Current NFL Players Who Could Lose Their Starting Roles on 2021 Draft Night

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2021

Current NFL Players Who Could Lose Their Starting Roles on 2021 Draft Night

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    While the 2021 NFL draft is loaded with excitement for rookies, fans and executives, incumbent pros aren't always so happy.

    Competition is a necessary part of any sport, but several returning starters will be on notice because of what happens in the first round Thursday night. They might actually watch as their future replacement has his name called.

    Looking at you, Jimmy Garoppolo.

    The selections are a product of B/R's Mock Draft Special with Connor Rogers. The order is alphabetical based on the NFL veteran, not the incoming rookie. Additionally, a returning starter is defined as someone who opened at least nine games in 2020.

Jon Bostic, LB, Washington

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    Throughout a seven-year NFL career, Jon Bostic has started in 77 of his 102 career appearances. Over the last two seasons, he's opened 31 of Washington's 32 games.

    Despite a couple of 100-tackle years from the soon-to-be 30-year-old, though, Washington should look to upgrade the position.

    And if Micah Parsons falls to No. 19, he'd better not reach No. 20.

    While he opted out of the 2020 season at Penn State, he'd amassed 191 tackles with 18.0 for loss and 6.5 sacks in two previous years. Parsons, who shifted from defensive end in high school to linebacker in college, also forced six fumbles.

    He would provide yet another pass-rushing force behind Chase Young and a great defensive line, but he'd stabilize the second level of the defense too.

Miles Boykin, WR, Baltimore Ravens

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    Miles Boykin may have ceded his starting role to free-agent signing Sammy Watkins anyway. But if the Baltimore Ravens target a wide receiver in the first round at No. 27, both Boykin and Watkins could be shifted to rotational reps.

    Boykin, a third-round pick in 2019, has started 24 games and appeared in all 32 during the last two seasons. However, he's totaled just 32 catches.

    Rashod Bateman, meanwhile, could excel on intermediate routes and offer a much-needed element to the Lamar Jackson-led offense. In three years at Minnesota, Bateman collected 147 receptions for 2,395 yards and 19 touchdowns.

    Boykin is a reasonable, inexpensive depth piece, but a receiver like Bateman has a much higher ceiling.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers

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    Scott Eklund/Associated Press

    If you exclude Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew IIwho started eight games in 2020Jimmy Garoppolo is the most obvious player in danger.

    After the San Francisco 49ers acquired him in 2017, Jimmy G looked like the long-term answer. However, a knee injury sidelined him in 2018. Though he helped the 49ers win the NFC in 2019, Garoppolo wasn't dominant. Then, he struggled in 2020.

    And, look, the Niners didn't send three first-rounders to the Miami Dolphins to take a non-quarterback with the No. 3 pick.

    Entering the draft, it's expected Jacksonville will take Trevor Lawrence before the New York Jets select Zach Wilson. San Francisco has a choice between Alabama's Mac Jones, North Dakota State's Trey Lance and Ohio State's Justin Fields.

    No matter the choiceand the latest rumors point to Jones or Lance, per ESPN's Todd McShayGaroppolo has a tenuous future in San Francisco. And in Rogers' mock, it's Lance.

Drew Lock, QB, Broncos

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Whether the Denver Broncos trade up as Rogers suggested or stay at No. 9, they have a tough decision. Are they committed to Drew Lock as a long-term starter, or should they capitalize on a deep quarterback class and take another?

    Lock has opened 18 games in the last two seasons. But he hasn't played well enough to establish himself as the starter or bad enough that it's abundantly clear Denver should move on.

    Still, if the Broncos view Fields as a better option, they should grab him. Rogers has Denver acquiring the No. 4 pick from the Atlanta Falcons for the No. 9 choice in the 2021 draft and two additional early-round selections.

    Fields is a true dual-threat talent who totaled 6,240 offensive yards and 78 touchdowns in 22 games at Ohio State.

Durham Smythe, TE, Miami Dolphins

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    If the Dolphins exit the first round without adding a pass-catcher, it would be stunning. Wide receiver DeVante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki are Miami's only players who topped the 400-yard mark last season.

    Kyle Pitts, though, is an awfully intriguing option.

    While his strengths are more comparable to a wideout's than a tight end's, the Florida product is a 6'6", 245-pounder with big-play ability. Pitts caught 43 passes for 770 yardsan excellent 17.9 per catchand 12 touchdowns in 2020.

    Pitts' arrival would move Durham Smythe, who started 13 games last year, into a complementary role.

    Most importantly, the Dolphins would add a legitimate weapon for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Smythe would still hold a valuable job as a short-yardage blocker and receiver.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Green Bay Packers

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    Given that a first-round receiver made sense in 2020 and the Green Bay Packers took a quarterback, maybe don't get too invested in this. It sure is appealing, though.

    Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a prime example of inconsistency. In any game, he'll have an impressive catch and a horrendous drop. He'll snatch a contested pass yet mishandle a simple hitch. Packers fans know all too well that MVS giveth, and MVS taketh away.

    To be sure, MVS has earned a role for Green Bay. Upgrading the position is nevertheless a sound strategy.

    Connor Rogers has Aaron Rodgers and Co. adding Rondale Moore at No. 29 to complement All-Pro wideout Davante Adams and Allen Lazard. Moore, a slot receiver, battled injuries at Purdue but caught 178 passes in only 20 games and is adept at pre-snap movement, which is an underrated part of Matt LaFleur's offense.

    Stacking the receiving corps for these later seasons of Rodgers' career should be a priority in Green Bay.

Greg Van Roten or Alex Lewis, OG, New York Jets

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    There's no question the Jets will target a quarterback at No. 2. Even if New York surprises the NFL world and grabs Fields, Jones or Lance over Wilson, it'll be a signal-caller.

    And the Jets need to protect him.

    New York received the Seattle Seahawks' first-round pick as part of the Jamal Adams trade last July. While the top-level offensive tackles will probably be off the board at No. 23, the Jets can bolster the interior with Oklahoma standout Creed Humphrey.

    Connor McGovern started at center last season but could shift to guard. Or, New York could keep McGovern up the middle and plug in Humphreya two-time first-team All-Big 12 playerat guard.

    Either way, one of Greg Van Roten and Alex Lewis will be in jeopardy of losing a first-string role. Both players performed poorly in 2020.

Greg Ward Jr., WR, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Rich Schultz/Associated Press

    Injuries pushed Greg Ward Jr. into the Philadelphia Eagles lineup last year, and the converted quarterback took advantage of his change. He caught 53 passes for 419 yards and six scores.

    But in an ideal world, he's a rotational piece. First-year head coach Nick Sirianni must bolster the receiving corps.

    If the draft falls nicely, Philadelphia could bring in Alabama speedster Jaylen Waddle at No. 12. He's an explosive target who averaged 18.9 yards on 106 catchesand scored three touchdowns on special teamsin 34 college games with the Crimson Tide.

    Waddle would strengthen a first-string unit otherwise expected to include Travis Fulgham and 2020 first-rounder Jalen Reagor.


    Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.