The overrated are very different animals than busts. A bust is the product of a bad trade, draft selection or free-agent signing. An overrated player is a much more important part of the team family, a contributor who’s not quite the feline’s nightshirt. RG3 can be considered a bust; Kirk Cousins, overrated. Of course, you could say they’re all overrated in the NFL, where the average salary is more than four times that of the U.S. President.
The real problem might be draft weekend, when players are crowned before they’ve done anything. This creates a culture where the people with the best projections get the most chances. Of course this list isn’t really about that. There is no curve for rating. Some people are overrated because no one can live up to the hype. Too often players are lobbied for as the best of all time, when the real question should be, Are they the best of their time? Let’s start simple. The inference is that this is the best time, I realize, but you never know how someone will rank over the test of time.
For this list, the only players that are considered began their time with their team since the beginning of the millennium. In other words, Brett Favre, who played with Green Bay from 1992 through 2007, was not considered for the most overrated Packers player since 2000, but he could be considered as the most overrated Minnesota Viking or New York Jet.
32 Arizona Cardinals: Kurt Warner
Warner was a great pickup for Arizona in 2005 after he shared the quarterback job with Eli Manning during one season with the New York Giants. A lesser team might have viewed Warner as past his prime, but he wasn’t, leading Arizona to its first Super Bowl at the end of 2008, a season in which he surpassed 4,000 passing yards for the first time in seven years. But as is often the case with the overrated, Warner had all the pieces around him, namely one of the great receiving tandems of the time in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.
In his first year with the Cardinals, the team led the NFL in passing yards. Good for him, right? But Warner was limited to 10 starts due to a groin injury, and led Arizona to only two of its five wins. The league-leading totals were aided by backup Josh McCown, then in his fourth season.
31 Atlanta Falcons: Michael Vick
Vick was the No. 1 overall selection of 2001 draft and earned three Pro Bowl selections in six years with the Falcons before being banned for two seasons for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Though he became the first NFL quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, in 2006, Vick’s passing wasn’t prolific. While he was with the Falcons he never threw for 3,000 yards in a season, and he only had 20 touchdown passes in his final year with the team when he threw only 20, placing him 10th in the league that year. With Vick the team made the playoffs only twice. In 2004, they advanced to the NFC Championship game. Without him they were 4-12 in 2007, the exact same record they had the year before they drafted him. But they were back in the playoffs in 2008.
30 Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco
By nearly any measurement Joe Flacco has been a success. He’s given stability to the Baltimore Ravens QB position. Since his selection as a 2008 first-round draft pick, he’s brought consistency to a team that had only once before taken a QB in the opening round. Though he’s only surpassed 4,000 passing yards once, in 2016, he has kept his interceptions down. Flacco has surrendered 15 INTs or less every year with the exception 2013 when he had 22 against only 19 TDs. Still, Flacco has never brought the offense out of the shadow of the Ravens defense, not even in a post-Ray Lewis-Ed Reed time. This year he threw for a career high in yards, the offense ranked 21st in scoring, while the defense was 12th in points allowed.
29 Buffalo Bills: Drew Bledsoe
After losing his starting job with the New England Patriots to Tom Brady, Bledsoe, the No. 1 overall draft selection for 1993, resurfaced with Buffalo in 2002. It was a good match for the first year when he threw for over 4,000 yards for the first time in six seasons, but he was under 3,000 yards in each of the next two years before moving on to Dallas. Worse, he didn’t take Buffalo to the playoffs, and, to this day, they haven’t been to the postseason since 1999.
In 2003 he threw more interceptions than touchdowns and was the league’s most-sacked QB. Bledsoe went 1-5 against the Patriots during his years with Buffalo, the only win coming in 2003, one of just two losses for New England that year, and one of six wins for the Bills.
28 Carolina Panthers: Jake Delhomme
Maybe nobody symbolized the up-and-down nature of the Carolina franchise like Jake Delhomme. To this day the team has never recorded winning seasons back-to-back years, though they have been to the Super Bowl twice. The first time came in Delhomme’s first of seven seasons with the team, 2003, when he led the team to six straight wins in the final three weeks of the regular season and in three NFC Playoff games. The following year he had nearly a 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio with 29 TDs against 15 INTs. Panther fans were nostalgic for those times in 2009, his final season with the team, when he had only eight TDs with 18 INTS. The undrafted Delhomme was a bargain basement fix before the team took Cam Newton No. 1 in the 2011 draft.
27 Chicago Bears: Jay Cutler
Since joining the Bears in 2009, Cutler has established himself as the Chicago Bears' all-time career passing leader in yards and touchdowns. But you have to remember, these are the Bears, a team with a tradition of grinding it out and winning with defense. Both of those career marks were set by Sid Luckman, a QB who last played during the Truman era. Never mind that Cutler has benefited from 16-game schedules (as opposed to 12 in Luckman’s day) and liberal passing rules. The Luckman-era Bears won four NFL Championships, and went unbeaten during the 1942 regular season. The Cutler-era Bears made the playoffs only in the 2010 season. They haven’t had a winning year since 2012. It also seems Cutler's days as a Bear are over.
26 Cincinnati Bengals: Vontaze Burfict
Undrafted out of Arizona State in 2012, Burfict earned Pro Bowl honors as early as his second season when he was second team All-Pro. He hasn’t returned to the Pro Bowl, however, and continues to tarnish his reputation with questionable plays. The playoff loss to Pittsburgh at the end of 2015 was made possible by Burfict’s personal-foul penalty with 22 seconds to play on a fourth-down incompletion. It was a tough loss for the Bengals franchise, their eighth straight playoff loss since defeating the then Houston Oilers in the 1990 AFC Wild Card game. Burfict also had three unnecessary roughness penalties during the 2015 regular season and one this year, which also came against the Steelers. That has been enough to undo the good he has done for the Bengals.
25 Cleveland Browns: Kellen Winslow II
The son of a Hall of Famer at the same position (tight end), Winslow’s career never took off the way Cleveland expected with his selection as the No. 6 overall draft pick in 2004. He played four seasons with the team and earned Pro Bowl recognition in 2007, his only 1,000-yard year, when he helped lead the Browns to 10 wins. A staph infection limited Winslow to 10 games the following year and his receiving production fell to less than 50 percent from his Pro Bowl year. Winslow had five 10-catch games in his career, all during his Cleveland years. The final 10-catch game came in his final season with the team in 2008 in a 34-30 loss against Denver.
Ultimately, Winslow wasn't quite the star he was originally made out to be.
24 Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott
It was thought the Cowboys couldn’t win without Tony Romo, who was a combined 15-4 as a starter during the 2014 and ’15 seasons while Dallas went 1-12 without him. But then Dak Prescott punched holes through that theory, recording wins in 11 straight starts as a rookie. What he’s done is unexpected for any rookie, let alone a fourth-round draft choice. Let’s not forget, though, that he’s playing behind what many consider the NFL’s best offensive line, and has been aided by one of the best rookie running backs of any era in Ezekiel Elliott. Though Prescott’s 19-to-2 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio during the winning streak is pretty incredible, he was limited to under 200 passing yards in three straight game beginning with Thanksgiving Day. Not what you expect from a Pro Bowl quarterback — which he is this season — playing for a contender in games down the stretch.
23 Denver Broncos: Jake Plummer
Plummer came to Denver in 2003 after six seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. In his first season with Denver he led the Broncos to the playoffs for the first time since 2000. He had three straight playoff seasons with Denver and led the team to the AFC Championship game at the end of the 2005 season. In 2004 he surpassed 4,000 passing yards for the only time in his career. Though he also had a career-high 27 touchdown passes that year, he also led the league with 20 interceptions. After the 2006 season he was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but chose to retire instead after a 10-year NFL career.
Plummer is usually remembered fondly by Broncos fans, but it was the work of Champ Bailey's defense and Denver's running game that made them a contender in the mid 2000s.
22 Detroit Lions: Ndamukong Suh
The 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year was a terrific player in five seasons in Detroit, but was also a bit of an embarrassment on and off the field. He was ranked by his peers as the league’s dirtiest player and once received a then-record fine, and he was also accused of road rage during his time with the Lions. He jumped ship to Miami as a free agent in 2015 which didn’t immediately generate the desired results. The Dolphins suffered through a 6-10 year and a midseason coaching change. During his years in Detroit the Lions had only two winning seasons and were 0-2 in the playoffs. Of course he helped lead the team back to relevance, from 0-16 two years before he joined the team and 2-14 the year before they drafted him.
21 Green Bay Packers: Richard Rodgers
The tight end had a 20-catch rookie year in 2014, then had 58 receptions the following season, picking up the slack with the absence of injured WR Jordy Nelson. He’ll be long-remembered for his game-winning Hail Mary catch against Detroit. That's kept him in good graces for a while, but it turns out he's not an every-day starter.
This year Rodgers was closer to his rookie numbers. Despite 26 snaps in the loss to Atlanta he didn’t make a catch and wasn’t targeted once. He had a combined 17 receptions over the next three games, but after that didn’t record more than two catches in any of the final six games of the regular season. Rodgers was drafted in the third round of 2014 and played at California as a collegian.
20 Houston Texans: Matt Schaub
Schaub started only two games in three seasons with Atlanta before coming to Houston. He played seven seasons with Texans and started 16 games in three of those years, and opened 88 regular-season games overall. He took them to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 2011, and again in ’12. But he struggled in 2013 when when the team took a drastic back step and went 2-14, with both wins coming in the first two games of the season. Schaub threw six touchdowns in those first two weeks and only four more the rest of the year.
His time with the Texans ended after throwing two interceptions in each of the final two games of the 2013. In four of his eight starts that year he was limited to under 200 yards passing.
19 Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck
The Colts QB led the league with 40 touchdown passes in 2014, which was the last time he took the team to the playoffs. He won only two of his seven starts the following year when he missed time due to multiple injuries. Last summer he signed an extension that made him the league’s highest-paid player, but he’s been unable to lead Indianapolis to a winning season. Luck started the year off with a 385-yard, four-touchdown game in a loss against Detroit, but then threw three interceptions over the next three games. He’s been unable to lead the Colts back from their 1-3 start, which isn’t exactly the way to come out after you’ve been rewarded with a new deal. Again, overrated doesn't mean bad.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars: Bryon Leftwich
The No. 7 overall selection of the 2003 draft, Leftwich threw for over 2,800 yards as a rookie, but lasted only four seasons with Jacksonville and was never a full-time starter again. During his years with the Jaguars he led the team to the postseason only in 2005 and played in only one playoff game. The real question is why Leftwhich was drafted by Jacksonville. Mark Brunell, the Jags starter since their initial season in 1995, remained with the team for only Leftwhich’s rookie year, then went on to start for three seasons with the Washington Redskins. In a 2006 game Brunell defeated the Jags and Leftwich 36-30 in overtime in a game decided by a Brunell touchdown pass. It was Leftwich’s last good game for the Jaguars. He threw for 290 and three scores in the defeat.
17 Kansas City Chiefs: Trent Green
Green was an eighth-round draft choice in 1993, back when they still had eight rounds, but didn’t get in a regular season game until 1997. He joined the Chiefs in 2001 and found the stability he never had before, starting 16 games in each of his first five of his six seasons with the team. Green led Kansas City to a 13-3 record in 2003, and to 10 wins in ’05, but he couldn’t lead the team to a playoff win in the former, and the team missed the postseason in the latter.
He was 0-2 in the playoffs after a loss at the end of 2006. Both losses came against Indianapolis, and Green had only 107 yards to show for his 24 attempts in a 23-8 decision in the second of those two games.
16 Los Angeles Rams: Todd Gurley
Gurley earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2015 when he recorded 100-yard efforts in four straight games. He suffered the sophomore jinx when the 100-yard game became unattainable for him. Gurley’s 4.8 yards-per-carry average as a rookie fell to 3.2 in 2016, while the Rams suffered through a year that cost coach Jeff Fisher his job in the final weeks of his fifth season with the team. It wasn’t the return to Los Angeles that was expected, and the hope created in 2015 for a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2004 has diminished. Gurley’s best game of the season was an 85-yard, two-touchdown effort against Tampa Bay. His worst came one week later when he was held to 33 yards on 19 carries against Arizona.
15 Miami Dolphins: Ronnie Brown
Brown had six seasons with Miami, but never really justified being the No. 2 overall selection of the 2005 draft. He ran for 1,000 yards in only one season, in 2006, and went over 900 yards in two others. Brown made the Pro Bowl once, in 2008, when he ran for 10 touchdowns. He is most notable for his role in the Dolphins' use of the wildcat offense, igniting a not-quite league-wide fad. He threw 11 passes over a three-year span, 2008-10, completing four of them with two touchdowns. Only QB Alex Smith went ahead of him in the 2005 draft. The Dolphins took Brown over the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Frank Gore and DeMarcus Ware. If you’re a Miami fan and you weren’t already aware of that, you probably didn’t want to know.
14 Minnesota Vikings: Sam Bradford
Bradford looked like a nice emergency pickup this year, acquired from Philadelphia in the aftermath of Teddy Bridgewater’s season-ending injury. Minnesota was 5-0 after Bradford’s first four starts, a series of games in which he totaled six touchdown passes and no interceptions. Of course he followed that up with four straight losses and the end result was an 8-8 season.
Bradford entered the NFL with the then St. Louis Rams as the No. 1 overall selection of the 2010 draft. He missed an entire season in 2014 due to a knee injury suffered in the preseason, and was traded to the Eagles the following year. Bradford hasn’t been on a winning NFL team yet. Somehow, he keeps getting opportunities to be a starter in the NFL.
13 New England Patriots: Stephen Gostkowski
Gostkowski has been the Patriots kicker since 2006 after Adam Vinatierri left as a free agent. He has shown he has staying power, but he’s no Jack Kennedy. This year he missed field goals in three games over a four-game span, followed by two games in which he missed extra points. Gostkowski was drafted in the fourth round of 2006 and has been selected to four Pro Bowls, and has earned All-Pro twice. Before this season he hadn’t missed a PAT since his rookie year. He was a perfect 52 for 52 in 2015 when the league moved extra points back to the 15-yard line, though the league was down 5.1 percent.
Still, while Gostkowski has led the league in field goals made three times, he’s never led the league in field-goal percentage, which Vinatieri did twice during his years with the team, and once since he’s been with Indianapolis.
12 New Orleans Saints: Reggie Bush
The second overall pick of the 2006 draft, Bush played five seasons with New Orleans. Though he later became a regular running back with other teams, he played both RB and WR with the Saints. Only in his rookie year did he have over 1,000 scrimmage yards with New Orleans. He totaled 1,307 yards that year, with well more than half of that coming on receptions. He caught 88 passes as a rookie, but his receptions total decreased every year he played for the Saints. Bush’s first 1,000-yard season as a ball carrier came with Miami in 2011, his first season out of New Orleans. As a collegian he played at Southern California where he won the Heisman Trophy, which he forfeited after his Heisman was vacated, part of NCAA sanctions due to improper benefits. It is the only Heisman vacated in the history of the award.
11 New York Giants: Odell Beckham Jr.
In Week 12 of his rookie season of 2014, Beckham made the catch of the year, or you could say the best catch ever, a one-handed grab while falling backwards and remaining inbounds while overcoming the effects of defensive pass interference by the Dallas Cowboys’ Brandon Carr. But as players are best compared with their contemporaries such catches should not be compared with those made by players before the era of gloves that Beckham was wearing when he made that catch. As Hall-of-Fame WR Tim Brown said, “You can’t make the play without those kind of gloves. It’s just impossible.”
A year later Beckham let Josh Norman get under his skin in a game against the Carolina Panthers when he earned a suspension for multiple violations. It’s not often you see a wide receiver go helmet-to-helmet, let alone on a play that doesn’t otherwise involve him.
10 New York Jets: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick joined the Jets, his sixth team, in 2015 and led the team to a 10-6 season, though they did not make the playoffs. He didn’t come to terms for the 2016 season until late July when he was rewarded with a $12-million contract. Fitzpatrick, who threw for career highs for yards and touchdowns in 2015, didn’t exactly bring it this year, going just 2-8 in his first 10 starts, not to mention a combined nine interceptions in back-to-back losses against Kansas City and Seattle. Fitzpatrick had only one 300-yard game in 2015, a 390-yard effort in the battle of MetLife Stadium, a 23-20 victory over the Giants, when he completed 36 of 50 for two touchdowns and no interceptions. But he also had eight more games in which he threw for more than 250 yards. Fitzpatrick was once a seventh-round sleeper out of Harvard. He has since gone on to throw more NFL touchdown passes than any other Ivy Leaguer.
9 Oakland Raiders: Darren McFadden
The No. 4 overall selection of the 2008 draft, McFadden played seven seasons in Oakland and rushed for over 1,000 yards only in the 2010 season when the Raiders went 8-8, the first time the team avoided a losing season since 2002 when they went to the Super Bowl. When they drafted him, they were six years removed from their last playoff season. When he left after the 2014 season, they were still hoping for their first playoff season since 2002. McFadden later ran for 1,000 yards with Dallas in 2015, more than doubling his rushing total from 2014, his final year with the Raiders. He had 164 yards on 21 carries in his second game of his rookie year. Unfortunately, in every other game that year he was held under 50 yards. McFadden didn’t have another 100-yard game until his third season.
8 Philadelphia Eagles: Terrell Owens
After spending his first eight seasons with San Francisco, Owens went to Philadelphia in 2004 when the Eagles went to their first Super Bowl. Unfortunately Owens missed the 2004 playoffs due to fibula and ankle injuries sustained on a horse-collar tackle in the 14th game. With Owens Philadelphia went 13-1. The 2005 season was another story. He played only seven games mostly due to his negative comments about the Eagles organization, which first resulted in a four-game suspension, and later in his being deactivated for the rest of the season. He joined the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. The 2005 Eagles were 3-1 after four games, but 4-3 at the time of his suspension. Without him, they won only two games during the remainder of the season.
7 Pittsburgh Steelers: Santonio Holmes
Holmes was the MVP of the Steelers Super Bowl win over the Arizona Cardinals at the end of 2008 when he scored the game-winning touchdown. One year earlier he had led the NFL with an 18.1 yards per catch average. He began his NFL career with Pittsburgh in 2006 and played four seasons with the team before moving on to the New York Jets. During his years with the Steelers he had only one 1,000-yard season, in 2009, the only year he caught more than 55 passes. He was the beneficiary of playing in a receiving corps with Hines Ward, a six-time 1,000-yard player, who spent his entire career in Pittsburgh. Being the second-best receiver is one of the best jobs in the game. It helps you slip under the radar a little bit.
6 San Diego Chargers: Quentin Jammer
Jammer was the top defensive back taken in the 2002 draft, No. 5 overall. Though he had a productive 11-year career with San Diego, he never made the Pro Bowl, and never had more than four interceptions in a season. Jammer was a mainstay, however, starting 14 or more games in 10 straight seasons beginning with 2003, but he was known for penalties. The Chargers gave up the most passing yards in the league his rookie year, and ranked second-worst in 2004 and in ’08.
One of his highlights was going 80-yards the other way off a Peyton Manning pass against Denver in 2012. The following year he closed out his career with the Broncos, but was inactive during the playoffs which culminated in the team’s Super Bowl loss against Seattle.
5 San Francisco 49ers: Blaine Gabbert
It seems no one can hang on to the San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback job. Alex Smith was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, and led the team to the postseason for the first time in nine years, in 2011, but lost the job during the next season when Colin Kaepernick showed he could move the offense in a fashion more indicative of a No. 1 overall pick, even though he was a second rounder in 2011. Gabbert was the No. 10 overall pick in 2011, chosen by Jacksonville, and was acquired by the 49ers after 2013, deemed a bust after losing 11 of his final 12 starts with the Jaguars. He took the QB job away for Kaepernick temporarily, opening a combined 13 games over the 2015 and ’16 seasons but won only four times. Gabbert threw for over 200 yards only once in five starts this season.
4 Seattle Seahawks: Shaun Alexander
The NFL MVP for 2005 when he led NFL rushers in attempts, yards, yards per game, and touchdowns, Alexander had all the moves and a great offensive line to give him the chance to show what he could do. But in the aftermath of the 2005 season, guard Steve Hutchinson left Seattle for Minnesota. Alexander never had another 1,000-yard season.
He played two more years with the Seahawks before closing out his career with Washington in 2008. Alexander was the first of two first-round draft choices for Seattle in 2000. The 2005 season symbolized his fifth-straight 1,000-yard year.
The reason he makes this list is because he was really known for one explosive season and was thought of as the best running back in the game. Unfortunately, he couldn't replicate that successful season.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cadillac Williams
The No. 5 overall selection of the 2005 draft, Williams was a 1,000-yard rusher only in his rookie season, the first of six years he spent with Tampa Bay. He averaged 84.1 yards per game in his initial year but never came close to that again, averaging under 60 yard per game in each of his other five years with the Buccaneers. Williams ran for over 100 yards in each of his first three games as a rookie, but only had six more 100-yard days the rest of his career. Even in his rookie year he was stymied at times, gaining 13 yards on 11 carries against Detroit; 13 attempts for 20 yards against San Francisco; 11 for 29 vs. Carolina; 20 yards on 10 carries against Washington; and 23 yards on 14 attempts in a shutout loss to New England.
2 Tennessee Titans: Vince Young
The 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Young played only six NFL seasons. He ran for over 500 yards in his initial season, but never developed as a passer, throwing for more than 2,500 yards only in 2007 when he had nine touchdown passes to go against 17 interceptions. The Young-era Titans had their moments, going a combined 23-9 during the 2007 and ’08 seasons, reaching the playoffs in both years. The team won the AFC South division in ’08, the last time the team has been to the playoffs, although Kerry Collins took over as the team's starter that season.
Young’s final game with the Titans, an overtime loss against Washington in 2010, saw him throw his uniform into the stands, expressing the frustration of the defeat and a season-ending injury sustained in the game.
1 Washington Redskins: Clinton Portis
Portis cost the Redskins dearly in a one-for-one swap for Champ Bailey with the Denver Broncos in 2004, a sort of NFL version of hitting-for-pitching. Though Washington got the younger player, Bailey played 10 years with the Broncos while Portis was with the Redskins for seven, and rushed for over 1,000 yards four times. It took a league-leading 325 carries for Portis to reach 1,262 yards in 2007, the lowest of his 1,000-yard totals.
Washington made the playoffs twice during the Portis years, but never got past the divisional round. During his two years in Denver, Portis rushed for 1,500 yards in back-to-back seasons, a total he never reached in Washington.
Overall, he just wasn't the difference maker that Washington made him out to be.