Often in professional sports, athletes are held in higher regard by fans and analysts than their ability commands. Before you jump to your team and send me hate-fueled DMs on Twitter, a gentle reminder of what the word “overrated” means. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of overrated is “rated or valued too highly.” Thus, there will be good or even great players on this list, but their place here is warranted if they receive attention greater than their play demands. So, who are the most overrated players on all 32 NFL teams entering the 2021 season?
Most overrated NFL players on all 32 teams | AFC
As a last-ditch effort to save myself from the fire, every player on this list deserves respect and admiration. Hell, they all have more athletic ability in their pinky than I do in my entire body. Still, these players garner recognition that others should be collecting.
Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen, LB
Patrick Queen has all the physical tools you want from a second-level athlete. However, fans hold him to an undeserving tier. This is likely due to his turnover-creating plays last season. Queen generated 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries (1 returned for a touchdown), and 3 sacks as a rookie.
Yet, like all rookie linebackers in 2020, Queen had his fair share of struggles. According to Pro Football Reference, he missed 21 tackles, allowed a 75.9% completion rate, and forfeited 3 passing touchdowns. Queen may not be on here for long as he progresses in his second season.
Buffalo Bills: Ed Oliver, DT
Oliver can take a leap in Year 3, but he has yet to live up to the billing of a top-10 pick. After starting just seven contests as a rookie in 2019, Oliver started all 16 of his games played last year. Even so, his sack total dropped by 2 (3), his tackles dropped by 10 (33), and he missed the same amount of tackles (3).
Cincinnati Bengals: Trey Hendrickson, DE
From 2017-2019, Hendrickson was a solid rotational piece along the Saints’ defensive line. Nonetheless, he exploded in 2020, racking up 13.5 sacks — tied with Aaron Donald for second-most in the league. While impressive, sacks are more quarterback-dependent and are not a stable metric. I will never fault a player for earning his money, but the Bengals let an underrated player walk (Carl Lawson) in favor of giving a big payday to an overrated one.
Cleveland Browns: Odell Beckham Jr., WR
OBJ has more dropped passes (12) than broken tackles (10) over the last three years. Despite receiving hype for his awe-inspiring pregame routine and one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys in 2014, Beckham has never finished a season with a first-down catch rate over 70%.
For perspective, Julio Jones has done so in each of the last five years. And if you want to say that is due to OBJs’ QBs, Mike Evans has hit over 77% every season since 2015 — Jameis Winston, anyone? Don’t get me wrong, Beckham is still in the mold of a WR1, but he isn’t in the upper echelon.
Denver Broncos: Kyle Fuller, CB
While the Broncos have one of the best cornerback rooms in the league, Kyle Fuller is not in the top 10 at the position. The aggressive CB struggles to wrap up, missing 12+ tackles each of the past two seasons. Additionally, he’s allowed 4+ touchdowns and 11+ yards per completion every year since 2018. Fuller is a playmaker with 19 interceptions and 82 pass breakups to his name, but he is a boom-or-bust corner that needs good safety play behind him to mitigate his losses.
Houston Texans: Whitney Mercilus, OLB
Whitney Mercilus has always benefited from the presence of J.J. Watt. The tandem tormented AFC quarterbacks for years. Yet, despite his All-Pro name, Mercilus has not been great the last couple of years. In both 2019 and 2020, he recorded a pressure rate below 9% (per SIS Datahub). And while I stated sacks are not a be-all-end-all stat, it showcases a player’s propensity to get home, or for Mercilus, a propensity not to. Even with Watt receiving most of the opposition’s attention, Mercilus has generated one double-digit-sack campaign in his career (2015 – 12).
Indianapolis Colts: Carson Wentz, QB
Wentz is reunited with former offensive coordinator Frank Reich, and he’s equipped with a far superior offensive line than the Eagles were trotting out. Still, Wentz has not lived up to his No. 2 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. He has finished only one year (2018) with a completion percentage above 64%. Furthermore, the Colts’ reclamation project has fumbled AT LEAST 9 times in each of his five NFL seasons.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Cam Robinson, OT
You can put either of the Jacksonville offensive tackles here. Although I believe Travis Etienne is a stellar athlete, the Jaguars could have used an upgrade at OT instead of an RB. In each of the last two years, Robinson has allowed 11 sacks, with his 2020 total being behind only teammate Jawaan Taylor. Moreover, Robinson accumulated 30+ blown blocks and committed 5+ penalties every season outside of 2018 when he played just two games.
Kansas City Chiefs: Frank Clark, DE
Even outside of his recent troubles with the law, Clark has been an overrated player for the Chiefs. Following three straight seasons with a pressure rate over 10% with the Seahawks, Clark has yet to reach that feat in Kansas City. What makes it substantially worse for the Chiefs: Frank Clark is the highest-paid non-QB in 2021 at $25.8 million. This is all without mentioning what they had to give up to acquire his services (2019 first-rounder and 2020 second-rounder).
Las Vegas Raiders: Josh Jacobs, RB
Jacobs registered over 1,000 rushing yards in his first two years in the league, so why is he here? First, he is hardly a receiving threat. Since 2019, he’s caught 53 passes for 404 yards and zero scores with 5 drops. Second, Jacobs is not exceptional after contact. His 4.8 yards per carry in 2019 fell to 3.9 in 2020 even though his offensive line afforded him 1.9 yards before contact per attempt both years.
So, how does the math add up? Well, his 2.8 yards after contact per rush dropped to 2.0. Jacobs is still a good back, breaking 20+ tackles each year. But he is not more than that — a prime example of why RBs are not good first-round values.
Los Angeles Chargers: Jared Cook, TE
Cook has been a quality journeyman tight end throughout his career, as the Chargers are his sixth team in 13 years. Regardless, he’s 34 years old and nowhere near the same field stretcher he used to be. He averaged just 3.4 yards after the catch per reception in 2020, along with 2 broken tackles. Furthermore, Cook played less than 50% of offensive snaps the last two years. While a serviceable addition, Cook is little more than a stop-gap as Los Angeles aims to replace Hunter Henry.
Miami Dolphins: Byron Jones, CB
Following back-to-back stellar campaigns as a corner in Dallas, Jones cashed in with the Dolphins, effectively forming a top-five cornerback duo with Xavien Howard. Unfortunately, while Howard was racking up 10 interceptions, Jones failed to meet expectations in 2020. On top of missing 9 tackles, Jones allowed a completion rate 7 percentage points higher than his previous two seasons (60.3%), 774 yards, and 5 touchdowns.
New England Patriots: Hunter Henry, TE
The Patriots went all-in on the offense during free agency, adding multiple pass catchers. Hunter Henry headlined the acquisitions, signing a three-year, $37 million deal with $24 million guaranteed. He is not a YAC monster or a broken-tackle machine, but Henry catches nearly everything on the field. But that is the main issue. In five years, Henry has yet to play a full slate of games. Moreover, his career averages of 3.6 receptions and 42.2 yards per game are…underwhelming.
New York Jets: Corey Davis, WR
Corey Davis is the case of a good player receiving too much hype. He broke out in 2020, hauling in 65 receptions for 984 yards and 5 touchdowns. The Jets decided to bring him in as their new WR1 for rookie QB Zach Wilson. The thing is, Davis isn’t a WR1. He wasn’t in Tennessee, and he won’t be in New York. Davis will pick up first downs and catch passes, but he won’t strike fear in defenses or produce 1,000+ yards or 10+ touchdowns in a single season.
Pittsburgh Steelers: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR
This one should be quick. Smith-Schuster is primarily a slot receiver who averaged 5.5 yards per target last season and doesn’t pick up first downs (57.5% career first-down reception rate). I don’t think that is what you want from your star receiver.
Tennessee Titans: Bud Dupree, OLB
Bud Dupree is an edge rusher who generated sacks off his supporting cast, left in free agency for a massive contract, and will now be tested as a team’s primary pass-rush option. Yet, Dupree hasn’t even dominated the sacks category, despite cleaning up after T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and Stephon Tuitt. His lone double-digit-sack season came in 2019 (11.5).