Every NFL offseason is a time of renewed hope. A time when all of us can look over the roster of our team and feel as if anything is possible. A winning season, the playoffs and even a Super Bowl title are all on the table when every team is 0-0. Yes, even for the Cleveland Browns.
No one said the hope had to make sense. That hope can sometimes be misplaced in players, through the team hyping them up, to the media all to willing to go along with the picture the head coach has so painstakingly painted when it comes to his squad. Many times those unrealistic expectations will be thrust upon a player who just can't measure up to what he's been billed as.
For other guys, it's fan hype. For every Cam Newton and Dak Prescott, guys that deserve the praise, there's a Johnny Manziel and Tim Tebow, guys that don't. It doesn't keep fans from buying their jerseys and it doesn't keep them from renting out billboards advocating for their favorite player to get their chance on the field.
Some guys are just coach pets for some reason, keeping their jobs over more talented back ups or, even worse, no back ups at all. It's as if the team thinks this position is settled when even a casual NFL observer can see it most certainly isn't. So, in considering all the possible reasons behind their undue attention, here are 15 NFL players who will prove how overrated they are in 2017.
15 JAMES CONNER, RB, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Why did I put a guy that, at best, will be Le'Veon Bell's back up with the Pittsburgh Steelers on the list? Simple, James Conner, the rookie running back out of Pitt, has the top-selling jersey in the entire NFL. Yes, the third round pick is so popular with Steelers nation that his jersey is currently outselling Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Marshawn Lynch, Ezekiel Elliott, Von Miller and every single other NFL star. Bell's own jersey isn't even close in the rankings.
That's a lot of pressure and expectations to put on a rookie, especially one behind arguably the best running back in the sport. Now, this could be Bell's last season in Pittsburgh as he'll be playing on a $12 million one-year franchise tag, but for Conner to have fans this hyped up when he might get 30 carries total this season is a little much.
14 TAMBA HALI, OLB, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Tamba Hali was a great player for years in the NFL and that's the problem. It's been a whole lot of years, 11 of them to be exact. Hali is playing through his third presidential administration with the Chiefs and while that's great he's enjoyed such a long career, there's a problem for the five-time Pro Bowler; there's a better guy taking his job.
Fourth-year outside linebacker Dee Ford burst onto the scene last season, replacing an injured Justin Houston to the tune of 38 tackles, 10 sacks, one forced fumble and two passes defended. Ford's age and talent demand a spot on the field and Houston, when healthy, sure isn't heading to the bench. That leaves Hali as the odd man out. Hali sees this happening and doesn't like it, taking to Twitter to plead his case. Once the season starts, it's not going to matter. Hali still has a role with the Chiefs, but it's not as a starter.
13 TYROD TAYLOR, QB, BUFFALO BILLS
Few things in the NFL are more deceptive than passing stats. Looking at Tyrod Taylor's over the last couple of seasons, you could be fooled into thinking he's an NFL quarterback. You would be wrong. Taylor, in two seasons, has not won more than seven games as a starter and, for a mobile guy, he's been sacked a ton. Last season he actually led the NFL in eating the turf with a 260-plus man atop him with 42. That was only slightly more than the year before when he was planted 36 times.
The Bills have a good offensive line, so it's not them. They also love to run the ball, so there's not tons of pressure on Taylor as a passer, yet he still manages to lose, and lose again. And as of Friday he no longer has his best weapon in the passing game as the Bills traded Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams. He's a solid back up quarterback, but has no business starting for an NFL team.
12 JASON VERRETT, CB, LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Jason Verrett has the talent to be a perennial Pro Bowler. His problem is he's spent two of his three NFL seasons laid up with injuries. Out of a possible 48 possible NFL starts since the Los Angels Chargers drafted him in the first round out of TCU in 2014, Verrett has only played in 24. The most games Verrett has played in a row in his career is 14 in 2015. It was good enough to make the Pro Bowl, but he was still banged up for two games.
Verrett lost most of his rookie year with a shoulder injury. Last season he tore his ACL four games into the season. And if you think his injury woes could be behind him and there's a chance he could reach his full potential, you may not want to look at the current Chargers' injury report. Verrett opened training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform List and was only cleared to practice a week ago.
11 MIKE GLENNON, QB, CHICAGO BEARS
For some reason former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon was one of the hottest free agents on the street this offseason. For a guy that went 5-13 as a starter in the NFL and got jumped over by a rookie first round pick with the Bucs, it seems almost impossible to believe he would be so highly prized.
The Chicago Bears wasted no time in signing Glennon, snapping him up on the first day of NFL Free Agency with a three-year, $43.5 million contract. They then moved up in the draft to make sure they got their actual quarterback of the future, North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky.
Still, the job was Glennon's to lose and in his first preseason action he did all he could to lose it. On his third play from scrimmage he tossed a pick six to the Denver Broncos' Chris Harris Jr. and finished his entire quarter of action with an astounding 0.0 passer rating.
10 JIMMIE WARD, S, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Jimmie Ward was a first round pick out of Northern Illinois and, when he's on the field, plays like one. There's only one problem, Ward is hardly ever on the field. Like Jason Verrett, all the potential in the world is locked up in a player who can't stay healthy. He missed eight games his rookie season and five games last year.
What he flashed was good last season. In the 11 times he suited up, he recorded 52 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, 12 passes defended and one interception. In the five games he missed, he recorded 22 Law & Order reruns on his DVR. You might think here, under a new coaching regime, is the perfect time for Ward to bounce back from his injury prone career and be the first round pick he's supposed to be. If you do, you might want to check the 49ers' training room as Ward has yet to practice or be taken off the PUP list with a hamstring injury.
9 TYREEK HILL, WR, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Tyreek Hill is a super fast and exciting player that took the NFL by surprise as a rookie fifth round pick out of NCAA Division II West Alabama last season. Used a slot guy, running back and all-around gadget man by the Kansas City Chiefs last season, Hill gained 860 yards from scrimmage and scored nine touchdowns. He was downright deadly on kick and punt returns, leading the league in touchdowns in both catagories (two punt return TDs and one kick return TD) in addition to leading the league in punt return yards and yards per return (15.2). So why does he make the list?
Because the Chiefs are moving him up the depth chart this season and making him an outside receiver. It's not going to work. Like Liam Neeson in Taken, Hill is a man with a very specific set of skills. As a slot and gadget guy, it makes him a nightmare for defensive units. But as an outside receiver lined up against the opposing team's best corner, you're going to see Hill do an entirely new trick; disappear from the Chiefs' offense.
8 MYLES GARRETT, DE, CLEVELAND BROWNS
When the Cleveland Browns took Myles Garrett with the first pick in last April's NFL Draft, it was a clear signal that they weren't going to play the quarterback game and were going to take the best player available. But did they?
Garrett has the physical tools, size and freak genetics to be a dominant player at defensive end. There's just one problem. Garrett was never a dominant player at defensive end. Last year with Texas A&M, Garrett recorded 33 tackles, 15 for a loss, 8.5 sacks, two passes defended and two forced fumbles. Garrett was drafted to pressure the quarterback and rack up sacks. His total last season wasn't even close to leading the country. In fact, 8.5 tied him at No. 31 with seven other guys. In fact, the NCAA sack leader Harold Landry out of Boston College doubled up Garrett's total with 17. You might say, "Sure, but he wasn't playing against Power Five opposition." To which I say, fine, how about Florida State's DeMarcus Walker who racked up 16 sacks and more than doubled Garrett's tackle total with 67.
Walker, for what it's worth, was snagged in the second round by the Denver Broncos. The truth is, Garrett wasn't even the best pass rusher in the SEC. That was Tennessee's Derek Barnett who recorded 13 sacks on his way to beating Reggie White's school sack record. That's probably why White's old team, the Philadelphia Eagles, took Barnett with the 13 picks after Garrett.
7 A.J. MCCARRON, QB, CINCINNATI BENGALS
Let me tell you a completely insane story. This offseason a team as yet unrevealed looked at the Cincinnati Bengals' back up quarterback and wanted him to join their squad as a starter so much that they offered a second round pick in trade for the former Alabama signal-caller. But here's the M. Knight Shyamalanian twist ending to this tale of trade, the Bengals didn't take the deal.
Oh yeah, not only did an actual NFL team value McCarron's quarterbacking skills enough to offer a second round pick for his services, Cincinnati thought so highly of their back up quarterback that they did not take it. It was such a ridiculous offer that when accused of trying to make that deal, Denver Broncos general manager John Elway said it was "fake news!!" Yes, he used two exclamation points so you know he was serious.
In the dumpster fire that was this offseason's free agent class, teams apparently got pretty desperate. McCarron has started four NFL games in his life and is 2-2 with an outright horrible performance in a first round playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015. McCarron won three national titles with Alabama and the wife/girlfriend lottery for sure (Google Katherine Webb, unless you're Brent Musburger since that would probably violate the restraining order), but he's a career back up.
6 COREY DAVIS, WR, TENNESSEE TITANS
Corey Davis put up monster stats in his four years at Western Michigan, culminating in a 97-catch, 1,500 yard and 19 touchdown season. At 6-3 and 209 pounds, he is the prototype for the big, outside wide receiver. Back in April, he was the first receiver off the board when the Tennessee Titans selected him with the No. 5 pick.
Those that expect Davis to come in as a rookie and be the next Randy Moss or Terrell Owens are probably going to have to wait a year or two. While Davis is a physical specimen, all those stats he put up at Western Michigan came against the likes of Toledo, Georgia Southern and Ball State. It's a safe bet that Davis rarely, if ever, lined up against an NFL-caliber cornerback even once in his collegiate career. If he did, it was likely in the Cotton Bowl where Davis was held to a season-low six catches for 73 yards and one touchdown.
Not only is Davis taking a major step up in competition, but he's yet to get healthy this offseason. He didn't run a 40 at the NFL Combine or Western Michigan's Pro Day and is currently week-to-week with a hamstring injury. He's missing precious practice time and that's going to cost him any chance to justify his lofty draft position this year.
5 TAVON AUSTIN, WR, LOS ANGELES RAMS
Jeff Fisher left a ticking time bomb of mediocrity on the Los Angeles Rams' roster before he was jettisoned from the building. He made sure that Tavon Austin was handed a four-year, $42 million contract extension. It's a contract that averages $10.555 million a year and makes Austin with 12th highest paid player at his position. Is he the 12th best wide receiver in the NFL? He may not be the 12th best receiver on the Rams.
Austin's best season was last year when he caught a career high 58 passes (even though he was targeted 106 times) for an also career high 509 yards. He has scored 12 touchdowns total on offense in his career. The new Rams regime wasted no time in trying to overcome Fisher's stupidity, drafting Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds, signing Robert Woods as a free agent and trading for Sammy Watkins, who basically takes away any job Austin would have on offense. As ridiculous as Austin's contract is, the Rams can escape it without any penalty after this season. Austin should count on that happening.
4 KIRK COUSINS, QB, WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Kirk Cousins, statistically, has been one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL over the last two seasons. But as I said earlier, stats can be deceiving. This offseason could not have gone worse for Cousins and the Washington Redskins. Cousins has lost all his receiving weapons and had them replaced with Folger's Crystals-level pass-catchers.
Worse, the architect of the offense he ran so well, statistically, has moved on to the Rams as their head coach. He's been replaced by Matt Cavanaugh. Cousins will have to prove it's not the weapons and not the coach that made him put up big numbers, but his own natural ability. It's something every quarterback has had to deal with, from Tom Brady to Matt Ryan to Peyton Manning and they excelled. Can Cousins? The Redskins obviously don't think so or they would have signed him to a long term deal this offseason.
3 JIMMY GAROPPOLO, QB, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Of all the ridiculous (most fan led) trade rumors swarming around this spring, the absolute dumbest involved New England Patriots back up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Not only were teams going to give up a first round pick for a guy that started all of two NFL games, supposedly the Pats were going to get multiple first rounders for this sure fire future Hall of Famer.
Obviously, none of that happened. What did happen is that Bill Belichick realized he had a quality back up in Garoppolo that he can win games with if something happens to Tom Brady. And, let's face it, Brady is 40 years old and due to fall off a cliff in ability or get injured any day. Patriots fans are already prepared to anoint Garoppolo as the "Next Tom Brady" if that disaster happens. There's even been articles written about how Belichick wants to prove he can win a Super Bowl without Tom Terrific. If Brady does go down this year, Pats fans will get the opportunity to see exactly how wrong they are.
2 MICHAEL BENNETT, DE, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Few defensive players in NFL history have been sold as hard as Seattle Seahwks defensive end Michael Bennett. He's a good player and a guy that deserves to be on a team. He's not the best or anywhere close to the best and he never has been. Yet, somehow, he's always in the conversation.
If someone were to ask you how many double-digit sack seasons Bennett has in his NFL career, you could answer it by flipping them the bird. Yep, that's right, just one (10 sacks in 2015). Somehow, Bennett always makes the NFL's Top 100 list and the color guys on broadcasts find a way to brag about his prowess as a pass rusher who, for some reason, doesn't seem that adept at rushing the passer. Last season Bennett played in 11 games and recorded just five sacks. And in case you think that's a low mark for him, he played in 14 games back in 2011 and just had four.
1 COLIN KAEPERNICK, QB, NFL FREE AGENT
Let me make something clear here immediately. I support Colin Kaepernick's silent, kneel-down protest over the treatment of minorities by law enforcement in the United States. I do not think that kneeling for the anthem is disrespectful to anyone, anywhere and of any occupation and if it is, there's a lot of disrespect happening in churches all over the world every Sunday. Kaepernick brought a lot of attention to something that demanded attention be brought to it. It's a problem we're still dealing with today and focusing on where Kapeernick's knee is pointing, instead of the recurring problem of police excessive force in minority communities, is flatly wrong and we should all be ashamed.
Here's the problem with Kaepernick as a quarterback; he's just not good. That's right, plenty of teams that could sign Kaepernick with little or no fan backlash don't because he's not played well for years. Everyone wants to point out his Super Bowl season in 2012 and his return trip to the NFC Championship in 2013, but that might as well be 1,000 years ago. In those days, the read-option offense actually worked in the NFL and it's the only offense he's been able to successfully run. Robert Griffin III had the same problem. He couldn't adapt like Russell Wilson and Cam Newton did to a more conventional offense and he's out of the league too.
Do I think Kaepernick has the talent to be on an NFL roster? Absolutely. Do I think he's an NFL starting quarterback? Absolutely not. The guy was legitimately benched for Blaine Gabbert twice. He's never completed more than 60.5 percent of his passes in his life and, just like Tyrod Taylor, his indecision when he does stay in the pocket leads to a ton of sacks. Last year, in just 11 games, Kaepernick was sacked 36 times. The 49ers were the fourth worst team in the league on third down last season, four spots lower than the Cleveland Browns.
I think Kaepernick will land on an NFL roster soon. My money is on the Baltimore Ravens and, not only that, I think he's going to get to play in the regular season. And he will stink it up like he always does. He'll overthrow wide open receivers or send worm-burners at their toes. He'll take too many sacks and, generally, look the way he has in every start over the last three seasons. And your racist uncle will call you after the game just to make fun of him.