The Biggest Underachievers On Each AFC Team
For every player who overachieves in the NFL, there are just as many, if not more, who underachieve.
Whether a guy comes into the league as a former college star, a high draft pick or someone with a ton of hype, not every player can live up to the expectations.
In the first of our two-part piece, I dug deep into all 32 NFL teams to find which player is the most underachieving for each, with these guys representing the All-AFC team.
This is one preseason list no player should be happy to find himself on.
Buffalo Bills: EJ Manuel, Quarterback
When a team spends a first-round pick—16th overall—on a player, the hope is that the guy pans out. And when that selection happens to be on the quarterback position, AKA the most critical in the sport, the pressure tends to be heavier.
With just 16 TD passes to 12 INTs in his first two seasons in the league, EJ Manuel has been incapable of grabbing the reins of the Buffalo Bills’ quarterback competition, even falling behind Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor on the Bills’ current depth chart in the preseason.
I’m not saying the 25-year-old has completely sucked ass but, well, OK, I kind of am saying that.
Miami Dolphins: Dion Jordan, Defensive End
Like every single year, prior to the 2013 NFL draft, Dion Jordan was being talked about as the next great pass-rusher.
The 6’6″, 275-pound defensive lineman from Oregon had speed and strength to give offensive lineman headaches while pressuring the fuck out of a quarterback.
However, in his first two seasons, Jordan has just three sacks and 46 combined tackles, meaning the No. 3 overall pick in that 2014 draft hasn’t exactly lived up to the high expectations.
While Jordan’s stats are awful, the fact that he’s suspended for the entire 2015 season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy means his football career might even be in the balance.
New England Patriots: Danny Amendola, Wide Receiver
When the New England Patriots acquired Danny Amendola prior to the 2013 season, it was expected that the shifty wideout would automatically step into the role played by former All-Pro Wes Welker.
Sometimes, though, the molds on players aren’t the exact same.
While some may blame injuries on the lack of production, Amendola has actually only missed four games total in his two seasons with the Pats, meaning his disappointment has come from lack of production and nothing else.
Coming off of a Super Bowl win in 2014, the Pats don’t seem too concerned that he hasn’t become the player he was supposed to be—though they did restructure his contract this offseason—but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t shit the bed since arriving in Foxboro.
New York Jets: Geno Smith, Quarterback
Quick, name the first two quarterbacks taken during the 2013 NFL draft. Answer: EJ Manuel (16th overall) and Geno Smith (39th).
Seeing as how I added Manuel to this list earlier, it’s safe to say that the signal-callers during that year weren’t exactly great.
Geno Smith has been an inconsistent mess since arriving in the Big Apple, turning the ball over a total of 41 times in his 30 games played in the league—which, yes, is fucking atrocious.
Performance aside, Smith had that whole mix-up with now former teammate IK Enemkpali, costing the quarterback 6-10 weeks of the 2015 season and continuing to add to the dysfunction that the Jets have had since Smith came onboard.
Baltimore Ravens: Eugene Monroe, Offensive Lineman
It may be strange putting an offensive lineman on a disappointment list, but, of anyone on the Baltimore Ravens, Eugene Monroe would fit the bill.
The eighth overall pick in the 2009 draft, Monroe has yet to discover his full potential, failing with consistency as a blocker on the blue-collar Ravens.
With a contract that pays him like a star—he’s not—and injuries putting him in and out of the lineup, Monroe needs to step his production up to keep his job, because the Ravens have continued to win without him on the O-line.
Cincinnati Bengals: Giovani Bernard, Running Back
After a decent rookie campaign in 2013, Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard was supposed to take a big leap in 2014 and become a dynamic, dual-threat out of the backfield.
Unfortunately, the injury bug bit him, costing him three games and any sort of consistency during the season, as he basically duplicated his performance in 2014 from his first season the prior year.
Worse than that, the former second-rounder has fallen behind Jeremy Hill on the team’s depth chart this season, as Hill represent the bulldozing, downhill runner the team prefers.
Bernard is still just 23 years old, but, as of right now, the kids hasn’t become the player many believe he can be.
Cleveland Browns: Justin Gilbert, Cornerback
It would have been simple for me to just list Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel here and say, “yep, he’s the most disappointing player on the team.” Lucky for Johnny Football, though, his fellow rookie from last season has actually performed ever worse.
That would be cornerback Justin Gilbert, who, after being selected eighth overall in the 2014 draft, has continued to lack the skills to even crack the team’s starting lineup.
You guys, this is the Browns we’re talking about. I could crack the team’s starting lineup.
Struggling (again) this preseason as he has dipped to the fourth corner on the depth chart, Gilbert needs to show a hell of a lot more to seriously be considered for any significant playing time.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Heath Miller, Tight End
OK, so I’ll be the first to admit that adding Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller to this list is a bit of a stretch. After all, the guy has been solid as a fucking rock for the franchise since he came into the league in 2005.
However, as the Steelers reshape their identity from a power running team with a strong defense to a wide open passing team, Miller seems to be the odd man out.
Never one to command the attention of opposing defenses, Miller is a good safety net for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to have, but he’s not the player he used to be, as age as seemed to catch up with the 32-year-old.
Houston Texans: Arian Foster, Running Back
When healthy, Houston Texans running back Arian Foster has shown to be one of the best in the league, 1,377 yards in the four seasons he has played at least 13 games in.
It’s too bad that Foster has two other campaigns in which he has suited up for eight or less, with the 2015 season soon to be his third year in which that happens.
Already on the shelf with a hamstring injury, there’s no timetable for Foster’s return, meaning the whole “Mr. Glass” mantra that’s attached to the guy is becoming more and more legit.
Indianapolis Colts: The Entire Offensive Line
How good is Andrew Luck? The dude has put up Hall of Fame-like numbers in his first three seasons even behind a shaky offensive line, continuously getting knocked around nearly every time he dropped back to throw.
For that reason, the Indianapolis Colts’ O-lineman gets the nod here as the most disappointing, as they need to step up their game in order to protect the future of the franchise.
Add in the lack of running game the Colts have had the past couple of years and it’s easy to understand why Indy’s behemoth’s need to get better.
But, fuck, it’s also scary to think about what Luck might be able to do when he’s not under such pressure.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver
Tell me if you’ve heard this story before.
Former college star gets selected in the top-5 of the NFL draft, struggles on and off the field and currently finds himself potentially out of football.
Yeah, that nightmare scenario has happened to plenty of guys.
Unfortunately, wide receiver Justin Blackmon is one of the latest victims, as he has played in just 20 total games since coming into the league in 2012 and might just find himself without a job here soon—according this his team’s GM.
Showing little interest in the sport and no urgency to get back onto the field, Blackmon continues to battle substance abuse problems while being suspended, making it difficult for the Jags to rely on him moving forward.
Tennessee Titans: Chace Warmack, Offensive Lineman
Another offensive lineman who has failed to impress, Chace Warmack of the Tennessee Titans has continued to struggle with consistency during his first two seasons in the league.
Taken No. 10 overall in the 2013 draft—which was loaded with offensive lineman—Warmack has yet to solidify himself as a blocking beast, making it difficult on the Titans to justify such a high selection.
With a new quarterback under center this season—No. 2 overall pick and former Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota—it’s time for Warmack to lockdown the guard spot and ease any doubts about his ability.
Denver Broncos: Montee Ball, Running Back
An absolute no-brainer for me, without a doubt, Montee Ball is the most disappointing player on the Denver Broncos—and, yes, it’s because, moronically, I took him in the first-round of my fantasy draft last season.
Playing alongside the greatest passer the NFL has ever seen, Ball failed to understand that running the football should be easier with defenses focusing on shutting down Peyton Manning.
With just 731 career rushing yards in two seasons, the former Wisconsin runner has looked lost during his time on the field, even slipping on the depth chart behind C.J. Anderson, meaning Ball’s time in Denver may be over before his 25th birthday.
Kansas City Chiefs: Alex Smith, Quarterback
Don’t get me wrong, Alex Smith is a good quarterback.
A former No. 1 overall selection in 2005, it took some time for the guy to get his legs under him, but, once he did, proved to be consistent.
But, I’m sorry Chiefs fans, if you think you’re winning a Super Bowl with Smith as your quarterback, you’ve been drinking way too much, because that shit’s not happening.
While his stats in K.C. have been impressive since joining the team before the 2013 season—41 TDs to 13 INTs—he lacks any playmaking ability whatsoever, redefining what it means to be called the dreaded “game manager.”
With a massive contract that pays him like a superstar, Smith’s production doesn’t justify it, and, unfortunately, seems to have reached his ceiling as a passer.
Unlike a box of chocolates, with Smith, you always know what you’re going to get at this point.
Oakland Raiders: Trent Richardson, Running Back
If you would have told me in 2012 that running back Trent Richardson would fail to produce a 1,000-yard season in his first three years and find himself on his third team already, I would have called your ass a damn fool.
Yet, here we are with that exact scenario.
An absolute beast in college for the Alabama Crimson Tide, T-Rich has been anything but since entering the pro game, failing to run with the same skill he showed in Tuscaloosa.
With time running out for him to prove himself—on the Raiders, no less—Richardson may end up on the street before the 2015 season even starts if he’s not careful, which would be an absolutely ridiculous fall from grace.
San Diego Chargers: Manti Te’o, Linebacker
The addition of San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Te’o to this list has nothing to do with the famous fake girlfriend hoax that plagued him during his final season at Notre Dame.
Instead, it’s all about the lack of production he has shown since moving to Southern California.
Gone is the playmaking star who could pluck a football out of the air or single-handedly bring down a tough runner, taking over a game by finding that extra gear.
Playing in a total of 23 games in his first two years and compiling just 80 total tackles, one sack and one INT, Te’o is nothing but an average linebacker at best, which is a far cry from the Heisman Trophy runner-up during the 2012 college football season.