Every team in every sport has them: Players who are a rated by fans and/or the media higher than they probably deserve to be. This is known as being overrated.
For the Bengals, there's no shortage of players in the past two decades who you could make that argument for. Whether it was Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, Deltha O'Neal, Marvin Jones, Domata Peko or Andre Smith, there's been several players who you could make this claim for and against.
The Sporting News went through all 32 NFL teams and made their pick for each respective franchise's most overrated player of the 21st century. For the Bengals, they went with former wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Houshmandzadeh gained notoriety for a fantasy football commercial — "Who’s your mama?" — and he put up good numbers with the Bengals opposite Chad Johnson. That included back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2006-07. Housh, however, didn’t get in the end zone that much. He had 44 TDs over 10 seasons. He also played in just three playoff games for his career. Can you even name the three teams he played for after leaving Cincinnati?
I think it's easy to pick T.J. because of how bad he did once he left the Bengals in 2009. He flamed out in stints with the Seahawks, Ravens and Raiders before hanging up his cleats, but that doesn't negate what he did with the Bengals. In 105 games with the Bengals, T.J. caught 772 passes for 5,782 yards and 37 touchdowns.
That included 294 catches for 3,128 yards and 25 scores over his final three seasons in the Queen City while often playing second fiddle to Johnson. Back then when the league wasn't quite as big of a passing league as it is today, that was considered elite-level production by a receiver.
If anything, Houshmandzadeh's career with the Bengals may have been underrated, but overall, I can understand calling his NFL career as a whole a tad overrated.
My pick for the most overrated player of the last two decades is Reggie Nelson. There's no question he was a great safety who made a big impact on the Cincinnati defense, but he had the benefit of playing behind what was typically a loaded front seven during his entire career in stripes, especially when it came to playing with All-Pro tackle Geno Atkins.
I feel like Bengals fans made Nelson out to be an elite safety who was an MVP to this defense, mainly because it felt like all of his interceptions came against Ben Roethlisberger, which alone should get him into a hypothetical Bengals Hall of Fame. Truth is, he was a good player whose production looked a lot better because of all those ducks that fell to him thanks to the defensive line doing the bulk of the work. He's still a great player who will be missed, but I don't expect the defense to drop off any because he's gone.
Now, it's your turn to voice who you think the most overrated Bengal of the past two decades is. I went ahead and included an extra four seasons opposed to just the 21st century, to make it a full two decades, which would span to 1996. Though, it's not like Bengals were really overrated during those extra four years to begin with, unless you thought Lee Johnson was an overrated punter.