The hype machine never stops running as it concerns professional sports, which is why so many overrated NFL players are propped up, both by the masses and by their teams.
Those are the players we’ll be focusing on here. Every team has at least one overrated player on the roster. Some of them have already been crowned as the next big thing, while others are a bit more obscure. But each of these players has either failed to live up to the hype, has a lot of work to meet it in the future or is the beneficiary of a star teammate.
The following represent the most overrated NFL player on each team.
Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott, quarterback
Everyone was so quick to anoint Prescott as the next big thing in Dallas after his unexpected stellar rookie season. The former fourth-rounder out of Mississippi State came on like a runaway freight train, helping propel the Cowboys to the top seed in the NFC in 2016. However, his limitations quickly became evident last season, especially when protection up front broke down in the absence of Tyron Smith. He’s still an extremely raw pro quarterback who struggles to throw outside the hash marks. The upcoming season will tell us a lot about Prescott, and the future of the Cowboys.
New York Giants: Janoris Jenkins, cornerback
Jenkins isn’t a bad cornerback by any means. In fact, he’s one of the NFL’s best at creating points off turnovers, having returned seven interceptions for touchdowns the past six seasons. However, he’s also not one of the league’s few shutdown corners — he’s a hit-or-miss type of cover man who tends to get burned. Also, since signing his monster contract with Big Blue in 2016, it’s safe to wonder if he’s started to break down physically. He’s nearing the age of 30 and missed the tail end of last season on injured reserve with an ankle injury.
Philadelphia Eagles: Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver
In six seasons as a professional, Jeffery has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark just twice and has registered double-digit touchdown totals just once. He caught just 47.5 percent of the 120 passes thrown his way last year, going for 789 yards on 57 receptions and nine touchdowns. Jeffery is by no means a bad receiver. That said, he’s nowhere near the elites in the game today. Also, we’re not convinced he’s worth the huge contract the Eagles just inked him to ahead of the 2018 season, which includes $26.75 million guaranteed.
Washington Redskins: Josh Norman, cornerback
Josh Norman’s time as a top NFL cornerback has come and gone. That ship has sailed, and it left the harbor a couple years ago. Norman was decent in 2016, his first year with Washington, but last year he was a shell of his former self, registering nary a single interception while breaking up just nine passes. Norman is still a reasonably talented player, but he’s not an elite player and certainly not worthy of being the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.
Buffalo Bills: Charles Clay, tight end
It was a bit difficult to pick a player from Buffalo for this list, as the Bills have one of the most work-in-progress rosters in the NFL. But then we remembered that the Bills are paying Clay an average of $7.6 million per year to do things that any average tight end could do with ease. When the Bills signed Clay to his massive deal back in 2015, it was thought (by those in Buffalo) that he’d spark the deep passing game. That hasn’t happened, and Clay has managed to average just three touchdowns per year as well.
Miami Dolphins: Robert Quinn, outside linebacker
Since inking his huge contract with the then St. Louis Rams back in 2014 following his 19-sack 2013 season, Quinn hasn’t lived up to it. The past three seasons in particular have been mediocre ones for the former first-round pick, as Quinn has totaled 17.5 sacks since 2015. The Dolphins swung a trade with the Rams this offseason to land Quinn and see if he’s worth keeping around for the long term. That’s debatable, and Quinn will have to prove he’s still a fearsome pass rusher this year or likely be cut before 2019, when the guarantees run out on his deal.
New England Patriots: Julian Edelman, wide receiver
This former seventh-round draft pick out of Kent State has become quite the weapon for New England’s offense the past few years. Since 2013, Edelman has averaged 89 catches, 957 yards and five touchdowns per year. That’s tremendous production from a slot specialist, and so it’s hardly surprising that Edelman is seen as one of the NFL’s top slot guys. But let’s be honest, without Tom Brady throwing him the ball, Edelman would likely never come close to being the player he is today. So, while it’s pretty awesome that the two players have great chemistry, it is a product of Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels more than it is Edelman being so darn good.
New York Jets: Trumaine Johnson, cornerback
It’s not hard to surmise that the Los Angeles Rams got the better of Johnson, using the franchise tag two years in a row to keep him. Then this year, rather than investing in him long term they let him hit free agency, opting to make deals for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, instead. Johnson then signed with Gang Green and is now the second-highest-paid cornerback in the NFL. But in no way, shape or form is this a top-two cornerback, let alone a top-five guy. Johnson is a decent cover corner but he’s undisciplined and quite honestly had a mediocre 2017 campaign. Hopefully the Jets don’t get buyer’s remorse in 2018.
Chicago Bears: Allen Robinson, wide receiver
In four seasons as a professional, Robinson has one incredible campaign under his belt, two we could consider okay and one that was lost to injury — the latter being last season, when he tore his ACL in Week 1. Yet this spring when free agency hit, Robinson was being talked about like the second coming of Jerry Rice. He ended up signing a huge contract with the Bears and was being pursued by multiple teams before that. It’s going to be interesting to see what this contract looks like in a couple years.
Detroit Lions: Ameer Abdullah, running back
At some point, people are finally going to stop expecting Abdullah to become a star for the Lions. Every year for the past three seasons, fans wonder if this will be the year the former Nebraska star breaks out. And every year, he disappoints. Is Abdullah fast? Heck yeah, he’s fast. Is he quick? He’s a freaking ninja. But just don’t ask him to consistently read the offensive line correctly, and don’t expect him to ever reach the 1,000-yard mark. It’s not going to happen.
Green Bay Packers: Clay Matthews, outside linebacker
There was a time when Matthews was rightfully universally feared for his ability to get to the quarterback. He was a phenomenal rookie and racked up 61 sacks in his first six seasons, along with six interceptions and three touchdowns. But since then, due to injuries and due to Green Bay’s need for Matthews to play inside too often, he’s no longer that fearsome edge defender. Matthews turns 32 before the season begins, and it’s worth wondering if he’ll ever be the same again.
Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins, quarterback
From a stats perspective, Cousins has been one of the better NFL quarterbacks the past three seasons. But ask anyone who studies quarterbacks for a living and they’ll tell you that those numbers hide some glaring flaws. Now, I get why the Vikings paid Cousins $84 million guaranteed over three years — he’s an upgrade compared to the situation they had last year, and this is a team with Super Bowl aspirations. That said, it will be surprising to me if the Vikings win a Super Bowl with Cousins under center.
Baltimore Ravens: Michael Crabtree, wide receiver
Crabtree has never lived up to being selected with the 10th pick of the 2009 NFL Draft. In nine seasons as a pro, he’s eclipsed 1,000 yards just twice and has never caught more than nine touchdowns. Furthermore, Crabtree is purely a possession receiver. His career average is 11.9 yards per catch, which isn’t awful but it’s not amazing, either. This isn’t a guy who’s going to suddenly propel the Baltimore passing attack to greatness. He’s a solid veteran addition, but in no way is Crabtree a player to build your offense around.
Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Landry, wide receiver
Okay, so we all know Cleveland had money to burn heading into the offseason. And boy, did they burn some of it up when they signed Landry to a five-year deal worth up to $75.5 million, including $47 million guaranteed. That’s the kind of money you expect to pay a No. 1 receiver. But Landry isn’t a No. 1 receiver. He’s a possession specialist who is all about volume, rather than big plays, averaging just 10.1 yards per catch with 22 touchdowns in four years.
Cincinnati Bengals: Vontaze Burfict, linebacker
Burfict is a solid linebacker. Nobody will dispute that. He’s solid against both the run and the pass, and he’s been the best linebacker on Cincinnati’s roster for a few years. But he’s known more for his dirty play and attitude problem than he is for being a solid linebacker, and he has the receipts to prove it. Yet the Bengals continue to overrate him in a huge way, having recently inked him to a huge contract extension. This organization seemingly will never get it, and we honestly feel sorry for its fans.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Joe Haden, cornerback
Perhaps nobody overrates Haden like Haden himself. The Steelers are a close second, however, having inked Haden to a pretty lucrative deal last year after the Browns released him. The former No. 7 overall pick at one time was a very good cornerback, but these days he’s just average. Since his injury-marred 2015 campaign, Haden has just four interceptions and has struggled to remain healthy. Pittsburgh better hope he has a resurgent campaign in 2018, or things could get messy on the defensive side of the ball.
Atlanta Falcons: Vic Beasley, defensive end
Beasley has a ton of potential, and it wasn’t surprising that the Falcons picked up his fifth-year option recently. That said, the 2016 NFL sack leader had a pretty miserable 2017 campaign, and even his 2016 season was overhyped due to the big sack total. Last year the Falcons asked Beasley to be more versatile. Not only did he struggle to play in space, but he also struggled rushing the passer, notching just five sacks. He’s going back to being a defensive end this upcoming season, and hopefully that change will help him. But this young man clearly still has a lot to learn about playing in the NFL.
Carolina Panthers: Torrey Smith, wide receiver
Panthers fans are excited to land Smith, who is a deep threat on every single snap to be sure. But anyone expecting Smith to be this incredible addition to Carolina’s offense needs to take a step back and breathe. For his career, Smith has hauled in less than half the passes thrown his way. What’s even worse is that last year in Philly he only averaged 11.9 yards per catch, hauling in a total of 36 receptions for 430 yards and two touchdowns. And since his 11-touchdown 2014 season, Smith has just nine touchdown catches to his credit.
New Orleans Saints: Demario Davis, linebacker
Davis parlayed a career year in New York into a lucrative deal with the Saints this offseason in free agency. But this a linebacker who is 29 years old and who was basically a good, but not great, player before breaking out in a contract year. Can Davis be a solid player for New Orleans inside this year? Sure. But he’s not going to necessarily be a guy who elevates the entire defense and will need help up front to maximize his own value. Even worse, Davis isn’t a very good coverage linebacker, which could limit his role.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Kwon Alexander, linebacker
After a promising rookie campaign and a tremendous sophomore season in 2016, Alexander came crashing back down to earth in 2017. He continues to be strong in coverage at times — his six interceptions in three years stands out as darn impressive — but misses tackles and blows assignments far too often. Entering a contract year in 2018, Alexander has a lot of work to do to prove he’s more than just an athletically gifted undersized linebacker who makes splash plays.
Houston Texans: Lamar Miller, running back
Don’t be surprised if second-year back D’Onta Foreman ends up taking over as the full-time starting running back in Houston this season. Since Miller joined the Texans in 2016 as a free agent with a huge chip on his shoulder, he’s regressed significantly. He showed sparks of being an impact player that first season, finishing with 1,073 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. But he only had four 100-plus yard games, and then in 2017 he had none, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry.
Indianapolis Colts: Eric Ebron, tight end
The Detroit Lions gave Ebron plenty of time to prove he was worth being selected 10th overall in 2014. Ultimately, the only thing he was able to prove is that he’s a below-average run blocker and an inconsistent receiving threat. So, it was pretty surprising when the Colts made Ebron their marquee signing in free agency on a two-year deal worth up to $15 million. The Colts have been trying to find a consistent tight end threat for Andrew Luck for years, so maybe they’re hoping against hope their search is over. We’re not convinced it is.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, running back
The Jaguars surprised many when they selected Fournette No. 4 overall last year out of LSU. He had a pretty good rookie season, and he helped the Jags get to the AFC Championship Game. Or so that’s the narrative that’s been spun. We’ll concede that having a bruising back definitely helped Blake Bortles and the passing game out. And Fournette can do some pretty wild things, too (like this). But this is a back who averaged just 3.9 yards per carry as a rookie, and he continues to deal with ankle issues that have plagued him since college. Don’t be surprised if Fournette doesn’t last long, especially if Jacksonville continues to use him like a battering ram.
Tennessee Titans: Malcolm Butler, cornerback
Butler is widely recognized as the guy who jumped Russell Wilson’s end-zone pass in Super Bowl XLIX, sealing the victory for the New England Patriots. He also had a very strong 2016 season for the Pats before suffering through a mediocre 2017 campaign. But that didn’t seem to knock off the luster surrounding how folks view Butler, as he signed a five-year, $61 million deal with Tennessee. More scrappy and tenacious than being an elite cover guy, Butler really has a lot to live up to with his new team.
Arizona Cardinals: Sam Bradford, quarterback
Bradford finds his way onto this list not because he’s overrated by fans — far from it. He’s annually overrated by NFL teams, which continue to dump mad money into his pockets for reasons that defy all logic and sanity. Bradford has a chronic knee problem and has missed significant time due to injury in four out of his last five seasons. Additionally, we’re talking about a quarterback who has a career record of 34-45-1, though we do have to cut him some slack due to the Jeff Fisher factor. Regardless, Bradford continues to amaze for his ability to keep cashing in, despite never living up to the hype.
Los Angeles Rams: Mark Barron, linebacker
A converted safety who now plays inside linebacker for the Rams, Barron has held his own the past few years. He’s not a bad player by any means. He’s just not that great, either. The best part of his game is that Barron is fast enough to make plays in coverage, which hearkens back to his days as a defensive back. That said, the biggest weakness facing Los Angeles heading into the draft was inside linebacker. So, it wasn’t surprising that the team selected Micah Kiser in Round 5, and it won’t be surprising to see him take over for Barron eventually.
San Francisco 49ers: Jerick McKinnon, running back
McKinnon might end up becoming an absolute stud in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. He certainly has the traits to do it, which is why there are so many hot takes out there about how he’s going to become the next big thing in the NFL. But let’s all take a deep breath and realize for a moment that this is all based purely on projection. Sure, McKinnon has done some good things as a backup in Minnesota. But he’s never been tasked with carrying the load, and we have no idea if he can do it long term.
Seattle Seahawks: Rashaad Penny, running back
It might be a bit unfair to put a rookie on this list. After all, Penny has yet to prove himself in any way at the NFL level. But thanks to Seattle using a first-round pick on a running back most had pegged in as a Day 2 pick, and based on the rhetoric coming out of Seattle about just how amazing he is since the draft, the hype train has gone off the rails. Penny isn’t a tremendous receiver, and he is patently awful at pass protection. Yet the Seahawks have made it clear they view him as a stud three-down back. Something’s got to give.
Denver Broncos: Shane Ray, outside linebacker
Denver should be looking to trade Ray these days, and it would hardly surprising if that happened. In addition to the fact that the Broncos now have Bradley Chubb, the simple truth is that Ray isn’t that good unless he’s pinning his ears back rushing the passer. And even then, he’s not exactly consistent. Since being selected No. 23 overall in 2015, Ray has just 13 sacks to his credit and missed much of last season due to injury. It’s too early to say he’s a bust, but it’s not too early to wonder if that label will stick long term.
Kansas City Chiefs: Sammy Watkins, wide receiver
Nobody can dispute that Watkins has incredible natural talent. He possesses a great combination of size, speed and athleticism. And there are certainly times when it all comes together for him, such as during the 2015 season when he caught 60 passes for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns. That said, Watkins has struggled to stay healthy throughout his NFL career, and he has averaged just 44 receiving yards per game since his breakout 2015 campaign. Needless to say, my jaw hit the floor when the Chiefs backed up the Brink’s truck for Watkins in free agency.
Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Gordon, running back
For a guy who put up 2,587 yards at Wisconsin in 2014 and averaged 7.8 yards per carry over the course of his four years with the Badgers, Gordon’s impact at the NFL level can only be described as muted. We’ll give him a ton of credit for running tough, especially the past two years, and for scoring 18 touchdowns on the ground since 2016. But Gordon has averaged just 3.8 yards per carry as a pro, rarely showing off the signature speed and vision that made him a star in college.
Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr, quarterback
Hopefully Jon Gruden can get the best out of Carr, who took about five steps in the wrong direction last season after a very productive 2016 campaign. Immediately after signing a massive contract extension, Carr had his worst season as a pro, throwing 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. As some who study tape have long pointed out, Carr has actually been lucky over the course of his career, too, in that many of his interceptable passes don’t end up as turnovers. Needless to say, Carr has some serious work in front of him to live up to his contract and get the Raiders back into contention.