NFC's most overrated players[ESPN]
Quote:NFC's most overrated players
Cam Newton, Michael Bush among players whose hype exceeds performance
Originally Published: June 27, 2012
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider
To paraphrase a John Facenda line, the NFL offseason is a time of hope. It isn't hard to look over the personnel changes that occurred in free agency and the draft and find a path for mediocre teams to become playoff contenders or for playoff contenders to become Super Bowl champions.
That type of positive mindset can be useful, but it can also be damaging when it comes to grading personnel, as it can make mediocre players seem good and good players seem great.
Those types of personnel grading errors cannot and should not go unchallenged, so let's take a look at seven players in the NFC whose hype levels exceed their performance levels.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Newton's backers would defend his Pro Bowl nomination last year by quoting that Newton set a single-season record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (14) and became the first player to pass for 4,000 yards and rush for 500 yards in a season.
Those are impressive marks on their face but they are quantity-based and occurred after a lockout-truncated offseason. As I mentioned in my fantasy football draft guide, the lockout hurt defenses' ability to practice blitzes, which was a primary factor in why passing offenses were so explosive early on.
This impacted Newton as much as anyone, as he threw for 374 or more yards in three of his first four games. Once defenses started to get up to speed, however, Newton wasn't close to as effective a passer, throwing for 208 or fewer yards in five of his last six games.
These defensive adjustments are a main reason why Newton came up short in the areas of vertical yards per attempt (10.5, tied for 21st) and stretch vertical yards per attempt (12.6, tied for 17th). (Note: vertical passes are aerials thrown 11 or more yards downfield; stretch vertical passes are thrown 20 or more yards)
Newton also came up well short in ESPN's Total QBR metric (56.6, ranked 16th) and he posted a 4.2 percent bad decision rate (BDR) that was the fifth-highest mark in that category last season. (Note: BDR measures how often a quarterback makes a mental error that leads either to a turnover or a near-turnover such as a dropped interception)
There is little doubt Newton's incredible drive will, when combined with his talent, make him a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback in the future, but he isn't quite there yet.
Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia's decision to put Asomugha in a zone scheme early in the season was a mistake. But Asomugha isn't on this list because he had a season that didn't match some of his better campaigns out in Oakland. His 8.2 overall YPA ranked tied for 57th out of 85 qualifying cornerbacks (32-plus targets to qualify). He was also subpar in vertical coverage (10.0 VYPA, tied for 48th) and in stretch vertical coverage (14.0 SVYPA, ranked 61st)
Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons
It's hard to justify someone making the Pro Bowl when he ranked tied for 23rd in YPA (7.6) and was one of the least productive high-volume vertical targets at his position (9.9 VYPA, ranked 12th out of 17 tight ends with at least 30 vertical targets). Had Fred Davis not been suspended for the last four games of the regular season, it's quite likely he would have been selected for the Pro Bowl over Gonzalez, as he had a better overall YPA (9.4, ranked sixth among tight ends) and VYPA (11.7).
Brandon Browner, CB, Seattle Seahawks
Browner made the Pro Bowl on the strength of his six interceptions, but he had abysmal coverage metrics and was a penalty machine. He was terrible against short passes (6.7 YPA, ranked 72nd), vertical passes (11.3 VYPA, ranked 63rd) and stretch vertical passes (14.8 SVYPA, ranked 66th). Plus, one of his interception returns for a touchdown was a gift, due more to the highly inaccurate arm of Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie than any action on Browner's part. All Browner did was drop back into zone coverage and catch a pass that was thrown right to him.
Michael Bush, RB, Chicago Bears
The Bears gave Bush a four-year contract worth up to $14 million (with $7 million guaranteed) in an effort to give them leverage in the Matt Forte contract negotiation. Since Bush's 6.8 good blocking yards per attempt (GBYPA) mark ranked tied for 40th in that metric and was far below Forte's 10.7 GBYPA mark that ranked second, perhaps Chicago should have directed those dollars toward getting Forte signed instead of spending them on a low-upside insurance policy. (Note: GBYPA measures a ball carrier's productivity when given good blocking, which is roughly defined as when the offense does not allow the defense to do anything to disrupt a rush attempt)
DeAngelo Hall, CB, Washington Redskins
Not long ago, the question about Hall that had to be asked was how did he make the Pro Bowl with such a terrible metric record (as he did in 2010 despite posting an 11.3 YPA that ranked 96th in the league)?
Hall didn't get that postseason honor this past year, which speaks well for the voters of that award since Hall's 14.4 VYPA was tied for fourth highest in the league and led to his 10.1 overall YPA that ranked tied for 74th.
Since this is the second year in a row Hall has posted horrible metrics, instead of asking if he is Pro Bowl worthy, maybe another question should be asked: How does this guy still have a starting job in the NFL?
David Akers, K, San Francisco 49ers
It's true that Akers was incredibly accurate on kicks of 39 or fewer yards (he made 31 out of 32), but he wasn't anywhere near as good on long-distance kicks. Akers' 13-for-20 performance on kicks of 40 yards or more equates to a 65 percent conversion rate that ranked 12th out of 13 kickers with at least 15 field goal attempts from that distance. From a quantity standpoint, he was worthy of the NFC Pro Bowl kicker spot, but from a quality perspective, Akers fell quite short.