With apologies to the Detroit Lions, who drafted competitive eater Mike Williams in 2005, and the Washington Redskins, who brought in “Special Fred” Fred Davis in 2008, Matt Cassel is one USC player who has completely panned out as a pro.
You know the story.
Matt Cassel rides the aluminum his whole career at USC. Then, after being drafted by the Patriots in 2005, he does another Tour de France ride on the bench until 2008, when Tom Brady's injury sends him into action.
Exceeding expectations, his stock shoots through the roof, giving Bill Belichick the opportunity to cash in on Cassel after the season. He traded him for the 34th pick in the draft, which brought the Patriots Patrick Chung, a safety.
If Cassel hadn't shown up in 2008, the Patriots would not have had the draft ammunition to take a shot at the talented Oregon Duck.
Chung has speed and agility not seen in the Patriots' secondary since the departure of Asante Samuel. His ball-hawking should replenish those much-needed turnovers to which we are accustomed and keep the Patriot war machine on the field and scoring touchdowns.
What Makes Chung Great
A decade ago Patrick would have been too small to play in the secondary—a punching bag for old-school power backs, tight ends, and receivers.
Today, Patrick is the future, a product of college defenses molding lighter, more agile athletes to combat the speed of the spread offense.
The NFL is following suit.
Teams want to utilize the talents of their spread offense-trained draft picks. Bill Belichick used the spread in 2007 in some packages. It is rumored that Jon Gruden will employ it if he gets hired again.
Chung will be used extensively and needed in all those nickel packages geared to cover the field.
Specifically, Chung is your classic ball-hawk. He can locate the ball on pass plays but is not afraid to demonstrate his mean streak. He turns himself into a missile on corner/safety blitzes and gets to the QB more times than not.
Where Chung Falls Short
The play-action pass to a skyscraper tight end or a power back running up the middle can be a problem for an undersized safety.
Gronkowski had the power to drag Chung kicking and screaming to the end zone on a quick slant and could out-leap Chung on the jump ball.
That's not Chung's game.
Although Chung has his moments laying the wood, he is more likely to jump Todd Heap's route than blow him up.
Could Chung Follow in Jerod Mayo's Footsteps?
2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year?
James Sanders, Brandon Merriweather, and Rodney Harrison (if he comes back) all have shown they can start in this league. Chung will have to be patient, splitting time and learning the playbook.
But if he does secure any postseason awards, Chung should thank the man who paved the way for his arrival in New England: Matt Cassel, the 2009 MVP of the Patriots (sort of), for giving us a great draft pick by not going all "Jim Sorgi" on us.
The Proper Way for Chung to Thank Cassel?
Safety blitz...nothing but snot bubbles.