Time for another hotbed topic here on the site…and that is the usual ranking of overrated and underrated players from around the league. You know this one – the guy that plays his heart out on every play every game yet is undervalued in the league and by his team and never makes the headlines. Then there is the guy who goes halfway, only to be the topic of Sportscenter and hailed as a future Hall of Famer. Today we will start with offense, and within a few days will switch to defense. Feel free to write in and give your own thoughts, and I will do a second posting with reader comments.
Overrated – Offense
1. Byron Leftwich – Jaguars: The fragile Leftwich has been snakbitten over the years with injuries, the latest being an ankle injury. Despite that, he tops the list with a somewhat weak QB Rating of 79, and an average of just 193 yards per game in the air. His game has plenty of lapses, and has never been able to come up with a big game when its crunch time.
2. Ronnie Brown – Dolphins: Brown is one of many reasons why the Dolphins enter the bye week at 1-6. He is putting up just over 66 yards per game, and seems to be missing the holes this year and has not had a run of over 20 yards. The line is partially to blame, but Brown is a better back than just 464 yards in seven games.
3. Michael Vick – Falcons: Yes Vick can still make plays, evident on Sunday in a thrilling win over the Steelers, but does anyone actually think he is getting any better in his sixth season? Plus now his mouth is running about how he’d love to be in the Colts system for one week in his life. Gee, wouldn’t we all. Vick lifetime has thrown just 58 TD’s in 64 career games, and has a lifetime QB rating of 75.5.
4. Mike Vanderjagt – Cowboys: Old Mikey has seem to have fallen on hard times ever since he missed that field goal about 30 yards to the right in the playoff game last year vs Pittsburgh. This year he got a big contract from the Cowboys, yet has been injured and has not gotten all that many chances. His mouth has stayed pretty well shut this year, which is a welcome change, but he’s still not as good as he thinks.
5. Steve McNair – Ravens: McNair really should have considered hanging up the cleats before this season began, as things have started to unravel for him in B-More. With a QB rating of 64.1, his play after the Ravens started 4-0 has gone downhill, just like the Ravens as a whole. He has thrown five TD’s and seven picks this year, and the last two games has thrown for just 158 and 165 yards. His better days are clearly behind him.
6. Clinton Portis – Redskins: His funny costumes aside, Portis to me has not been the same back since leaving the Broncos in a trade three seasons ago. This year with a bum shoulder he is putting up just 69 yards a game, and seems to be very aware of taking a big hit on the shoulder. Seems to get way too much attention for his antics and outfits more than his lackluster play in 06.
7. Joey Galloway – Buccaneers: Joey was at one time one of the best receivers in the game, and now is just another wide out nearing the end of his career. The 34-year old is averaging just about 58 yards per game, and after a big 2005 is struggling to get open and get the ball in 2006.
8. Neil Rackers – Cardinals: Last year Rackers couldn’t miss, and this year it seems at times he can’t find the goal posts. Still 6th in the NFC in kicking, but after going 40-for-42 last year in field goals this year is just 12-of-18, including missed the last two weeks vs Chicago and the Raiders. Maybe its a new stadium, or maybe he’s losing a bit of his leg after a monster 2005.
Underrated – Offense
1. Tiki Barber – Giants: Leads the NFC in rushing (again) and is the only back in the game putting up an average of more than 100 yards per game. Barber has already started getting tons more attention now that he says he’s hanging it up after 2006, but it may take him being away from the game for the Giants and fans to see what he has meant to it.
2. Marc Bulger – Rams: Has quickly adjusted to a new offense, and 3rd in the NFC with 1619 yards in 6 games. Has 10 TD’s and just one pick, and his completion percentage is a solid 61.5 percent. Clearly the Rams made the right choice keeping Bulger and trading Kurt Warner a few years back.
3. Jake Delhomme – Panthers: After a bit of a slow start without Steve Smith, Delhomme’s numbers have improved as have the Panthers. The former backup of the Saints continues to shine and despite an end zone pick on Sunday vs Cincy is still one of the best QB’s in the NFC. Totally overshadowed by players like McNabb, Favre and Manning.
4. Andre Johnson – Texans: After an injury filled 05, Johnson has been the best wide out in the AFC in 2006 – bar none. Putting up just below 100 yards per game, he has been making plays all year long and benefiting from new partner Eric Moulds and the rebirth of David Carr. On pace for 1576 yards this season.
5. Tory Holt – Rams: Just makes play after play, year after year for the Rams. 4th in the NFC in yards, and already with 7 TD’s is on pace for another great season. You never hear Holt complain, and still one of the best in the game at 30. Over 10,000 yards for his career, Holt will likely not get the props he deserves until he is on the steps of Canton.
6. Matt Stover – Ravens: One of the nicest guys in the game, Stover is the last of the old Browns to still be in Ravens purple. Has yet to miss a kick in 2006, made one of the most overlooked kicks of the year, a 52-yard bomb to beat the Browns on the last play in week three. In 245 games has put up 1634 points, and has missed just three extra points in 467 tries.
7. Frank Gore – 49’ers: The 49’ers knew they had a special back in Gore, which made Kelvin Barlow expendable. The chance paid off, as Gore is putting up just below 87 yards per game, and has scored three times. He does have to stop putting the ball on the ground, but the former Miami back is well on his way to being a solid NFL back for many years.
8. Darrell Jackson – Seahawks: With a lot of attention being paid now to overpaid Deion Branch, Jackson is still making plays for the Hawks. Putting up over 87 yards per game, he is often overlooked. Coming back from a injury-filled 05 in which he played just 6 games, Jackson has all the makings of the Comeback Player of the Year.