Every year it happens. Undue hype is bestowed upon a player by fans, media, or coaches, and players fail to live up to their expectations. Former dominant players hit a roadblock and struggle inexplicably. Teams that everyone expected would make deep playoff runs finish below .500, and teams picking in the top ten of the previous draft make a jump to the playoffs. Here I tried to find more of the under the radar players that failed to live up to expectations, leaving off obvious names such as Blake Bortles and Cam Newton. Regardless, the number one offender of 2016 could not be left off the list.
Under the Radar Disappointing NFL Players of 2016
1. Brock Osweiler – quarterback, Houston Texans
Yes, the Texans made the playoffs by winning the AFC South. However, Brock Osweiler has made a case for himself as one of the most overpaid players in NFL history. No one really know what to expect from Osweiler. He showed glimpses in Denver, but the sample size was never really there. After signing a four-year, $72 million contract this past offseason, the expectations for Osweiler were considerably increased. He rewarded the Houston front office’s faith in him by completing less than 60% of his passes and throwing 15 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. Osweiler finished the regular season as the 33rd ranked quarterback in DVOA out of 34 qualifying players. The $72 million starter got pulled in week 15 for Tom Savage. In fact, the home fans in Houston couldn’t have been happier to see their starter pulled!
Texans fans were THRILLED to see Tom Savage replace Brock Osweiler: pic.twitter.com/6YhRNpMJed
— SB Nation (@SBNation) December 18, 2016
It’s hard to imagine a situation where Osweiler isn’t on the Texans in 2017 – there would be $25 million in dead cap if they cut him – but it is also difficult to picture Bill O’Brien wanting to start him.
2. Anthony Barr, linebacker – Minnesota Vikings
Anthony Barr was arguably the best player on the Minnesota Vikings last season. It looked like Barr would be a piece the Vikings defense was built around for the next decade. In just his second year out of UCLA, he made the Pro Bowl and was graded as PFF’s top outside linebacker. This season was quite a setback for Barr. He hasn’t been able to make the explosive, dominant plays that he had consistently displayed in his first two seasons in the league. At times he has simply seemed disinterested. Barr was also criticized by head coach Mike Zimmer for “coasting a bit.” Hopefully a long offseason to think about the disappointing Vikings season will do Barr good, and we can get back to see him making the exciting, splashy plays that made him one of the most exciting young linebackers in football.
3. Laquon Treadwell – wide receiver, Minnesota Vikings
Yes, that’s back to back Vikings. However, Treadwell said it himself. Talking to the Minnesota Star Tribune, he said: “The whole season was disappointing for me. I don’t think I helped the offense at all.” He’s not wrong. The 23rd overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft finished the regular season with one catch for 15 yards on three targets. Not exactly what you expect when you draft a receiver in the first round. Things don’t get any better for Treadwell when you consider Adam Thielen, an un-drafted 26 year old receiver who had 20 career receptions coming into the season, made nine starts for the Vikings and recorded 68 catches. Since 2009, three quarterbacks, three offensive lineman, and a corner all caught at least one pass from scrimmage in their rookie year. Not a good look for Treadwell.
4. Ezekiel Ansah – DE, Detroit Lions
After a season where he recorded 14.5 sacks and anchored the front seven of the Lions, Ziggy had just two sacks in thirteen regular season games in 2016. His overall production fell as well. He failed to record a single forced fumble, fumble recovery, or batted ball as well, and only had 21 solo tackles – down from 39 in 2015. This play in Week 17 seems to epitomize Ansah’s season. He’s not playing terribly, he’s just not getting home when the Lions need him the most.
— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) January 3, 2017
His failure to get after the quarterback like he has been known to in the past is a big reason for the Lions’ defense LAST PLACE ranking in DVOA. If the Lions want to make a run in the postseason, Ansah is going to need to play better than his PFF ranking as the 60th best edge defender.
5. Carson Palmer, John Brown, Michael Floyd – Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals were a popular pick to not only return to the NFC Championship game, but play in the Super Bowl. If not for a legendary year by David Johnson and the always consistent Larry Fitzgerald, Bruce Arians‘ high powered offense was atrocious in 2016. It’s looking like age has finally caught up to the 37 year-old Carson Palmer. Arians hasn’t been shy about this fact, saying this about finding the future of the quarterback position in Arizona: “That will be one of our main objectives in the off-season is to make sure the franchise isn’t in the situation it was after Kurt (Warner), that the next guy is here and ready to roll.” John Brown was plagued with a sickle cell trait early in this season, causing him to miss considerable time, so it may not be fair to say he’s been a disappointment. However, his production certainly fell off even when healthy, and was benched for J.J. Nelson at times. Additionally Michael Floyd, midway through a dumpster fire of a season, fell asleep at an intersection and was arrested for a DUI. The team cut him a few weeks back. The Cardinals offense is a mess, but seemingly finding the quarterback of the future would be top priority in Arizona.
6. Vontae Davis, cornerback – Indianapolis Colts
Davis missed the first two weeks of the season recovering from a groin injury. Formerly an elite shutdown corner, either he has lost a considerable step or he never fully recovered from that ankle injury. Regardless, Davis was supposed to be a cornerstone of the Colts defense, a team that finished 27th in the league, giving up 262.5 passing yards and 1.7 touchdowns a game through the air. Davis himself ranked as the 106th best corner in the league according to PFF with a grade of 47.3. This after the past three years grading 85.5, 94.6, and 82.2.
Antonio Brown broke Vontae Davis’ ankles so bad it looked like someone shot him ? https://t.co/hh2xA5V1fs
— NFL Draft Insider (@NFLDraftInsider) November 25, 2016
7. Doug Martin – RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Martin signed a five-year, $35 million extension with the Bucs this past off-season. He rewarded the team with the worst season of his career. Martin is not unfamiliar with up and down play on a year-to-year basis, but this season was an abomination. In the eight games Martin started this year, he averaged a league worst 2.9 yards per carry. In mid-December he was suspended four games due to a failed test for banned substances. The failed test was supposedly for Adderall, but suspicions have arose that there is certainly more about Martin’s case than has been made public. Martin entered a rehabilitation program in December and his status for 2017 is still very much uncertain.
8. Mario Williams, DE – Miami Dolphins
The 2016 offseason was a revolving door for the Dolphins on the defensive edge. They let Oliver Vernon walk to sign a lucrative deal with the Giants. Mario Williams was then brought in as a cheaper replacement for Vernon. While not performing spectacularly in 2015, Williams was coming off a stretch of recording double digit sacks in three out of his last four seasons in Buffalo. This season in Miami, Williams is rated as the 63rd best edge rusher. He has only recorded 1.5 sacks and made only five starts for the Dolphins.
9. Every Kicker Not Named Justin Tucker
OK, so this one might be a bit of an exaggeration. However, it really does seem like Tucker is simply on a level above every other kicker in the league. Tucker is 38-39 on the season for field goals and 10-10 on field goals of fifty or more yards. His only missed field goal – blocked. In a season where 71 PATs and innumerable field goals were missed, it’s becoming increasingly evident how much of an advantage a reliable kicker can be.