Secret Superstars: 2011 In Review
It’s getting to the time of year when we roll out our Secret Superstars to watch out for in the 2014 season for each of the 32 teams in the league.
The series highlights one player from each team who we feel performed better than the credit he was given, or a player who looks poised to impress further if granted a bigger role.
With that in mind, and with three years of the series under our belts, we thought it would be a good idea to look back on our picks from each year and see how we did. There were some impressive hits, and some wild misses, starting off with 2011.
Arizona Cardinals – Dan Williams, NT – HIT
Despite being drafted with the 26th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Williams saw just 388 snaps in his rookie year. Still, he graded well in that limited duty, particularly against the run where he had a grade of +11.5. Given that he’s been restricted mainly to early downs, he hasn’t made the impact that some might have expected. He’s still a good run defender and has graded positively each year he’s been in the league.
Atlanta Falcons – Kroy Biermann, DE – MISS
We named Biermann as a Secret Superstar after a successful first few seasons in the league, where he had graded well in limited duty, and then impressed in his first year as a starter in 2010. That was to be his best season to date however, with three straight negatively graded seasons to follow. Last year he made the switch to linebacker, only to have his season ended 30 snaps into their Week 2 game against the St Louis Rams, so it’s tough to tell if he would have made the transition successfully.
Baltimore Ravens – Josh Wilson, CB – MISS
After being named our Ravens Secret Superstar, Wilson signed with the nearby Washington Redskins late in the summer. He’d graded well in Seattle earlier in his career but that 2010 season in Baltimore, where he had a +17.6 grade including the playoffs was the best we’d ever seen from him. He didn’t necessarily play poorly in Washington, but he was just never able to reach those lofty heights again.
Buffalo Bills – George Wilson, S – HIT
Wilson was just a bit part player for the Bills in 2010, but he had previously impressed us with a standout (+14.8) season in 2009. His 2011 was an up-and-down year but he rebounded to have an impressive season as a starter in 2012. On the downside of his career now, he was still serviceable for the team as a rotational player last year.
Carolina Panthers – Geoff Schwartz, OL – HIT
Anyone who has been a PFF subscriber for a few years will know how impressed we have been with Geoff Schwartz since his first stint as a starter in 2010. Grading very well (+19.2) while playing both right guard and right tackle, Schwartz then missed all of 2011 through injury. He impressed again in a limited role for Minnesota in 2012, and excelled when he took over as a starter for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013, and finally looks poised to get the recognition he deserves.
Chicago Bears – Daniel Manning, S – MISS
Manning played well for the Bears as a starter in 2010, but the +12.3 grade he earned during that season hasn’t been replicated since. Through three years in Houston, which weren’t poor but didn’t do much to get your attention either, he failed to regain that form and just recently signed with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cincinnati Bengals – Geno Atkins, DT – HIT
This one is about a big a hit as you can get. Drafted out of Georgia in the fourth round of the 2010 Draft, Atkins impressed us with his +17.3 grade on just 356 snaps, particularly as a pass rusher. He’s gone from strength to strength since assuming a full time rule, including a ridiculous +85.4 2012 season and was impressing again before his 2013 season was cut short through injury.
Cleveland Browns – Chris Gocong, LB – MISS
As right as we were on Atkins, we were at the opposite end of the scale with Gocong. His 2010 season showed some serious potential, grading positively against the run and in coverage. He followed that up with a -9.7 graded season, where he struggled against the run in particular and, after missing all of the 2012 season through injury, hasn’t played since.
Dallas Cowboys – Stephen Bowen, DL – MISS
Bowen graded out well early in his career but it was his 2010 season, where he had 33 total pressures from 391 pass rushing snaps, which caught our attention. He switched teams to the NFC East Rival Redskins in 2011, however, and hasn’t played to nearly the same level since.
Denver Broncos – Joe Mays, LB – MISS
It was Mays success against the run in limited duty for the Broncos that impressed us in 2010, but sadly he hasn’t progressed as we predicted. More limited to a running downs only role, he has at least still performed solidly in that regard, he just wasn’t able to make the same impact in coverage.
Detroit Lions – Lawrence Jackson, DE – MISS
Following on from an impressive 2010 season, where he recorded eight sacks from 196 pass rushing opportunities, we expected big things from Jackson. Perhaps we put too much stock into a strong second half to the season, because he hasn’t been able to regain that form since. Capable of flashing big performances, he just lacked the consistency to back us up.
Green Bay Packers – Scott Wells, C – HIT
Wells was named our Green Bay Secret Superstars after three strong seasons as a starter and, thankfully for us, he followed that up with his highest graded year to date in 2011. While his past two seasons in St. Louis weren’t as impressive, we are quite content that he backed us up in his final year in Green Bay.
Houston Texans – Offensive Line – HIT
Did we cheat here? Possibly, but after a stunning 2010 season, it wouldn’t have been fair to single out just one member of the Texans offensive line. The line’s success continued up until this year when, like the rest of the team, it wasn’t where it needed to be however, with success stories like Duane Brown and Chris Myers, the unit has definitely lived up to its Superstar billing.
Indianapolis Colts – Justin Tryon, CB – MISS
Tryon looked the part after taking over as a starter late in the 2010 campaign, finishing the year with a +6.4 grade on 537 snaps. Whether or not he could have continued that form remains a mystery however. Tryon saw just 81 and 52 defensive snaps in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Brad Meester, C – MISS
Center’s rarely get the credit they deserve, even less than their teammates on the offensive line, so while he was a veteran by the time we named him a Secret Superstar, Meester lived his career in relative anonymity. These past two seasons his career was definitely on the down slope, but he was still a good player in 2011.
Kansas City Chiefs – Wallace Gilberry, DE – MISS
Since registering seven sacks on 402 snaps in 2010 Gilberry has flashed the occasional big game as a pass rusher. The problem however, has been that it hasn’t come in nearly the volume we expected after 2010. A solid situational player for sure, just not the superstar we envisioned.
Click over to Page 2 for the rest of the 2011 Secret Superstar Reviews…
Miami Dolphins – Anthony Fasano, TE – HIT
What made Fasano stand out as a draft prospect was the same reason why we liked his 2010 season, his run blocking. He followed that up by having a similarly impressive 2011 season and, while he wasn’t a huge receiving threat, he didn’t struggle here either, showing a strong pair of hands.
Minnesota Vikings – Jim Kleinsasser, FB – HIT
It wouldn’t be Secret Superstars without a full back now would it? Kleinsasser never got the credit he deserved when playing and was at times nothing short of dominant as a run blocker. Whether it came lined up in the backfield or at tight end, he was dominant to the end, finishing his final season in 2011 with a +15.0 grade as a run blocker.
New England Patriots – Brandon Spikes, LB – HIT
As the league has continued to become more about passing the ball, it’s easy to see why the great run stopping linebackers are a bit of a dying breed in the NFL. Still, there are some very good run stopping linebackers out there and Spikes has been our highest graded inside linebacker against the run each of the past two seasons, something which shouldn’t just be ignored.
New Orleans Saints – Lance Moore, WR – HIT
After an impressive 2010 season, Moore went on to become a big part of the Saints high powered offense, scoring 14 touchdowns between 2011 and 2012. A long-time favorite target for quarterback Drew Brees, it took some time for him to get the credit he deserved.
New York Giants – Jonathan Goff, LB – MISS
Chalk this one up to injury. After impressing us with a +10.1 grade against the run in 2010, the sixth best mark of all inside linebacker that year, Goff missed the 2011 and 2012 seasons due to injury, before being unable to get on a roster in 2013.
New York Jets – Mike DeVito, DL – HIT
Is Mike DeVito a great all round defensive lineman? No, he’s limited, but thankfully he’s been so good against the run that he’s still an incredibly valuable player to have on your roster. That prowess against the run has been clear since 2009, and has shown little sign of slowing down.
Oakland Raiders – Matt Shaughnessy, DL – MISS
2010 was Shaughnessy’s second year in the league and at times he looked very good against the run, while looking solid as a pass rusher. He’s maintained that success against the run, even since moving to outside linebacker in Arizona, but poor pass rushing leads this one to be a miss.
Philadelphia Eagles – Antonio Dixon, DT – MISS
Another player who impressed us with a strong display against the run in 2010, Dixon just hasn’t seen enough of the field to show whether or not he could repeat that form. Playing just 122 snaps between 2011 and 2012, he didn’t take a single defensive snap in 2013.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Emmanuel Sanders, WR – HIT
Could we have been braver and went for Antonio Brown here? Of course, but that shouldn’t take away from the development of Sanders in his time in Pittsburgh. Many thought the Steelers would have let him go to New England last year, but they kept him around for another year before seeing him bolt to Denver, where he’ll get to catch passes from Peyton Manning.
St. Louis Rams – Fred Robbins, DT – HIT
Robbins impressive 2010 season came when he was 33 years old and, while he hasn’t played in the past two years; his 2011 season was still good enough to justify us giving him some deserved recognition.
San Diego Chargers – Eric Weddle, S – HIT
Weddle is now regarded as one of the premier safeties in the NFL, and for good reason, but back in 2010 he was still being overshadowed by the likes of Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. That changed with his consistency however, as Weddle finished no lower than our third highest graded safety between 2010 and 2012.
San Francisco 49ers – Chilo Rachal, G – MISS
How good was Rachal in 2010? Only Carl Nicks had a higher grade as a run blocker than him that year, but sadly he couldn’t maintain that form. Losing his starting job at the start of the 2011 campaign, after some rocky performances, he just never looked like the player he did in 2010.
Seattle Seahawks – Raheem Brock, DE – MISS
Brock’s 2010 season saw him generate 67 total pressures on 473 pass rushing snaps, including the playoffs, leading to us touting him for big things. Perhaps we should have been wary of his age, or how much better his season looked with two huge performances late in the year, as he struggled to replicate that in 2011.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Quincy Black, LB – MISS
Early in his career, and most notably in 2010, Black looked good in coverage, something which is obviously important for linebacker, especially in Tampa Bay. His play really took a turn for the worse in 2011 however, with him missing 16 of the 66 tackles he attempted.
Tennessee Titans – Jason Jones, DL – MISS
Usage has been the key with Jones’ career and, after a successful first few seasons in the league as an interior pass rusher, with the highlight being 2010, the Titans moved Jones to defensive end. The results weren’t good, as he struggled to generate pressure and had little impact against the run. That was followed by a fairly successful season in 2012 in Seattle, where the Seahawks used him in the interior once again.
Washington Redskins – Vonnie Holliday, DL – MISS
Though it came late in his career, Holliday was worthy of the recognition when we named him a Secret Superstar in 2011, after a solid year as an interior pass rusher. He didn’t spend 2011 in Washington however, heading to Arizona via trade and failing to impress like he had for much of his career.
Follow Gordon on Twitter.