Overrated-underrated: Broncos' nickel DB Harris worth every penny
June 7, 2013 10:02 AM ET
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Chris Harris proved invaluable to the Broncos during a run to the playoffs last season. (USATSI) Chris Harris proved invaluable to the Broncos during a run to the playoffs last season. (USATSI)
In the past when doing my underrated-overrated column each summer, I tended to focus on the most overrated player.
This time, I am highlighting the league's most underrated player.
See, I can see the good in players.
Jaguars' Shorts poised to make name for himself
The most underrated player in the NFL is Denver nickel cornerback Chris Harris. Playing on a team with Champ Bailey can lead to getting targeted and overlooked. Yet Harris did a heck of a job in Denver. Forced into a starting role last season, he still slid inside in the slot on passing downs and was exceptional.
Harris never backed down against the best, and he now gets to spend his practices working against Wes Welker, which will only help him.
In Bailey, Harris and Tony Carter, the Broncos' corners did a nice job last season. Harris gets my vote as the league's most underrated player, beating out Lawrence Timmons of the Steelers.
So who's the most overrated player? It's not Tony Romo, if that's what you think. I might be in the minority, but I actually think Romo is underrated.
There, I said it.
Since perennial overrated candidate Troy Polamalu isn't rated that highly anymore, he isn't this year's most overrated. Nor is last year's winner, Ndamukong Suh. He played really well in the second half of the 2012 season.
This year's pick is Giants defensive end Justin Tuck. He spent more time doing Subway commercials than playing good football in 2012. He was a definite name-over-game player with just four sacks. There were times on tape where you wondered how he was ever a dominant pass rusher.
Now here are the most overrated and underrated players on all 32 teams.
Overrated: DE Darnell Dockett. He has been one of my favorite players to watch, but he didn't play as well in 2012. Is he coming to the end? Or can he bounce back?
Underrated: DE Calais Campbell. He is starting to get some attention, but not enough. He is one of the best young 3-4 down players in the league. It's time he went to a Pro Bowl.
Overrated: DE Osi Umenyiora. The game isn't as good as the name anymore. He needs to show that he can be an elite pass rusher again. Can he get double-digit sacks? The Falcons better hope so.
Underrated: LT Sam Baker. Too many analysts paid attention to right tackle Tyson Clabo in 2012, but Baker was the better player. After battling injuries for much of his career, he settled in to have a heck of a season.
Overrated: RT Michael Oher. He played better when he moved to the right side in the playoff run, but his play in recent years has been a major concern.
Underrated: CB Corey Graham. They signed him to be a backup and special-teams player and he ended up being a key to their Super Bowl run.
Overrated: WR-KR Brad Smith. They paid him a lot of money with the idea he would help liven up the offense. He didn't do much.
Underrated: DT Kyle Williams. He should take a permanent hold of this spot every year. He doesn't get a lot of attention, but he's a heck of a player.
Overrated: RBs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. These guys are paid a ton and they don't do nearly enough for that money. Stewart played in only nine games last season and averaged 3.6 per carry. Williams ran for 737 yards and averaged 4.3 per carry. Average.
Underrated: QB Cam Newton. Yes, Newton. With all the attention the four young quarterbacks got last year, he was kind of the forgotten man. That's just stupid. He really came on in the second half of 2012. Newton will have a huge season in 2013.
Overrated: LT Jermon Bushrod. Yes, I know they needed help. And he's better than what they had. But he had some issues last season in New Orleans. He's not as good as his contract, that's for sure.
Underrated: CB Tim Jennings. He isn't elite like some Bears fans would make you think, but he is coming off an impressive season. The question now is whether he can do it again.
Overrated: TE Jermaine Gresham. This former first-round pick has a ton of ability, but it just doesn't show up. Will it now that they've added Tyler Eiffert?
Underrated: CB Adam Jones. Yes, the guy formally known as Pacman. He had a heck of a season in 2012 as a nickel corner.
Overrated: OLB Paul Kruger. I know he's coming off a good season, but is he really an elite player like they paid him? I don't think so. Good, not great.
Underrated: S T.J. Ward. In his third season, this hard-hitting safety improved in all areas and could have easily been a Pro Bowl player.
Overrated: WR Miles Austin. In 2009, he looked like a future star. In the years since, that hasn't been the case. He didn't even get to 1,000 yards last season.
Underrated: DE Jason Hatcher. He has developed into a nice 3-4 end for the Cowboys. He isn't an explosive pass rusher, but he gets the job done.
Overrated: WR Wes Welker. I like his game a lot. He is a good player. But I see lists that have him ranked in the top 50 players in the league. He's not that. And where does he rank in terms of receivers on his own team?
Underrated: CB Chris Harris. I love the way he competes on a weekly basis. He edges out linebacker Wesley Woodyard.
Overrated: TE Brandon Pettigrew. You look at him and you see big-play ability. So where is it? Even in a pass-first offense he averaged under 10 yards per catch.
Underrated: DT Nick Fairley. Playing next to Ndamukong Suh, he doesn't get the due he deserves. But he had an impressive 2012 season.
Green Bay Packers
Overrated: TE Jermichael Finley. They say he's focused this offseason and looks better, but hasn't he become a big tease? The talent is there. He needs to do more.
Underrated: CB Sam Shields. He is a good man-cover player who has a chance to be a shutdown corner. He isn't big, and he isn't a great tackler, but he can cover.
Overrated: S Ed Reed. This was one of the easiest picks of them all. Watch his tape from 2012. And then tell me he's the same type of player he used to be. He's not.
Underrated: CB Kareem Jackson. He didn't play well in his first two seasons, but he came on last season as a cover player. He was much more consistent and did a much better job when asked to play on an island.
Overrated: S LaRon Landry. I just don't see the attraction. He is a liability in coverage, even if he is an upgrade over what they had last season. He would have been great in the 1980s.
Underrated: LB Jerrell Freeman. This former CFL refugee has turned into a good pickup for the Colts. He is an active linebacker who can run a little.
Overrated: TE Marcedes Lewis. He had one good year in 2010, but that's about it for this former first-round pick. He is a good blocker, but you don't draft tight ends in the first round to block.
Underrated: LT Eugene Monroe. He has developed into a top-tier tackle. Monroe is entering his contract year, so I expect he will be even better.
Kansas City Chiefs
Overrated: WR Dwayne Bowe. Is he really elite? I just don't see it. He's good, not great. He has been held back by bad quarterback play, but that's just part of it. He needs to do more.
Underrated: G Jon Asamoah. He is a mauler in the run game and has improved in pass protection. He might be on his way to his first Pro Bowl in 2013.
Overrated: G Richie Incognito. He is a good run blocker, but struggles at times in pass protection. He went to the Pro Bowl last year. Should he have?
Underrated: S Reshad Jones. It's a shame he didn't go to the Pro Bowl last season. He was one of the better safeties in the AFC. It's time he gets his due.
Overrated: OLB Chad Greenway. He gets paid a pretty penny and he didn't play to it in 2012. He had some issues in coverage where a lack of great speed showed up. He used to be a better cover linebacker.
Underrated: C John Sullivan. He does a good job in the middle of the Vikings' line and is a big reason Adrian Peterson ran for more than 2,000 yards with a bad knee.
New England Patriots
Overrated: G Logan Mankins. He has battled injury issues the past two seasons, but that doesn't mean he can't be overrated. He is a good player at guard now, but not one of the league's best.
Underrated: C Ryan Wendell. He stepped in for veteran Dan Koppen and did a heck of a job in the middle of the Patriots' line. Playing center in New England's up-tempo offense takes a lot of smarts.
New Orleans Saints
Overrated: RB Mark Ingram. What has he done? Where is the ability to make people miss? This is an easy pick.
Underrated: WR Marques Colston. All he does is put up huge numbers year after year and never gets to the Pro Bowl. He is tough, physical and makes the hard catches.
New York Giants
Overrated: DE Justin Tuck. He was a good player a few years ago, but he had more sacks in 2010 (11½) than he did the past two seasons combined. At 30, it's too early for him to be done.
Underrated: TE Brandon Myers. They picked him up as a free agent from Oakland for nothing. He isn't a blocker, but he will really help in the passing game.
New York Jets
Overrated: LB David Harris. He has been underrated for much of his career, but he didn't play very well in 2012. Can he bounce back?
Underrated: DE Muhammad Wilkerson. He has developed into a beast for the Jets' front seven. It's too bad hardly anybody noticed last season.
Overrated: CB Mike Jenkins. I expected a lot more from him in Dallas. He looked like a potential star early in his career, but he fizzled.
Underrated: DE Lamarr Houston. He is one of Oakland's few defensive players who had a good season in 2012. Now he has to build on it.
Overrated: WR DeSean Jackson. Yes, the ability is there. But where is the production? He had 45 catches last season, two for touchdowns. That's not good enough, even if he did play only 11 games.
Underrated: OG Evan Mathis. On a bad line in 2012, he did a lot of things right. He can move. He's tough. He can also pass protect. Mathis should have been in the Pro Bowl.
Overrated: OLB LaMarr Woodley. He came to camp out of shape, battled injuries and didn't play like the team hoped he would. The talent is still there, but he needs a bounce-back season.
Underrated: ILB Lawrence Timmons. It's amazing how comfortable he looks inside with his ability to get to the football.
St. Louis Rams
Overrated: TE Jared Cook. The Rams are paying a lot of money to a fifth-year tight end who has never had 50 catches in a season. I love the potential, but where is the production?
Underrated: DE William Hayes. He isn't a starter, but he gets a lot of time and makes a lot of plays. They re-signed him as a free agent for a reason.
San Diego Chargers
Overrated: TE Antonio Gates. Hey, I loved his game for years. And he's a class act in the locker room. But he isn't the same player anymore, even if some still rank him among the league's best.
Underrated: ILB Donald Butler. He has emerged as a heck of an inside linebacker. He has a nose for the ball and could push for a Pro Bowl spot this season.
San Francisco 49ers
Overrated: TE Vernon Davis. He is good, and he did some good things in the playoffs, but why do people think he ranks in the top three among tight ends when he didn't do enough in the regular season with 41 catches?
Underrated: OLB Ahmad Brooks. On a talent-laden group, he gets overlooked. That's a mistake. Some offensive coordinators I talked to raved about him.
Overrated: DE Cliff Avril. He is coming off a so-so season for the Lions, which is why he didn't get the huge deal he thought he would get. I had him underrated on this list a year ago. How quickly things change.
Underrated: C Max Unger. He is quietly developing into a top-level center. I give him the edge on this team over tight end Zach Miller and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Overrated: S Dashon Goldson. He's a good, solid player, but he was exposed some in the postseason in coverage. The Bucs paid him a lot of money -- star money -- and he is not that.
Underrated: QB Josh Freeman. The guy sets franchise records for yards and touchdown passes and some want to get rid of him? Please.
Overrated: S Michael Griffin. He misses a ton of tackles and takes really poor angles to the football.
Underrated: DT Jurrell Casey. He was a guy I liked coming out of Southern California, but he is undersized. He makes up for it with his tenacity and quickness. He can be tough to block.
Overrated: WR Pierre Garcon. He was hurt for some of his first season in Washington, but is he really worth all that money they paid him as a free agent?
Underrated: C Will Montgomery. This journeyman is coming off an impressive season in the middle of the Washington line. He's a big reason why Alfred Morris ran wild in 2012.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.