NFC West Pro Bowlers Brandon Browner and David Akers made KC Joyner's list of seven overrated players from the conference for 2011. So did Cam Newton, which made me wonder whether Joyner would have preferred Alex Smith as the third Pro Bowl quarterback from the NFC.
A few thoughts on each player:
Browner: Joyner pointed to the Seattle Seahawks cornerback's league-high penalty count (19) as one indicator. He also used various coverage metrics to suggest Browner wasn't all that good in coverage, either. I might have considered Browner's teammate, Richard Sherman, as a superior choice to represent the NFC at season's end. Pro Bowl voting was completed before then, of course. While Browner did commit too many penalties, those flags represented something positive, as well. Browner continually harassed opposing receivers near the line of scrimmage. Overrated or not, he was a pain to play against.
Akers: The 49ers' kicker set an NFL single-season record for field goals made (44). He also set a record for points scored (166) without a touchdown. Joyner makes a fair point when he writes, "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." In taking a closer look at those misses, I noticed Akers made 10 of 11 attempts from 40-plus yards in second, third and fourth quarters. He made only 3 of 8 attempts from that range in first quarters. Sort of odd.
Newton: Joyner thinks Newton's prolific start to the season reflected, in part, defensive limitations coming out of the lockout as teams struggled to execute complex blitzes. He saw more quantity than quality to Newton's achievements. This is almost exactly the point Smith made when calling into question raw passing stats earlier this offseason. I followed up with Joyner to see if he thought Smith would have been more worthy than Newton of Pro Bowl honors. I'll pass along his answer when I get it.
There's no shame in being overrated. It doesn't mean a player performed horribly. Joyner's list spurred thought, which isn't overrated at all.