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Thursday, July 5, 2012
Is Joe Flacco among AFC's most overrated?

By Jamison Hensley

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is among the most overrated players in the AFC Insider. That's the assertion of ESPN Insider KC Joyner, who compiled a list of the six players whose "hype levels exceed their performance levels."

Joe Flacco
Inconsistency seems to plague Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco more than any other flaw.
You'll need a subscription to read the entire article, but here's a portion of what Joyner had to say about Flacco:
That he isn't the best field general in the league comes as no surprise, but Flacco's 2011 season doesn't even place him in the upper half of the league. His 9.6 vertical yards per attempt mark (VYPA -- which measures success on passes 11-plus yards downfield) ranked tied for 25th, and his 10.7 stretch vertical YPA (SVYPA -- passes over 20 yards downfield) ranked 26th. To get an idea of just how bad those totals were, they each ranked dead last or tied for last in the AFC North.

I wouldn't have put Flacco on my overrated list. But he would be at the top of my most inconsistent list. Flacco directed a winning 92-yard touchdown drive in the final minute against the NFL's top-rated defense last year. He also outplayed Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game and was one stripped pass away from leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl.

The problem with Flacco is he's hot one game and cold the next. Just as you're ready to say he's elevating his game to the next level, he looks like he's one of the league's worst quarterbacks when he struggles to complete passes and record first downs in prime-time disasters last season against the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Along with Flacco, Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham made the overrated list. Here's what Joyner had to say about Gresham:
Gresham certainly showed some potential at times last year, but the blunt truth is that his numbers fell quite short of the Pro Bowl nomination he was given. The 4.7 short pass YPA was tied for the fourth-lowest total among tight ends in that category, and the 8.7 medium YPA ranked 30th. Gresham was tied for 12th in the deep pass YPA metric, but didn't have a single bomb pass thrown his way all season.

I can certainly see why Gresham would be viewed as overrated. He led AFC North tight ends in receptions (56) and touchdown catches (six) last season, but they weren't numbers usually associated with a Pro Bowl season. Instead of calling him overrated, I would say he was underused. Gresham should be catching between 70 and 80 passes, a goal that could be reached in an offense lacking an established No. 2 wide receiver.

The third AFC North player on the list is the biggest surprise of them all -- Browns cornerback Joe Haden. This is Joyner's explanation of why Haden is overrated:
Haden was a shutdown cornerback in 2010, as his 6.2 overall YPA that season ranked tied for 18th-best in that metric. His 2011 campaign was another matter entirely, as Haden ranked 51st in overall YPA (8.0), 59th in VYPA (11.0) and 65th in SVYPA (14.4). This wasn't a matter of a low target volume skewing the numbers, either, as Haden's 77 targets last year ranked tied for the 23rd-highest total among cornerbacks in that metric.

I still believe Haden is the most talented cornerback in the division, even though these statistics suggest otherwise. While he has to intercept more passes, it's impressive that he broke up 37 passes in his first two seasons. He also held his own against some of the best receivers in the NFL, from Larry Fitzgerald to Brandon Marshall.