Which NFL Players Are About to Lose Starting Jobs to Rookies?

Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeenNFC South Lead WriterMay 2, 2013

Which NFL Players Are About to Lose Starting Jobs to Rookies?

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    It’s never a fun part of the business—at least for the player who's losing his job—but adding rookies through the NFL draft inevitably means some guys will lose their starting jobs.

    Sometimes it takes time. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers both sat behind veteran quarterbacks before taking the football and becoming the best in the game.

    But for some, the act of their team calling out a rookie’s name spells doom. Try as they may, it's inevitable that some players will lose their jobs.

    Here are 10 NFL starters who will be replaced by a rookie by Week 1 of the season.

Jeromey Clary, San Diego Chargers

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    Jeromey Clary played 81 percent of the offensive snaps (Football Outsiders) for the San Diego Chargers last season. He started 14 games at right tackle.

    The knock on Clary is that he’s not athletic enough to play the tackle position. Unfortunately for Clary, San Diego’s first-round draft choice, D.J. Fluker from Alabama, is.

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Clary ranked No. 40 among tackles who played at least 50 percent of his team’s snaps. He played 460 pass-blocking snaps and allowed nine sacks, three quarterback hits and 23 quarterback hurries.

    Fluker allowed Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron to be sacked just four times last season, and he missed on 11 assignments (ESPN). Comparing college stats to the NFL is never easy, but also look at Fluker’s 30 pancake blocks in 2012 as a ringing endorsement to his athleticism.

Kroy Biermann, Atlanta Falcons

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    Kroy Biermann has always been that other guy on the opposite side of John Abraham. His “other guy” status didn’t change when the Atlanta Falcons released Abraham and signed Osi Umenyiora; rather, it was in jeopardy as soon as the Falcons selected Malliciah Goodman in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft.

    The Falcons use a very regimented defensive line rotation, so Biermann is not going to lose all of his defensive snaps, especially since he is a versatile piece for Mike Nolan to use in his base 4-3 defense that utilizes many 3-4 hybrid looks.

    However, heading into the draft, the Falcons were in desperate need of a boost to their pass rush. According to NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, Goodman was one of the “better pass-rushers” in the draft.

    Goodman finished the 2012 season with seven sacks in his final six games, including three in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which happened to be played in the Georgia Dome.

Daryn Colledge, Arizona Cardinals

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    Daryn Colledge started all 16 games last season for the Arizona Cardinals at left guard. In fact, he’s started every game since joining the Cardinals in 2011.

    But new draft pick Jonathan Cooper (No. 7 overall) will put an end to Colledge’s consecutive starts streak. He'll join the middle of Arizona’s offensive line immediately, and he'll be a huge upgrade to the run game.

    Colledge, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), had a minus-6.9 rating for run-blocking—not the worst on the team, but ugly nonetheless. Colledge was also the third-most penalized lineman with the Cardinals last year.

    If Colledge is able to slide to the other guard position (he might not, since he’s played every snap of his career at left guard) he may have an opportunity to play. Cooper will come in as a left guard, and it’s unlikely the Cardinals will switch Colledge to right guard.

Eric Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary was absolutely abysmal last season against the pass. Opposing quarterbacks torched Tampa Bay to the tune of 4,758 yards passing, the worst mark in the NFL.

    This offseason was all about making that nasty statistic go away.

    Tampa Bay traded for Darrelle Revis to shore up one side of the field at cornerback, but Eric Wright was still a liability on the other side.

    Wright ranked 83rd in pass coverage last season by allowing a reception for every 8.9 snaps he was in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He gave up 35 receptions and 510 yards receiving in the 56 times he was targeted.

    With Revis on the other side of the field in 2013, Wright would have been targeted even more.

    But the Buccaneers used their second-round draft pick on Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks, a 6’2” behemoth of a cornerback with enough ball-hawking and leadership skills to take Wright’s job.

    Let’s not forget: Wright had to take a massive pay cut just to keep his job this season.

Kyle Wilson, New York Jets

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    When Darrelle Revis went down with an injury last season, Antonio Cromartie did a fine job of filling in as the guy matching up against opposing WR1s.

    Cromartie will stay in the CB1 role for the New York Jets while Kyle Wilson is penciled in at CB2. He’s only penciled in, however, because the Jets used the No. 9 overall pick in the draft on Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner.

    Wilson and Milliner will compete for the starting job opposite of Cromartie. If Milliner is healthy enough to be a complete go from Day 1 of training camp, he’ll beat out Wilson.

    Wilson ranked No. 28 in the NFL among cornerbacks who played at least 50 percent of his team’s coverage snaps, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He allowed a reception for every 11.1 snaps he was in coverage and gave up 46 receptions and 558 yards through the air while being targeted 84 times.

    Milliner should be an upgrade over Wilson, but Wilson won’t be relegated to the bench. Expect Wilson to act as New York’s nickel corner.

Josh Robinson, Minnesota Vikings

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    Josh Robinson might be the name on the marquee here, but in reality, when the Minnesota Vikings drafted Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes, it spelled the end of significant playing time for either Robinson or A.J. Jefferson.

    Rhodes is going to come in and play on one side of the Vikings’ defensive backfield opposite of Chris Cook.

    Robinson and Jefferson will battle in training camp for the nickel corner position, with the loser sent off to dime duty. It will be a huge drop in playing time for whoever loses the battle. Robinson played 56 percent of Minnesota’s defensive snaps last year (Football Outsiders) and Jefferson 51 percent. Robinson made six starts and Jefferson seven.

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Jefferson is the better cover corner, allowing a reception for every 11.1 snaps he plays in coverage, while Robinson allows a catch in every 8.5 snaps he’s in coverage.

T.J. Graham, Buffalo Bills

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    Buffalo Bills wide receiver T.J. Graham started 11 games during his first season in the NFL—not bad for a third-round pick. He caught 31 passes and scored a touchdown—also not too shabby.

    It’s ironic, however, that Graham’s existence might be in jeopardy now because of who the Bills took in this year’s NFL draft in the third round.

    Graham was likely already going to lose some of his touches when the Bills used their second-round pick on wide receiver Robert Woods out of Southern California. But Graham could have recovered from that.

    The Bills then turned around in the third round and took Marquise Goodwin, a receiver out of Texas. Goodwin is an absolute burner who can take the top off of defenses in the NFL.

    That’s exactly what Graham can do too. Why would the Bills take a carbon copy of Graham so early in the draft if they were completely happy with Graham’s production?

    They wouldn’t.

Roman Harper, New Orleans Saints

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    When the New Orleans Saints called out Kenny Vaccaro’s name with the 15th pick of the NFL draft, I was surprised. But probably not as surprised as Roman Harper.

    Vaccaro was the best player available for the Saints at the time, but New Orleans was in dire need of pass-rushing help. Vaccaro will definitely help shore up the run and be a force in the secondary, but adding him means Harper is now the odd man out.

    Harper ranked 36th in the league among safeties in pass coverage that played at least 75 percent of his team’s snaps, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He ranked 12th at stopping the run, but PFF only tabbed 19 safeties that played 75 percent of the time against the run.

    Vaccaro is definitely going to be an upgrade, but Harper’s days might not be numbered, at least not when it comes to a roster spot. A chunk of Harper’s salary ($2.6 million) became guaranteed in March, according to The Times-Picayune.

    While Vaccaro and Malcolm Jenkins start at safety, maybe the Saints can use Harper in a role fantastically suited for him: a blitz specialist.

Alex Green, Green Bay Packers

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    Running back Alex Green of the Green Bay Packers is definitely losing his starting job. The only question is to whom?

    In 12 games last season, Green rushed for 464 yards on 135 carries, an anemic 3.4 yards per carry. He also never reached the end zone. James Starks and Cedric Benson also added in 71 carries each, but neither came close to crossing the four-yards-per-carry threshold.

    The Packers needed to add a running back who could become more of a game changer, or at least someone who could be more of a capable workhorse.

    Green Bay drafted Alabama running back Eddie Lacy in the second round and UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin in the fourth. Either could end up being the starting running back in 2013 for Green Bay.

    Both Lacy and Franklin could power as three-down backs for Green Bay. But who will it be? This will be a fun battle to watch in training camp.

Jared Odrick, Miami Dolphins

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    There were a number of confused NFL analysts when the Miami Dolphins traded up to the No. 3 pick in the draft and took Oregon pass-rusher Dion Jordan.

    But that confusion didn’t rest solely on analysts. I’m sure Jared Odrick was shaking his head too.

    Odrick, a 2010 first-round pick, started 12 games for the Dolphins last season and came away with five sacks. He had six sacks the year prior. But 11 sacks over two seasons isn’t going to cut it against Jordan, a guy NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock compared to Jason Taylor and DeMarcus Ware:

    This young man, I think he's got the potential to be the player that I compare him to, which is Jason Taylor, who ironically played for the Miami Dolphins. I also think he looks like an Aldon Smith, and if he puts on 20 pounds on that 6-foot-7 frame, one day he might be as good as a DeMarcus Ware.

    Because the Dolphins spent so much to move up and grab Jordan, the pressure will be on for him to start from Day 1. That’s not a good situation for Odrick.