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Rookie Impact
Wide Receivers

Note: This series contains excerpts and sample profiles from my 2007 Rookie Scouting Portfolio, an publication available for purchase. For details, sample material, and testimonials for this compendium of game film study and dynasty league reports, go here.

The 2006 class of receivers was not one of the better classes in recent memory, but there were still quality players in the group. Marques Colston, a player I didn’t even list in last year’s impact article, was by far the best of the rookie receiver crop. The Saints rookie benefited from excellent quarterback play and a great 1-2 punch on the ground to post terrific numbers. Although there are very few rookie receivers out of the 1200 first-year pass catchers who have attained numbers worth of an impact fantasy starter in the history of the NFL, Colston represents a developing trend of wide outs who made a big impact in year one since the late 90s.

With the growing sophistication of college passing offenses and a renewed demand for top-notch athletes with height, speed, and strength, its no longer out of the realm of possibility for at least one rookie receiver to be an immediate impact player on an annual basis. Despite this trend, the wide receiver position is still one of the most difficult to make the transition to the NFL game. Pro offenses and defenses still operate on a much higher level of play and the level of timing and precision with routes requires an efficiency rarely seen on a college football field.

Last year, there were three rookies who had decent production for significant portions of the season: Colston, Greg Jennings, and Santonio Holmes. Jennings was one of my two immediate impact players and Holmes was a player I mentioned who would have been at the top of my 2006 impact list if Roethlisberger weren’t in his motorcycling accident. Two other players ranked highly on my list, Jacksonville’s Charles Sharon and Miami’s Derek Hagan both have real opportunities to start for their respective squads in 2007.

This year’s class has more promise than last, but that doesn’t guarantee instant performance from more than one receiver. Remember, the class of 2004 which included Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Williams, Michael Clayton, and Reggie Williams had only one impact rookie—and that player has been the least productive of this group in the past two years (Clayton). As with every rookie class, one year doesn’t tell the story—otherwise players such as Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, or Jimmy Smith would have been written off before their careers ever got under way.

My rankings are based a combination of collected data from the Scouting Portfolio, my view of their potential fit with any offensive system, and their potential for growth based on the film study. The Score on these rankings is the highest raw checklist score performed on this player.

Since this publication was written prior to the NFL draft, the rankings are a reflection of players with the greatest chance to make a positive impact with their overall skill sets, and how flexible their skill sets are to the widest varieties of offensive systems. In any dynasty league setting, I would be comfortable drafting the first seven receivers (including Samardzija if he were to suddenly—as improbable as it is—to find his way onto an NFL organization) on this list in the early to mid rounds. After that, it depends on the size of the league but I think 12 of the 15 prospects listed have potential to be worthwhile fantasy players within a three-to-five year period.

Top 15 2006 Rookie WRs
Rk Player Score Notes
1 Calvin Johnson 95 Possibly the most talented player in this draft. He has ball-tracking skills that rival Moss and Fitzgerald, the speed/power of Terrell Owens, and conducts himself with humility and maturity.
2 Jason Hill 88 He is exceedingly fast, but also catches the ball anywhere on the field. Hill delivers effort as a blocker and plays productively when hurt. He should develop into a fine primary receiver in the NFL.
3 Steve Smith 90 He is a tough and savvy football player with more speed than most realize who catches everything in sight.
4 Jeff Samardzija 96 Not on Johnson’s level as a physical talent, but plays the position like a more athletic Ed McCaffrey in his prime. His value will drop substantially each year he sticks with baseball.
5 Dwayne Bowe 87 He is the best after the catch runner in this draft because he is quick enough to outrun defenders, but has the power to run over safeties and undersized linebackers.
6 Dwayne Jarrett 86 What you see is what you will get with Jarrett—a big, strong receiver capable of catches in tight spots with limited speed.
7 Anthony Gonzalez 88 Better than advertised speed and sets up routes with good footwork and he has the best hands on his team. He should develop into a decent slot receiver if not a reliable #2 wide out in the NFL
8 Courtney Taylor 87 A sure-handed wide out with decent speed and body control. He has been viewed as the most talented WR on the Auburn squad despite playing with two players the NFL drafted last year.
9 Mike Walker 82 Unless the receiver is a player capable of out-leaping two defensive backs with incredible body control to catch a ball in tight coverage after running 50 yards downfield (Calvin Johnson), a pass catcher is only going to look as good as his quarterback. Walker is a better player than advertised for just this reason. He has speed, runs good routes, and will continue to get better as he learns the position (he was a former cornerback). If you remember St. Louis Cardinal WR Roy “The Jet Stream” Green, Walker could draw comparisons one day.
10 Dallas Baker 84 Not stopwatch fast, but very quick and catches the ball well in traffic. Baker should become a good possession receiver with strong redzone skills and running ability.
11 Johnnie Lee Higgins 83 If he can learn to beat the jam, Higgins becomes a very dangerous receiver.
12 Jacoby Jones 82 He has good hands and body control. With more coaching and experience, Jones has the talent to be an 80-catch receiver in the NFL.
13 Robert Meachem 77 Meachem is much lower on my rankings because he is much more tentative catching the ball with his hands than advertised.
14 Craig Davis 87 Davis has the physical tools, but must improve his consistency.
15 Sidney Rice 67 A developing prospect that has gotten by on pure athleticism. He could improve tremendously with adequate coaching.

Of course, there can be a big difference between being a talented player and making an impact right away. So here’s the way I rank the players according to their potential to get it done on the field for fantasy owners in re-draft and dynasty leagues.

Best Chance To Make Their Mark Early

Calvin Johnson, Lions: For me, there have been three, can’t-miss rookie receivers in the past five years. All three of these players were receivers I saw on film and they looked NFL-ready as juniors. The first two were Larry Fitzgerald and Roy Williams. There were various aspects of their game that were more refined than even the best college receivers—and both appeared more physically ready for the pro game than most. The third player is Williams’ new teammate, Calvin Johnson.

As much as I am a huge fan of Larry Fitzgerald, I think Johnson has a chance to be even better. What makes Johnson such a promising impact player is he possesses Fitzgerald’s combination of physical style of play around and away from the ball with a professional and mature beyond his years approach to his new career. The thing that separates Johnson from Fitzgerald is his speed and explosiveness—the Lions rookie has superior deep speed and leaping ability.

Unless you’re new to football, you’ve already heard Johnson was one of the two best offensive players in this draft. What will make him an instant impact rookie is the fact he’s favored to start on the outside—opposite Roy Williams—and with Mike Furrey in the slot. Williams is already a pro bowl-caliber receiver in his own right and Furrey has proven to be a crafty performer in Mike Martz’s pass-friendly system. The odds are likely that quarterback Jon Kitna will improve upon his numbers with a year under his belt in Detroit and the addition of more explosive depth at the running back position. Opposing teams are going to have a difficult time keying on Johnson and that should mean the rookie could post some impressive rookie numbers. Is a 1300-yard, 17-score effort on the level of Randy Moss’ first NFL effort in the cards? I don’t think so, but 1100 yards and 8-10 scores seems like a good possibility for this gifted rookie—still an incredibly optimistic number.

Steve Smith, Giants: Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett were the marquee receivers at USC, but in my opinion the guy who operated opposite them is going to be the better NFL player. When it comes to pure skills I honestly don’t understand what people have been watching to think otherwise. Williams and Jarrett are taller and bigger and personnel types see these big frames on receivers and think Terrell Owens-Keyshawn Johnson-Cris Carter—can’t-miss players with long, productive NFL careers that had a physical advantage against defensive backs.

When I think of Steve Smith, I see a player who fits along a continuum of talent-skill-style spanning Hines Ward, Jimmy Smith, Donald Driver, and Marvin Harrison. Smith is 6-0 and 200 lbs, more than adequate height and weight to be an outside receiver. The former Jaguar, Jimmy Smith, was 6-1, 202 lbs. Hines Ward and Steve Smith are the same size. Harrison is 6-0, 175 lbs. I’ve heard people peg Steve Smith as a slot receiver—that is a huge mistake.

Maybe the Giants rookie will begin his career in the slot, but he’ll finish it as a productive veteran on the outside. If there was a wide receiver that really made John David Booty, Matt Leinart, and Carson Palmer look good in situations where that had no business doing so it was Smith. The USC alum has a knack for adjusting to the ball in the air—not like Randy Moss in the sense of timing his leap, but running down the ball and changing the direction and pacing of his spring to the pass—and there were several games where this receiver made passes look far more accurate that they really were. After surprising everyone with 4.45-40-yard dash time at the combine, there were fewer questions about his speed. It is really Smith’s initial acceleration or ability to use quick bursts of speed to separate from defenders that makes him dangerous. I routinely saw him separate from the 2nd and 3rd level of the defense while running a route or after the catch.

What really makes Smith one of the most NFL-ready players in this draft class is his ability to run good routes and catch the football in traffic. Smith is, pound-for-pound, one of the toughest rookies in the 2007 draft class. As an evaluator of game film, one of the truest tests to see if a receiver has what it takes play in the NFL is how he executes a skinny post. This route is one of most difficult to complete because the coverage is generally tight in two areas: the corner is often playing press coverage and there is safety waiting over the top. If the coverage is zone, then there’s often a linebacker trailing the play so he can make a receiver sandwich with the safety. The timing of the route between the receiver and the quarterback has to be impeccably good. Even so, the receiver knows he is going to take a hit from the blind side or a run straight into kill shot.

There were higher rated, or higher drafted prospects that could not execute this route or other routes in tight coverage: Robert Meachem, Sidney Rice, Ted Ginn, and Craig Davis were the most prominent examples. In my opinion, based on what I saw on film, Steve Smith was the best prospect at this route. His timing, hands, and toughness are excellent. This is a receiver who will not be intimidated by NFL safeties. He does not shy away from contact when he has to make a catch. One of the problems Eli Manning has faced is he lacked the receivers with this type of mentality and talent rolled into one. Early reports out of Giants camp is that Steve Smith will not only be the favorite to be the slot receiver, but he’ll also have a very good shot to compete for a starting job on the outside versus Amani Toomer, who is coming off a season-ending knee injury. Toomer is a solid veteran, but I believe Smith will push him.

Smith may not be as exciting a prospect as the guys that look good when using a tape measure, stopwatch, and scale, but I see him at the very least as a consistent, #2 WR in fantasy football for a long time. You can wait for Meachem, Rice, or Jarrett to be the “next” prototype, or you can have Steve Smith. Personally, I don’t want to wait.

Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: I believe Bowe could potentially go to the pro bowl several times in his career if matched with the right offensive system. I’m not sure if Kansas City is that system, but he’s still worth an early selection in dynasty leagues. Other than Anquan Boldin and Terrell Owens, I don’t think I watched a more impressive runner after the catch as a receiver. There was a contest versus Arkansas where Bowe spun off linebacker’s hit after taking a screen pass and cutting across the middle of the field. Although the LB was undersized, he was about the size of Roy Williams or Shaun Taylor and still didn’t have a chance. At 6-3, 217 lbs, His bread and butter plays at LSU was this slip screen pass because he consistently got first downs or even bigger players from what I observed, 2 out of every three times they ran the play.

Bowe is a naturally physical player and it shows up as a run blocker. I’m sure this was a very attractive part of the receiver’s game when the Chiefs reviewed the film. Although the Kansas City rushing attack has question marks at the line of scrimmage, there is no question that their receivers are not great run blockers. Larry Johnson has the skills to break even longer runs if the Chiefs receivers could make or sustain blocks on the outside of the defense and Bowe will instantly provide that possibility as a downfield blocker.

What the LSU alum needs to learn is better route running. The LSU passing game was a basic system. Even the simplest pro offenses, and Herm Edwards regimes have been criticized for employing predictable offensive schemes, will be an adjustment for Bowe. Additionally, Bowe had problems holding onto passes throughout the early part of his career. It turned out the rookie had very poor vision and after LASIK surgery, he demonstrated a great deal of improvement in his final year at LSU. With the heightened pace of the NFL game, don’t be surprised if Bowe experiences some lapses in concentration and drops the ball at some inopportune moments.

Nevertheless, I believe Bowe has the skills to immediately challenge for the #2 WR spot as a rookie. Samie Parker is best suited as a slot receiver and Jeff Webb is more likely another year or two away from getting a true shot to see significant time if Eddie Kennison remains healthy. Look for Bowe to at least crack the line up by mid-season and put up some numbers worth considering him as a bye-week option. From a dynasty league perspective, I think Brodie Croyle has a chance to be a talented passer in this league if he can stay healthy. Behind the Chiefs line, that’s a bigger ‘If” than it should be. Still, I like Bowe’s skills more than the workout-warrior trio of Meachem, Rice, and Davis. Don’t hesitate to take Bowe early in a rookie draft if you don’t need a QB and duo of Lynch and Peterson are off the board.

Great Expectations, Few Results This Year

Robert Meachem, Saints: All I heard about this fall and winter was Robert Meachem. I hate to say this about a person, but he was one of the most overrated players in this draft. It’s not that he lacks talent. Meachem is a big, strong receiver with speed. If you don’t get your hat on Meachem after he catches the ball, he can take it the distance. Although he lacks the power and natural running skills of Dwayne Bowe, he’s a true threat after the catch.

Meachem also has good awareness of the sideline/end line as a receiver and I was impressed with his ability to track the ball on deeper routes. This is the type of player a coach drools over because of his potential. Forgive me, but sometimes the use of the word “potential” is not a compliment.

Meachem’s greatest issue is his ability to catch the football. Yes, I heard all the pre-draft work out reports about Meachem catching the football very well in drills. Drills are supposed to simulate skill sets on the field—supposed to, the operative phrase that’s key. When is the last time in a game a receiver had to run down the field catching balls from machines every few yards from different directions? I watched some of these drills. Meachem appeared mechanical when he caught the ball. This is because he was still refining the techniques of catching the ball with his hands. The game film supports this assertion.

Put a corner or safety on Meachem and the guy has difficulty holding onto the ball when extending his arms to make a catch. I saw him drop 7 balls in a game, most of them in the 1st quarter, because he couldn’t catch the ball with his hands. When he reverted back to allowing the ball into his body, he began to produce. This wasn’t the only game, either. Later in the year, Meachem still showed difficulty catching the ball with his hands or in tight coverage. He also lost his concentration when faced with the prospect of taking a huge hit.

Former LSU receiver and current Saints teammate, Devery Henderson, had the same issues coming out of college. He demonstrated improvement last year, but before then he’s been buried on the bench and it is still not a given that he’ll continue this ascent to level of desired consistency in 2007. I believe this makes Meachem, a decent dynasty pick but not anyone to consider as a rookie. Plus, he arrived to the Saints mini-camp out of shape and quickly injured his knee, requiring surgery. The best thing I can say about Meachem at this point is he has potential—and I’m not sure that’s a compliment…

Dwayne Jarrett, Panthers: Was I alone or were the draft day events between Jarrett and USC-alum Keyshawn Johnson priceless entertainment? If you remember, Johnson’s career has been filled with instances where his desire to pump himself up has resulted in some fairly embarrassing moments. First there was his book where he bad-mouthed his teammate Wayne Chrebet, an undrafted free agent who simply out-produced the first pick in the NFL Draft. He looked classless and selfish. Then a few years ago in Tampa, Me-Shawn is mic’d for the MNF showdown against the Colts. Johnson performs well early and knowingly talks bad about Marvin Harrison’s game in comparison to his. What happens? The Colts storm back from a seemingly unattainable deficit to win the game on the arm and hands of Manning and Harrison. Comeuppance again…

Of course, you’d think Keyshawn would have learned. Especially when his mouth cost him his job with the Bucs. But in months prior to the draft, Johnson, in his typically insecure fashion said Jarrett wasn’t ready to make the transition to the NFL after comparisons were made between the two USC receivers. Jarrett catches wind of these comments and doesn’t want to be compared with Johnson any more. Fast-forward to April and it’s just fitting that Keyshawn Johnson is on ESPN’s broadcast as a guest host when the Panthers pick none other than Jarrett in the second round—especially of Johnson is asked to break down Jarrett’s game on tv just an hour or two prior. The writing is clearly on the wall and Johnson is suddenly put on the spot to interview his successor. What Johnson doesn’t realize is that his successor already cost him his job. Within the week, the Panthers release Johnson to essentially make room for Jarrett. I’m telling you right now, if you put Joe Theismann and Keyshawn Johnson in the same announcers booth, you might not realize there is a game going on—if this happens, I guarantee someone from the FFToday board will likely start the first instance of hooliganism in the NFL just to put a stop to it. It might be the only brand of terrorism I’d ever consider supporting.

But this is supposed to be about Jarrett. Honestly, there’s not much to say. What you see is what you get with this prospect. He is big, has good hands, and has some power after the catch. He has good body control. Sound like Keyshawn Johnson, yes? Yeah, sounds like it to me, too. I just think he’ll need a bit more time to adjust to the NFL game than Johnson. He’s simply not as talented as the veteran receiver—barbs aside about his timing and desire to trash talk, Johnson was one of the better possession receivers in football. Jarrett will see the field in certain situations this year, but don’t look for him to make an instant impact unless there are a rash of injuries to the Carolina corps. Honestly, I thought current Patriots receiver Kelley Washington had a bit more talent than Jarrett coming out of school and he was a 4th round pick. I would be happy selecting Jarrett in a dynasty draft but only if he fell past round two or three.

Sidney Rice, Vikings: I think Rice will be a better player than Robert Meachem, but he has more ground to cover in order to get there. He’s a tremendous athlete playing a Steve Spurrier system that places athletes in situations where they can make plays. So far, the rate of Florida and South Carolina receivers who flourished in the NFL after working under Spurrier has been very low. I believe Rice has a very high level of athletic talent and I expect him to make strides quickly, but that means 2-3 seasons. I would not expect anything from this receiver until 2008, the earliest. Even the, I still think he’ll be raw with routes.

Ted Ginn, Jr., Dolphins: I like Ginn very much as a football player, but not so much as strictly a receiver. This is not a common thing to say about a player, but Ginn is an uncommon athlete. Ginn, Devin Hester, and Reggie Bush may be the best open field runners to come out of college football in several years. The Ohio State return specialist and receiver is also a quality college defensive back who doesn’t have any issues with physical contact.

But I believe Ginn is still very raw as a receiver. If put Ginn’s physical skills and field vision with Gonzalez’s receiving skills, he would have been a top-three player on my list of receivers. Right now Ginn doesn’t have good ball-catching technique and his sophistication with routes is limited to streaks, crossing routes, and screens. He’ll make an impact for the Dolphins this year, but I believe it will come more in an Antwaan Randle El-type of role when the former IU star was with the Steelers. I can see fantasy owners drafting Ginn if return yardage counts in their league scoring systems, but his NFL draft position does not match his immediate fantasy impact in most re-draft leagues. As a dynasty prospect, I’m still not convinced he’ll be a quality starter as a receiver at any point in his career. Desmond Howard was a special player, but not a quality receiver. I see Ginn in a similar way.

Sneaky Good (Note: These are lower profile players according to their draft position or media hype, but should outperform the “Great Expectations…” players not only earlier, but also more consistently throughout their careers)

Jason Hill, 49ers: Hill is the total package and in my opinion, may only be second to Calvin Johnson in this class of quality wide outs. The only reason I have Hill listed in this area is the fact he’s entering training camp as the #3 or #4 receiver on the depth chart behind two established veterans Darrell Jackson and Ashley Lelie, and much-improved Arnaz Battle. But if he shows what he did at mini-camp—14-year veteran, Trent Dilfer pointed out Hill as one of the better performers in the sessions—he could ascend quickly, considering Lelie hasn’t made a good impression thus far, and Jackson is also coming off injury.

Why is Hill the total package? You can read a sample of my film study where he faced a quality Cal secondary and blew them up for more details, but here’s the basics: Hill is a tough, sure-handed receiver with a knack for getting downfield. I’ve heard some respectable draft analysts compare Hill to Chad Johnson. I think that makes sense. While not as big as Johnson, he does possess the receiver’s toughness and explosive playmaking skills. I think he has the potential to run routes as well as Isaac Bruce. If Hill plays anywhere close to these two receivers, you have a pro bowl pass catcher.

When I look at the Niners offense, I can’t help but think this is team will wind up competing for the division title very soon. They have made excellent decisions to restock the offensive line, Frank Gore is one of the best backs in the NFL, and Vernon Davis is an offensive explosion waiting to happen at tight end. I am an Alex Smith fan and believe he will make the next step this year. Jason Hill is going to be the future primary threat for this passing offense, or at least threat 1-A with Davis, by 2009.

Anthony Gonzalez, Colts: I love how Gonzalez runs routes. He’s going to be a fine slot receiver at least until Marvin Harrison retires. Gonzalez reminds me a bit of Steve Smith, but without the proven experience to get off the line of scrimmage in physical, press coverage. He has the speed to get deep, but that role belonged more often to Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn, Jr. while at Ohio State. Peyton Manning has already said good things about Gonzalez’s approach to the game, so he’s off to a somewhat promising start. I could see Gonzalez having some quality games this year, but not consistently enough to warrant more than a waiver wire selection in re-drafts. In dynasty leagues, he has much more promise if he can develop into an outside threat capable of producing in Marvin Harrison’s role. I think he’s a vogue pick for the “expert” owner because he plays in the Colts offense, but I’m not entirely sold he’ll be a long-term fix when Harrison leaves. Either way, he has the smarts and toughness to produce well in even a limited role.

Mike Walker, Jaguars: This is the second University of Central Florida receiver who once played cornerback to make it to the NFL in consecutive years (Brandon Marshall of the Broncos was the first). Walker had an impressive season after returning from an ACL tear and playing with, at best, an average quarterback. He runs good routes for his level of experience and has very good hands. Jacksonville pointed him out as one of the better performers in spring ball. The problem is Walker’s knee is still on the mend and he may need more time to heal before he can make an impact in the fall. But in autumns to come, Walker is a name to watch. The Jaguars are currently fed up with big-name/little production prospects Reggie Williams and Matt Jones. I believe Williams will be gone by 2008, if not cut this year. Look for Walker to vie for starting time next year if he’s fully healed.

Developmental Projects

Johnnie Lee Higgins, Raiders: If there is a late round receiver I want in this draft, Higgins is one of them. He’s a good return specialist, but unlike Ted Ginn, has already flashed above average skills as a receiver. I think the Raiders got some value with this pick. In 2-3 years, I think Higgins could bring some surprising value to a fantasy owner if he can learn to defeat press coverage. I was highly impressed with his play at the position while covering UTEP games. Its players with Higgins’ speed and elusiveness that has me wondering why one would spend a top 15 pick on a player like Ginn. This comment may come back to haunt me, but so be it.

Jacoby Jones, Texans: I only saw Jones play in an all-star game, but he really was impressive for his lack of big-time experience. Jones could become a better receiver than Meachem, Davis, Rice, and Ginn. In fact, I count on it. This kid has size, speed, and excellent body control. Although he didn’t make some of the circus grabs in the game I watched, he came very close. I think the Texans got it right with Jones and I anticipate he’ll become a solid complement to Andre Johnson in 2-3 seasons—or possibly his replacement if the receiver gets a big offer to go elsewhere.

Courtney Taylor, Seahawks: The Auburn receivers in recent years have under-whelmed at the NFL level, but I think Taylor is the best of that group. He lacks the deep speed you want from a featured receiver, but he adjusts well to the ball in the air and has good hands. He’s very solid across the middle. The Seahawks seem to have receivers who have had trouble catching the football. I don’t think this is Taylor’s problem. He could develop into a successor to Bobby Engram within a year or two.

Craig Davis, Chargers: Davis does everything well that he was asked to do at LSU, but catch the football consistently in traffic. He has good speed and quickness, size, leaping ability, and skills after the catch. After Ginn’s selection, this was the most surprising selection of a receiver in the first round. I believe Davis will have a lot of trouble living up to the expectations of the round he was selected because I don’t think you can teach a player to be contact-tolerant. He seems to be better with contact when the ball is in his hands as a return specialist, but I saw him unable to maintain concentration to make catches in the middle of the field under the pressure of a big hit. If he demonstrated this in games more consistently I would have rated him higher than Steve Smith like the Chargers did. Since he didn’t, I see him lacking the skills as a multi-dimensional receiving threat and likely journeyman.

Dallas Baker, Steelers: Baker lacks speed and, allegedly, the maturity to be a top end prospect. But he has some skills I really like as a receiver. He has excellent size and leaping ability, which he uses well in the middle of the field and the red zone. I actually thought Baker stood out more on film in certain games than any receiver on their roster, even when Chad Jackson was on the squad. But I think he’ll have a difficult time beating out Nate Washington or Cedrick Wilson for a roster spot. Still, there’s a chance he could catch on somewhere else and develop into a quality possession target in a few years.

Misplaced Talent

Jeff Samardzija, Cubs Farm Team: I was told recently by a well-informed reader that one of the biggest causes of Brady Quinn’s woes with accuracy were his receivers not running the correct route. That may be the case, but Samardzija was undeniably an athletic talent at the position with excellent hand-eye coordination on deep balls. He was also a very strong runner after the catch. The former Notre Dame star is now a minor league pitcher with the Chicago Cubs organization, but as with other NFL players who quit baseball to return to football—Deion Sanders, Kelly Washington, and Drew Henson among them—Samardzija could change his mind and find a way to get out of his contract and back into football. While I don’t think it’s likely, he has the skills of a first-day prospect at the wide receiver position if he were to get back into football. It will become increasingly difficult for Samardzija to return to the receiver position if he waits longer than a year. It’s too bad, because I thought he was a big-game player with a knack for the position and the toughness and smarts to be an excellent pro.