This offseason, Shutdown Corner's Frank Schwab and Eric Edholm will look into what is overrated and underrated in all aspects of the NFL. We fully expect your angry emails and comments that are sure to follow.
OVERRATED AND UNDERRATED: Wide receivers
Eric Edholm: James Jones, Raiders
At first blush, it appeared the Raiders made a smart move in landing Jones for fairly cheap money midway through free agency when the market on him was not that hot initially. But the reality is that Jones was always a player the Packers were thinking about life without, almost cutting him a few times the past few seasons, and it showed when they barely made an effort to retain him. Although Jones once scored 14 touchdowns, he did so as much because Aaron Rodgers was his quarterback and he always drew single coverage with so many other weapons around Jones. At 30, we've pretty much seen the best of him — his 817 receiving yards were a career high last season — and those numbers are almost certain to go down with a far shakier offense in Oakland.
Frank Schwab: Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
For some reason Bowe hasn't quite gotten the scorn he probably deserves. He has been a massive disappointment, with one touchdown spurt four years ago (15 scores in 2010) propping up his reputation. He hasn't produced like a No. 1 receiver. Yet, he signed a $56 million deal over five years in 2013, becoming the third highest paid receiver in the NFL at the time. For what, really? A career high of 1,162 yards in a season? That's 72.6 yards per game, and that's his high point. Not exactly $56 million stuff. Here's another number for Bowe: 1,474 yards and eight touchdowns. That's over the past two seasons combined. Josh Gordon had 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns last season alone, and before we complain about Bowe's quarterbacks, don't make me remind you who threw Gordon the ball last season. The Chiefs should be desperately chasing a true No. 1 receiver, but they seem just fine with Bowe. Or maybe since they paid him as an elite player, they're just stuck with his mediocre output.
EE: Jordy Nelson, Packers
Do you realize how good he was last season? Do you realize how criminally underrated he is? Really, since his breakout performance in Super Bowl XLV, Nelson has been Rodgers' most trusted target in key situations, especially now that Greg Jennings is gone. Nelson has exceptional hands and body control, underrated speed and gives good effort as a blocker. There's no question that Nelson was the go-to guy with Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley injured for much of the season — putting up career highs in catches (85) and receiving yards (1,314), along with eight touchdowns — but he also did so with Rodgers out of the lineup for almost half the season. Cobb might be the more explosive and versatile player, but Nelson is a crucial cog in the Packers' attack.
FS: Andre Johnson, Texans"Underrated" is all relative. I know folks understand Johnson is good. But does everyone realize how good? Johnson is the second best receiver of his generation (we'll put Randy Moss, drafted in 1998, in the previous generation) after the great Calvin Johnson. Larry Fitzgerald has a case for that title, but Johnson has had almost 10 yards more per game than Fitzgerald and never played with a quarterback like Kurt Warner. Reggie Wayne? Give Andre a quarterback like Peyton Manning for most of his career. When Johnson is reliving the glory days of Matt Schaub, you know that Houston never did much to get him an elite quarterback. Yet, he still has three of the 22 best seasons for a receiver in NFL history, yardage-wise, and five of the best 61 seasons in terms of catches. But go search "Andre Johnson Hall of Fame." There's still a debate on his credentials. There shouldn't be. With almost no help — from an elite quarterback or a competent No. 2 receiver to take pressure off him — Johnson has been incredibly productive through his career. He's not only one of the greatest receivers ever, already in the top 17 in both career yards and receptions and showing no signs of slowing down, it might be a few years after he retires that people fully realize it.
More on wide receivers:
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