One of the hardest things for a young player in the NFL to overcome is the early bust label.
Several players are declared busts before they get a chance to really prove themselves. This can either serve as motivation or hurt a young player's confidence. However, several players are able to shed the bust label with breakout seasons that show why they were high draft picks to begin with.
These three players have already been declared busts on various levels by many, but look for them to improve this season and shed the bust label a bit.
JaMarcus Russell: The first overall pick from 2007 has received much criticism since he has been drafted, much of it unnecessary. Considering 2008 was essentially his rookie season, he played relatively well and came on strong at the end of the season, helping Oakland win two of their last three games, throwing for six touchdowns and only two interceptions in that span.
Russell's strong arm is well-documented, but his decision-making and work ethic have come into question. There have been several stories about his commitment this offseason, both good and bad; but Russell has shown improvement from last season and performed well in his first preseason game.
Against Dallas, Russell didn't force many bad passes, showed off his scrambling ability, and looked poised and confident, which is what you want from your starting quarterback.
With an improved receiving corps consisting of a healthy Javon Walker, rookies Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy, and new found favorite targets in tight end Zach Miller and when second-year receiver Chaz Schilens returns from a foot injury, Russell could become this year's breakout QB.
Gaines Adams: The Buccaneers took the Clemson product with the 4th pick of the 2007 draft, with high hopes that he would continue the tradition of great Tampa Bay defensive ends such as Lee Roy Selmon and Simeon Rice. However, he hasn't even been Greg Spires to this point.
Adams has only accumulated 12.5 sacks in his two seasons, but this should be a breakout year for him.
Look for Adams to improve with Defensive Coordinator, Jim Bates on board. Bates is the same coach who developed defensive ends into great pass-rushers with Jason Taylor in Miami as well as Elvis Dumervil in Denver.
With Adams, Bates has a potential-laden young end that is weak in run support, but has the ability to be a great pass-rusher; and the versatility and athleticism to make other big plays such as his two interceptions in 2008.
Both Adams and Bucs' coach Raheem Morris have acknowledged that this is a make-or-break year for him. Several Tampa Bay coaches have raved about his offseason progress and with the Bucs adding defensive line help in the draft in the form of Roy Miller; and Kyle Miller, it looks like it will be a make year.
Troy Williamson: Out of all these players, Williamson has the longest way to go to prove that he is not an NFL failure.
Williamson was an absolute bust for Minnesota, who took him with the 7th pick of the 2005 draft. He was traded to Jacksonville for a 6th-round pick last season and performed like a player who was traded for a 6th-round pick, doing next to nothing.
So, why in the world will he make heads turn this season?
Well, first of all, he had a strong training camp and is actually being relied upon in the offense this season. He is listed as the starting receiver opposite Torry Holt on the team's depth chart, and performed very well in the team's preseason opener, catching four passes for 74 yards. He seems to be slowly shedding his reputation of a receiver with stone hands, making some nice catches.
Another reason why he will improve is the player throwing to him.
All of Jacksonville's receivers and quarterback David Garrard struggled last season. A major reason for that is that the Jaguars' offensive line which was decimated with injuries. However, a healthy line and new additions of Tra Thomas, Eugene Monroe, and William Beatty should help David Garrard play like he did in 2007 when he was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
While it's unknown whether Williamson will be a starter when the regular season starts, it looks like he will surely be a big part of the Jacksonville offense.
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