Earlier this week, CBSSports' Pete Prisco published a list of the most overrated and underrated players for each team in the NFL. After first ridiculing Tim Tebow as not being worth a rating at all, Prisco gives the nod as the most overrated player in the league and then names defensive end as the most underrated player.
Last season, Prisco picked Andre Gurode as the most overrated Cowboy and Doug Free as the most underrated. Andre Gurode was subsequently released, and Doug Free signed a four-year, $32 million contract but had a rather disappointing season at left tackle.
For this season, Prisco focuses once again on the linemen, only this time he says that nose tackle Jay Ratliff is the most overrated player on the roster, while Tyron Smith is the most underrated:
Overrated: NT Jay Ratliff. He just wasn't as good as in years past. He's solid, but he wasn't dominant like he was in other seasons.
Underrated: LT Tyron Smith. He was outstanding as a rookie on the right side and will be even better on the left, his more his natural position.
I'm not sure I can fully follow Prisco's line of thinking here. I don't think Ratliff is overrated, and there is no way that Smith is underrated: the guy was the number nine pick, he had a very good rookie season and is being moved to one of the most important positions on the team.
But if not those two, then who else could be the most overrated and underrated players on the team?
Let's start with the most underrated player. I'm sorely tempted to pick Phil Costa, simply because I'm a contrarian and I think too many people have simply latched on to him as a popular scapegoat. I think Costa will be the starter this year and he'll have a good season. But I'm going to go in a different direction.
I really like Prisco's choice of Ray McDonald as the most underrated player in the league - except I thought that about McDonald last year. So much so that I put him on my early Cowboys roster projection in July last year before the CBA had even been signed and before free agency had begun.
In that vein, I'm picking Jason Hatcher as the most underrated player on the team. In a recent look at the Cowboys pass rush, we saw that Hatcher was one of the most productive pass rushing 3-4 defensive ends in the league. Unfortunately, Hatcher injured his calf in week three and didn't come back until week eight, but in his ten games last season, he recorded five sacks, six QB Hits and 14 QB pressures on only 428 defensive snaps. If the Cowboys were to double Hatcher's snaps, there's reason to believe he might be able to approach ten sacks and 20 QB hits this year.
And that wouldn't be bad for a guy playing on a three-year, $6 million contract.
Picking the most overrated player is a bit trickier because it requires me to take off my Cowboys cap. And with the cap off, I could go the easy route and say it's Laurent Robinson, who I believe will not be able to replicate last year's performance in Jacksonville, but that'd be a cop-out because the guy isn't on the roster anymore.
Now if I remove my blue-tinged glasses in addition to my Cowboys cap, as much as it pains me, I see yet another candidate: I'm going to have to go with Miles Austin. In the sixteen-game span starting with his breakout, 250-yard club-record game at Kansas City in 2009, Austin racked up more receiving yards than any other NFL receiver (1,547). Over that span, he had the eighth-most receptions and tied for the fifth-most touchdowns. Since then though, it's been a different story.
Hampered by injuries and having to work with backup QBs, he's only put up 1,146 receiving yards in 22 games since, a paltry 52 yards per game. That's not what you expect from a guy who signed a seven-year, $57.168 million contract. Of course I'm hoping the Romo-Austin connection will be back to 2009 production levels this year, and everything we've seen in the offseason so far suggests it will, but until proven otherwise, I'm picking Austin as the most overrated player on the roster.
Who would you pick as the Cowboys' most overrated and underrated players?