vick is an improved passer from the beginning of his career, but his stellar 2010 season was misleading.
He has issues repeating his delivery, which makes interceptions inevitable.
On another note, Vick is undoubtedly the most mobile quarterback professional football has ever seen, but even that comes with drawbacks.
Vick gets sacked frequently and fumbles a lot. To some degree, those costly plays negate the value of his usual eight-yard carries.
The preseason consensus was that Vick was a superb player. Through eight weeks, I've come to the conclusion that he is not.
Eli Manning: New York Giants
So, is Eli Manning the NFL's most overrated QB?
Far from it!
He has firm control of the Giants' offense, even in pressure situations. His fourth-quarter drive in Week 9 against the New England Patriots, for example, was gutsy and brilliant.
His accuracy is noticeably better than it was during his team's Super Bowl run four years ago.
Manning has had lofty expectations pinned to him since that improbable championship. He is at last meeting them in 2011.
Just look at what he has done with Victor Cruz. The undrafted wide receiver from the University of Massachusetts has quickly become a true deep threat. Cruz is poised for a 1000-yard season.
Manning has molded Cruz and other New York Giants into better players.
As a result, the team is comfortably atop the NFC East division and Eli Manning has disproved his "overrated" label.