Commentary

The List: Young players to watch

In this week's version of The List, Joe Theismann examines five young players who are ready to break out.

Originally Published: August 21, 2007
By Joe Theismann | ESPN.com

We hear about Reggie Bush, Vince Young and Matt Leinart all the time, but what about the rest of the young players in the league who don't get the publicity and video game covers those three receive? Here are five young guys who impress me with their skills and intelligence, who I think will enjoy breakout seasons in 2007 and get the publicity they deserve:

Roscoe Parrish, WR, Buffalo Bills: I like this kid's explosiveness a lot, but I really like the pairing of him and J.P. Losman now that Losman has matured into a good NFL quarterback. Parrish is the type of downfield threat who quarterbacks love to have because he's multifaceted and can run any route -- not just the deep one. That forces safeties to bite on pump fakes, and in turn, will open up the deep ball for Parrish and Losman this season.

Laurence Maroney, RB, New England Patriots: Even though Corey Dillon took the majority of the snaps last season, Maroney still had over 700 rushing yards. This season he's getting the majority, with no real threat behind him to steal away those carries. Look for a 1,300-yard season and at least 10 touchdowns.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers: The Panthers are going to get Williams the ball more this season after he gained a little over 4 yards per carry in limited time last year. The Panthers will use him in a dual situation with incumbent running back DeShaun Foster, but they will still get Williams the ball a lot. They were excited to get him in the first round of the draft and are still excited about the possibility of what he can do on the field.

Jay Cutler, QB, Denver Broncos: The Broncos put the team in Cutler's hands last season and now they have a full offseason and training camp with him installed as a starter to get him ready. There will definitely be some stumbles because he's a young quarterback, but he's talented and smart enough to get this team to the playoffs while also putting up some good numbers.

Greg Olsen, TE, Chicago Bears: This is the lone rookie on my list and that speaks volumes for what this kid could do this season. He's stepping into a perfect situation playing for a hungry Super Bowl contender on a team that needs him a great deal. Giving quarterback Rex Grossman a safety valve with the speed and skills that Olsen possesses was a stroke of genius by the front office. Olsen is the type of guy who can exploit single coverage and torture a safety all game. Look for a big year from him.

Joe Theismann

Football analyst
Former college and pro football star Joe Theismann has served as an analyst for ESPN's Sunday Night Football since 1988. He also is frequently heard on ESPN Radio, regularly contributes to ESPN.com and has contributed to the NFL Draft.