The NFL is a league that many believe stands for “Not For Long.” In other words a player who was once good, like Daunte Culpepper, can see his play and production suddenly fall off a cliff and never recover again.
However, there is another side to the coin of “Not For Long,” as the statement is much more of a double-edged sword than people think.
Just as players who were once great can suddenly become terrible, players who were once terrible can suddenly become great.
These aren’t players (except for one) who are eligible for Comeback Player of the Year award like Osi Umenyiora, because the players on this list having nothing to come back from because they were terrible.
A recent example of this phenomenon most people are somewhat familiar with is the story of Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson.
Benson was the fourth overall pick of the 2005 draft by the Chicago Bears. After three years with the Bears, he was labeled a bust. But then he went to the Cincinnati Bengals, and in less than two seasons with the Bengals, people stopped calling him a bust and started to wonder if he was a Pro Bowl-caliber player instead.
However, Benson is not eligible for this list, as this is a list of five players who have resurrected their careers during the 2010 season only.
These are players who were once considered busts and disappointments, players who dug their careers into an early grave. But now these five players are climbing out of their self-dug graves with their stellar play in the early goings of the 2010 NFL season, and what they are doing deserves recognition and respect.
The list is organized from least surprising too most surprising.
During the 2009 NFL Draft Josh McDaniels, in his first year as head coach of the Denver Broncos, saw fit to trade a 2010 first-round pick for a second-round pick and the right to draft Alphonso Smith, cornerback from Wake Forest.
That says a lot about what McDaniels thought of Smith as a NFL prospect. A year later, McDaniels traded Smith to the Detroit Lions for tight end Dan Gronkowski, a seventh-round pick in the 2009 draft.
That says a lot about what McDaniels thought of Smith as an NFL player.
Well maybe McDaniels should stick to coaching and evaluating offense and leave the defense to someone else, because McDaniels was insane for giving up on Smith so quickly.
Smith has quickly become an invaluable member of the Detroit Lions secondary, as he has already posted three interceptions and is already being asked to cover opposing offenses' top receivers. Just last week in a loss, he held budding New York Giants superstar Hakeem Nicks to two catches and 14 yards. While Smith wasn’t the only cornerback to face Nicks, he was the primary guy.
And Smith even showed some toughness against the Giants, as he had to leave the game with what looked like a nasty shoulder injury but was back in the game way quicker than expected.
This trade to me is a perfect example of why Jim Schwartz is doing better than people think, and that Josh McDaniels is doing worse than a lot of people think.
A lot of people would expect Smith to be higher on this list, but I question the logic behind the Broncos ever viewing him as trash to begin with. He hadn’t earned the title of trash like the guys above him.
Shawn Andrews' NFL career could be accurately described as a roller coaster ride, and while he is the only player on this list who has accomplished anything prior to the 2010 season, he still has had a lot to overcome, both mentally and physically.
Drafted in the first round as a right guard by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004, Andrews was a Pro Bowler in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
Yet depression and back problems made Andrews' stay at the top very short-lived. In 2007, he was one of the best offensive lineman in the game, and in 2008 he didn’t play a down after the second game. In fact Andrews never played another down for the Eagles after the second game of the 2008 season.
And nothing the Eagles did made Andrews happier or feel more comfortable, even trading for one of his best friends from college, Jason Peters, or signing his brother Stacey in free agency.
So finally the Eagles cut him, and many around the league felt that it was the end of the line for Andrews.
But Andrews signed an incentive-laden deal with the New York Giants shortly before the 2010 season began, giving him that second chance. And while he isn’t starting for the Giants right now, he is playing a very important role as their top backup and as a blocking tight end.
And apparently Andrews already that he feels like home with the Giants, having stated that the family atmosphere and the way the organization treats its players feel very comfortable in his new surroundings.
Andrews has been so impressive the Giants are rumored to consider him their left tackle of the future. Not bad for a guy whose NFL career many thought was over. And while he was an elite NFL player once, considering what he had to overcome to see field in any capacity let alone play well is worthy of notice.
The Houston Texans drafted Babin in the first round in 2004 to be an outside linebacker in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme. That didn’t work out very well.
Fast-forward to 2010 and Babin, a seven-year veteran, is with the Tennessee Titans, his fifth NFL team, playing for the minimum. Before this year, Babin’s highest season sack total was five in 2006 with the Texans.
And honestly I can't imagine the Titans expected they would get much out of Babin either. So to say everyone had written Babin off as being an NFL star was an understatement. But there he is with the Titans, leading a fearsome defense that gets under the skins of opposing offenses as often as they get under their pads.
And I mean leading the Titans defense, overnight he seems to have gone from underwhelming bust to high energy savvy veteran. When did that happen?
Babin has already posted his career-high single-season sack total in six games with the Titans, six. And it’s not that he is just getting sacks, sometimes that can just be luck. He is getting constant pressure and his motor has been running really high at all times.
First Kyle Vanden Bosh and now Jason Babin, the Titans are really good at turning other teams defensive line trash into their treasure.
Before this season, Lloyd was best known for getting a ridiculous contract he didn’t deserve and didn’t live up to with the Washington Redskins.
While Lloyd was always capable of making insane highlight reel catches, he split his focus between the NFL and what he hoped would be a successful rap career.
It wasn’t long before Lloyd was known as a failure at both.
Now entering his eighth season and with his fourth team, Lloyd has already posted better stats in six games with the Denver Broncos than in any other season in his career.
What made people think he could be great when he was young was his incredible ability to make tough athletic catches.
Well that is still true, but now that his focus is on football and he is in a scheme under Josh McDaniels that suits him, it appears Lloyd is in fact turning into the player so many people thought he could.
And not only is he helping the Broncos push for a playoff spot in a weak AFC West division, but his ascension from nowhere playing wide receiver is sure to win a bunch of people their fantasy football leagues as they picked him up as a free agent before their friends could.
Not bad for a guy who before this year was best known for trying to rap into a football instead of a microphone.
Considered the ultimate symbol of the failure of the Matt Millen-era, Mike Williams was a colossal bust for the Detroit Lions. Up until this year, Williams was better known for his enormous appetite and ever-expanding waistline than for catching footballs.
Seriously he showed up to the Tennessee Titans weighing over 280 pounds in 2007 when they signed him. That’s heavy for a tight end!
The 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft was considered by many to be a long-shot to make the Seattle Seahawks roster this year, especially since he had been out of football since 2007. Well that and Williams wasn't exactly known for taking advantage of second chances, or third or fourth chances.
Williams wasn't just given up on by the Lions and Titans, but the Raiders as well.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the supposed end of Williams' career. Williams became the athlete he was at USC by committing himself in the gym. He went from 280 pounds to 230 pounds of chiseled muscle, and he begged Seahawk's head coach Pete Carroll to give him another chance.
It's funny to think, but apparently the thing that Mike Williams needed to become a real professional athlete was to not be a professional athlete.
And once Williams became dedicated to his body, to being a true pro athlete, he quickly ascended up the ‘Hawks depth chart. Now he is the Hawks No. 1 receiver ,and he just posted the first 10-catch game and 100-yard game of his career in Week 6.
And at only 26 years old with a very athletic body with little tread on it, Williams appears to have a bright future with the Seahawks under the only coach he has ever excelled under, Pete Carroll.
From the trash heap of Detroit, Oakland and Tennessee to the treasure of Seattle, Williams is becoming the ultimate NFL redemption story.