The last decade has given us the prime years of some of the best players to ever strap on a helmet and play in an NFL game. Those players deserve every bit of adulation that comes their way.
Then...there are these nine. They might have some impressive stats and a good reputation within the league, but their careers just weren't as impressive as we have been led to believe.
9. Dez Bryant
For a three-year stretch, there wasn't a better possession receiver in the game than Bryant, as evidenced by the fact he caught 41 touchdowns from 2012-2014. From 2015 onwards, Dez was far from an elite receiver. He only caught an even 50% of passes thrown his way, and he never averaged more than 61 yards receiving per game, which is below his career average of 66, again. Bryant will likely end his career with fewer receiving yards than Pierre Garcon and just one touchdown more than Marques Colston.
8. Randall Cobb
Cobb might have been one of Aaron Rodgers' favorite targets, but let's keep his career with the Packers in perspective. 2014 was he only season in which he topped 1,000 yards receiving, scored 10 or more touchdowns, or made a Pro Bowl. He has topped 800 yards receiving in just three of his 10 seasons, and only has topped seven touchdowns in a season twice. Solid and reliable, but nowhere near an elite receiver.
7. Devonta Freeman
The "never pay running backs" crowd is having a field day after the ludicrous five-year contract the Falcons handed to Freeman. The former Florida State star had two 1,000 yard seasons with 22 touchdowns in the two years Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator, and he's now looking like a product of Shanahan's offense. Freeman has just 2,139 yards TOTAL in the last three seasons without Shanahan, and is averaging a career-worst 3.6 yards per carry in a sloppy 2019 season.
6. Trey Flowers
How Flowers managed to secure a $90 million dollar contract with the Detroit Lions despite never piling up more than 7.5 sacks in a season remains a mystery. Flowers might have been a key member of some terrific Patriots defenses, but he was never an elite pass rusher in that scheme, nor the main reason for that unit's success. Flowers has seven sacks this year for the Lions, which is dead even with his career averages.
5. Jarvis Landry
Landry might be in the middle of one of the best seasons of his career, but that doesn't excuse the fact that Landry is often erroneously mentioned when it comes to the best slot receivers in football. Landry somehow failed to crack 1,000 yards the year that he led the NFL in catches, and has a yards per target average of 7.2 that ranks near the bottom of the list as compared to some of the other elite receivers in the league. Landry's starts appear to be inflated a bit by the likes of Adam Gase force-feeding him targets via bubble screens.
4. Josh Norman
Norman is all bark and no bite, as evidenced by the fact that the former sixth-round pick has had just one dominant season in the pros. Norman's 2015 season with the Carolina Panthers was undoubtedly elite, but his tenure with the Washington Redskins has been a train wreck. With a PFF grade of 45.6 this season, Norman has become synonymous with burnt toast, and lost whatever intimidation factor he picked up in Carolina.
3. Joe Flacco
While we're all in agreement that Flacco is terrible now, he wasn't any great shakes during his prime with the Baltimore Ravens, either. Flacco only twice topped 22 touchdowns in a season, and has a 7:5 TD/INT ratio over the last five seasons. His career best passer rating is 93.6, and he has topped 90 just twice. With a career passer rating lower than Marcus Mariota's 2019 rating, Flacco was always more game manager than star quarterback, even with a ring in tow.
2. Nick Foles
Winning a Super Bowl can change the narrative on how good a quarterback is, and Foles fed off of that this offseason. While his 27-touchdown, two-interception season under Chip Kelly was marvelous, if you remove that year from his stats, Foles has thrown for just 54 touchdowns against 33 interceptions. He might have beaten Tom Brady in a Super Bowl on an excellent Eagles team, but he was just benched for Gardner Minshew after going winless in Jacksonville. The pixie dust has run out.
1. Eli Manning
Sorry, Giants fans. Eli might have his rings thanks to a totally stacked defense on those Giants teams, and he has his stats by virtue of starting for as long as he has, but Manning's dominance and Hall of Fame case isn't as strong as Giants fans want to make it seem. Manning, who has led the league in interceptions three times, has never had a season with a passer rating higher than 93.6. 2007 and 2011 were also the only seasons in which Manning won a playoff game. He has his rings, but he's nowhere near his brother.