Heading into the season, all 16 AFC teams had expectations. Some were higher than others, but every team had a goal. This extends to the player level, and each player sets goals for themselves. Some have gone above and beyond, blasting past even the loftiest expectations. However, several have underwhelmed.
Let’s look at five colossal disappointments in the AFC. These players had sky-high expectations entering the 2021 season, and they have been thoroughly disappointing.
The players are listed in alphabetical order by last name. Check out the NFC version.
No.1: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Safety, Pittsburgh Steelers
Minkah Fitzpatrick‘s first two years in Pittsburgh went about as well as he could have hoped for. He made the Pro Bowl twice and made both the 2019 and 2020 All-Pro teams. 2021 has been a different story. He is the only player to see 100 coverage snaps and have a coverage grade below 30.0.
Through six games, Fitzpatrick is allowing a 117.8 passer rating in coverage. He has yet to nab an interception or even a pass break-up. While he has not been terrible in the last couple of weeks, Fitzpatrick has the reputation of being the best safety in the game, not just a good one.
No.2: Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Denver Broncos
If you were to make a list of best free agent-to-team fits in the offseason, Kyle Fuller is almost certainly on your list. The last time he was a corner in a Vic Fangio defense, Fuller was an All-Pro. He led the NFL in interceptions and pass deflections.
This year, on the other hand, Fuller has been one of the worst volume cornerbacks in the NFL. 87 corners have played 200 snaps in 2021. Fuller ranks 86th in overall grade and last in coverage grade. Fuller has allowed 302 yards on 29 targets. Among corners with at least 25 coverage targets, only L’Jarius Sneed, Amani Oruwariye, and Fuller allow more than 10 yards per target.
No.3: Tyrann Mathieu, Safety, Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City defense has been poor as a unit, but Tyrann Mathieu is supposed to be the centerpiece of the defense. He has yet to live up to that reputation in 2021. Mathieu has the second-lowest PFF grade of his career, and he has struggled particularly in run defense.
For a player that spends more time in the box than at any other position, this is a difficult trend to ignore. He has not graded out as poorly as Fitzpatrick but think of this selection as the entire Chiefs defense.
No.4: Laremy Tunsil, Left Tackle, Houston Texans
Laremy Tunsil is usually a great pass blocker and solid run blocker. This season, he has been just a good pass protector while being one of the worst run-blocking tackles in the NFL.
He has the lowest overall grade of his career, not helped by a 39.9 run-blocking grade. His pass protection grade is second-worst to only his rookie year. Out of 62 tackles to play 250 snaps, Tunsil is 49th in overall grade. While he is 12th in pass-blocking grade, he is last in run-blocking grade. It has been a rather uninspiring season for the two-time Pro Bowler.
No.5: Darren Waller, Tight End, Las Vegas Raiders
This is about expectation versus reality. Darren Waller is on pace for 1,000 yards despite missing a game, but he just has not been the second-best tight end as the expectation is. Waller has the lowest receiving grade of his Raiders career, and he has five drops in just 52 targets.
Since receiving 19 targets in Week 1, Waller is on a 16-game pace of 874 yards and three touchdowns. Waller should be competing with Travis Kelce, not barely beating out Mike Gesicki and Dalton Schultz.
Don’t forget to check out the OTH Football Podcast on Spotify and YouTube!