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Pete Prisco's underrated/overrated for every team
Justice prevails as we balance the scales of hype
July 5, 2005
By Pete Prisco
CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
Tell Pete your opinion!
If an NFL player gets it, he can live off it for years. If he doesn't, it's a tough fight to get the credit he deserves.
Which brings us to the CBS SportsLine.com annual list of underrated/overrated players for each of the league's 32 teams.
After his breakthrough season in 2004, Detroit's James Hall won't be underrated for long. (Getty Images)
Every team has a player -- or players -- who gets way too much credit, a player living off a reputation. By contrast, each team has a handful of players who don't get nearly the due they deserve for whatever reason.
Maybe it's lack of name recognition.
Maybe they play in a small market.
Maybe they avoid the hype.
For the list, we pick one overrated and one underrated player from each team, although several teams had multiple players in each category, making for tough choices.
So who are the most overrated and most underrated players from among our 64, giving them those titles throughout the league?
Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington is the choice as the most-overrated player. Arrington has all the tools to be a truly dominant player. But misuse in schemes, plus a tendency to freelance too much as well as injury troubles (he played just four games last season), have stunted his development.
Arrington was considered the potential second coming of Lawrence Taylor when he came out of Penn State in 2000. Instead, he's been a big tease.
As for the most-underrated player, we'll go with Detroit Lions defensive end James Hall.
Who, you say?
Hall had 11ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â½ sacks in 2004 to lead the Lions and finish seventh overall in the league.
At 6-feet-2, 280 pounds, Hall has decent speed off the corner and he plays with a relentless style that makes him tough to block coming from the right side of the defense.
Entering his sixth season, Hall had 11ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â½ sacks in his first four seasons combined before becoming a pass-rush force last season. Playing next to Pro Bowl tackle Shaun Rogers helps, but it also takes away from the attention Hall deserves.
The Lions did the smart thing before the 2004 season, locking him up to a contract through the 2008 season. This 28-year-old is coming into his prime, and pass rushers are worth a ton on the open market. If Hall can continue to develop, 15 sacks is a number that isn't out of the question.
If he gets that, he may get the due he deserves. In the meantime, here's a little attention that should be coming his way as the league's most-underrated player.
Now here's the rest of the list.
Underrated: Adrian Wilson, safety
This is a player who made huge strides last season. The coaching staff loved the way he finally played up to his wonderful abilities -- which should have put him in the Pro Bowl. He's a favorite of this space.
Overrated: Robert Griffith, safety
The Cardinals added him for his veteran leadership, but he has never been good in coverage and that will show up for the Arizona defense.
Underrated: Kevin Shaffer, left tackle
A former seventh-round pick who has developed into a quality player. Shaffer made it easy for the Falcons to cut ties with Bob Whitfield a few years ago, a move many in the organization wanted to make sooner than it happened.
Overrated: Michael Vick, quarterback
Hold on before you Vick lovers blow your stack. Vick is an amazing player and a true take-over-the-game quarterback. But he isn't as good as the hype. He needs to be a better pocket passer before he can be a true superstar. That will come with time. It isn't there now.
Underrated: Will Demps, safety
With Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister on the corner and Ed Reed at the other safety spot, Demps will get overlooked in a big way this season. But Demps is a heck of a player, a tough tackler who can play in coverage better than some think.
Overrated: Jonathan Ogden, tackle
He's still a premier player, but he isn't the player he was a few years ago. Ogden has some struggles with some speed rushers last year -- see Dwight Freeney -- and that could be a sign of the start of the erosion of his skills.
Underrated: Trey Teague, center
The Bills have a first-round pick playing right tackle (Mike Williams) and some other top-notch free agents at other spots along the line, but Teague remains their best lineman. He can play center and tackle, but it appears the Bills will keep him at center this season.
Overrated: Lawyer Milloy, safety
He is still a tough tackler, and does a nice job near the line of scrimmage, but he struggles in man coverage. The Bills can cover him up with their zone defenses, but he is no longer a top-tier safety.
Underrated: Jeff Mitchell, center
Mitchell isn't an overpowering center, but he gets by with his toughness and his smarts. Playing in between two so-so guards last season, he was challenged even more. He's not a Pro Bowl player, but he's a solid player.
Overrated: Brentson Buckner, defensive tackle
Buckner is a fun-loving, always-talkative player who was dominant when the Panthers went to the Super Bowl two years. In 2004, he didn't play that well as he battled injuries. Age is starting to become a concern, too.
Underrated: Ian Scott, defensive tackle
The Bears have used high picks on inside players the past couple of years, but Scott, a fourth-round pick in 2003, was good enough to start most of last season. He is a powerful run player who will be hard to move out of the starting lineup.
Overrated: Muhsin Muhammad, receiver, and Brian Urlacher, linebacker
Muhammad was the Bears' high-priced free-agent acquisition last spring, but he will prove to be a big disappointment. He put up big numbers in Carolina, but he doesn't run that well and age is starting to be a factor. As for Urlacher, he's a good player, but not a great one. It's time for him to live up to his reputation.
Underrated: Duane Clemons, defensive end
This 10-year veteran started 14 games last season and had 6ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â½ sacks. Clemons also played the run well. He has been a valuable addition to the Cincinnati roster the past two seasons.
Overrated: Tory James, cornerback
He went to the Pro Bowl after getting eight interceptions last season, but he isn't nearly as good as his numbers would make one believe. He is decent, but not a Pro Bowl-quality corner.
Underrated: Daylon McCutcheon, cornerback
He is small and doesn't have great speed, but he gets the job done. He is a feisty player who knows how to cover receivers and isn't afraid to tackle.
Overrated: Brian Russell, safety
The Vikings always tried to replace Russell because he can't run, and they didn't really care that he went to the Browns. He has had some nice interception seasons, but he is a so-so tackler who doesn't have great range. That's not a good combination.
Underrated: Dan Campbell, tight end
Who? Just ask some inside the Dallas building about the importance of Campbell to their team. When he went down with an injury last year, the Dallas running game suffered in a big way. He's like an extra tackle when he's on the field.
Overrated: Roy Williams, safety
He makes some big hits and that earns him a lot of attention. The reality is he isn't that good in coverage -- and that shows up. He's more like a linebacker than a safety, which is why he will play strong safety this season after playing free safety a bunch in 2004.
Underrated: Ben Hamilton, guard
He's a tough, feisty player who may be the Broncos' center of the future when Tom Nalen walks away. Hamilton is a perfect Denver lineman, athletic and tenacious.
Overrated: John Lynch, safety
His game was never what the media made it out to be, and now it's even worse. He is a liability in the secondary when it comes to coverage. For every one big hit he gives, he is beaten on a pass play. That's not a good tradeoff.
Underrated: James Hall, defensive end
There are plenty of scouts around the league who love this kid. He doesn't have great physical ability, but he plays all out and finds a way to get to the quarterback. He's a rising player in the league.
Overrated: Marcus Pollard, tight end
Pollard was perfect for the Colts offense, a lean target who doesn't block all that well. Pollard's production has dipped the past four years, so age (he's 33) has to be a factor. Truth be known, the Colts weren't all that crushed they couldn't keep Pollard.
Green Bay Packers
Underrated: Chad Clifton, left tackle
Packers guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle left for big-dollar deals in the offseason, but Clifton was the marquee lineman on the Green Bay team. He is one of those players who never gets the due he deserves and only got a lot of it from the Warren Sapp cheap shot a few years back.
Overrated: Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, defensive end
He had 13ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â½ sacks last season, which is a nice number, but he went nine games (counting the playoff loss to the Vikings) without a sack. He gets sacks in bunches, but he isn't as consistent as his reputation.
Underrated: Dunta Robinson, cornerback
As a rookie, Robinson was good enough to go to the Pro Bowl. He is a pure man-cover player who is silky smooth. He's the next great shutdown corner.
Overrated: Morlon Greenwood, linebacker
The Texans paid a lot of money to sign him away from Miami as a free agent, and it was a move met with a lot of skepticism around the league. He played outside for the Dolphins, but will play inside in the Texans' 3-4 defense. At 225 pounds, he's a little small for that duty.
Underrated: Bob Sanders, safety
Sanders played in just six games as a rookie last season, but he showed enough to really excite the Colts coaches. Sanders plays with a nasty attitude, something the Colts defense needs in a big way. Watch him excel this season.
Overrated: Mike Doss, safety
Doss has been a major disappointment after being a second-round pick in 2003. Doss doesn't run that well, and it shows up in coverage. He also seems to lack the instincts for the position.
Underrated: Fred Taylor, running back
He has a career average of 4.6 yards per carry, which puts him among the elite of the league, yet he's never mentioned with the top backs in the game. Taylor also has a reputation for being injured, yet has missed two starts the past three seasons. Ask the players about him. Opponents fear him.
Overrated: Donovin Darius, safety
Darius played better in terms of coverage last year, which is a big step for him. But he's not close to being the safety many around the league think he is. He doesn't make enough big plays for his reputation.
Kansas City Chiefs
Underrated: Brian Waters, guard
Fellow guard Will Shields and tackle Willie Roaf get all the attention on the Chiefs line, but Waters is right there with them. Waters may have actually outplayed Shields last season.
Overrated: Sammy Knight, safety
If the Chiefs think Knight is going to help them improve their defense, they're woefully mistaken. He is too slow in coverage and that shows up far too much. Sure, he makes some nice plays at times, but he gives up a bunch, too.
Underrated: Randy McMichael, tight end
If he played on a team that actually had a quarterback to get him the ball, he'd put up some really big numbers. As it is, he's a consistent threat in the middle of the field.
Overrated: Zach Thomas, linebacker
We've said this for a long time, but here goes again: Thomas is a decent player, but not nearly as good as portrayed. Some scouts think Thomas is actually a liability when the big bodies in front of him don't protect him. The new scheme in which linebackers have to take on blocks won't help him.
Underrated: Fred Smoot, cornerback
The guy can talk a big game, which has a tendency to turn off the media, but he can play. Smoot is a smooth cover corner who doesn't get the due he deserves because of his mouth. That matters little here. Smoot can play.
Overrated: Darren Sharper, safety
The Green Bay corners were ripped last season, but those who watched the tapes say Sharper had a lot to do with the Packers' poor pass defense. He took bad angles to the ball. Sharper isn't the same player he was three years ago when he was a quality safety.
New England Patriots
Underrated: Dan Koppen, center
You look at the New England line and wonder how it plays so well with a mish-mash of players. Then you realize Koppen is a rock-solid player in the middle, which really helps. He is a major draft steal for the Patriots, coming in the sixth round three years ago.
Overrated: Ted Johnson, linebacker
He's a tough player, but he isn't what he used to be. He still excels against the run, but he's a liability in coverage.
New Orleans Saints
Underrated: Dwight Smith, safety
The Saints targeted Smith in free agency then signed him away from the Bucs. He is a rangy player who has played corner, which is what you want from your safeties in the modern NFL. Plus, he plays the game with a nasty streak.
Overrated: Wayne Gandy, left tackle
The Saints staff thinks Gandy regressed in 2004 and his age might be starting to be a factor. He has to play better this season if the Saints are to push for the playoffs.
New York Giants
Underrated: Tiki Barber, running back
All he does is move the chains. Barber had 1,518 yards, caught 52 passes for 578 yards and went to the Pro Bowl last season. Yet he doesn't get a lot of accolades when mentioning the top backs. Maybe it's his fumbling woes of years past.
Overrated: Will Allen, cornerback
This former first-round pick has regressed after a good start to his career, and he could be out of a job if rookie Corey Webster plays well early. Allen has the tools, but he just hasn't lived up to the hype.
New York Jets
Underrated: Dewayne Robertson, defensive tackle
Robertson became a force in the middle of the Jets line last year, but he didn't go to the Pro Bowl. That will change. With Jason Ferguson lost to the Cowboys, Robertson has to play even better in 2005. He will.
Overrated: Chad Pennington, quarterback
Pennington's a good player, but he isn't among the 10 best quarterbacks in the league, which is what playing in New York would make you think. Plus, he's coming off major shoulder surgery that could limit his so-so arm even more.
Underrated: Danny Clark, middle linebacker
If you asked 20 people to name the Raiders' leading tackler last season, maybe one would name Clark -- him. He had 128 tackles last year to lead the Raiders by a bunch. A free-agent signing from the Jaguars, Clark had his best season. He will now move to the middle in the Raiders 3-4 scheme.
Overrated: Warren Sapp, defensive tackle
This guy is done. Finished. Sapp was once a dominant player, a future Hall of Fame selection. But those days are over.
Underrated: Michael Lewis, safety
He's "That Other Guy" in the Eagles secondary. Corners Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard and safety Brian Dawkins get plenty of attention, and much of it deserved. But Lewis is a heck of a player, too. He's rangy and he hits.
Overrated: Jon Runyan, tackle
Injuries have slowed him to the point where he can be dominated at times. Runyan is now a weak link on the Eagles line, although he deserves credit for battling through the pain. He still shows up every week to fight.
Underrated: Larry Foote, linebacker
Foote played so well last season for the injured Kendrell Bell that he kept Bell on the bench when he returned. With Bell gone to Kansas City, Foote is now the entrenched as a starting inside linebacker.
Overrated: Jerome Bettis, running back
Bettis is a great guy and he's loved in Pittsburgh. But he isn't the threat he once was with the football. If he's starting at any point this year, it's a mistake for the Steelers. He should be a spot player now at this point in his career.
St. Louis Rams
Underrated: Kevin Curtis, receiver
The Rams always have a way of finding quality third receivers, and this guy is the flavor of the month. He has good speed and playing alongside Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce helps him see a lot of single coverage. It might not be long until he takes over as the starter for Bruce.
Overrated: Adam Archuleta, safety
He played with a sore back last season, and it showed. But even healthy he isn't the player he's made out to be. He can hit like a linebacker, but he covers like one, too. At safety, that's not good.
San Diego Chargers
Underrated: Jamal Williams, nose tackle
Williams is the best nose tackle in the league, a run-stuffing 350-pound player who doesn't get his due playing for the Chargers. Williams also showed more pass-rush ability last season, getting a career-best four sacks.
Overrated: Drew Brees, quarterback
Let's see him do it again. Every one around the league is ready to anoint him as a Pro Bowl player in 2005. The Chargers must think so as well, otherwise he would have been given a long-term deal. The feeling here is that he had a special year in 2004, but until he does it again the verdict is still out.
San Francisco 49ers
Underrated: Eric Johnson, tight end
He caught 82 passes last season. Imagine what he could do with a real quarterback? Johnson is an outstanding pass-catching tight end who knows how to get open. If Alex Smith is the real deal at quarterback, Johnson will be even more of a factor in the passing game.
Overrated: Kevan Barlow, running back
The 49ers had big plans for this guy and he let them down last season. Barlow has the tools to be a 1,400-yard rusher, but something seems to be missing. Don't be shocked to see him lose his job to rookie Frank Gore this season.
Underrated: Marcus Trufant, cornerback
This is a rising cover player who is on his way to becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber corner. Trufant plays with a smooth style that allows him to play with the best receivers in the league. If he irons a few quirks out, he's on his way to Hawaii.
Overrated: Shaun Alexander, running back
This one will open some eyes because he was second in the league in rushing last season. But the feeling inside the Seattle organization, from coaches and players, is that Alexander is soft. He won't get the tough yards. Plus, he's a me-first player. He is on the trading block and nobody made a move. That has to mean something, right?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Underrated: Brian Kelly, cornerback
Ronde Barber gets a lot of attention playing corner for the Bucs, but Kelly is just as good, if not better. He is a smoother cover player who isn't afraid to tackle. He just isn't as good at blitzing as Barber.
Overrated: Joey Galloway, receiver
Every summer we hear how it's time for Galloway's big season, the year his speed finally helps him put up the big numbers. Then he gets hurt and it's the same Galloway. At some point, he has to find a way to stay on the field for more than half the games.
Underrated: Lamont Thompson, safety
In his second season with the Titans, Thompson was one of their better defensive players. He started 13 games and had four interceptions. It's no wonder the Titans want to lock him up to a long-term deal.
Overrated: Albert Haynesworth, defensive tackle
Oh, the ability. This kid could be a Pro Bowl player. And he shows flashes. But there isn't enough of it. Someday, the pilot light will go on for good. When it does, look out. He has to stay healthy, though.
Underrated: Shawn Springs, cornerback
Springs proved to be a great addition for the Redskins secondary. At 30, he is coming off his best season in years. Springs had six sacks and five interceptions last season for the Redskins. He's an outstanding cover man, which we all expected when he came out of Ohio State.
Overrated: Lavar Arrington, linebacker
He has a total of 22ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â½ sacks in five seasons. Where's the impact for his being the second player taken in 2000? He battled injuries last season, but even when healthy he isn't the player his name would make you think.