20. Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders
Amari Cooper is good. He is also overrated. Those two things can absolutely coexist in one person. He probably suffers unfairly because of the comparisons to Julio Jones, who he followed at Alabama. Being the #4 pick in the draft certainly didn’t hurt his hype level, either. A guy with that pedigree should be exercising his will on games, but he’s not been a game-breaker thus far, totaling 11 TDs in 32 games. Last year, he was tied with Seth Roberts (who?) for second on the Raiders with 5, and trailed Michael Crabtree in 2015 as well. He sports mediocre catch percentages and his career yards per reception of 14.3 feels low. I’m not saying Cooper can’t be great – he most certainly has that potential – but he’s got some growing to do. Lucky for him, he’s just 23 and is playing with a very capable QB in Derek Carr.
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19. Jadeveon Clowney – Houston Texans
Some said Clowney was the best defensive draft prospect of his generation. Others claimed he should have sat out his senior year to preserve his high stock. He rattled bones in college and fills out a uniform quite nicely. But what has he really done in the pros? 10.5 sacks in 31 games across 3 seasons. He anchored the Texans’ line well in 2016 in the absence of J.J. Watt, and his efforts earned him a Pro Bowl nod. But relative to expectations, his career has been very meh to this point.
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18. Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
Let me start by saying this: Gronk might be the best tight end of all time when he hangs ‘em up. He might have already had the best single season by a tight end in NFL history in 2011 when he scored 18 TDs and reeled in 90 catches for 1,327 yards. But being overrated is all about performance relative to expectations, and every season since then, Gronk has been a massive disappointment. Sure, he’s won two Super Bowl rings. Sure, he’s had three double-digit TD seasons. But the fact that he’s only started 48 games in five years means we’ll always be left wondering “what if.” He simply can’t be counted on to be healthy when needed.
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17. Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys
Dak shocked the world in 2016 when his gutsy, efficient play led the Cowboys to 13 wins and caused Dallas fans to forget all about Tony Romo. It was a special year, as Prescott threw 23 TD passes against only 4 picks, rushed for 6 more TDs, and threw for 300 yards and 3 scores in a playoff loss. But the truth is, he was rarely challenged, often completing short passes via easy reads behind the ‘Boys’ mammoth O-Line. He still had to get the ball there, don’t get me wrong, but he wasn’t responsible for nearly as much of Dallas’ success as the media would have you believe. He’s a great story, and certainly could develop into a QB with the chops of the man he Wally Pipped, but he won’t have another year where he only gets sacked twice. Things are about to get a lot harder for Mr. Prescott.
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16. Alshon Jeffery – Philadelphia Eagles
Jeffery has topped 1,000 yards twice, caught 10 TDs in 2013, and made one Pro Bowl. He’s a physical specimen who can post up corners and make catches like a power forward in the paint, but he rarely dominates games like his physical tools suggest he should. He benefited a ton during his early years by playing opposite Brandon Marshall, so he was able to rack up some good stats on chuck-happy Bears teams helmed by Jay Cutler. He’s often called a star, but does he deserve that moniker? The Bears certainly didn’t think so, letting him walk to the Eagles on a measly 1-year deal. He still has a lot to prove in the NFL.
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15. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
Stafford is a very interesting case. It’s impossible to ignore the Megatron Factor – Stafford came into the league throwing to the best receiver of his era, a guy who could catch anything on his half of the field. Stafford threw, and he threw a lot, racking up stats while also blowing games with terrible decision-making. Then, in 2016, with Calvin Johnson freshly retired, Stafford pulled off his most efficient (and best, according to Total QBR) season to date. He limited his interceptions to 10, ran more effectively (2 TDs and 5.6 YPA), and still totaled 4,327 passing yards. But I’ll believe New Stafford when I see it for 3 straight years – as far as I’m concerned, 2016 was a bright spot in an underwhelming career that has caused far too much optimism among those singing his praises.
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14. DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans
Murray is one of those guys who you know was good once, but couldn’t say what he’s done since. He truly did have an amazing 2014, leading the league with 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns. But Dallas chose to set him free after that tremendous year, proving that they understood he was a product of their O-Line’s talent and scheme. He was downright bad with Philly the next season, stumbling his way to 3.6 yards per carry. After a renaissance season in Tennessee, he’s nearly 30, which is an age that often spells the end for tailbacks.
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13. Josh Norman – Washington Redskins
One of the premier talkers of the NFL is also his own best self-promoter. He’s fine; he can hold his own at the position, and uses his physicality well. But Norman has always lacked consistency, and outside of his 2 pick-sixes in 2015, never showed much playmaking ability. Washington gave him a huge contract, but they gave it to a guy at the wrong end of his 20s. If you believed half the things Norman says about himself, you’d think he was a god. Don’t believe it – he has more bark than bite.
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12. Michael Crabtree – Oakland Raiders
Crabtree is a drop machine. He let 9 Derek Carr passes fall to the ground in 2016, which led all wide-outs. He reels in TDs (17 over the last two years, 43 career), but has never topped 9 in a season. He topped 1,000 yards for just the second time last year. Crab is a guy who became a name without ever really throwing up the stats of a star receiver. He’s been a so-so #2 his whole career, and isn’t getting any younger.
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11. Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs
Hill is one of the fastest men in the NFL. He’s also a gadget player on offense. He might never be more than that. And while his highlights from 2016 are insane, the truth is that he caught the league by surprise. It won’t be so easy to sneak up on teams in 2017. And how about the fact that he pled guilty to domestic abuse charges less than two years ago. Isn’t this guy getting way more visibility and praise than he should be? Isn’t that the definition of overrated?
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10. Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles
Wentz basically got steadily worse as 2016 went on. Though he started his rookie year hot as a melty cheesesteak, he really fell off a cliff, and the Eagles followed him. He had only two more touchdowns than picks, and was ranked as just the 26th-best signal caller in the league by Football Outsiders. Still, once that Philadelphia fan frenzy is built up in a guy, it can be hard for people to see the truth. He’ll be expected to take a big step forward in 2017, with the additions of some interesting offensive weapons, but I’m not holding my breath.
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9. Julian Edelman – New England Patriots
Edelman made one of the all-time great snags with his diving, writhing circus catch during Super Bowl LI. He’ll always be remembered for that. But his typical job is running short patterns to wide open spots on the field as Tom Brady unloads quick-hitters right into his waiting hands. It’s not that Edelman doesn’t have talent – he does – but he is so obviously a product of the New England offense and his legendary QB, that it’s hard to see where the man ends and the system begins.
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8. Philip Rivers – Los Angeles Chargers
Felipe Rios puts up stats. There is no doubt about it. His Chargers teams put the ball in the air, and often, relying on low-percentage/high-reward plays to propel their offense. But he sports a fairly nondescript 97-79 career record, along with an uninspiring 4-5 mark in the playoffs. He hasn’t won 10 games since 2009, meaning he hasn’t been relevant to the Super Bowl conversation in ages. He’s just one of those guys that racks up numbers, but what do 4,000 yard seasons really mean when you’re winning squat?
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7. Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys
Elliott put up amazing stats in 2016. He won the rushing crown in 15 games and scored 15 TDs. Incredible stuff. But when you consider the line he was running behind, he is vastly overvalued. You know who are always underrated? Offensive lines. NFL teams realized a few years ago that running backs simply don’t matter as much as they used to, and while Elliott is talented, he’s hardly the mold-breaking back that will make teams reconsider. The fact that he plays for The Artist Formerly Known As America’s Team clearly elevates him above his talent level.
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6. Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams
It hurts to put Gurley on this list. The memories of him shredding SEC defenses like nacho cheese are still fond to think back on. But the reality is, he took a huge step backwards in 2016. For a running back to be drafted 10th overall in the current NFL, he has to be pretty special. No matter how bad the Rams are, Gurley should be able to make his mark on a game, but the 3.2 YPA he put up last season is just weak sauce. He needs to get better, and quick, or he’ll be just another rotation back in a league that cares less and less about the running back position.
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5. Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Cam was supposed to be the second coming. The first pick of the 2011 Draft out of Auburn entered the league at the center of a hype hurricane. He won the MVP and the NFC title game in 2015. Both are cool achievements, but he’s been a very average quarterback in the 5 seasons outside of that magical year. He’s only completed 58.4% of passes for his career and sports a pretty pedestrian 1.7:1.0 TD:interception ratio. 2016 was particularly miserable for the former NCAA Champion (and salaried college athlete) – he ranked 25th in Total QBR (his 53.1 was lower than Brock Osweiler and Colin Kaepernick) and 28th in passer rating (his 75.8 trailing such luminaries of the quarterback position as Blake Bortles and Case Keenum). Plus, his running game has taken a huge step back, as he struggles to stay upright and avoid bodily harm.
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4. Richard Sherman – Seattle Seahawks
The Mouth of the NFL can’t back that talk up like he used to. ProFootballFocus ranked Sherman as the 17th best corner last season – a far cry from the top of the position. He’s been consistently burned over the top in recent years, especially in high-profile moments. Probably his most memorable contribution to the NFL in 2016 was his egregious pass interference on Julio Jones that went uncalled in Week 6. Seattle even threatened to trade him this offseason, further underscoring how his value has fallen.
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3. Darrelle Revis – Free Agent
Revis Island is sinking into the sea. His drop-off has been so sharp that fans and media simply haven’t had time to adjust to the reality that his glory days are long gone. During 2016, ProFootballFocus didn’t even rank Revis in their top 50 cornerbacks. He’s now 32, has lost three steps, and the rest of the league is passing him by. His peak was majestic to behold, but let this career be a warning to never watch your heroes grow old. Cornerback is a young man’s position, and the Island is barely keeping its head above water.
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2. Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens
Flacco has been coasting on his legendary 2012 Super Bowl run for four years now. But the simple truth is that outside of that amazing season, he’s been an average QB. Much like pitcher wins in baseball, QB wins are often rewarded with exorbitant praise when they shouldn’t be. Such was the case in Flacco’s early seasons, when great Ravens defenses and rushing attacks led them to the playoffs. He’s been pretty miserable over the last two seasons, posting QBRs of 54.2 and 58.4, which ranked 25th and 19th in the NFL, respectively.
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1. Eli Manning – New York Giants
Reputations built on now-distant past accomplishments make for obvious overrated situations. Eli is the epitome of such a phenomenon. However, his two Super Bowl rings aren’t all that elevate his status. The fact that he’s a Manning gives him automatic QB gravitas. I can’t take away what he did during the Giants’ two runs – he was especially electric during the 2011 run – but I can point out that outside of those two years, he’s been anywhere from bad to slightly above average. He has led the league in interceptions three different times and has been a fumble machine, coughing up the rock 104 times in his career. He has been freakishly durable, starting 211 straight games, including the playoffs, but every time he’s in there, he’s liable to give the game away with a costly interception.
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