One of the great things about the NFL is that every year a new group of players blossom into superstars.
In a lot of cases, it seems like it happens almost overnight. Just think where Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson were a couple of years ago and where they are today. It doesn’t take much time for players to evolve into the biggest stars in the game. At the same time, we tend to forget about how quickly star players can fade into the background. We assume that once a player becomes a star that they’ll always be a star. But that’s not true, and it’s how we end up with players who are vastly overrated. Their reputation is worth more than their production on the field.
Who are these players that we're overvaluing because of their name recognition? Let’s start with a former No. 1 overall pick.
10. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
It’s hard to take away everything Goff accomplished in 2018 when he helped lead the Rams to the Super Bowl. But think about the supporting cast he had around him, most notably Todd Gurley at the peak of his career. Let’s be honest, a lot of quarterbacks would have excelled in that situation. Without a healthy Gurley in 2019, Goff regressed significantly. Even though he’s young enough to bounce back, it’s hard not to think that we might have gotten carried away after 2018 and started to believe that Goff was a top-ten quarterback.
While Goff is a solid starter, he's not worth the massive contract he was given last year.
9. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
There’s no denying that Smith-Schuster was an outstanding No. 2 receiver for the Steelers during this first two seasons in the league. Of course, it’s always a little easier to get open when the defense is focused primarily on stopping Antonio Brown.
To be fair, he missed time with injury and was working with truly terrible quarterbacks after Ben Roethlisberger was sidelined with a season-ending injury. But a true No. 1 wide receiver would have been able to lift up his team regardless of who’s playing quarterback. Smith-Schuster wasn’t able to do that in 2019, making it clear he’s not a No. 1 receiver.
8. Sam Darnold, New York Jets
Why are Jets fans so convinced that Darnold is the long-term answer to their quarterback quandary? Even though he went 7-6 as a starter last year on a team with a host of other issues, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about Darnold moving forward. For starters, he’s thrown 28 interceptions in 26 career games. On top of that, he’s fumbled the ball 16 times. Turnovers were also a problem for Darnold in college, so he’s shown no signs of being able to break his bad habits as a pro.
The franchise has tried to upgrade a lackluster offensive line, but they've gotten a lot worse at the skill positions, with journeyman receiver Breshad Perriman being the biggest acquisition in the offseason.
Darnold's far from an elite quarterback and his propensity for turnovers will continue to hold him back. Being coached by Adam Gase doesn't help, either.
7. DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys
Only one year after signing a five-year, $105 million contract, Lawrence doesn’t come close to being worth that much. He responded to that big-money contract with just five sacks in 2019. Lawrence went from 14.5 sacks in 2017 to 10.5 sacks in 2018 to just five last year.
Even if he has a bounce-back year in 2020, Lawrence's days of being an elite pass rusher appear to be over. Given his contract, the Cowboys have made a bad investment.
6. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
Maybe it's all the grit he has, but Julian Edelman has always felt a little overrated. And now that his best friend Tom Brady is in Tampa Bay, it's unlikely that Edelman — who turned 34 in May — will be able to repeat his success from a year ago. Cam Newton coming to New England should help a little bit. But so much of Edelman’s success was because of the chemistry between him and Brady. Without the Hall of Famer playing quarterback for the Patriots, Edelman is just an undersized and aging slot receiver who won’t make much of a difference this season.
5. Le’Veon Bell, Jets
Yes, early in his career, Bell was among the best running backs in the NFL. But he’s simply not that player anymore and he’s never going to reach that level again.
It’s easy to rationalize that Bell sat out the 2018 season and had an atrocious offensive line in front of him last year. Both things are true and help explain his struggles last year. However, Bell is now 28 and had a surprising lack of burst in his lone year with Gang Green.
He’ll still be serviceable for the Jets in 2020, but if Frank Gore is threatening to take carries from you, then something is very, very wrong.
4. Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
Oddly enough, Fournette had his best season in 2019, even better than his rookie year when he helped the Jaguars reach the AFC Championship Game. But he’s not the dominant game-changer we thought he was destined to become when Jacksonville took him fourth overall in 2017.
Fournette's an inconsistent running back who, despite plenty of opportunities, is highly inefficient. It’s also hard not to see him as being injury-prone. The Jaguars' actions have told you all you need to know about Fournette. Jacksonville spent the offseason trying to trade the former LSU runner, and they brought in pass-catching back Chris Thompson in the offseason. That's why Fournette is one of our undraftable players in fantasy football this year.
3. Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts
For what it’s worth, the Colts are wise to take a chance on Rivers. He at least has the potential to be an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett. That being said, Rivers is nowhere near his prime as his play has significantly dropped off.
With Rivers having to adjust to a new franchise and a new set of receivers, it’ll be even more difficult for him to bounce back from a rough 2019 campaign. If the Colts think that Rivers is going to make a big difference and make them a Super Bowl contender, they’re in for an unfortunate surprise. In fact, Rivers could lose his job this year, if he plays poorly.
2. Dak Prescott, Cowboys
Does Prescott seriously think he’s worthy of a contract that will pay him $35 to $40 million per season? He’s only taken the Cowboys to the playoffs twice in his four seasons, and he’s 1-2 in playoff games.
Even when he had a career year in 2019, Prescott only led the Cowboys to an 8-8 record inside a weak NFC East. The Cowboys lost three games last year when the defense allowed 17 points or less. Does that sound like a team led by a quarterback who’s worth $40 million a year?
1. Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns
Most NFL fans would love nothing more than to see Beckham regain his All-Pro form from earlier in his career. But the truth is that he’s had three straight disappointing seasons.
We gave him a pass after injuries derailed his 2018 campaign, but Beckham looked rather ordinary in his first year in Cleveland. The former LSU receiver struggled with injuries again last year, sure, but that doesn't excuse his inconsistent timing with Baker Mayfield.
Granted, he’s had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, and that’s nothing to scoff at. However, it’s time to stop looking at Beckham like a superstar who’s on par with the best receivers in the NFL because he’s just not that guy anymore.
Photo: Getty Images/Lines Illustration