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Top 10 Overrated Players in NFL History

Updated on August 23, 2014

Some players are severely underrated, while others are just a product of hype. Today I'm ranking the top 10 most overrated players in NFL history.

I'm not saying that these players are bad, simply saying they received more praise than their play showed. And in the context of the league, there were far more productive players at their positions or on their team.

For this list, I'm taking into account the level of hype surrounding the player and statistics. Also I take a look at the talent level around them as well as the system they played in. I'm excluding draft busts because they never lived up to expectations to begin with.

10. Eli Manning

He maybe the best Giants quarterback ever, but that isn't saying much. Y.A. Tittle played in an era were the forward pass was still being discovered and Phil Simms was a benefactor at best for the teams of the 80's.

Why people perceive him as an elite quarterback I'll never know. In his two Super Bowl years he was surrounded by a great defense and great running backs. His performances against elite defenses are pedestrian at best and when he is called upon to take control of games, his interception numbers skyrocket as seen in his 2013 season. In short, Lady Luck has been on Manning's side in two games against one of the most productive offenses in the past decade.

9. Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis' ability to always turn the spotlight on him, not overrated. His play on the field, overrated.

Lewis has managed to convince the general public that the Ravens' success is attributed to his presence. He's not the only guy on their defense that puts a hand on the pile at the end of the play, but he always gets credited with the tackle. Since 2006, his statistics greatly exaggerate his production on the field due to losing a step over the years. When you actually watch him play, you'll see that there is no way he averages over 100 tackles a year.

The story of the 2012 postseason was the Ravens rallying behind Lewis' last ride, when in reality it should have been the Ravens rallying behind Joe Flacco's stellar performance. That alone makes Ray Lewis overrated.

8. Shaun Alexander

Despite breaking the NFL single-season record for touchdowns and holding the franchise record for most yards, Alexander is severely overrated.

He was lucky enough to have arguably the greatest blocking duo in NFL history on the left side of his offensive line in Steve Hutchinson and Walter Jones. When Hutchinson departed for Minnesota in 2006, Alexander's yards per game dropped by almost 30 yards. Mind you that his average number of attempts per game went up by two, so it wasn't as though the Seahawks chose to run the ball less after Hutchinson's departure. Instead, it was the fact that Alexander was unable to run as well with only one Hall of Famer blocking for him.

I dare you to go back and use the eye test on Alexander, the majority of his touchdowns came from him striding through giant holes in the defensive line. Without gaping holes to run through, Alexander's subpar speed and average power weren't enough for him to produce at the same elite level he did with Hutchinson and Jones paving the way for him in 2005.

7. Mike Vanderjagt

One kick can really change everything. Mike Vanderjagt may have once been the most accurate kicker in history, but I have no idea how. Every time I watched him, he seemed to always miss the kick that would win the game.

Don't believe me? Remember this. It's the 2005 Divisional Playoffs and the Indianapolis Colts are down 21-18 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. There are 21 seconds left on the clock and the Colt's once Pro Bowl kicker has a chance to tie the game up and send it to overtime. You know where this goes. The ball sails wide, wide right and the rest is history.

The fact that he once successfully kicked 42 consecutive field goal attempts will always be overshadowed by that miss. He left the Colts after the 2005 season and they won the Super Bowl the next year.

6. Andre Rison

He put up numbers in Atlanta (6,453 yards receiving, 60 touchdowns, 475 receptions) and one ridiculous slap fight former teammate Deion Sanders. Not to mention a certain torching of his home by his ex-girlfriend.

He's an overrated Falcon because of what he parlayed his time in Atlanta. He left for a big contract then unleashing an embarrassing tirade at heartbroken Cleveland Browns fans who were booing the team because they were moving to Baltimore. He then posted mediocre numbers and bounced around the league before having one final good year in Kansas City.

He could have ended up among the ranks of Charlie Joiner and Fred Biletnikoff. Instead, thanks to emotional outbursts and a strange and rapid decline in performance, he's the embodiment of the diva wide receiver.

5. Trent Green

This one was tough but necessary.

Trent Green had the luxury of playing behind one of the greatest offensive lines ever assembled. Willie Roaf is a Hall of Famer, and one day Will Shields and Brian Watters might be as well. He also had a Hall of Fame tight end in Tony Gonzalez to throw to and two great running backs in Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson to hand off to during his tenure. The end result? Two devastating playoff losses, including one two-interception contest in 2006 to the Indianapolis Colts. Green has to bear some of the blame for not capitalizing on the amazing offensive talent around him in the early to mid-2000s.

Not to mention teams taking big gambles on trading for him. Namely St. Louis and Miami. The Rams lost Green to injury in the preseason and Kurt Warner went on to become an NFL legend. Miami traded for Green after cutting an injured Daunte Culpepper and he was almost immediately lost for the year with a concussion. Culpepper ended up getting revenge on Miami during a five touchdown performance while he was in Oakland. The Dolphins ended up finishing 1-15 that season.

4. Jim McMahon

It was tough putting Jim McMahon on this list.

The punk of a quarterback's stats don't tell the whole story of what he did for the Bears in the 1980s. His personality, leadership and swagger were as much a part of his success as his stats on the field. Just look at the Viking Miracle if you need proof.

Nevertheless, McMahon can't get special treatment because he won a Super Bowl. The fact of the matter remains that 1985 was his peak. He had career highs in yards and touchdowns, and because of injuries and other mitigating factors was never able to reclaim that magic he had when he played lights out during the Bears' Super Bowl run.

After his time in Chicago, he bounced around the league and eventually retired winning another Super Bowl as Brett Favre's backup


3. Keyshawn Johnson

The Jets selected Johnson with the number one overall in 1996 and never truly lived up to expectations.

His mouth was writing checks his play couldn't cash. This resulted in arguments with coaches and players and him earning the reputation as a selfish player. Johnson was outshined by fellow receiver Wayne Chrebet who proved to be a great possession receiver and a fan favorite.

The Buccaneers surrendered two first-round draft picks to acquire Johnson from New York in 2000 to improve an anemic passing attack. Johnson was the highest paid receiver in the NFL and in return, the Bucs passing offense went from bad to mediocre and they averaged a 15th place finish in scoring offense during Johnson's tenure. His best year was 2001, when he ranked fourth in receptions and seventh in yards, but only hauled in one touchdown. After an argument with Jon Gruden, Johnson was kicked off the team in 2003 and never suited up for the Bucs again.

He bounced around the league from Dallas to Carolina and never returned to his Pro Bowl form

2. Lynn Swann

Lynn Swann made the Hall of Fame based on his performances in the Super Bowl, But what he did in the regular season wasn't anything spectacular.

His career numbers are average at best, even for a run based offense like Pittsburgh. He has half the number of his Hall of Fame teammate John Stallworth as well as most receivers and tight ends in Canton and those still playing. He showed he lacked toughness in rival games as he was twice knocked out in games against Oakland. His skill set was based on out jumping defensive backs but he would not be a factor in today's game due to the increased physicality of defenses.

The ballerina may have some of the most famous catches in Super Bowl history, but the rest of his career is outshined by his underrated teammate. A few games does not make a career.

1. Joe Namath

This one was tough, but it had to be done.

Joe Namath's career as a football player is far from amazing. His production was curtailed due to serious knee injuries, but some of his career numbers just flat out stink. The stat that stands out the most are his 173-220 touchdown to interception ratio. Throw in his 65.5 career quarterback rating and his status in the Hall of Fame is debatable.

Obviously his Super Bowl III "guarantee" remains one of the great moments in sports history, but he should not be in the same club as other Hall of Fame quarterbacks. He didn't even deserve to be the game's MVP over running back Matt Snell.

He was a prolific passer whose contributions to the game and its development go far beyond what his statistics say, but he doesn't belong in the conversation as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

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    • profile image

      STEELER FANATIC 3 years ago

      As much as I hate the Ravens, I don't agree with Ray Lewis being overrated. His presence and leadership are/were unmatched.

    • profile image

      bookwormella 3 years ago from USA

      I totally agree. Great list.

    • Ryan Daniel Smith profile image

      Ryan Smith 3 years ago

      Awesome list. Completely agree.