At the moment, NFL teams and players alike are kicking back and enjoying the final weeks of the offseason before training camps open up across the league. With the main pillars of roster building coming and going already, we have a pretty good sense of what teams are slated to look like once Week 1 rolls around, which allows us to dissect these rosters for potential holes.
Here, we're going to be taking a look at some of the more overvalued players on each AFC team. Before we get started, however, let's lay some groundwork for what we're actually talking about. When we say a player is being "overvalued" by his team, we are highlighting they may be leaning/relying on him for a role he may not be capable of performing to the level they need him to for them to be successful. This rundown will consist of all walks of life on a given roster, ranging from quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and linemen on both sides of the ball. We even put a HEAD COACH in the crosshairs!
With that little explainer out of the way, let's look at the players who are being overvalued in the AFC as we inch closer to the 2023 regular season. These are the most overvalued players on each NFC team as the 2023 season approaches. (To see the most overvalued players on each NFC team,.)
The Bengals saw their safety room get turned on its head this offseason with both Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell leaving in free agency. While Bates' departure was largely expected and the team braced for his loss by drafting Dax Hill in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Bell leaving town was more surprising. In response, the team inked former Rams safety Nick Scott to a three-year deal and it seems like he'll be in line to replace Bell in the secondary.
That said, Scott is recovering from a torn bicep and torn labrum, and third-round rookie Jordan Battle has reportedly been taking some first-team reps throughout the offseason in his absence. Scott said last month he's "98 percent" back to health, but it still stands to wonder how this safety unit will deal with the loss of two central figures. If Scott -- who allowed a 118.5 passer rating in pass coverage last season for L.A. -- isn't able to stay healthy or can't fill Bell's shoes, that could thrust Battle into a larger role and make Cincinnati's safety room very inexperienced. Given that they are firmly in their Super Bowl window and the AFC is loaded with elite quarterbacks, they'll need high-end play here.
The Ravens decided against re-signing Marcus Peters in free agency and didn't draft a corner in the first round of the draft earlier this offseason, leaving a noticeable hole at the starting corner spot opposite of Marlon Humphrey. Days after the draft, the team agreed to a deal with Rock Ya-Sin, who is now slated to start in Baltimore's defense. Ya-Sin is on his third team in as many seasons after being a second-round draft choice of the Colts in 2019 and has not recorded an interception in the previous two seasons. That includes the 2022 campaign where he started in nine of his 11 games for the Raiders before going down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 13.
This is an extremely important year for Cleveland, specifically as it relates to Deshaun Watson. The suspension is now behind him and the hope for the Browns is that the veteran can begin looking like the quarterback he was in Houston, which earned him a fully guaranteed $230 million deal. While that may be the hope, it's not automatic, right? What we saw from Watson upon his return last season wasn't pretty. There were some flashes of his old self (a three-touchdown showing against Washington in Week 17), but then there were times when he looked like a shell of himself (48.39 completion percentage in Week 16 against New Orleans). I think the answer to what we'll get out of Watson is somewhere in the middle of his performance last season and his peak in Houston, which isn't what the Browns are paying for. They are giving Watson the type of money that should result in a deep playoff run and toe-to-toe battles with the AFC's elite quarterbacks and I'm not quite sure that's what we'll see in Year 2.
Harris has seen a ton of work in his two years in the league. In 34 career regular-season games, he's logged 579 carries and 115 receptions, giving him a massive 694 touches overall. With that opportunity, the back hasn't been particularly efficient, averaging 3.9 yards per carry in his career and just 4.2 yards per touch. Harris did seem to get in a better groove in the second half of the year, but still only averaged 4.1 yards per attempt after the Week 9 bye. The Steelers have routinely gone with a bell cow approach in the backfield where one player receives the lion's share of the touches and I don't expect Mike Tomlin to change much in 2023, meaning that Harris should continue seeing a ton of work. With emerging second-year back Jaylen Warren arguably more explosive, Harris possibly dominating the touches again could be a detriment to the offense as a whole.
The Texans are awfully thin at wide receiver, especially after trading away Brandin Cooks this offseason. Now, Robert Woods is the veteran in the room after Houston inked him to a two-year deal back in March. He headlines the top of the Texans receiver depth chart along with Nico Collins and John Metchie III, which isn't exactly a Murderer's Row of pass catchers for rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud. Collins has not gone over 500 yards in either of his first two seasons in the league and Metchie is simply looking to make his NFL debut after battling leukemia. That means Houston is betting big that the 31-year-old Woods can return to being the 1,000-yard receiver he was back in 2019 for the Rams. Given his age and playing with a surgically repaired knee from that torn ACL he suffered in 2021, that's too much of a gamble, particularly as they usher in Stroud.
This solely has to do with Leonard's health. The linebacker is coming off a second back surgery and there's been a bit of mystery as to how he's progressing. While he was present for OTAs and minicamp, Leonard didn't participate and Colts owner Jim Irsay recently gave a "we'll see" answer when asked about the veteran's progress. The All-Pro was limited to just three games last season and is slotted to be a major piece within Gus Bradley's defense in 2023. However, it remains to be seen if he'll even be able to get -- and stay -- out there. Without him, this rebuilding Colts team doesn't have anything close to replacing his production and impact on the field.
The last time Calvin Ridley played an NFL game was on Oct. 24, 2021. That's a long time to be away from the game and it's sometimes hard to simply get back to being the player you were upon return (Just ask Deshaun Watson). It's also worth pointing out that Ridley is no spring chicken either as he's entering his first season with the Jaguars at age 28. While it's certainly possible that Ridley can be a missing piece to help take Jacksonville's offense to a new level similar to how A.J. Brown helped ignite the Eagles last year, that's hardly a guarantee given his long absence from the game. There has to be some rust that'll need to be dusted off before we start expecting top wide receiver output here.
Derrick Henry is still one of the very best running backs the NFL has to offer, so let's not confuse that fact with us also pointing out he's being overvalued by Tennessee. In today's NFL where the passing game is so vital to making a Super Bowl run -- especially in the AFC -- having your best offensive player be a running back is archaic. And that remains the case with the Titans, and the team doesn't have many weapons for Ryan Tannehill through the air outside of Treylon Burks, meaning we're likely looking at a very similar approach offensively with Tennessee that we've seen in recent years. Henry has led the NFL in carries in three of the last four years and will be 29 years old at the start of the regular season. At some point, those miles will start to wear down on Henry and the Titans currently have no means of an alternative offensive attack with how the offense is structured.
The Bills are firmly in their Super Bowl window, but their wide receiver room does seem to have some cracks. While Stefon Diggs' situation/standing with the team is peculiar, we'll work under the assumption that he'll be good to go for the regular season. That still leaves Gabe Davis as the No. 2 option in the passing attack after a 2022 season where he didn't make the jump that many expected/hoped he would following a dominant playoff run the season prior. Davis fizzled down the stretch and averaged 37.3 receiving yards over Buffalo's final six games of the regular season. He was dominant in their playoff win over Miami but then came back down to earth in the divisional round catching two of his four targets for 34 yards in the loss. The Bills are looking for him to be a top-tier secondary option for Josh Allen behind Diggs, and, so far, it's been a mixed bag in that department.
The Dolphins signed Armstead to a $75 million deal last offseason and the oft-injured left tackle dealt with his fair share of injuries last season and was limited to 13 games. When he's on the field, Armstead is a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but the inconsistency of his availability makes him a gamble for Miami to rely on, especially given Tua Tagovailoa's concussion history. Armstead will be 32 years old by Week 1 and has played just 21 regular-season games over the last two years due to injury. He's also never played a full season in his career. Miami will be holding its breath that he'll be available when the team needs him most, which isn't exactly the situation you want with your multimillion-dollar pillar to your offense.
You can make the case that the Patriots are overvaluing what they have at both tackle positions, but we'll focus primarily on the left tackle spot and Trent Brown. New England didn't dive into the NFL Draft and take a tackle prospect with one of its top-tier selections and appears set on rolling with Trent Brown to protect Mac Jones' blindside, which is a risky proposition. He missed the first day of mandatory minicamp reportedly due to travel issues related to weather and was a very limited participant the following day before the team canceled the final session. When Brown has bought in, he's proven to be a solid figure along New England's offensive line. However, if he's not that could lead to Mac Jones being under fire by pass rushers every week. The Patriots likely should have made the tackle position more of a priority this offseason and now they're left wondering what version of Brown will be protecting their young quarterback.
The Jets are in full win-now mode after striking a deal for Aaron Rodgers this offseason. They are loaded at wide receiver after bringing in Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman to pair with Garrett Wilson, but the backfield is still a major question mark. That's not questioning Breece Hall's ability. Instead, it's about his health after suffering a torn ACL in Week 7 last year. Expecting Hall to come back and resume what looked like an ascent to superstardom may be a bit too lofty given the type of injury he's returning from. New York doesn't have any other backs who come close to what Hall is capable of providing, and a Rodgers-led offense has typically thrived with an upper echelon running back beside him. With that in mind, the Jets may want to dip their toes further into the Dalvin Cook waters instead of banking on Hall to immediately comeback and go gangbusters.
While we are largely highlighting players on this list, we're making an exception and choosing Sean Payton for this Broncos section. Specifically, Payton's impact on Russell Wilson. Obviously, his first season in Denver was abysmal and Nathaniel Hackett was not equipped to be an NFL head coach, which contributed to both of their downfalls in 2022. That said, I do think that there's a cluster of folks that think Sean Payton's arrival will automatically resurrect Wilson, which doesn't tell the entire story of 2022. For the fault that Hackett had last year, Wilson simply wasn't good either. There were some flashes late, but Wilson left little to be desired and there is the question heading into 2023 about whether or not Wilson has legitimately fallen off. If that's the case, Payton's presence will only be able to do so much.
Patrick Mahomes would likely be able to lead a group of YMCA flag football players to a win, but that still doesn't hide the fact that Kansas City is leaning on Kadarius Toney to be its top receiver in 2023. The club lost JuJu Smith-Schuster in free agency and Toney is now in line to get a large piece of the target share within this Chiefs offense. Toney popped in spurts for K.C. last season after coming over in a trade with the Giants, but it was hardly a dominant run upon arrival. He and Mahomes will have to develop a strong rapport before Week 1 to help the Chiefs in their attempt to go back-to-back.
Las Vegas Raiders
Going from Derek Carr to Jimmy Garoppolo felt like a lateral move. Sure, Garoppolo has enjoyed more playoff success and has a rapport with Josh McDaniels from their time in New England, but the veteran quarterback is hardly an ironman. Even now, Garoppolo is dealing with a foot injury that has the potential if things break the wrong way. Even if the foot injury is resolved by the time Week 1 rolls around, Garoppolo has played in at least 15 regular-season games just twice since becoming a full-time starter in 2017. Moving off of Carr for an injury-prone quarterback who just underwent foot surgery this offseason puts Las Vegas in a risky spot for 2023.
Ekeler has been dominant over the past two seasons, leading the league in total touchdowns in back-to-back years. That said, it's fair to wonder if the veteran will be able to keep that production up, especially after an offseason that featured a trade request by Ekeler that ultimately didn't result in a move out of Los Angeles. The 28-year-old is also coming off a 2022 season where he logged a career-high 311 touches. It might be wise for the Chargers to ease up on Ekeler's touches to keep him fresh for the second half of the year. While the Chargers do have second-year back Isaiah Spiller and veteran Joshua Kelley behind Ekeler to provide depth, neither has shown the ability to have an impact like him on the field thus far. If Ekeler were to go down with an injury, it'd leave a major hole within the Chargers offense. So, keeping him on the field may be tempting given his ability, but taking the foot off the gas may be a wiser approach.