Current NFL Players Who Could Lose Their Starting Roles on Draft Night

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistApril 26, 2018

Current NFL Players Who Could Lose Their Starting Roles on Draft Night

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    Zero more sleeps! Welcome to NFL draft day 2018.

    A lot of future NFL stars will be formally introduced to the NFL on Thursday night, which is what makes the draft so damn fun. But there are only so many starting spots in this league, and every rookie who starts in Week 1 will be taking a job from a veteran who, until now, was projected to serve as a September starter.

    Plenty of NFL vets will lose starting roles before Saturday, but here are 11 in particular who could essentially be demoted on the opening night of the draft.

Buffalo Bills QB AJ McCarron

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    AJ McCarron hasn't started a game at quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, but after signing a two-year, $10 million contract in March, the free-agent addition is clearly the penciled-in starter over sophomore fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman. 

    That might change Thursday night, because the Bills haven't been shy about the fact they're interested in several of this draft's top-rated signal-callers. 

    NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that while the Bills might not be prepared to sell the farm in a trade for the No. 2 overall pick, they could try to move up from the No. 12 spot if a quarterback prospect they want slips to No. 5 or No. 6. 

    If that happens, that quarterback could immediately move ahead of McCarron on the depth chart, especially if it's Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield, all of whom have extensive starting experience against high-quality competition in college.

Cleveland Browns RB Carlos Hyde

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    McCarron isn't the only player who signed on to start in a new city as a free agent in March and could lose that job in April. Former San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde is clearly slated to start for the Cleveland Browns after signing a three-year, $15.3 million deal to replace the departed Isaiah Crowell, but Cleveland has been heavily linked to top running back prospect Saquon Barkley. 

    Sure, the Browns are widely expected to use the No. 1 overall pick on a quarterback, but they also have the No. 4 overall selection. If the New York Giants trade out or draft a quarterback, Bradley Chubb or Quenton Nelson second overall and the New York Jets take a quarterback as expected third overall, Cleveland could find itself in a position to add Barkley in addition to the quarterback they select in the top spot. 

    You don't draft a back like Barkley in the top five and keep him on the sideline. If the Browns do go this route, they would start the powerful, NFL-ready Penn State product immediately.

Detroit Lions RBs Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick

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    The running back-starved Detroit Lions might not be in a position to draft Saquon Barkley, but well-accomplished LSU product Derrius Guice is a strong candidate to wind up in Detroit with the No. 20 overall pick.

    And like Barkley, Guice would start right away following back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons in the SEC.

    Guice would easily supplant veteran co-incumbents Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, who combined for just 838 rushing yards and averaged just 3.4 yards per carry in a combined 16 starts in 2017.

    They were two of the least efficient backs in the league, which means they could both be in jeopardy of losing their chances to start even if the Lions don't land Guice but take a next-tier running back prospect like Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Rashaad Penny, Royce Freeman or Ronald Jones on Day 2.

Seattle Seahawks OT Germain Ifedi

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    A late first-round pick just two years ago, Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman Germain Ifedi has failed to deliver as both a guard and a tackle. And while the Seahawks haven't necessarily given up on the Texas A&M product, Ifedi could find himself without a starting job if Seattle uses a first-round pick on an offensive tackle who could immediately provide an upgrade opposite veteran left tackle Duane Brown.

    An offensive tackle like Notre Dame product Mike McGlinchey, at 6'8" and 309 pounds, has the physical makeup and the technical prowess to start from the get-go at right tackle.

    There's a chance the 2017 consensus All-American doesn't drop to the Seahawks in the No. 18 spot Thursday night, but even if he doesn't, Seattle could take pro-ready Georgia product Isaiah Wynn, which would jeopardize starting jobs that are projected to belong to Ifedi and guards Ethan Pocic and D.J. Fluker.

Cincinnati Bengals G Trey Hopkins

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    Another team that could be in on Wynn or NFL-ready former Ohio State interior offensive lineman Billy Price in the middle of the first round? The Cincinnati Bengals, who pick 21st and didn't get enough out of Trey Hopkins in his first year as a starter in 2017.

    The 25-year-old Hopkins started the majority of the year in the right guard spot vacated by big-money free-agent departure Kevin Zeitler, but he consistently struggled to pave the way for a Cincinnati running game which ranked dead last in the AFC last season.

    The Bengals addressed the left tackle position with a March trade for veteran Cordy Glenn, it might be too early to give up on right tackle Jake Fisher and left guard Clint Boling is solid. But Wynn and Price are both first-round talents with resumes that could earn them starting roles right away. And if either winds up doing that in Cincinnati, Hopkins would likely be the odd man out.

Indianapolis Colts DE Henry Anderson

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    A frequent starter when healthy since joining the Indianapolis Colts as a third-round pick in 2015, defensive end Henry Anderson is looking to adapt to the team's new 4-3 defense by shedding pounds and picking up speed. 

    "We switched the scheme up a little bit so I have to be a little bit quicker and faster," Anderson said earlier this month, per Andrew Walker of the team's official website. "I definitely just feel like I'm moving a lot better because obviously not carrying as much weight so you can kind of move around and be a little more agile. I definitely feel good and am excited to get back out on the field for sure."

    But that might not be enough for Anderson to retain a starting job if a team that already features veteran pass-rusher Jabaal Sheard drafts top edge-rushing prospect Bradley Chubb early in the first round Thursday. 

    A polished first-team All-American, the 6'4", 269-pound NC State product has the build to go up against NFL offensive tackles right away, and as a sixth overall selection, he would be expected to do exactly that. 

    If the Colts do that—and it's hard to see them passing on Chubb if he drops that far—Anderson would suddenly be limited to some early-down work at best.

Washington Redskins DT Ziggy Hood

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    Just a year ago, the Washington Redskins revamped their defensive front by signing veteran defensive linemen Ziggy Hood and Stacy McGee before using a first-round pick on 2016 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Jonathan Allen.

    Allen flashed when healthy and continues to be the team's most promising developing player, while McGee had a solid debut season in D.C. But the 31-year-old Hood struggled mightily as the starting nose tackle (recording just half a sack and 25 tackles in 15 games). So if the Redskins decide to use another first-round pick on a big body up front, Hood—who might also be out of sight, out of mind while recovering from a fractured elbow—could find himself out of a job.

    And that's a possibility. 

    Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst is one of several mock drafters who have former Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea going to the Redskins 13th overall, with Pauline calling the Redskins' interest "the worst-kept secret in the league." And the Redskins have also been linked to Alabama product Da'Ron Payne, with both Vea and Payne visiting the team in the lead-up to the draft.

    Both would likely be immediate upgrades over Hood at the nose tackle position.

San Francisco 49ers LB Reuben Foster

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    High-potential San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster could find himself out of a job soon regardless of what happens in the draft. The 24-year-old former Alabama star faces a felony domestic abuse charge (and two other felony charges) stemming from an alleged attack on his girlfriend, and 49ers general manager John Lynch has indicated there's a zero-tolerance policy in place in this case.

    "If these charges are proven true, if Reuben did hit this young lady, he won't be a part of this organization going forward," Lynch said earlier in April, per Joe Fann of the team's official website.

    Due process will take time, but the front office could give us a strong indication as to its feelings regarding Foster's future if it goes ahead and drafts a potential replacement for him Thursday night. The 49ers could have a shot at either Georgia product Roquan Smith or Virginia Tech alum Tremaine Edmunds in the No. 9 spot, and they have been linked heavily to both players.

    If you take a stay-at-home linebacker in the top 10, you mean business. And Smith in particular is best suited for the role Foster played last season. If he lands in San Francisco, it would be fair to conclude Foster has, at the very least, been demoted for the time being.

Washington Redskins CB Orlando Scandrick

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    The Redskins could draft an immediate replacement for Hood up front, but if they decide against picking a defensive lineman in Round 1 for a second consecutive year, they could instead wind up with a replacement for the veteran they recently signed to start as a slot cornerback.

    Orlando Scandrick signed a two-year deal in March to replace the departed Kendall Fuller in that role, but the Redskins are expected to strongly consider any of three blue-chip defensive backs in the first round, all of whom would likely be handed slot coverage duties immediately.

    Minkah Fitzpatrick, Denzel Ward and Derwin James are all potential top-10 picks, but there's a strong chance at least one of them slides to Washington in the No. 13 spot. If that happens and the team bites, Scandrick—who has missed nine games the past two years, hasn't intercepted a pass since 2016 and appears to be sliding quickly at the age of 31—could be demoted before having played a game in burgundy.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers S Chris Conte

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    Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick appear to be strong candidates to wind up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who could have their pick of the defensive back litter in the No. 7 spot. And if that happens, veteran safety Chris Conte could be the odd man out in the Tampa Bay secondary.

    Third-year first-round corner Vernon Hargreaves is likely to receive plenty of work in the slot regardless of whether veteran Robert McClain returns. That probably means the Bucs would draft James or Fitzpatrick to serve in more of a pure safety role, which could cost Conte his job if either Justin Evans or Keith Tandy can hold down the other spot.

    Evans has a much higher upside, and Tandy is cheaper, more versatile and probably less worn down. Those circumstances could leave Conte fighting for his starting job regardless, but the Bucs could cement things by picking one of the draft's blue-chip safeties Thursday night.