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Old 06-24-2013, 08:29 PM    (permalink
Caulibflower
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Default Late Bloomers (Another History Thread)

I was just reading a little about Justin Smith and how he's going to finish his career as a 49er, and thinking about how while he was always considered pretty good as a Bengal, he was pretty much a cog in a the machine and certainly not a superstar. But over the last four years his stature has risen meteorically and he's now considered one of the best players in the league - and all this has happened basically since he turned 30. It's sort of an odd and uncommon thing for NFL players, so I'm wondering what others have had similar career arcs.

There's Tiki Barber, of course, who like Smith was always pretty good but then went supernova right at the end. There's the Kurt Warner's of the world. Trent Green, etc., the guys who played in NFL Europe and as backups before getting a chance. I'm less interested in quarterbacks than guys like the aforementioned Smith and Barber who were regular contributors in some respect before going nuts around the age of 30.

And not just one flukey late-career season, either. It's gotta be like three years of noticeably increased production over their career averages up to that point. Joe Horn probably counts. We'll make 28 the age for the earliest they could've "broken out," so to speak. (Edit: Just looked - Cris Carter's a perfect example by this criteria. Tiki Barber also should probably be disqualified for being too good early on, even though it did take him a few years. His peak was definitely the end of his career though, and eclipsed his earlier work by a significant margin, which is why I thought of him.)

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Old 06-24-2013, 08:36 PM    (permalink
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I'm too young to remember his younger days but I remember my dad telling me Rich Gannon was a pretty late bloomer.

Alex Smith too
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Old 06-24-2013, 10:19 PM    (permalink
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Rich Gannon is a good one.
Google "Priest Holmes".

Marshawn seems better than ever.
Buffalo wasted him. And at the end there, Bills fans were telling me Fred Jackson was better.
Did Marshawn find that Fountain of PED that their DBs seem to utilize?

Jimmy Smith, a Mount Rushmore for Jacksonville (and now criminal) was a flop for Dallas before he went to Jax and became a star.

How bout Drew Brees, who after about 4 years in San Diego, was deemed expendable, and let go.
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Old 06-25-2013, 02:47 AM    (permalink
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John Riggins was a decent back with the Jets, but didn't destroy anyone like he did in his later years with the Redskins. In two seasons from 1983-84 he ran for 2586 yards and 38 TDs in his mid-30s.
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Old 06-25-2013, 10:55 AM    (permalink
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Does Ed McCaffrey count?
McCaffrey and Smith took a little while to blossom into good starting WR's.

As for Brees, he was borderline average his first 3 years in the league before starting to become a solid QB his 4th year. He played in a heavy run oriented, conservative offense led by Marty, so he never got to put up huge numbers, but 27 TD's and 7 INT's is pretty darn good.
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Old 06-25-2013, 11:13 AM    (permalink
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Any UDFA/late round QB?

I mean Tony Romo went from being someone who was going to be cut in favor of Drew Henson to a having a passer rating of 95.6. Good for 5th best all-time.

Kurt Warner would have to be near the top of the list given his NFL trajectory.
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Old 06-25-2013, 11:26 AM    (permalink
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James Harrison is a pretty good candidate.
- UDFA in 2002.
- Cut numerous times from the Steelers, as well as one time by the Ravens.
- Got his breakthrough with the Steelers in 2007 (98 tackles, 8,5 sacks and 7 ff) at the age of 29.
- 2008 Defensive player of the year.
- Had 5 seasons from 2007 to 2011 where he had no fewer than 8,5 sacks a year, and ended with 55 sacks in that 5 year span.
- Oh yeah.. Had that 100 yd int return for td in the Super Bowl win over the Cardinals.. That play was pretty good..
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Old 06-25-2013, 11:29 AM    (permalink
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Trent Green.
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Old 06-25-2013, 11:34 AM    (permalink
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Al Harris might qualify. He was a 6th round pick and didn't become a full-time starter until he was 29 (of course, Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent had a lot to do with that).
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Old 06-25-2013, 11:45 AM    (permalink
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I would've brought up Aubrayo Franklin in 2009. But his '10 and '11 seasons haven't been the best. From 03-06 he was a JAG, but he was very good for SF for several seasons. Obviously now that he's with the Colts I'm hoping he finds that magic again.
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Old 06-25-2013, 01:42 PM    (permalink
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Alex Smith

#1 Overall Pick in 2005
"Bust" until 2011

NFL MVP in 2013

Did I do that right? ;)
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Old 06-25-2013, 01:49 PM    (permalink
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Tim Couch....there's still time.
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Old 06-25-2013, 02:03 PM    (permalink
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Really though...

Thomas Jones fits the mold...took a while, but he certainly carved out a productive career, some 4-5 years after being drafted in the top 10.

Vernon Davis had a notoriously slow start to "get it" as well.
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Old 06-25-2013, 02:04 PM    (permalink
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Just like in baseball, I'm suspicious of late-blooming NFL players. Except QBs.

Carlos Rogers had to be motivated by going to a team like the 49ers and finally get his eyes checked to find out he needed lasix surgery. Now he's a multiple pro bowler.
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Old 06-25-2013, 02:31 PM    (permalink
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Assuming Tim Jennings plays well again next year we can add him to this list. People hated him here in Indy.
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Old 06-25-2013, 02:49 PM    (permalink
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FUNBUNCHER View Post
Just like in baseball, I'm suspicious of late-blooming NFL players. Except QBs.

Carlos Rogers had to be motivated by going to a team like the 49ers and finally get his eyes checked to find out he needed lasix surgery. Now he's a multiple pro bowler.
Corners always get better when they move to a team with a better pass rush. Maybe I like to think that way cuz I'm a niner fan heh

Speaking of late bloomer CB's for the niners, how about Walt Harris? He was awesome for a stretch when he was old. Miss that guy.
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Old 06-25-2013, 02:54 PM    (permalink
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Cameron Wake?
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Old 06-25-2013, 09:25 PM    (permalink
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Seriously, nobody mentioned Steve Young? He was 30 before he really took control, although he was being groomed and showed promise for years. Some guys like Peyton already had a HOF resume by 30, Steves was just getting started.

Warren Moon was a 28 year old NFL rookie who turned into a HOFer as well
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Old 06-25-2013, 11:57 PM    (permalink
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Caulibflower View Post
I was just reading a little about Justin Smith and how he's going to finish his career as a 49er, and thinking about how while he was always considered pretty good as a Bengal, he was pretty much a cog in a the machine and certainly not a superstar. But over the last four years his stature has risen meteorically and he's now considered one of the best players in the league - and all this has happened basically since he turned 30. It's sort of an odd and uncommon thing for NFL players, so I'm wondering what others have had similar career arcs.

There's Tiki Barber, of course, who like Smith was always pretty good but then went supernova right at the end. There's the Kurt Warner's of the world. Trent Green, etc., the guys who played in NFL Europe and as backups before getting a chance. I'm less interested in quarterbacks than guys like the aforementioned Smith and Barber who were regular contributors in some respect before going nuts around the. age of 30.

And not just one flukey late-career season, either. It's gotta be like three years of noticeably increased production over their career averages up to that point. Joe Horn probably counts. We'll make 28 the age for the earliest they could've "broken out," so to speak. (Edit: Just looked - Cris Carter's a perfect example by this criteria. Tiki Barber also should probably be disqualified for being too good early on, even though it did take him a few years. His peak was definitely the end of his career though, and eclipsed his earlier work by a significant margin, which is why I thought of him.)
Some of this is natural progression. Like more people evolving into better watchers and seeing the game from different angles. Me being a defensive guy when I watched the Bengals and had no clue who he was like 'damn this guy is disruptive'. Every play he just stuck out. I saw that with Bailey, Taylor, Ware, Miller, Watt, it's like the D has certain players who are noticed by all but then are deemed superstars and the bandwagon occurs. Then there is another level when you start associating with real football fans who appreciate the intricacies of the game the range of notice becomes much greater and the Geno Atkins, Ryan Kerrigans, EJ Biggers (I know but he stood out to me on the Bucs), Charles Johnsons, Charles Tillmans, Red Bryants, etc of the world are given more recognition.

The more people watch and pay attention the more good players will be recognized. And today with information flowing and people being more aware and well educated there is more recognition of the players that really make things happen will surface.

It's great to me that people now recognize that Aldon Smith is basically what he is because of Justin Smith and they give Justin his due. Right now it's just a great time to be a fan because so many people get it and with the draft booming and fantasy being huge the average fan is more aware than ever before so intelligent conversation is abound. Sure you'll have these weird threads and discussions on why someone wouldn't want Barry Sanders on their team or how a Brandon Graham is better than JPP but for the most part I love how people are becoming more involved and knowledgeable so I don't have explain myself when William Moore has a great game defending Cam Newton or Will Montgomery stoned Jason Hatcher all game or when Marty Huggins crushes Cam Brady, you get the point.

Now more than ever, people are paying more attention to the players and respect what they are doing and are becoming better fans for it. The wheels are in motion set by a number of factors (Outsiders, PFf, etc) and I'm fine with that.
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Old 06-26-2013, 12:53 AM    (permalink
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Does Ed McCaffrey count?
McCaffrey and Smith took a little while to blossom into good starting WR's.

As for Brees, he was borderline average his first 3 years in the league before starting to become a solid QB his 4th year. He played in a heavy run oriented, conservative offense led by Marty, so he never got to put up huge numbers, but 27 TD's and 7 INT's is pretty darn good.
Brees was terrible his third year in the league. The only year he looked average was his second season. And that was barely. During his third year he was playing so bad he eventually got benched for over the hill Doug Flutie. His breakout in 2004 was a total surprise that no one saw coming. He probably doesn't get that chance if Rivers decided to sign his contract early.
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Old 06-26-2013, 12:55 AM    (permalink
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I think a lot of these players just weren't in good situations. They may have actually been good players held back by certain circumstances. Justin Smith in Cincinnati. Even when he was with the 49ers, he really only started getting attention when the team got better and started winning.
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Oh, my bad. Didn't realize SWDC was the pinnacle of class and grace.
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Old 06-26-2013, 01:28 AM    (permalink
BallerT1215
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Seriously, nobody mentioned Steve Young? He was 30 before he really took control, although he was being groomed and showed promise for years. Some guys like Peyton already had a HOF resume by 30, Steves was just getting started.

Warren Moon was a 28 year old NFL rookie who turned into a HOFer as well
I'm not sure you can call them late bloomers because like you said, Steve Young had already shown a lot of potential and then got put in the position to be groomed as the successor to Montana. Moon was winning Grey Cups and waiting for someone to give him a chance in the NFL. So both of them never really underperformed, but instead just waiting on their chance.
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Old 06-26-2013, 08:48 AM    (permalink
Denver Bronco56
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Some of this is natural progression. Like more people evolving into better watchers and seeing the game from different angles. Me being a defensive guy when I watched the Bengals and had no clue who he was like 'damn this guy is disruptive'. Every play he just stuck out. I saw that with Bailey, Taylor, Ware, Miller, Watt, it's like the D has certain players who are noticed by all but then are deemed superstars and the bandwagon occurs. Then there is another level when you start associating with real football fans who appreciate the intricacies of the game the range of notice becomes much greater and the Geno Atkins, Ryan Kerrigans, EJ Biggers (I know but he stood out to me on the Bucs), Charles Johnsons, Charles Tillmans, Red Bryants, etc of the world are given more recognition.

The more people watch and pay attention the more good players will be recognized. And today with information flowing and people being more aware and well educated there is more recognition of the players that really make things happen will surface.

It's great to me that people now recognize that Aldon Smith is basically what he is because of Justin Smith and they give Justin his due. Right now it's just a great time to be a fan because so many people get it and with the draft booming and fantasy being huge the average fan is more aware than ever before so intelligent conversation is abound. Sure you'll have these weird threads and discussions on why someone wouldn't want Barry Sanders on their team or how a Brandon Graham is better than JPP but for the most part I love how people are becoming more involved and knowledgeable so I don't have explain myself when William Moore has a great game defending Cam Newton or Will Montgomery stoned Jason Hatcher all game or when Marty Huggins crushes Cam Brady, you get the point.

Now more than ever, people are paying more attention to the players and respect what they are doing and are becoming better fans for it. The wheels are in motion set by a number of factors (Outsiders, PFf, etc) and I'm fine with that.
I agree almost entirely, as a die hard Broncos fan..and football fan in general it is very refreshing to hear people that have a solid base of knowledge or people that know more than just the Mannings, the Bradys etc...


BUT what i really think is driving this increase in knowledge is fantasy football and let me say i play with some of my old fraternity brothers but if i had to choose between a Broncos win or me winning my fantast game that week 10 out of 10 times no question asked would be the Broncos.

Fantasy football has created this situation that people know more now about the NFL but i feel like there are fewer REAL fans people are attached to the guys they draft or pull for some big name player etc... Just my opinion, but again I do agree that people are more knowledgable for better or for worse.
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Old 06-27-2013, 04:05 PM    (permalink
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Does Ed McCaffrey count?
McCaffrey and Smith took a little while to blossom into good starting WR's.
McCaffrey showed potential with the Giants in 92, starting three games and having 49 catches, but he only had 27 the next year in Dan Reeves' first year as coach.

He went to SF the next year and sat behind Rice and Taylor. Then, in 95, Shanahan brought him to Denver. I remember when they signed him. I didn't think much of it, but after several years, he became one of the better WR's in the NFL, and one of the best, if not the best, blockers at the position.

Another guy that took a while to be good was Antonio Garay. He was drafted by Cleveland in the sixth round ten years ago. He only played in four games his rookie year. He didn't play again until 2006 and 07 with Chicago, appearing in ten total games those two years.

After not playing in 08, he joined the Chargers in 2009. He only played in two games that year, but the next year, he started 15 games, had 5.5 sacks, and was voted second-team All-NFL by Pro Football Focus. He started 13 games in 2011 before only starting once last year.

Currently, he is in the d-line rotation of the New York Jets after signing there as a FA.
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Old 06-28-2013, 01:18 AM    (permalink
mightytitan9
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I'm not sure you can call them late bloomers because like you said, Steve Young had already shown a lot of potential and then got put in the position to be groomed as the successor to Montana. Moon was winning Grey Cups and waiting for someone to give him a chance in the NFL. So both of them never really underperformed, but instead just waiting on their chance.
In my mind they still qualify. CFL is different than NFL. With Young who played in the USFL, being groomed doesn't mean you are successful yet. Perhaps his greatness was delayed, or perhaps he'd never have gotten there if he wasn't traded to the 49ers and had to set behind Montana.
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