Every year the media, fans and even the league tend to put certain players on a pedestal. Whether it’s a likable personality, self promotion, past success or potential, some players are in the spotlight more than they maybe deserve to be. Below are ten players that fit that description to a T and don’t carry with them the elite status that many suggest they have.
10. Michael Vick, QB, New York Jets
Unbelievably, former players and media still talk about Vick like he’s a second tier quarterback just behind the elite guys even though his play on the field has regressed significantly since 2010, to the point where he shouldn’t be viewed as a viable option as a starter by anyone. If he plays for the Jets this season, that’s a really bad sign. It’s not like we shouldn’t have seen this coming, by the way. The guy is 34 and his biggest asset was always his game breaking speed and ability to get out of the pocket. As speed goes with age, a career 56.2% completion passer will not age gracefully.
9. Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots
Despite making a career of consistent injuries and sporadic performance on the field, Amendola has always been talked up as a fantastic receiver by many. The numbers don’t lie, he’s never eclipsed 700 yards receiving in a season. Many suggested that going to New England would blow up his career if he could stay healthy as he was finally aligned with a real quarterback. Well, in 12 games he had 633 yards receiving. Sounds a lot like his seasons in St. Louis. How he was able to get a 5 year deal for $31 million on the open market is mind blowing. A replacement for Wes Welker he is not.
8. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Last season was as miserable of a campaign for a running back by Rice as has ever been seen. Despite seeing over 200 carries, he only rushed for 3.1 yards per carry. At this point it’s fair to wonder if he’s finished, especially given a possible looming suspension. There’s no question he was elite for a long time and deserved the top 5 fantasy draft status he carried, but he’s dropped so far from grace at this point that investing any expectations in him to regain that level is naive. He was rated as the worst running back in the NFL in 2013 according to Pro Football Focus by more than 7 points.
7. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan has been fortunate to be surrounded by a ridiculous amount of talent two and three years ago. The combination of Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and a serviceable running game had people suggesting he was possibly in the discussion as an elite quarterback. His failure to perform in big moments and the implosion of his running game/offensive line brought him back down to earth last season. With Gonzalez now gone, too, this could be a rough season for Ryan. No longer can he rely on the safety blanket underneath of a mammoth receiver that catches everything. And with Steven Jackson still the primary runner in that offense, the Falcons will rely on him more than ever to make plays. His 5 year $103.75 million contract is a cap crippler, and he doesn’t produce enough to deserve it.
6. Chris Johnson, RB, New York Jets
While he’s remained “good”, he’s never really exploded again like he did his first two seasons in the league. He’s a home run threat that gets a little slower every year, but his decent yards per carry statistics are misleading. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry last year, worst of his career, and that’s thanks to some big runs that inflate his average. He’s a guy that gets hit for losses or tackled around the line of scrimmage a lot, and you have to stomach that with the reward of a big run coming at some point. His feast or famine running style makes for big plays which is exciting, but it doesn’t move the chains and necessarily win football games. You’ll have to punt a good bit with Chris Johnson as your running back. There’s a reason the Titans didn’t keep him.
5. Aqib Talib, CB, Denver Broncos
He just got a 6 year contract for $57 million. Most impressive was the Patriots game against the Saints this past season where he completely shut down Jimmy Graham all by himself. Many believe that game alone got him that contract. But while that raised a lot of eyebrows, he’s had numerous legal problems and should be viewed as a major locker room concern. At 28 he may be starting to regress soon and that is as risky of an investment as the league has seen at a non quarterback position. He made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2013 in a contract year, but now that he’s gotten paid and given his character history, can we really expect him to duplicate it?
4. Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
He got hot in the playoffs during a contract year. He caught lightning in a bottle and he got paid. I don’t think anyone under the sun believes his 6 year $120.6 million deal was good value. It was a reward for playing out of his mind at the perfect time. The stars aligned for Flacco and that’s that. He should never be mistaken for a top tier player.
3. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Football is a team sport and too often the quarterback on the winning team receives too much praise. It’s one thing when the team’s success revolves around passing, but the Steelers’ two championships were won with defense. No one would argue that Trent Dilfer was an all time great. That’s not to say Roethlisberger isn’t better than Dilfer was, he definitely is, but reality is sinking in that without the protection of an elite defense he’s just a pretty good quarterback on a mediocre team.
2. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
Even the years the Giants won two Super Bowls with him, Eli had bad stretches in those seasons. When he’s hot he’s as good as it gets, but he has spells of bad that even mediocre quarterbacks don’t go through. Last year was an embarrassment. How much longer do the Giants tolerate that kind of play based on past success? His career rating is 81.2 and his TD to INT ratio is just 229 to 171. Manning has gotten hot in the past and won very big games against all expectations, but let’s be real about the fact that his inconsistent performances and spells of poor play will always prevent him from being mentioned in the same breath as some of the best.
1. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
For some reason the media seems desperate for Newton to be a big hit in the league. There’s no question his smile wins people over. Unfortunately, a disastrous offseason makes the Panthers ripe for a major implosion. Does Newton have the character to manage a regression? And while the Panthers had a great season last year, they folded in the playoffs at home. Further, that team was fantastic defensively and Newton got by playing poorly for 3 and a half quarters and making plays in the 2 minute offense in many games. I’m not sure the Panthers can sustain the win totals playing like that, and they certainly won’t get it done in the playoffs. Newton had a career best passer rating of 88.8 last season. That’s pretty good. It’s not great.