As the NFL draft approaches, we all get a little antsy for football season to start. We start salivating over the latest and greatest rookie talent and their the flashy 40-yard dash times, and we forget about all the players from last year’s draft, the ones we talked up to our buddies every Saturday watching college football, the guys that were going to make our fantasy team as a sleeper pick or a bench-rider on our dynasty squad.
Before you start dropping them on your team to pick up the Chris “Beanie” Wells of the world, maybe you should consider all those good times you still might have…
Now is not the time to forget the players that everyone loved last offseason. They’re still on NFL rosters, and some of them are moving ever closer to an impact role. Even though they may look like last year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover — and hey, that’s not too bad looking — you shouldn’t stop watching them.
Before you clear a spot for Matthew Stafford, consider these quarterbacks who could be impact players in 2009 or 2010.
Chad Henne – Miami Dolphins
While not flashy, Henne has the admiration of the Bill Parcells-led Dolphins, and as soon as Chad Pennington decides to get away from the sticky beach weather in Florida or Parcells decides he needs to take a seat on the bench, Henne is the favorite to be the starting quarterback. Current rumors have him set to go in 2010. One can only hope the Dolphins have developed receivers by then.
Brett Ratliff – New York Jets
Kellen Clemens isn’t scaring anyone in New York except his agent — a 59.3 quarterback rating will do that. The pressure of being an NFL starting quarterback didn’t suit him too well when he got the chance pre-Favre, and the door is standing open for Brett Ratliff to jump into a starting job. Wouldn’t it be fitting for both starting quarterbacks who replace Brett Favre to come from Chico and Butte? [See Rodgers, Aaron]
Matt Moore – Carolina Panthers
One of the most promising backup quarterbacks in the game, Moore showed poise when he took the field in relief of Jake Delhomme and David Carr in 2007. He sits behind Jake Delhomme this season with no Carr in sight. Delhomme could easily lose his job in 2009 if he is as sloppy with the football as he was in his playoff game against the Cardinals, and the Panthers, while supporting him as the starter, haven’t moved to extend his contract yet. All eyes are on Moore to steal the show — as long as the Panthers don’t surprise us in the draft.
Josh Johnson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Johnson has the skills and the intangibles to match. Best of all, the opportunity is there as the Bucs roll into this season with Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich competing for the starting job. Footballguys.com’s The Audible brought Johnson to my attention before the 2008 draft, and those guys know their rookies. Before being drafted, Johnson was named the offensive MVP of the 2008 East-West Shrine Game and excelled at the NFL Combine, where he recorded the best 40-yard dash (4.55), broad jump and vertical jump among quarterbacks. If Leftwich struggles in the starting role in 2009, Johnson could come along quickly.
You don’t have to be young to be worth watching this season — so says the cougar motto — but these potential studs could find new life depending on where they rank after training camps.
Sage Rosenfels – Minnesota Vikings
Rosenfels might be overlooked since he’s no new kid on the block, but he can still play with the best of them as long as a helicopter spin is involved. Rosenfels was considered one of the best backups in the league with the Houston Texans, and his arm gave the team plenty of chances to win. Captain Turnover’s move to the Vikings this offseason will probably allow him to win the starting job over Tarvaris Jackson, and his daring feats with the football might be just what Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice need to be productive.
Vince Young – Tennessee Titans
Kerry Collins may be the Susan Boyle of the NFL, but he can’t last forever. Despite his strong showing in 2008, the Titans are unlikely to get across the hump in the AFC unless they somehow unleash the true talents of Vince Young. Whether he gets his chance with the Titans as a starter or specialty weapon or he moves to another team, VY will be an impact player if he regains the confidence he had at Texas. With the right coaching, Young should be productive when combined with some emerging receivers. While you might take him off your draft board for now, don’t let him stray too far.
And don’t forget…
In the incubator: Dennis Dixon (Pittsburgh Steelers), Kevin Kolb (Philadelphia Eagles), Colt Brennan (Washington Redskins), Matt Leinart (Arizona Cardinals)