Pats draft bust seeks redemption with Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- There's an assumption when an elite organization such as the New England Patriots misfires on a high draft choice that it must be the player's fault.

Chad Jackson carries that stigma, a 36th overall selection the Patriots dumped after two seasons and 14 games.

Jackson knows he's running out of chances and appears to be an underdog to make the Buffalo Bills' roster. Head coach Chan Gailey said he intends to keep five receivers. Jackson, who didn't play a down anywhere last year, might need somebody else to get hurt.

"I got a lot to prove around the league," Jackson told me after a Bills minicamp practice last week. "I was a high draft pick, and coming out I had a lot of disappointments. Right now, I'm just trying to make up for it."

Jackson left the University of Florida after a sparkling junior season. He led the SEC and tied a Gators record with 88 receptions for 900 yards and nine touchdowns.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick carries an aura of infallibility, and with inside information from Gators coach and close pal Urban Meyer, Patriots fans figured Jackson would be a star when they traded up 16 spots to draft him in 2006.

Jackson battled hamstring and groin problems through his rookie season. He was limited to 12 games and only one start. He caught 13 passes for 152 yards, but he did score three touchdowns. In the AFC Championship Game, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament. He played in only two games in 2007.

When the Patriots cut him in August 2008, there was a belief Jackson wasn't willing to put in the time necessary to be great -- whether it was through rehab, learning the playbook or film study.

"There's two sides to every story," Jackson said. "I won't get into all that. But I had my opportunity and I didn't take full advantage of it."

I asked him if he could do anything differently, what would it be.

"Not get hurt," he said with a laugh. "When I got hurt, I fell back. I tore my ACL. I hurt my hamstring. Then they brought Randy Moss and Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth and all those guys in. I was put on the backburner. I'm just trying to make up for lost time now."

Jackson spent four games with the Denver Broncos in 2008 but couldn't find work at all last year. He turned 25 in March.

You would think there's room at receiver on Buffalo's roster. Terrell Owens and Josh Reed weren't re-signed. But the Bills had a pretty deep group last year and have youngsters worth looking at.

If Gailey sticks with his plan of keeping five receivers, then Jackson could be in trouble.

Lee Evans is the No. 1 receiver. The Bills also have James Hardy (a 2008 second-round pick), Steve Johnson (a 2008 seventh-round pick the organization has been intrigued by), Roscoe Parrish (a dangerous punt returner) and Marcus Easley (a fourth-round pick this spring).

"The wide receiver position is open," Jackson said. "I can come in here and get a starting spot, No. 2 or No. 3 spot. I got a lot of opportunity here ahead of me.

"I think I've made a good impression. I'm not gone right now, so I must be doing something good."