Predicting Every NFL Team's Surprise Rookie Gem
Ever since the NFL draft, there has been a ton of talk about this year's rookie class. Much of it has centered on high picks like quarterback Kyler Murray, edge-rusher Nick Bosa and defensive lineman Quinnen Williams.
However, every year rookies rise from obscurity to surprise the NFL. In 2018, Denver Broncos tailback Phillip Lindsay became the first offensive undrafted free agent in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Fourth-round wideout Keke Coutee was a significant contributor for a Houston Texans team that won the AFC South.
It's admittedly an uphill struggle for any of the Day 3 picks and undrafted free agents listed here to have that sort of rookie impact. Quite a few won't make the 53-man rosters—that's just the reality of being a late-round draft pick.
But these rookies have the talent to take advantage of a situation that puts them in position to do more than just make the team. They can make contributions relatively early in their careers.
Each has a chance to be a surprise rookie gem.
Arizona Cardinals: WR Hakeem Butler
Leading into the 2019 draft, Iowa State's Hakeem Butler was ranked as a top-five wide receiver in the class on many lists—including that of The MMQB.
"A big-bodied, long-armed power forward of a receiver, Butler was a catch-and-run monster in the Big 12," The MMQB staff said. "He ran a limited route tree at Iowa State and dropped too many catchable balls, possibly because of ball-tracking issues, but if he can be coached up into a more well-rounded receiver and more consistent pass-catcher, he could become a true No. 1 receiver."
However, it appears that NFL teams didn't share the enthusiasm of draftniks where Butler was concerned—he fell to the first pick of the draft's last day, where the Arizona Cardinals scooped him up.
Butler joins Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson as one of three rookie wideouts in the desert this year, and with an unsettled depth chart behind Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, he has an opportunity for early snaps.
Atlanta Falcons: CB Kendall Sheffield
The Atlanta Falcons spent the early part of the 2019 NFL draft retooling the right side of the offensive line.
Day 3 was at least in part about adding speed in the secondary.
Kendall Sheffield of Ohio State wasn't able to show off his wheels at the scouting combine, but the 5'11", 193-pounder's speed isn't in question—Sheffield holds the school record in the 60-yard dash at 6.63 seconds.
Per ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure, Sheffield also thinks he was drafted just a tad late.
"I believe I was a first-round draft pick," the fourth-round pick said, "and I'm ready to prove to everyone else that I'm a first-round draft pick."
The waters in the Atlanta secondary muddy quickly behind veteran Desmond Trufant. If Sheffield can show that his self-confidence is more than just chest-pounding, he'll have an opportunity to surge up the depth chart.
Starting games as a rookie is far from out of the question.
Baltimore Ravens: RB Justice Hill
The Baltimore Ravens rely on the ground game as much as any team in the league, and the team added some thunder to the backfield in the offseason with the addition of free agent Mark Ingram II.
With the 113th pick in April's draft, the Ravens also added some lightning, and by the time the dust settles on the 2019 season, Justice Hill of Oklahoma State could have an even bigger impact.
"Justice Hill is your home run hitter," Peter Schrager of Good Morning Football said, via Nathan Beaucage of Ravens Wire. "At Oklahoma State he was an absolute fireworks show. You have your three yards and a cloud of dust guys in [Gus] Edwards and [Mark] Ingram, you have the offensive line, you've got the best blocking tight ends in the league and you've got a running quarterback."
With 4.4 speed and good pass-catching chops, Hill could carve out a role on offense PDQ.
And if he starts peeling off big plays, his role will only grow.
Buffalo Bills: OLB Vosean Joseph
Fifth-round pick Vosean Joseph was one of the hardest players to figure out in the entire 2019 draft class. His film was a study in extremes—on one play, Joseph would fly to the ball with the sort of athleticism and range that NFL teams drool over now.
The next, he'd run himself right out of the play or get caught woefully out of position—his instincts and play recognition both need a lot of work.
However, Buffalo may be a best-case landing spot for the former Florida standout. With young stud Tremaine Edmunds in the middle, the weak-side linebacker in Buffalo is free to roam and attack the ball. And while Matt Milano is a capable veteran linebacker, he doesn't have Joseph's wheels.
If Joseph is a quick study in his new home, he could push Milano for snaps. And if the 6'1", 230-pounder can come close to realizing his potential, he'll be one of Day 3's biggest steals.
Carolina Panthers: OLB Christian Miller
The Carolina Panthers hit the pass rush early in the 2019 draft, making Florida State edge-rusher Brian Burns their first pick. That selection may have generated more buzz, but it's not out of the realm of reason that a much later pick will wind up generating more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Like many of the players included here, Christian Miller, who was the 115th overall pick in the draft, plans to show he was a major steal.
"I truly believe I have first-round ability between my measurables and my athleticism, as well as off the field being a team leader. I truly do believe that," Miller told Bryan Strickland of the team's website. "I feel like I’m just getting started. I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface yet. I feel like my best football is ahead of me."
A wildly athletic 6'3", 247-pounder out of Alabama, Miller has a skill set tailor-made for today's NFL of "hybrid" fronts. As with many young pass-rushers, it may take Miller a little while to get up to speed.
But there are always snaps to be had if you can get after the quarterback.
Chicago Bears: WR Riley Ridley
Riley Ridley has the big-school pedigree after playing at the University of Georgia. Catching passes also runs in his blood—his older brother Calvin starred at Alabama before going on to do the same for the Falcons.
As Larry Mayer wrote for the team's website, the 126th pick in the 2019 draft said his precise route running is a skill he developed at the behest of his older brother.
"My brother really prides himself on running routes," Riley said. "He takes that and gives it to me and just lets me know that running routes can really help you as a receiver. It helps you gain separation and makes the catches easier. You're more open. It makes your quarterback gain more trust in you."
It's that route-running ability that could make Ridley a factor for the Bears quickly. The team has a big-bodied red-zone threat in Allen Robinson. Speed over the top in Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller. But it could use a chain-moving technician underneath.
When strength and need match up like this, it often portends well.
Cincinnati Bengals: OG Michael Jordan
Upgrading the offensive line was a priority for the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason—a priority they addressed with their first pick by selecting Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams at No. 11 overall.
The Bengals circled back around to the O-line on Day 3, drafting Ohio State's Michael Jordan at No. 136 overall. Second-year defensive end Sam Hubbard, who played with Jordan in Columbus, believes the Bengals chose well.
"He always fought his way through everything," Hubbard told Geoff Hobson of the team's website. "He wanted to be pushed. All he wants to do is get better. He wants to be coached. He wants to be told the right way to do it. I’ve got nothing but good things to say.”
The 6'6", 318-pound Jordan struggled a bit at center in 2018. But with Billy Price already manning that position in Cincy, Jordan can kick to his more natural guard spot.
Don't be surprised if he pushes for significant snaps early.
Cleveland Browns: S Sheldrick Redwine
The Cleveland Browns didn't have a first-round pick in the 2019 draft after trading for Odell Beckham Jr. But that didn't stop the team from adding talent—beginning with the addition of LSU cornerback Greedy Williams in Round 2.
Those additions continued on Day 3 of the draft, even if it may take a little longer for the late-rounders to find their path in the NFL.
Miami safety Sheldrick Redwine was the team's first pick on the draft's final day, a 6'0", 196-pounder that Lance Zierlein of NFL.com called an "aggressive, versatile safety who lacks consistency in coverage, but who possesses the ball skills and run support ability to challenge for a starter's role in time."
That time may come soon. The Browns brought in veteran strong safety Morgan Burnett on a two-year deal this offseason, but Burnett is 30, coming off a miserable 2018 season and isn't owed any guarantees after the upcoming season.
Dallas Cowboys: CB Mike Jackson Sr.
Dallas Cowboys DBs coach Kris Richard has long favored size in the secondary. Given that, it wasn't surprising that the team used a fifth-round pick on Miami's Mike Jackson Sr., a 6'1", 210-pounder who head coach Jason Garrett raved about while speaking to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News.
"He certainly has all of the physical tools," Garrett said. "He's big, long, fast, physical, all the things we like in our guys. He's best in press [coverage]. You're talking about drafting a guy in the fifth round at a premium position with all the traits you're looking for. Again, we liked him a lot. Strongly endorsed by the people in Miami on the kind of guy he is.
"All those things are very favorable."
The Cowboys have several young talents in the secondary, but Jackson has the ability to at the very least earn some work in the dime, if not push third-year pro Chidobe Awuzie for the right to start opposite Byron Jones.
Denver Broncos: WR Juwann Winfree
Juwann Winfree took the road less traveled as a collegiate athlete. He originally signed with Maryland but withdrew in his first year after being suspended indefinitely for violating the school's code of conduct. After announcing that he would attend Pitt, Winfree instead spent a year at Coffeyville Community College, where he caught the eye of coaches at Colorado.
Winfree arrived in Boulder just in time to tear his ACL, which wiped out his 2016 season. After playing sparingly in 2017, injuries again derailed his 2018 campaign. Given all the trials and tribulations he experienced in college, most believed Winfree wouldn't be drafted—but the Broncos rolled the dice on the 6'1", 210-pounder in Round 6.
The reason isn't hard to pinpoint. The production might not have been there, but the potential is. Size. Speed. Hands. Winfree has all the tools a receiver needs to find success in the pros. He just needs to stay healthy.
It's not like the Broncos haven't had some success with dice-rolls from Colorado of late.
Detroit Lions: DE Austin Bryant
In the first round of the 2019 NFL draft, three Clemson defensive linemen were taken in the top 17 picks. But after a torn pectoral muscle limited him down the stretch, Austin Bryant wasn't one of them. In fact, he slipped all the way to Round 4 and the 117th pick.
As the NFL Network's Peter Schrager said (via Max Demara of 247Sports), that may wind up being a massive gift for the Detroit Lions.
"I feel like he had a marvelous career at Clemson. He accumulated 15.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks his first year, and last year, as a full-time starter, he comes back with 44 tackles. 14.5 for loss and eight sacks. But when you're on a college defensive line that includes the fourth overall pick, the 13th overall pick and the 17th overall pick, it's possible you get overlooked. So he heads now to the perfect situation in Detroit. He'll play for a defensive head coach in Matt Patricia, he'll learn from Trey Flowers who comes from Patricia's system and knows how to work it," Schrager said.
Bryant may never be a 15-sack monster, but he's more than capable of becoming a solid complement to Flowers sooner rather than later.
Green Bay Packers: RB Dexter Williams
With a new coaching staff in Green Bay in 2019, the hope is that we finally get to see what tailback Aaron Jones is capable of doing if he's fed the ball regularly.
However, the window for NFL running backs can close just as quickly as it opens. And while Jones will open the season as the lead back, he's also facing some new competition.
Last year at Notre Dame, Dexter Williams came up just short of 1,000 yards on the ground, averaged over six yards a carry and scored 12 rushing touchdowns. The 5'11", 212-pounder showed a remarkable nose for the end zone in college, scoring 20 touchdowns on just 257 carries.
Per Wes Hodkiewicz of the team's website, Williams thinks that Matt LaFleur's offense is an ideal fit for what he does well.
"I feel like it was meant to be. I feel like this is the perfect place for me," the sixth-round pick said. "Offense-wise, it's similar to what we were running in the Senior Bowl, so a lot of things I'm comfortable with. I'm still learning, still going over a lot of the plays with my running back coach and taking time with the other running backs to go over the plays with them."
Williams all but certainly isn't supplanting Jones (at least not yet), but he has the talent to give backup tailback Jamaal Williams a run for his money.
Houston Texans: RB Karan Higdon Jr.
Last year at the University of Michigan, Karan Higdon Jr. topped 1,100 yards on the ground, averaged well over five yards a carry and scored 10 rushing touchdowns.
That performance for the Wolverines wasn't enough to impress NFL teams, though. All seven rounds of the 2019 draft came and went without the 5'9", 206-pounder being drafted.
It didn't take long after the draft for Higdon to land with the Houston Texans. And in some respects, Higdon's going undrafted may turn out to be better for his pro prospects than being taken late on Day 3. It allowed the player to pick the team as opposed to the other way around.
From an opportunity standpoint, Higdon chose well.
The Texans have an established starter in Lamar Miller, but behind him is—not much. After tearing his Achilles tendon in 2017, D'Onta Foreman played in just one game a year ago.
Higdon is not an elite talent, but he's a hard runner with good lateral quickness and decent speed. He has the ability for a Phillip Lindsay-esque rise to prominence.
All he needs is the chance.
Indianapolis Colts: DB Marvell Tell
In the 21st-century NFL, versatility is key in the secondary. More and more teams want their own Tyrann Mathieu or Kareem Jackson—a player capable of playing both cornerback and safety.
As Zak Keefer wrote for the Indy Star, Colts GM Chris Ballard thinks the team may have found just such a player in USC's Marvell Tell, who the team took at No. 144 overall in Round 5. Tell was a safety in college, but Ballard said the team plans to try him out at corner.
"We're going to give him a shot at corner," Ballard said. "That's why Quincy (Wilson), I think we undervalue how these guys are valuable when they can do a lot on game day. Quincy Wilson has developed into not only a good corner, but he slides in (and) he plays dime. He's highly intelligent and he can slide and play different roles for you. We think Tell has got that same type of talent. Any time you've got a chance to get a big athlete with long arms, good speed—we think he can do a bunch of different roles. We're going to play him at corner to start out."
If Tell takes well to the new role and shows the Colts he can move around on the back end, he'll get playing time—and the team will be that much more dangerous defensively.
Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Gardner Minshew II
Gardner Minshew II is not going to be the next Tom Brady—probably.
It took about 11 seconds after Minshew was drafted in the sixth round for someone to mention The Golden Boy, who was also taken in the sixth round in 1973.
OK—it may not have been quite that long ago.
This isn't to say that there aren't those who believe Minshew can be a star at the NFL level. Just ask his coach at Washington State.
"He's one of those guys who uplifts the entire team," Washington State head coach Mike Leach said of Minshew, per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. "The funny thing is, people would call me about him and they'd ask, 'How's his arm?' His arm is good. 'Is he accurate?' I mean, I'm wondering if they're real scouts if they start asking me if he's accurate."
Minshew was both wildly productive and wildly popular with teammates at Washington State. If Nick Foles falters or gets hurt in 2019, Minshew could be one of the biggest surprises of the class of 2019.
Kansas City Chiefs: C Nick Allegretti
Given that all of Kansas City's Day 3 picks fell outside the top 200 overall, the gems in the Chiefs class are buried deep underground.
But there's one player who could be a good bet to not only make the team but also see a fair amount of work in 2019.
Per the team's website, Chiefs scout Terry Delp had quite a few good things to say about Illinois center Nick Allegretti, a 6'4" 310-pound multiyear starter for the Illini the team selected with the second pick of the draft's last round.
"I don't usually get excited watching linemen, but he just gets after people," Delp said. "He will throw people around. He's got a nasty edge. He's strong. Really patient under control. Smart player. He's fun to watch and he's an offensive lineman.”
With Mitch Morse leaving in free agency, there's an opening in the middle of Kansas City's offensive line. Allegretti is hardly the favorite to win the job, but the uncertainty at the position can only help if he makes the same impression on coaches he did on Delp.
Los Angeles Chargers: ILB Drue Tranquill
The Los Angeles Chargers have no shortage of talent defensively. The defensive end duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram is as good as any in the NFL. The back end features good cornerbacks and a pair of excellent young safeties in Derwin James and rookie Nasir Adderley.
But the linebackers are a potential question mark. Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman have both been in and out of the starting lineup in recent years. Veteran Thomas Davis joined the team in free agency, but he's closer to 40 than 30.
At the very least, the Bolts needed to add depth behind those players—and there's a chance that depth will be tested at some point in 2019.
Fourth-round pick Drue Tranquill was a two-time team captain at Notre Dame—a 6'2", 234-pounder who tallied 86 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in Notre Dame's march to the College Football Playoff last year.
There are questions about Tranquill's athleticism, but he's a tough, instinctive player who makes up for a lack of pure speed with a nose for the rock.
He's made the most of every opportunity he's been given to date.
Los Angeles Rams: DT Greg Gaines
It's not all that often that a player drafted well outside the top 100 has a chance to earn a starting job as a rookie. But with Ndamukong Suh gone, the Rams need a nose tackle.
Rams defensive line coach Eric Henderson thinks Greg Gaines, a 6'1", 312-pounder out of Washington who the Rams took in the fourth round, has the potential to be that nose tackle.
"He did a really good job in the Senior Bowl where those seniors play against some of the top competition against guys that will be drafted into the NFL," he said, via Myles Simmons of the team's website. "To see a guy like that productive in Senior Bowl situations, as well as what he did at Washington, I think that's a huge huge statement being voted by his college peers as one of the top defensive linemen in the Pac 12—I think that's a big deal."
Gaines isn't the most athletic player, but he's hard-nosed and has a high motor. And he will be afforded the opportunity to make his presence known from Day 1.
Miami Dolphins: WR Preston Williams
As Austin Gayle wrote for Pro Football Focus, Preston Williams going undrafted had little to do with what went on between the lines last year.
"In his lone season at Colorado State (2018)," Gayle wrote, "Williams earned the 10th-best overall grade (84.0) among draft-eligible FBS wide receivers. He caught 97-of-166 targets for 1,339 yards, 51 first downs, and 14 touchdowns. He's a big, athletic wide receiver that can win with just his natural ability."
The former Tennessee Volunteer wasn't drafted because his draft season was a disaster. Kelly Lyell of the Coloradoan wrote that Williams "was allowed to attend the combine to meet with NFL teams but wasn't permitted to perform the on-field tests because of a September 2017 arrest in Fort Collins on misdemeanor charges of harassment and assault that included a domestic violence enhancement." His pro day workout was miserable—Williams ran in the 4.5s and posted terrible numbers in the vertical and broad jumps.
However, tape of Williams shows a much more explosive player than those numbers indicate, and the depth chart at receiver for the Dolphins isn't exactly murderers' row.
Minnesota Vikings: DT Armon Watts
The Minnesota Vikings don't have many holes on the defensive side of the ball. However, after Sheldon Richardson left in free agency, the 3-technique tackle spot opposite Linval Joseph is unsettled.
Enter Armon Watts of Arkansas, Minnesota's sixth-round pick at No. 190.
Watts was mostly invisible over his first three collegiate seasons. But he exploded a year ago, starting 11 games, racking up 49 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and three forced fumbles.
Watts still has a lot to learn on the interior, but he has the strength, length and disruptive ability and has already shown the ability to improve drastically from one season to the next.
This isn't to say that Watts will be the Vikings' Week 1 starter at defensive tackle next to Joseph. But he's a talented enough youngster to both push Shamar Stephen and earn some rotational or sub-package snaps early on.
New England Patriots: CB D'Angelo Ross
The New England Patriots have become distressingly regular (for the rest of the NFL) at plucking undrafted free-agent cornerbacks off the scrap heap who go on to become viable starters. Super Bowl XLIX MVP Malcolm Butler was an undrafted free agent. So was Jonathan Jones, who made five starts for the Pats in the regular season last year and shut down Tyreek Hill in the AFC Championship Game.
It's gross, really.
Now, it's stretching things to say that New Mexico's D'Angelo Ross is a sure bet to follow in those players' footsteps. Ross is undersized and then some at just 5'9".
But Ross also had an impressive showing at New Mexico's pro day, peeling off a 4.32-second 40-yard dash and 39-inch vertical after ranking third on the Lobos in tackles last year with 57.
Is Ross a long shot? Sure. But given New England's eerie ability to find talent at the position after the draft ends, it's unwise to bet against him.
New Orleans Saints: S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
Florida's Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is a high-end talent who fell in the 2019 draft after reportedly interviewing poorly at the combine.
The fourth-round pick is saying all the right things now.
"I gotta work for it," Gardner-Johnson told WDSU-New Orleans (via John Sigler of Saints Wire). "The corner [position] is deep itself, so I'm just here to work. It's not enough to get drafted, as coach [Sean Payton] says, it doesn't matter how you get here. I'm just ready to get out there and work, compete with the guys. I think OTAs are next week, whenever it is, I'm ready to get out there and be humble, open up to them."
It's intriguing that Gardner-Johnson mentioned the corner position—while listed as a safety, he spent most of his final season at Florida lined up as a slot cornerback. That versatility may do as much to help get Gardner-Johnson on the field early as his not insignificant talents.
New York Giants: CB Julian Love
I have spent a good portion of this offseason criticizing Dave Gettleman's offseason as GM of the Giants—whether it was the ill-advised trade of Olivier Vernon and Odell Beckham Jr. or the misspent draft capital in the early rounds on players like Daniel Jones.
However, Gettleman had his moments—the best of which might have been the fourth-round selection of Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love, whom Lance Zierlein of NFL.com pegged as a solid Day 2 pick.
"I saw Love as a solid second-round cornerback," Zierlein wrote. "He offers outstanding mirror-and-match footwork as well as the ability to slide inside to play the slot. I understand that he lacks long speed, but he has a long history of making plays on the football, and I don't see that changing in the pros."
Love isn't the only rookie corner in town in 2019—the Giants spent their last of three Round 1 picks on Georgia's DeAndre Baker. But there's little on the back end in New York outside a declining Janoris Jenkins.
Two rookie starters at corner in New York at some point this year wouldn't be a huge upset.
New York Jets: LB Blake Cashman
To be fair, linebacker Blake Cashman is a long shot to see a lot of snaps on defense this year barring a disaster. The Jets have two firmly entrenched starters inside after giving C.J. Mosley $17 million a season in free agency.
But as Cashman himself pointed out to Olivia Landis of the team's website, that doesn't preclude the fifth-round pick from making an early impact.
“I know that they have plans for me and to utilize me in the special teams game,” Cashman said. “It’s something that I have a lot of confidence in and enjoy doing. Within the whole interview process of going through the draft, that was something that I hit on a lot just to add to my versatility as a player. I can’t wait to get on the field and start going through the drills and running through the special teams game plan systems.”
Frankly, it's special teams that pave the way for many late-round picks to not only make teams but carve out lengthy careers. And given Cashman's toughness and nose for the ball, he has the potential to be a wrecking ball in punt and kick coverage.
Oakland Raiders: ILB Te'von Coney
As you've probably noticed, most of the gems listed in this piece don't just have talent and potential—they landed in a spot where there's a puncher's chance for playing time relatively early.
All the skill in the world is no good if a player doesn't get a chance to show it. The brightest of gems can't shine if no one sees them.
In that respect, Notre Dame's Te'von Coney could have a chance to sparkle pretty early on—the Oakland LB corps is a patchwork group of veteran cast-offs that includes free-agent acquisitions Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall.
It would be an impressive assemblage—in 2014.
Coney is not an elite athlete, and at 231 pounds he's a bit undersized. But the undrafted free agent consistently demonstrated good instincts in South Bend and wasn't even a little shy about scratching up his shiny gold helmet.
Considering Burfict and Marshall's recent history—the pair missed a combined 14 games last year—Coney is apt to be thrust onto the field as a rookie.
If he gets the chance to play, he's apt to not give that job back.
Philadelphia Eagles: Shareef Miller
The Philadelphia Eagles teams of the past few years (including the Super Bowl champs of two seasons ago) possessed a formidable pass rush—in large part because the team's depth up front allowed them to rotate linemen throughout the game.
With Michael Bennett now in New England and Chris Long finished with football, that depth is going to be tested in 2019 at defensive end.
And that could mean more than a few snaps for Penn State's Shareef Miller, who was the final pick of Round 4 this year.
The 6'4", 254-pound Miller needs to add both mass and strength—his 16 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press at the combine ranked dead last among all edge-rushers. But Miller has good quickness and a nice first step off the edge and will get to learn the game from an excellent coordinator in Jim Schwartz and veteran players like Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry.
Pittsburgh Steelers: TE Zach Gentry
To say that Zach Gentry is a big target in the passing game is an understatement. The converted quarterback is 6'8" and 265 pounds.
Yes, you read that right—6'8".
Gentry arrived at Michigan as a highly touted QB prospect, but after redshirting he made the move to tight end. Given how recently he started playing the position, Gentry remains a work in progress. But as Joe Rutter reported for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Gentry caught the eye of head coach Mike Tomlin in rookie camp.
"It's reasonable to expect him to get a lot better and do so in a short period of time," Tomlin said. "We'll see."
Vance McDonald is the Steelers' starting tight end, but behind him things cloud up quickly.
If Gentry can demonstrate to coaches that he's making progress as both a receiver and a blocker in camp, Pittsburgh is going to want to figure out a way to get him on the field.
Because, you know, the whole 6'8" thing.
San Francisco 49ers: LB Dre Greenlaw
Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw has already made news since being drafted. As Jennifer Lee Chan reported for NBC Sports Bay Area, Greenlaw made headlines just after the draft when a man named Gerry Daly claimed that as a freshman at the University of Arkansas, Greenlaw saved his daughter from possibly being assaulted after her drink was spiked at a party.
The story certainly speaks well to the 5'11", 237-pounder's character, but the fifth-round pick could get a chance to show what he's capable of between the lines as well.
The 49ers are relatively set at linebacker with Fred Warner and free-agent acquisition Kwon Alexander. But Warner is sitting out OTAs with soreness in his knee, and Alexander is rehabbing an ACL tear.
Greenlaw has the range to play in sub-packages and serve as depth behind Warner and Alexander. If he can up his physicality and aggression and play more downhill, he has the physical traits to be capable of more.
That's good—because the Niners might need him to be.
Seattle Seahawks: OG/OT Phil Haynes
Given all the uncertainty at wide receiver for the Seahawks in 2019, fourth-round wideout Garry Jennings Jr. is the obvious pick as a later-round gem.
But the big uglies on the offensive line haven't gotten much love here—and the player taken four picks after Jennings has the potential to make a dent of his own in 2019.
At 6'4" and 322 pounds, Wake Forest's Phil Haynes fits the Seattle mold up front. And per ESPN.com's Brady Henderson, Seahawks area scout Todd Brunner lauded his ability to move people out of the way.
"This is a big, massive man," Brunner said. "He gets into folks and can move people. Phil's got a lot of power and is a disciplined player and person."
Haynes, who played both tackle and guard in college, will start off at guard, offering depth behind veterans D.J. Fluker and Mike Iupati. Given the injury history of those players and the attrition inherent to the O-line, the rookie will more than likely see substantial snaps in 2019.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DT Terry Beckner Jr.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. is an object lesson in what might have been. He was a freshman All-American at Missouri but tore his ACL in November of that first collegiate season. The following year, the 6'4", 296-pounder tore his other ACL.
Despite starting for the Tigers the past two years and being named second-team All-SEC in 2018, Beckner fell all the way to the final round of this year's draft before Tampa took a chance on him. But Bucs general manager Jason Licht told Carmen Vitall of the team's website that he thinks Beckner can make a contribution to the team.
"He's an awesome kid," Licht said. "Smart, instinctive player. He's strong. I like the way he plays. He's going to compete. I know he's got a good chance of making this football team if he plays the way he did at Missouri and how we evaluated him."
Beckner is getting an opportunity to learn the NFL game from a generational talent in Ndamukong Suh. And with Suh joining Tampa on just a one-year deal, the Buccaneers will be looking for interior defenders capable of both backing Suh up this year and playing a much larger role in 2020.
Tennessee Titans: DB Amani Hooker
There's been more than one defensive back included on this list because of his versatility—the ability to play both the cornerback and safety spots. And after playing safety and nickel corner at Iowa, Amani Hooker has the versatility the Tennessee Titans crave.
As a matter of fact, the fourth-round pick even returned punts for the Hawkeyes, and Titans general manager Jon Robinson allowed that Hooker will get a chance to do that in Nashville, too.
"He's a versatile defensive back who has played nickel, he's played off the hash, he's played down in the box, he's played in the kicking game," Robinson said, via Jim Wyatt of the team's website. "He was set to return punts for them this year, so we'll put him back there and see what that's like."
The Titans are relatively set at safety and at corner with Kenny Vaccaro, Kevin Byard, Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler and Adoree' Jackson. But Hooker's ability to move around the back end and special teams skills could get him on the field early.
If he shows he can handle it, the Titans will be tempted to shave some cap space in the defensive backfield.
Washington Redskins: WR Kelvin Harmon
Much like Hakeem Butler, there appears to have been a disconnect between the draftnik community and the NFL scouting community where North Carolina State wide receiver Kelvin Harmon was concerned. Labeled a Day 2 pick by some of the former, Harmon fell all the way to the sixth round before he was scooped up by Washington.
That may well wind up a gift for a Redskins team that can use all the help at receiver it can get.
Yes, Harmon ran a disappointing 4.6-second 40 in Indy, but his tape shows a player who is quite a bit faster than that. He's also a big-framed 6'2", 221-pounder with sure hands who topped 1,100 receiving yards with the Wolfpack a year ago.
The depth chart at receiver in D.C. is as unsettled as any in the league. The nominal starters as things stand today (Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson) are hardly cemented into those roles. There's going to be plenty of competition for snaps in training camp.
Harmon has the skill set to win that competition.