Every NFL Team's Most Intriguing Project Player Heading into the 2019 Season

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystJune 21, 2019

Every NFL Team's Most Intriguing Project Player Heading into the 2019 Season

0 of 32

    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    Calling any athlete a project can take on numerous connotations. 

    Sometimes, the designation is viewed as a negative since a project needs time to develop. Other times, a project displays tremendous potential ready to be tapped, which is a positive. 

    The reasons an individual earns project status often vary as well. 

    A prospect could come from a small school and need to acclimate to a higher level of competition; or be switching positions; or be playing in an unfamiliar system; or be coming off an injury; or have had poor coaching; or have gotten by on raw athleticism instead of technique; or have a draft status that doesn't portend much. 

    For whatever reasonwhether the individual is a rookie or a veteranchange is necessary for him to earn his stripes. 

    Athletes mature at different rates, and each enters a different situation that can help or hurt the process. 

    With that in mind, each NFL franchise's most intriguing project player this offseason could come from anywhere. But those listed worked their way into a potentially key role for their respective squads, whether as a starter or significant contributor based on their current rate of development. 

    Expectations continue to grow for these projects.


Arizona Cardinals: WR Kevin White

1 of 32

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Kevin White's career has never gotten off the ground.

    The 2015 seventh overall pick has played in only 14 games due to injuries, including a stress fracture in his shin in 2015, a fractured fibula in 2016 and a broken shoulder blade in 2017. He had a string of healthy scratches in 2018 before the Chicago Bears decided to not re-sign him. 

    But the Arizona Cardinals are the best possible destination for White because Kliff Kingsbury's offensive system should open up opportunities for him.

    "I know people who coached him in college—very close with those guys—and they speak the world of him and that's what we've seen," Kingsbury said, per Kellan Olson of Arizona Sports 98.7. "Hardworking, focused, wants to be great, has a lot to prove, obviously, and has a great skill set. That big (6'3", 216 pounds) and that fast (4.35-second 40-yard dash), so we're excited to see what he can be out here."

Atlanta Falcons: WR Russell Gage

2 of 32

    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons already feature the league's premier wide receiver corps. With the way Russell Gage is developing, the group can get even better. 

    Of course, the trio of Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley are set, and they're dynamic. Meanwhile, Gage is coming on strong as the team's fourth option. 

    Head coach Dan Quinn called Gage's development over the past year "significant," according to William McFadden of the Falcons official site. 

    The 2018 sixth-round pick became a special teams standout in his first season, but he only caught six passes for 63 yards. As he continues to grow, Gage can provide depth to all three receiver positions in case of injury. 

    The second-year receiver's versatility and special teams flexibility (he even played some defense during last year's rookie minicamp) will provide the Falcons with even more quality depth. 

Baltimore Ravens: QB Trace McSorley

3 of 32

    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    Normally, a third-string quarterback barely warrants notice. Numerous organizations keep two signal-callers on the roster. But the Baltimore Ravens believe they can do more with this year's sixth-round pick, Trace McSorley. 

    General manager Eric DeCosta said he envisions McSorley as a three-phase contributor during an interview with Mike Florio on PFT Live

    "I think he's a football player and everything that entails. His skill set is varied and multiple. He's fast, he's strong, he's tough, he's a playmaker, he's a football player. We've seen teams, for instance the New Orleans Saints with Taysom Hill, we've seen other teams find ways to play with players like this and they can help you win football games. He fits our defense, he fits our offense, he fits special teams."

    McSorley should no longer be categorized as a quarterback; he's a multipurpose weapon. 

Buffalo Bills: TE Dawson Knox

4 of 32

    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills signed Tyler Kroft to a three-year, $18.8 million free-agent contract, but the tight end suffered a broken foot during the first day of organized team activities. As a result, the development of third-round rookie Dawson Knox should be expedited. 

    The quarterback-turned-tight end is more of a pure athlete than anything. Knox finished top four among this year's tight end prospects in SPARQ (speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness) testing, according to Three Sigma Athlete's Zach Whitman

    However, the convert never became a big part of the Ole Rebels offense with 39 receptions for 605 yards and no touchdowns over the last two seasons. 

    "I didn't feel like they used him to accentuate some of the things that he does well," Bills general manager Brandon Beane said, per NYUp.com's Matt Parrino. "... Some of the tight ends we think are truly just an F flex or some are just a Y that you really don't want to include in the passing game a lot. I do think that he is a dual threat." 

Carolina Panthers: OG Daryl Williams

5 of 32

    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    It's fair to say Daryl Williams' career hasn't gone quite as planned.

    Williams looked like a burgeoning elite right tackle in 2017 only to suffer a dislocated kneecap and torn MCL during the following training camp. The lineman tried to play through the pain but reinjured the same knee at the start of the 2018 campaign. 

    Then, the 26-year-old blocker entered free agency and received little interest. He re-signed in Carolina on a one-year deal worth a maximum of $6 million.

    "You want to see Daryl Williams because he’s had a great offseason and excited to see him back on the football field," head coach Ron Rivera said, per The Athletic's Joseph Person

    Change is coming, though. Instead of trying to reclaim his old starting spot, the Panthers coaching staff will move Williams to left guard where he'll compete for the job. 

    Williams must prove he can stay healthy and beat out Greg Van Roten to get his career back on track. 

Chicago Bears: TE Bradley Sowell

6 of 32

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Everyone loves a fat guy touchdown. The Chicago Bears are the team to watch in 2019 with Bradley Sowell's transition from offensive tackle to tight end. 

    Sowell thrilled fans with a two-yard, tackle-eligible touchdown in the Bears' 15-6 Week 14 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. 

    The Bears used Sowell as an oversized blocking tight end in heavy packages and decided to make the move permanent. 

    "It's not about the two-point play or a touchdown catch," head coach Matt Nagy said of the 312-pound target, per 670 the Score's Chris Emma. "It's what he showed in practice. We're going to test it out and see what he can do."

    The Bears lack a traditional inline option with Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen better suited to other roles within Nagy's scheme. Sowell gives the Bears a better option at the point of attack. 

Cincinnati Bengals: RB Trayveon Williams

7 of 32

    Gary Landers/Associated Press

    The Cincinnati Bengals appear set at running back with last year's fourth overall rusher, Joe Mixon, and a solid backup in Giovani Bernard. But Bernard is a free agent after the upcoming season, and Mixon could use more help.

    The fact that Cincinnati spent a pair of draft picks to select running backs shouldn't come as a surprise. One of those two impressed during minicamp. 

    Trayveon Willams proclaimed the "league will pay" after he fell to the sixth round. He already backed up the statement with a standout performance during minicamp. Williams led the SEC and finished third overall last season with 1,760 rushing yards. He's a slashing runner, who explodes through the hole. Williams also caught 66 passes during his collegiate career. 

    His skill set could effectively render Bernard obsolete in Zac Taylor's offensive scheme. 

    "I expect to have a day one impact," the rookie said, per Fox 19's Jeremy Rauch

Cleveland Browns: S Jermaine Whitehead

8 of 32

    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    When the Cleveland Browns signed nine-year veteran Morgan Burnett to a two-year, $7.5 million free-agent deal, the team's starting lineup appeared complete. 

    Unbeknownst to many, the Browns may not have needed Burnett to fill the perceived hole at strong safety with Jermaine Whitehead already on the roster. 

    Whitehead received first-team reps throughout organized team activities and mandatory minicamp, according to Cleveland.com's Jake Burns. The Browns coaching staff is also using Whitehead as the unit's big nickel defender

    "[He] takes control when he's out there," defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said, per the Akron Beacon-Journal's Nate Ulrich. "[He] knows how to really communicate and articulate the defense and get everybody on the same page."

    Even if Burnett starts, Whitehead will likely serve as Cleveland's third safety (alongside free safety Damarious Randall) in sub-packages. 

Dallas Cowboys: DE Dorance Armstrong

9 of 32

    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Dorance Armstrong provided little to no pass rush as a rookie. The Dallas Cowboys expect far more in 2019. 

    "He's climbing right now," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said during organized team activities, per Rob Phillips and David Helman of the team's official site. "You've probably seen him a little bit, but his speed is coming. I just think once you're in the second year in that system, it really starts kicking in." 

    Demarcus Lawrence is counted among the league's best young pass-rushers, and his recent $105 million contract extension reflects his status. But the Cowboys lacked a true bookend. The organization traded for Robert Quinn this offseason.

    A third edge presence is still needed with Armstrong possibly leapfrogging 2017 first-round pick Taco Charlton. 

    "In the past like Demarcus Lawrence, you look at their first year it was tough on him," director of player personnel Stephen Jones said of Armstrong, per the Dallas Morning News' Tyler Dragon. "They get in there, they get a full offseason, they get stronger and they make big jumps."

Denver Broncos: C Connor McGovern

10 of 32

    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Connor McGovern converted to center last season out of necessity after the Denver Broncos' starter, Matt Paradis, suffered a fractured fibula in Week 9 against the Houston Texans. 

    McGovern, who came into the league as an offensive tackle, moved from guard to center with mixed results. The 26-year-old blocker didn't grade well last season and allowed significant pressure, according to Pro Football Focus

    But the Broncos didn't add anyone to challenge McGovern. 

    "They kind of told me that there is a chance we bring in somebody and there is a chance we don't," McGovern said last month, per Aric DiLalla of the team's official site. "… Once free agency cleared itself up, then I focused solely on center." 

    The lack of competition places the Broncos in a precarious position. Either McGovern will improve or the Denver offensive front will struggle.

Detroit Lions: CB Teez Tabor

11 of 32

    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Teez Tabor's nickname is apt because his on-field game is a tease.

    The Detroit Lions spent a second-round pick on the cornerback two years ago, and he flashed. But Tabor hasn't fully realized his potential, though he tends to look great during offseason programs. According to MLive.com's Kyle Meinke, Tabor impressed the coaching staff with his "renewed commitment to learning the finer points of the position." 

    Of course, Darius Slay is the team's top cover man. General manager Bob Quinn also signed Justin Coleman and Rashaan Melvin in free agency before drafting Amani Oruwariye in this year's fifth round. 

    "Listen, I still have faith in him," Quinn said of Tabor in February, per Tim Twentyman of the team's official site. "He obviously hasn't played as much as I would've hoped. But I think we're not giving up on him." 

    Tabor showed improvement toward the end of the 2018 campaign, but his best role may be dime corner. 

Green Bay Packers: WR Jake Kumerow

12 of 32

    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    The Aaron Rodgers seal of approval is necessary to make (or break) a Green Bay Packers wide receiver. Jake Kumerow is well on his way to becoming a big part of the Packers offense, thanks to Rodgers. 

    "The key is ... his being reliable and earning my trust," Rodgers said last week, per Wisconsin State Journal's Jason Wilde. "I never feel like there’s been a real difficult recipe or plan. It's you know what you're doing; you're in the right spot at the right time; and you don't make repeat mental mistakes. And that is who Jake Kumerow is." 

    Beyond Davante Adams, each spot among Green Bay's wide receiver corps is up for grabs. Kumerow could go from an undrafted free agent four years ago and now on his third team to the Packers' second or third option. 

    Kumerow managed eight receptions for 103 yards in his second season with the Packers. Those numbers should drastically increase this fall. 

    "Obviously, I'm a big fan of him," Rodgers said. "I don't think I need to keep going on that."

Houston Texans: RB D'Onta Foreman

13 of 32

    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Houston Texans running back D'Onta Foreman is about to enter his third professional season, but he's closer to a rookie than an established veteran. 

    "Starting all over with a chip on my shoulder," the 23-year-old runner told the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson. "Coming with something to prove to everybody."

    Foreman suffered a torn Achilles tendon during his rookie campaign, which caused him to open the 2018 season on the physically unable to perform list. The second-year back returned in December but played in only one game. 

    Lamar Miller remains the Texans feature back, while the 236-pound Foreman can add some juice to the backfield. This is especially important after the team lost its primary backup, Alfred Blue, to the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency.

    "[Foreman] came back in great shape. He got leaner," Miller told reporters. "He came with a different approach this year. Missing all of last year, so now heading into his third year, he’s very comfortable with the offense."

Indianapolis Colts: TE Mo Alie-Cox

14 of 32

    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Mo Alie-Cox's transition from collegiate basketball player to NFL tight end received little fanfare. Usually, those projects draw attention considering the history of the position with Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham

    Alie-Cox, who signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2017, needed time to adjust. Plus, he's stuck behind arguably the league's best tight end duo in Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle. 

    "I am really excited about Mo's development because what I have even seen in the short time in Phase 2 when we get out there and start running routes, I really think he is really starting to develop as a route runner," head coach Frank Reich said, per Andrew Walker of the team's official site. "... I have already seen in three weeks of Phase 2 some really key indicators to me—I mean very tangible indicators that he can develop into a very good route runner as well."

    With Alie-Cox's development, the Colts can feature a 13 personnel package with all three tight ends on the field to create numerous mismatches.

Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Chris Conley

15 of 32

    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Chris Conley signed a modest two-year, $4.6 million free-agent deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars to bolster the team's wide receiver corps. Conley never posted more than 44 receptions in any of his four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, but continued development could make him the Jaguars' No. 1 wide receiver. 

    "We feel like Chris' best football hasn't come out yet," Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said, per the Florida Times-Union's Phillip Heilman. "We are excited about that."

    Right now, the Jaguars' wide receiver group is a mishmash of undefined options. How everything fits between Conley, last year's leading receiver Dede Westbrook, 2018 second-round pick DJ Chark Jr., Keelan Cole, the recently signed Terrelle Pryor Sr. and Marqise Lee, who is coming back from a devastating knee injury, will determine how effective Jacksonville's offense can be. 

    The Chiefs asked Conley to be a vertical threat opposite their top options. Now, Jacksonville needs the 26-year-old receiver to be much more. 

Kansas City Chiefs: WR Byron Pringle

16 of 32

    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Tyreek Hill's status for the 2019 campaigns remains undecided. With or without Hill in the lineup, the Kansas City Chiefs must develop a third option beyond Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce. Mecole Hardman is the obvious choice after the Chiefs traded up in the second round to snag the speedster. 

    However, an undrafted holdover from last season continues to impress. 

    "I thought Byron Pringle has done a great job thus far through the OTAs," wide receivers coach Greg Lewis told reporters. "He's played fast, he's played physical and he's plucking the ball out of the air and he's giving himself an opportunity to continue to make plays for us."

    Like Hill and Hardman, Pringle brings explosive speed to the group, but he continues to develop as an all-around target after spending last season on injured reserve. 

    "You can really see that he's playing with more confidence because he understands the playbook more with a year under his belt," quarterback Patrick Mahomes said, per WIBW's Tyler Greever.

Los Angeles Chargers: OL Forrest Lamp

17 of 32

    Josie Lepe/Associated Press

    Recent second-round picks don't usually fall under the project designation. Forrest Lamp isn't a typical second-round pick, though. 

    Lamp missed his rookie season with a torn ACL. Upon return, Michael Schofield earned the starting right guard spot, while Lamp continued to recover and played in only two games. 

    Two years later, draft status doesn't mean much because Lamp must earn a starting position.

    "He'll get reps with the ones," offensive line coach Pat Meyer said, per Chris Hayre of the team's official site. "We'll split reps with the ones, split reps with the twos. I'll flip him [to the] right [and] left side. We'll compete there, and if things work out like I think they will, I think he'll be fine being inside."

    If Lamp performs well, he could start at right guard and bump Schofield outside to tackle. Or Lamp, a collegiate left tackle, might receive the chance to unseat current right tackle Sam Tevi. 

Los Angeles Rams: NT Sebastian Joseph-Day

18 of 32

    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Rams expressed little interest in re-signing Ndamukong Suh.

    Instead, the Rams will rely on a rookie and second-year holdover at nose tackle. This year's fourth-round pick, Greg Gaines, is an important component to the Rams' defensive interior. Yet, last year's 195th overall pick, Sebastian Joseph-Day, grew and improved throughout his first campaign and now has a chance to claim the starting job. 

    "I think especially Sebastian Joseph-Day has really stepped up," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said, per Cameron DaSilva of USA Today's Rams Wire. "We thought he had potential last year, he kept working at it through the year. He's a real strong, powerful guy inside, so he's stepped in there and looked good this spring, so we’re looking forward to him coming through the second year, too." 

    Joseph-Day doesn't have to be Suh; he just needs to take some pressure off Aaron Donald.

Miami Dolphins: WR Preston Williams

19 of 32

    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Preston Williams displayed first-round talent during his final collegiate season yet went undrafted due to a sordid history that included a transfer and guilty plea to an assault charge involving his then-girlfriend. 

    Williams, who didn't receive a combine invite due to his legal history, underwhelmed at Colorado State's pro day, too. The 6'5", 218-pound target ran a 4.55-second 40-yard dash and posted pedestrian explosion numbers, according to the Coloradoan's Kelly Lyell

    The Miami Dolphins overlooked these issues and signed Williams as an undrafted free agent. 

    "He's definitely a guy that, as a quarterback, you take notice at some of the plays that he's making," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said, per the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Christian Simmons. "Like I said, great plays and boneheaded plays. We have to find a consistency there, but he certainly has enough talent to do it."

    Williams finished fourth overall among FBS targets last season with 1,345 receiving yards, and the Dolphins have already seen flashes of his massive potential. 

Minnesota Vikings: WR Chad Beebe

20 of 32

    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings are set with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs as the offense's top two wide receivers. The third option remains up for grabs, and the unheralded Chad Beebe seems destined for the role. 

    "He has had probably as good an offseason as any player that I know on our side of the ball," assistant head coach Gary Kubiak said, per the St. Paul Pioneer Press' Dane Mizutani. "He's got a chance to be a really good player for us. It gives us flexibility to bounce around personnel-wise."

    The opportunity exists because Laquon Treadwell is a first-round disappointment. In three years, Minnesota's top pick from the 2016 draft managed only 56 receptions for 517 yards and a single touchdown. Treadwell isn't guaranteed to make the Vikings roster this fall. 

    Beebe is a smooth route-runner and reliable option. But he's currently dealing with a tweaked hamstring. Even so, his roster status doesn't appear to be in any trouble. 

New England Patriots: TE Matt LaCosse

21 of 32

    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Forget Rob Gronkowski. That will be difficult, but he retired and may not return at some point this fall. The New England Patriots must operate like he's never coming back. 

    Benjamin Watson's re-signing serves a good starting point for the tight end position, but the 38-year-old veteran is suspended for the first four games of the season after a failed drug test. 

    As a result, the Patriots have turned to Matt LaCosse as their No. 1 tight end. LaCosse signed a two-year, $2.8 million free-agent deal after he caught 24 passes for 250 yards last season with the Denver Broncos. Before that, the 26-year-old tight end bounced around the league, with four different stops in his first three seasons. 

    Now, he's being thrust into a prominent position. 

    "If you need me on the line, if you need me to block, if you need me in the backfield, if you need me out wide. Special teams," LaCosse said, per the Providence Journal's Mark Daniels. "I'm just a multiple player that's willing to do whatever the team needs me to do." 

New Orleans Saints: S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

22 of 32

    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Chauncey Gardner-Johnson can be an all-or-nothing performer. Even still, the New Orleans Saints plan to use their fourth-round pick all over the field. 

    "Wherever they put me at, I said that my first day in here, I don't really care," the rookie told reporters. "I'll go out there and play football. They can have me at safety and nickel the whole time, (or) if they want me at corner I'll go play corner."

    Last season, Gardner-Johnson primarily covered the slot for the Florida Gators and allowed an impressive 45.4 passer rating into his coverage, according to Pro Football Focus. He is also highly aggressive, which causes him to take poor angles and miss tackles at times.

    At first, he'll challenge for the starting nickel role. Even if the first-year defensive back doesn't take the job from veterans Patrick Robinson and P.J. Williams, Gardner-Johnson can serve as a big nickel or extra safety in different sub-packages.

New York Giants: WR Darius Slayton

23 of 32

    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The composition of the New York Giants wide receiver corps is quite odd. 

    Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard are the team's top two options, but both are more effective working out of the slot than they are outside the numbers. Furthermore, tight end Evan Engram is basically an oversized slot receiver. 

    The Giants must find a target who consistently threatens defenses on the outside as a vertical threat. This year's second fifth-round draft selection, Darius Slayton, has the size (6'1", 190 lbs) and speed (4.39-second 40-yard dash) to serve as the unit's X-receiver. Slayton already earned first-team reps during organized team activities. 

    "He's done a really good job," head coach Pat Shurmur told reporters. "I think we were all here during rookie minicamp when he had the yips, drops and whatnot. He's really smoothed it out and has been making plays."

    Slayton provides another option to a group that's still trying to define its roles. 

New York Jets: LB Jachai Polite

24 of 32

    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

    Two different versions of Jachai Polite exist. 

    The first can be found on last year's Florida Gators film, in which the edge-rusher displayed devastating first-step quickness and a relentless motor. Then the predraft process started, and Polite bombed each test. The defensive end showed immaturity and a lack of work ethic and didn't look anything like the on-film athlete anyone was used to. 

    As a result, the first-round talent fell to the third round, and the New York Jets took a chance on his natural ability. 

    "Whatever happened in the past is irrelevant to me," Jets head coach Adam Gase said, per NJ.com's Darryl Slater. "Moving forward, it’s going to be on him to do the right things—and to worry about what he can control, which is showing up every day, being on time, knowing what he needs to do, go out there and practice hard."

    The Jets are searching for a bookend to Jordan Jenkins. If Polite returns to form, he will have been well worth the risk. 

Oakland Raiders: TE Darren Waller

25 of 32

    John Hefti/Associated Press

    Jared Cook's free-agent departure might have helped, not hurt, the Oakland Raiders. Yes, he led the Raiders in receptions, receiving yardage and touchdowns last season, but the Raiders have big plans for last year's backup, Darren Waller. 

    "Since the time he's walked in here, he's been one of the most impressive guys on our team," head coach Jon Gruden said last month, per The Athletic's Jimmy Durkin. "... He's extremely talented. I think he's going to be one of the best-kept secrets in the league. I really believe he's got a future if he keeps working like he is."

    The Baltimore Ravens drafted the converted wide receiver in the sixth round in 2015. Waller played sparingly in his first two seasons before he was suspended for the 2017 campaign due to a second violation of the league's substance-abuse policy.

    Oakland plucked Waller off of the Ravens practice squad in November. Now, the Raiders are ready to anoint him their starting tight end. 

Philadelphia Eagles: DE Josh Sweat

26 of 32

    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    The defensive line plays a large part in the Philadelphia Eagles' success.

    The group took a couple of hits this offseason, though, with Chris Long's retirement and Michael Bennett's trade to the New England Patriots. Other players will have to step into significant roles this fall. 

    Philadelphia re-signed Vinny Curry to play behind projected starters Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett. The front office drafted Shareef Miller in this year's fourth round as well. 

    Josh Sweat, a 2018 fourth-round pick, should be primed for a bigger role after he played in nine games as a rookie. He continues to add weight—he plans to play near 270 pounds after weighing 251 coming into the league—and has his sights set on becoming the defense's fourth defensive end. 

    "I've always thought I had what it took to [play] but I'm in a good place," Sweat told NJ.com's Mike Kaye. "I feel like I'll be in a big role." 

Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Sutton Smith

27 of 32

    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers' Sutton Smith is undersized and doesn't have a specific position, but he was arguably the best pure football player in this year's draft class after registering 56.5 tackles for loss and 29 sacks over the last two seasons. 

    At 6'0" and 232 pounds, Smith doesn't fit prototypical standards for an edge-rusher, so the coaching staff plans to use him in multiple roles, including on offense. Smith is learning inside and outside linebacker after playing standup defensive end in college, and he's getting reps at fullback. 

    "Things are going well with fullback. They are throwing me in a little bit more," Smith said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Tim Benz. "They don't want me to pick a position. They want me to learn both positions." 

    It's hard to keep someone like Smith off the field—whether he's playing defense, offense or special teams. 

San Francisco 49ers: S Tarvarius Moore

28 of 32

    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    The San Francisco 49ers drafted safety Tarvarius Moore in 2018's third round and immediately moved him to cornerback. The coaching staff transitioned him to his natural position this offseason.

    "When I told him, he just smiled," safeties coach Daniel Bullocks said, per NBC Sports' Matt Maiocco. "And after the first practice, I asked him, 'How did it feel?' He told me, 'It's good to be home.' He was excited."

    Moore played in every game during his rookie campaign, with two starts. While he should be more comfortable, the transition isn't automatic. The 49ers project the second-year defensive back as their starting back-line defender. 

    "There are going to be some hurdles for him learning free safety," Bullocks added. "You see the game differently. ... It’ll take him some time to get back in the groove because he hasn't played the position in a year."

Seattle Seahawks: LB Shaquem Griffin

29 of 32

    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks' Shaquem Griffin opened his 2018 rookie campaign as a starter before he gave way to the more experienced Mychal Kendricks a week later. But Week 1 showed the 23-year-old wouldn't be limited. Griffin spent the rest of the campaign as a core-four special team performer. 

    The Seahawks expect much more from the talented defender in his second year. The coaching staff plans to use Griffin in pressure packages where he's more comfortable as an edge-rusher. 

    "We see how much background he has on the edge," head coach Pete Carroll said, per John Boyle of the team's official site. "... He's gained a lot there [at safety and outside linebacker], but you can see him on the edge, in space and coming off the edge and pressures and stuff like that, that it’s a good spot for him. So he has had a very, very good offseason with us."

    With Frank Clark gone and Ziggy Ansah still recovering from shoulder surgery, Griffin can impact the Seahawks defense as a pass-rusher. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Scotty Miller

30 of 32

    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers feature one of the league's best wide receiver corps, but they lost last season's predominant slot receiver, Adam Humphries, to the Tennessee Titans in free agency. 

    With Mike Evans and Breshad Perriman working outside the numbers and Chris Godwin capable of playing out wide or in the slot, the Bucs needed another option to work the middle of the field. They chose Scotty Miller in the sixth round of April's draft to potentially fill the void. 

    Miller isn't the biggest target (5'11", 174 lbs), but he's lightning quick with a 4.39-second 40-yard dash. The MAC's leading receiver in 2018 continued to make plays the moment he stepped onto a professional practice field. 

    "He's made a play in every practice, whether it's in the red zone or all the way down the field," head coach Bruce Arians said, per Pewter Report. "He's bringing speed and a lot of compassion to the game." 

    In Arians' vertical passing attack, Miller's deep speed creates a different dynamic out of the slot. 

Tennessee Titans: OG Nate Davis

31 of 32

    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans decided to reset at guard this offseason. 

    Josh Kline and Quinton Spain combined to start 88 games over the last three seasons. Both left in free agency, while the Titans signed the top available guard in 31-year-old veteran Rodger Saffold. 

    Saffold will start at left guard, while multiple options will compete on the right side. Currently, Kevin Pamphile is projected to start, but third-round rookie Nate Davis will serve as the primary competition. The 316-pound neophyte is powerful at the point of attack yet lacks refinement, especially with his frog-like stance. 

    "He's been doing a great job," offensive line coach Keith Carter said, per AtoZSports Nashville. "... He's taking it one day at a time and making strides every day. [His stance has] been better. His butt's been up in his stance." 

    Davis is a work in progress, but he could be a starter sooner rather than later. 

Washington Redskins: CB Jimmy Moreland

32 of 32

    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Too often, a player is defined by inane characteristics. 

    For example, Washington Redskins cornerback Jimmy Moreland fell to the seventh round of April's draft because of a slight frame (5'10", 179 lbs) and a lower level of competition at James Madison. But an individual's skill set is far more important than a potential physical shortcoming or where he went to school. 

    Moreland is a premier ball hawk (18 collegiate interceptions and 63 passes defensed) who intercepted multiple passes during Washington's organized team activities. 

    "He has made his presence felt, without a doubt," head coach Jay Gruden said, per the team's official site. "He has a great idea of route concepts and breaking on the ball, obviously the ball skills." 

    Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau form a solid trio of veteran cornerbacks, but Moreland could earn the nickel corner role if he continues to make plays on the ball.