The focus of this list is on young guys who had one really good season in Chicago, but then, for a variety of reasons, were never really heard from again.
10. Anthony Thomas The “A-Train” was a key member of the 2001 Bears who took the league by surprise in going 13-3. Thomas rushed for nearly 1200 yards that season and won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. With the Bears’ struggles the next few years came Thomas’ own struggles. Three unproductive years later he was gone, and last season was out of football.
9. Jay Williams His individual statistics (10 points, five assists) may not have been overly impressive as a rookie, especially when you think about the numbers Derrick Rose is putting up now. Still, the majority of Bulls fans and people around the league felt like Williams was on the path to stardom. Think a less quick Chris Paul with a better jump shot. We all know what happened next. A motorcycle accident cost Williams his career, and set the Bulls franchise back a few more years.
8. Mark Anderson After coming out of nowhere to record 12 sacks as a situational pass rusher in his rookie year, Anderson’s problems began when he was named a starter over Alex Brown heading into 2007. These last two years Anderson has really struggled, recording only six sacks total. There’s even more than a good chance that Anderson, once regarded as the next Dwight Freeney, might not be in the Bears’ plans for next season.
7. Brandon McCarthy Remember when Kenny Williams said McCarthy was untouchable the offseason after the Sox won the World Series? Even though he made only 12 starts and wasn’t on the team’s playoff roster, McCarthy appeared to have future stud written all over him. An up and down next season had the organization cooling on his potential. Williams then pulled a shocker by trading McCarthy to Texas for a mediocre prospect named John Danks, a move that upset most Sox fans at the time.
6. Corey Patterson He’s a running joke in Chicago now, but people forget that Patterson actually had two pretty decent years with the Cubs from 2003-2004. In ’03, he was hitting right around .300 before he got injured halfway though the season and the next year he hit 24 home runs from his leadoff spot. Once considered a five-tool player and can’t miss prospect, the Cubs finally gave up on Patterson’s potential and traded him after the ’05 season to Baltimore.
5. Marcus Robinson Drafted by the Bears in the fourth round of the 1997 NFL Draft, Robinson set a club record with 84 catches, 1400 yards and nine touchdowns his second year in the league. His ability to catch the deep ball that season made rookie quarterback Cade McNown look well, not totally awful. After that breakout year, Robinson was never the same, as injuries slowed him down. He officially retied from the league last June.
4. Elton Brand Brand was the only reason to watch the Bulls in 2000, becoming just the second rookie in league history to average 20 points and 10 rebounds. After a second solid year in Chicago, it appeared the Bulls had found their franchise player. That is until, Jerry Krause got involved. For some reason I still don’t understand, Krause felt like Brand would never be able to carry a team by himself, and traded him on draft night for the rights to Tyson Chandler. I know that Brand has been injured the last two seasons, but didn’t I hear that the Bulls have been desperately looking for a low-post scorer for some time now?
3. Rich Hill Trying to solve the mysterious case of Hill is now no longer the Cubs’ problem, as they basically gave him to the Orioles for nothing. In 2007, his second full year in the league, Hill was the Cubs’ second-best starter, going 11-8 with a 3.92 E.R.A. It’s still puzzling what happened next. After having problems finding the strike zone in his first few starts last season, he was sent back down to triple-A Iowa, and then later to Rookie ball in Mesa.
2. Charlie Weis Okay, obviously not a young Chicago athlete, but how could you leave Weis off this list? His first year at Notre Dame, Weis put the Irish back on the college football map. It took him only seven games to earn a new 10-year contract. Now, after a combined record of 10-15 these past two seasons, Weis quickly went from being a coaching genius to a guy who is very much on the coaching hot seat.
1. Mark Prior Definitely the ultimate teaser. Prior’s ridiculous 2003 season (18-6, 2.43 ERA) had Cubs fans envisioning great things from this dynamic young power pitcher. Injuries ended up ruining his career way too soon. If Prior had stayed healthy, it’s likely the Cubs would not still be waiting 101 years and counting for a World Series title.