Football Outsiders
Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis

2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

comments by Doug Farrar

This is our fifth year of doing the Football Outsiders awards. Every year we get a great mix of the expected and the unexpected, and this year is no exception. Once again, I would like to thank everyone who voted on the awards. Today, we'll look at the on-field voting, and next week we'll look at the questions about broadcasters and commercials and so forth.

You will find links to each of the previous FO Awards articles on this page.

Who is your choice as Offensive MVP for 2007? (Last year's winner: LaDainian Tomlinson)

59.5% Tom Brady
22.6% Randy Moss
8.8% Brian Westbrook
4.1% Brett Favre
2.1% David Garrard
1.8% Peyton Manning
0.5% Tony Romo
0.5% Terrell Owens

Late-season and postseason struggles aside, Brady's 2007 was an absolute wonder. A DPAR of 200.2 for a quarterback is so beyond the pale, it's almost impossible to get one's head around how impressive it is. Let's try this: Peyton Manning put up DPAR seasons of over 170 in 2004 (170.1 in his 49-touchdown season) and 2006 (175.0 in his Super Bowl season). In DPAR terms, Brady's 2007 season was almost a full 2007 Todd Collins season (29.0) above Peyton Manning's 2006 season. That's just ridiculous.

Who is your choice as Defensive MVP for 2007? (Last year's winner: Jason Taylor)

41.6% Albert Haynesworth
25.2% Bob Sanders
7.4% Pat Williams
5.9% Jared Allen
5.0% Osi Umenyiora
4.2% DeMarcus Ware
3.4% James Harrison
3.2% Nnamdi Asomugha
2.2% Asante Samuel
2.0% Trent Cole

Neither 2006 MVP made the 2007 lists, though both Tomlinson and Taylor had good seasons. Haynesworth, like fellow elite tackles Marcus Tubbs and Tommie Harris, has a greatness that is almost measured more by how his defense does in his absence. The Titans lost all three contests Haynesworth missed with a hamstring injury and gave up an average of 160 rushing yards, having allowed 95.5 per game overall. Nice contract year! Sanders, of course, already has his well-deserved payday. Allen, Samuel and Asomugha are also in line for big bucks.

(Note: This Seahawks observer was looking for the Lofa Tatupu radio button that wasn't there).

(Ed. note: When I couldn't decide between listing Tatupu or Patrick Kerney, I decided to list Asomugha instead. I didn't want to list two teammates in the defensive award, figuring it would split the votes more than it would in the offensive award. -- Aaron)

Who is your choice as NFL Rookie of the Year for 2007? (Last year's winner: Marques Colston)

52.2% Joe Thomas
34.9% Adrian Peterson
9.0% Patrick Willis
1.5% Tony Ugoh
2.5% (four other candidates)

After reviewing Cleveland's offensive line in this article, Thomas' value became very clear. The Wisconsin grad was part of a perfect storm -- the acquisition of Eric Steinbach gave him one of the NFL's best guards to fire out with, Derek Anderson's ascent gave the Cleveland line the benefit of a quarterback with a release about 50 times quicker than Charlie Frye's, and Thomas' own superior work ethic and technique allowed him the best possible college-to-pro transition. No doubt that Peterson was the NFL's highlight reel champ in 2007, but who would you rather have if you were building a team?

Who was the best offensive lineman of 2007? (open question, two votes per ballot, top 12 listed) (Last year's winner: Marcus McNeill)

21.2% Joe Thomas (LT, CLE)
16.7% Logan Mankins (LG, NE)
12.2% Matt Light (LT, NE)
9.0% Steve Hutchinson (LG, MIN)
7.1% Jason Peters (LT, BUF)
4.9% Chris Snee (RG, NYG)
4.1% Jeff Saturday (C, IND)
2.5% Flozell Adams (LT, DAL)
2.3% Walter Jones (LT, SEA)
2.1% Dan Koppen (C, NE)
1.6% Tony Ugoh (LT, IND)
1.5% Mark Tauscher (RT, GB)

Little surprise here. McNeill struggled in his sophomore campaign, though linemate Kris Dielman went to the Pro Bowl. Thomas was followed by two Patriots whose reputations took a hit in the Super Bowl at the hands of New York's dominant defensive line, and Adrian Peterson's main roadgrader in Hutchinson. Other candidates: "Anyone not on the Steelers", someone named "DeMarcur Ware" (who apparently plays both ways), and "NFL refs who didn't call holding in 2007".

Who is your choice for NFL Coach of the Year in 2007? (Last year's winner: Lovie Smith)

50.6% Bill Belichick
19.2% Mike McCarthy
10.4% Romeo Crennel
8.4% Jack Del Rio
6.2% Jeff Fisher
2.7% Tony Dungy
1.8% Tom Coughlin
0.7% Wade Phillips

Oh, goody. Let's just say this: Congratulations to McCarthy, Crennel, Coughlin and Del Rio for making this list and surprising a lot of people. It's difficult to know what to say about Belichick at this point with so much still unknown, except that we're pretty sure he's never injected anything into Roger Clemens' butt.

Who is your choice for the Keep Choppin' Wood Award for 2007 (player who most hurt his team)? (Last year's winner: Ben Roethlisberger)

46.8% Michael Vick
27.8% Jason David
18.5% Shaun Alexander
3.7% Warren Sapp
2.0% Boone Stutz
1.3% Darrell Jackson

Boone Stutz: the best-known unemployed long snapper in the biz.

Who is your choice for the Keep Choppin' Game Film Award for the worst coach of 2007? (Last year's winner: Art Shell)

66.4% Bobby Petrino
13.5% Brian Billick
9.3% Cam Cameron
5.5% Mike Nolan
4.3% Scott Linehan
1.0% John Fox

Not one film-chopper from 2006 made it this year; one of them won the Super Bowl. This time, "Sooey!" trumps "Ookie" in Falcon-destroying responsibility, which is just about right. Bashing Billick is tough, since his team went 13-3 in 2006, and lost three 2007 games in agonizing fashion -- the Rex Ryan time-out game against the Patriots, the crossbar game against the Browns, and the 64-yard Greg Camarillo overtime touchdown reception that kept the Dolphins from a winless season. Billick having been fired, the Ravens were obviously seeking KCGF continuity when they hired Cameron to be their new offensive coordinator.

Who is your choice for the Bill Arnsparger Award for Coordinator of the Year? (Last year's winner: Rob Ryan)

19.3% Steve Spagnuolo, NYG defense
18.3% Josh McDaniels, NE offense
18.3% Jim Schwartz, TEN defense
12.7% Rob Chudzinski, CLE offense
7.8% Jason Garrett, DAL offense
6.9% Dirk Koetter, JAC offense
6.3% Ron Meeks, IND defense
5.1% Monte Kiffin, TB defense
3.6% John Marshall, SEA defense
1.2% Dick LeBeau, PIT defense

The only assistant to make our list of nominees in both 2006 and 2007 was McDaniels, who just snuck in last year with 0.6 percent of the vote.

Who is your choice for the Art Rooney Jr. Award for Executive(s) of the Year? (Last year's winner: Mickey Loomis)

57.2% Scott Pioli/Bill Belichick, NE
14.3% Phil Savage, CLE
11.6% Ted Thompson, GB
7.6% Jerry Reese, NYG
4.7% Bill Polian, IND
4.6% A.J. Smith, SD

Hard to argue with the moves they made. The challenge comes now, with on- and off-field concerns. Savage was rewarded for his commitment to get his offensive line right. Thompson was vindicated after a rough rebuilding time. Reese and his scouting department were especially savvy with their lower-round picks

The most overrated offensive player in the NFL is: (open question, top 12 listed) (Last year's winner: Terrell Owens)

9.7% Tony Romo
9.3% Shaun Alexander
8.7% Reggie Bush
6.5% Brett Favre
6.3% Willie Parker
5.5% Tom Brady
5.3% Vince Young
4.6% Wes Welker
4.2% Jeremy Shockey
3.2% Terrell Owens
3.0% Chad Johnson
2.2% LaDainian Tomlinson

Well, he did finish sixth in DPAR for quarterbacks and set single-season franchise records for passing yards, completions and touchdown passes. Perhaps it's less that he's overrated and more that we're sick of the Cabo Wabo stuff, and all the other ancillary stories. As for Alexander, don't you have to be rated to be overrated?

The most overrated defensive player in the NFL is: (open question, top 12 listed) (Last year's winner: Ray Lewis)

19.4% Ray Lewis
19.2% Roy Williams
8.3% Al Harris
5.8% Shawne Merriman
4.1% Brian Urlacher
4.1% Rodney Harrison
3.7% DeAngelo Hall
3.3% Champ Bailey
2.7% Michael Strahan
2.7% Tedy Bruschi
2.5% Bob Sanders
2.5% Dwight Freeney

That's four straight for Sir Lord Baltimore, though Commander Horsecollar is closing fast. Watch your back, Ray! The votes for Al Harris may be confusing "overrated" with "having an off-year," although I guess we won't know for sure until we see if there is a second off-year.

The most underrated offensive player in the NFL is: (open question, top 12 listed) (Last year's winner: Lorenzo Neal)

9.9% Brian Westbrook
7.0% Kevin Faulk
6.1% Bobby Engram
4.9% Andre Johnson
4.5% David Garrard
4.0% Joe Thomas
2.6% Marion Barber
2.3% Fred Taylor
2.1% Lawrence Vickers
1.9% Wes Welker
1.6% Ronnie Brown
1.6% Marques Colston

Westbrook's best season yet -- and while his underrated status is difficult to argue, it's amazing how every running back in the draft that has caught more than 50 passes in his career is referred to as a "Westbrook type".

The most underrated defensive player in the NFL is:

Hey, remember last year when we screwed up "underrated defensive player?" Guess what -- we forgot to fix what screwed it up last year. Whoops. Once again, all the votes in this category were lost somewhere in the series of tubes that make up the Interwebs.

We swear we've fixed this for future years. Really. the meantime, an informal poll of FO writers put Falcons linebacker Michael Boley on top, followed by various votes for Aaron Smith, Derrick Johnson, Barrett Ruud, Leroy Hill, Rob Meier, Akin Ayodele, Roderick Hood, Nnamdi Asomugha, Kirk Morrison, and Fakhir Brown.

The most overrated special teams player in the NFL is: (open question, top 10 listed) (Last year's winner: Dante Hall)

59.2% Adam Vinatieri
10.9% Devin Hester
7.5% Dante Hall
2.9% Larry Izzo
1.7% Nick Folk
1.5% Jeff Feagles
1.5% Ted Ginn
1.5% Neil Rackers
1.2% Nate Kaeding
1.0% Chris Hanson

Doink! Note to various voters: RoboPunter is neither over- nor under-rated. RoboPunter simply is.

The most underrated special teams player in the NFL is: (open question, top 10 listed) (Last year's winner: Stephen Gostkowski)

9.7% Kelley Washington (coverage, NE)
9.1% Stephen Gostkowski (K, NE)
4.9% Josh Brown (K, SEA)
4.9% Mike Scifres (P, SD)
3.2% Leon Washington (returns, NYJ)
2.9% Mason Crosby (K, GB)
2.3% Nate Burleson (returns, SEA)
2.3% Brian Moorman (P, BUF)
2.3% Darren Sproles (returns, SD)
2.3% David Tyree (coverage, NYG)

Remember, players who made this season's Pro Bowl did not qualify for this category. On the same day that Washington officially took this award, it was announced that the Patriots would not be picking up his $4 million option bonus. We'll be selling "Free Kelley Washington" t-shirts in the lobby.

Player most likely to breakout in 2008 (open question, top 12 listed): (Last year's winner: Matt Leinart)

4.8% Jay Cutler
4.6% Calvin Johnson
4.4% Jerious Norwood
3.7% Anthony Gonzalez
3.4% Michael Turner
3.0% Matt Leinart
2.8% Ahmad Bradshaw
2.8% D.J. Hackett
2.8% Brady Quinn
2.8% Sidney Rice
2.5% Santonio Holmes
2.5% Vincent Jackson

We've never had quite so many different players listed in this category, with nobody getting more than five percent of the vote. We're starting to wonder if Hackett isn't the individual version of the Arizona Cardinals, that eternal breakout pick that never quite happens. Matt Leinart may end up being the individual version of the Arizona Cardinals who actually plays for the Arizona Cardinals. We got a vote for "Steve Smith (Carolina)" from somebody who seems to be confusing "breakout" with "rebound," and one vote for Eli Manning, who apparently didn't break out last season.

Player most likely to significantly decline in 2008 (open question, top 10 listed): (Last year's winner: Larry Johnson)

15.5% Brett Favre
10.9% Tom Brady
9.8% Randy Moss
7.2% LaDainian Tomlinson
6.3% Willie Parker
4.8% Derek Anderson
4.1% Jamal Lewis
3.3% Terrell Owens
2.6% Marvin Harrison
2.4% Fred Taylor

Just so long as one of the declining numbers is "Number of consecutive days this summer in which the lead story on the NFL Network is, 'Will Brett Favre Return?'" This is the first year since 2003 where we didn't have an obvious 370-carry guy to get all the votes. Other candidates receiving mention: Shaun Alexander (at this point, the only way he can decline further is if he starts running the wrong way like Jim Marshall), Tarvaris Jackson (?), Jason David (HOW???) and "Amy Winehouse".

Which of the following teams is most likely next year's surprise Super Bowl contender? (Last year's choice: San Francisco)

29.6% Houston
26.8% Buffalo
19.5% Arizona
8.0% Carolina
5.4% St. Louis
3.5% San Francisco
2.6% Detroit
2.3% New York Jets
1.2% Kansas City
0.5% Oakland
0.5% Miami
0.2% Atlanta

Last year, Green Bay was 4th, Washington 5th, Cleveland 9th, and Tampa Bay 10th. The only problem with Houston is the brutal division they'll have to scale to get where they're going. Petitioning for a move from the AFC to the NFC South would be a good start.

Which playoff team is most likely to decline in 2008? (Last year's choice: Kansas City)

17.0% New England
16.0% Tampa Bay
15.6% Washington
11.4% Seattle
11.2% New York Giants
10.0% Green Bay
8.3% Dallas
4.4% Pittsburgh
2.5% Tennessee
2.2% San Diego
1.0% Indianapolis
0.3% Jacksonville

We made a small mistake here -- we should have phrased the question as "which playoff team is most likely to miss the postseason in 2008?" Of course the Patriots are going to decline -- it is hard to have a regular-season record better than 16-0.

Who should be the number one pick in the 2008 draft?

42.4% Glenn Dorsey
25.3% Jake Long
15.4% Darren McFadden
11.9% Chris Long
5.0% Matt Ryan

If USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis has a solid Combine, he could blow thorugh this list like the offensive linemen he embarrassed during Senior Bowl week.

Next week we'll announce the second half of the awards, the TV stuff and assorted other goodies.

Comments

139 comments, Last at 31 May 2008, 8:34am

2 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

Gostkowski should win hands-down for "most underrated by his own coach." But that coach is also coach of the year. And paper covers rock.

Kif, we have a conundrum.

3 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

"No doubt that Peterson was the NFL’s highlight reel champ in 2007, but who would you rather have if you were building a team?"
.
Uhm... Peterson.

5 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

Devin Hester getting that many votes as "overrated" is a joke. Makes me wonder what sport people are watching.

6 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

My hat is off to the individual who voted for "Amy Winehouse". And to whoever claimed ROBO-PUNTER is over-rated:

Woe unto you!

7 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

#3: I don't know that you ever want to build a team around a RB, no matter how good. A good Left Tackle is worth more than any other position but QB. Running backs have significantly shorter careers, are highly dependent on their blocking, and in general are considered to be interchangeable more than any other position.

It is also much harder to get a good Left Tackle than a good RB. Men who weigh over 300 pounds and run around a 5 second 40 yard dash are extremely rare.

9 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

5, I voted for Hester. Teams absolutely should kick to Hester every time. And I'm not just saying that because my Giants have (the extremely overrated) Jeff Feagles.

11 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

Adrian Peterson is a phenom. I'd agree that "average" running backs are fungible, but Peterson is already the 2nd best back next to LT. The guy had zero pass threat and was running against stacked boxes.

How many posters actually watched Joe Thomas instead of just voting for him because the importence of the position?

I am glad that Leroy Hill got some love as the most underrated defensive player. I voted for him and if he wasn't next to Lofa and Peterson people would be talking about how beast he is.

D.Hall is still the most overrated defensive player. He gets burned for 3tds and people still refer to him as "shut down".

None of my underrated special teams guys made it. Chase blackburn on coverage, James Thrash on coverage, Steve Breaston was a very good returner for Arizona and Rock Cartwright was a good return man for the skins.

13 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

On the underrated offensive player vote, I always try to vote for someone that doesn't even make it among the top "underrated" players.

This year, it was C Samson Satele of the Dolphins.

14 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

Do we really need to make a distinction between 'Keep Choppin' Wood' and 'Keep Choppin' Game Film'? Shouldn't they both be called KCW? I mean, sure, it was Hanson who chopped off his foot, but it was Del Rio who put a sharpened axe inside crowded locker room. Let's give credit where credit is due - I think they each deserve 50% credit for that incident.

Incidentally, does Bobby Petrino deserve an entirely new category for pre-meditated conduct most detrimental to the team?

15 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

"Incidentally, does Bobby Petrino deserve an entirely new category for pre-meditated conduct most detrimental to the team?"

The Nick Saban Award?

16 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

Re: 10

Same here. Trying to watch it at 9EST on Comedy Central just doesn't feel right.

BTW, my handle in Team Fortress 2 is "Sweet Juicy Justice".

18 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

9 - OK, and teams don't kick to Hester, yet he breaks NFL TD return records despite that. I guess he's not breaking enough records to satisfy the FO voters. He'll have to work on that.

19 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

10 (Independent George): Futurama was picked up by Comedy Central recently. So if you get Comedy Central, you can check for when it's on the air. :)
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5 (Jordy): I think Hester gets votes because, although he's the best, he is hyped non-stop by the media, potentially overvaluing KRs/PRs and therefore overrating him. That being said, I would never vote for him; he singlehandedly keeps the Bears competitive in games by forcing their opponents to change strategies.
(On a side note, I remember telling my Dad that Hester could go out this year (2007), average 35+ yards per kick return and 15+ yards per punt return, and pretty much have the single greatest year a returner could have, but only score 0-2 touchdowns, and the media would consider it a disappointment. I also noted that there was "no way" someone could repeat what he did in 2006. Oops.)

20 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

There is 1 thing that makes no sense regarding Petrino that never gets mentioned

1- Petrino supposedly was hated by almost everyone in the organization

2- Almost everyone was upset when he left

If he truly was as bad as everyone thought they should have been ecstatic when he left. Instead everyone was whining over how he was a traitor and abandoned them. Even if he left during the middle of the year it is best to remove the problem as early as possible rather than holding onto them for longer periods of time

21 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

18: Hester benefits a lot from the Bears' league-best return teams. He gets better blocks than anyone. He also fumbles more than he should. Third, he doesn't get as consistently good field position as some other return men, but he makes up for it with the home run threat.

I'd vote for about a dozen kickers, Shane Lechler, Jeff Feagles, and a few more guys before I'd even begin to consider voting for Hester as overrated, but there are some legitimate reasons to say he is.

22 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

9, No team should have kicked to Hester this year. I'd rather give the Bears offense with a suspect QB, no running game, and penalty prone OL the ball on the 40 than give Hester and the best special teams in the league the opportunity to beat me.

23 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

Michael Strahan? Overrated? Really? The guy got snubbed for the Pro Bowl.

I may be a Giants fan, but I disagree wholeheartedly with people calling Tony Romo overrated. Sure, he may prove that label correct if TO hits a production wall, but the guy torched the NFL for most of the regular season. He only played one of his two playoff losses in two years poorly -- this year he looked okay, okay, okay, and awful in four respective quarters -- but last year he played a fine game... minus a botched snap. That is not something we judge QBs on anyway, especially since Romo drove his team into position for that FG try anyway.

Thus far, Romo looks legit.

And I hate saying that. Hate it. Hate it so very much.

Also I'd give Jerry Reese the nod for Executive of the Year because of his absurd draft. Blasted by punditry everywhere as mediocre and producing no players who will help the team this year, Reese wound up selecting 6 players in 8 rounds who made significant contributions and a 7th player who made an impact on special teams. Considering two of those most important players were 7th rounders (Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Johnson), that is an incredible haul.

24 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

7: totally agree. exchange adrian peterson with...oh, i don't know, kevin jones, and see how they each look.

27 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

Also, Brian Westbrook was first-team All-Pro this year. I love the guy, but it's hard to see that as underrated.

28 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

9.7% Kelley Washington (coverage, NE)
9.1% Stephen Gostkowski (K, NE)

I am guessing that 20% of the people who voted were Pats fans then.

How the hell is a player who broke an NFL record in his rookie year and then broke his own record in his second year despite almost every team he played against emptying the barrel in trying to keep the ball away from him over-rated?

He has a farcical impact on the game for a return man. I guess it shows that 10% of the people who voted in this poll are idiots.

29 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

The second and third paragraphs of my earlier post (#27) were about Devin Hester. Apologies for any confusion caused.

30 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

Tony Romo gets tagged as overrated because he gets away with a lot of terrible decisions. The only guy who's been able to do that and win consistently is Favre. We won't know whether Romo is the successor to His Lordship or Aaron Brooks until T.O. retires(though John Madden and Peter King are standing by with six gallons of ThroatCoat tea and a dozen X-tra Sof brand kneepads just in case).

31 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

Romo and TO as most overrated offensive players in ALL OF FOOTBALL the last two years?

Anti-cowboys bias among fans is as rancid as ever, though it's no surprise. Given how Cowboys fans routinely vote undeserving players into the pro bowl, I can't completely say it's unfair though.

32 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

I think Westbrook is def underrated. If you ask 100 people "Who is the best RB in football?" you won't get many people fingering Westbrook, but he just might be.

I think my pick for underrated was Westbrook, but now I'm thinking it might be Clinton Portis. Conventional wisdom seems to say that he's lost a step and is now just an average back in a mediocre offense, but he's as important to that offense as Westbrook is to his. And he's the best pass blocking back in football.

33 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

Surprised not to see Vernon Davis on the Breakout list - he managed a league-average year with arguably the worst supporting cast of any tight end in football, in this his second season. Then again, that cast will be back, but who expects Darrell Jackson to be this god-awful again?

34 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

20 (Yaguar):
Hester benefits a lot from the Bears’ league-best return teams. He gets better blocks than anyone.
From footballoutsiders.com:
Bears Special Teams DVOA (rating (rank))
2003: +2.9% (5)
2004: +1.9% (11)
2005: -2.7% (27)
2006: +7.6% (1)
2007: +9.1% (1)
Years with Hester as primary returner are in italics.
So there was a noticeable improvment in their special teams when the Bears drafted Hester. Now, that might not necessarily be due to Hester, but it could be. And while I agree that they block better than most teams, I sometimes wonder if it's a chicken-and-egg situation; does Hester look better because of the blocking, or does the blocking look better because of Hester? Most likely, there's a synergy between the two.
---
He also fumbles more than he should.
From pro-football-reference.com:
Devin Hester
2006: 67 returns, 8 fumbles (every 8.4 returns)
2007: 85 returns, 7 fumbles (every 12.1 returns)
Josh Cribbs
2007: 89 returns, 5 fumbles (every 17.8 returns)
So Cribbs is better, but not by a whole lot. Also to note, I'm not sure if muffed punts are classified as returns or not. Also, Hester is improving at knowing when to actually field a punt, as noted by the numbers and by subjective observation.
Overall, I think the fumbling-too-much issue is a little overblown. I'd also bet that muffed punt fumbles are recovered by the fumbling team at a higher rate than normal fumbles; however, I do not have that information.
---
Third, he doesn’t get as consistently good field position as some other return men, but he makes up for it with the home run threat.
I can't really argue that, although I wonder if it's better to have a home run threat at KR/PR, rather than consistency. As Aaron (or maybe a commenter) noted in his "Should teams kick to Hester?" article, while over the long run, a more consistent return man is better, football games consist of a finite number of plays and possessions, so one touchdown may be worth trading for -5 yards of field position on every possession. This also may even mean that it's worth it for a home run threat to give up a few more fumbles. Obviously, I'd like to see some more research done on the subject (and I may do it myself if I have the time and resources :) ).

35 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

Jimmy,

I think you do not have to be a Pats fan to admit that Gostkowski is "under-rated". Gostkowski is the best current example that I can think of of a kicker who is average (i.e. "adequate") at kicking FG's but has (usually) phenomenal range and placement at kickoffs. One reason why the Patriots defense looked as good as it did this year, despite being kind of over the hill, was that opposing teams almost never got to start with good field position, and a lot of that was Gostkowski's doing (and, of course, also their kick coverage, especially Kelly Washington).

But in the mainstream media, kickers that have made a couple of highly publicized "clutch" pressure kicks (e.g. Cleveland's Dawson) get a lot of press for being great kickers. FO has shown that FG accuracy is wildly random from year to year, and hence an "above average" FG kicker is probably actually just a lucky FG kicker, but kickoff distance is a repeatable skill, and so a kicker who consistently has long, powerful, well placed kickoffs is underrated.

Incidentally, other people have hypothesized this, but I wouldn't be surprised if Gostkowski was injured or for some other reason "off" in the SB. After his first KO, almost all of his subsequent kickoffs were uncharacteristically bad...one going out of bounds, and most of the rest much shorter and with less hangtime than was usual for him. It would also explain why Belichick seemed to be eschewing FG attempts (going for 4th and 13 instead of trying a 49 yarder, and playing for the Hail Mary in the final 30 seconds instead of trying to move into FG range).

36 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

My vote for most underrated defensive player was Hunter Hillenmeyer. I don't know if he actually is, but he is the most underrated for the Bears.

37 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

One thing to add to Hester, his returns don't get consistent field position, but opposing teams are so afraid of him that he still delivers consistent field position due to short kickoffs, and directional punts.

I also think he is the best return man ever, so I don't know if he can be overrated. Can Peyton Manning be overrated? Or Jerry Rice? Or Orlando Pace?

38 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

Does anybody still think Ray Lewis is a great player anymore? My sense is that he's rated just about right: way past his prime but still a moderately effective player.

39 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

#18 - it's just not the same. It's on too early for me to watch, and, maybe I'm imagining things, but it alwasys seemed like CN got Futurama in a way that CC doesn't. Their promos were often almost as good as the show itself. It made sense nestled amidst the likes of Birdman and ATHF on Adult Swim.

Overrated/underrated is a tough category because it's really more about subjective meta-perception than it is about objective performance. It's possible for somebody to be a legit superstar, and still be overrated (Romo/Hester) because of the media coverage, and it's equally possible for someone to be underrated & underappreciated while an All-Pro (Westbrook).

40 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

I don't like "negative voting", eg for Haynesworth because the Titans' D is worse when he's out. I don't watch the Titans enough to know, but there are several plausible explanations for a defense to decline when it is missing one player. For instance, when Charles Woodson missed the game in Dallas, the Packers tried to employ an unfamiliar zone defense, which confused the heck out of youngsters like Bigby and Bush. Accordingly, the secondary had its worst game of the season, but the difference cannot be calculated as simply "minus Woodson".

41 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

34: Referring to the "rest" of Gostkowski's kickoffs in the SB is misleading. After the opening kickoff he only had 2 others. One OOB, and one resulting in the Giants starting at their own 17.

42 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

i votedf ro andre johnson for underrated offensive player. the man is top of the class for WRs in the league, but he doesnt do the grandstanding of ocho cinco and doesnt have the mouth nor the QBs that Moss and Owens have. When he went out, the O suffered. If Schaub stays healthy next season and the Texans find a Rb, I can see Johnson leadign that offense to a 3rd place finish in their division. I think he also suffers from playing in Houston, which is not a Northeast media darling and is overshadowed by the Cowboys in their own state.

43 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

Re #39
Teams were able to run the ball successfully on the Titans up the middle when Haynesworth was not playing. Teams were generally not able to do so when he was playing. It wasn't a scheme issue.

I'd also argue that any time a coordinator has to significantly change his gameplan to account for the absence of a player, that should be regarded as an indication that said player is probably pretty good.

44 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

Is it really still possible for Roy Williams to be overrated? I know he made the PB as an alternate, but every semi informed fan seems to know he sucks, and Dallas fans want him cut.

45 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

under rated? How about Leon Washington.. the guy pulls off some amazing feats behind an offensive line made out of whip cream. . . his avg. is pretty darn good too, so it isn't just his explosive kick returns.

He might just be a breakout player next year, especially if the Jets can improve that pathetic offensive line.

46 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

i voted for andre johnson for most underrated, too. another player who's value was magnified when he was out of the lineup (iknow there are other factors when that occurs). but he just hasn't been hyped yet, and when he plays a whole season with a competent QB he will break out and could end up as a pro bowl staple.

47 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

33: You've essentially conceded my 2nd and 3rd points as being legitimate. Let me further defend the first one, that the Bears have excellent special teams blocking. Obviously, my primary evidence is from watching Bears games and seeing Hester run through ridiculous gaping holes that aren't present for most other returners. I'll try to make some numbers-based arguments too, though.

You cited the 2005 special teams DVOA for the Bears to show that they were bad on special teams before they got Hester. The better measure would be the specific ratings for punt and kick returns. The monster improvement in special teams in 2006 also had a lot to do with Robbie Gould having a career year.

The point in Hester's favor is that the Bears had below-average returns in 2005. However, that's entirely attributable to Bobby Wade, who had an astonishing 10 fumbles on about 40 returns. The guy couldn't field a punt if his life depended on it. On one of the punts where he actually managed to field the ball and not drop it, he scored an easy TD. The blocking was solid even then.

Brendon Ayanbadejo is a great, great all-purpose special teams guy and has made the Pro Bowl twice in a row for it. Hester does have a great supporting cast.

But let me make myself clear: I believe Hester is the greatest return man in the history of the game. And statistically, he blows the other all-time greats out of the water. But I don't believe he's as far ahead of the pack as his statistics would indicate.

The equivalent argument is "Jerry Rice isn't quite as good as his statistics look because he had Joe Montana and Steve Young throwing to him." We get this sort of argument a lot when a particular unit of a football team puts together an all-time-great accomplishment - everyone in that unit has to be really good.

48 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

i just have to say that i love FO readers for voting for joe thomas as rookie of the year- that shows a level of sophisticated football knowledge that the general public doesn't have. i also like that patrick willis got some votes, he had a great season, too (as did peterson, of course- nothing against him). there probably should be a separate defensive rookie of the year award, though.

50 Re: 2007 Football Outsiders Awards Part I

43. yes, i think it is fair to put roy williams on the overrated list- he has made 4 straight pro bowls and tv announcers still talk about him like he's a premier safety, which, as you say, most knowledgable people know is hogwash.