Football Outsiders
Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

ESPN: Underrated/Overrated Players for 2011

Two pieces here on ESPN Insider today, using FO stats to point out five players whose 2011 seasons were unappreciated and five players whose 2011 seasons were not as good as standard stats indicate. Actually, that latter one is more "four players whose 2011 seasons were not as good as standard stats indicate, and one who was so godawful it deserves one more mention." The underrated players (click here) are Laurent Robinson, Ryan Mathews, Larry Fitzgerald, Sean Weatherspoon, and the Denver DTs. The overrated players (click here) are Frank Gore, Cedric Benson, Pierre Garcon, Plaxico Burress, and Marcedes Lewis.

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10 comments, Last at 05 Jan 2012, 10:15am

1 Re: ESPN: Underrated/Overrated Players for 2011

The "overrated" list isn't surprising: two RBs whose age has sapped their physical gifts, two receivers who suffered from a large dropoff in QB quality, and one receiver who suffered from both age and a crappy QB.

2 Re: ESPN: Underrated/Overrated Players for 2011

Pierre Garcon being on this list doesn't surprise me. If the colts plan to draft Andrew Luck and then let Peyton go, then they need to resign Reggie Wayne. A rookie QB needs a receiver he can lean on while adapting to the NFL, and if Garcon and Collie are all he has, then he's going to struggle. Garcon can't beat double coverage, and he can't run every route. All he really does is catch bubble screens, and the occasional deep out when the corner is caught peeking into the backfield.

3 Re: ESPN: Underrated/Overrated Players for 2011

How has McBean been, specifically? He came around to Pittsburgh just a year or two too early to stick, while Smith was still playing at a high level, but he looked like he'd develop into a good player.

4 Re: ESPN: Underrated/Overrated Players for 2011

I'm not so sure about including Laurent Robinson. This isn't the first receiver for the Cowboys who has benefitted from the outstanding players lining up around him. Look at their offense from the perspective of a defensive coordinator, you have to worry about Austin, Witten and Bryant before you begin to think about Robinson. More evidence is provided by this week's DVOA article, the table of the greatest receiving DVOA seasons is mostly made of second and third receivers playing alongside better players.

And sadly, I have to agree about Gore, he doesn't appear to have the burst he had as a younger man. Though I would suggest that the success of the passing game is partly due to opponents determination to stop the run game and the boom and bust that shows up in the stats seems to often appear when a runner is constantly faced with eight or nine men in the box.

7 Re: ESPN: Underrated/Overrated Players for 2011

This is one of the big limitations of WR DVOA, and why I always look to DYAR first for pass catches at the full-season level. Non-#1 or #2 targets shouldn't have as many unsuccessful passes thrown to them, since the QB is much less likely to target them unless they're in a position for the play to succeed. Whereas a true #1 will have passes thrown his way that are riskier, since he's the better player on the whole.

5 Re: ESPN: Underrated/Overrated Players for 2011

I would love an explanation of exactly how Larry Fitzgerald is underrated. It isn't like he was left out of the Pro Bowl. He is definitely on the short list of players I absolutely do not want playing with Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers if I am the other team.