The Most Underrated NFL Free Agents on the Market in 2016February 18, 2016
The Most Underrated NFL Free Agents on the Market in 2016
While the idea of signing the big-name free agent may sound appetizing to fans around the NFL, there are always the guys we ignore who end up shining later.
The big-name guys seem to always get the franchise tag.
With Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller and Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman headlining this NFL free-agent class, it is easy to forget about the other guys. And those are often the pieces who assist in formulating a run to the Super Bowl.
You may have heard of some of these players, but what you may not know is just how well they've played.
The eight players on this list won't headline sports channels everywhere, but they'll show their worth on the field. They're simply underrated.
Shaun Draughn, RB, San Francisco 49ers
After bouncing around the league in search of a playing opportunity and doing whatever he could to earn a paycheck, running back Shaun Draughn finally caught on with the San Francisco 49ers last year.
After starting the season in Cleveland, Draughn served as a valuable weapon in the 49ers' running and passing games.
While he averaged fewer than four yards per carry, Draughn carried the load in five games this season by having more than 10 carries in each. He averaged just over five targets per game from quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, posting his highest target total in Week 11 with 11.
And hey, Draughn helped out some fantasy football rosters, too.
In 2016, a team that is looking for a pass-catching back who can handle more than a few carries may look to Draughn as an effective, inexpensive option.
Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Age just doesn't seem to thwart the play of the wily veteran Anquan Boldin.
With the mediocre 49ers quarterback duo of Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, Boldin still managed to see 107 targets, catch 69 balls and score four touchdowns.
Earlier this month, the 49ers voided the final three years of Boldin's contract, making him an unrestricted free agent beginning March 9, according to Joel Corry of CBS Sports.
Boldin has been nothing but reliable during his career, and even at the age of 35, he will still add a great deal of value to a team.
With his veteran presence, he could assist in propelling a young quarterback to the next level.
If the Minnesota Vikings cut ties with wide receiver Mike Wallace, third-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater could use Boldin's services.
Rishard Matthews, WR, Miami Dolphins
After enjoying what was undoubtedly the finest season of his young NFL career, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Rishard Matthews will be available this offseason.
Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post thinks Matthews will likely play elsewhere in 2016.
Although he did not play after Week 12, Matthews caught 43 passes for 662 yards and corralled four touchdowns.
A team that is looking for a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver will be interested in Matthews. The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons immediately come to mind.
Nick Fairley, DT, Los Angeles Rams
After he played in 427 snaps in 2015, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Nick Fairley will delight his next team.
In limited action, he tied his second-highest solo tackle total of his career with 21. Interestingly enough, he posted the highest grade among all defensive tackles to play in 500 snaps or fewer, per PFF.
Recording one sack, Fairley performed well as a pass-rusher, and also as a run-stopper.
A duo of Fairley and Chicago Bears defensive tackle Eddie Goldman sounds like a terrorizing tandem up front in 2016.
Ian Williams, DT, San Francisco 49ers
In his first healthy season, San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ian Williams made jaw-dropping strides in showing the league he is one of its superior defensive linemen.
In 2015, he finished as the ninth-ranked defensive tackle overall and the sixth-ranked defensive tackle against the run, according to PFF.
Well-known among the 49ers faithful, Williams' name may not be familiar to more casual fans. Adding him will automatically make any defensive line in the NFL one of the most daunting.
Trumaine Johnson, CB, Los Angeles Rams
Perhaps I'm a little late to the "Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson is pretty darn good" party, but no matter.
Johnson had one heck of a season in 2015.
PFF notes he allowed catches on merely 61.3 percent of the passes thrown his way, and he also had seven interceptions and gave up just one touchdown all season.
Among Johnson's matchups this season, his performance against Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson sticks out. He did not allow a single reception to the soon-to-be-retired receiver, according to PFF.
NFL teams recognize his talent, but his name just hasn't been in the same breath as some of the other cornerbacks on the market this offseason.
The Rams have some choices to make with Johnson and cornerback Janoris Jenkins, as both are able to sign elsewhere in a few weeks.
Isa Abdul-Quddus, SS, Detroit Lions
While Detroit Lions strong safety Isa Abdul-Quddus has played mostly on a committee basis, he may have earned his way into a starting role in 2016.
Splitting time with fellow safety James Ihedigbo in 2015 before taking over the starting role in Week 10, Abdul-Quddus ranked 19th among all safeties and ninth against the run, according to PFF.
The PFF fun doesn't stop there, either. From Week 10 on, Abdul-Quddus was the highest-rated safety.
Witnessing the rise of the undrafted free agent from special teams to one of the more underrated safeties in the league has been a pleasure.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
Follow me on Twitter @RichardJanvrin.