Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "There is nothing to fear but fear itself." He obviously wasn't an NFL fan, as we are always fretting over players on our favorite team's roster.
Sometimes that concern sprouts from a player seemingly lacking the maturity to handle life as a professional athlete. Other times, it's because the player hasn't been able to stay healthy.
And then there are those who just might not be good enough. Those players scare us (and head coaches and general managers) more than anyone else.
So click through to discover which player on each NFL team is keeping us up at night.
Daryl Washington once had a bright future ahead of him, but he can't seem to stay out of his own way.
The second incident could very well end up lengthening his original ban, and it wouldn't be out of the question for him to miss half the season. For a team that plays in the NFC West, losing an inside linebacker who produced nine sacks last year is probably a death sentence.
John Abraham is gone and so are his 38 quarterback hurries. For a team that was one of five teams not to reach 30 sacks last season, anyone who can bring pocket pressure is of utmost importance.
That's why the Atlanta Falcons brought in Osi Umenyiora. He's been a member of a fearsome defensive front for years, and he's hoping to instill that same culture along Atlanta's defensive line.
The concern lies in Umenyiora's age (31) and declining production. Atlanta's offense is top notch, but the Falcons need some help if they're going to get over the championship hump.
The Baltimore Ravens are fresh off a Super Bowl win thanks to a dominating performance by their lead receiver.
That lead receiver is now a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
Torrey Smith must now assume the mantle of No. 1 receiver, and it's a definite question of whether he's capable.
He played well last season, but his job was to stretch the field opposite Anquan Boldin. Will he be able to create separation when the defense keys on him?
We'll find out.
There is a lot to like about the cheap signing of Kevin Kolb. The Buffalo Bills received a player once worthy of a top-dollar contract, and Kolb got another chance without all the pressure.
And then the Bills took EJ Manuel in the first round.
To be clear, I'm not against the pick. It was shocking, but Manuel has enough talent and could very well prove worthy of his lofty draft status.
Here's the conundrum: If Kolb is good, then the Bills will eventually trade him for a nice haul and put mountains of pressure on Manuel. However, if Kolb is terrible, Manuel is rushed onto the field, possibly stunting his development.
Once your head stops spinning from the circular logic, you'll realize the best result is a mediocre performance from Kolb. What a weird thought.
It's obvious, but that doesn't mean it's wrong.
The numbers don't show a sharp decline from Cam Newton's rookie season to his sophomore campaign. He completed 2.3 percent less passes, threw two less touchdowns and actually threw five fewer interceptions. And he improved his passer rating by a couple of points.
But those numbers don't show much development, and neither did the tape. He still forces things when they aren't there and relies on his arm instead of using proper footwork.
Throw in his disconcerting attitude, and there is reason for the Carolina Panthers to be concerned. There is still time for Newton to grow into a franchise quarterback, but there must be a step forward in year three to keep hope alive.
Brandon Marshall has been as good as advertised. But, just like Calvin Johnson, he needs a running mate who can consistently make plays.
Alshon Jeffery has all the physical tools to handle the job. He stands 6'3", weighs 216 pounds and has the ability to abuse most NFL cornerbacks.
Yet he only had two games with four or more catches and only hauled in three touchdowns last year. If the Chicago Bears are going to return to the playoffs, they'll need more production from the second-year receiver.
The Cincinnati Bengals have done a great job putting together their roster. There's plenty of talent spread across the depth chart, and the Bengals can certainly put up consecutive playoff appearances.
Well, except for one little problem: Rey Maualuga is back.
Maualuga has never lived up to his pre-draft hype. He posted a negative-26.3 Pro Football Focus grade (subscription required), which meant he was the worst inside linebacker out of the 53 that PFF ranked.
Did you really think I would take this in a different direction?
Brandon Weeden was the Cleveland Browns second first-round selection in last year's draft, and time is starting to run out. Literally. He's 29 years old and had 23 turnovers compared to 14 touchdown passes during his rookie season.
The Browns acquired a lot of talent through the draft and free agency this year, meaning they're not a lock to finish in the basement of the AFC North. But if Weeden doesn't take a huge step forward, all of those additions will be held back for years by a mediocre quarterback.
The Dallas Cowboys have plenty of talented players but can’t seem to put things together as a team. A key factor in that failure has been injuries, as DeMarco Murray can attest.
Murray has missed nine games in the last two years, and his effectiveness has been just as inconsistent.
The Cowboys need Murray to step up and at least become an average lead back if they’re going to find their way back out of mediocrity.
Another possibility here was rookie center Travis Frederick, but he can be helped on the inside by the guards.
Replacing Elvis Dumervil isn’t going to be easy. He had 11 sacks last year, and the defense will be counting on some unproven talent to fill the void.
However, Rahim Moore is still the top concern. His late-game gaffe in the playoffs cost the aging Peyton Manning a title shot.
We’ll find out what kind of mettle this kid has in 2013. This is the type of play that could push him to greater heights or completely break him.
There are plenty of questions along the offensive line, especially when it comes to the new tackles.
However, those concerns aren’t as worrisome as rookie Ezekiel Ansah’s play. Ansah is an incredibly gifted athlete, and the success of the defense will hinge on his production.
If he excels, the defense will rebound from a rough 2012. If not, the Wide 9 scheme will be exposed without the threat of a credible pass rusher.
How could this choice be anyone but Bryan Bulaga? Sure, the defense was last seen getting punked by Colin Kaepernick, but Aaron Rodgers’ blindside protection is the clear priority.
Despite the additions of Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin, Rodgers is still the engine that will drive this team. If he isn't upright, or is constantly on the run, the Green Bay Packers' chances for success will be greatly reduced.
Whether or not Bulaga can handle the NFC's elite pass-rushers could very well be the key to the entire season.
This isn't 2008, and the Houston Texans didn't just acquire an All-Pro safety in Ed Reed.
Instead, the Texans allowed Glover Quin to walk and inked Reed to a three-year deal. According to Pro Football Focus, Quin graded out higher than Reed last year (2.3 to negative-2.0, respectively), and we already know he's making less money.
For a secondary that fell apart down the stretch, acquiring a player who is clearly on the tail end of his career instead of keeping the up-and-coming youngster seems odd at best.
This is a decision that could haunt the Texans for years.
No matter how hard I try, I can't forget about Erik Walden and the gratuitous contract the Indianapolis Colts gave him. It's mind-boggling.
The downgrade in talent from the ousted Dwight Freeney to Walden is astounding. Walden ranked as the worst outside linebacker in 2012, and it wasn't even close (subscription required).
And it isn't as if his defenders would point us towards the tape. The last time he hit the field, he resembled a matador.
After thinking about it, I still don't get it.
If you asked 100 people which Jacksonville Jaguar concerned them the most, 99 would say Blaine Gabbert. And that one person would think they were being counter-culture instead of what they actually were—wrong.
It's not a state secret that quarterback is the most important position in sports. Furthermore, it doesn't take an expert to realize that the Gabbert era has been a disaster.
In fact, my girlfriend compared Gabbert to our air conditioner the other day in that they both kept freezing up and would stop working correctly.
I couldn’t have agreed with her more.
Branden Albert and the Kansas City Chiefs want to wipe the slate clean and give their relationship another chance. How well has that worked out for all of you with broken relationships?
The problem is that things get said once the end seems inevitable. You start to see how much better off you can be, or how much better you can do, without the other person.
And that's what makes this so awkward. The new girl is standing only a few positions over, and he was taken with the first overall draft pick.
Reshad Jones isn't happy. He's so upset that he's gone to his room and he isn't coming out until he gets a new contract.
The Miami Dolphins kicked off minicamp without their emerging safety. Jones is miffed because the Dolphins have been throwing around money all offseason and didn't think to share any with him.
And he has a point. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the third-best safety in 2012 (subscription required), as he completed the year with 74 tackles and four interceptions, and he allowed less than 50 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed.
Pay the man. He's earned it.
Christian Ponder ended 2012 with more questions about his game than he started with. He began the season decently (no interceptions in the first four games), but his performance was pretty much benign (four touchdown passes over that same span).
Ponder spent the rest of the season trying to get out of Adrian Peterson's way, throwing just two more touchdown passes than interceptions. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see how he would handle the playoffs as he was forced to sit out due to an injury.
The pressure is squarely on Ponder not to waste Peterson's prime. If he struggles this season, his tenure in Minnesota might come to an abrupt end.
New England Patriots fans might want to click to the next slide. Don't say I didn't warn you, although I'm sure it's nothing you haven't already thought about.
Rob Gronkowski is approaching injury-prone territory. At the least, he's in the same category as Matthew Stafford was after his first two years.
To be fair, Gronkowski didn't miss any time during his first 33 games, but he hasn't finished a season healthy since his rookie campaign. Gronkowski soldiered his way through an ineffective Super Bowl in 2011, and re-broke his forearm in the Patriots' first game of the 2012 postseason.
All of these injuries could be just like Stafford's, freak occurrences that have no bearing on his durability. But he needs to bounce back without any more incidents in 2013 to put these worries to bed.
Drew Brees finds himself in a similar situation to Aaron Rodgers, looking over his left shoulder because he just hired a new bodyguard with limited experience.
Charles Brown will step into the void left by Jermon Bushrod, who is now a member of the Chicago Bears. Having Sean Payton back will help, but this is the second straight year that the New Orleans Saints have lost a starting lineman in free agency.
To get to the Super Bowl, the Saints will likely have to march through Seattle or San Francisco, two teams who love beating up the quarterback. If Brees gets antsy and starts chucking it off his back foot, the 2013 season will end in failure.
No pressure, Charles.
Welcome to New York, Justin Pugh.
You might think based on the media circus surrounding the New York Jets over the past few years that no one will notice the New York Giants. While the Jets will stir up more drama, there will be plenty of leftover heat for Pugh and the Giants.
This team is only a couple years removed from a title, and fans aren't going to settle for another mediocre year. They also don't care that the Giants reached for Pugh; they just know he's a first rounder, so he better play like one.
Pugh didn't earn a high enough grade from me to warrant first-round scrutiny. Here's hoping he can hack it.
What? Were you really expecting anybody else?
Mark Sanchez isn't feeling any love these days, not that it's anything new. He's been the most heavily scrutinized player in the league since 2011.
The situation for the New York Jets is somewhat similar to the Buffalo Bills: What do they do if Sanchez actually excels? Or what if he's so horrible that Geno Smith is pressed into service too quickly and has his career torpedoed before it starts?
Oh, and the man fumbled by running into his own player's rear end. How can the Jets possibly feel good about this situation?
The Oakland Raiders have made quite a few great moves under general manager Reggie McKenzie. Holding onto Darren McFadden isn't one of them.
McFadden has endured an unnerving number of medical woes, never playing more than 13 games in a season and only completing seven in 2011. Moreover, his performance hasn't been inspiring either, as his career average has dropped to 4.3 yards thanks to a 3.3 yards-per-carry output in 2012.
At this point, it'd be better for the Raiders to turn the starting back duties over to Marcel Reece, who is one of the most under-appreciated players in the league.
There's a lot of excitement surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles these days. None of that should be directed towards the signing of Isaac Sopoaga.
Sopoaga had the benefit of playing next to Justin and Aldon Smith, and still wasn't that impressive. He routinely wasn't able to hold up the interior or penetrate to make plays, resulting in a negative-12.5 grade from PFF (subscription required).
The Niners let him walk because he's replaceable. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they won't figure that out until they've paid him a good deal of money.
Larry Foote was old when he returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple years ago. Guess what? He's even older now.
Granted, 32 isn't a death sentence for NFL linebackers, but it's rare for players to improve at such an advanced phase of life. Considering Foote came in 46th out of 53 linebackers ranked by PFF (subscription required), there isn't much room to fall further.
The Steelers have struggled to be the same defensive force that they were because they've allowed their defenders to get so old. It's time for a youth movement, and it can start at one particular inside linebacker spot.
I'm sorry, Scott Wells. This could have just as easily been Shelley Smith.
But I'm going with the man who the Green Bay Packers let go, and we know the Packers offensive line hasn't been anything noteworthy in awhile.
Wells joined the St. Louis Rams hoping to start fresh, but it's been the same mediocrity (negative-5.4 PFF grade) that he displayed in Green Bay. Expect Barrett Jones to make a real push to put one of these guys on the bench.
We should have figured it out when Ryan Mathews couldn't pass a conditioning test prior to his second season with the San Diego Chargers. You know, after he only played in 12 games and gained 678 yards his rookie year after being picked 12th overall.
Yet we all still chose him way too high in our fantasy leagues in 2012, meaning we actually drafted him.
Mathews apparently hasn't impressed anyone this offseason, as rumors of the Chargers wanting LaDainian Tomlinson back have begun to surface.
The @mikesilver report re: Chargers wanting LT back is a mind bender. Among things it confirms: faith in Ryan Mathews is extremely low.— UTKevinAcee (@UTKevinAcee) April 28, 2013
Remember, this isn't about how well a player can perform. At least, not every time.
And this is one of those exceptions.
Without Justin Smith, the San Francisco 49ers defense looked mortal, even beatable. Once he suffered a torn triceps, the other players didn't have a disruptive force up front to give them the openings to make plays.
The most affected player was Aldon Smith. After racking up 19.5 sacks in 13 games, Aldon failed to notch another sack the rest of the season.
The Niners are a Super Bowl team (obviously), but those odds take a large hit if Justin Smith can't maintain his health.
The Seattle Seahawks were on par with the San Francisco 49ers last season on the field, and they've matched them this offseason as well.
When Harvin is on the field, he's one of the most explosive players in the league. But he's like that guy we've all worked with who is always calling in with some crazy story about how he can't make it in today. I'm not saying Harvin is making up the medical issues that have kept him off the field, just pointing out that he only played in nine games last year, and it seems like there’s always something wrong.
Josh Freeman is the epitome of a roller coaster. His touchdown-to-interception ratio has swung from minus-eight to plus-19 to minus-six to plus-10.
That's a lot of ups and downs.
The unsteady play has led to head coach Greg Schiano stating that Mike Glennon could wrest the starting job from him. Assumedly, this was an effort to motivate his fifth-year signal-caller.
Who knows how that type of threat is going to affect a guy who fluctuates so wildly on his own.
It's easy to pick quarterbacks who aren't all stars and throw them on this list, but, more often than not, it's the right call. So we now put Jake Locker on the signal-calling hot seat because the time has come to find out if he can make it.
Locker is entering his third year in the league. In his first 16 games, Locker has thrown 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Those aren't horrible numbers, but his head coach's job may very well depend on his progression.
If that doesn't cause someone to lose sleep, nothing will.
"Really? Another quarterback?"
Relax. If I had chosen anybody else, we all know I would have been trying too hard instead of acknowledging the truth that every Washington Redskins fan is scared to death of Robert Griffin III's knees.
I'm not predicting that Griffin is going to continue to get hurt (and never would), but the thought of the franchise-saving quarterback going down again is the single greatest fear anyone in Washington, D.C. has ever had.
And yes, I'm including the Cold War era.