When analyzing the NFL, or sports in general for that matter, there are always players that the name on the jersey holds more weight than the production on the field. We take certain players and put them on a pedestal when the production on the field really hasn’t been there to credit the amount of money they make or the praise that the media and fans give them.
Now this is not to say that these are not good players, in fact, many of the guys that I have listed have had Pro Bowl seasons and have won Super Bowls. I just don’t think that they necessarily garner the kind of clout that they have been given.
Looking through the history of the NFL there were plenty of players that were hyped up as superstar athletes. We can now look back at their career’s and honestly say that they may have enjoyed the luxury of playing on great teams or were just overall mediocre. Players that come to mind are Herschel Walker and Drew Bledsoe, very good players but rated higher than they probably deserved.
All lot of factors went into considering a player overrated. Factors such as name recognition, production, and salary were all taken into account.
15 Josh Norman
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that Josh Norman is a very good defensive back in the NFL. However, in his career to date he has had just one outstanding season (2015) and this season was the only one in which he started all 16 games. After one good year it is hard to justify paying someone the kind of money that Norman cashed in with the Washington Redskins, after his former team deemed his services not worthy of that much quiche.
Norman signed a 5 year, $75 million contract, with $50 million guaranteed and a cap hit of $20 million in 2017, and an average of $15 million per season. This investment may be considered worth it if Norman can shut down receivers like he did in 2015.
What has me scratching my head, however, is that starting week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Redskins chose not to have Norman shadow Antonio Brown, the Steelers top receiver. Instead, Norman was entrusted with guarding the left side of the field and whatever receiver lined up on that side. This allowed Brown to haul in 8 receptions for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns. Which begs the question, why pay a guy gobs of money if you are not going to have him cover the top receivers mono a mono.
The Redskins changed their thought process in week 3 and put Norman on Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr. According to ESPN stats and info, Norman lined up across from Beckham Jr. on 53 of the Giants’ 61 offensive plays. Beckham Jr. finished the game with 6 receptions and 107 yards on those plays. Not exactly the stat line you want the highest paid cornerback in the NFL to give up.
14 Randall Cobb
Let’s face it, Randall Cobb has had one standout year since he came into the league in 2011, and much of that success was a product of the Packers pass heavy season that utilized Cobb in the slot for high percentage throws. 2014 was the only season in which Cobb had over 1,000 yards receiving and double-digit touchdowns, and he has never hauled in over 100 receptions.
But that one season in 2014 certainly got him paid. This season, Cobb’s salary has a $9.15 million cap hit and in 2017 and 2018, he jumps up to $12.75 million, which gives him an average salary higher than Antonio Brown, Brandon Marshall, and his counterpart Jordy Nelson.
Last season Cobb had his lowest catch percentage at 61.2% and hauled in half the number of touchdowns from the previous year, even though he had the highest number of targeted passes in his career. Looks like Cobb cashed in, but the Packers are a little disappointed on their investment thus far.
13 Doug Martin
“The Muscle Hamster” has had a very up and down career since being drafted out of Boise State. There is no doubt that the talent is there, but he has had a problem staying on the field. The NFL is a results driven league and if you are not on the field you are going to have a difficult time garnering results.
Martin burst onto the scene in his rookie campaign rushing for over 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns. The following two seasons he played a combined 17 games and didn’t top 1,000 yards rushing quantifying both season totals. He only hit pay dirt three times and mustered a poultry 3.6 yards per carry. Now this season Martin has been injured since week 2 and has yet to total 100 yards.
It’s hard to qualify to make the self-proclaimed Dougernaut the 4th highest paid running back in the NFL if your backup running back is doing the bulk of the work. Health is such a valuable commodity and unfortunately, Doug Martin has not been a reliable back.
12 Sammy Watkins
Here is a guy that has had a pretty decent career thus far since being drafted 4th overall by the Buffalo Bills. However, in no way do I think that you can put him in the elite category like so many analysts have unwisely done.
Watkins has a low catch percentage (under 63%) for his career and has yet to catch more than 65 balls. This season he has already been placed on injured reserve with a foot injury and is not eligible to return until November 27th. When healthy, Watkins is a very adequate NFL receiver, but he hasn’t shown me anything that deems worthy of the praise that he has gotten. I put him in the same category of a player like Allen Hurns.
11 Mario Williams
In no way can you call Mario Williams a bust since being drafted 1st overall in 2006 because he has had a fairly decent career and is still playing in the NFL. What gets me is that it seems like every offseason Williams is touted as the guy to watch for who will make a big difference as an edge rusher. It feels like every season we are waiting for him to have a breakout year, for him to live up to the hype that he garnered out of college. The hype that Von Miller has lived up too. the hype that J.J. Watt more than surpassed. The hype that Muhammad Wilkerson has lived up to.
Unfortunately, Williams has yet to live up to the hype as he is now in his 11th season. Four Pro Bowls in 11 seasons is a fine career, but when you are drafted 1st overall you are expected to go every year.
10 DeSean Jackson
It seems like every year this guy is touted as one of the leagues top receivers when in reality he is an optimal deep threat that plays the boom or bust role every week. He has a very poor catch percentage with only two seasons above 60% and has only had four 1,000 yard seasons in his 8-year career
His season was cut short last year but he finished with an average of 52.8 yards receiving in the games he played in good enough for 52nd in the NFL, behind many tight ends and even running backs. This season he is on pace to finish with 888 yards, less than 60 yards per game, and the Redskins are paying him $9.25 million. Hm, time to rethink this guys value.
9 Janoris Jenkins
Janoris Jenkins is the type of player that can be exhilarating and leave you breathless or can leave you with a broken TV because you just hurled your beer bottle at it for the bonehead play that he just made. He signed with the Giants this offseason for a very lucrative contract worth an average of $12.5 million per season making him the 7th richest cornerback in the league. This is a risky payout for the Giants considering the up-and-down defender that Jenkins has been thus far in his career.
Since being drafted by the Rams, Jenkins has allowed the third most touchdowns (22) by a cornerback and the 5th most plays of 20-plus yards (39). He does give you the big play ability of the occasional pick six, but to be the 7th highest paid corner there needs to be much more consistent play.
8 Jay Cutler
How Jay Cutler is still considered a competent NFL starting quarterback is beyond me. In his entire career he has never thrown for more than 28 touchdowns. He hasn't thrown over 3,800 yards since his last season with the Denver Broncos (a long time ago). He has only had two seasons in which he didn’t throw double-digit interceptions, and both of those seasons he played less than 10 games. In his career he has one playoff win. Shockingly, one playoff win is three less than Mark Sanchez and Colin Kaepernick.
All of these negative statistics come while he had elite receivers and a Pro Bowl running back at his disposal. Cutler is still an NFL caliber talent, but his play proves that his $18.1 million a year salary is well beyond his worth.
7 Joe Haden
Cornerback Joe Haden reaped the benefits of having T.J. Ward cover his back over the top for a few years, before Ward left Cleveland for greener pastures in Denver. Haden cashed in on those benefits and currently makes an average of $13.5 million a season. That’t good for 6th in the NFL ahead of players like Aqib Talib, Jimmy Smith, and Chris Harris Jr.
Haden had a great rookie campaign, but hasn't produced at the same level since. He hasn’t played a full 16 games since his rookie year, played in only 5 games last season, and has already missed time this year. In 2015, he was targeted 31 times in the 5 games he played and gave up a 158.2 passer rating. That is a terrible number. To be a top six paid player you need to be able to defend much better than that.
6 Jonathan Stewart
Listen to this alarming statistic. Jonathan Stewart is the 3rd highest paid running back in the NFL behind only Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy, making an average annual salary of $7.3 million, and yet he has only rushed over 1,000 yards ONE time in his entire 8-year career. I could drop the mic and leave it at that but I will continue.
Stewart has only played a full 16 games three times demonstrating his lack of durability which is a premium at the running back position. His yards per game average rests at 56.3 showing that even when he has been healthy and on the field he hasn’t been worthy of the pay grade that he’s been given. He is also a non-factor catching the ball out of the back-field, 16 catches last season, making him pretty much a 2-down back in most situations.
5 Tavon Austin
Tavon Austin is not a number 1 wide receiver on any NFL team. That is not to slight the value that he can bring to an offense but he is purely a “gimmick” receiver. Bubble screen. Jet sweep. Wild Cat. Out-Route. Those are the play combinations that Austin runs on pretty much every down. These plays can gain you yards, but they should not be in the arsenal of a teams number 1 wideout. And yet, the Rams decided this offseason that Austin was worth number 1 receiver money.
Before the start of the 2016 season, he signed a 4-year $42 million contract, with $25.5 million guaranteed. The yearly average makes him the 13th highest paid receiver in the NFL. What?! A guy that has 1,375 yards receiving total, in his entire career. Six receivers put up more yards last season, and 5 of those guys make less than Austin. I don’t know what GM Les Snead was thinking, but it has me scratching my head.
4 Dez Bryant
I consider Dez an overrated player primarily due to the fact that the dude cannot stay healthy. When he is on the playing field it’s obvious that he can be a very dominant player. Unfortunately, he consistently misses games. Bryant has only been a starter in a full 16-game season twice in his career. As mentioned above, those two seasons were his best and he was selected to the Pro Bowl each year (his only two selections).
Because of this Bryant signed a new contract making him the 2nd highest paid receiver in terms of total value ($70 million) and the 4th in annual average salary at $14 million. Since signing this contract, Bryant has played in 12 games and totaled only 551 yards receiving, which breaks down to 45.9 yards per game. Also during this stretch Dez has a catch percentage of 45.5%. These numbers put Bryant miles from elite status.
3 Brock Osweiler
In the 2016 offseason, Brock Osweiler decided to leave the Super Bowl Champion Broncos and chase the money down to Houston. The Texans offered Osweiler a 4-year $72 million contract with an average yearly income of $18 million. This huge contract offering came based on a rather small sample size of only seven games. In those seven games he came away with five key wins that helped earn the Broncos the number one seed in the AFC. However, Osweiler’s play in those games was very sub par. He averaged 245.9 yards per game and threw 10 touchdowns to six interceptions.
Based on these numbers, the Texans WAY overpaid for their quarterback. But, if performs well in 2016 then no one will care how much the Texans overpaid. Unfortunately, Brock’s 2016 campaign has been nothing extraordinary. He has eight touchdowns and eight interceptions thus far with a completion percentage of 59.0. Sorry Texans’ fans, Osweiler is a bottom half quarterback.
2 Julius Thomas
Julius Thomas is another NFL player that left the Broncos for more money. He signed a $46 million contract worth $9.2 million annually making him the 4th highest paid tight end in the league. The problem is that the production over his career does not add up with this kind of payday.
Not once has Thomas completed a full 16-game season. In fact, he has only played 14 games once. The year before Thomas’ big payday he finished 20th among tight ends in receptions with 43 and 19th in yards with 489. He followed that season up with one fewer game played and seven fewer touchdowns. So far this season, Julius has already missed two games and has only one touchdown. To put it in perspective, guys like C.J. Fiedorowicz, Jack Doyle, Cameron Brate, and C.J. Uzomah are all having better seasons so far. Enough said.
1 Joe Flacco
The quarterback of the Ravens seems to somehow make it into the conversation of elite QBs in the NFL. Apparently after one Super Bowl win you can ride off into the sunset and start carving your headstone at the Hall of Fame.
When Flacco retires from the NFL and we look back at his career we will probably think that he had a fairly serviceable career, was a big body with a strong arm that could throw the deep ball. He had the one Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers, and we will compare him to guys like Jeff Hostetler, Mark Rypien, Trent Dilfer, and Brad Johnson (all quarterbacks with one Super Bowl victory). And yet, somehow, Flacco is the third highest paid quarterback in terms of average salary. Joe Flacco makes more money a year than Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers… I think you catch my drift here.
Just a quick snippet of Flacco’s so far very sub par career. He has never thrown for more than 4,000 yards, never thrown for more than 27 touchdowns, and never thrown less than double-digit interceptions, even in his 2015 shortened season. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl ZERO times. The third highest paid quarterback should not be Joe Flacco.