Is Tom Brady one of the most overrated NFL free agents for 2020?

With the NFL free agency frenzy starting on Monday, who are the most overrated NFL free agents for 2020 that teams should be wary of over paying? Is Tom Brady one of them? Using OSM, Oliver Hodgkinson looks beyond the box score to investigate.

With the ongoing global pandemic that is COVID-19 impacting every facet of day-to-day life, the NFL is facing many uncertainties. At the time of writing, the NFL was adamant that the new league year would begin as scheduled on Match 18th. The annual free agency frenzy is still expected to kick into action with the start of the legal tampering period at noon ET on March 16th. In a time of uncertainty, one thing is guaranteed – some teams will overpay a player in free agency. Who will it be? Let’s look at the most overrated NFL free agents in 2020.

Throughout the 2019 season and the build-up to NFL free agency, we’ve been using our Offensive Share Metric (OSM) and NFL Next Gen Stats to dig beneath the box score to bring you a true understanding of what a player has contributed on the field. This is particularly important when it comes to considering who to pay in free agency.

It’s so easy to look at a statistic, like receiving yards for a wide receiver and be blown away by that player’s production. This can be particularly costly when that production is achieved during a “contract year.” A player may be paid handsomely and never replicate that level of production again.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled five players who should come with a “buyer beware!” advisory as the most overrated NFL free agents for 2020.

Kenyan Drake

Kenyan Drake had a career year in 2019, despite having to adjust to a new system with a mid-season move from Miami to Arizona. After a turgid start to the year at the Dolphins, he burst into life in the second half of the season for the Cardinals, ending 2019 with 817 rushing yards and eight touchdowns – both were career highs.

In addition to the statistics, Drake was also a top-10 running back by OSM twice. In the Cardinals Week 16 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, he earned a 19.14 grade. Despite the lack of success in Miami, Drake received his other top-10 performance with a 16.99 grade in the Week 6 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

In that Week 16 game, he was one of the NFL’s most efficient running backs, despite facing one of the highest percentages of 8-man box defenses, and averaged 6.9 yards per carry. That level of performance, late on in a season, can easily turn heads for running back needy teams.

That Week 16 performance was an outlier and one of the reasons why Drake is on this list of overrated NFL free agents for 2020.

His overall Offensive Share Metric grade for 2019 was 10.55, and he was ranked as the 41st overall running back. The median average for the position is around 14, which indicates the level of Drake’s performance.

He contributed five offensive share metric grades below 10 in 2019. A grade below 10 indicated a performance that is detrimental to the team’s offensive production.

Drake played 14 games in 2019, so in over a third of his games, his performance hindered his team’s chance of winning. That was evidenced particularly well in the Cardinals Week 13 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Drake had 13 carries for 31 yards, averaging 2.4 yards per carry and received a 1.71 OSM grade.

With an NFL Draft class packed with running back talent, spending big on Drake in free agency wouldn’t be a wise move.

Eric Ebron

If you’re a team that has a need at the tight end position for 2020, your options are dwindling fast. Hunter Henry was franchise tagged by the Los Angeles Chargers in this past week. Austin Hooper is the standout player at the position, but most teams will be priced out of his market by his expected salary demands. The 2020 NFL Draft class isn’t particularly stacked with tight end talent.

Eric Ebron is garnering attention around the league, with reports this week suggesting that the New England Patriots are targeting the former first-round pick to fill their glaring need at the position. The Patriots have first-hand experience of being stung by Ebron after he racked up 105 receiving yards and two touchdowns against them for the Indianapolis Colts in 2018.

If they want to avoid getting stung in free agency by him, they’d be wise to read why he’s one our list of overrated NFL free agents for 2020.

Ebron didn’t have a statistically productive season in 2019, with just 375 yards and three touchdowns, in an injury-shortened season. However, before that, he has had two 700-yard seasons and, in 2018, had 13 touchdowns as a go-to threat for Andrew Luck.

His overall OSM grade of 33.72 falls below the tight end median average of 36.5. He’s the quintessential boom or bust player, with two elite grades of 53.74 and 47.46 averaged out by grades of 30.48 and 20.48.

Ebron’s catch percentage, 59.6%, was the fourth-worst amongst tight ends in 2019. At a position that is often a safety net for the quarterback, that is far from ideal.

Having never played a full season as a starter, if you’re looking for a reliable, consistent tight end in 2020, you might want to look somewhere other than Ebron.

Carlos Hyde

After a two-year stretch from 2016 to 2017 in San Francisco, where he came up just short of 1000 rushing yards, Carlos Hyde achieved the milestone last season for the Houston Texans. With a productive history behind him, Hyde will be viewed as an attractive option in free agency.

However, a more in-depth look into that 2019 production shows that Hyde is one of the most overrated NFL free agents in 2020.

There were, of course, some good performances in 2019. You don’t get to 1000 rushing yards without turning in some stellar games. He had three top-10 OSM grades, with his best performance coming in the Week 5 win against the Falcons. Despite nearly half of his snaps seeing him face eight defenders in the box, he ground out 60 yards and a touchdown.

Both Hyde and Drake had one of their best performances against the Falcons, possibly stating more about the Falcons run defense than about their ability.

Hyde’s overall Offensive Share Metric grade of 13.05 falls just short of the average for the running back position, indicating it would be foolish to pay him like a top running back based on his 1000-yard season alone.

Hyde had four games in 2019, where his OSM grade indicated that he was detrimental to the team’s offensive production, including when it mattered most in the Divisional Round defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs. He registered a -3.61 grade against the Chargers after struggling to 19 yards on ten carries, with an efficiency of 8.09 despite not having to overcome the challenge of facing a stacked box.

Robby Anderson

There seems to be a mutual desire between the New York Jets and Robby Anderson to get a deal done to bring him back in 2020. However, with a differing of opinion on his value, there is a genuine possibility that the wide receiver hits the open market. With reported interest from multiple teams, there is a chance that Anderson finds a team that matches the value he has for himself. Currently, that looks to be in the $10-15 million range.

Anderson has been consistently productive in a Jets offense that has had its fair share of criticism. He has recorded consecutive seasons with 750+ receiving yards dating back to a 941-yard season in his second year in the league. He’s also contributed an average of six touchdowns per season.

Outside of that production, however, there is cause for concern in deeming Anderson a top wide receiver in this free agency class.

Firstly, his overall OSM grade for the season of 27.39 has him ranked as the 88th overall wide receiver in the NFL for 2019. He didn’t feature in the top-10 wide receivers for any week of the season.

His low grade of the year, in the Week 7 shutout to the Patriots, was an accurate snapshot of his season. Anderson struggled with catch completion and an ability to create separation. Those metrics alone paint a picture as not one of the best available wide receivers available but as one of the overrated NFL free agents for 2020.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady looks set to test the open market for the first time in his NFL career. It seems wild to imagine him lining up in anything other than the Patriots uniform. Still, currently, every sign seems to point to him leaving Foxboro for one last hurrah somewhere else. If he were to bring a Super Bowl to another franchise, it would surely solidify his standing as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Would it be wise for a team to throw big money at Brady in free agency?

If seeing Brady play anywhere other than New England seems wild, it must seem insane to suggest that a six-time Super Bowl winner and three-time NFL MVP would be one of the most overrated NFL free agents of 2020.

However, that may just well be the case.

There can be no denying that Brady has been and probably can still be productive in the league. He has just two seasons since the injury lost 2008 season, where he has thrown for under 4000 passing yards. One of those two was the suspension shortened 2016 season. He has thrown 20+ touchdowns every season other than his first year as the starter in New England.

What he has been able to achieve as he’s continued playing into his 40’s has been incredible. However, he has shown signs of regression, especially as we got late into the 2019 season.

His overall Offensive Share Metric grade of 19.69 was someway below the median average for the quarterback position of around 25. Of the 39 qualifying quarterbacks, Brady ranked just 29th.

Despite starting the season well, with a grade of 39.45 against the Dolphins in Week 2, which was good enough for QB2 that week, Brady logged five games in which he was graded below 10. Of those five, four came in the latter half of the season. So often the game-winning quarterback in the playoffs, Brady received a grade of just 4.56 in the Wildcard Weekend loss to the Tennessee Titans. That game could prove to be his final one as a New England Patriot.

He struggled in many facets of the game in 2019. His completion percentage against expectation was one of the lowest in the league. He frequently made throws behind the sticks, relying on teammates to pick up the first down. Although not struggling with arm strength as much as Drew Brees, his longest completion was some way behind the likes of former teammates Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett.

There is undoubtedly a market for Brady, with the Las Vegas Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers being the teams that are leading the way. However, it would be foolish to presume that one of the greats to play the game can still deliver at the level he once did.

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