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Monday, June 29, 2009
The most overrated players in the NFL


Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

When I'm not waiting by the mailbox for my copy of the 2009 Football Prospectus, I'm reading the work of Football Outsiders online. They do a really nice job of taking all the stats available on NFL.com and showing you how meaningless they can be. I find myself bringing up DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) numbers almost nightly during dinner conversations with my spouse and soon-to-be 2-year-old daughter.

I'm not able to take my Prospectus on the road because, at 37 pounds, it's actually considered a carry-on item. But seriously, people like Jim Schwartz, currently the head coach of the Detroit Lions, read it religiously and have even suggested ideas to Football Outsiders staffers such as Aaron Schatz and Bill Barnwell.

On Friday, the Football Outsiders came up with the 25 most overrated NFL players in this decade as well as the 25 most underrated. Most of our ESPN Insiders have probably studied these lists, but today only, I'm allowed to share some of the information with the non-paying public. And before you trash the Football Outsiders, take the time to read about their innovative approach. Then feel free to trash them with a clear conscience.

So just off the top of your head, who were the most overrated players from this decade? For some reason, so-called shutdown cornerbacks keeping popping into my head. DeAngelo Hall's one of the first names that came to mind. Throw in Nate Clements as well. And I think Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams should rank pretty high on the overrated list.

But the most overrated player this decade, according to Football Outsiders, was Panthers running back DeShaun Foster. Atlanta's Michael Vick was No. 2 on the list, so the NFC South's off to a quick start. But for our purposes, let's stick with the NFC East players who appeared on the list:

8. Stephen Alexander, TE, Redskins: Played the first four years of his career with the Redskins. According to our favorite number crunchers, Alexander only caught 52 percent of his intended passes, which is well below the league average for tight ends -- 64 percent.

10. DeAngelo Hall, CB, Redskins: Ding Ding Ding! Looks like I was onto something. Football Outsiders said Hall was only "slightly above average" in Atlanta and "miserable" for the Raiders.

11. Keith Brooking, LB, Cowboys: Obviously, Brooking "earned" his spot on the team as a Falcon. But he's in the NFC East now. He made the list because of his limitations in coverage.

12. Flozell Adams, LT, Cowboys: The NFC East is on a roll in the "most overrated" category. I knew Adams would show up somewhere on the list. He had one near-brilliant season (2003) but he quickly remembered how to be mediocre. The Football Outsiders pointed to his false starts.

14. Terence Newman, CB, Cowboys: Wait, these are fighting words! When healthy, Newman's among the best in the game. Of course, I'm basing that on the eye test. The Outsiders say he's paid like an "elite" player but he doesn't have a history of playing like one. I still don't think he's an overrated player, though. Teams don't throw in his direction a lot. That's a compliment to him as a player.

22. Roy Williams, S, formerly with the Cowboys: I'm going to put him on the list even though he's joined the Bengals. He was on his way to being a dynamic player while under the tutelage of Darren Woodson in 2002-03. But when Woodson's career ended because of a back injury, Williams' career went into full retreat. I'm still not sure why the Cowboys gave him the lucrative extension.

OK, let's take a little time to digest this list. I think a lot of folks would agree the Cowboys are the most over-hyped team in the league on an annual basis. And Aaron Schatz's list backs that up. I'll be back later with the most underrated players -- if anyone's interested.