With Week 17 upon us, the spotlight is about to shine on the cream of the NFL crop as the playoffs begin. But before we leave the stragglers behind, let's round up the 10 most disappointing players in the NFL this season. Below are 10 players, ranked from most disappointing to least, who fell short in one way or another in 2016.
By the numbers: 59.6 percent completion rate, 2,704 yards, 5.8 yards per attempt, 14 TDs, 16 INTs, 71.4 passer rating.
When you give a quarterback $37 million guaranteed and hand him the reins to an improved offense that already includes the terrific DeAndre Hopkins, you do not expect that quarterback to throw more picks (16) than touchdown passes (14) and be benched in the 14th game of the season. Osweiler was really set up for a big year, with Houston drafting receivers, adding free-agent running back Lamar Miller and possessing a defense that can create great field position, but he really did nothing. I visited the Texans this summer, and when you watch Osweiler practice, he really looks sharp. But it seems like, for whatever reason, he struggled to translate that to game day. He's not a lazy guy or someone who doesn't go to meetings or pay attention; he just seems to be missing something. At this point, you have to continue coaching him and hope something clicks, though if I were the Texans, I'd be very worried. If backup Tom Savage succeeds in the playoffs, Houston will have a very tricky situation to sort out.
By the numbers: 56 catches, 26 carries, 648 yards from scrimmage, 4 total TDs.
Austin has the quickness you need at the position, but he has not produced at the level you'd expect for the money ($42 million over four years, including $30 million in guarantees) he was handed this past August. Contrary to the hopes the team likely had when it spent the eighth overall pick to draft Austin in 2013, Austin is notTyreek Hill. Without a quarterback to get the ball to him downfield (or an offensive line that can facilitate that), Austin hasn't been able to do much beyond running the occasional reverse. If he ends up with the right quarterback, he might turn into someone who makes big plays, but for now, his ceiling appears to be that of a supporting player, given that he ranks third in receiving yards on the NFL's 30th-ranked passing offense.
By the numbers: 58.5 percent completion rate, 3,604 yards, 6.2 yards per attempt, 22 TDs, 16 INTs, 77.6 passer rating.
Coming off a 35-touchdown season in 2015, expectations were high for Bortles -- maybe too high. I'm not sure what happened to this guy. Based on what we saw heading into 2016, it looked like he was going to be pretty good. But he just hasn't been completing the difference-making passes; he's not making those game-breaking 35-yard downfield throws. In 2015, Bortles recorded 72 passes of 20-plus yards and 11 of 40-plus yards; this year, those figures have plummeted to 40 and three, respectively. And he's thrown interceptions with alarming frequency. Among quarterbacks with 700 or more pass attempts over the past three seasons, Bortles has the most picks (51) and the third-highest interception rate (3.06 percent). He also has thrown 11 pick-sixes in that span. Maybe a new, offensive-minded coach, along the lines of current Patriots coordinator Josh McDaniels, could help Bortles regain his once-promising trajectory.
By the numbers: 264 carries, 845 rushing yards, 6 TDs, 3.2 yards per carry.
A fantasy darling coming off last season's Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign, Gurley seemed to simply stop making big plays in 2016 -- and it's hard to say exactly why. The offensive line is partially at fault, but it can't be blamed for everything. After all, Jordan Howard has racked up 1,178 yards under similar circumstances in Chicago. Gurley's yards-per-carry mark has dipped by 1.6 yards (from 4.8 in 2015 to 3.2), and he's recorded just two runs of 20 yards or more, with his longest run of the season being a mere 24-yarder. It's not like he's out of shape, at least based on what I saw in training camp. But I just haven't seen the explosion and quickness I saw in him last year. Of course, it can't help that the Rams' anemic passing game allows opponents to focus on stopping the run. But if the question is, which Gurley is the real Gurley, I'd guess the answer is somewhere in between what he was last year and what he is this year. I think if you dropped him on a solid running team like Dallas or Washington, he'd have much better numbers, but probably not to the level he had in 2015.
By the numbers: 61.5 percent completion rate, 3,978 yards, 7.1 yards per attempt, 23 TDs, 13 INTs, 87.0 passer rating.
Palmer -- who just turned 37 -- has probably hit the wall most veteran quarterbacks run into eventually. I think he came to camp fresh, with lots of enthusiasm, but now he just looks kind of worn out; he looks like a guy who's been there and done that too many times. I visited Arizona's training camp and expected the Cardinals to put up another double-digit-win season, given their collection of well-coached players. But it all starts with the quarterback, who has thrown more picks while posting a significantly lesser passer rating this year than he did last year. I don't think we'll see another season out of Palmer like we saw in 2015.
By the numbers: One catch, 15 yards.
The first-round pick (No. 23 overall) was supposed to help Minnesota block for Adrian Peterson and move the chains in clutch situations. Instead, he's contributed on the level of someone near retirement. It's disappointing; there are no signs of the player who performed very well for Ole Miss. The Vikings, as it turned out, could have used all the help they could get, but Treadwell has hardly played at all.
By the numbers: 56 tackles, 1.5 sacks.
Richardson is a talented, athletic defender who has the size you want for a defensive lineman -- and he can run. But this year, with his sack total dipping from 5.0 in 2015 to 1.5 through 14 games, he seems to be going through the motions on a Jets team that dropped from 10 wins in 2015 to four this year. Richardson isn't the only disappointment in New York; at this point, the only member of the Jets' defensive line who seems to be pulling his weight is Leonard Williams. Still, Richardson can be good -- maybe if he's traded to a team that can motivate him again, he can be a factor once more.
By the numbers: 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks.
Coming off a four-year stint in Buffalo in which he recorded 43 sacks, Williams inked a two-year, $17 million deal (with $11.9 million in guarantees) with the Dolphins -- and he's proceeded to collect just 1.5 sacks since, while being benched on a defense that ranks 30th in the NFL. The former No. 1 overall pick never really had an exceptional trait, and while, as he says, injuries might be partially to blame for the lackluster performance, I suspect age (he's 31) might have caught up with him.
By the numbers: 52.7 percent completion rate, 3,272 passing yards, 18 passing TDs, 11 INTs, 77.5 passer rating, 353 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs.
What has happened to the 2015 NFL MVP? After last season, most people surely expected Carolina to be a shoo-in for the playoffs. Instead, Newton and his team took a major step back. It looks to me as if Newton was trying to get rid of the ball more quickly, which might have contributed to his accuracy issues. Beyond that, he just didn't seem to have it this year. He's posted no big game-winning plays to speak of and has not been able to run his way out of trouble like he has in the past. Newton got off to a rough start in Week 1 against Denver, when he was the recipient of a number of hard hits, and his season never really gotmuch smoother after that. That said, if the Panthers can add some O-line help and maybe a better wideout, Newton can turn things around quickly. I see him recovering and winning plenty of games moving forward.
By the numbers: 86 catches, 1,036 yards, 5 TDs.
When Denver needed big plays in 2015, Thomas was the man; on third-and-long, he was the guy who gave the Broncos a first down. In 2016, however, he just hasn't been the same player, on pace to finish with his lowest marks in touchdown catches (five), catches of 20-plus yards (nine) and first downs (51) since 2011. The big plays have evaporated, and defenders don't seem to pay as much attention on coverage as they did last year. He's just 29 and still has time to continue as an effective player -- I just think we might have seen his best days.