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NFL Power Rankings: 20 Players Who Will Need to Put Up or Shut Up in 2011

Brian DiTullioSenior Writer IMarch 22, 2011

NFL Power Rankings: 20 Players Who Will Need to Put Up or Shut Up in 2011

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    NFL players have a short shelf life—this is a point no one debates. As the league has evolved over the years, the number of players who have careers more than 10 years seems to dwindle.

    But some players have short careers not because of injuries, but because all the promise they showed in college does not show up at the pro level in a consistent fashion.

    Here is a list of players who have to start proving their worth this season, or it is game over, possibly for good.

20. Brian Robiskie

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    Tom Dahlin/Getty Images

    Brian Robiskie was a second-round draft pick for the Browns in 2009. In his two years in the league, he is known more for not seeing the field than catching passes.

    His career stats are 36 catches for 416 yards and three touchdowns, all of them his rookie season.

    With a new head coach and a new offense, Robiskie has one more year to prove he is not a complete bust in the NFL.

19. Beanie Wells

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Beanie Wells was supposed to be the workhorse running back for the Arizona Cardinals when they drafted him in 2009.

    After two years, Wells has been a huge disappointment, running for only 1,190 yards on 292 carries in that span, scoring only nine touchdowns.

    The Cardinals are overhauling everything right now, and if Wells does not start producing, there will be plenty of running backs for the Cardinals to choose from in next year's draft.

18. Chad Ochocinco

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    At age 33, Chad Ochocinco is running out of options. His time in Cincinnati appears done. He still is talented enough to get one more chance, but his stats declined in 2009 and his ego is becoming a liability as the calendar advances.

    Ochocinco has to have a very productive season for whoever he plays for, or he'll be standing in line with Randy Moss looking for a job.

17. Cadillac Williams

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Cadillac Williams' numbers dropped big time in 2010. Most of that is due to the emergence of LeGarrette Blount.

    That being said, Williams' reduced role and the fact he will be 29 this season mean Williams has to find more ways to get the ball into his hands or he will be looking at the end of his career.

    Running backs on the wrong side of 30 do not have a lot of prospects anymore.

16. Golden Tate

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Golden Tate was a second-round draft pick for the Seahawks last year and barely had an impact on the field.

    Tate had 21 catches for 227 yards. He did not catch one touchdown on the season.

    The Seahawks are aggressively moving forward with a rebuild. If Tate does not produce this year, he may not get a third year.

15. Donte Stallworth

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Donte Stallworth came back to the NFL in 2010 after missing the 2009 season due to suspension for conviction on a DUI manslaughter charge.

    Stallworth missed a good portion of the season with a broken foot suffered in preseason, and his play was unremarkable upon his return.

    With the Ravens stating they need more downfield threats, that is a shot across the bow to Stallworth that he needs to step up his game.

14. Ryan Grant

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Ryan Grant is entering a contract year after missing almost all of the 2010 season due to injury. In his absence, James Starks emerged as the running back of the future for the Packers.

    Grant not only has to stay healthy, he will have to produce big numbers to keep his place at the table in Green Bay.

13. Reggie Bush

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    Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

    Reggie Bush battled injuries in 2010, but he never has been the running back the Saints thought he would be when they drafted him in 2006.

    Bush has to make an impression this year, as career stats of 524 carries for 2,090 yards in five seasons does not make one a superstar running back.

12. Dimitri Patterson

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    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The fact the Eagles have cornerback listed as a primary need out of the 2011 draft tells you a lot.

    Patterson has played two years with the Eagles and neither were impressive. The Eagles will not get to a cornerback in the first round, so that could give Patterson one last chance to prove himself.

11. C.J. Spiller

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    C.J. Spiller did not have a good rookie season, and we will not beat that fact into the ground here. However, his 74 carries for 283 yards was not good, even for a rookie.

    Spiller has to show improvement this year, or the Bills will move on without him.

10. Alex Smith

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    It looks like Alex Smith may get one more chance to prove himself in San Francisco if the rumors coming out of the team were true right before the lockout.

    If that is the case, Smith has to have a Pro Bowl season. Anything less and he'll become a career backup.

9. Vince Young

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The only thing consistent about Vince Young's time in Tennessee was his inconsistency. The talent is there, but Young never has been able to harness that talent over the long haul.

    Young is going to be on a new team in 2011 now that the Titans appear done with him. He will have one season to prove he left his troubles behind in Nashville.

8. Antrel Rolle

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Antrel Rolle signed a five-year, $37 million contract prior to the 2010 season with the Giants.

    Scenes like the one pictured took place far too often for a guy being paid that much money.

    Rolle can not have two bad years in a row making that kind of money.

7. Jimmy Clausen

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Assuming the Panthers do not draft a quarterback in the first round, Jimmy Clausen's career clock is ticking.

    Clausen was terrible last year. He did not look comfortable in the pocket, he made bad decisions, his footwork was terrible and his attitude still is that of an entitled athlete blaming everyone else for his problems.

    If Clausen gets the nod this season, it is all on him to perform. When Colt McCoy, drafted one round lower, did much more with about as much "nothing" as the Panthers had, it does not bode well for Clausen's future.

6. Darrius Heyward-Bey

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Darrius Heyward-Bey is a prototypical Al Davis pick. He is extremely fast, looks great in workouts without pads and defenders but has trouble producing on the field.

    In two seasons, Heyward-Bey's stats are 35 catches for 490 yards with two touchdowns.

    If Davis bailed on JaMarcus Russell after three seasons, that means Heyward-Bey has one more season to prove himself.

5. David Garrard

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    David Garrard has not played poorly, but an argument can be made that had Garrard played better, the Jaguars would have been in the playoffs last year.

    The Jaguars have to make the playoffs in 2011 for head coach Jack Del Rio to keep his job, according to the owner. Given Garrard's age (33), if the Jaguars miss the playoffs, new coaches mean new quarterbacks.

4. Bryant McFadden

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The Steelers have few weaknesses on their defense, but one of them is Bryant McFadden.

    McFadden, seen here not making a play because the receiver dropped the ball, often was seen on the field not making plays.

    The Steelers will address this in the draft at some point, which means the clock is ticking on McFadden to start playing better before he is benched for good.

3. Jay Cutler

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Jay Cutler's stats have been up and down. We're not here to debate his stats, though.

    Cutler hurt his knee in the NFC Championship Game and meekly accepted his fate before sullenly sitting on the sideline and doing his best to ignore the situation going on around him.

    Cutler has a short window to win the team and his fans back. The Bears may say they have Cutler's back, but that is easy to say after the season.

    If the Bears open the season with questionable quarterback play, Cutler will have used up all of his goodwill.

    For Cutler, every week of the 2011 season is put up or shut up. He has run out of time and excuses.

2. Tim Tebow

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Tim Tebow has been in put up or shut up mode ever since he declared for the NFL draft.

    Assuming Tebow gets a chance to prove himself again in 2011, he has to deliver. Tebow has no room for error in any game he enters until he wins something.

1. Tony Romo

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Tony Romo's career highlights include collapsing like a house of cards in pressure situations, making poor decisions at the worst times, and playing just well enough to keep his starting job the last few years because Dallas did not have any kind of better option.

    He also likes to golf in the offseason—maybe you heard about it.

    In 2010, Romo was not the problem prior to his season-ending injury. I will grant that much. However, Romo turns 31 next month and the Cowboys have promoted Jason Garrett to head coach.

    Romo has to not only repeat his 2010 performance, he has to exceed it and not choke in the playoffs. Otherwise, it will be time for the Cowboys to start looking for their next franchise quarterback, and Romo can spend more time trying to play in the U.S. Open.

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