Posted August 22, 2013

The Audibles All-Overrated Team: Darnell Dockett, Paul Kruger headline defense

AFC South, Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, NFC East, NFC West, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins
Darnell Dockett now has the defense he wants. What will he do with it?

Darnell Dockett now has the defense he wants. What will he do with it? (Joe Robbins/Getty)

Overrated. It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot in sports. Whether it’s used to describe a draft pick who never lives up to his potential, a high-priced free agent who ultimately disappoints, or a player who is lauded by the media when the tape doesn’t back that up … if a team has too many of the type of guys who earn the O label, that team clearly is going to struggle. Often, players wind up overrated as a result of questionable front office decisions as anything else, but there are also situations in which players have simply failed to become as good as they could or should have been. Here, then, are the defensive players who we believe are — for a variety of reasons — overvalued going into the 2013 NFL season. You can find the list of offensive players here. It’s a bit tougher to fill out a whole lineup of truly overrated defensive players — many more of them are underrated — but there are those who have us wondering about value versus performance.

• Darnell Dockett, DL, Arizona Cardinals

Dockett has talked a lot of late about how happy he is in the system new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has installed since taking over for Ray Horton, and maybe there’s some fire behind that smoke. Dockett has been one of the better and more versatile defensive linemen in the league for a number of years, but his performance dropped in 2012 — from 3.5 sacks in 2011 to 1.5 last season, and down from 16 quarterback hits and 23 quarterback hurries in ’11 to seven and 10 last season.

Bowles has said that he plans to have Dockett disrupt on his own as opposed to throwing gaps open for linebackers, but if the change of pace doesn’t set the veteran right, the Cards will have to wonder about the $5.5 million he’s due in 2014. There are times when “overrated” players are just victims of scheme, and this is the year we find out if Dockett’s one of those guys.

FARRAR: Spiller, Bradford headline All-Underrated Offense

• DeMeco Ryans, ILB, Philadelphia Eagles

Speaking of victims of scheme, Ryans is now undergoing his second major defensive change in the last few years. He struggled when the Texans moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in 2011, had a rebound year with the Eagles in ’12 (he was one of the few bright spots on a really bad defense) and now, he’s in the spotlight as Philly’s new defensive coordinator, Billy Davis, transitions to more 3-4 principles in the next couple of seasons. Ryans has insisted that he’s not going to fall the same way he did before.

“It’s a big perception that DeMeco doesn’t fit in the 3-4,” Ryans told Philly.com in April. “I played with the Texans in the 3-4 defense when we were the [No. 2] defense in the league. If I didn’t fit in there, we wouldn’t have been that highly ranked. It’s all about being versatile.”

Yes, but the problem is that Ryans is much better against the run than the pass; versatility may not be his strong suit in a more multiple defense.

• London Fletcher, ILB, Washington Redskins

As for Fletcher … well, we really hate to do this, because this guy is a freak of nature. He led the Redskins with five interceptions in 2012, and his veteran savvy allows him to take angles that few 38-year-old linebackers should be able to. Still, there have to be concerns. Last season, Fletcher racked up 10 blown tackles and ranked 108th among NFL defenders in stop rate (Football Outsiders’ metric which determines the percentage of successful plays prevented) against the run. Fletcher is still important to that defense, but as it was for the Ravens with Ray Lewis last season, the Redskins will have to weigh importance against performance.

LAYDEN: Fletcher knows sustaining a career is unending work

• Paul Kruger, OLB, Cleveland Browns

The Browns gave Kruger a five-year, $40.5 million contract with $20 million guaranteed in March after his career year with the Super Bowl champion Ravens. Kruger put up nine sacks in 2012 after amassing just 6.5 total in the three seasons before. But that’s not why we’re concerned about Kruger’s overall value to the Browns’ defense — it’s because he finished near the bottom among 3-4 outside linebackers in run statistics with just 14 stops and six broken tackles in 298 run snaps, per Pro Football Focus. One expects more versatility for a player with that type of contract.

• DeAngelo Hall, CB, Washington Redskins

Hall is a sometimes-splashy player who has intercepted 39 passes in his NFL career, but 2012 was far from a triumph. He’s perhaps the NFL’s best example of the idea that interceptions are for defensive backs what sacks are for pass-rushers — far from the only barometer of real play-to-play success. Hall picked off four passes last season, but he led the league with 869 yards allowed in coverage, per Football Outsiders, and tied for third-worst in the NFL with 41 combined touchdowns and third downs allowed. The idea now seems to be to use Hall as a corner/safety hybrid, but he struggles with the more advanced reads he needs to make in that position. Hall plays well at times (his defense of Dez Bryant in Week 17 helped the Redskins win the NFC East), but there’s a fairly large divide between perception and reality in his case.

• Cary Williams, CB, Philadelphia Eagles

In 2012, Williams played for a Ravens team that won the Super Bowl, and this prompted the Eagles to sign him to a three-year, $17.5 million contract with $10 million guaranteed. Since that contract was signed in March, Williams has missed OTAs for a host of interesting reasons (daughter’s dance recital, dental work, buying sconces for his new home), made it through a low number of practices due to nagging injuries and called out his new defense after a preseason loss to the Patriots — a game in which he did not play. That made people look back to his 2012 performance, and the view was not pretty. Williams allowed six touchdowns in coverage, gave up a 98.4 quarterback rating when he was covering a primary target and his 67 catches allowed ranked fourth-worst in the NFL. Perhaps Williams will thrive in his new surroundings, but when that will happen is anyone’s guess.

47 comments
gelynch52ph
gelynch52ph

It seems to me that to be "overrated" a player would have to be a household name, overpaid and underperforming. Most of the guys in this list are known only to the fans of the teams they play for.

AnthonyPatterrson
AnthonyPatterrson

Awful list, many of these players are not highly thought of by fans of their own teams, much less overrated. DeAngelo Hall, overrated, huh? Who's overrating Demeco Ryans, I haven't seen one article that didn't say the Eagles D would probably be crappy. And thats with him and Williams, so who's overrating them? Strange....

llovette99
llovette99

Suh? You must not watch football. Overated, as far as outsized expectations? Probably. He's not Lawrence Taylor, but I'd venture that he's better than any DL on the team you root for. Its not his fault for the huge contract, it was the old CBA. He absolutely has been worth his draft position.

ElvisHitler
ElvisHitler

Agreed w/ the Clay Matthews suggestion for this overrated team. Kid gets worked every game.

IanHartless
IanHartless

How can DeAngelo Hall be overrated? The Redskins cut, then resigned him with no bites from other teams. I don't think Doug Farrar understands the meaning of "overrated"

e602
e602

How is Dockett overrated?  I'm willing to bet 80% of the people viewing this article never heard of Dockett before reading this article, 15% heard of him because of his crazy fascination with buying exotic pets like tigers.  The other 5%, including me, are Cardinals fans.  

dbum
dbum

cant call fletcher overrated, not even at this point in his career. guy has been underrated his entire career only has recently received any attention and its mostly around the length of his play and streak of not missing a game. he might not be the monster he was up to a year or two ago but he still shows up clearly when you watch them play. has a great knack for making the decisive tackle short of the first down. 

couldnt agree more on d hall. i hate that the guy is still on the redskins and that he ever was handed that big contract. hes usually on all of the highlights. of the other team. trailing some other player as he runs into the end zone. gets a lot of credit for his tackling but he shies away from contact half the time. king overrated.

x72
x72

I'd add Tom Brady to the overrated list & Colin Krapperneck.

lakesguypaul
lakesguypaul

Without Kruger, Ravens and end of the line Lewis, doesn't win a Super bowl.Were glad to have him , thanks .

DanaBunner
DanaBunner

Farrar wrote this about DeMeco Ryans:  "had a rebound year with the Eagles in ’12 (he was one of the few bright spots on a really bad defense)"   How can this merit a spot on the All-Overrated Team???

BosephHeyden
BosephHeyden

Where's Lance Briggs?  All I keep hearing is that he's a staple of the Bears defense, but that goes against everything I've seen:  missed tackles, blown coverage assignments, and the inability to catch up with guys he needs to catch up with.  Heck, most of the tackles he gets credited with are usually because he was in the general vicinity of a play.

flamiemcflamerpants
flamiemcflamerpants

To give him credit, he does have a link for the offensive side of the ball.  To that end, this article is offensive to anyone who clicks on it.  Farrar, you are guilty of the single worst article I've read this month.  

friendly--neighborhood--scrawler
friendly--neighborhood--scrawler

I clicked on this article hoping to find 11 offensive and 11 defensive players and special teamers i will give you Steve Tasker, from back in the day..... yes i said it... 

If i did my job is half "arse" i would not expect to have a job the following week.. Doug you don't need a write up on the remaining players , but you do owe the readers at least 16 more players for clicking on your article / wasting our time.  It is funny how your name "Dougie" almost sounds like Doogie, that may not a coincidence, frankly it's a reflection of your work.

WCoastPro
WCoastPro

yeah I don't know about this list. In 2013 it's outdated to say someone is overrated. 

too much information exists on every player. 

Derek8
Derek8

...who is the Hall of Famer on this list?

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

DeAngelo Hall has always been overrated. He has never been worth the baggage he brings.

Annabel
Annabel

Defending champs Ravens got severely criticized and summarily dismissed as a contender this year because of losing so many players especially on defense.  Now 2 of those show up here as overrated; i.e. overpaid.  Maybe the Ravens have a smart front office and know more about football personnel and how to win than the critics.  Just a thought.

Joe R2
Joe R2

@IanHartless 

I agree.  Hall is terrible and I don't think many people disputes that.

JoelSmith
JoelSmith

@e602 You underestimate the effect Madden football has on NFL fans. Over the last 5-8 years, Dockett has always been a young talented DT in the video game, so even non-junkies and non-Cardinal fans have heard of him.

unit5139
unit5139

@dbum and hes' a punk who runs his mouth way too much and gets stupid penalties


A.F.Davis
A.F.Davis

@x72 That is because, you don't know what you're talking about bud.

Scramble
Scramble

@lakesguypaul I think we did pretty well replacing Kruger and Lewis. I hope your team buys a comfortable couch for watching the playoffs.

TL1961
TL1961

@BosephHeyden I don't know what games you see or what player you have mixed Briggs up with.

Speed issues? Hmmmmm......OK, whatever. The guys on offense who can't catch him as he scores defensive TD's probably don't agree.

His peers keep electing him to the Pro Bowl, and the defense he plays in the middle of keeps finishing near the top of the league.

Where does he rank in missed tackles? You must see stats to back this up- I sure don't see it in games. Where can I find this info you have?

Blown coverages? Really? The Bears cover 2 shuts teams down - must be everybody else. Again, where can I find this stat?

He gets credited with tackles just for being in the vicinity? Really? Yet his tackle totals are compared to others who apparently DON'T get credited for the same thing? So the official statisticians of the league have a bias in his favor that does not apply to anyone else? You TRULY believe this?? Wow!

michael158
michael158

@Richard--Ramirez It really amazes me when people like you open your mouth and stupid jumps right out.  You must have been head of your class.

beekay31
beekay31

@Richard--Ramirez Yes, a player on pace with Kevin Greene, #3 all-time in sacks, is "overrated".  Oh, and contrary to goofy fans who desperately search for any flaw in their rivals' players, Clay actually grades out pretty high against the run according to coaches and statisticians.  Go pound sand, Ricky Ricardo.

BY
BY

@Richard--Ramirez And I am sure you'd be happy to say that to his face when you put on your uniform and face the Packers.

Yipicya
Yipicya

@Richard--Ramirez @llovette99 Suh got beat down by the Browns OL in the preseason game.  The only time Suh was around the ball was when he pushed the Browns RB who was already almost out of bounds hard.

Suh-ckers  4-12 for the Lions at best


BosephHeyden
BosephHeyden

@TL1961 You really didn't give any argument.  I've watched him play.  You obviously have not.  Speed issues?  Besides the game against the Chargers where he couldn't get from the weak side to the strong side to catch his guy (who also fooled him on coverage a few times), there have been numerous times he's had running backs fly right past him that he hasn't caught up to.

 Missed tackles?  Again, all you need to do is WATCH GAMES and you will see him slide off guys.

 Blown coverages?  Yes, in fact, he does.  Case in point:  watch the game against Seattle last year that served as one of Russel Wilson's "arrival" games.  The Bears defense held their own against Wilson up until the fourth quarter, when Brian Urlacher went down with an injury.  Briggs took over handling the defense and the immediate next drive was a go-ahead touchdown drive, followed immediately by an overtime winning touchdown drive, mainly because they attacked the middle of the field.

 And since I'm bored with mocking your question bit, the vicinity tackles are mainly in part that tackles are still a ridiculously hard stat for statisticians to track easily.  Any person that uses a defensive player in fantasy football will tell you that the tackle stat is often changed three or four times in a week because a tackle was improperly credited or discredited to another player.
And don't give me the "Oh, his peers elected him to the Pro Bowl" spiel.  Most players just go ahead and vote for whoever they happen to know plays each position.  Sort of like how Brenden Ayanbedejo would constantly make the Pro Bowl as a special teams specialist for the Bears when he was with them:  whenever a play was made, Ayanbedjo knew where the cameras were and made sure he was there.  He wasn't the best player on the special teams unit, but he was the best known on the best squad, so he got it.  And, when Briggs has made the Pro Bowl, it's usually because the Bears defense, as a whole, did well that entire year.

Richard--Ramirez
Richard--Ramirez

@BY @Richard--Ramirez No problem at all, I'd tell him to cut his hair and act like a man. I'd say the same to you son, you can start by fetching me a cold one.