1. Matt Cassel – I was very impressed by Cassel last year, and I am fully in favor of the Chiefs’ decision to make him their QB of the future. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have more than a few concerns about his immediate future, though. His team is monumentally short of real talent around him, and there are real concerns about whether the offensive line will give him the time he needs, or the time he became used to last year. I am optimistic in the long term, but this year could be a real problem. The Chiefs weren’t a good team last year, and they have a lot of work left to do until they become a good team again.
2. Kyle Orton – Orton is in an unenviable position – taking over for a well-liked, young Pro Bowl quarterback. Not just that, but he also has to deal with a new and wildly inexperienced coach, the new system that comes with that coach, and a disgruntled star receiver. There is a chance that Orton could turn in a truly impressive year. I think he has the talent. Of course, there is also the chance that this year could be a total disaster. The truth will probably fall somewhere between the two, but we won’t know for sure until we get well into the season.
3. Jay Cutler – It’s not fair to have Orton on this list without Cutler. The way people are talking about it, Cutler’s arrival in Chicago is second only to the resurrection. I’m not sure I’m buying it. It always takes a while for a new quarterback to fit into a system, and Chicago has a very different system than Denver did. Cutler also won’t have the same level of talent around him that he is used to – especially at receiver. I think it was a good move to pick up Cutler, but I’m not at all convinced that the road to success won’t be bumpy.
4. Matt Ryan – I don’t want to suggest that I am down on Ryan. Not at all. I wasn’t convinced that he was worthy of being picked where he was, but he certainly proved me wrong last year. Still, we can’t absolutely be sure of what kind of a year he is going to have this year. That dreaded sophomore slump always looms as a possibility as teams get to see him again and have more tape and more time to prepare for him. He also has a problem with wide receivers looming right now – his top receiver is holding out, and number two just went out for the year with anACL problem. I’m not convinced that Tony Gonzalez is the answer at this point in his career, either. Ryan could have another great year, but we can’t be sure.
5. Donovan McNabb – Everything seems to be rosy in Philadelphia again, and expectations are high after their playoff performance last year. I’m not necessarily buying it, though. Can McNabb stay healthy? Will he be the player we saw in the stretch run to the playoffs, or the one who got benched in favor of KevinKolb after playing the worst half of football a legitimate NFL quarterback possibly can? Will he play well with others, or will he start pouting when things don’t go his way? I respect the way McNabb plays when he is at his best more than almost anyone, but he’s so rarely at his best anymore that it’s hard to trust him.