2012 NFL Free Agents: 5 Players Whose Value Will Be Unfairly Inflated
The NFL free-agency frenzy is nearly upon us. We're less than one month away from teams throwing ungodly amounts of cash at players to welcome them to their clubs.
But while the premier players are out to make some bank, which second-tier players will be taking advantage of the market even though they don't deserve it?
In particular, five players stick out as beneficiaries rather than standard-bearers that help set the bar. Why are these players viewed as such? It could be due to the fraudulent correlation between their true talent and extraordinary play of a season ago, the situations in which they excelled that were beyond their control or the weapons around them.
What five players will be stealing their paychecks in 2012? Here's the list.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Of all the quarterbacks heading into this offseason without contracts, Kyle Orton is one of the most over-hyped. It has nothing to do with the fact he spent time on multiple teams last season because he was waived by Denver, but because the Broncos caught fire when he was replaced.
The Kansas City Chiefs would be wise to hold onto Orton. He's a proven QB who can put up nice numbers, but will he challenge Matt Cassel for the starting job?
If Orton doesn't strike it rich, he can thank Tim Tebow for devaluing his price tag.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Did the New England Patriots get to Super Bowl XLVI because of BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushing the football or because of Tom Brady leading an aerial attack?
Green-Ellis is a standard running back who happens to shine on a great offensive team because of the man who hands off to him. He's not a guy who could get 25-30 carries and break 100 yards on a weekly basis. He gets goal-line carries, but his overall stock isn't outstanding.
If New England were to put any average Joe in the backfield, they could still win. Hell, tight end Aaron Hernandez can even establish a rushing attack with the Pats.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
While on the topic of tight ends, Fred Davis represents a perfect example of a guy who achieves success as a direct product of the environment in which he plays.
How much of Davis' 2011 numbers are because he is an elite tight end versus the fact he had two bad quarterbacks passing to him that had limited receiver weapons? Quarterbacks love locking onto tight ends, especially if they're prone to turnovers.
The Redskins fell apart at the end of the year, and Davis wasn't there. That's not as much a testament to Davis' impact as it is to Washington's roster being just plain bad.
The 2012 free-agent list is deepest at wide receiver, with names like Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Dwayne Bowe and Marques Colston possibly hitting the market, assuming they don't get franchise-tagged.
Then there's the second-tier names like Steve Johnson.
Johnson has nice speed, but that's about it. He's not a physical, overpowering No. 1 receiver. He's a nice weapon, but he works better as a Z receiver than an X receiver.
Consider the names that are out there for bidding. Johnson's value will grow as the guys ahead of him get paid. He will be stealing a paycheck when all is said and done.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Yes, I'm going to take the time to pick on a kicker. And not just any kicker, but the kicker who bailed Tim Tebow's Broncos out of more games than Tebow won himself by playing well.
Prater was clutch in 2011—that much is a guarantee. There's no denying the fact he came through when the game was on the line. But, the stadium Prater kicks in is incredibly favorable to the placekicker.
Denver's high altitude provides an ideal situation for kickers because of the low oxygen levels in the air. Even kickers who aren't known for their long-distance abilities, like the Bears' Robbie Gould, booted field goals from beyond 50 yards with ease.
Prater did well because of the situations he was put in and because of the stadium in which he plays. Remove those, and how good is he really?
Brett Lyons is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials.
Follow Brett Lyons on Twitter @BrettLyons670.