35 NFL Veterans That Are Looking over Their Shoulders After the Draft
Training camp battles will be in full swing before you know it, with plenty of rookies drafted last week fighting veteran players for playing time.
Here is a look at 35 NFL veterans that are (or should be) looking over their shoulders after the 2012 draft.
Early Doucet, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Doucet has long been considered Arizona's No. 2 option behind Larry Fitzgerald, but he has struggled to consistently perform at a high level to take some opposing defenses' focus off Fitzgerald. While Doucet had a career season last year (54 receptions, 689 yards, five TDs), the Cardinals still felt they needed to upgrade the position.
Now with Floyd on the roster, who was arguably the most NFL-ready receiver in the draft, Doucet will likely find himself as the No. 3 receiver when the 2012-13 season starts.
Levi Brown, OT, Arizona Cardinals
Before being re-signed, there was major speculation as to whether or not the Arizona Cardinals would bring back Levi Brown.
In fact, many mock drafts had the Cardinals addressing their offensive line, specifically offensive tackle, in the first round of the draft.
While that didn't happen, the Cardinals did draft offensive tackle Bobby Massie in the fourth round. Massie will likely get a chance at right tackle before left tackle.
If Brown continues to struggle, though, Arizona could decide to see what the Ole Miss product has at left tackle right away.
Ovie Mughelli, FB, Atlanta Falcons
While Ovie Mughelli is one of the better blocking fullbacks in the league, he turns 32 in June and is coming off a season where he only played in seven games.
The Atlanta Falcons drafted fullback Bradie Ewing out of Wisconsin with one of their six picks in the 2012 NFL draft.
Ewing was widely regarded as the top fullback in the draft, and the Falcons drafting him so early with so few picks should point to the fact that Mughelli will have some major competition come training camp.
Look for Ewing to get a serious chance to start for the Falcons during the 2012 season.
Todd McClure, C, Atlanta Falcons
It's likely that the Atlanta Falcons will start second-round draft pick Peter Konz at offensive guard instead of center—Konz' position at Wisconsin—but Todd McClure must still be a little worried about the future.
McClure is 35 years old, and though he is still productive, it's never easy having a younger, NFL-ready lineman breathing down your neck.
Brad Smith, KR, Buffalo Bills
Brad Smith is one of the most versatile players in the NFL. When he isn't playing quarterback or wide receiver, he is making his biggest impact as a return man.
With the Buffalo Bills drafting speedy wide receiver T.J. Graham in the third round, Smith will have plenty of competition as a kick and punt returner. Graham is an electric athlete who has the ability to score every time he touches the ball.
Buffalo seemingly has too much invested in Graham to not give him a chance on special teams. Once the Bills do that, Graham may give them every reason to stick with him as their returner.
Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati Bengals
There is no doubting that Leon Hall is a talented cornerback who is good enough to start in the NFL.
The problem with Hall is that the Cincinnati Bengals just made Dre Kirkpatrick their first-round pick of the draft. It generally isn't a good sign when your team drafts such a highly-touted prospect at your position.
While Hall may begin the year as the starting corner, it wouldn't surprise me to see Kirkpatrick take over the responsibilities early on in the season.
Reggie Nelson, FS, Cincinnati Bengals
If you thought Leon Hall was a good DB, Reggie Nelson is even better.
It is hard to fathom the thought of Nelson being replaced by rookie George Iloka this year, but the thought definitely needs to be in Nelson's head. Why else would the Cincinnati Bengals draft one of the top free safeties in this year's draft?
Nelson's job is likely safe for this year—and Iloka has the build to play strong safety, or slide on over as a small outside linebacker—but he'll keep looking over his shoulder to see just how close Iloka is getting to him.
Colt McCoy, QB, Cleveland Browns
McCoy struggled throughout the 2011 season, and he basically forced the Browns to take a quarterback early in the draft to compete for the starting job.
Even though Weeden is a much older prospect, he has much better tools to produce in the NFL.
This will be one of the best position battles during the offseason to keep an eye on.
Willis McGahee, RB, Denver Broncos
Both Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno belong on this list, but McGahee should be more worried about rookie Ronnie Hillman out of San Diego State.
While many people were surprised to see Hillman drafted before some other big-name prospects, the Denver Broncos obviously liked him enough to take him in the third round.
With McGahee's age (30) and Moreno's injury history, Hillman could get a chance to make a name for himself right out of the gate.
If Hillman proves to be a valuable asset, he could easily steal the starting position right out from under McGahee's feet.
Ty Warren, DT, Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos have one of the better young defenses in the league, and defensive tackle Ty Warren is a decent producer for the team.
However, with Malik Jackson on the roster, Warren could see a drop in his time on the field. Jackson is an ultra-athletic prospect who can get pressure on the quarterback.
While the 6'6" 290-pound Jackson is raw and may focus on defensive end at first, if the fifth-rounder out of Tennessee develops quicker than expected, Warren's starting job could be in some trouble down the line.
Nate Burleson, WR, Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL with Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Titus Young, and are hoping that Ryan Broyles gets healthy enough to become a part of their awesome aerial attack.
Because Burleson is the oldest receiver of the three, he is the most likely to see a drop in playing time due to the expected emergence of Broyles.
Of course, this all hinges on their second-rounder's recovery from a devastating knee injury last November, which is still up in the air (as is always the case with the ACL).
However, if Broyles can participate in training camp and the offseason, he could force Burleson to the sidelines with his all-around ability.
Jeff Backus, OT, Detroit Lions
At 34 year old, Jeff Backus is definitely getting up there in age, and with the safety of Matthew Stafford resting on his abilities, the Detroit Lions will likely have a short leash on Backus.
While rookie Riley Reiff will likely start the year at right tackle, if Backus struggles, they could decide to move him to the left side of the line.
That is certainly their ultimate goal, and depending on Backus' play, they could be forced to move toward that goal sooner than ideal.
C.J. Wilson, DE, Green Bay Packers
However, the Packers traded up for Jerel Worthy in the second round, and he will definitely see plenty of playing time as a rookie. Worthy has an NFL-ready game and could become quite a steal if he produces early on.
If Worthy proves to be more valuable than Wilson, which he likely will, Wilson could find himself looking for a new employer come next offseason.
Antonio Johnson, NT, Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts have issues across their entire roster, so it would be safe to say that no position is safe, with the only exception being Andrew Luck.
One position battle to watch closely will be at nose tackle between Antonio Johnson and Josh Chapman. Chapman is a massive player who was rather underrated as a prospect entering the draft.
One advantage Chapman has over Johnson is that he is a more natural fit in the 3-4 defense that the Colts will run this season.
If Johnson struggles with the scheme change, Chapman could take his job right away.
David Garrard, QB, Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins signed David Garrard after a year out of football to compete for the starting quarterback position. However, he'll now have to deal with Ryan Tannehill.
The fact that Miami drafted Tannehill with the eighth overall pick means that the Dolphins will look to get him on the field if any hiccups occur during the 2012 season. Without many weapons around him, if Garrard happens to start the season for Miami, he could definitely struggle early on.
There will always be a ton of pressure on a veteran quarterback with a first-round pick breathing down his neck.
Matt Moore, QB, Miami Dolphins
Much like David Garrard, if Matt Moore happens to start the season under center for the Miami Dolphins, he'll likely have to hear about Ryan Tannehill every time he has a poor game from the fans and media.
Considering he is Matt Moore, that could happen fairly often.
Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins
Reggie Bush has struggled with injuries throughout his career, and even though he had his most productive season in the NFL in last year, there are still long-term questions about how he'll hold up.
Not only does Bush have to worry about second-year running back Daniel Thomas, but he also has to deal with Round 4 pick Lamar Miller.
Some considered Miller one of the top RBs in the draft, and he definitely has the potential to start in the NFL.
If Bush struggles with injuries or performance, he could lose his carries to the younger Miller.
Anthony Fasano, TE, Miami Dolphins
Anthony Fasano has had a productive career with the Dolphins, but he certainly can't be considered a game-changer.
While Michael Egnew appeared to take some steps back from 2010 to 2011 with the Missouri Tigers, he is still a top athlete who has great hands and the ability to create mismatches in the secondary.
He'll definitely get a chance in Miami's offense, and if he proves to be back to his 2010 form, he could absolutely become the favorite target of whoever is quarterbacking the Dolphins.
Michael Jenkins, WR, Minnesota Vikings
The one thing that the Minnesota Vikings need to do is give Christian Ponder more weapons on offense. While they didn't do a fantastic job at that during the 2012 NFL draft, they did get a rather interesting pick in the later rounds.
Greg Childs of Arkansas was the Vikings' final fourth-round pick, and he brings quite a bit to the table as a rookie. For starters, he has the size to be an elite target in the red zone for Ponder. He is also athletic enough to make plays in the open field.
Because Michael Jenkins has struggled to make much of an impact for Minnesota, he could lose a good portion of his playing time to Childs.
Antoine Winfield, CB, Minnesota Vikings
The entire Minnesota Vikings secondary has issues. That isn't a good quality for a team that plays elite quarterbacks six times a year in the tough NFC North.
One prospect that many scouts fell in love with leading up to the draft was Josh Robinson from the University of Central Florida. The Vikings drafted him early in the third round, and he has starter written all over him.
He'll likely get a chance to show what he has early in his career, and if he proves to be everything that the experts think he can be, he should become the starting cornerback in absolutely no time—at the expense of Antoine Winfield.
Patrick Chung, FS, New England Patriots
When the New England Patriots drafted Tavon Wilson in the second round, to say people were surprised would be quite an understatement. However, the one thing I've learned is to never doubt Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
Few teams draft as well as they do, and even fewer teams realize the talent like the Patriots do. With their secondary being their weakest point by far during last season's run to the Super Bowl, they likely drafted Wilson thinking that he would help immediately help improve the unit.
If that is the case, then Patrick Chung could be in danger of losing his starting job should the Pats continue to struggle against the pass.
Devery Henderson, WR, New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints lost Robert Meachem to free agency, and before the draft it appeared as if Devery Henderson would be taking over his role in the offense.
Then the Saints went out and drafted Nick Toon from Wisconsin in the fourth round, and now questions need to be asked about whether Toon could steal Henderson's role as the No. 2 wideout
There is certainly a lot to like about what Toon brings to the field, but his biggest issue has always been staying healthy. As long as Toon can stay healthy, he'll fight Henderson tooth and nail for more looks from Drew Brees.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants
The New York Giants surprised everyone by drafting running back David Wilson in the first round of the draft. While people will want to say that Wilson was drafted to replace Brandon Jacobs, Wilson's game is much more similar to Ahmad Bradshaw's than Jacobs'.
While Bradshaw will definitely start the year as the starting back for the Giants, Wilson is such a dynamic player that Tom Coughlin won't be able to keep him off the field. He is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and he will instantly become a valuable asset in the New York offense.
Bradshaw shouldn't be overly worried right now, but if anything happens during the year, he could become the one backing up Wilson rather quickly.
Terrell Thomas, CB, New York Giants
The New York Giants have one of the better group of young cornerbacks in the league, and they definitely boosted that unit with the selection of Jayron Hosley.
Hosley is an underrated player who simply knows how to succeed at the position. He has great ball skills and the ability to consistently win against receivers downfield.
With Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III and Michael Vick in their division, the Giants will need all the DB help they can get, including Hosley. If Hosley proves to be a big-time player, he could take Terrell Thomas' starting spot early in the season.
David Harris, ILB, New York Jets
Linebacker David Harris has been a solid contributor for the New York Jets for years, and it is unlikely that he'll lose his starting spot anytime this season.
However, Harris' production has been down the past two seasons, and the Jets drafted an athletic and talented linebacker in Demario Davis early in the draft at Round 3.
Davis is a development project, but he definitely has the tools to be successful in Rex Ryan's defense.
If Harris continues to let his production slip, we could see the Jets give Davis a chance to see what the rookie out of small Arkansas State can do for their defense.
Casey Hampton, NT, Pittsburgh Steelers
Casey Hampton will turn 35 during the season, and for a man his size who takes a beating on every play, 35 years old is really, really old.
The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Alameda Ta'amu in the fourth round to be the eventual replacement for Hampton. What many people don't understand is that Ta'amu is ready to produce for the Steelers right now.
Ta'amu will likely get playing time right away because of his ability to take up space and stop the run. Should Hampton's age start to catch up with him this year, Ta'amu could see an increased role and push Hampton out of the starting lineup.
Randy McMichael, TE, San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers boast one of the best tight ends in the league over the past decade in Antonio Gates. However, they also have a solid backup tight end in Randy McMichael.
They also drafted Ladarius Green in the fourth round in the hopes that one day down the road, he'd be able to replace Gates and McMichael. At 6'6", Green is extremely athletic for a player his size, and he reminds many of a younger and rawer Gates.
If Green reaches his potential relatively quickly, he could find an increased role in the offense. While he probably won't make Gates obsolete, that is certainly a possibility with McMichael.
Shaun Phillips, OLB, San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers got one of the greatest steals in the NFL draft when Oklahoma's Melvin Ingram fell to them at No. 18.
He was widely regarded as one of the best defensive prospects in the entire draft, and his versatility will make him an instant weapon for the Chargers.
Even though Shaun Phillips is a talented player, he will likely be replaced by Ingram pretty early in the season. And that would cause any veteran to be looking over his shoulder.
Barrett Ruud, MLB, Seattle Seahawks
With their second pick of the NFL draft, the Seattle Seahawks went and drafted inside linebacker Bobby Wagner from Utah State at No. 47.
Wagner was a player who scouts loved because of his killer instincts and ability to makes plays all over the field.
Even with the Seahawks bringing in Barrett Ruud in the offseason, the team might quickly find out that Wagner is the better option to start at middle linebacker. That isn't to say that Ruud isn't a talented player, it's just that Wagner is younger with naturally less wear and tear.
Oh yeah, he's better too.
Leon Washington, RB, Seattle Seahawks
While Leon Washington isn't the starting running back for the Seattle Seahawks, he does get some carries behind Marshawn Lynch. In fact, he was the second-leading rusher for Seattle in 2011 with 248 yards.
Now, that may not seem like a big contribution, but Washington is a great change-of-pace back for the Seahawks. Unfortunately, Seattle drafted another speedy back, and Bobby Wagner teammate, in Robert Turbin from Utah State in the fourth.
Turbin is a better all-around running back than Washington, and while he won't take Washington's spot on special teams, he could definitely replace him as the second option to Lynch.
Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams
Steven Jackson is one of the most underrated players in the NFL, as he consistently puts up solid numbers.
However, he does struggle with injuries, and he is starting to get up there in years. With a second-round pick, the St. Louis Rams drafted Isaiah Pead. Pead is an extremely talented running back out of Cincinnati who has the potential to be a starter at the next level.
Jackson will likely start losing some carries to Pead, and if Jackson should struggle or get injured, the Rams' first-round pick in '04 could become the second option in St. Louis.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded back into the first round to draft Doug Martin, you knew that LeGarrette Blount was in trouble.
Not only was Martin one of the most talented running backs in this year's draft, but he is ready to make an impact from day one.
He's more than just a threat on the ground, however, as he can also catch out of the backfield and isn't afraid to stay back and block.
It won't be long before Blount has lost the majority of his carries to Martin.
Adam Hayward, OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Adam Hayward has been a decent OLB for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he hasn't been anything special.
Lavonte David, on the other hand, has the skills to become an extremely special player in the league. While he's undersized, he flies all over the field and hits with some serious power. The 2010 CBS Sports All-American at Nebraska can rush the passer, play against the run, and drop into coverage.
As soon as David shows some flashes of brilliance, which should be early on, it's likely that Hayward will be relegated to the bench.
Will Witherspoon, OLB, Tennessee Titans
When the Tennessee Titans drafted Zach Brown in Round 2, they drafted one of the most athletic linebackers in the entire draft.
While there are issues concerning Brown's strength and tendency to shy away from contact, you can't doubt his athleticism and potential. Will Witherspoon is entering his 10th year in the league, and while he has had a solid career, he certainly hasn't been exceptional.
The 6'1", 245-pounder from UNC has the potential to be one of the best defensive players taken in the 2012 draft class, and new Titans head coach Mike Munchak won't let that potential sit on the bench for too long.
Rex Grossman, QB, Washington Redskins
No, Rex Grossman shouldn't be looking over his shoulder to lose the starting quarterback job for the Washington Redskins. That job was lost the second the Redskins traded all those picks for the rights to Robert Griffin III.
Grossman needs to be looking over his shoulder at Kirk Cousins, who will be fighting him for the backup duties in Washington.
The truth is that it likely won't be much of a fight, as Cousins is already a much better quarterback than Grossman.
Look for Grossman to spend quite a bit of time on the bench this upcoming season, which is where he should have always been.
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