I'm the bad guy.
When our bosses asked my colleague Clark Judge and me to come up with five NFL rookies and five veteran free agents with new teams who will excel in 2006, I offered the flip side. Why not five in each category who won't?
|Saints fans hold their breath every time Drew Brees takes a hit. (Getty Images)|
That's what makes me the Darth Vader of NFL coverage. Negative isn't a bad thing under my byline.
So while Judge lauds the 10 guys who will make a difference, I have 10 who will be disappointments in 2006. Some of the rookies I picked will go on to have good careers, but don't expect too much bang for the buck this season.
One more thing: Somebody has to play that bad-guy role, don't they?
Five rookies who will struggle
Tye Hill, CB, Rams: He's going to be a good player -- down the road. But so far he has yet to crack the starting lineup, which shouldn't happen on the Rams since they don't exactly have great corners. Hill has been used as the nickel back during preseason, but when you use the 13th overall pick on a player, there's no way he shouldn't be starting on a defense that needs a corner upgrade. Down the road, this choice will look laughable. But for now, it fits.
Chad Jackson, WR, Patriots: The knock on Jackson coming out of Florida was that he was soft, that he didn't like to play hurt or like to go over the middle. In his first NFL camp, Jackson has missed all of it because of a hamstring injury. He's way behind in the race to play receiver for a team in bad need receiving help. You can have all the physical tools in the world, but if you don't get or stay on the field it won't matter. Jackson could have had a big role for the Patriots if he could have somehow stayed on the field. As it is, he’ll be spending his rookie season playing catch-up.
Santonio Holmes, WR, Steelers: The Steelers traded up in the first round to get Holmes, thinking he would be the guy to replace Antwaan Randle El. He has done some good things so far, but he'll be little more than the team's third receiver this season. He has the tools to be an effective player down the road, maybe even later this season, but to start the season it would be a surprise to see a lot from him. He will be the main kickoff-return man. The Steelers also like fellow rookie Willie Reid, the team's fourth-round pick, who has been more impressive than Holmes as a receiver.
Sinorice Moss, WR, New York Giants: You can make the club in the tub -- at least when you're a second-round pick. But you can't get on the field for game action for Tom Coughlin when you don't stay on the practice field. Moss hasn't been able to practice since suffering hamstring strain July 29. The Giants were really excited about getting this smaller, speedy guy involved in their offense, something they didn't have. But since he's been watching this summer, it doesn't look like it's going to happen anytime soon. Moss was also expected to help in the return game.
Vince Young, QB, Titans: The third overall pick in the draft, Young is far from ready to be able to contribute. He has to become more patient in the pocket before he's ready to play on a regular basis. The Titans do have a special package for him, which will cater to his ability to move around. But after watching him last week, he needs to learn how to get to his second and third reads. That will take time, which we expect. But there is this perception that Young is ready to play now. Some people get caught up in the hype of his amazing athletic ability, and forget that playing quarterback is a lot more than just making athletic plays. He's a good two years away from being a quality starter.
Five free-agent duds
Antwaan Randle El, WR, Redskins: The Redskins gave Randle El a seven-year, $30 million deal that included a $5 million signing bonus. That's a heck of a lot of money for a guy who caught all of 35 passes last season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The thinking inside the Steelers' organization was that Randle El was little more than a No. 2 receiver, which is why they were okay with letting him go. Randle El, a former quarterback, can be used on gimmick plays, but giving him the kind of contract the Redskins did for one or two plays every handful of game is absurd. He is the Redskins' No. 3 receiver behind Santana Moss and Brandon Lloyd. It must be nice to be an owner like Dan Snyder with all the money to afford paying your third receiver like a starter.
Chester Taylor, RB, Vikings: The Vikings are putting an awful lot of stock in a back who has been little more than a backup in Baltimore during his first four years. Sure, Taylor has shown that he can spot in for a game or two or three and be an effective runner. But what happens now that he's the man? Can he continue to put up big numbers? The Vikings do have a good offensive line, but without a real threat of a passing game, teams will load up to stop the run. That could make it tough going for Taylor. Don't be shocked to see a backup like Mewelde Moore or Ciatrick Fason start to take some of his carries away as we get later in the season. Minnesota gave him $5 million in guaranteed bonuses to sign with them. That's pretty big money for a guy who has been little more than a fill-in.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints: The last thing you want on your roster is a quarterback coming off shoulder surgery. Even though it appears that Brees has done a nice job in his rehab from surgery to repair a torn labrum, what happens when he really lets a pass rip? Will the shoulder go out again? He isn't one of those passers who had a big arm to begin with. Now he has to deal with shoulder issues. The Saints paid him $60 million to sign as a free agent. The Chargers were more than willing to let him go, especially since they had Philip Rivers waiting to take over. The Dolphins gave some serious thought to signing Brees, but passed when they were worried more about his shoulder than Daunte Culpepper's injured leg. There are some scouts who think Brees was also a system passer at San Diego, with tight end Antonio Gates and running back LaDainian Tomlinson making him look better than he really is. Time will tell whether Brees can hold up and prove all the doubters wrong.
Willie McGinest, LB, Browns: If it's professionalism the Browns wanted to get in signing McGinest, they did a heck of a job. But as a football player, there are questions as to how much he has left. McGinest can spot in and do well for short periods of time, but he's 35 years old. At some point, he has to start to slow down even more. Browns coach Romeo Crennel was the defensive coordinator in New England when McGinest was at his best, so he's hoping to recapture that magic. That will be tough. Look for McGinest to flash once in a while, but he certainly isn't the same player he was when he was with the Patriots. He'll be fine for third downs, but anything more than that is asking a lot.
Ty Law, CB, Chiefs: The Chiefs think they have the answer to their cornerback woes. But the reality is they are getting a player on the severe downslide of his career. Law may have had 10 interceptions for the Jets last season to earn a Pro Bowl berth, but he went mainly based on reputation. He didn't player nearly as well as the interception number would make you think. Law had too many penalties and he was beaten a bunch in coverage. At 32, Law isn't close to being the same player he was when he was one of the top corners in the league while playing for the New England Patriots. The Chiefs gave him a five-year, $30-million deal, including a signing bonus of $4 million. That's a lot of money for a player of his age. Look for teams to go at him this year, instead of Patrick Surtain on the other side.