NFL

35 NFL Players Whose Reputations Are Greater Than Their Skills

Darren - November 19, 2020
NFL

35 NFL Players Whose Reputations Are Greater Than Their Skills

Darren - November 19, 2020
Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

24. Jimmy Garoppolo

One of the most over-hyped players in the NFL, Garoppolo is finally casting that label aside. Garoppolo earns a lot of money but isn’t worth being one of the highest-paid players in the NFL. He did lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl, yet he still isn’t an elite talent. He is a solid game manager but he isn’t a maverick or an inspirational leader. The very best quarterbacks need to be one even both.

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Garoppolo wasn’t good enough to help the Niners win the Super Bowl. Many said he needs to be braver and take control of games more. It’s difficult to see San Francisco advancing to the next level with Garoppolo in charge. Now fans are starting to believe someone needs to tell Kyle Shanahan. There’s a massive difference between Jimmy G and Patrick Mahomes.

Mandatory Credit: CBS Sports

23. Leonard Fournette

One of the most divisive players in the NFL, Fournette is a strong athlete, or else he wouldn’t be in the league. However, he isn’t Derrick Henry by any means. There isn’t any shame in this because not many players can fall in that bracket. But the fact is that a significant portion of fans believe that he’s some sort of wrecking ball. However, this just isn’t true.

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He rushed for 1,152 yards in 2019 but his numbers plummeted in 2020. He hasn’t delivered to the same extent since leaving the Jaguars for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They thought that the former college standout was sure to be a deadly weapon for Tom Brady. As of today, this quite simply hasn’t happened. Fournetta has skills but it seems he currently lacks a certain something to put it all together.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

22. Ezekiel Elliot

With Dak Prescott out for the season, it was up to Elliot to step up and show the NFL that he was ready to lead. However, the Cowboys’ running back, one of the finest pure athletes in the league, hasn’t delivered. Skills and mentality go hand in hand, but Elliot is definitely lacking both at the moment. He wants to make Christian McCaffrey-like money, but he hasn’t earned it.

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Of course, the massive impact of losing Prescot hasn’t helped Elliot’s situation, but that doesn’t excuse his declining rushing game. If he doesn’t return to his onetime All-Pro level, it will affect his next big contract. Of course, a fresh start outside of ‘America’s Team’ might help him improve again, but Elliot needs to show something.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

21. Matt Ryan

If the Falcons traded Ryan it would leave them with a dead cap hit close to $30 million. When then have an aging veteran like their quarterback on your books, it puts a team between a rock and a hard place. Ryan was a great player, but in truth, he is no longer a top 10 quarterback. Some might not like us saying it, but it’s the truth. 2020 isn’t the kindest year for veteran QBs and Ryan is no exception.

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The Falcons started 2020 with a 0-5 record to unceremoniously end Dan Quinn’s reign in charge. As an older player with a lot of experience, Ryan needs to take some responsibility for this. In short, they will need to look at drafting a younger signal-caller in the near future. Unfortunately, Ryan’s reputation belies his current playing ability. But that’s consistently true of many an aging star.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

20. Rob Gronkowski

Who doesn’t love Gronk? It’s impossible not to. But it’s also important to remember he retired for a reason. In short, he is old now. The Buccaneers have a strong roster on paper but perhaps. The massive tight end is actually playing solid football but it’s tough to know how long that will continue. When you retire due to injury issues the smart thing is normally to stay retired, especially when you’ve managed your money as well as Gronkowski did.

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This is not to say that Gronkowski is now suddenly awful because he obviously isn’t. However, if we talk about his time as a Tampa player, then it’s just fair to say that he’s not the same player. We’re effectively talking about two different types of players. Meanwhile, Tampa coach Bruce Arians often prefers his tight ends to block which also inhibits Gronkowski’s game.

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19. Sam Darnold

Some people will scoff at Darnold’s inclusion on this list. They’ll say how you overrate a player if nobody rates him? However, this isn’t true. Of course, playing as a quarterback for the Jets is a difficult task nearing the impossible thanks to coach Adam Gase. Yet, Darnold is not as solid as some experts think. Many of them think he would prosper at another team but this is no means a sure thing.

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Look at how people talk about Joe Burrow. The Bengals don’t protect their young star at all but he still produced moments of brilliance and gave Cincy fans something to hope for. Darnold doesn’t have that same effect and is on course to set the worst passer rating in NFL history. Meanwhile, his conversion rate and throwing accuracy are all low. It’s too much to expect him to singlehandedly win games for the Jets because he doesn’t have the skills.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

18. Kyler Murray

Murray is a good quarterback but DeAndre Hopkins is a truly elite wide receiver. When we talk about this combination in Arizona, that fact needs to be remembered. If you didn’t have someone like Hopkins to catch the ball in the dying seconds of their game against the Bills, would Murray receive all of those plaudits? The short answer is no. He’s good but not exceptional by NFL standards.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

In fact, the Cardinals face a similar problem to the Titans in the fact that their quarterbacks’ main weapons are more talented than their playmakers. Maybe he’ll develop into an elite quarterback but having the best receiver in the league in your ranks definitely makes him look better than he is. Many otherwise middling quarterbacks may look look world-class if they had Hopkins at their disposal.

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17. Richard Sherman

Maybe fans are coming to realize that Sherman is getting old. But a lot of people haven’t come to terms with this and they still expect him to perform like the Super Bowl champion he is. However, at this point in his career, that’s not currently realistic. We’re past that point now. Furthermore, he needs elite safety help to influence a game, otherwise, he simply isn’t a top-level athlete anymore.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

You could argue the same fact about his time in Seattle. He has always depended on support more than he should have. The popular Niners’ star is much more of a zone cornerback than one with a blistering pace. In fact, this should help him prolong his career because he doesn’t have much pace to lose. But the injuries are taking their toll on him now and he’s approaching the end of his career.

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16. Jimmy Graham

In a way, you have to feel sorry for Mitchell Trubisky. He was clearly out of his depth without adding a tight end like Graham into the mix. The veteran arrived in the 2020 offseason with a big reputation after the Packers decided that they didn’t want to offer him another contract. Chicago should have taken the hint but didn’t, and now they’re all over the place.

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His two-year contract is simply outrageous mismanagement of funds. In one game against the Minnesota Vikings, he failed to record a single reception. True, the Bears clearly have a lot of issues on offense, but throwing money at the likes of Graham is like trying to fill a bottle with pinholes pricked into the sides. It’s just not going to work and they should never have expected it to.

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15. DeMarcus Lawrence

The Dallas Cowboys rode into 2020 on a high after one of the most exciting offseasons in their recent memory. But that swiftly evolved into unrelenting misery. Following Dak Prescott’s injury, they went through quarterback after quarterback in a bid to find an adequate replacement. So their offensive problems are clear but there are no excuses for their bottom-ranked defense. That’s where Lawrence comes in.

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Lawrence currently enjoys a costly $105 million contract. Meanwhile, he only sacked the quarterback five times last year. He also doesn’t look like an incredible leader in 2020. In sum, when you’re on that kind of money you need to be approaching All-Pro form. But Lawrence definitely isn’t. Of course, the Cowboys as an entity aren’t any great, but right now Lawrence isn’t showing the skills to match his reputation.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

14. Cam Newton

The New England Patriots are on their way to their first losing season in what seems like countless time. To be fair, this is very much a team in transition after the departure of Tom Brady. 2015 NFL MVP Newton reemerged from the wilderness with the intention of showing the world that he is still relevant. And it actually started off very well for him in Boston, but things haven’t entirely gone his way.

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A big part of this is Newton’s style. He has the athleticism and the power, but does he have the technical skills? He takes far too many hits and isn’t necessarily flexible enough to adapt to Bill Belichick’s preferred style of offense. Instead, the Pats are pursuing more of a rushing game but it’s not perfect by any means. Former MVP Newton might not be the answer to the Tom Brady question.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

13. Ryan Tannehill

Tannehill started 2020 well but hit a slump around the midpoint. However, the Tenessee Titans quarterback is simply not worth the massive contract he enjoys. That is not to say that he isn’t a good QB, but he isn’t an elite one. Of course, playing alongside Derrick Henry definitely helps his reputation. But the Titans definitely overpaid their playmaker after handing him a massive contract.

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He was good in 2019, but that was a freak season in the context of his entire career. Meanwhile, he suffered a minor slump midway through the 2020 season suggesting that he isn’t consistent enough. His passer rating slipped. If he doesn’t pick up again very soon, then the Titans could be stuck with an average QB who is making crazy money. Furthermore, this just increases the pressure on Derrick Henry’s shoulders and they’re in danger of running him into the ground.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

12. A.J. Green

Green’s injury record is abysmal at this point. As a seven-time Pro Bowler with the Cincinnati Bengals, Green deserves respect. But if we’re talking about the here and now, Green is no longer the same force he once was. Meanwhile, in 2020, since returning from injury, Green has been extremely lackluster. We’re not saying that he is a bad player but just that his reputation is bigger than his current ability.

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Anybody can lose a season to injury, but it’s all about how you respond to it. Green was playing alongside one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the NFL but just isn’t up to much. At the age of 32, things are not going to get easier for him. Can his body continue to keep up with the relentless place of football at the highest level? There comes a time when skills don’t matter.

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11. Josh Norman

Now with the Buffalo Bills, Norman is one of those players who lived off one brilliant season. 2015 was his All-Pro year but since then the cornerback really hasn’t done much. You could argue that fans have found him out by now, but he is definitely historically one of the most overrated active players in the NFL. Just look at 2017 when he posted zero interceptions.

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His reputation as one of the best cornerbacks of the 2010s just doesn’t fly because his numbers don’t stack up. The Washington Redskins definitely didn’t see the best of Norman, who looked like he had everything but didn’t leave it on the playing field. Everybody made him out to be some kind of shutdown cornerback but this simply wasn’t the case as his numbers prove.

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10. Khalil Mack

Mack has some phenomenal skills as a brilliant interception against the Minnesota Vikings proved. However, the Chicago Bears’ linebacker is a little bit overrated. In 2019, Chicago went 8-8 while Mack posted the lowest number of sacks in his career so far. It doesn’t look like they’ll do much better than that in 2020. Mack is excellent but one man can only do so much.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, there are question marks about his future. Some even speculate that he could return to the Raiders. It could be unfair to say he doesn’t deserve his reputation, but he could do with a change of scene. Perhaps better teammates would enable Mack to shine even more. If he wants to silence his doubters then a move to a Super Bowl contender would be the right move.

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9. Trey Flowers

So far the Detroit Lions have massively overpaid Flowers. The two-time Super Bowl champion missed a chunk of 2020 with injury but it wasn’t like he was brilliant from the start of his Lions’ career anyway. Flowers is very good at pressuring the quarterback but is he worth a $90 million contract. The Patriots didn’t want to get into a bidding war over the Alabama native so perhaps that should have been a warning sign.

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Flowers averages less than seven sacks per game which is not worth the massive contract he currently enjoys. Furthermore, it’s not like he’s singlehandedly transformed the Lions defense. Can one player change an entire defense? When you invest that much of your salary cap in one player then the short answer is, you hope so. But Flowers doesn’t appear to have the skills to do that.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

8. Le’Veon Bell

Bell surely has one of the best agents in the game. After a nightmare time with the New York Jets, he finally left that purgatory for the reigning Super Bowl champions. He left the worst team in the NFL for the best in the Kansas City Chiefs. However, he definitely doesn’t merit a starting place with Kansas at the moment ahead of Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

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Bell rushed for just 3.2 yards per game in 2019. Yes, we know the Jets were terrible but we’re still talking about a supposedly elite player. Diamonds shine in a bed of coal and the best players will drag their franchise up by the scruff of the neck. Bell isn’t the same player that he was for the Steelers because he no longer has the physical skills required to give his team a rare cutting edge.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

7. Dak Prescott

Patrick Mahomes’s contract warped the picture for future NFL quarterback deals. Just what will happen with Prescott and the Cowboys? ‘America’s Team’ desperately needs a top QB as Prescott’s absence through injury shows. But is he the man to lead them forward into the future? Do they really want to commit $100 million to a player who still has it all to prove?

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These are huge questions but the issue is that Prescott hasn’t proven himself yet even though he played great before his injury. In short, he’s not the type of gamechanger who will singlehandedly guide his team into the Super Bowl. A poor 2019 and an unfortunate 2020 make Prescott’s future very muddy indeed. But it does seem like Prescott or his management team overrated himself.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

6. JuJu Smith-Schuster

First of all, let’s be fair, Smith-Schuster missed Ben Roethlisbergerlike the rest of the Steelers did in 2019. The lack of a solid quarterback under center definitely affected his output. But there remain question marks over whether his skills match his reputation. The wide receiver is now a fourth-year NFL veteran, but the one-time Pro Bowler is yet to fully deliver on his promise. Can he evolve into an elite star player?

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He is one of the most marketable players in the league and that definitely has helped his on-field depiction. While he has matured with the Steelers’ remarkable consistency in 2020, he’s not a game-changer in his own right. Overall, Smith-Schuster needs to balance all of his styles with some more substance to banish the overrated label. He has to show his true ability to silence the haters.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

5. Todd Gurley

Gurley is very good but not great. The Rams let him go for a reason and it hasn’t hurt their offense at all. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons struggled immensely in 2020 with Gurley directly responsible for one defeat. All he had to do was not score a touchdown. However, somehow he still got this wrong. But if we’re fair, that was a freak moment; however, overall he lacks the skills to be a game-defining star.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

But that alone isn’t why he is on this list. Mistakes happen of course, but Gurley has a low yards-per-carry average. While his rushing numbers are still good, his overall game isn’t what it once was. There were question marks about Gurley’s ability after suffering knee injuries. The simple answer is that he’s definitely a solid running back with some skills, but isn’t at an elite level anymore.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

4. Jadeveon Clowney

There’s a reason why the Seattle Seahawks didn’t break the bank for Clowney. That’s because he’s not a mega-money player and they rightfully didn’t make him one. Clowney is capable of delivering dominant performances, but far from in every game. The Titans’ star has a terrible injury record. He only started 11 games in his final season in Seattle while he missed more games of his first year with the Titans whilst on injured reserve.

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Meanwhile, Clowney was a three-time Pro Bowler but has never made All-Pro. Clowney needs to stay fit and deliver consistently for a season or two before we can say he’s one of the best in the world. Right now, he isn’t in the top tier and that’s entirely fair to say. It’s not enough just to have the skills if you’re not on the field enough to make an impact.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

3. Tom Brady

Tom Brady is 43 and one of the greatest players of all-time, and that should be respected. But reputations are malleable. The fact is that the Tampa Bay edition of Brady is not the same as the early 2010s version of the same person. The New England Patriots were happy to allow him to leave for a reason because he isn’t the same force. But some people don’t realize that and expect him to show the same skills as when he was 30.

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In sum, Brady is just older. While he is still performing at a strong level, his overall ability to influence is no longer the same. As we said, he’s 43 so that’s no big shock nor a damning statement. But he isn’t the best quarterback in the game anymore, no matter what anybody thinks. Just enjoy him while he still plays because he won’t be around forever. However, we can’t say that he’s the best in the world anymore.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

2. Odell Beckham Jr.

Firstly there is no doubt that Beckham is a supremely talented player and athlete. However, there’s also no doubt that he has definitely underachieved thus far in his career. Injuries have decimated his ability to make a sustained impact with the Cleveland Browns as seen by the fact that he will miss most of the 2020 season. In sum, he’s one of the most frustrating athletes in the entire NFL.

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Beckham still has one of the best reputations in the game yet that time is running out. While he is capable of playing like the best receiver in the league on his day, those days are too few. The former Giants’ star lacks consistency and his body continues to let him down. Maybe one day, he’ll recapture the numbers of 2016 when he lit the league on fire and smashed record after record. But he’s not there right now with his skills or fitness.

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1. Colin Kaepernick

Some people will find it strange that Kaepernick is on this list because he isn’t an active player at the time of writing. However, his absence from the field has only enhanced his reputation. In fact, many non-football fans believe that he has the skills of Joe Montana or something. Of course, any self-respecting NFL fan knows that Kaepernick’s final couple of seasons with the Niners were poor.

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But many people, who clearly don’t actually watch football, believe that Kaepernick should oust Patrick Mahomes or Russell Wilson. The reality of course is that he would do well to be a backup at this point in his career because he has missed so much football. In sum, it’s one of the strangest revisionist stories in the sport. By not playing, Kaepernick has created a myth and a mystique that simply doesn’t correlate with what he achieved – or didn’t – on the field.

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