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Top 5 NFL busts that resurrected their career
With the 10th overall selection in 2005, the Lions selected USC wide receiver Mike Williams. Subsequently, the highly-touted playmaker struggled tremendously during two seasons in Detroit, as well as during the 2007 season with Oakland and Tennessee, totaling merely 44 receptions and two touchdowns in 30 games. In light of Williams' unexpected "bust-to-boom" resurgence in Seattle in 2010, let us explore five similarly impressive tales of redemption from NFL seasons past.
5. Cedric Benson(notes) (Fourth overall pick, 2005, Chicago Bears)
Benson arrived in Chicago with great fanfare, but ultimately fizzled during a three-year stint with the Bears. As a rookie, Benson ranked merely third on the team in rushing yards, while veteran Thomas Jones(notes) assumed starting running back responsibilities for the back-to-back NFC North champions in 2005 and 2006. In 2007, the former Longhorn's struggles continued, averaging merely 3.4 yards per carry and totaling four touchdowns in 11 starts with the club. Benson's lengthy rookie holdout, along with a series of injuries and an alcohol-related arrest, served as additional sources of disappointment for the former Doak Walker award-winner in Chicago.
Unexpectedly, Benson revitalized a downtrodden career in Cincinnati, thriving as the workhorse for Marvin Lewis's run-first attack in 2008 and 2009. Last season, the Bengals' talented addition impressively averaged 96.2 yards per game and compiled six touchdowns in thirteen starts, contributing greatly to the team's subsequent playoff berth.
4. Vinny Testaverde(notes) (First overall pick, 1987, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
The Heisman trophy winner at Miami struggled mightily in Tampa Bay, including 57 interceptions during a two-year span from '88 to '89. Prior to 1998, Testaverde recorded merely one winning season as a starting quarterback. After flashes of brilliance in Baltimore, Testaverde (at the ripe age of 35) compiled an astonishing 29 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in 1998, to lead the Jets to a 12-1 regular season record (and subsequent divisional playoff victory) as the team's starting signal caller. Testaverde's success continued in New York, admirably contributing to a pair of winning seasons for the Jets in 2000 and 2001. Although Vinny eventually struggled with four different teams from 2004 to 2007, one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football history certainly deserves recognition for a remarkable late-career turnaround with the Jets.
3. Thomas Jones (Seventh overall pick, 2000, Arizona Cardinals)
Jones serves as one of two "sizzle-to-fizzle" reclamation projects, whose career began with the Cardinals' franchise. A "ho-hum" 511-yard campaign in 2002 remains Jones' frustratingly top season in Arizona. After a brief stop in Tampa, Jones promptly emerged as one of the NFL's most consistent rushers, compiling five consecutive 1,000+ yard seasons with the Bears and Jets. The former Virginia Cavalier continues to excel as a workhorse in Kansas City, as the Pro Bowler remarkably nears the 10,000-yard career plateau.
2. Garrison Hearst (Third overall pick, 1993, Phoenix Cardinals)
Hearst rushed for a measly 433 rushing yards and two touchdowns during the University of Georgia standout's first two seasons in Phoenix. Hearst surprisingly emerged in 1995 to break the 1,000-yard barrier, while earning the first of two NFL Comeback Player of the Year awards. Ultimately, Hearst received Pro Bowl accolades in 1998, as well as in 2001, a miraculous feat after spending two years recovering from a rare circulatory condition. Hearst's perseverance remains legendary, while four separate 1,000+ yard seasons (including 1,570 in 1998) certainly garners high praise after a slow start with the Cardinals.
1. Jim Plunkett (First overall pick, 1971, New England Patriots)
The much-ballyhooed top selection out of Stanford compiled a humble 34-55 record (84 touchdowns, 117 interceptions) as a starter during seven seasons in New England and San Francisco. As a starter in Oakland, Plunkett miraculously led the Raiders to a 38-19 record as starter, two Super Bowl championships, and received the Super Bowl MVP award in 1980. Quite the career turnaround for a 48.5-percent passer in New England…
All player statistics, team statistics, and player information as referenced on Pro-Football-Reference.com.
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