When it comes to the NFL, disappointment can be defined in a few different ways. If you’re a fan of a team that doesn’t tend to do so well, disappointment may be represented by a new free agent signing that was supposed to make a difference but didn’t. If your team is already poised for a Super Bowl run, there won’t be anything more disappointing then an injury that derails everything. The world watched in horror last year as a talented Cardinals team had their wheels fall off when Carson Palmer tore his ACL.
This year is no exception in the NFL. Some teams are experiencing new highs and while disappointment was once again present for Jags or Raiders fans (for example), there is reason for optimism going into the 2016-2017 season.
One of the other things that can be incredibly disappointing is being a fan of a team that is worth being excited about, but whose young players can't stay on the field. Is Kevin White a good football player? We have no idea and neither does any other Chicago Bears fan. Talk about disappointing.
Even if your team is outstanding and generally healthy, there is still always a weak link to be found on even the strongest of teams. The quick turnaround and brutal nature of the NFL may lead you to be outstanding for one year, but all it does is set you up to come crashing back to reality for the rest of your career with expectations that are now higher then ever.
Hopefully you’re a fan of a football team that has had more ups then downs this year, but for whatever team you’re a fan of, there is a disappointing football player for you.
These are the 32 biggest disappointments in the 2015-2016 NFL season.
32 Arizona Cardinals - Tyrann Mathieu
Before you get any further, we need to point out that he's one of the best players in football and only further solidified that with his play this year. Yet, any time a Super Bowl contending team loses a player to a torn ACL, which Mathieu suffered, it is absolutely heartbreaking. The Arizona Cardinals are putting together an outstanding season. While some players like Ellington have not lived up to expectations, he was replaced by the surprising season of Chris Johnson. When Johnson went down with injuries, it allowed rookie David Johnson to step into the spotlight. However, there is no replacing the talented Ty Mathieu and when he tore his ACL during the later stages of a game, you better believe it was a huge blow to the team. Mathieu is a vital playmaker on an Arizona defense that was looking seriously scary. Though they stomped the Packers after the injury, they were recently shredded by the Seahawks, causing some concern.
31 Atlanta Falcons - Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan has had some seasons in the NFL where he has been one of the best QBs in football. This was not one of those years. Ryan has struggled mightily in the red zone and has cost his team some games with poor decision making. The Falcons collapse from 5-0 to 8-8 can’t be entirely placed on the shoulders of Matt Ryan, but he absolutely needed to be better. While he has helped Julio Jones have a nice season, there were little signs this season of Ryan improving as a passer. For a franchise that was hoping for a revival under Dan Quinn, the second half of the season has been mostly forgettable and, unfortunately, that also includes the play of Matt Ryan.
30 Baltimore Ravens - Injuries To Everyone
When it comes to the Baltimore Ravens, is it possible to just say injuries? There was no bigger loss then when they lost starting quarterback Joe Flacco, who tore his ACL in week 11. What didn't help is that they also lost their starting running back, Justin Forsett, in the same game to a broken forearm. They also lost Terrell Suggs when he tore his ACL and that’s still only scratching the surface of their injury problems this year. Sometimes the football Gods aren't on your side and that was clearly the case in Baltimore. Look for them to rebound next year after securing some solid rookies in the draft.
29 Buffalo Bills - Mario Williams
The Buffalo Bills seem to be one of the most disappointing teams in the league each year. There are always seems to be reasons for optimism in the summer, but when the season comes, they seem to fold. There were a lot of reasons for Buffalo's struggles this year, with a lot of blame being thrown at new head coach, Rex Ryan. Mario Williams had an off year and blamed Ryan's complicated scheme. Williams seems like a likely target to be cut this offseason, which will only leave a bigger hole in an area where the Bills are supposed to excel.
28 Carolina Panthers - Kelvin Benjamin
It's hard to find a Carolina Panther that has been particularly disappointing this year. They have been a powerhouse all year and had a real shot to go undefeated before a surprise loss to the Atlanta Falcons. With that in mind, the biggest disappointment has to be the loss of Kelvin Benjamin, who tore his ACL before the season began. While you can look at the departure of Benjamin as somewhat of a positive, since it forced Newton to spread the ball around, there is no doubting the talent of the second year wide-out, who Carolina hopes to be a focal point of the offense for the long future. If a team that lost their #1 wide receiver is still considered to be the best team in football by many, it’s scary to imagine how they would have looked if they had Newton’s best target in the fold.
27 Chicago Bears - Kevin White
When it comes to a rookie, you may have a few expectations. One of them should definitely be that they get on the football field. The Bears have been awful for most of this season, but it’s easier to see why when you consider their first round (and sixth overall) pick Kevin White battled an injury that kept him out of the lineup. Kevin White's absence was further noticed when Brandon Marshall was traded to the New York Jets and heped put together an outstanding season for New York. The upside is that next year the Bears will have two young rookies in White and this year’s first rounder to try and work into their game plan.
26 Cincinnati Bengals - Jeremy Hill
The Bengals have had a fantastic year. They are playoff bound and several of their players either exceeded expectations (Tyler Eifert) or continued to excel (AJ Green). For fantasy owners in particular, one of the most disappointing players for the Bengals was Jeremy Hill. The team has done a nice job running with Gio Bernard, but Hill has been a far cry from the player that was consistently shredding opponents last season. The pressure on the run game has risen exponentially after quarterback Andy Dalton suffered a thumb injury and Bengals fans will be hoping that Hill is in top form in the playoffs.
25 Cleveland Browns - Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel has had some games where he has looked like a capable starter in the NFL. Unfortunately, he also continues to have off field problems. Given that the second year player has already been in rehab, fans need to be concerned about the issues that surround Manziel. For a QB to excel, he needs to have a great relationship with his head coach and it’s been clear through comments in the media that Mike Pettine has been less then pleased with Manziel. With a new coach coming in, it's possible Manziel will start fresh with the Browns, but it's beginning to seem like the end of the line for Johnny Football in Cleveland.
24 Dallas Cowboys - Dez Bryant
This past NFL off-season had a few big storylines, but one of the more tantalizing ones was the potential contract that Dez was going to receive from Dallas. Dez definitely got paid, but his $14 million this year was essentially money flushed down the toilet. Dez broke his foot in week 1 and was unable to completely recover from the injury. There were games where he was completely invisible and that’s just not acceptable for a superstar like Dez. Yes, Tony Romo was hurt for almost the entire year, but Bryant's stat line of of 401 yards and 3 TDs is almost as disappointing as the Cowboys record.
23 Denver Broncos - Peyton Manning
It’s never going to be easy to write about the downfall of Peyton Manning. A first-ballot Hall of Famer, it seemed like Peyton could play until 50 when he came back strong after a serious neck injury. Yet, it's hard not to be disappointed with his play this year. Sure, Brock has looked decent as his replacement and he is the future, but nobody saw the downfall of Peyton coming only a few weeks into the season. He was given another chance in week 17, when he lead the Broncos to a win to clinch the first seed in the AFC. There's still time for Peyton to change how this year is perceived, but for the regular season, no one was more disappointing in Denver than Manning.
22 Detroit Lions - Calvin Johnson
There was a time when Calvin Johnson was the most electrifying wide receiver in football. Unfortunately, the last few years have seen him deal with nagging injuries and he's fallen behind other wide receivers around the league. Johnson can still perform, but he's been inconsistent and even had a three game span where he only had five catches. With a hefty contract on the books, it's been rumored that Johnson has played his final snap with the Lions.
21 Green Bay Packers - Eddie Lacy
While the Packers have had a season that has been up and down, there has not been a more inconsistent and disappointing player then Eddie Lacy. Last year, Lacy was a bruising running back who shredded defenses for 1,139 yards and nine TDs. In 2015, Lacy has only amassed 758 yards and has been a large reason for the Packers struggles on offense. Lacy had an invisibility cloak on during the middle of the season before having decent games in weeks 11 and 12. There is no doubting that he’s a talented running back, but Packers fans will hope he’s able to be productive on the football field more consistently going forward.
20 Houston Texans - Ryan Mallett
At the start of the year, the Texans hoped that Hoyer-Mallett would inspire one another and push each other to be better. Instead Mallett had off-field issues, including sleeping in and missing a meeting that further plagued his time in Houston. Many thought that Mallett could be the future of the Texans and he most definitely is not (he’s not even on the roster). He's resurfaced in Baltimore and has been decent replacing the injured Joe Flacco, but it's reasonable to assume no one will consider Mallett for more than a back-up role next year.
19 Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck
The Colts were awful this year and a lacerated kidney, among other injuries, kept Luck off the field for several games this year. When on the field, Luck was constantly trying to do way too much with the offense and as a result forced several turnovers that hurt his team. This is made all the more frustrating when you consider the team brought in veteran running back Frank Gore to help take pressure off Luck. There is no doubt that Luck is still going to get paid handsomely from the Colts shortly, but they need to hope he’ll never have another season as bad as his 2015 campaign.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars - Dante Fowler
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been one of the worst teams in football for the past few years. However, they seem ready for a turnaround due to promising young players like Allen Robinson and Blake Bortles. The Jags could have made the playoffs this year if the third overall pick in the draft, Dante Fowler, was able to stay healthy. Instead, Fowler was one of the first players ruled out of the 2015-2016 season when he tore his ACL on the first day of rookie minicamp. Fowler will be a focal point for the team going forward, as he signed a 4 year rookie contract the following day, in a sign of good faith from the team. There is still optimism among coaches and fans that Fowler will be an impact player, but it’s really disappointing that he didn’t play a single snap as a professional this past season.
17 Kansas City Chiefs - Jamaal Charles
The Kansas City Chiefs may have thought their season was done in week 6. After starting 1-5, the Chiefs turned the corner and won 10 games in a row to make the playoffs. With a season that was so much of a roller coaster, it is hard to single out any one Chiefs player that was disappointing. One of the sadder storylines of the year was the Chiefs losing their premier running back Jamaal Charles to a torn ACL. While the team rallied around the injury, there is no doubting that Charles is one of the best running backs in football. It’ll be interesting to see if his absence will cause the team to flutter out of the playoffs.
16 Miami Dolphins - Lamar Miller
Lamar Miller is an incredibly talented running back, but has been criminally misused this year. Miller’s play has been largely disappointing because of his coaches' inability to use Miller throughout the game. Too often he’s had a strong first half, only to rarely be used in the second half of the game. The misuse of his skills has been incredibly disappointing for a franchise that yet again will be missing the postseason. Given that Miller is a UFA this upcoming offseason, it's far from a guarantee that he’ll be suiting up for Miami in 2017.
15 Minnesota Vikings - Mike Wallace
One of the biggest disappointments of the season has been the play of Mike Wallace. The player displayed breakaway speed in Pittsburgh and had some moments of brilliance with the Dolphins, but he's been completely off the mark in Minnesota, as Wallace’s 2 TDs and 473 yards are hardly what the team was expecting. Stefon Diggs's emergence only adds further frustration to fans who want both players to cause havoc. The Vikings are a playoff team, so his year isn't over yet, but he'll need to be terrific in the playoffs to change the perception of his year.
14 New England Patriots - Brandon LaFell
I don’t know if you know this, but Tom Brady is a pretty good quarterback. As a result, you need to get him some competent receivers, which wasn't the case with Brandon LaFell this year. LaFell had some bright spots last year that left fans hopeful for the WR in 2015-2016. Unfortunately, an injury kept LaFell off the field until Week 7 and, once on the field, he was largely invisible. Whenever he did pop up, it was to drop an important pass. It was definitely a year to forget for LaFell.
13 New Orleans Saints - Brandon Browner
The New Orleans Saints are not a good defensive football team. This fact became extremely apparent throughout the season and led to the firing of defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. However, many assumed they would improve this year, partially due to the acquisition of Brandon Browner. Browner was a physical, but effective corner with Seattle and New England, but he’s been a nightmare for Saints fans. When he isn’t getting burned for 90 yard TDs, he’s committing a ridiculous penalty. With over 20 on the year, it is clear that Browner is a liability to the Saints on the field. Given just how awful Browner has been, it’s hard to imagine the player had the interest of several teams this past offseason.
12 New York Giants - Jason Pierre-Paul
Has there been a sports injury as stupid as Jason Pierre-Paul’s this past offseason? The former Pro Bowl and All Star defensive end for the New York Giants injured his hand on July 4th while trying to set off fireworks. You’ve seen the PSA video 100 times, but it cannot be stated enough that fireworks are nothing to mess with. The injury cost JPP a hefty sum of money, as he had yet to sign his franchise tender at the time, which would have paid him millions more then what he may end up earning. While JPP has come back to the football field, part of his fingers will never return and it has forced the player to use a modified club on that hand. No matter how the rest of his career goes, there is no doubt that having a firework going off in your hand does not shine optimism on your future.
11 New York Jets - Geno Smith
What a weird season for Geno Smith. Of all of the things that you would imagine are going to end your season, a broken jaw from a sucker punch is probably not among them. When Smith suffered the broken jaw, it was not going to end his season, but his inability to outplay Ryan Fitzpatrick sure put an end to things. While the Jets are not disappointed with the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick (though he played poorly in week 17), they were hoping for more when they took Smith early in the second round of the 2013 draft. Fitzpatrick is solid, but has been around the league for a few years and is not the name that the Jets want playing quarterback for them in 2-3 years, which may cause them to yet again try and find a quarterback early in the upcoming draft.
10 Oakland Raiders - Curtis Lofton
The Oakland Raiders have been absolutely terrible for the last few seasons. However, things are looking up for the Raiders due to rising stars like Khalil Mack and Derek Carr. That may lead to it making a little more sense that one of their most disappointing players was one they acquired in free agency, Curtis Lofton. Lofton used to fly around the ball and record over 100 tackles in a season. This year, Lofton has taken a step back and only recorded 64 tackles. It's entirely possible that Lofton won't be back, as Ben Heeney has been solid when filling in for the struggling vet.
9 Philadelphia Eagles - DeMarco Murray
Is there any denying that DeMarco Murray was the worst free agent signing of the year? Sam Bradford was disappointing at the start of the year, but has started getting it together. Murray failed to become the Eagles number one back and shared time with Sproles, Matthews and Barner throughout the year. Those guys aren't awful running backs, but it isn’t why they brought Murray into Philly. Murray has run for a pitiful 3.6 yards per carry, down from the 4.7 last year that helped earn him his five year contract in the offseason. With Chip Kelly out of the picture, a resurgence next year isn't out of the question, but this season has been a write off for Murray.
8 Pittsburgh Steelers - Josh Scobee/Garret Hartley
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had their fair share of disappointments throughout this NFL season. If you want to look injury wise, they’ve lost Big Ben as well as LeVeon Bell for extended periods of time. However, one of the biggest losses may have come during the preseason when their kicker, Shaun Suisham, tore his ACL. They made a huge mistake signing Josh Scobee, whose two misses against the Baltimore Ravens led to a collapse that cost the Steelers a critical game. Garret Hartley was also an awful replacement for Suisham who went 6/10 and missed an extra point. Thankfully the Steelers seem to have figured things out with Chris Boswell, but there was no telling just how significant the departure of Suisham was going to be back when he got hurt.
7 San Diego Chargers - Melvin Gordon
The San Diego Chargers biggest concern going into the off-season is how incredibly unimpressive Melvin Gordon looked this year. To cut him some slack, Gordon is in his first year, but you'd expect better numbers from the 15th overall pick in the draft. The frustration is further felt when you see others that were drafted later, such as Karlos Williams or undrafted studs like Thomas Rawls, have impactful rookie seasons running the ball. Gordon has shown poor vision and an inability to be consistent for a full 60 minutes. The result is a player that was constantly splitting time (though Danny Woodhead is talented) and failed to put up over 100 yards on the ground during any game in the season.
6 San Francisco 49'ers - Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick was considered as good as Russell Wilson only a few years ago. Both were young quarterbacks on teams that were on the rise and it seemed like they'd be fighting for the NFC West annually. While Wilson has been to back to back Super Bowls, Kaepernick has struggled mightily. An injury and poor play led to Blaine Gabbert taking over the starting role this season. With a contract that makes it easy for the team to cut ties with the quarterback, you may see Kaepernick suiting up for a different team next season. The athletic tools are obviously there, but he lacks the intelligence to make the necessary adjustments needed to excel as an NFL quarterback.
5 Seattle Seahawks - Cary Williams
When it comes to the Seattle Seahawks, they’ve had an up and down season. Injuries have unfortunately taken away two dynamic playmakers in Jimmy Graham and Marshawn Lynch, but Russell Wilson is still finding ways to help the team win. Their defense has also had its fair share of troubles including some fourth quarter collapses. They’ve looked better as of late and that’s definitely because they parted with Cary Williams and given more time to players that were developed through the system, like DeShawn Shead. Williams was signed in the offseason to come in and be the corner opposite Richard Sherman when they lost Byron Maxwell, but Williams was burnt often and was clearly not a match for the Seahawks system.
4 St. Louis Rams - Nick Foles
When it comes to the St. Louis Rams, their most disappointing position the last few seasons has been the quarterback position. It was hard to blame them for not wanting to give up on their first overall pick Sam Bradford, but after tearing his ACL twice, they felt they had no choice but to move on from Bradford. They traded for Nick Foles, who's failed to live up to any expectations, much less keep his job. Foles was hopeful to be the future, but after 10 interceptions and only 7 TDs, he did not leave the Rams any choice but to move on. There is no telling what Foles’ future is, but it is definitely not in St. Louis and that’s really too bad when you consider the hype that surrounded his trade.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Vincent Jackson
Vincent Jackson was supposed to be one of the main targets for Jameis Winston in his rookie year. Jackson clearly has talent, having hit the 1,000 yard mark in 6 of his last 7 seasons. However, injuries limited the star player to only 10 games and only 543 yards and 3 TDs. The Bucs have a lot of reasons to be incredibly excited about the future and it’s disappointing that the play of Vincent Jackson is not one of those reasons. Hopefully as Winston continues to develop, Jackson will regain the health and skill that is necessary to be a force in the league again.
2 Tennessee Titans - Bishop Sankey
When you look at where the Titans struggle, there may be a few areas that jump off the board at you. That’s just the case when you’ve been one of the worst teams in the league for a few years. Thankfully, one of their most disappointing players was not their second overall pick, quarterback Marcus Mariota. Dorial Green-Beckham, their highly drafted rookie wide receiver, was invisible for most of the year, but has shown promise as of late, including a great game against the Patriots. The lack of a running game for the Titans is the real problem and part of that falls on the now, seemingly failed career of Bishop Sankey. Bishop Sankey was the first running back taken off the board a few years ago when the Titans drafted him with the 54th overall pick. Sankey has failed to show he belongs in the NFL and seems likely to be cut by the Titans this offseason.
1 Washington Redskins - Alfred Morris
The Washington Redskins were a team with an incredibly bright future only a few years ago. The rookie season of RG3 was in full swing and 6th round running back Alfred Morris was looking like an elite runner. Well, RG3 has destroyed his knee and Morris’ play in 2015 has led to him splitting carries with Matt Jones. Morris had 1,613 yards in his rookie campaign, but only managed 751 yards this season. Reduced carries definitely hurt that total (335 vs 202) but that doesn't make his decline any less disappointing.