My expert research this morning has revealed that Chad Simpson is either a fictitious, middle-aged seafood entrepreneur or a 5'9, 210-220 lb 3rd-year running back out of Morgan State. Since Cerrato is no longer in charge, I have assumed the Redskins are presently rostering the latter. An undrafted free agent in 2008, Mr. Simpson has been toiling away on special teams in Indianapolis for the first two years of his career. After a five game stint with the Colts practice squad, he began returning kickoffs and took occasional handoffs from Peyton Manning while serving as the team's 3rd-4th string running back behind the likes of Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Domonic Rhodes and Mike Hart. He was released by the Colts this off-season, and then picked up and released after a decent pre-season with the Bills in favor of the three-headed monster of C.J. Spiller, Marshawn Lynch, and Fred Jackson. With the Bills' scrubs, Simpson put up 109 yards and a touchdown on 26 preseason carries.
As a kick returner, Simpson has been mediocre to bad, although the Colts' notoriously bad special teams certainly deserve some of the blame. In 2009, he ranked 18th in the league in return yards (just ahead of Rock Cartwright) and 22nd in yards-per-return. Against Jacksonville in week 17, Simpson took advantage of a horrendous lapse in kickoff coverage to skate 93 yards untouched for his first and only career return touchdown. He never fumbled a kick, though he did develop a reputation for dancing his way to the 15 with an eye downfield instead of charging his way to the 20.
Simpson fared a bit better as a change-of-pace back for the Colts, averaging a career 4.9 yards per carry in limited touches. That average is skewed a bit, given that last year he broke two of his fifteen carries for 20+ yard touchdowns. He has demonstrated little by way of blocking and has only a handful of unproductive receptions in his short career.
The book on Simpson is that he is a strong runner with excellent straight-line speed but poor vision and lateral quickness. He excelled in college in an inferior division, and holds the record at Morgan State for rushing yards in a single season. In his draft combine, he showed off his legs with top-10 performances in the 40-yard dash (4.42 seconds) and the broad jump. With speed alone, he bested such players as Rashard Mendenhall, Felix Jones, Jonathan Stewart, and Matt Forte. He did not perform nearly as well in agility-related drills.
What others have said
Over at Stampedeblue, there was some surprise that Simpson stuck with the Colts in 2009, and fans frequently mocked Simpson for his poor kick return performance. Still, some were surprised to see him cut. Here is what Colts bloggers had to say about Simpson after last season-
All throughout the 2009 season, Simpson really did not display that he had the speed and the quickness to be an effective returner. Sure, he never fumbled a return or made a really horrible mistake that cost the Colts a game, but his performance in Super Bowl 44 was indeed bad.
For Chad Simpson, I can honestly say that the guy was not a bad player. He had his best season in 2009, and (without question) got better from 2008 to 2009. He returned a big kick back for a TD in the Jaguars game, and he had an awesome touchdown run to finish off the Houston Texans late in the season. That run was the best of his career with the Colts, and it capped a tremendous fourth quarter comeback that handed the AFC South to the Colts and, essentially, knocked the Texans out of the playoffs. Considering that Simpson was an undrafted player out of Morgan State, he's done a pretty good job rising above his draft pedigree these last two years.
And here is Simpson's draft profile:
Well-built physique for the position, especially in his upper body. ... Good straight-line speed. ... Good initial quickness. ... Can make defenders miss in the hole and has the burst to beat them to the outside. ... Productive return specialist who can break away in the open field. ... Tougher, more physical runner than he looks. Negatives: Lacks preferred size for the position, making him a likely change-of-pace back at the next level. ... Struggles to pinpoint the ball as a receiver, too often allowing easy catches to bounce off his hands or get into his chest. ... Weak route-runner. ... Only marginal vision to find the cutback lane - evident in his carries as a running back and returner. ... Struggled to academically qualify out of high school and may be limited in the complexity of the offenses he can succeed in.
The Bottom Line
Expectations shouldn't be too high for Mr. Simpson, but they shouldn't be too high for anyone in his position. He is a competent return man who can hold on to the football, which means he is an upgrade over Brandon Banks and Randle-El. While he has flashed some big-play ability, the jury is still out on whether he can hold his own in an NFL offense.