Every year in the NFL there are players who post big-time numbers one season, which causes fans to create unrealistic expectations heading into the next season for these players. These expectations are likely exaggerated more than ever now because of the extreme focus on fantasy football and preseason fantasy football player rankings. Just like teams that perform well one season and garner tons of offseason hype just to fall flat on their face and draw the ire of their fanbases (looking at you Cardinals and Panthers), players are not immune from failing to live up to preseason expectations.
The players compiled on this list all had a breakout career, or just plain exceptional seasons in 2015. Unfortunately for each of these players, the 2016 season has been less fortunate. Whether it be injuries, coaching changes, or just poor performance, these players have all seen a decrease in production from their 2015 seasons. While there is still half a season for these players to turn it around, all of them are currently on pace to fall victim to their expectations entering 2016.
However, don't count out any of these players to turn their season around or at least bounce back in 2017, as they clearly have the talent to dominate in the NFL. (Note: Players who have suffered major injuries in 2o16 were not included as candidates for this list).
Without further ado, here is the list of 15 NFL Stars who look a lot worse so far this season than they did in 2015.
15 Allen Robinson, WR - Jacksonville Jaguars
After an uninspiring rookie season, Allen Robinson broke out in a big way in 2015, recording 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Those numbers are eye-popping, yet Robinson continued to hang mostly under the radar going into the 2016 season. With another offseason to grow a rapport with quarterback Blake Bortles and fellow wideout Allen Hurd, big things were expected of the Jacksonville passing attack and Robinson in particular.
14 Olivier Vernon, DE - New York Giants
Olivier Vernon has never been an elite pass rusher but he showed several promising years while with the Miami Dolphins, including 7.5 sacks last season. That promise led to a big pay day for Vernon when he signed an $85 million contract with the New York Giants, under the assumption that he would rejuvenate the Giants pass rush attack. Many wondered at the time whether this was a sound investment for the Giants or whether they had overpaid for a player who was complemented by a good system in Miami.
13 Russell Wilson, QB - Seattle Seahawks
Since taking the reigns of Seattle's offense as a rookie in 2012, Russell Wilson has been an ultimate game-changing quarterback with his dual-threat style of play. In 2015, Wilson reached another level after throwing for over 4,000 yards and 34 touchdowns. In his last seven games alone in 2015, Wilson had a nearly impossible touchdown to interception ratio of 24:1. That stretch of games was other worldly and it would have been unfair to expect Wilson to continue on that pace in 2016, but not many would have foreseen quite the drop off that has occurred thus far.
12 Stephen Gostkowski, K - New England Patriots
Really? A kicker? Normally I would agree with this sentiment but 2016 appears to be a year to forget for NFL place kickers. Of all the struggling kickers this year (see Catanzaro, Walsh, and Hauschka) Gostkowski makes the list because of his dependability throughout his career, including in 2015. While he has not failed in the clutch yet in 2016, it is Gostkowski's confidence that appears to be lacking the most in comparison to seasons past.
Gostkowski has been one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history and has been all but automatic with extra points. From 2006-2015, he missed only one extra point... one! Granted that many of those seasons came before the NFL rule adjustment that pushed the extra point back to a nearly 30-yard field goal. But even in 2015, with the rule in place, Gostkowski nailed 52 of 52 extra points. In 2016, he has already missed two extra points and is clearly struggling with confidence issues to overcome those misses. Was it the yips after his crucial PAT miss in last year's AFC Championship?
11 Aaron Rodgers, QB - Green Bay Packers
It's difficult to out Aaron Rodgers on this list because he has been so exceptional the past few seasons that it's unfair to hold him to as high of a standard as we do. Statistically, Rodgers is still having a successful season but when watching the Packers more closely, it is evident that Rodger is struggling this season. He has missed wide open receivers with inaccurate throws that don't resemble the former MVP in any way.
10 Reggie Nelson, S - Oakland Raiders
The Raiders went all in on their defense this season signing Reggie Nelson, Bruce Irvin, and Sean Smith to help solidify a defensive unit already led by superstar Khalil Mack. Nelson was to provide a veteran presence and toughness to the Raiders defensive backfield that would allow guys like Mack and Irvin time to harass opposing quarterbacks. Unfortunately for the black hole, the Raiders defense currently sits last in yards given up per game.
9 John Brown, WR - Arizona Cardinals
Spoiler alert: there are multiple Arizona Cardinals players on this list, which makes sense given that the team was one of the best in the league in 2015 and has been a huge disappointment thus far in 2016. It's not just a case of poor luck for the Cardinals, it's also clear that many of the guys who excelled in 2015 have taken a step back in 2016. John Brown is one of those that has failed to live up to the expectations he set in 2015.
8 DeAndre Hopkins, WR - Houston Texans
When discussing the best receiver in the game following Calvin Johnson's retirement, DeAndre Hopkins was a popular dark horse pick after his impressive 2015 season in which he had 111 receptions for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hopkins was able to put up those numbers despite having a carousel at quarterback of Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallet, TJ Yates, and Brandon Weeden. The Texans thought they had solved the quarterback issue when they signed Brock Osweiler to a massive free agent contract this past offseason, but that has not been the solution.
7 Doug Baldwin, WR - Seattle Seahawks
Doug Baldwin had a steady career trajectory through his first four seasons in the NFL but he exploded in 2015, to the tune of 78 receptions, 1,067 yards, and a remarkable 14 touchdowns. He always had a knack of making clutch receptions for the Hawks and his chemistry with Russell Wilson was always apparent, but 2015 was a special year and allowed him to cement himself as an elite NFL receiver.
Although Baldwin has remained a consistent presence for Seattle this season, he makes this list because of the fact that he has only recorded two touchdowns receptions through the first half of the 2016 season. Part of the blame can be put on the ineffectiveness of Russell Wilson, but ultimately Baldwin has fallen below the lofty expectations he faced entering this season following his exception 2015 performance. Wilson appears to be regaining form (and health), so look for Baldwin to get on a streak down the homestretch of the season.
6 Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB - New York Jets
The journeyman quarterback appeared to finally find a home in 2015 when he had a career year with the New York Jets. Last season, Fitzpatrick put up big time numbers (31 touchdowns and almost 4,000 yards) and looked to receive a big time contract this offseason. Although Fitzpatrick and the Jets hit a stalemate in negotiations heading into the 2016 season, the quarterback ultimately signed and looked primed for another big season.
5 Michael Floyd, WR - Arizona Cardinals
Contract years are generally a safe bet for athletes to perform their best in hopes of earning a big payday in the next free agency period. For Michael Floyd, this contract year has been an absolute nightmare and will likely cost him millions in his next contract. Floyd was drafted by the Cardinals in the first round out of Notre Dame with the mindset that he would develop under the expert tutelage of the legendary Larry Fitzgerald before ultimately claiming the #1 receiver spot as Fitzgerald aged, but this has not happened.
4 Todd Gurley, RB - Los Angeles Rams
Todd Gurley took the NFL by storm in 2015 after a surprising return from the terrible knee injuries he suffered that ended his prolific college career. Although drafted in the first round by the Rams in the 2015 draft, nobody truly knew what the Rams were getting in Gurley. After only a few games, it was apparent that Gurley was the real deal and had returned to his punishing, yet smooth running style. Gurley was as dominant as any running back in the second half of the 2015 season.
3 Cam Newton, QB - Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton was the NFL MVP in 2015 and for good reason. He was the most dominant player on the field during just about every game last season (except the Super Bowl... Von Miller was clearly the alpha male in that game). During his MVP season, Newton threw for over 3,800 yards, and 35 touchdowns, while also rushing for another 636 yards and 10 touchdowns. That was always going to be a difficult season to follow-up, but expectations were high given the fact that Cam's favorite target in Kelvin Benjamin was to return from injury in 2016.
2 Darrelle Revis, CB - New York Jets
Darrelle Revis welcomed guests to the inhospitable "Revis Island" for most of 2015 and was named to the Pro Bowl team for the seventh time in his illustrious career. His return to New York revitalized Revis and allowed the Jets to employ elaborate blitzes with confidence that Revis would lock down his man one-on-one. A cornerback that was once considered the best in the league has now fallen on hard times in 2016, however, and has not shown promising signs that a return to form is in the mix in the second half of the season.
1 Carson Palmer, QB - Arizona Cardinals
In 2015, Carson Palmer was a legitimate MVP candidate, finishing only behind Cam Newton and Tom Brady in the voting. He posted career-best numbers in touchdowns (35) and passing yards (4,671) while leading the Cardinals to a franchise best (13-3) record. Palmer was the conductor for the league's most prolific offense in 2015 and all signs pointed to him to continue his dominance in 2016, given that the Cardinals retained all their offensive weapons from that record breaking 2015 team.
But Palmer hasn't been the same in 2016. Many will say that his confidence never returned following his 5 turnover performance in the NFC Championship game against the Carolina Panthers, but could it simply be that father time has finally caught Palmer? Whatever it is, the Cardinals better hope that he regains his form in the second half of the season if they want to make any run towards the playoffs. Palmer has been counted out several times in his career and resiliently battled back. Although he has been disappointing so far, don't count out the old man to carry the bird gang down the stretch and into the postseason.
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