The 1 UDFA Turning Heads in Every NFL Team's Training Camp
Many undrafted rookies have a wow moment at training camp. Perhaps the player makes a specific play or strings together multiple standout practices. At times, one sequence during team drills can draw attention.
We often hear about Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay's rise up the depth chart to become a Pro Bowler in 2018, but don't forget about Gus Edwards, who led the Baltimore Ravens in rushing yards (718) last year or J.C. Jackson, who carved out a decent role within a competitive New England cornerback group.
All of them went from undrafted to a consistent game-day contributor.
High-end talents go undrafted for a variety of reasons: injury, limited college roles or off-field transgressions.
The under-the-radar success stories start in the summer, and several undrafted rookies have flashed in small glimpses but garnered just enough attention to warrant a watchful eye. Usually, offenses start quickly; so many wide receivers look spectacular at this time of the year.
Let's take a look at who's turned heads, for at least a moment, among first-year undrafted players.
Arizona Cardinals: QB Drew Anderson
Kyler Murray has been the primary focus at Arizona Cardinals training camp, but the team cannot overlook the opportunity to roster a serviceable backup.
The Cardinals signed quarterback Brett Hundley to potentially serve in the primary reserve role, but we shouldn't dismiss competition for the spot. Blake Murphy of Revenge of the Birds saw a significant difference between Drew Anderson and Chad Kanoff at practice, giving the former an edge.
"It's been pretty clear so far that not only does Anderson have a more accurate arm deep but that Kanoff's just not quite as accurate as he is overall. And Anderson playing in an air raid in college vs. Kanoff's pro style at Princeton (added under Mike McCoy) doesn't help," Murphy tweeted.
Jess Root of Cardinals Wire noted Anderson took third-team reps. With fresh faces in the quarterback room under a new coaching staff, we can't count Anderson out of the mix as the No. 2 quarterback to start the season. Hundley holds a four-year advantage in experience, but a strong preseason performance can flip the depth chart order.
Atlanta Falcons: WR Olamide Zaccheaus
Behind a strong wide receiver group that features Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley, the Atlanta Falcons may have room for an impressive undrafted rookie at the position.
The Athletic's Jason Butt had a front-row seat to Olamide Zaccheaus' strong showing during summer practices.
"Zaccheaus had an excellent catch in tight coverage on the sideline," Butt tweeted. "He's someone to keep an eye on this preseason. Undrafted rookie out of UVA has made some plays in the early going of camp."
As is the case with most teams, late-round and undrafted wide receivers can increase their chances of making the final roster if they can contribute to special teams; Zaccheaus checked that box, and head coach Dan Quinn took note, per CBS19's Preston Willett.
"What we come to find out, like all the details he knows, he can play multiple positions on offense; he downed a punt inside the five-yard line," Quinn said.
Zaccheaus racked up 3,304 yards from scrimmage as a pass-catcher and ball-carrier; he also returned kicks and a handful of punts at Virginia. That versatility gives him a legitimate shot to make the final cut.
Baltimore Ravens: WR Antoine Wesley
The Baltimore Ravens revamped their wide receiver group to build around quarterback Lamar Jackson. Rookie wideouts Marquise Brown (first round) and Miles Boykin (third round) will garner the most attention at training camp because of their draft statuses.
Still, head coach John Harbaugh told reporters that Antoine Wesley has gained respect from his peers.
"Harbaugh said a lot of the DBs have told him how impressed they are with Wesley, who has been making plays since rookie minicamp," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec tweeted.
Wesley put together a breakout junior campaign at Texas Tech, recording 88 receptions for 1,410 yards and nine touchdowns, hitting his stride before going undrafted. At 6'4", 206 pounds, he could become a viable big-bodied target similar to the 6'4", 220-pound Boykin.
Wesley's preseason performance will likely determine if he grabs the No. 4 wide receiver spot or lands on the practice squad.
Buffalo Bills: WR Nick Easley
The Buffalo Bills made a concerted effort to upgrade the wide receiver group, signing John Brown and Cole Beasley. As with Robert Foster out of Alabama last year, the offense may have an undrafted talent who catches on as the season progresses.
According to The Athletic's Joe Buscaglia, Nick Easley has shown some flashes, while his fellow wideouts haven't done much to separate themselves from the pack.
"Easley has also provided some spark with the third-team offense," Buscaglia wrote. "Isaiah McKenzie, Duke Williams and David Sills V have all faded into the background at camp."
At Iowa, Easley logged 103 receptions for 1,024 yards and nine touchdowns in two years. He's not a big-play receiver, but the 5'11", 203-pound wideout can potentially handle snaps behind Beasley in the slot.
Carolina Panthers: S Corrion Ballard
As a 2018 third-rounder, Rashaan Gaulden will have a clear pathway to the starting safety position alongside Eric Reid, but the Carolina Panthers need more than Tre Boston for depth.
Last season, safety Colin Jones only played 97 defensive snaps as a reserve. The group could use another high-energy playmaker, as the veteran is going into his age-32 campaign. According to Bill Voth of the team's official website, Corrion Ballard left an impression with a play on the ball at practice.
"After coaches allowed full contact for the final rep of a nine-on-seven drill, Ballard popped the ball away from fifth-round running back Jordan Scarlett," Voth wrote. "There was much rejoicing by the defense."
Ballard could make a name for himself fairly quickly at a position that lacks depth. Furthermore, he may have a chance at a prominent role if Gaulden falters as a starter.
Chicago Bears: OLB Chuck Harris
The Chicago Bears may have another edge-rusher from Buffalo on the roster in the upcoming season. Khalil Mack rose to prominence out of the MAC program and became an elite NFL talent. Chuck Harris doesn't enter the league with comparable expectations, but he's already garnered some attention at Chicago's practice site.
"This is not a team that has much room for undrafted rookies to make the final roster," Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic wrote. "That's a good thing. Still, the Bears have a lot of UDFAs in Bourbonnais, and one of the better prospects is Harris."
Fishbain mentioned Harris' bond with Mack, and like the three-time All-Pro, he'll have to transition from being a defensive end with his hand in the dirt to a standing pass-rusher in the Bears' 3-4 base scheme.
Harris registered 149 total tackles, 22.5 for loss and 12 sacks in college. If he remains productive at his new position, the Bears could slot him into a backup role behind his fellow Buffalo alum.
Cincinnati Bengals: WR Damion Willis
The Cincinnati Bengals will need some wide receivers to elevate their performances in the coming weeks. Head coach Zac Taylor told reporters A.J. Green would miss regular-season games after he underwent "minor" ankle surgery, a detail NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noted.
Wide receiver John Ross suffered a hamstring ailment and could miss two weeks, per Geoff Hobson of the team's official website.
Because of the injuries, we could see more of Damion Willis through the first couple of preseason games. According to The Athletic's Paul Dehner Jr., he's carried over his momentum from spring sessions into training camp.
"I'm really impressed with Willis. We mentioned him after he put together a really nice string of plays during the June minicamp. He was all over the place Sunday making plays. He's got speed, running a 4.5, made a boatload of contested catches at Troy and bulked up to about 10-12 pounds to 203 on his 6-3 frame since his last college season while maintaining his speed."
At a listed 6'3", 204 pounds, Willis can pass for a big-bodied target on the field, which may be instrumental in grabbing a quarterback's attention. If he continues to haul in targets, the Troy product could become an unheralded gem in 2019.
Cleveland Browns: LB Willie Harvey
At times, players can draw attention with pure energy, especially at linebacker—a role in which defenders cannot hesitate in their pursuits.
Browns Wire caught a glimpse of an undrafted rookie's vigor at practice and tweeted: "Willie Harvey can hit. Lots of energy from the UDFA LB."
That short, simple assessment underscored Harvey's play style at Iowa State; he recorded 152 solo tackles, 31.5 for loss and 13 sacks through four seasons. The 5'11" 230-pounder made stops as a reliable tackler in traffic and the open field.
The Browns selected linebackers Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson in the third and fifth rounds, respectively, so Harvey will have a difficult route to a roster spot. Yet, the coaching staff may plug him into the special teams unit to utilize his quickness and tackling ability.
Dallas Cowboys: WR Jon'Vea Johnson
Jon'Vea Johnson's buzz started in the spring, but he's continued to beat in-house competition at training camp.
David Helman of the Dallas Cowboys' official website noted Johnson and Jalen Guyton left defenders several steps behind Monday. Both added encores Tuesday, per Rob Phillips, who also writes for the club's website.
We'll focus on Johnson since chatter about him goes back to organized team activities and mandatory minicamp. He's a big-play receiver who averaged 18.1 yards per reception at Toledo. Based on camp observations, the 6'0", 192-pound pass-catcher has a solid pair of hands.
Since the Cowboys released Allen Hurns, Johnson should have a chance to claim the fourth or fifth wide receiver spot, pending Tavon Austin's future with the team.
Denver Broncos: WR Trinity Benson
As wideout Emmanuel Sanders continued to recover from a torn Achilles, he had an opportunity to observe an undrafted rookie who mirrors some of his abilities.
"Sanders said 'TB has been doing well,' said Trinity Benson reminds him of himself when he was younger," Joe Rowles of Mile High Report tweeted.
At 6'0", 180 pounds, Benson can fly down the field, using quick cuts to separate from defenders, which sounds similar to Sanders. He registered 133 receptions for 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns at East Central University.
Because of his quickness, Benson also took handoffs out of the backfield and handled return duties on special teams. If he can't lock down a spot at wide receiver, the Broncos can utilize his speed on special teams.
Detroit Lions: DL Kevin Strong
The Detroit Lions opened training camp with multiple defensive linemen nursing or recovering from injuries, including Da'Shawn Hand (elbow), Trey Flowers (shoulder) and Damon Harrison, who's on the NFI list.
In the meantime, defensive lineman Kevin Strong took full advantage of his reps with the first unit, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press:
"Strong tore through the first-team offensive line with a nice blitz during one 11-on-11 period, but where he really excelled was in one-on-one pass-rush drills. While the Lions' offensive line dominated the drill overall, Strong was the most effective of the defensive linemen. ... Strong's reps came at both the defensive tackle and defensive end positions."
Lining up on the inside and outside, Strong displayed his versatility, which has become a staple for defensive linemen under head coach Matt Patricia.
When the starters return to the field, Strong will likely move back to second- and third-team duties, but the UTSA product put himself on the radar with his performance against the starting offensive line.
Green Bay Packers: WR Darrius Shepherd
Several wide receivers left their marks early in training camp, but Darrius Shepherd may have been one of the biggest eye-openers. He burned two cornerbacks in separate reps during one-on-one drills for the Green Bay Packers.
"Shepherd gets a ton of space against Jaire Alexander in red-zone 1-on-1s. Shepherd made Will Redmond slip before catching a TD on his last rep," The Athletic's Matt Schneidman tweeted.
The San Francisco 49ers selected Redmon in the third round of the 2016 draft; he suited up for five contests with the Packers last season. Alexander seems well on his way to becoming a solid starter in the secondary after leading the team in pass breakups (11) in 2018.
We're just talking about practice, but Shepherd has already shown the ability to separate from cornerbacks with a higher draft pedigree, and in Alexander's case, a probable starter. The North Dakota State product has a slim pathway to a roster spot at a crowded position, but he may be too talented to stash on the practice squad.
Houston Texans: WR Tyron Johnson
Houston Texans wide receivers have struggled to stay healthy in recent years. Will Fuller V has missed 17 contests in three seasons. Keke Coutee battled a hamstring injury, which limited him to six appearances during his rookie campaign.
As Vyncint Smith did last year, the Texans may have a rookie undrafted wide receiver claim a roster spot. This time, Tyron Johnson has turned heads during the spring and early portion of the summer, per Football Maven's Patrick D. Starr.
"Johnson, the rookie wide receiver out of Oklahoma State, has continued to move up the pecking order of wide receiver depth chart. His track started during rookie mini-camp and continued to training camp; his versatility to play both the X and F positions make him an intriguing player. Johnson has shown he understands the offense and is catching the football at a decent clip."
If Smith makes the roster in September, Johnson would slot into the fifth wide receiver spot with DeAndre Hopkins, Fuller and Coutee in the top three positions.
As quarterback Deshaun Watson develops into a premier playmaker, the front office has added options to the passing game, but they must stay healthy. Johnson doesn't have a history of major injuries, but his 6'1", 193-pound frame has to withstand the rigors of the pro level.
Indianapolis Colts: CB Shakial Taylor
The Indianapolis Colts double-dipped at cornerback during the 2019 draft, selecting Rock Ya-Sin and Marvell Tell III in the second and fifth rounds, respectively. The latter played safety at USC, but the coaching staff has shifted his focus to corner.
The Colts have another rookie cornerback pushing to make the 53-man roster. Shakial Taylor flashed his coverage ability and toughness on the first day of training camp, per the Indianapolis Star's Joel A. Erickson.
"Cornerback is a crowded position with a lot of depth, but undrafted free agent Shakial Taylor might be one to watch as training camp progresses," Erickson wrote. "Taylor broke up a pass to Parris Campbell early—although he took Campbell to the ground, a no-no in a padless practice—and also made a remarkable play to break up a screen."
Taylor registered 29 solo tackles, three interceptions and two pass breakups during his senior season at Kansas. He's a long shot to make the late-summer cut, but the former Jayhawk possesses potential if given opportunities to prove himself.
Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Tyre Brady
Do the Jacksonville Jaguars have another Keelan Cole on the roster—a wide receiver who goes undrafted but makes a big splash in his rookie campaign?
Cole didn't look as impressive during his second season, but the Jaguars offense, as a whole, took a step backward, dropping from fifth in scoring in 2017 to 31st last year.
As quarterback Blake Bortles did two years ago, Nick Foles may have a solid target who rises from obscurity to claim a major role in the passing game. According to Christopher Thornton of Locked on Jaguars, Tyre Brady's sticky hands stood out on Day 4 of the team's training camp.
"Brady hauled in almost every pass that came his way and made the most of all of his reps in today's practice, including this long ball from QB Tanner Lee, captured by the Jaguars social media team," Thornton wrote.
Wideout DJ Chark Jr., a 2018 second-rounder, may have higher expectations going into the upcoming campaign because of his draft status, but Brady could steal the spotlight in the next few weeks.
Kansas City Chiefs: CB Mark Fields
The Kansas City Chiefs have two bona fide starters at cornerback, Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller. Charvarius Ward could grab one of the top three spots, but he's still unproven with only 139 defensive snaps on his pro resume. He'll likely face competition throughout the preseason.
BJ Kissel of Chiefs.com noted Mark Fields' solid showing in one-on-one drills.
"Fields continues his strong start to #ChiefsCamp. The former Clemson Tiger just made a great play on a slant in 1-on-1. No safety. Pure 1-on-1. Broke on play and knocked down the pass," Kissel tweeted.
At Clemson, Fields displayed quickness and physicality, but he was mostly as a reserve through four years. The former Tiger ran a 4.37-second 40-yard time at the NFL Scouting Combine. When you consider his speed and the glimpses of his coverage ability, he's an intriguing undrafted rookie.
Los Angeles Chargers: WR Jason Moore
The Los Angeles Chargers will close ranks at wide receiver after allowing Tyrell Williams to walk in free agency. On the back end of the depth chart, behind Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Travis Benjamin, Jason Moore will have a chance to leapfrog or slot behind Geremy Davis, who's spent the last three years with the club.
"Moore and [Fred] Trevillion are quite intriguing," Borquez wrote. "Both players are deep threat with some size to be able to jump above defenders to make plays."
Moore registered 204 receptions for 3,217 yards and 39 touchdowns at Findley. The 6'3", 213-pound prospect could carve out a small receiving role on offense and develop into a playmaker in the coming years.
Los Angeles Rams: RB Matt Colburn
Following Todd Gurley's light workload in Super Bowl 53 (10 carries, 35 yards), the running back goes into the upcoming season with uncertainty concerning his workload and health. He's insisted that his knee is "good."
However, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport suggested the 25-year-old's time as a "straight-up, every-down bell cow are probably over."
The Los Angeles Rams added new faces to the running back room, selecting third-rounder Darrell Henderson in this year's draft and signing Matt Colburn as an undrafted free agent. They'll join Malcolm Brown, John Kelly and Justin Davis in vying for backfield roles.
According to Myles Simmons of the Los Angeles Rams' official website, the undrafted rookie made his presence felt on special teams. "Colburn demonstrated his potential value by bursting down the field as a gunner more than once," he wrote.
Colburn isn't likely to jump Henderson or Brown because of draft pedigree and experience, but he could earn a spot covering kicks. If the Wake Forest product excels in that role, the coaching staff may give him a few opportunities on offense.
Miami Dolphins: CB Montre Hartage
Montre Hartage's name has come up in multiple practices, having been cited as a playmaker near the football.
On the first day of the Miami Dolphins' training camp, Hartage picked off a pass in the red zone, per Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel. The Palm Beach Post's Joe Schad thought the Northwestern product stood out two days later, tweeting about a pass breakup on a throw to tight end Mike Gesicki.
Hartage isn't a stranger to tracking the football. He posted impressive collegiate numbers, logging 140 solo tackles, nine interceptions and 26 pass breakups in four seasons.
The Dolphins signed cornerback Eric Rowe, who's familiar with head coach Brian Flores because of their shared time in New England. He could take on a prominent role opposite Xavien Howard, but a new coaching staff with a fresh perspective on roster holdovers gives Hartage an opportunity to land a back-end spot. ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe projected him as a keeper in September.
Minnesota Vikings: RB Khari Blasingame
The Minnesota Vikings selected running back Alexander Mattison in the third round to complement Dalvin Cook on the ground, but the rushing offense may have found a lead blocker, pass-catcher and short-yardage tailback in Khari Blasingame.
Through training camp, offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski seems pleased with Blasingame's strides, per Craig Peters of Vikings.com:
"He catches the ball extremely well, which has been impressive. ... We're lining him up in different positions because when you get out here and your roster numbers are a little bit low, we're going to have to line him up at a few different places, and he hasn't missed a beat. I've been impressed with him.
The Athletic's Arif Hasan tweeted about Blasingame's strong showing in a one-on-one pass-protecting drill with pads. At 6'0", 233 pounds, he scored 17 touchdowns in four years at Vanderbilt. The rookie could pressure C.J. Ham for his spot at fullback during the preseason.
New England Patriots: WR Jakobi Meyers
Rookie first-rounder N'Keal Harry will have eyes and cameras following his every move at training camp. The New England Patriots invested a first-round pick in him, and without Rob Gronkowski's presence in the red zone, the 6'4", 225-pounder can help compensate for the tight end's absence.
At 6'2", 200 pounds, Jakobi Meyers also brings size to the pass-catching group. He started his collegiate career at quarterback and converted to full-time wide receiver during his redshirt freshman season in 2016. The North Carolina State product caught 168 passes for 1,932 yards and nine touchdowns in three years.
"Meyers also had snaps with [Tom] Brady on the field," Daniels wrote. "That's a good sign for an undrafted player, and it's always noteworthy when an undrafted player lines up with projected starters."
As Daniels points out, we shouldn't take Meyers' reps with Brady lightly. If the two continue to build a rapport in the coming weeks, the Patriots wide receiver corps could feature two rookies.
New Orleans Saints: WR Emmanuel Butler
When an undrafted rookie steps to the podium to speak after practice at training camp, that's a sign he's doing something right. Emmanuel Butler talked about his relationship with quarterback Drew Brees and the drive to push himself this offseason.
ESPN.com's Mike Triplett heard the buzz surrounding Butler within the New Orleans Saints organization.
"Butler with the best catch of practice so far. Went up high in traffic to snag the pass from Taysom Hill. I heard that he impressed the team this summer. That should help, too," Triplett tweeted.
Butler became the first player at Northern Arizona to log 1,000-plus receiving yards in two seasons. In 2017, he suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him for all but two contests. The standout wideout registered 35 catches for 676 yards and seven scores last year.
At 6'4", 220 pounds, Butler could draw comparisons to former Saints wide receiver Marques Colston—a 6'4", 225-pounder who was a 2006 seventh-rounder out of Hofstra.
Wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith may emerge to claim the No. 2 wideout spot, but he may feel a push from Butler if the rookie continues to shine in the summer.
New York Giants: TE C.J. Conrad
The New York Giants wide receiver corps took a hit during training camp. Corey Coleman tore his ACL, Sterling Shepard broke his thumb, and the league suspended Golden Tate four games for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy.
Shepard continued to take part in team drills, and Tate will appeal his suspension, but Coleman won't suit up for the 2019 campaign. The Giants passing offense may need help from the tight end group.
According to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, C.J. Conrad has flashed in partnership with fellow rookie Daniel Jones in the aerial attack.
"Conrad’s best practice on June 5 included a couple touchdown catches from Jones and a few more completions downfield," Leonard wrote. "His chemistry with Jones, in addition to his playmaking, could bode well for Conrad’s ability to make the roster."
Evan Engram will lead the tight end group as a starter, but head coach Pat Shurmur may want to consider two pass-catchers at the position to give starter Eli Manning better options with a depleted wide receiver group.
Secondly, the Giants may plan ahead and keep Conrad on the 53-man roster because of his rapport with Jones, who will eventually take over for Manning under center.
New York Jets: WR Greg Dortch
Greg Dortch can provide an impact in two phases of the game: offense and special teams. According to The Athletic's Connor Hughes, he took the pole position in punt returns at training camp. In addition, the New York Jets didn't retain last year's primary returner, Andre Roberts, who signed with the Bills.
If Dortch flashes his speed as a returner, he could see some looks in the passing game as well. Hughes noted he stood out during Sunday's practice. "Tim White and Dortch, along with defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (working with the first-team defense), also turned heads," he wrote.
At 5'7", 173 pounds, Dortch isn't an imposing playmaker, but he'll twist his body to haul in difficult receptions. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein compared him to Jamison Crowder, who also signed with the Jets this offseason.
Perhaps Dortch will get an opportunity to take snaps in the slot while handling a majority of the return duties.
Oakland Raiders: RB Alec Ingold
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Oakland Raiders fullback Keith Smith could miss a few weeks because of a knee injury. In the grand scheme, that won't deal a major blow to the offense, but an undrafted rookie could claim a roster spot in the veteran's absence.
Alec Ingold didn't waste time in giving the coaching staff and spectators something to ooh and ahh about while soaking up first-team reps at practice.
"Ingold produces loud collision as [a] blocker on consecutive plays. Only thing louder, maybe, was RB coach Kirby Brown's celebration. Ingold working with starters as FB Keith Smith recovers from meniscus surgery," Las Vegas Review-Journal's Michael Gehlken tweeted.
Ingold helped clear the way for Wisconsin's dominant ground attack, which ranked sixth in the nation last season. As a collegian, he scored 17 touchdowns on the ground. He didn't show a lot in the passing game with the Badgers (14 catches for 185 yards and four touchdowns) but made the most of his opportunities.
If Ingold sticks, running back Josh Jacobs could see wider lanes behind the stout fullback (6'1", 242 lbs).
Philadelphia Eagles: DT Kevin Wilkins
The Philadelphia Eagles defensive line will look a bit different in the upcoming season. The front office traded Michael Bennett to the Patriots and signed Vinny Curry and Malik Jackson.
On the front line, the Eagles have an interior group that's stacked with talent. Fletcher Cox, Jackson and Tim Jernigan should be roster locks. Treyvon Hester, Hassan Ridgeway, Bruce Hector and Kevin Wilkins will battle for lesser roles.
As a rookie undrafted free agent, Wilkins has the most to prove, but NJ.com's Mike Kaye witnessed a gradual development in his game during recent practices. "Wilkins, who has shown signs of progress lately, produced a 'sack' on Kessler during 11-on-11 drills," he wrote.
At Rutgers, Wilkins only logged two sacks in four seasons. If he develops a set of pass-rushing moves on the interior, the 24-year-old could become a complete defender. Right now, he's likely destined for the practice squad, but steady strides toward the pocket would quickly change his outlook.
Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Tuzar Skipper
Since 2015, the Pittsburgh Steelers have ranked in the top 10 in sacks under defensive coordinator Keith Butler. The team's aggressive front has rattled quarterbacks with multiple pass-rushers on the interior and on the edge.
Defensive end Cameron Heyward has been a consistent presence on the inside; last year, outside linebacker T.J. Watt led the team in sacks with 13. Butler may have a new weapon to unleash off the edge.
Former Steeler and now television and radio broadcast analyst Tunch Ilkin saw something special in Tuzar Skipper during practices. He broke down the rookie's strengths for Steelers.com:
"He is really quick upfield, and he's got a great change of direction. He doesn't waste steps. He's a guy that's very, very efficient in his pass rush. He's got a nice body lean, so he'll get the edge. He's quick enough to get the edge. And he just has an uncanny anticipation of the snap count. That's what makes him so effective to me."
Skipper didn't flash his pass-rushing prowess until his final year at Toledo, when he registered 8.5 sacks. He doesn't have a big window of opportunity to make the roster with Watt, Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo likely locked into spots at the position, but the rookie can make a case with a strong summer.
San Francisco 49ers: TE Tyree Mayfield
Tight end George Kittle solidified himself as a star with his breakout 2018 campaign, registering 88 catches for 1,377 yards and five touchdowns. The San Francisco 49ers signed Levine Toilolo and selected Kaden Smith in the sixth round of this year's draft to bolster the position.
Behind the notable names and the draft pick, Tyree Mayfield flashed with the backups for a big play Sunday, per The Athletic's Matt Barrows:
"One of the longest pass plays of the day came during seven-on-seven drills when C.J. Beathard connected with Mayfield for a big gain down the right sideline. As we’ve written before, Mayfield, an undrafted rookie from Wyoming, is a sneaky choice for the 53-man squad because he does a little of everything, including playing fullback."
Like most undrafted players, versatility could only help in a push for a roster spot. Mayfield caught just 39 passes for 503 yards and three touchdowns through four years at Wyoming. So, a multifaceted role on offense could put him on the radar as an undrafted keeper in September.
Seattle Seahawks: WR Terry Wright
At Seattle Seahawks training camp, second-round rookie wideout DK Metcalf will have all eyes on him after his impressive combine performance.
Nonetheless, quarterback Russell Wilson has locked on to an under-the-radar pickup in Terry Wright during practices, hooking up with the undrafted rookie multiple times in one sequence, per NBCS Northwest's Joe Fann:
"The first completion came during the initial team period. Wilson found Wright near the right sideline on a 10-yard comeback route. Wright made the contested catch and impressively kept both feet in bounds. Wilson later hit Wright over the middle for a sizeable completion during 7-on-7 work. Wilson lofted a perfect pass over the outstretched arm of the man in coverage and hit Wright in stride."
Wright didn't post gaudy numbers in two years at Purdue, but he racked up chunk yardage during his senior campaign, logging 28 catches for 468 yards and five touchdowns. The former Boilermaker will battle for a back-end spot behind Tyler Lockett, Metcalf and Jaron Brown.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: S Lukas Denis
Some players make an impression within the first couple of practices; Lukas Denis fits in that category. According to Greg Auman of The Athletic, he snagged an interception on the second day of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' training camp sessions.
In Denis' case, we can't dismiss the play as a fluke. He logged seven interceptions as a junior at Boston College in 2017. Teams may have overlooked him because of his 4.64-second 40-yard dash time combined with a 5'11", 190-pound frame.
Nonetheless, defensive backs who can give their offense more possessions have a chance to land a long-term roster spot. Under a new coaching staff, the Buccaneers have few solidified roster spots in the secondary. Denis' ball-tracking skills could help him earn a solid role as a deep safety.
Tennessee Titans: RB Alex Barnes
Running back Derrick Henry suffered a lower leg injury at training camp. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Tennessee Titans don't seem concerned about the ailment. The starter's absence has allowed the backups to see more opportunities, though.
Thus far, head coach Mike Vrabel likes what he's seen from Alex Barnes, per John Glennon of The Athletic. Travis Haney, who writes for the same publication, thinks the undrafted rookie has a shot at a roster spot in September.
Barnes comes into the league as a bigger ball-carrier (6'0", 226 lbs) who can wiggle away from defenders in open space. Last year, he handled a large load at Kansas State, registering 256 carries for 1,355 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. The former Wildcat also flashed his pass-catching ability with 20 receptions for 194 yards. The rookie may push David Fluellen for his roster spot.
Washington Redskins: TE Donald Parham
Whether it's Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins or Colt McCoy under center for Washington, one of those quarterbacks could take advantage of a matchup between a 6'8", 243-pound tight end and a linebacker or safety.
Donald Parham isn't just a big body who towers over most of his teammates, though. He's hauled in multiple touchdowns at practice, per the Washington Post's Les Carpenter:
"…in four days of training camp practice, Parham has been hard to ignore, and not just because he stands a whole helmet taller than the rest of the team. On Sunday, the first day Washington's players were in full pads, he caught three touchdowns in red-zone drills — all on passes that no defender would have been able to bring in."
As you might have guessed, Parham played high school basketball before he became a tight end at Stetson. He captured program records in receptions (180), all-purpose yards (2,591) and receiving touchdowns (20).
Parham's hands and stature may be too valuable to pass up, especially with Jordan Reed's injury history and Vernon Davis going into his age-35 season.