The other day I was perusing the internet when I saw a list claiming to have every team’s most overrated player. It look me about five seconds before I realized just how lazy the list was. Firstly, the list included rookies. How can we possibly know if rookies are overrated if they haven’t even played preseason football yet? Secondly, some of the players weren’t even on the right teams. J.J. Nelson was the most overrated member of the Arizona Cardinals, but last I checked, he’s on the Oakland Raiders. And finally, some of the players on the list simply weren’t overrated.
So I thought to myself, I can do it better.
The Most Overrated Player on Every Team: AFC Edition
A brief disclaimer, because pieces like this inevitably hurt someone’s feelings. Overrated does not mean bad. Overrated doesn’t even mean “not good” as much as it means that a significant portion of the public overvalues someone’s position. You can be very good and still be overrated because people think you are the best. If you think “oh, not this guy! So-and-so is obviously much, much worse!” when I list your favorite player, understand that by thinking that, you have made the player you thought was overrated… underrated. Get it?
So! Without further ado…
Baltimore Ravens- Lamar Jackson
First and foremost, I’m not a fan of option quarterbacks. I think it’s a tired gimmick with a short shelf-life. The human body isn’t built to take as much punishment as it does on the gridiron anyway, and deliberately seeking out that punishment, especially with a smaller build, doesn’t make for a long career. Name an option quarterback that ever really succeeded in the league, if you can. The best one ever was Michael Vick, who only started all 16 games once, never threw for more than 3,400 yards, and didn’t put up as many rushing yards or touchdowns as you think he did.
And make no mistake, Lamar is no Michael Vick. I know, I know, he set the record for quarterback rushing attempts last year! What I don’t know is how that’s a good statistic. He set the record for rushing attempts but not yards or touchdowns. When Vick rushed for 1,000 yards in 2006, he did it with 24 fewer rushing attempts. 344 more yards with 24 fewer attempts? Yikes.
If Lamar can’t tighten up his mechanics and improve his accuracy, then both he and John Harbaugh won’t be long for Baltimore, especially now that teams have film on how to stop him, IE- what the Los Angeles Chargers did in the playoffs last year.
Cleveland Browns- Jarvis Landry
Jarvis Landry is just fine. He’s not particularly fast, he’s not particularly big, he’s not particularly explosive, he’s just kinda there. He’s a good route runner with reliable hands, but at best, he’s a slot receiver. In Miami, he benefited from excessive targets, which might explain why he’s the only receiver in NFL history to have 100 catches in a season without breaking 1,000 yards.
Since entering the league, only Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, and Demaryius Thomas have been targeted more than Landry. Three of those guys are All-Pro, Hall of Fame types and the other played as Peyton Manning’s number one target for two years. Landry is a pure slot receiver getting paid number one receiver money, and for that, he’s overrated.
If you came here thinking I’d say Baker Mayfield, you’re reading the wrong article.
Cincinnati Bengals- John Ross
This was a tough one, because every player on the Bengals is actually so bad that nobody’s overrating (Hi Andy Dalton), or so good that people underrate them (Geno Atkins, how are you doing?), so I had to go with the guy the Cincinnati Bengals themselves overrated, John Ross.
John Ross is a small wide receiver that doesn’t have an advanced route tree or a particularly good pair of hands that ran a 4.22 40 at the 2017 NFL combine. The Bengals saw that and took him with the ninth overall pick. For perspective, the player taken the spot before him was Christian McCaffrey, who just set the record for most catches in a season by a running back, and the player taken after him was reigning league MVP, Patrick Mahomes. But hey, here’s hoping 2019 is the year he develops into whatever they thought he could be.
Pittsburgh Steelers- Ben Roethlisberger
I can read it now.
“BuT hE lEd ThE nFl In PaSsInG yArDs!”
And he did. His 5,129 passing yards were 32 more than Patrick Mahomes’ 5097, 205 more than Matt Ryan’s 4,924, and 441 more than Jared Goff’s 4,688. Of course, the bloom comes off the rose a little bit when you realize Mahomes threw about 100 fewer passes (580 to Roethlisberger’s 675), and that the trend continues with the other two (about 70 fewer passes for Ryan and over 110 for Goff). As it turns out, Roethlisberger also led the NFL in passing attempts by a pretty large margin.
Roethlisberger’s 675 attempts are 36 more than Andrew Luck, who threw the second most passes, and 186 higher than the league average of 489. Maybe this is due in part to the Pittsburgh Steelers having the second worst rushing offense in the NFL last year, but regardless, if Ben is throwing the ball that much, it would be a bigger indictment of him if he didn’t lead the league in passing yards. In fact, it’s a little startling that he didn’t lead the league in touchdown passes, given the discrepancy in attempts between he and Mahomes. Though it would help explain why he led the NFL in interceptions last year.
Let’s see what happens now that he’s gotten a little older and lost his All-Pro wide receiver.
Houston Texans- Jadeveon Clowney
Jadeveon Clowney was the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, and after some injuries, he’s turned into a pretty decent player. So decent that he’s holding out right now in hopes for a mega-superstar contract. Great pass rushers are hard to find, right? The Texans should just give him what he wants, right?
Well… since he was drafted in 2014, Clowney is 41st in sacks with 29, half a sack more than Joey Bosa, the 2016 defensive rookie of the year.
Indianapolis Colts- Andrew Luck
Now before anyone loses their mind, Andrew Luck is an amazing quarterback. He was the best quarterback prospect ever coming out of college and immediately produced at a high level. Without Andrew Luck, the Colts are one of the worst teams in football, with him, they’re Super Bowl contenders.
It’s so obvious that Luck is great that he’s automatically slotted as an elite quarterback (even by me) and any criticism is immediately disregarded. But is that fair? After all, aside from some good statistical seasons, what has Andrew Luck really done? He’s never been an All-Pro or league MVP, and he’s certainly never sniffed a Super Bowl.
In fact, in just about every big game he’s ever played in, he’s shrunk into the shadows. He’s 0-4 against Indy’s Most Wanted, Tom Brady, and he’s only won the AFC South twice in his career. So what’s his legacy? A couple of good statistical seasons and a ton of excuses?
Jacksonville Jaguars- Nick Foles
So let’s get things straight, Nick Foles could be a great quarterback. This is a guy that has taken teams to the playoffs on multiple occasions, has a seven touchdown game, and oh yeah, a Super Bowl MVP. But he’s also a guy that has switch teams five times and has never started all 16 games. The rare times he’s been allowed to start for a team at the beginning of a season, namely the 2014 season with the Eagles and the 2015 season with the Rams. He picked up after Wentz went down in 2017 and played well, but how much of that was the RPO scheme and how much was actually Foles?
Furthermore, can he turn the Jaguars around? He couldn’t be any worse than Blake Bortles, but can he be the guy that helps the Jaguars compete in a difficult AFC South? That remains to be seen.
Tennessee Titans- Marcus Mariota
What is it that Marcus Mariota does well? Is he a great passer? Well… no, he’s never thrown for more than 3,500 yards and didn’t break 3,000 yards in three of his four seasons. In those same seasons, he didn’t break at least 20 touchdowns either. But does he compensate as a rusher? Not really, he’s never ran for more than 400 yards in a season. He can’t stay healthy, and he’s not particularly great at just about anything. So what’s the point? What’s the hype? He’s a winner? So was Vince Young.
Buffalo Bills- LeSean McCoy
I was tempted to put Josh Allen here, and then copy/paste Lamar Jackson’s section, but nobody actually thinks Josh Allen is good, so the overrated label wouldn’t quite fit. So instead I went with LeSean McCoy. People are hyping up the Buffalo Bills as a potential playoff team, and the defense is good enough to help, but where’s the offensive production supposed to come from. Mr. 52.8 completion percentage? Nah, it’s feature back LeSean McCoy.
Over the last three seasons, “Shady” has slowly but surely gotten worse. His yards per attempt dropped from 5.4 in 2016 to 4.0 in 2017 and a miserable 3.2 last season. He only managed to rush for 514 yard and three touchdowns on 161 attempts. His new teammate, Frank Gore, had five fewer attempts and over 200 more yards. McCoy is over thirty and is proving not to be the exception that proves the rule about aging tailbacks.
Miami Dolphins- Josh Rosen
The Miami Dolphins have the worst roster in the National Football League, so coming up with an overrated player was no simple task. So I decided to go with Josh Rosen, the guy the Arizona Cardinals liked enough to use the tenth overall pick on him… only to trade him a year later. Meanwhile, the Dolphins weren’t thrown off by an abysmal rookie year and traded a second and a fifth round pick for him… just to sit him behind Ryan Fitzpatrick. Stop investing picks in this guy, teams!
Also uh, his full name is Joshua Ballinger Lippincott Rosen. So when this whole NFL thing doesn’t work out, he’ll probably go terrorize Gotham.
New England Patriots- Julian Edelman
Remember after Julian Edelman was gifted Super Bowl MVP last season, and people were seriously debating whether or not he was a Hall of Famer? Because that was a real thing, and that’s why Tom Brady’s favorite target earned a spot on this list. Brady’s good-not-great slot receiver has plenty of iconic catches to his name, and there’s no question that he’s been an essential part of New England’s offense since Wes Welker left, but just look at this list of receivers with better numbers than him. Oh yeah, it’s a twitter thread.
New York Jets- C.J. Mosley
The New York Jets really gave a linebacker that can’t cover a five-year, $85 million contract. Mosley is good, especially in between the tackles, but if he’s being brought in to help the Jets beat the Patriots, Gang Green is going to be disappointed. Also, go ahead and try to name a Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker that experienced a modicum of success after leaving the team. I’ll wait.
Denver Broncos- Joe Flacco
I keep hearing all about how the Bronco defense was great last year, and if they just had a suitable quarterback, they’d be able to seriously compete in the AFC West. There’s a nugget of truth to that, as Denver’s defense was pretty stout last season. But it’ll take more than a new quarterback to fix the offense. Question marks on the offense line and in the receiving corps rear high over Denver’s playoff hopes.
But don’t worry guys, because Joe Flacco is here now, and he’s gonna save the day. The last quarterback to leave Baltimore and come to Denver’s name was John Elway and he won two Super Bowls! Title number four, here comes the Broncos.
Except… is Joe Flacco actually that big of an upgrade? Joe Flacco, with one career 4,000 yard season? Joe Flacco, who has only thrown 25 touchdowns in a season once? The same Joe Flacco that averages under seven yards per attempt and has almost as many interceptions as games played?
Oh, but I know, he always had coaching turnover in Baltimore. He never had weapons in Baltimore. His offensive line was questionable in Baltimore.
Uh… what about any of that is different in Denver?
Kansas City Chiefs- Tyrann Mathieu
Honestly, an argument could be made that the Chiefs could flat out refuse to field a defense at all and still see a pretty dramatic improvement over last season’s team. Kansas City’s defense was about as bad as the offense was good. Most of the players that came and went this off-season won’t have the impact that the firing of defensive coordinator, Bob Sutton did. Sutton’s defenses were hilariously bad in Kansas City, and new DC Steve Spagnuolo should make an immediate impact.
One player that is featured as a big part of Kansas City’s new defense is safety Tyrann Mathieu, aka “the Honey Badger.” At a mere 5’9, 185 pounds, Mathieu is one of the smallest players in football, especially on defense. After an injury-filled, unspectacular run with the Arizona Cardinals, Honey Badger spent last year with the Houston Texans, where he was also pretty unremarkable.
He’s just one of those players that had a lot of media attention coming into the draft and stays relevant due to name recognition alone. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t really make a huge splash with the Kansas City Chiefs this year, despite all the hype.
Los Angeles Chargers- Philip Rivers
Philip Rivers is a really, really good quarterback, but can we pump the brakes with the Hall of Fame talk? Sure, he’s top ten in passing yards and touchdowns, but that’s mostly because the league has changed. He just passed John Elway’s all-time yardage mark, but would you actually say Rivers is better than Elway? Rivers has more 500+ attempt seasons (nine) than Elway (six) and he’s played with Hall of Fame talent like LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates in a pathetic AFC West for most of his career.
Beyond that, what has Philip Rivers done in his NFL career that matters? He’s led the NFL in interceptions on two different occasions and he’s beaten the Raiders a bunch of times. His draft-mates, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning, have two Super Bowl each, Rivers just exists to lose to Tom Brady and the Patriots in the playoffs every year.
Oakland Raiders- Gareon Conley
I like Gareon Conley a lot, but his hype train has gotten out of control. If I have to hear one more person talk about how he had 15 pass deflections (5th most in the NFL) like it’s a good thing. Yes, deflecting the pass means it’s not completed most of the time, but that also means he was targeted a lot. And when you consider he barely played last year during the first half of the season, with many people considering him tradebait.
That means with fewer snaps than most corners, on the defense that faced the fewest passing attempts in the NFL, Conley was targeted enough to deflect more passes than all but four other cornerbacks. He had three interceptions (one was tipped), but that means he still gave up a good chunk of his targets. He’s a good corner, you can see that by how he smothered Antonio Brown and Tyreek Hill, but pump the brakes on calling him elite until he can do it for a full season.
So that’s it for the AFC, keep a lookout for the NFC version, which should be out soon.