Longevity in the NFL is hard to come by these days, with the physicality making it tough for the game's greats to have continued success in the league. However, we’ve seen plenty of players down the year make it seem easy. Especially at the quarterback position with players such as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees seeming to have endless careers.
Despite this, there are a whole host of players whose fire has burnt out way too quickly, be it due to poor performances, or their bodies simply giving up on them.mHere are five active NFL players who are no longer superstars.
#5 - Julio Jones
Julio Jones has been one of the best wide receivers in the NFL for the last decade, but he isn’t quite the player he once was. Jones was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2011, and spent 10 seasons with the team.
He was Matt Ryan’s favorite target whilst amassing a total of 12,896 receiving yards on 848 receptions, both of which are franchise records. Jones led the league in receiving yards in 2015 and 2018, was named first-team All-Pro in 2015 and 2016, and was also named to seven Pro Bowls.
Despite this, Jones’ play has fallen off in the last couple of years. In his final season with the Falcons in 2020, he amassed only 771 yards and three touchdowns during an injury-plagued season.
He joined the Tennessee Titans in 2021 and didn’t fare any better. Jones struggled with injuries again and only caught 31 catches for 434 yards with Tennessee, both career lows, before they cut ties with him following that season. At the time of writing, Jones remains a free agent.
#4 - JJ Watt
JJ Watt was once one of the most feared defensive players in the league, but it looks as though those days are gone. Watt began his career like a house on fire with the Houston Texans, winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, 2014, and 2015.
He also led the league in sacks twice and TFLs three times, all in his first five seasons in the league.
However, since being named First-team All-Pro for the fifth time in 2018, Watt’s production has dramatically decreased, mostly due to his injury issues. Since 2015, Watt has only completed a season twice, and has only amassed 26.5 sacks in that time.
Watt was released by the Texans in 2021, quickly signing with the Arizona Cardinals. But he hasn’t yet lived up to the expectations, only totalling one sack in five TFLs in seven games.
#3 - AJ Green
AJ Green, like Julio Jones, spent the majority of the 2010s as one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL, but has seen his play fall off a cliff the last few years.
Green began his career with the Cincinnati Bengals in tremendous fashion, making the Pro Bowl in the first seven seasons of his career. He also went for over 1,000 yards in six of his first seven seasons in the NFL.
Since 2017 however, Green’s play isn’t nearly what it once was. Injuries played their part, as after missing seven games in 2018, he missed the entire 2019 season after tearing ligaments in the Bengals’ training camp.
He returned for the 2020 season but only had 523 receiving yards. After signing for the Arizona Cardinals in 2021, he had 848 yards and just three touchdowns, which is nowhere near his former production.
#2 - Khalil Mack
Khalil Mack was one of the best defensive players in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders after being drafted fifth overall in 2014. But his play in the last few years isn’t nearly what he’d have been hoping for.
Mack was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2016, as well as making six straight Pro Bowl appearances. He was also named First-team All-Pro three times, and was traded to the Chicago Bears prior to the 2018 season.
Mack had an excellent debut campaign for the Bears as they won the NFC North going 12-4, but his play since hasn’t been up to his high standards. Mack’s last three season sack totals were 8.5, 9.0, and 6.0.
This is not nearly good enough for a man who was paid $141 million with $90 million guaranteed when he joined Chicago.
Mack was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers in 2022, and he will hope to rekindle his form opposite Joey Bosa in Los Angeles.
#1 - Ezekiel Elliott
Ezekiel Elliott took the NFL by storm after being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2016 draft out of Ohio State. He led the league in rushing yards as a rookie, going for 1,631 yards and 16 total touchdowns.
He followed this up with three Pro Bowl appearances, as well as leading the league in rushing yards again in 2018. Since lighting it up however, Elliott’s performances haven’t been nearly as good.
This was especially apparent in 2021, as he split carries with Tony Pollard, despite Elliott being tied second on the list of highest-paid running backs in the NFL.
According to profootballnetwork.com, he signed a six-year $90 million, with $50 million guaranteed, deal in 2019. Many fans and analysts alike agreed that the Cowboys overpaid for Zeke, meaning they couldn’t pay other stars such as Amari Cooper who had to be traded to make cap room in 2022.
Fourth-round draft pick Pollard averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 2021, whereas Elliott averaged just 4.2. This is in stark contrast to his early years in the league where he averaged 5.1 in his rookie year.
It has to be said that Elliott dealt with injuries in 2021, but many fans across the NFL believe he’s already washed at age 26.
Poll : Will Zeke bounce back in 2022?