Five most overrated players in the NFL heading into the 2015 season

By Vincent Frank

With the 2015 NFL preseason about a week away, things are starting to get interesting on the field. It’s a nice change of direction from what was an offseason filled with too much drama.

Now that our focus is actually turning to the game of football, it’s time to preview the 2015 season. In keeping up with that theme, here is our list of the five-most overrated players in the NFL.

We have used a combination of player salaries and the NFL Network Top 100 Players of 2015 ( rankings in parenthesis) to draw a conclusion here. You might not agree with said conclusions, but the opinions are backed up by cold-hard stats and facts.

1. Charles Woodson, safety, Oakland Raiders (ranking: 64)

Woodson will go down as one of the top defensive backs in modern NFL history. He’s an eight-time Pro Bowler, has earned three First-Team All-Pro honors and is the league’s active interception leader with 60. His dominance of the football field during the early 2000’s and then later that decade should never be taken away from him.

However, there’s a huge caveat here. Despite missing a whopping 20 tackles and allowing a 93.6 opposing quarterback rating in coverage last season, this future Hall of Famer somehow found his way on to the NFL Network’s Top 100 players of 2015. The reality of the situation is that Woodson remains a key veteran cog on a young Raiders defense. That’s an important thing to note. It also doesn’t mean that he’s anywhere near the player he once was. In fact, there’s little doubt he wouldn’t currently be a starter on a good defense. At 38 years old, Woodson is a shell of his former self. And that makes him the most overrated player in the NFL today.

2. LeSean McCoy, running back, Buffalo Bills (ranking: 29)

McCoy’s career stats are about as sexy is it comes. He’s averaged over 1,500 total yards and nine touchdowns per season during his six-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles. During that span, McCoy averaged 4.6 yards per attempt and over five yards per touch. These numbers have made him one of the most-valuable fantasy football players on the planet. They have also made him one of the most overrated players on the actual football field.

Consider this: McCoy averaged just 2.1 yards after contact last season, good enough for a 41st-overall ranking out of 57 qualified running backs (via Pro Football Focus, subscription required). He also missed a total of 40 tackles in 314 rushing attempts. For comparison’s sake, San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde missed 25 in 83 attempts. The league leader in this category, Marshawn Lynch, shed 83 tackles in 280 attempts.

With these advanced numbers all going in the wrong direction, how did McCoy perform at such a high level in Philadelphia? The answer is rather simple. The Eagles’ offensive line graded out as the top run-blocking unit last year, and it wasn’t necessarily close. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), this unit finished with a positive 85.7 grade. The second-best offensive line, at least in this category, was the Dallas Cowboys with a positive 54.2 grade. Unfortunately for McCoy, he’s joining a Bills team that boasted the second-worst run-blocking offensive line in the NFL last year.

3. T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver, Indianapolis Colts (ranking: 35)

Hilton put up 82 receptions for 1,345 yards last season. He also caught 63 percent of the passes thrown in his direction and averaged 16.4 yards per catch. These numbers are all splendid, and pretty much make him the Colts No. 1 wide receiver heading into 2015.

However, as we saw with McCoy, there are some issues when looking at stats and actually going back to game film from last season. Andrew Luck actually possessed a lower touchdown-to-interception ratio when targeting Hilton last year as opposed to the rest of the team. Some of that might have had to do with Luck forcing the ball to his No. 1 receiver, but those are not numbers indicative of a top-end receiver in the NFL.

Considering Hilton caught just 56 percent of the passes thrown in his direction that traveled 10-plus yards last year, he’s going to have to act as a more consistent intermediate threat for Luck if he actually wants to get paid Dez Bryant money. Until then, he’s nothing more than a good young player with tremendous upside.

4. Julius Thomas, tight end, Jacksonville Jaguars (ranking: 45) 

Talk about the Peyton Manning effect. A total of 22 percent of Thomas’ receptions over the past two seasons were touchdowns. He also caught 71 percent of the passes thrown in his direction during that span—a number that isn’t much higher than Denver’s crop of wide receivers. This has to be somewhat alarming considering Manning has always completed a much higher percentage of his passes to tight ends than receivers.

And while it must be noted that Manning threw 24 touchdowns compared to two interceptions when targeting Thomas, the latter will now be catching passes from an unproven signal caller in Blake Bortles. He will be doing so without top-end receivers to take attention away from him. All of this makes Thomas’ five-year, $46 million deal and No. 45 ranking among NFL’s top-100 players both pretty darn ridiculous.

5. Justin Forsett, running back, Baltimore Ravens (ranking: 65)

One ultra-successful campaign in seven years, and somehow Forsett is considered one of the top running backs in the NFL. While what he did last season for Baltimore was nothing short of amazing, let’s remember that Forsett had put up less than 1,600 rushing yards in the previous six seasons combined.

Not too often does a 29-year-old running back jump on to the scene the way this former seventh-round pick did last year. After all, he did tally over 1,500 yards and eight touchdowns. Go ahead call me a skeptic, but I want to see it for more than just one season. That’s only magnified by the fact that over half of his yardage came in five games. If Forsett, who will turn 30 during the 2015 season, shows more consistency, maybe it will be time to buy in. Until then, his status on NFL Network’s top 100 is a joke.

Photo: USA Today Sports