September 02, 2010
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Paging through the NFL’s historical record, numerous undrafted players have left an indelible mark on the game. Past overachievers Kurt Warner(notes), Warren Moon, Priest Holmes(notes) and Rod Smith(notes) forged legendary careers. Today, previously overlooked players Ryan Grant(notes), Tony Romo(notes), Wes Welker(notes), Pierre Thomas(notes) and hot commodity Arian Foster(notes) are following in their footsteps. The ultimate beneficiaries of unpredictable circumstances, their rags-to-riches stories have captivated fanatics and mystified scouts for years.
Though he showcased unique skills during a Pro Day exhibition two years ago, the little-known product failed to attract a suitor, an almost unfathomable outcome when considering he once logged a blazing 4.28 40-yard dash (Watch it here). Durability concerns stemming from a high ankle sprain suffered as a college senior forced many teams to turn a blind eye. To evaluators, a slender, undersized back from a small private college on Long Island (Hofstra) simply couldn’t handle the demanding rigors of the NFL.
The following season Huggins, healed and even more determined from the year-long layoff, worked out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Raheem Morris’ eerie connection to the New Jersey product compelled the head coach to give the kid another chance. Both were born in Irvington and leaned on football to escape the street vices of nearby Newark, eventually earning degrees from the same university, Hofstra, a school with a knack for producing unheralded pro talents (e.g. Marques Colston(notes) and Wayne Chrebet).
The tryout proved successful. Although relegated mostly to practice squad duty, Huggins finally made an NFL team. Call it a divine design. From the Pewter Report:
“It definitely was rough to sit out, but I became a better man and I got closer to God,” said Huggins. “So, when I would get my chance, I would be humble and understand it’s God’s plan, not mine.
“If nobody is going to believe in you, you have to believe in yourself. So I did believe in myself. Sometimes when I would watch football on TV, it kind of bothered me, but things happen in time – in due time – in God’s time.”
A year later, the once-invisible rusher may wind up sparkling under the fantasy spotlight.
Originally pegged for third-down and situational work, Huggins’ assertiveness, dogged attitude and big play ability have forced the coaching staff to reassess his role. This preseason he’s carried out assignments almost flawlessly, averaging 5.1 yards per carry (Watch him burn Miami here). His impressive performance running with the first team offense against Kansas City (eight carries for 44 yards) raised eyebrows. As a result, backfield burden Derrick Ward(notes) was cut Tuesday, catapulting the junior rusher into a more prominent position. Earnest Graham(notes) remains in the mix, but Huggins is just one Carnell Williams(notes) knee buckle away from becoming Fantasyland's hottest waiver add, an inevitable result.
Cadillac is a mechanic’s best friend. Blown tires and cracked chassis have routinely left him in the shop. Last year marked the first time in five seasons he dodged the injury imp over a full 16-game slate. Because he’s playing on two reconstructed knees, lightning likely won’t strike twice for Williams. The man’s lower body is held together with duct tape and Bubblicious. Every time he steps onto a mopped floor the injured reserve becomes a very real possibility.
Huggins’ high football IQ, tireless work ethic, drag racer speed and surprising endurance, attributes running backs coach Steve Logan believes will have the 24-year-old running “forever and ever,” are why he’s such an interesting late-round grab. Tampa’s very friendly schedule only increases the fascination. The Bucs have the 11th-easiest RB slate entering the season including fantasy playoff home matchups versus Detroit and Seattle. Even running behind a dubious offensive line he could finish '10 much like Foster did '09. Deep leaguers drafting this holiday weekend shouldn’t forget about him. He could be a real diamond in the rough.
On the brink of fantasy relevancy, Huggins is no longer an unknown.
Fearless Forecast (16 games, three starts): 113 carries, 486 rushing yards, 22 receptions, 191 receiving yards, 4 total touchdowns
Images courtesy of US Presswire