With a free for all free agency session wrapping up and teams preparing for their preseason battles, many players will find themselves in unfamiliar locker rooms in 2011.
Much of the attention during the free agency period focused on the same players. Everyone wanted to know about Matt Hasselbeck, Plaxico Burress and Nnamdi Asomugha. With players this talented on the free agency block, it is easy to ignore many of the others.
Many players were ignored despite their overwhelming talents at their positions. Fortunately, some teams were able to see past the hype and aim for these talented individuals, signing players that will immediately be able to help their team out in the 2011 season.
These players are underrated, but their impacts will be felt early. Here are six of the players who will make a huge impact despite the lack of attention paid to them by NFL analysts.
A second round pick in 2007, Wilson has not had the opportunity that he deserves to be an every down player. Despite only starting nine games in 2010, Wilson pulled down three interceptions and knocked down 14 passes.
While Wilson was on everyone’s radar, he was definitely not valued as much as he should have been. Wilson has the ability to improve and become one of the best corners in the league. The Redskins saw this and locked Wilson up for three years. In Washington, Wilson will likely get a chance to start and when he is done, odds are people will no longer be able to ignore him.
Drafted by the New York Jets sixth overall in 2008, Gholston has been one of the biggest busts in Jets history. In three seasons, Gholston has never recorded a sack and only had 42 tackles. He did not fit well in Rex Ryan’s defensive scheme and it showed.
While Gholston may be a bust, that does not mean he is done in the NFL. 25-year-old Gholston is still a quick player with amazing strength. The Bears signed Gholston to a one-year deal, risking that a change of scenery will do him some good. While he may never become the star that the Jets’ expected, the Bears see his potential.
If he is able to return to the form he showed in college, Gholston will prove that second guessing him was a bad decision.
The Kansas City Chiefs surprised the league by making the 2010 playoffs. This was done despite a lack of secondary talent at wide receiver, leaving wide receiver Dwayne Bowe as quarterback Matt Cassel’s only passing option and resulting in a low ranked passing game and an inability to move the ball through the air.
While there were many wide receivers on the market, the Chiefs grabbed Steve Breaston.
While in Arizona, Breaston recorded more than 2,500 yards despite only starting 26 games. Breaston can play the slot, but also has the ability to go downfield. While he does have respect from the league, Breaston will likely show in 2011 that this respect has not been anywhere near enough.
While many teams were looking for defensive players, little attention was placed on Paul Posluszny.
The former Bills defensive captain has over 100 tackles during the last three seasons. Posluszny can also defend the pass better than most inside linebackers, recording three interceptions in 2009. Despite this, Posluszny has never been to a Pro Bowl.
If Posluszny is able to stay healthy with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he should earn a Pro Bowl bid. More importantly, the Jaguars have a defensive leader who can help them move from middle of the road to the top of the heap in the AFC South.
Bo Scaife is one of the more versatile players at tight end, having rushed for a touchdown, returned a kick, caught a touchdown pass and recorded a tackle—in one season.
While he is not known for his speed, Scaife is a good target for most quarterbacks. He is able to hold onto most passes that come his way, making him a viable threat when a team is near the end zone.
The Cincinnati Bengals were happy to scoop up Scaife. If he can stay healthy in 2011, the Bengals will have a good receiver at the tight end position—a crucial pick up since their top two touchdown receivers, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, will no longer be sporting the Cincinnati orange.
With a lack of quarterbacks in the 2011 free agency class, Matt Moore still managed to be underrated.
After recording a 98.5 quarterback rating in four games in 2009, Moore was benched for Jimmy Clausen in 2010. Moore had a poor season, but spent a great deal of it injured.
The Miami Dolphins signed Moore, expecting him to compete for the starting position with Chad Henne, a quarterback who threw 19 interceptions last season. If Moore can return to his 2009 form, he will not only win the starting job, but he will elevate the Dolphins from their 7-9 record and turn them into a winning team.