Which Surprise Starter Could Emerge for Each NFL Team in 2018?June 5, 2018
Which Surprise Starter Could Emerge for Each NFL Team in 2018?
Pleasant surprises populate every NFL team.
Even though rosters are often set long before the regular season, a few revelations will still occur between now and then.
A rise from obscurity can occur for multiple reasons. Injuries, suspensions or disappointments happen. That creates opportunities for others to seize.
An individual's situation is every bit as important as his talent level and work ethic. The how and why of a player's usage often determines success. Circumstances dictate those occurrences, though.
Teams will count on a number of non-first-round rookies this season. Lesser-known veterans will be thrust into significant roles. Some will fit specific niches and excel.
Whatever the case, a surprise starter or two should be expected on every roster. The following players are the most likely to claim said spots.
Arizona Cardinals: WR Chad Williams
The Arizona Cardinals' passing game features Larry Fitzgerald and everyone else. Chad Williams can change that perception alongside second-round pick Christian Kirk and speedster J.J. Nelson.
Nelson, the second-leading wide receiver on Arizona's roster last season, fell short of Fitzgerald last season by 80 receptions and 648 yards. Williams, meanwhile, managed three receptions for 31 yards last season.
"The thing we sometimes do, and we can be guilty of it as coaches, is sometimes you just see the end product of a lot of these receivers," head coach Steve Wilks said, per AZCentral.com's Kent Somers. "Everyone knows what Larry is and what he was able to do. But he was a rookie at some point."
The Cardinals lack a true X-receiver, as most of Fitzgerald's production comes from the slot, while Kirk and Nelson are undersized targets. The 6'1", 204-pounds Williams has the size-speed combination to create mismatches as an outside-the-numbers threat.
Atlanta Falcons: DT Deadrin Senat
Dontari Poe's free-agent departure created a 346-pound void in the middle of the Atlanta Falcons defense.
However, general manager Thomas Dimitroff waited until the third round to select a defensive tackle, Deadrin Senat, after addressing other needs at WR and CB in Rounds 1 and 2, respectively.
The Falcons did sign Terrell McClain in mid-May, but Senat is the run-stuffer ideally suited to play alongside Grady Jarrett. According to Pro Football Focus, the South Florida product led all NCAA defensive tackles last season in run-stop percentage from Week 5 on. Senat also finished third among the class' interior defenders with 37 defensive stops.
At 6'0" and 314 pounds, the first-year defender has a different body type than Poe, whose athleticism is rare for a nose tackle. However, the job remains the same, and Senat's first-step quickness and natural leverage give interior blockers fits.
Baltimore Ravens: QB Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is a proven commodity, which is both a positive and negative. Flacco once led the team to a Super Bowl victory, but he lacks dynamic traits as a passer and athlete.
Lamar Jackson, on the other hand, is brimming with potential.
"He's as talented of a player that I've seen coming into my 12th year," Ravens safety Eric Weddle said during an interview on NFL Network's Good Morning Football (via Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab). "He's got a live arm, he can sling it. Obviously, his ability to run and shake guys—you see it in team drills where things break down, he gets out on the perimeter and guys aren't even close to him."
The Ravens coaching staff plans to utilize Jackson this fall.
"We're gonna always try to get our players making plays for us," head coach John Harbaugh said, per NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman. "Lamar's a guy that can help us win games."
If the Ravens offense sputters, Jackson will get his chance.
Buffalo Bills: DT Harrison Phillips
Harrison Phillips fell to the third round because he plays a non-vital position. Run-stuffers along the defensive interior don't hold the same value they once did.
But every team needs one, and the Buffalo Bills in particular lean heavily on big guys up front.
Buffalo appears set with 12-year veteran Kyle Williams and top free-agent signing Star Lotulelei manning the middle. However, Phillips is a younger version of Williams, and he could easily outplay the long-time Bill.
The nose tackle led Stanford football last season with 103 total tackles, 17.0 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, and his transition into the professional ranks has been smooth so far.
"To hear him take the information you give him and to spit it back out to you is impressive," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said, per WKBW's Joe Buscaglia. "We have high hopes for Harrison."
Carolina Panthers: CB Donte Jackson
Daryl Worley started 14 games opposite James Bradberry last season, but the Carolina Panthers didn't see a long-term future with the 2016 third-round pick. Instead, general manager Marty Hurney traded Worley to the Philadelphia Eagles for wide receiver Torrey Smith.
Carolina is now searching for a No. 2 corner, and a rookie may lead the way.
According to Max Henson of the Panthers' official site, 2018 second-round pick Donte Jackson received "extended" first-team reps as an outside cornerback during organized team activities. His 4.32-second 40-yard-dash speed and mindset give him an edge over veterans Ross Cockrell and Kevon Seymour.
"You have to have a certain type of swagger," head coach Ron Rivera said, per NFL.com's Herbie Teope. "Josh Norman had it. He had it from day one. You guys saw it. He struggled a little bit, but because of his swagger, he was able to bring himself back. Well, this young man's got something."
Chicago Bears: TE Dion Sims
Dion Sims started 14 games for the Chicago Bears last season. However, his role came into question once the Bears hired Matt Nagy as their new head coach.
Don't write off Sims just yet, because the tight end fills a certain niche within Nagy's offense.
The organization signed Trey Burton to better fit the scheme's new direction. Last year's second-round pick, Adam Shaheen, discussed the team's vision.
"We're going to be all over the field," Shaheen said, per the Chicago Sun-Times' Adam L. Jahns. "It's going to be good to be a part of."
Sims can still be a factor in two-tight end sets and the running game, as his blocking makes him an ideal in-line option.
"He's not going to be anybody that's a downfield threat—I think he knows that, we all know that—but he's a valuable piece of this puzzle," Nagy said in reference to Sims, per NBC Sports Chicago's JJ Stankevitz.
Cincinnati Bengals: WR Tyler Boyd
Tyler Boyd is no longer considered an integral part of the Cincinnati Bengals offense due to a pair of uneven campaigns. The 2016 second-round pick sits fourth behind A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell and 2017 ninth overall pick John Ross in the receiver pecking order.
However, Boyd has a chance to be Cincinnati's second-best option in offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's new scheme.
"He's got a really good feel for the position," wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell said, per Geoff Hobson of the team's official site. "Very smooth. Catches the ball well. I’m really impressed with him … He ran an in-cut as well as anybody."
Lazor wants to simplify the offense, increase the tempo and resemble the spread offense he learned from former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. That approach will create opportunities for multiple receivers, especially those like Boyd who run good routes and can create after the catch.
Cleveland Browns: CB E.J. Gaines
The Cleveland Browns made a significant investment in their secondary this offseason by trading for safety Damarious Randall, signing three veteran cornerbacks—T.J. Carrie, Terrance Mitchell and E.J. Gaines—and drafting Ohio State's Denzel Ward with the No. 4 overall pick.
Based on Cleveland's financial commitment, Ward and Carrie appear to be the projected starters at corner. The Browns signed Carrie to a four-year, $31 million contract in mid-March, and they passed up NC State edge-rusher Bradley Chubb in the draft to select Ward instead.
However, Gaines has a chance to become of Cleveland's top two corners.
Gaines spent three years playing under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with the Rams, which will give him familiarity with Williams' system. The 26-year-old also graded out well last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Gaines has never played a full 16-game slate, but he's as good as anyone in the Browns secondary when healthy.
Dallas Cowboys: TE Dalton Schultz
Jason Witten's retirement left the Dallas Cowboys in a bind. The front office, however, wasn't caught completely off guard after selecting Dalton Schultz in the fourth round to continue Stanford's tight end pipeline.
The program has produced multiple NFL-ready tight ends in recent years, and Schultz has the skill set to produce early in his career.
"He is more all-around than some of the other guys," Stanford tight ends coach Morgan Turner told the Dallas Morning News' Jori Epstein. "He does better in the run game than Zach [Ertz] has, but Zach's done well working at that. [Austin] Hooper's more of a pass-catcher as well, while Dalton's more all-around. Dalton's more than willing to step into the trenches with those guys."
Schultz may not be a sexy option since he excels with his blocking and he isn't a standout athlete. But he's exactly what the Cowboys need right now.
Denver Broncos: TE Jake Butt
The Denver Broncos used a fifth-round pick in the 2017 draft to select an injured Jake Butt. That move should pay huge dividends this fall.
The 2016 John Mackey Award winner tore his right ACL during his final collegiate game and missed his entire rookie campaign. Butt is now fully recovered and feels the "strongest I've ever been," according to the Denver Post's Kyle Fredrickson.
"I honestly didn't know," quarterback Case Keenum said. "I knew he was injured, but I had no idea that it was even a knee issue. You can't even tell. He's running around making cuts and doing a great job."
Butt can be Keenum's new security blanket after the quarterback leaned on Kyle Rudolph in Minnesota, particularly in the red zone. Rudolph tied for the team lead last season with eight touchdown receptions.
Detroit Lions: FB Nick Bellore
Nick Bellore is a linebacker, but playing fullback gives him a much better opportunity to start for the Detroit Lions.
Head coach Matt Patricia's mentor, Bill Belichick, is known to love versatile performers. That approach extended to Detroit, with Bellore making a Mike Vrabel-like transition.
"You'll see guys all over the place today, in a bunch of, maybe, positions they didn't play in the past or what theoretically on paper it says that they should play," Patricia said, per the Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett. "But that's the part of it that's good right now is we're not in game-plan mode. We're just kind of in a learning mode and a fundamental mode. So, we're just trying to see how much they can all handle in different spots."
The Lions drafted fullback Nick Bawden in this year's seventh round, yet Bellore, who is learning the position, received the initial reps at OTAs.
Green Bay Packers: WR J'Mon Moore
The Green Bay Packers have a history of selecting wide receivers beyond the first round who turn into capable targets. This year shouldn't be any different after drafting three different receivers—J'Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown.
Moore, who came off the board first, finished second in the SEC last season with 1,082 receiving yards and 10 touchdown receptions. Green Bay wanted a bigger body to complement Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, and the 6'3", 205-pound Missouri target fits the bill.
"Bigger targets just make sense," head coach Mike McCarthy said, per Rotoworld's Josh Norris. "Bigger catch radius. Any quarterback would like to throw to a bigger target."
Moore adds athleticism to the group after finishing within the top four among wide receivers at the combine in the vertical jump (38 inches), short shuttle (4.04 seconds) and three-cone drills (6.56 seconds).
Moore will compete with Geronimo Allison to be the Packers' third receiver.
Houston Texans: WR Keke Coutee
Beware, Braxton Miller, because rookie receiver Keke Coutee is coming for your spot.
Miller hasn't developed to expected levels, with only 57 receptions for 261 yards in two seasons. Coutee, on the other hand, is a slot machine who finished with 93 receptions for 1,429 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior.
According to Pro Football Focus, the inside receiver produced a 139.9 quarterback rating when targeted.
"He's only getting better," Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said, per the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson. "He's always hanging around, seeing what I'm doing in between periods, asking me questions. The guy can play football. That's going to take care of itself. Coming in, learning this offense, getting his playbook and that's what he's been doing."
The 5'10", 181-pound Coutee isn't the biggest target, but his 4.43-second 40-yard-speed adds another vertical threat to the Texans offense.
Indianapolis Colts: DE Tarell Basham
The Indianapolis Colts fashioned last year's 3-4 front around free-agent acquisitions Jabaal Sheard and John Simon. Simon doesn't appear to be a fit in Matt Eberflus' new system, though.
According to the Indianapolis Star's Zak Keefer, Tarrell Basham received first-team reps at defensive end ahead of the sixth-year veteran during organized team activities.
Basham, a collegiate defensive end, struggled to make the transition to outside linebacker in Ted Monachino's defensive scheme. His skill set is better suited in a four-man front as an edge-rusher.
"It's all I know as a defensive end, always having my hand in the ground," Basham said, per Colts Wire's Kevin Hickey. "It puts me back in my comfort zone."
The collegiate standout earned MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2016 after his registered 11.5 sacks. His maturation will be a welcome addition to the lineup, since the Colts finished 31st overall last season with 25 sacks.
Jacksonville Jaguars: WR D.J. Chark
The Jacksonville Jaguars roster is loaded at every position. The wide receiver corps features Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole, Marqise Lee and Dede Westbrook. Three of those four excel working out of the slot.
Moncrief could use a running mate outside the numbers.
D.J. Chark is an awesome athlete and ideal vertical threat to complement the receivers already on the roster. The 6'4", 198-pound target runs a 4.34-second 40-yard dash with 40-inch vertical and 10'9" broad jump. The 21-year-old rookie tested among the 96th percentile of NFL wide receivers in SPARQ (speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness), according to Three Sigma Athlete's Zach Whitman.
"[Chark] is going to be a beast for my Jags," the franchise's all-time leading receiver, Jimmy Smith, tweeted.
Smith's excitement is understandable, since Chark presents the potential to expand the Jaguars offense by taking the top off of opposing defenses.
Kansas City Chiefs: Nose Tackle Xavier Williams
The Kansas City Chiefs will enter the 2018 campaign with a different nose tackle for the third straight season. Xavier Williams is expected to compete with rookie Derrick Nnadi, but the unheralded free-agent signing has the inside track to start.
Williams spent three years as the Arizona Cardinals' backup nose tackle. He finished first last season in run-stop percentage among defensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, albeit in limited opportunities.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, tied for 23rd last season by surrendering 4.3 yards per carry.
"Objective No. 1 if you're going to be on the D-line always has to be to stop the run, so I take pride in that, making sure there's nobody that can run on me," Williams said, per the Kansas City Star's Terez A. Paylor. "I'm trying to dominate centers, guards, whatever, trying to help out the linebackers."
Los Angeles Chargers: TE Sean Culkin
Hunter Henry's season-ending injury has the Los Angeles Chargers hedging their comments.
The roster now features Virgil Green, Sean Culkin and Braedon Bowman.
"We have faith in those guys, otherwise they wouldn't be here," coach Anthony Lynn said, per the San Diego Union-Tribune's Mike DiGiovanna.
But the organization is still looking at its options. If Antonio Gates doesn't return, Culkin will become a much larger part of the offensive game plan.
"Obviously, we liked Sean because he made our team and played in the first game as rookie last year," offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said, per Ricky Henne of the team's official site. "And for an undrafted rookie to play in that first game, that was a tall order."
The 6'5", 255-pound tight end is a better in-line option than Green, and he has developmental potential as a receiver.
Los Angeles Rams: LB Justin Lawler
The Los Angeles Rams made impressive move after impressive move this offseason yet couldn't find a way to adequately address outside linebacker after trading Robert Quinn to the Miami Dolphins.
Justin Lawler heard 243 names called before his during the NFL draft. Draft status is merely a number, though, and he's ready to claim a starting spot.
"You look at Justin Lawler getting a chance to take some Sam linebacker reps with some of those top guys, and he's flashed some really good things," head coach Sean McVay said, per Rams Wire's Cameron DaSilva. "And we're looking forward to seeing really a lot of guys grow, but specifically, he's gotten some chances and he's made the most of those."
According to Pro Football Focus, the edge defender registered 48 quarterback pressures last season before SMU's bowl game.
Miami Dolphins: TE Durham Smythe
Mike Gesicki draws the most attention among the Miami Dolphins' rookie tight ends, because the team used a second-round pick on the ultra athletic receiving option. Durham Smythe, however, could have as much, if not more, of an impact within the team's offense.
Unlike Gesicki, the fourth-round pick is a well-rounded prospect who can serve as an in-line and flex option.
"He's a physical guy, he's going to hit you," tight ends coach Shane Day said, per Alain Poupart of the team's official site. "It's the same stuff that we saw at Notre Dame. He's a real physical tight end and he's got a good blocking style."
Smythe is a better receiving option than he's given credit for.
"We felt like in our offense with our situation, he'd have a chance to be a very productive player," Day said.
Minnesota Vikings: OT Brian O'Neill
The Minnesota Vikings offensive line is a work in progress. Mike Remmers' fit will dictate how the unit is constructed.
The team signed Remmers to five-year, $30 million contract last offseason to start at right tackle. Plans changed. The six-year veteran finished the final three games at guard. He may have found a home next to left tackle Riley Reiff.
If so, Minnesota needs a permanent right tackle. Rashod Hill started seven games last season, but he isn't close to the athlete O'Neill is.
"Brian was probably the best athlete of all the offensive linemen in this draft," Vikings director of college scouting Jamaal Stephenson said, per Eric Smith of the team's official site. "You watch this guy get out and pull, it's unbelievable how fast he moves and the ability to change directions."
The former tight end is a work in progress with all the tools to start early.
New England Patriots: DE Derek Rivers
The New England Patriots used their top pick in the 2017 NFL draft to select Youngstown State's Derek Rivers. The defensive end showed the qualities of a fluid pass-rusher to eventually help New England's anemic edge presence. Unfortunately, the third-round pick suffered a torn ACL during his first NFL training camp. But he stayed engaged in team meetings throughout the season.
"It helped out a lot," Rivers sai, per the Boston Herald's Steve Hewitt. "Definitely helped build confidence. Obviously, coming in here your rookie year, it's almost like your freshman year in college, so now it's just listening to the coaches, staying in the playbook and pretty much just getting ready to roll for each practice and just try to get better each and every day."
Now healthy, Rivers is the Patriots' best chance to develop an edge presence, since Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise Jr. are better rushing from the interior.
New Orleans Saints: RB Trey Edmunds
Trey Edmunds is ready for his chance to become the New Orleans Saints' lead back, due to Mark Ingram's absence.
"What I'm going to do is ... work hard and just improve my game in all aspects—offensively and special teams-wise," Edmund told ESPN.com's Mike Triplett.
Ingram's status hurts the Saints on two fronts.
First, the two-time 1,000-yard back is suspended the first four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. Second, he already missed organized team activities as he awaits a potential contract extension.
Head coach Sean Payton doesn't plan on increasing Alvin Kamara's workload.
"The mistake would be that Alvin gets 15 more carries," Payton said, per the Times-Picayune's Christopher Dabe. "That's not the direction we would expect to go. I don't think that's wise."
Edmunds could prove to be a short- and long-term answer.
New York Giants: OL Jon Halapio
Brett Jones started 13 games at center for the New York Giant last year, but his job is in jeopary. Competition comes from guard-turned-center Jon Halapio.
"I tell everybody this: Brett Jones is my best friend," Halapio said, per Dan Salomone of the team's official site. "... He taught me how to play center. ... I give a big credit out to him, and yeah, we're just both competing right now, man, and I think competition brings out the best in both of us."
A new system under head coach Pat Shurmur means everyone is starting from scratch. Halapio may still be learning the position, but the transition has gone well. According to 247Sports' Dan Schneier, the fifth-year blocker received first-team repetitions during organized team activities.
"If I'm wrong, I've got Eli [Manning] behind me to correct me," Halapio said. "So I'm 100 percent right with him behind me."
New York Jets: QB Teddy Bridgewater
A good problem is developing at quarterback for the New York Jets.
The organization re-signed Josh McCown to start, acquired Teddy Bridgewater in free agency as insurance and drafted Sam Darnold with the third overall pick.
Darnold is the future, but Bridgewater has shown in early workouts he can be the present. According to ESPN.com's Rich Cimini, the 2014 first-round pick "has impressed his new teammates with his football acumen and mental toughness."
The 25-year-old signal-caller is now two years removed from a devastating knee injury which cost him two seasons and a chance to remain the Minnesota Vikings' franchise quarterback.
"For him to keep his optimism and continue to battle, I respect the s--t out of that," wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said. "Can't have nothing but respect for that."
A healthy Bridgewater should lead the Jets offense this fall and keep the seat warm for Darnold.
Oakland Raiders: DT Maurice Hurst Jr.
Maurice Hurst is sick of the attention. Yes, he has a heart issue that was closely monitored throughout his collegiate career. He's also a standout defensive tackle.
"(I'm) just trying to get all of that stuff behind me, try to get people to stop talking about it," Hurst said, per NBC Bay Area's Scott Bair. "You know, some sort of issue or all of those kinds of things—just try to move past that and focus on playing football and just having fun out there."
Hurst fell to the fifth round despite first-round ability because of an irregular EKG at the NFL combine. The Raiders appear comfortable with his status, though, and he already worked his way onto the first team alongside Justin Ellis, according to ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez.
The rookie is a tailor-made three-technique with the ability to collapse the pocket—which the Raiders needed to address after Denico Autry signed with the Indianapolis Colts.
Philadelphia Eagles: CB De'Vante Bausby
Cornerback will be shuffled for the Philadelphia Eagles after Patrick Robinson re-signed with the New Orleans Saints. The team is specifically looking to replace Robinson's slot reps.
Two young veterans have split first-team reps during organized team activities. Last year's second-round pick, Sidney Jones, is now fully recovered from a knee injury, but he's also expected to compete at outside corner opposite Ronald Darby.
De'Vante Bausby earned the coaching staff's respect last season on the scout team, and expectations increased to the point where he's splitting time as the nickel corner.
"He's a very, very competitive player," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said, per Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice.com. "He's got good size, but his competitiveness stands out. You guys will see that."
Patience is required for certain prospects, especially those who enter the league as undrafted free agents. The Eagles' patience with Bausby could result in a new secondary starter.
Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Tyler Matakevich
Ryan Shazier's injury still looms over the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, because the organization didn't make a significant investment in a potential replacement.
Instead, Pittsburgh signed veteran Jon Bostic to a two-year, $4 million dollar, and he'll compete with Tyler Matakevich to start alongside Vince Williams.
Despite the free-agent investment in Bostic, Matakevich has taken the majority of first-team reps, according to the Athletic's Mark Kaboly.
"Whether if it's with the ones, twos or threes, I'm just trying to get better, perfect my craft and help this defense," the third-year linebacker said, per SB Nation's Jeff Hartman. "As of right now, it's with (the first team), so I'm trying to do whatever I can to help out."
Shazier's athleticism and leadership can't be replaced. A healthy Matakevich, however, can provide a stabilizing presence after dealing with a shoulder injury last season.
San Francisco 49ers: DE Cassius Marsh
The San Francisco 49ers claimed Cassius Marsh off of waivers last November and became so impressed by the 2014 fourth-round pick that they signed him to a two-year, $7.7 million deal this offseason and decided not to select an edge-rusher during April's draft.
"You've got to be pretty good to beat out Marsh," head coach Kyle Shanahan said, per the San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch.
Marsh, Jeremiah Attaochu and Eli Harold will serve as the defense's edge-rushers. The trio combined for four sacks last season, but Marsh presents the most potential after not fitting into the New England Patriots' scheme.
"They asked me to do a bunch of stuff that I had never done: covering running backs and receivers and basically almost never rushing the passer, which is what I did in playing defensive line," Marsh said.
The 49ers are expected to unleash Marsh as their Leo end.
Seattle Seahawks: TE Will Dissly
The Seattle Seahawks may have invested a first-round pick in running back Rashaad Penny, yet fourth-round selection Will Dissly could have a bigger impact on the offense.
Dissly is a rare dual threat.
"We've really had a difficult time finding a guy that can do both," head coach Pete Carroll said, per the Seattle Times' Bob Condotta. "Who can catch the ball and run some routes for you but can be a strong blocker."
The 267-pound tight end is powerful at the point of attack, and he'll help create lanes for Penny to exploit. But the Seahawks have also been pleasantly surprised by the rookie's potential in the passing game.
"The word on his workout prior to the draft is that when he caught the ball, you couldn't even hear it," 710 AM Seattle's Dave Wyman reported.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Bobo Wilson
Bobo Wilson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent. He had an uphill battle just to make the roster with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries and 2017 third-round pick Chris Godwin on the roster. Yet he persevered and impressed Tampa Bay's coaching staff.
"Bobo's having one of the best offseasons of anybody," head coach Dirk Koetter said, per the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman. "I said at the end of last year he was one of the most improved players. … Bobo has gone from a guy that could only play one position to a guy that could play all three, which helps his chances."
Wilson's continued improvement gives Koetter another option. A bond with quarterback Jameis Winston certainly helps as well.
"I call him 'Young Antonio Brown' because of just his work ethic," Winston said. "... I'm blessed to have him here with me because we had a good connection at Florida State."
Tennessee Titans: LB Jayon Brown
With general manager Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel bringing the Patriot Way to the Tennessee Titans, a different approach will be used on the defensive side of the ball. The Titans can expect far more packages based on situational football.
Tennessee is set at inside linebacker with Wesley Woodyard and first-round pick Rashaan Evans. The organization felt Avery Williamson's free-agent departure created a hole it had to address.
But Jayon Brown shouldn't be overlooked, since he can be a vital part of multiple sub-packages. According to Jim Wyatt of the Titans official site, the second-year linebacker consistently flashed potential during organized team activities.
Brown's size limitations (6'0" and 226 pounds) may prevent him from ever becoming a true three-down starting linebacker, but he could find himself on the field more than the team's other linebackers, due to his comfort working in space.
Washington Redskins: CB Fabian Moreau
Some players take time to develop. Teams invest high-round draft picks and then place expectations on young individuals to perform before they can even adjust to the professional level.
Washington used a 2017 third-round pick on Fabian Moreau.
"He has a skill set there that is undeniable," head coach Jay Gruden said after last year's draft, per the team's official Twitter.
A 6'0", 198-pound cornerback with 4.35-second 40-yard-dash speed isn't common. Yet, Moreau experienced ups and downs like any rookie. However, Washington has an open spot opposite Josh Norman in the lineup, and the second-round defensive back may be ready to overtake veterans Orlando Scandrick and Quinton Dunbar if Moreau's OTA performance is any indication.