Just like every other professional sport, the NFL has its diamonds in the rough, but somehow their full potential isn't realized until the middle of their career. These players go unnoticed and have so much unrealized potential they are dangerous to the 31 teams that they aren't on. Some players won't be all pro's, but will become an impact player for the team that they are on for years to come. The following players fit this profile perfectly and will finally be noticed in a big way.
The first diamond is Pierre Garcon, wide receiver and kick returner for the Indianapolis Colts. Garcon is in his second year with the Colts and was selected in round six with the 205th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Garcon was drafted out of Division Three, Mount Union College, where he played his final three years of college after transferring from Norwich University. He accumulated 3363 yards and 47 touchdowns as a Purple Raider. Garcon became the first Purple Raider to start an NFL game since 1929 on Monday against the Dolphins and added a 48 yard touchdown to top it all off.
Garcon was able to start the game after an untimely injury to Anthony Gonzalez in week one of the season. If that touchdown is a sign of things to come from Garcon, it's safe to consider the Colts have found their diamond in the rough.
Diamond number two and coincidentally wide receiver number two is Mike Sims-Walker for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sims-Walker has been in the rough longer then Garcon and some other players that will be mentioned later on. He hasn't had the best of luck since entering the league in the 2007 draft, as he was placed on the injured reserve in his first year and was injured for the majority of 2008 as well.
Regardless, when Sims-Walker has played he has looked very impressive. Sims-Walker played his college ball with the University of Central Florida Golden Knights where he accumulated 2561 yards and 17 touchdowns. In his sophomore year, he played both receiver and corner back, proving his versatility by leading the Golden Knights in interceptions that year. His impressive college career has only been backed up by his stunning ability to make plays out of nothing when playing in the preseason and even in the few games he has played in the regular season as well.
Sims-Walker will finally get his chance to shine with the Jaguars with Troy Williamson being placed on the injured reserve earlier this week.
Flash-forward to next year and this next diamond will be well known in the Sunshine state. Chad Henne, the former Michigan quarterback, will be turning heads in Land Shark Stadium by the 2010 season.
Henne, unlike Sims-Walker, has had a somewhat advantageous career so far in the NFL. The Dolphins selected Henne in the second round of the 2008 Draft with the 57th pick. Henne passed for 9,715 yards and 87 touchdowns in his career as a Wolverine.
When he was drafted in 2008, it came as a shock to most people because John Beck looked to be the Dolphins future at quarterback. Beck is now in Baltimore and Pennington is the Dolphins starting QB. The Dolphins were willing to cut their proposed future to bring in a veteran like Pennington while Henne adapts to the NFL level. Not to mention that Chad Pennington has been struggling as of late, this could only help Henne’s chances of starting in the NFL. If the Dolphins continue to disappoint, the former Wolverine could be starting by mid-season.
This next player is the fourth diamond and could become one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL within the next two years. His name is Tavares Gooden and he is Bart Scott's replacement at outside linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens most likely made the right decision by getting rid of Scott in favor of Gooden.
Gooden was drafted in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft with the 71st pick out of the University of Miami and for Ravens fans, 2008 looks a lot like 1996. As most Raven fans know, 1996 was our inaugural year and the year we drafted Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis. In 2008, the Ravens drafted Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and Tavares Gooden in consecutive rounds. If no one gets hurt, 2008 could surpass 1996 as the best draft the Ravens have ever had.
But, back to Gooden, who spent one of his four years of college on the shelf under a medical redshirt. However, he still accumulated 216 total tackles, 1 sack, and 1 interception in his short but great career with the Hurricanes. With Ray Lewis as his mentor and his ability to make plays from anywhere on the field, Gooden has the potential to be a pro-bowler.
The fifth and final diamond is Brandon Flowers, corner back for the Kansas City Chiefs. Flowers had arguably the best rookie year of all of the other diamonds with two interceptions and one was returned for a touchdown.
Flowers was the Chiefs second round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft out of Virginia Tech. With the Hokies, Flowers accumulated 10 interceptions, 3.5 sacks, and 158 total tackles. He returned two of his interceptions for touchdowns and was named a first and third team All-American in his three year career with Virginia Tech. He is only 5 foot 9 inches tall, but compensates with his incredible coverage and pass reading.
Flowers is the one bright spot in the black hole that is the Kansas City Chiefs defense. Hopefully, the Chiefs can continue to build around him before he bolts for a better team.
All of these players have legitimate shot at becoming huge for their teams and look for them to make that impact real soon. If the impact is small this year, expect big things from each of the in 2010.
There will be a part two, so please leave comments on what you think of these players and other players that should have been included.