Quarterbacks Primed for Stardom in 2010
My third installment of breakout players for the 2010-11 season will come to a close (at least on the offensive side of the ball) with field generals primed for greatness in the NFL.
Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers had the stars aligned with great receivers, faltered predecessors, [close to] retired players, and big dreams within the front office.
This year, America has witnessed its fair share of blockbuster deals and signings that seem to have "aligned the stars" for these up-and-coming talents ready to strut their stuff and be compared to the aforementioned gun-slingers we call, "The Elite Quarterbacks" in today's game.
Matt Leinart (Not So Honorable Mention)
America, do not be fooled by Leinart's name scripted in this slideshow. As stated, he is not an honorable mention in this group of talented youngsters. Instead, he is on the short list (if you can call it a list) of "not so honorable mention(s)."
Four full seasons in the league, and Leinart can barely muster 4,000 yards passing to his name. Perhaps Kurt Warner's surprise resurgence as an MVP quarterback stunted Leinart's growth in the NFL, but the kid deserved nothing more than to watch from the sideline, as Warner took the underdog Cardinals to the Super Bowl.
The 25-year-old Leinart seemed more obsessed with his personal life, rather than his NFL career. The temptation of Hollywood and the glamorous lifestyle that came with it seemed too much for the USC alum, who was often seen snuggling couch-side with heiresses and celebrities alike.
Back to why he's being considered a bust after being selected 10th overall by Arizona; well lets just say the 6'5", 230 lb. youngster had less in the tank than a 37-year-old former bag-boy, who beat him fair-and-square for the starting job.
Only time will tell if Leinart can truly reach the potential the world created for him.
Kevin Kolb (Philadelphia Eagles)
Kolb is this low on the list due to the inflated potential many have layered upon him. The heir apparent to Donovan McNabb when he was drafted out of the University of Houston in 2007, Kolb has shown Eagles fans he is poised and ready to take the next step.
Three years later, the time has finally come for Kolb, who has seen very limited action the past two seasons.
With only 130 pass attempts in the league, he has shown great stride and potential, especially when McNabb went down last season. In the three games he played in McNabb's absence, Kolb managed close to 800 yards passing, including two 300-yard performances.
The stage is set for the Kolb, who has two of the best young receivers at his disposal. With the speedy DeSean Jackson and versatile Jeremy Maclin creating plays, there's no question Kolb will shine next season.
Think of Aaron Rodgers—without the elusiveness.
Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
It may seem Matt Ryan had an off year last year, but in truth, he had almost identical statistics to his his 2008 rookie-of-the-year campaign.
Playing in two fewer games, Ryan threw more touchdowns and completed more passes than his trophy-yielding season.
His gun-slinging ways were due in part to Michael Turner's injuries and inconsistency last season. Without a potent rushing attack, the Falcons became one-dimensional, which led the second year player to play from behind most of the time.
Out with the Snelling-Norwood running back committee, and in with the down field running of a healthy Michael Turner, as Ryan should revert back to his old ways and become the consistent, mistake free play maker he was two seasons ago.
Expect the Falcons to dog it out for a wild-card spot, with Ryan leading the way.
Mark Sanchez (New York Jets)
Sanchez had a horrible rookie season in 2009, but thanks to Darelle Revis and the top-ranked defense, the surprise New York Jets were fortunate enough to grab a Wild-card slot and eventually, a trip to the AFC title game (which they lost to the Colts).
Although Sanchez seemed to be in a winter slumber for most of the season, his emotion and heart on the field dictates his leadership within the locker room.
Despite his lowly statistics, Sanchez proved to be a vital component in New York's run to the title game. His 93.7 quarterback rating in the playoffs displayed his poise and intangible qualities as a leader.
Adding Santonio Holmes and a full season from Braylon Edwards, coupled with Jericho Cotchery's consistency, the sky's the limit for Sanchez, who, unlike his predecessor in USC, has played a meaningful role in a championship caliber team.
Alex Smith (San Francisco 49ers)
The second coming of the first overall pick in 2005 has come upon us. Who would have thought the 'bust of years past' would be given another chance to shine; in a system with an abundance of budding stars, nonetheless.
Smith, who played in 11 games last season, threw 18 touchdowns and kept the 49ers in playoff contention.
In what was arguably one of the least talented draft classes of our generation, Smith was still expected to succeed and once again, bring promise to a town that has lost all its glamour within recent years.
Coupled with WR Michael Crabtree's skill set, TE Vernon Davis' circus du soleil solo act, and oft-injured, yet productive RB Frank Gore, Smith is in quarterback heaven.
Ryan Leaf could not have screwed this one up. If Smith fails to succeed, he truly deserves the cold shoulder...on a cold bench.
Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions)
No one can deny Stafford's NFL-caliber arm. He can chuck it up with the best of them, but what analysts and fans fear most about this young star-to-be is his accuracy.
Last season, Stafford's 53 percent completion rate was one of the worst in the league for starting quarterbacks. Though his 2,267 yards passing could very well be above 4,000 next season, his sporadic arm could lead him to the dungeon of NFL quarterbacks.
Nonetheless, the arsenal of Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Kevin Smith, Brandon Pettigrew, and rookie Jahvid Best will make sure Stafford's blunders turn into bombs come opening day.
Look for an improved year for the second-year Brett Favre prototype.
Chad Henne (Miami Dolphins)
Last, but not least, the the player whom I expect to be a star by years end...former University of Michigan standout Chad Henne.
Henne had a sub-par season in 2009, while hurling the ball to Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo, and Anthony Fasano.
Dolphins fans, you can call me whatever you want, but a view of Bess, Camarillo, and Fasano from the pocket does not look half as delectable as having a 6'4" vacuum cleaner coming out of a deep post.
For those who are not familiar with the talent that comes with the often troubled and pampered Brandon Marshall, there's a reason the Central Florida product is raking $47.5 million over four years from the Dolphins.
His rare combination of speed, size, and suction cups for fingertips make him one of the best receivers in the game. You just have to tolerate the problems that often come with young, misguided stars.
Henne should look for the big target throughout the field if he wants a one-way ticket to perennial stardom. Both Henne and Marshall should put up huge numbers next season.
If all goes well, this tandem should reek havoc in the NFL for the next half decade.