The Schein Nine  

 

Denard Robinson among NFL's most fascinating players in 2013

On Tuesday, we named the New Orleans Saints the NFL's most fascinating team in 2013. Now, it's time to address individuals of intrigue, Schein Nine style. Here are the nine most fascinating players in the league this season:

1) Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions: I've always believed that if you could forget about his majestic, legendary college career, if you could forget about where he was drafted and which Kardashian he dated, if you could just judge Bush's NFL tenure in isolation, you would deem him a very solid running back. Bush isn't a star, but he's a legit contributor and bona fide game breaker.

Bush enjoyed two very good seasons with the Miami Dolphins, staying healthy while averaging 1,036 rushing yards and 39 receptions per year. He also emerged as a leader.

This offseason, he found greener pastures in Detroit. It's the spot we targeted for him heading into the free agency period. Detroit doesn't have a reliable runner and receiver out of the backfield, a role that was briefly filled by Jahvid Best before concussions derailed his career.

I think Bush takes another step forward, rushing for 1,110 yards and catching 45 passes from Matthew Stafford. I've always liked Reggie. I think he's been misunderstood, wrongly viewed as a bust, or a bad guy after the NCAA violations. I think he sizzles in Detroit.

2) Denard Robinson, OW, Jacksonville Jaguars: Yes, his position is OW, as in "offensive weapon." And that's not me getting cute -- it's how the Jaguars list the rookie on their official roster. The moniker truly says it all.

The former Michigan quarterback is going to be a jack of all trades with the Jags. And why not? He is a bright guy who displayed a wonderful knack for the moment in college, taking games over with his play-making abilities. In his four-year career for the Wolverines, "Shoelace" racked up 4,495 rushing yards, an NCAA record for quarterbacks. He also caught a few passes after injuring his throwing arm as a senior, and you know he'll snag many more in the pros, thriving in a receiver role.

And with Blaine Gabbert/Chad Henne at quarterback, you know Robinson will get some snaps at QB, to throw it or run the option. I loved him in college. I'm foaming at the mouth to see what new Jaguars coach Gus Bradley has in store for this guy.

3) Antonio Cromartie, CB, New York Jets: You think of him as the cat who struggled to name all his kids on "Hard Knocks." But if you've been watching Cromartie over the past few years, you've seen a guy develop into a truly great corner who merited serious consideration for first-team All-Pro honors last season. And Cromartie also has become a leader for the Jets. He was the glue when Darrelle Revis was hurt last year. This offseason, it was Cromartie who organized detailed workouts on the West Coast for his teammates. That's a far cry from the immaturity he displayed earlier in his career.

The Jets lack overall talent, but cornerback should be a position of strength even after they traded Revis away, assuming Cromartie can duplicate his efforts.

4) Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, San Francisco 49ers: Remember when the Jets chased Asomugha, failed to land him and re-upped Cromartie as a consolation prize? They wound up getting the better player. Nnamdi and the "Dream Team" proved to be a nightmare for the Philadelphia Eagles.

This offseason, however, Asomugha signed with arguably the most talented team in the NFL, to play on arguably the most talented defense in the NFL. Plus, Niners coach Jim Harbaugh has a way of bringing out the best in players.

Asomugha escaped Philly after being the poster child for disaster, returned to the Bay Area and just got married. I am fascinated to see which Nnamdi we get this year.

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5) Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins: Oh, by the way, Ryan Tannehill played quarterback as a rookie last year. Tannehill's solid campaign was completely overshadowed by the epic debuts from Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. Frankly, Tannehill played like a normal rookie, experiencing a freshman NFL season with the usual ups and downs, not the superhuman domination we saw in Indy, Washington, D.C. and Seattle.

The Dolphins went all-in this offseason. After spending big, they expect to win big, too.

I like Miami coach Joe Philbin. I like his leadership and guidance. I think Tannehill can get better, though I don't know if he'll ever be as good as the other guys in his class. But Miami only needs him to improve on last year to be taken seriously as a threat.

6) Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans: He has a history of issues off the field. He has a history of injuries. Kenny Britt also makes incredible grabs and can dominate with yards after the catch.

Last week, I called the Titans "my surprise drama team of the year." Britt's a walking reality show -- one that I love to watch.

7) Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Atlanta Falcons: It is very easy to look into the crystal ball and see Atlanta playing at MetLife Stadium in Super Bowl XLVIII. But the Falcons need their defense to be better in 2013.

Weatherspoon, a former first-round pick, enters his fourth season. He has been good, but I think he can be great. He must stay healthy and be the do-it-all linebacker Atlanta needs to reach its lofty goals.

8) Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants: Victor Cruz just got paid, but the deal made him just the 18th-highest-paid receiver in the NFL. The Giants won the negotiations. Cruz won because, as a Jersey native, he only wanted to be in New York, and this was his first megabucks deal.

Now, Nicks.

I've argued all offseason that he deserves more cash than Cruz. He will get it, either with the Giants or someone else. How will Nicks respond to Cruz's deal? Will he pout? Will the Giants make him wait, see if the true No. 1 receiver can stay healthy and then apply the franchise tag to him? This is going to be fascinating.

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9) Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: Who knows what to expect from Rob Gronkowski and his balky back? Beyond Gronk, Brady's four other top targets from last year won't be there. (Though Tim Tebow will!)

But you know Brady -- controversy and doubt drive him. He's a living legend and still in his prime. I can't wait to see how this season plays out for No. 12.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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