With all the exposure that the modern day NFL game gets from the press, various television networks, and fans nationwide, it can be easy to focus all attention on the stars and upper-tier players that it produces. While it is attention that is usually well-deserved, there are players who warrant recognition on the other end of the spectrum, for production numbers that are more than a little underwhelming.
There are many different scenarios that surround the worst the NFL has to offer. Sometimes a given player can start his career productively, but diminish over the course of several seasons. Other times, they were almost a certified bust on draft day. New coaches can play a role, as well as management issues. Whatever the variable, some players are simply are in a situation that is not conducive to success, and their team ultimately pays the price.
The pitfalls of a bad NFL player are most glaring on the offensive side of the ball, since the statistics are less reliant on who the team is playing on any given Sunday. This is especially true for quarterbacks, as all spectating eyes are on them when the offense is on the field, as well as the generally accepted notion that it is the most important position in the modern game. As such, nearly a third of this ranking is made up of quarterbacks, and realistically could have included even more.
All in all, the names below are all players that have regressed, underachieved, or weren't good to begin with. Inexplicably, most of them still have jobs in the league, but one has to wonder how long that is going to be the case. Listed below are the top 15 worst players in the NFL today.
15 Matt Cassel
Cassel is pretty much the definition of a career backup, and despite one or two marginally successful seasons (of course, one coming with the Patriots in 2008, when Tom Brady was hurt), he generally has been pretty awful in every conceivable situation. Such was the case last season, when he was signed to the Cowboys to replace the injured Tony Romo. The results weren't pretty, as Dallas failed to win more than one game with Cassel at the helm. He finished the season with less than 1,300 yards passing despite playing half the season, along with five TD passes and seven INTs. Overall, it was a decidedly poor season, even for a backup QB.
14 Greg Jennings
It's hard to rip on Jennings too much, considering at one time he was one of the most dangerous receivers in the league. However, at age 32, he's deteriorated into one of the worst in the league, accumulating 19 receptions for just 208 yards with the Dolphins last season, despite being healthy the whole time. He graded out as one of the worst at his position according to Pro Football Focus, and his window appears be closing fast. Still, with no announcement for retirement, and his current state as a free agent, he could be picked up by a team on the cheap for the 2016 season. Just don't expect results that are any better.
13 Ed Dickson
Dickson acted as the supplement to Greg Olsen at the TE position last season in Carolina, and there's a clear reason he didn't see the field as much. An average of 7.1 YPC and 121 yards total despite starting 11 games and playing in 16, speaks to the confidence level the Panthers had in Dickson as a receiver. He also graded as the worst at his position according to Pro Football Focus, even receiving poor reviews as a blocker, which given his lack of receiving presence, should have been his "bread and butter". Still, the Panthers won't be looking to him to actually win them games, so he doesn't get a higher spot here.
12 Isaiah Crowell
Crowell was slated to get the lion's share of carries for Cleveland this year, allowing rookie RB Duke Johnson to ease into the pro game. That wasn't the case, as Crowell averaged just 3.8 YPC last season, and scored just five total TDs. He ended up only starting 9 games (but played in all 16), and generally never panned out as the team's confirmed number one back. Cleveland has been looking for a solution at the position since the bust of Trent Richardson, and Crowell's play has not helped them find it up to this point. He may get a decent amount of carries next season, but with the losses suffered on the Browns' offensive line, there's no reason to expect better results.
11 Nick Fairley
Considering he was a former first-round pick out of Auburn, one would expect Fairley's career to have been more successful than it has currently been. Despite several respectable seasons with the Lions, the last two years have been a disaster for Fairley, who has registered just 1.5 sacks in 23 games played. The defensive tackle has also accumulated less than 50 tackles these past two seasons, and for all intents and purposes is just a situational run defender at this point. Once expected to be a Pro Bowl caliber talent, Fairley has fallen fast, and is likely near the end of his run in the pro game.
10 Brandon Browner
Another player who was once effective and has now deteriorated, Browner graded out as one of the worst corners in the game according to PFF. He committed 16 defensive penalties last season, and only recorded a single interception. Granted, he didn't have much help in the dreadful New Orleans secondary, but those numbers cannot be ignored. He wasn't even able to be resurrected by Bill Belichick, when he posted similar numbers in 2014 with the Patriots. Assuming he plays next season, opposing QBs will be wanting to target his side of the field the entire game.
9 C.J. Spiller
While he was once one of the most effective RBs in the league several years ago, Spiller was basically relegated to a situational back to eat up clock last year for the Saints. Averaging a lowly 3.1 YPC, and just 7 YPC, Spiller started just two games despite playing in 13. He was just plain ineffective. Ideally, New Orleans would have liked him to be the speed-type back coupled with the more power-oriented styles of Khiry Robinson and Mark Ingram, but it doesn't look like that is going to be in the cards. Spiller looks doomed for another poor season next year.
8 Melvin Gordon
A first-round pick out of Wisconsin in last year's draft, Gordon had a more than underwhelming rookie season in San Diego. He ran for just 641 yards, a clip of 3.5 YPC in 14 games played. He wasn't much better as a pass catcher, totaling just 5.8 YPC in the air. To top it all off, he fumbled the ball six times losing possession in four of them. While Gordon's poor season may have been a product of a pass-heavy offense meant to give QB Philip Rivers maximum opportunities, he still didn't have a good season when the numbers are all broken down. As it stands, he could be one of the larger draft busts in recent years if he doesn't improve.
7 Alfred Morris
Morris had a stellar couple of seasons in Washington during the 2012 and 2013 campaigns, highlighted by nearly 3,000 yards rushing and 20 TDs over those two years. Today, he has regressed to the tune of 3.7 YPC and just one TD for the entire year. He technically started all 16 games, but was at times left out in favor of rookie ball-carrier Matt Jones. Either way, Morris had an awful year last year, and is easily one of the worst backs in the league as it stands right now. A new start behind a very talented Dallas offensive line may help his stat line a little, but it's safe to say that we've seen the best of what Morris has to offer.
6 Ryan Mallett
Once heralded as a fierce young pass-thrower who could soon take over the QB reigns in New England after Tom Brady's retirement, Mallett began the 2015 season as the Texans' starter, and was quickly replaced by Brian Hoyer early in the year. His stat line was truly dreadful in every sense of the word; a 53.1% completion percentage, three TDs, four INTs, and 5.2 yard average on throws. That's terrible even for an NFL backup.
Mallett was eventually released by the Texans for missing a team function, and signed with Baltimore later in the year, where he produced similar numbers, acting a placeholder for the injured Joe Flacco.
5 Andre Williams
Probably the single worst RB in the NFL, Williams hasn't shown much of any ability in his two seasons so far in the league. Averaging a painfully low 2.9 YPC, he just doesn't seem to possess the vision to play the position at the pro level. While he is splitting time with other backs on the Giants, and also has to run behind a beaten up offensive line, Williams' statistics are still brutally awful. He'll likely get another chance next season, considering the only other backs on the team are the middling Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, but don't expect a better performance.
4 Malcolm Johnson
While many consider the fullback position to be dead in the modern NFL game, Malcolm Johnson has shown that there is still plenty of room for mediocrity. He graded as nearly non-existent in run blocking by PFF last season, and considering that is the main objective of most fullbacks, doesn't bode well for Johnson. He accumulated just 15 yards on four receptions for Cleveland all season, so he isn't a non-threat out of the backfield as well. A fullback that can't block and accumulates no yardage is simply the act of needlessly taking up a roster spot.
3 Eddie Royal
Royal may be out of his prime at this point, but he still had an awful season last year in Chicago. Starting 9 games as their slot receiver, he registered just 6.4 YPC and one TD reception. Considering he had a new, quality coach in John Fox, and a competent QB in Jay Cutler throwing him the ball, it qualifies as one of the worst seasons by a receiver last year. Again, Royal may be near the end of his rope, but he should be producing at a higher rate than this, even later in his career, with his current surrounding cast.
2 Nick Foles
After a 2013 campaign in Philadelphia where he looked to be a future elite QB in the league, Foles has completely fallen off the map, averaging just 6.1 yards per reception, with a 56% completion percentage with the Rams last season. He started the first 11 games of the year before he was promptly benched in favor of Case Keenum (who?). This doesn't bode well for Foles, who technically still has a glimmer of hope to save his career, but it will be an uphill battle after registering one of the worst seasons of any QB in the league, and trying to sell himself to the new crowd in Los Angeles.
1 Johnny Manziel
Criticizing Manziel at this point may be considered beating a dead horse, but even with ignoring his off-field ridiculousness, it was abundantly clear that on the field, he didn't belong in the pro game.
In two seasons in Cleveland, Manziel was hands down the worst QB in all of football. He never posted a completion percentage higher than 57%, fumbled the ball six times in eight starts, and never averaged higher than six yards per throw. His ability to improvise, utilizing his mobility was supposedly his strength, but he was sacked 22 times, and scored just a single rushing TD.
By any measure, even just using the eye test, it was obvious that he can't make NFL throws. While he was once highly touted coming out of Texas A&M, Manziel's poor play and collection of off-field issues have dictated that he may never again play in the league, and at the very least, will be out of commission for next season.