Each year, some players rise above our expectations. Others, well, not so much. NFL coverage is usually defined by small sample-size hot taking, but after 10 weeks, we have a pretty good idea of who’s in what category.
This year has gone in an entirely different direction than we could have imagined — did anyone think Vikings-Rams would be a must-see television? On the same note, Ravens-Packers looks a lot worse than it did 10 weeks ago.
There are no shortage of busts this season. Here is the biggest for every NFL team.
New England Patriots: Stephon Gilmore, cornerback
Gilmore hasn’t been some atrocity, but when New England signed him to a big deal in the offseason we just expected a little more. He has a 52 percent success rate while allowing 7.4 yards per pass, according to Football Outsiders — both in the middle of the pack. It’s worth noting that Gilmore missed three games with a concussion, but even in the six he’s played, he just hasn’t been the player the Patriots thought they were getting.
Buffalo Bills: Zay Jones, wide receiver
In college at East Carolina, Jones was a catch machine. With the Bills, the second-round pick has a 36 percent catch rate, the worst in the league among receivers with at least 40 targets. Jones is also dead last among that group in both DYAR and DVOA. He has just 14 catches for 168 yards on 44 targets. You can’t get much worse than that.
New York Jets: Christian Hackenberg, quarterback
Remember when we said you couldn’t do much worse than Jones? Hackenberg is the exception to that rule. A second-round pick in 2016, Hackenberg still has yet to see the field and his quarterback coach recently said something very telling about him.
Nobody but the Jets had expectations for him, however, people thought that he would at least play a snap this year with the Jets presumed to tank. Not only has Josh McCown been competent enough to keep Hackenberg off the field, but the Penn State product can’t even get off the inactive list most weeks. Without a drastic shift, Hackenberg will go down as one of the worst early-round draft picks of all-time.
Miami Dolphins: Jay Cutler, quarterback
Signing Cutler — the polar opposite of a prototypical leader — after he spent an offseason retired was always a recipe for disaster. But Adam Gase likely didn’t envision things going this badly. Cutler has piloted an offense which ranks 26th in the league by DVOA. He’s averaging just 5.26 adjusted net yards per attempt and ranks 24th among quarterbacks in DYAR. Gase and the Dolphins will go head over heels next year once Ryan Tannehill comes back and that’s no compliment towards Tannehill.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Martavis Bryant, wide receiver
The last season Bryant played (2015) he was one of best deep threats in football. After returning from a yearlong suspension, he’s been surpassed by Juju Smith-Schuster in Pittsburgh’s receiving hierarchy. Bryant also asked for a trade and openly insulted teammates because he wasn’t getting enough targets. Not only is his production down, with just 306 yards so far this season, but it seems terrible to play with him. Expect the Steelers to cut ties as soon as they can.
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco, quarterback
There’s no way around it: Flacco has been flat-out bad this season. He’s averaging a career-low 5.3 yards per attempt and a horrific 3.64 adjusted net yards per attempt. He’s thrown just eight touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions and ranks only above DeShone Kizer among qualified QBs in DYAR. If the Ravens had signed a certain competent backup quarterback in August, Flacco would be riding the bench right now. Given that Baltimore has the league’s third-best defense by DVOA and Alex Collins has been an impressive player at running back, it’s fair to say Flacco is the biggest thing standing between the Ravens and the postseason.
Cincinnati Bengals: Cedric Ogbuehi, left tackle
It was worth being skeptical of Ogbuehi moving to left tackle given how the 25-year old played on the right side last season. You don’t often say that players live up to skepticism, but Ogbuehi certainly has. The Bengals rank 29th in adjusted line yards when running to the right defensive tackle and 24th to the right end. Things haven’t been better in pass protection either, as Ogbuehi has consistently been overpowered by superior defenders. Just last week, he allowed a strip sack off a Brian Orakpo strip sack, leading to a Titans touchdown. Cincy needs to find a better solution at left tackle next year.
Cleveland Browns: Hue Jackson, head coach
The Browns’ plan of tanking can still work if given a long-term chance. But it’s getting harder to believe in Jackson as a head coach. First, there’s the matter of quarterback. Why did the Browns bench Kizer, cycle through Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, then decide Kizer was the best option after all? Jackson knew Kizer would have growing pains and he knew his team was going to lose games. Just leave Kizer out there and let him develop (like he said he’d do in the first place).
There’s also basic game management. Jackson calling for a QB sneak at the goal-line with 15 seconds left in the half and no timeouts might have been the worst time management decision of the year.
Instead of at moneybacker where he belongs, the Browns play Jabrill Peppers 30 yards off the ball, where his athleticism is useless. They blitz eight guys when the opponent is running a screen. It’s stupefying how bad the playcalling is for Cleveland. Jackson has to be fired.
Tennessee Titans: Logan Ryan, cornerback
Ryan has been 2017’s best example for the year-to-year volatility of cornerbacks. Last year in New England, he was someone who had taken the next step. The Titans signed him thinking they were getting a potential lockdown guy. Instead, Ryan has allowed an abysmal 8.0 yards per pass, according to Football Outsiders. (That number, for what it’s worth, is not yet updated for Thursday’s game.) Hopefully that volatility works back in his favor come next year.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles, quarterback
The Jaguars are an incredible test case for just how important the quarterback position is in the NFL. Jacksonville has the most talented on the roster in the league, with the exception of Blake Bortles. They’ve played like it too — Bortles has thrown 31 or fewer passes in four of the Jags’ six wins. Doug Marrone has done a lot to make things easy for Bortles as well: heavy doses of boot-action, short throws, and a great run game to set things up. But that doesn’t change the fact that Bortles is the reason Jacksonville is fighting for the divisional crown and not running away with it. The Jaguars have managed to build around it, but they’re still a quarterback away. When their season ends earlier than it should, it’s more than likely Bortles will be the reason why.
Houston Texans: D’Onta Foreman, running back
Early in the year, it looked like Houston’s running back job was Foreman’s to win. Lamar Miller was struggling, and Foreman had the ability to pick up yards after contact with a poor Texans O-line in a way Miller couldn’t. The Texas product, however, dropped the ball. He’s averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, failing to separate himself from Miller, who’s averaging the exact same. Since Miller hasn’t exactly distinguished himself, Foreman could still win this job over the next few weeks. But that feels a lot less likely than it did 10 weeks ago.
Indianapolis Colts: Jack Mewhort, right guard
Mewhort was supposed to be one of the only reliable players on Indy’s line coming into the year. He’s been anything but. The Colts’ run game has been miserable in all directions, but their two worst are to the middle and the right tackle, where they rank 24th and 26th in adjusted line yards. You could fault other members of the line as well, but we knew that unit would be bad. Mewhort, however, has just failed to live up to expectations.
Kansas City Chiefs: Phillip Gaines, cornerback
Cornerback depth has been an Achilles heel for the Chiefs, and Gaines is the best example. He has a meager 47 percent success rate and 7.8 yards allowed per pass on 32 targets, according to Football Outsiders. That makes him an easy weakness for teams to exploit. With Marcus Peters a stalwart on one side of the field, the Chiefs need somebody to step up between Gaines, Steven Nelson, and Terrance Mitchell. No one has.
Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Gordon, running back
Gordon may have high fantasy football value, but he doesn’t seem to have gotten much better at the real thing. It’s been three years now and the Wisconsin product still isn’t averaging four yards per carry — the lowest benchmark we could ask of a starting running back. Aside from breaking off a long one every now and then, Gordon has been good for three yards, a cloud of dust, and nothing else. Backup Austin Ekeler flat outplayed him last week and it’s hard to make a case he doesn’t deserve more touches.
Oakland Raiders: Amari Cooper, wide receiver
This was probably the easiest call on the whole list. Cooper made the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons. This time around, a steady stream of drops — eight on the year, tied for the league lead, per Football Outsiders — have shattered him. Cooper has an abysmal 49 percent catch rate. Even after decent performances in the three weeks prior to Oakland’s bye, Cooper ranks 62nd out of 64 qualified receivers in both DYAR and DVOA. If you’re looking for a reason Oakland’s offense has been so much less dynamic this year, Cooper is a big part of the answer.
Denver Broncos: Vance Joseph, head coach
Joseph was brought in as a defensive mind, someone who could keep the Wade Phillip era intact while Phillip went to the Rams. Well, the Broncos have dropped to 12th in defensive DVOA this season with largely the same personnel.
Denver was doomed to regression to some degree, but it’s hard to argue Joseph is helping. After all, he dropped Von Miller into coverage for large parts of the game with LaAdrian Waddle, New England’s backup right tackle, playing. Joseph isn’t the first to get outdone by Bill Belichick, but playing straight man against the Patriots is asking to be murdered by Rob Gronkowski, Rex Burkhead, and co. In a sense, Joseph got what he wished for.
Philadelphia Eagles: Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver
When they signed Jeffery, the Eagles thought they were getting someone who could anchor their receiving corps. Instead, it’s been Nelson Agholor who’s picked up the slack, while Jeffery has struggled. The 27-year old has a 46 percent catch rate and below-average DVOA. Though he’s stayed healthy and put up 500 receiving yards thus far, Philadelphia had to have expected more from him.
Dallas Cowboys: La’el Collins, right tackle
The Cowboys’ offensive line hasn’t been quite as dominant this year and it’s hard not to blame Collins. When Dallas runs to the right tackle, they rank 20th in adjusted line yards, their worst directional mark. On the right end, they’re 14th — above average, but still not where you’d expect to see a team like Dallas. Collins is still able to put up enough highlight plays that we don’t pay attention to his struggles. But his inconsistencies are a big issue for the Cowboys.
New York Giants: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, cornerback
You could substitute any Giants player or coach here without an argument from this scribe. We decided on Rodgers-Cromartie because his decline has been among the starkest of anyone on the team. He was one of, if not the best, slot corners in the league last season. In 2017, he’s allowing 8.6 yards per pass with a paltry 50 percent success rate, according to Football Outsiders. At age 31, it seems that Rodgers-Cromartie is finally slipping. When the Giants overhaul everything at the end of this year, he’ll probably be near the top of the list.
Washington Redskins: Terrelle Pryor, wide receiver
The Redskins’ entire receiving corps has collapsed this year, but nobody’s disappointed more than Pryor. After going for over 1,000 yards last year with Cleveland, Pryor has all of 240 so far in 2017. He’s been a non-factor, plain and simple. Pryor’s 2016 looks like nothing but a fluke. Washington thought he’d be a big part of replacing DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. It was wrong.
Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, wide receiver
To his credit, Treadwell has flashed the talent that caused Minnesota to take him in the first round a couple times this year (like this). But the numbers speak for themselves. Treadwell has just 12 receptions this season for 142 yards. It doesn’t help that Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are two of the best receivers in the league, making it hard for Treadwell to get targets. There’s still time to turn it around as well — he’s just 22 — but Treadwell has been an unmitigated bust so far.
Green Bay Packers: Ty Montgomery, running back
Montgomery saved the Packers’ run game last season, but he just hasn’t been the same this year. The wideout-turned-running back is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry and lost his job to Aaron Jones. Now that Jones is hurt, Montgomery will be competing with Jamaal Williams for touches. Given how he’s played so far this season though, don’t get your hopes up for a resurgence.
Chicago Bears: Mike Glennon, quarterback
Nobody thought Glennon would keep his job after the Bears picked Mitchell Trubisky, but the $45 million man lost it in record time. It took just four weeks for Trubisky to be named the starter. Glennon averaged just 4.12 adjusted net yards per attempts and threw five picks compared to just four touchdowns. If nothing else, at least Glennon got his money.
New Orleans Saints: Adrian Peterson, running back
Peterson is no longer playing for the Saints, but his four weeks in New Orleans will always live in infamy. During that time, Peterson had just 27 carries and averaged 3.0 yards per. He blew up at head coach Sean Payton on the sideline, complained about a lack of touches, and eventually forced a trade to Arizona. With Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram tearing things up, the Saints probably don’t miss him.
Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, running back
There probably hasn’t been a rookie more disappointing than McCaffrey. A lot of that has to do with how Carolina is using him — we came into the year expecting the Stanford product to be used more creatively than as a check-down machine. But he’s been a non-factor as a runner, averaging just 3.0 yards per carry. As a pass-catcher, he’s been the personification of a shoulder shrug and ranks just 18th among RBs in receiving DVOA. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula deserves a fair amount of blame here, but that doesn’t absolve McCaffrey by any means.
Atlanta Falcons: Ryan Schraeder, right tackle
Schraeder has dealt with some injuries over the last year — he tore an ankle ligament in the Super Bowl and suffered a concussion early this year — and doesn’t seem fully recovered. He was one of the most dominant right tackles in football for the past two seasons and just hasn’t looked quite right in 2017. Atlanta is top-10 in adjusted line yards running in every direction but the right. On Schraeder’s side of things, the Falcons are 24th going to the right tackle and 31st to the right end. Hopefully this is just a one-year aberration due to injury, but there’s no doubt Schraeder is struggling more than usual this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston, quarterback
It’s time to have a conversation about Winston. We’ve had two and a half NFL seasons to work with and little to show for in terms of development. Winston is, by and large, the same player as when he was drafted. His numbers are almost identical to his rookie year despite a much better team around him and two years of being in the NFL. The eye test backs this up as well: Winston still makes the bad decisions that nearly derailed his 2014 Florida State team. After the epic failure of this season, the Bucs need to have a long, hard think about what their ceiling is with Winston under center.
Los Angeles Rams: Sammy Watkins, wide receiver
When the Rams dealt for Watkins prior to the season, Occam’s Razor told us that he would be Jared Goff’s primary target. But since Week 3, Watkins has gotten five or fewer targets every game. That’s especially baffling because Los Angeles’ offense has been really good. We know Watkins is more naturally talented than Robert Woods, but Jared Goff just seems more comfortable throwing to Woods. With the Rams at 7-2, it’s hard to argue anything should change.
Arizona Cardinals: Deone Bucannon, linebacker
The way Bucannon more or less invented the moneybacker position will always be his legacy, but this year has wrought a steep decline for his production. It’s worth noting that he dealt with injuries early in the year, but even weeks after coming back, he isn’t having the same impact. The Cardinals rank 23rd in pass defense DVOA to the middle of the field. Two years ago — at Bucannon’s peak — they were 12th in that category and over 10 percent above average to the short middle of the field. We can’t pin that all on Bucannon — in that time, the entire Cardinals defense has declined — but he certainly has a big and worrying role in it.
Seattle Seahawks: Thomas Rawls, running back
When Rawls broke into the league, he was an absolute force. In 2015, he led football in yards per carry at 5.6 despite a Seattle offensive line being not much better than the one in place now. Post-injury, things just haven’t been the same. He’s averaging an abysmal 2.6 yards per carry this season, failing to decisively win the running back job over Eddie Lacy and J.D. McKissic.
Russell Wilson leads Seattle in rushing right now with just 290 yards. Second-place: Chris Carson, who played just four games before going down for the year. Rawls has the worst DVOA of any running back in the league with over 15 carries. The decline has been so steep and happened so fast that we never really got to enjoy Rawls. Hopefully he finds that missing piece sooner rather than later.
San Francisco 49ers: Carlos Hyde, running back
Hyde has to be on the finalist list for 2017’s Most Underwhelming Player. He ranks below-average among running backs in DVOA with an average of just 4.2 yards per carry. The situation in San Francisco doesn’t help — teams can load up to stop the run without being especially scared of what C.J. Beathard will do to them — but at some point, doesn’t Hyde have to start looking like a star for more than one or two flashes a year? He’s going to be 28 next year. This is supposed to be his peak and Hyde has been merely adequate.