The Most Overrated and Underrated NFL Free Agents Still Available

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IMarch 21, 2016

The Most Overrated and Underrated NFL Free Agents Still Available

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    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    The market has mostly been picked clean of the biggest names available in NFL free agency since opening on March 9. 

    However, a number of players remain unsigned during the second wave—which is typically when teams can find the best deals. There are still opportunities to sort through the rubble and find an asset at a discount price.

    In the following slides, we will look at the most overrated and underrated free agents left on the open market.

Overrated: RB Alfred Morris

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    Alfred Morris has rushed for at least 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in three of his four NFL seasons, and his rookie year—when he produced 1,613 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns and seven games over 100 yards—remains one of the most productive for a first-year running back in NFL history. 

    However, the shine of his 2012 season has faded considerably. 

    Morris has suffered drops in rushing yards, yards per carry and yards per game every year over the last three seasons. He bottomed out in 2015, rushing for just 761 yards and one touchdown on 202 carries (3.7 yards per carry). 

    Most telling, the Washington Redskins have made little to no effort to bring him back.

    Morris, who turns 28 in December, might just need a change of scenery. But his career is clearly trending the wrong way.

Underrated: DT Nick Fairley

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    There's some risk with Nick Fairley, who has played his entire career on dominant defensive lines. After teaming up with Ndamukong Suh with the Detroit Lions, Fairley found a one-year deal to play alongside Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn and the Rams' deep, talented front in 2015.

    Maybe he's a mostly product of his surroundings. But it still takes talent to make the most of an opportunity, and Fairley did exactly that last year. 

    According to Pro Football Focus, Fairley finished with a top-five grade among defensive tackles despite playing under 500 snaps. He is also considered PFF's top remaining free agent after Eric Weddle signed for the Baltimore Ravens. 

    Fairley might not be the answer for a team in need of a game-changing defensive lineman. Put him in a quality rotation with help around him, though, and Fairley could be one of the biggest bargains of free agency. 

Overrated: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 31 touchdowns and flirted with 4,000 passing yards during a 10-win season with the New York Jets in 2015. He's clearly one of the 32 best quarterbacks in the NFL despite having played for six different teams. 

    Still, if the goal is to win a Super Bowl, paying Fitzpatrick the money he'll likely require probably isn't the best path there.

    His 31 touchdowns last season look nice, but he also ranked 29th in completion percentage (59.6) and 24th in passer rating (88.6) despite playing behind one of the best pass-protecting offensive lines in the NFL. Fitzpatrick also turns 34 in November.

    The caveat here is for the Jets. His return to New York would be a best-case scenario for both player and team, as offensive coordinator Chan Gailey seems to know how to get the best out of the Harvard quarterback.

Underrated: CB Patrick Robinson

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    Patrick Robinson's market hasn't exactly heated up despite his breakout season in 2015. It's been hard to remove five years of stink from his time with the New Orleans Saints, who drafted him in the first round back in 2010.

    While there's more evidence of bad than good with Robinson, last season provided more than enough upside for the future of the 28-year-old cornerback.

    As the San Diego Chargers' primary nickelback, Robinson played in all 16 games and made 10 starts—tallying one interception and eight passes defended. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed more than 30 yards receiving in a game just once during the 2015 season. 

    Which version of Robinson will a team be getting for 2016? No one can know for sure, but it's probably worth finding out.

Overrated: LB Courtney Upshaw

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    Contrary to popular belief, there is still some value in stopping the run. But for a 3-4 outside linebacker, playing the run is only one part of the job description.

    An edge player in a three-man front must be able to provide some kind of disruption on the quarterback, and Courtney Upshaw has proved himself incapable in this pivotal area. Over four seasons, he has exactly five sacks—despite playing in all 64 games since being drafted in the second round by the Ravens in 2012. 

    Upshaw's struggles getting to the quarterback could be part of the reason why he's expected to leave Baltimore.

    He clearly has situational value. If used correctly, he could be a big part of the puzzle against the run. But his lack of ability rushing the quarterback severely limits what he brings to the table, especially at a position expected to produce sacks.

Underrated: CB Leon Hall

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    Leon Hall will turn 32 during the 2016 season, and he's best suited to play primarily against the slot. Being old and position-limited has understandably hurt his market, but Hall is still good at manning up and covering the slot.

    The hurdle for him is finding a defense with the pieces in place to allow him to play inside.

    The cornerback-rich Bengals provided him that opportunity, and Hall thrived—using his physicality to press and reroute receivers at the line of scrimmage and his veteran savvy to anticipate throws. He's also one of the surest tacklers at the cornerback position, making a potential switch to safety an option down the road. 

    Hall isn't a full-time player at this stage of his career, but he's capable of making a handful of teams instantly better.

Overrated: WR Rueben Randle

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    Rueben Randle's value around the league can be summed by the inactivity of his market in free agency. 

    Despite the market lacking many great options at receiver, Randle—who is only 24 and coming off a season in which he caught eight touchdowns—hasn't found any takers. 

    The Los Angeles Rams sniffed around during the first week, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Los Angeles—a team in need of receivers—wasn't prepared to get him under contract, and any other visits for Randle have been hush-hush. 

    His inconsistency has likely killed the interest a receiver of his age and talent should command. There's clearly untapped potential with Randle, but the crickets—especially from the New York Giants—should speak volumes.

Underrated: LB Zach Brown

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    Zach Brown is a difficult player to figure out. After posting 184 tackles, nine sacks and four interceptions during his first two seasons, he missed 15 games in 2014 (torn pectoral) and suffered through an up-and-down 2015 campaign. 

    There are still a lot of reasons to like Brown moving forward, even if the Tennessee Titans are probably moving on. 

    He's only 26, he's made big plays in the past, and his athleticism is an increasingly coveted asset at the linebacker position.

    Then again, maybe Brown is nothing more than the Rueben Randle of the defensive side. His inconsistency from down to down could kill all the potential he possesses moving forward. Still, receivers with Randle's ability aren't amazingly difficult to find. Playmaking linebackers with Brown's athleticism are.