NFL All-Overrated Team
QB Josh Freeman
Freeman, selected 19th overall in the 2009 draft by the Buccaneers, has been good in fits and starts, especially in 2010, when he threw 25 touchdown passes against six interceptions. But far too often his iffy mechanics lead to inconsistent performances. Last season, only Mark Sanchez was less efficient than Freeman against pressure up the middle, per ESPN, and when you're in the same discussion as Sanchez in any sense, that's a problem.
RB: Chris Johnson
The Titans have improved their line this offseason with guards Andy Levitre in free agency and Chance Warmack in the first round of the draft, so the thinking is that Johnson, the NFL's best open-field runner, will excel again because when he has consistent blocking in front of him, he's just about impossible to stop. The truth is no one should overrate his situation or his ability to match his 2,006-yard rushing season of 2009. When it comes to backs who could be overrated this season, he's right there.
RB: Darren McFadden
In 2012. McFadden ranked dead last among qualifying backs in FO's efficiency metrics. The Raiders have not given McFadden much to work with, to be sure, but McFadden is in the last year of a $60 million contract, and set to earn almost $6 million in 2013. No matter how you slice it, that's not good value.
WR: Mike Wallace
In March, the Dolphins signed Wallace to a five-year, $60 million contract with $30 million guaranteed. They designated him as their ultimate deep receiver, but based on Wallace's 2012 performance, it's tough to rank him in the upper echelon in that department. Wallace was targeted more in 2012 than ever before (119) passes thrown in his direction), and his catch rate plummeted from 64% in 2011 to 54% last season. Is Wallace a system guy? We'll find out soon enough.
WR: Greg Little
Little was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, and we haven't heard much from him since ... except when we're talking about the passes he drops. So, he's less "overrated" in a media sense, and more overvalued in an organizational sense. He's made all the right noises about taking the game more seriously this year, and he did clean up the drops in the second half of the 2012 season.
TE: Brandon Pettigrew
In the last three seasons, no tight end has more drops than Pettigrew (22), and among receivers, only Brandon Marshall and Wes Welker have more, with far more targets. Pettigrew is an excellent blocker, but for a team that passes as often as any other in the NFL, more needs to happen in a receiving sense at the tight end position.
OT: Jermon Bushrod
The Bears "stole" Bushrod away from the Saints by signing him to a five-year, $35.965 million contract in March to help their historically horrid offensive line, and in that context, Bushrod will be an interstellar upgrade over J'Marcus Webb. At least, that's the narrative ... but the stats may tell a different story. In truth, Bushrod is an average pass protector who has been made to look better than he is by Drew Brees' pocket movement, and in 2012, he wasn't that much better than Webb. He allowed three sacks to Webb's five, but suffered more blown blocks in the passing game (21.5 to 18.0) and in the run game (7.0 to 2.5).
OT: Breno Giacomini
In 2012, Giacomini ranked second in the league in blown blocks with 33, behind Indy's Anthony Castonzo. Only Dallas' Doug Free had more penalties than Giacomini's 13, and no player in the NFL had more penalty yards than his 130.
OG: T.J. Lang
No guard allowed more sacks than Lang's 8.5 -- in fact, Lang tied for fourth in the entire league in that category, regardless of position, and he did play some tackle last year, as well. Yes, Aaron Rodgers holds onto the ball too long too often, but Lang also struggled in the run game, and the Packers need more from the man they gave a contract extension before the 2012 season.
OG: Richie Incognito
Incognito is "overrated" in the sense that the media talks about him a lot (at least, the media talks about him a lot for a guard), but his most recent fracas with Antonio Smith speaks to a history of questionable tactics and even more questionable in-line play. Last season, he allowed 3.5 sacks and tied for the league lead in blown blocks in the run game with 11.
C: Maurkice Pouncey
it's a struggle to rate Pouncey among the best at his position after his 2012 season. We'll give him a relative pass on his four sacks allowed (only the now-retired Todd McClure of the Falcons allowed more among centers in 2012) and seven quarterback hits and hurries allowed (fourth among centers with at least 750 snaps) because Ben Roethlisberger has a tendency to run into pressure at the best of times. But power centers need to dominate in the run game, and Pouncey had six blown blocks in that department.
DL: Darnell Dockett
Dockett has talked a lot of late about how happy he is in the system new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has installed since taking over for Ray Horton, and maybe there's some fire behind that smoke. Dockett has been one of the better and more versatile defensive linemen in the league for a number of years, but his performance dropped in 2012 ? from 3.5 sacks in 2011 to 1.5 last season, and down from 16 quarterback hits and 23 quarterback hurries in '11 to seven and 10 last season. Bowles has said that he plans to have Dockett disrupt on his own as opposed to throwing gaps open for linebackers, but if the change of pace doesn't set the veteran right, the Cards will have to wonder about the $5.5 million he's due in 2014. There are times when "overrated" players are just victims of scheme, and this is the year we find out if Dockett's one of those guys.
ILB: DeMeco Ryans
Ryans is now undergoing his second major defensive change in the last few years. He struggled when the Texans moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in 2011, had a rebound year with the Eagles in '12 (he was one of the few bright spots on a really bad defense) and now, he's in the spotlight as Philly's new defensive coordinator, Billy Davis, transitions to more 3-4 principles in the next couple of seasons.
ILB: London Fletcher
We really hate to do this, because this guy is a freak of nature. He led the Redskins with five interceptions in 2012, and his veteran savvy allows him to take angles that few 38-year-old linebackers should be able to. Still, there have to be concerns. Last season, Fletcher racked up 10 blown tackles and ranked 108th among NFL defenders in stop rate (Football Outsiders' metric which determines the percentage of successful plays prevented) against the run. Fletcher is still important to that defense, but as it was for the Ravens with Ray Lewis last season, the Redskins will have to weigh importance against performance.
OLB: Paul Kruger
The Browns gave Kruger a five-year, $40.5 million contract with $20 million guaranteed in March after his career year with the Super Bowl champion Ravens. Kruger put up nine sacks in 2012 after amassing just 6.5 total in the three seasons before. But that's not why we're concerned about Kruger's overall value to the Browns' defense ? it's because he finished near the bottom among 3-4 outside linebackers in run statistics with just 14 stops and six broken tackles in 298 run snaps, per Pro Football Focus. One expects more versatility for a player with that type of contract.
CB: DeAngelo Hall
Hall is a sometimes-splashy player who has intercepted 39 passes in his NFL career, but 2012 was far from a triumph. He picked off four passes, but led the league with 869 yards allowed in coverage, per Football Outsiders, and tied for third-worst in the NFL with 41 combined touchdowns and third downs allowed.
CB: Cary Williams
In 2012, Williams played for a Ravens team that won the Super Bowl, and this prompted the Eagles to sign him to a three-year, $17.5 million contract with $10 million guaranteed. Since that contract was signed in March, Williams has missed OTAs for a host of interesting reasons (daughter's dance recital, dental work, buying sconces for his new home), made it through a low number of practices due to nagging injuries and called out his new defense after a preseason loss to the Patriots -- a game in which he did not play. That made people look back to his 2012 performance, and the view was not pretty. Williams allowed six touchdowns in coverage, gave up a 98.4 quarterback rating when he was covering a primary target and his 67 catches allowed ranked fourth-worst in the NFL. Perhaps Williams will thrive in his new surroundings, but when that will happen is anyone's guess.