Unearthing Every NFL Team's Early Hidden Gem

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystOctober 2, 2021

Unearthing Every NFL Team's Early Hidden Gem

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    NFL players who make significant contributors without being on high-end contracts are crucial to their teams. 

    Expectations are already built for established veterans, top free-agent signings and first-round draft picks. They form a roster's throughline. 

    Outliers elevate a team's performance. 

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wouldn't have won the Super Bowl last season without a young secondary filled with non-Day 1 draft selections. The Kansas City Chiefs probably wouldn't have made the Super Bowl without the contributions of fourth-round safety-turned-cornerback L'Jarius Sneed. 

    These are but two examples of the hidden gems found within loaded rosters. Every team has an individual who has exceeded expectations this season.

    None of the players included were first-round picks or highly sought-after free-agent additions. They also have to have made a relatively big impact by playing 50 or more snaps through the first three games, though most have yet to reach full-time starting status.  

Arizona Cardinals: WR Rondale Moore

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    The Arizona Cardinals are loaded at wide receiver, and second-round rookie Rondale Moore makes the group even better. 

    DeAndre Hopkins is arguably the league's best wide receiver. A.J. Green is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, though he's toward the end of his career. Christian Kirk leads the team with 239 receiving yards. 

    Yet Moore is making the most of his opportunities. Moore ranks second on the squad with 183 receiving yards. He's second among rookies in passer rating when targeted, according to CBS Sports

    Moore, who also serves as Arizona's kick and punt returner, brings a different skill set to the team's wide receiver room. He's an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands.

Atlanta Falcons: CB Isaiah Oliver

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    Cornerback Isaiah Oliver has been a staple in the Atlanta Falcons defense the last two seasons. His performance this season is more of a "hiding in plain sight" situation. 

    Oliver started 28 games during the 2019 and '20 campaigns. He's being used differently now. New defensive coordinator Dean Pees employs the defensive back all over the field as the full-time nickel corner. 

    "He had a lot of the same traits those guys have, which is good for our system," Pees said, per ESPN's Michael Rothstein. "Because then I didn’t have to change the system just because I have a different guy inside that can’t do those things. I thought he could do those things."

    After a few years of struggling, Oliver has been placed in a position to succeed. He's taking advantage of being the versatile piece Pees requires in his scheme. 

Baltimore Ravens: C Bradley Bozeman

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    Bradley Bozeman is the constant along the Baltimore Ravens offensive line. 

    The 26-year-old blocker started every game at left guard in 2019 and '20. This offseason, the Ravens asked him to move back to center, where he played during his collegiate years. The transition has been seamless. 

    According to ESPN (h/t Sarah Ellison), Bozeman ranks No. 1 in pass-blocking win rate and ninth in run blocking. 

    Meanwhile, the Ravens' front five remains in flux. Ronnie Stanley is injured again. Alejandro Villanueva moved from right to left tackle. Ben Powers is now starting at left guard, though he didn't open the season in that role. Kevin Zeitler isn't playing particularly well at right guard.

    Bozeman is rock-solid at center, though.

Buffalo Bills: Edge A.J. Epenesa

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    The Buffalo Bills sunk first- and second-round picks into the defensive end position during this year's draft. Greg Rousseau has flashed while Boogie Basham has yet to play in his first NFL game. Despite those investments, A.J. Epenesa hasn't taken a step back. The opposite has occurred. 

    Last year's second-round pick is now the Buffalo Bills' most consistent pass-rusher as part of the team's four-man rotation, including Rousseau, Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes. 

    After a disappointing rookie year, Epenesa benefited from a full offseason and adding more bulk. The second-year defender now has a better understanding of what's asked of him. 

    "I've just seen a renewed commitment to the process and maybe a better understanding of what it takes to play at this level, what it takes to play in our defense, and what it takes to play on a down-in and down-out basis," head coach Sean McDermott told reporters of Epenesa. 

Carolina Panthers: TE Tommy Tremble

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    How excited are the Carolina Panthers about third-round rookie tight end Tommy Tremble? They traded veteran Dan Arnold as part of the deal that brought back cornerback CJ Henderson from the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

    Arnold was the Panthers' fourth-leading receiver through three games, and Tremble has only one catch. But it didn't matter. 

    "Tommy Tremble for me, when you talk about the draft, he was like this year's Jeremy Chinn," head coach Matt Rhule told reporters. "A guy who we thought could do a lot of different things."

    The 21-year-old should be featured more, particularly in the passing game. He came into the league as a stellar blocker and athlete with significant untapped potential. Now, no one is standing in his way to becoming a critical component of Carolina's offensive identity. 

Chicago Bears: Edge Jeremiah Attaochu

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    Pickings are slim for this year's Chicago Bears' hidden gem. 

    The Bears are coming off an embarrassing loss. Matt Nagy's seat is getting hotter after what appeared to be a horrible effort in building a proper game plan around the team's rookie quarterback, Justin Fields. 

    The defense might be a better place to look for someone deserving of a little more notoriety. 

    Chicago signed Jeremiah Attaochu to a two-year, $5.5 million free-agent contract this offseason to serve as its third outside linebacker behind Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. Attaochu quietly gets about a third of the snaps, playing strong against the run and providing some pressure off the edge. 

    If the Bears are going to plug the holes in what looks like a sinking ship, the defense will lead the way, and Attaochu will be a significant part of the group. 

Cincinnati Bengals: DT Josh Tupou

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    The Cincinnati Bengals have built a wall along their defensive interior. 

    They signed D.J. Reader to a megadeal last offseason. Larry Ogunjobi joined the team this offseason and has flourished at 3-technique. B.J. Hill came over via trade and registered three sacks in his first three contests with the franchise. 

    At 6'3" and 346 pounds, Josh Tupou may be the biggest of the bunch but he's also the most overlooked. Tupou is a holdover after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2017. He started seven games two years later. But the 27-year-old defender opted out of the '20 campaign. 

    Tupou has been a powerhouse upon his return. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the Bengals' highest-graded player through three games. Tupou may never be a true three-down defender, but he provides quality reps as part of Cincinnati's defensive tackle rotation. 

Cleveland Browns: RB Demetric Felton

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    Demetric Felton's inclusion skirts the parameters just slightly because he hasn't been a significant offensive threat for the Cleveland Browns. 

    To be clear, Felton is an offensive weapon who can line up in the backfield or as a wide receiver. He helps expand the Browns' playbook. His first NFL touchdown came on a beautifully designed screen in which Felton danced his way around and through the Houston Texans defense. 

    The sixth-round rookie's biggest contributions have come on special teams as Cleveland's primary returner. Felton leads the NFL with 129 punt return yards. How impressive is that? As a team, the Browns managed 115 punt return yards for the 2020 campaign. 

    An argument could be been made for Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. After all, he's the NFL's highest-graded linebacker, according to Pro Football Focus. But many viewed the reigning Butkus Award winner as a first-round talent before he inexplicably slipped into the second frame. Expectations were previously established and he's living up to those. 

Dallas Cowboys: RB Tony Pollard

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    Ezekiel Elliott is the game's highest-paid running back. The Dallas Cowboys must find ways to utilize their $90 million ball-carrier. With that said, backup Tony Pollard demands a larger usage rate. 

    A distinct difference can be seen between the two backs. Elliott is in better shape this season and moving well, but Pollard is far more explosive with the ability to create chunk plays, either as a runner or wide receiver. 

    In fact, Pollard leads all running backs with a 41 percent first-down conversion or touchdown rate when he touches the ball, per Pro Football Focus. His average of 6.8 yards per carry leads all running backs with 20 or more attempts. His 7.4 yards per carry on first down ranks second overall, according to CBS Sports' Jeff Kerr

    The Cowboys offense is loaded. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb form arguably the league's best wide receiver trio. Tight end Dalton Schultz is an emerging star. The offensive line is healthy and playing well. Elliott will get his, of course.

    Quarterback Dak Prescott has an embarrassment of riches that now includes Pollard as yet another weapon to utilize. 

Denver Broncos: RG Netane Muti

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    Right guard is problematic for the Denver Broncos because Graham Glasgow is dealing with a knee injury. Even when he's on the field, the 29-year-old veteran hasn't lived up to his contract after signing a four-year, $44 million free-agent contract last offseason. 

    The Broncos have viable alternatives, particularly with second-year blocker Netane Muti. 

    "I'm a fan of his," coach Vic Fangio told reporters Monday. "I think he's an NFL player. He can go in there and play guard any time we want. If he has to play some this week, he'll be ready."

    Muti played a combined 88 offensive snaps the last two weeks and performed well. The 2020 sixth-round pick is powerful at the point of attack and brings a different quality to the position. Muti could very well establish himself as the starter and eventually push the incumbent off the roster. 

Detroit Lions: WR Quintez Cephus

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    The Detroit Lions entered this season with the league's worst wide receiver corps. It may not be quite as bad as originally projected, though tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back D'Andre Swift lead the team in receptions and receiving yardage. 

    However, Quintez Cephus is tied with Hockenson with a pair of touchdown receptions. 

    "Q.C. has really come on. We all see it," head coach Dan Campbell said during training camp. "We feel like he's growing right in front of us. That's what you want these guys to do during this time."

    Detroit targeted Cephus 13 times through the first two weeks. He only had one ball thrown his way in Week 3. As long as the Lions are consistent in his usage, Cephus should be a solid option to help a suspect position group. 

Green Bay Packers: LG Jon Runyan

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    Quality offensive line depth isn't a luxury most teams have. The Green Bay Packers do. 

    Jon Runyan is an excellent swing lineman who has provided solid play in his two starts this season. 

    "Sometimes you write guys off and you don't think they can play [based on the preseason], and then they get in the regular season and they play really well. Jon Runyan is one of those guys," quarterback Aaron Rodgers told reporters. "When you look at some of the preseason film and you're wondering how he's going to do, and he's played really good the last couple weeks."

    Runyan isn't expected to stay at left guard once David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins are both healthy and ready to return to the lineup. Still, the Packers may have to find a spot for Runyan as an eventual starter. Right guard, maybe? 

Houston Texans: Edge Charles Omenihu

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    The Houston Texans aren't quite the disaster many expected them to be entering this season. Sure, they sport a 1-2 record and are down to, essentially, their third-string quarterback in third-round rookie Davis Mills. 

    Still, the squad is competitive and looks relatively well-coached. 

    J.J. Watt is the greatest player in the franchise's history. He asked for his release this offseason and the front office honored his request. No one will ever truly replace Watt. Despite that overbearing shadow, defensive end Charles Omenihu has performed well. 

    Omenihu can play base end in regular defensive packages and slide inside as a pass-rusher in sub-packages. The third-year defender has a penchant for getting into opposing backfields. Regular statistics may not back up his performance, but he's been disruptive.

Indianapolis Colts: Edge Tyquan Lewis

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    Kwity Paye has been exactly the type of edge presence the Indianapolis Colts wanted when they chose him with the 21st overall pick in April's draft. Unfortunately, the talented rookie is dealing with a balky hamstring that limits his participation. 

    "Right now, we got three starting ends. Which, thank God," defensive line coach Brian Baker said just prior to the start of the season. "I've got tremendous confidence in those guys equally, really."

    The comment speaks highly of both Al-Quadin Muhammad and Tyquan Lewis. The latter has been used as the third option, though. 

    Lewis, who helped fill in last week for Paye, is a tremendous run defender. He's also a capable pass-rusher with the versatility to line up as a 3-technique. Lewis may not be the same explosive edge defender as Paye, Muhammad or even Kemoko Turay, but he's an integral part of the squad's rotation. 

Jacksonville Jaguars: DT Adam Gotsis

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    Urban Meyer made his approach to team-building clear during the offseason. 

    "I always believe you build your team around the defensive line, and then you move backwardsso that's what we're going to do," the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach said, per John Oehser of the team's official site.

    When Meyer made the comment, he likely envisioned Josh Allen, K'Lavon Chaisson and Taven Bryan as the building blocks for the defensive front.  

    The 29-year-old Adam Gotsis probably wasn't a key component of the Jaguars' plans. The fact he re-signed with the team for just $1.1 million indicates as much. 

    However, Gotsis is tied for the team lead with two sacks despite not playing in Week 1. His three tackles for loss lead the squad. He's worked his way into a starting role and should remain there if he continues to play relatively well. 

Kansas City Chiefs: RG Trey Smith

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    Trey Smith is a rookie, but he throws around veterans on a regular basis. The sixth-round draft selection hasn't been overwhelmed. At the same time, he understands what makes a good lineman even better. 

    "[To be] quite frank with you, I've got a lot that I need to work on from, like, a mental standpoint," Smith told reporters. "Especially just being on the same page from a scheme standpoint. From a consistency factor, just being the same player I am, even when I'm at my most dominant and getting rid of the negative plays."

    Smith's draft status never reflected his actual ability. The 6'5", 329-pound lineman displayed first-round talent from the moment he stepped onto Tennessee's campus. Unfortunately, a discovery of blood clots in his lungs derailed his 2018 campaign. Smith returned to the field the following two seasons, but NFL teams remained wary. 

    The Chiefs took a chance on him, and early returns are very promising. 

Las Vegas Raiders: CB Nate Hobbs

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    The Las Vegas Raiders have struggled with some of their recent first-round decisions. Cornerback Damon Arnette is a perfect example.

    But the team has also hit on a few mid-draft selections. Nate Hobbs is following in the footsteps of Maxx Crosby, Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards. The Raiders selected their nickel corner with this year's 167th pick.

    "I feel like I'm gaining the coaches' trust and they're trusting me to play multiple spots," Hobbs said, per ESPN's Paul Gutierrez. "I'm gaining a lot of knowledge for the game. Nickel is like part linebacker, part DB. Sometimes I have gaps, sometimes I have to be in the fit. ... As long as I continue trying to play fast, it will be good."

    According to Pro Football Focus, Hobbs is the league's highest-graded rookie corner and allows only 4.8 yards per reception.

Los Angeles Chargers: S Alohi Gilman

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    For the Los Angeles Chargers to maximize Derwin James Jr.'s versatility, the defense requires those who can adequately fill other positions.

    As head coach Brandon Staley noted prior to Week 2, he wanted to use James over the slot with Alohi Gilman at safety.

    Technically, James is a starting safety. But he can be used at strong or free and then become a sub-package linebacker before taking over slot coverage duties. He can do everything, which makes him one of the game's best young defenders.

    Gilman must play a more traditional role, though, and he has. Last year's sixth-rounder displays good instincts and flies to the football. He's capable of making tackles in space and creating turnovers, as his interception against the Kansas City Chiefs showed.

    Staley wants to confuse quarterbacks by playing more defenders in space. Gilman and James, along with other talented defensive backs such as Nasir Adderley and Michael Davis, allow the Chargers to do this and claim a top-10 pass defense.

Los Angeles Rams: C Brian Allen

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    The Los Angeles Rams didn't know what they were going to do at center this season.

    Austin Blythe, who started all 16 games last season, left in free agency. The coaching staff experimented with moving Austin Corbett from right guard.

    Instead, Brian Allen secured the job as the "angry center," according to Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris (via The Athletic's Jourdan Rodrigue).

    Allen has done more than solidify a once-shaky position. He's helped with the transition to quarterback Matthew Stafford.

    "He's been great. He thinks like me, which is great," Stafford told reporters. "He thinks like the quarterback, and he sees things the way I see them. He's making protection calls as I'm thinking them and saying them. We kind of work together."

Miami Dolphins: DE Zach Sieler

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    Zach Sieler is the Miami Dolphins' best defensive lineman, and he's not even a starter.

    Sieler has played fewer snaps than Christian Wilkins, Adam Butler and John Jenkins, per Pro Football Reference. Yet the former is tied for second among all interior defenders with 10 stops through three games, according to Pro Football Focus.

    From a team perspective, PFF graded Sieler as the Dolphins' second-best defender behind Emmanuel Ogbah. 

    The difference lies in compensation. Ogbah holds a $7.5 million salary-cap charge this season. Butler has a $3.8 million hit. Sieler, meanwhile, signed a three-year contract extension that takes him through 2023 and is earning $2.6 million this campaign.

    Bigger investments often receive more opportunities. Christian Wilkins, who is a 2019 first-round pick, may not be playing better than Sieler right now, but he remains in the starting lineup. Eventually, Sieler should get a look as a starter over Wilkins or Butler. 

Minnesota Vikings: TE Tyler Conklin

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    Irv Smith Jr. was supposed to have a breakout year with Kyle Rudolph no longer on the roster. But the Minnesota Vikings seemingly won't feature their young tight end this season.

    "I don't think it's any bigger role for him whatsoever," head coach Mike Zimmer said of Smith in June. "I think it's a bigger role for Tyler Conklin. He's kind of emerged as a guy that's moving upward, and with those two guys, we have a lot of weapons there."

    Smith, who remains on injured reserve after surgery on his meniscus, is more of an H-back or move tight end, whereas Conklin stepped in as the Y tight end. With Smith out, Conklin capitalized.

    Conklin is a capable blocker and a growing receiving threat. The 26-year-old already has 13 catches for 126 yards after setting career highs last season with 19 catches for 194 yards and a touchdown.

New England Patriots: Edge Josh Uche

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    Josh Uche may be the most overlooked edge-rusher in the NFL.

    Prior to the New England Patriots' Week 3 meeting with the New Orleans Saintswhich Uche missed because of a back injury—the 2020 second-round pick ranked fourth overall with a 22.4 percent pass-rush win rate and ninth with a 16.8 percent pressure rate and 10.0 pass-rush productivity since last season, per Pro Football Focus' Doug Kyed.

    Uche primarily serves as a sub-package defender and pass-rush specialist. But he could be an every-down linebacker who also defends the run.

    "He's had a lot of improvements in his game and is gaining more experience, so hopefully he'll continue to work hard and benefit from those snaps and experience and continue to be productive," Patriot head coach Bill Belichick said, per Evan Lazar of CLNS Media.

New Orleans Saints: WR Deonte Harris

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    Quick, name the New Orleans Saints' leading receiver.

    No, it's not Michael Thomas, because he's still on the physically unable to perform list. Running back Alvin Kamara does lead the team with 10 receptions, but he's third with 62 yards.

    Surprisingly, Deonte Harris leads the way with 112 yards. He's done so on only seven targets.

    "I'm never really satisfied," he told reporters. "I feel like I could always do more. But I feel like I'm definitely taking a step in the right direction."

    Harris also serves as the Saints' kick and punt returner. The 5'6", 170-pound playmaker ranks fifth in kick return average (28.7 yards) and first in punt return average (19.0).

    "I don't really like comparing guys, because every guy is unique in his own way, but he's Darren Sproles," New England Patriots special teams standout Matthew Slater said last week.

New York Giants: Edge Azeez Ojulari

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    Not a lot has gone right for the New York Giants during their 0-3 start. The team may have many problems, but second-round rookie Azeez Ojulari isn't one of them.

    Ojulari leads the Giants and all first-year defenders with three sacks. He became the first player in Giants history to record a sack in each of his first three contests.

    The 21-year-old defender is extremely athletic and fast of the edge, which forces tackles to overset. He has taken advantage.

    "Everyone in this league is good and athletic. The tackles are bigger, stronger, faster. Everyone is athletic in this league, and they can adjust to different things," Ojulari told reporters. "You basically really [have] to bring your A-game every single time. Every rep you get, every rush you get, you've got to bring your best out there."

New York Jets: CB Michael Carter II

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    Cornerback looked like a significant sore spot for the New York Jets entering the 2020 campaign. Surprisingly, Robert Saleh's group ranks 10th in pass defense thanks in no small part to rookie Michael Carter II.

    Carter, whom the Jets drafted in the fifth round, showed he's capable of covering the slot, even in one-on-one situations.

    "The nickel, Michael Carter, has been doing a great job," Saleh told reporters.

    The 22-year-old Duke product has the second-highest grade for a Jets rookie corner at this point of the season since 2008, per Pro Football Focus.

    The secondary may be a work in progress, but the front office certainly found something in Carter.

Philadelphia Eagles: WR Quez Watkins

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    The Philadelphia Eagles have made significant investments in their wide receivers, but the coaching staff must make room for Quez Watkins.

    Yes, DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor are focal points after being first-round picks over the last two offseasons. However, Watkins is making plays as the team leader with 186 receiving yards on only seven receptions. In fact, Watkins has caught all seven balls thrown in his direction.

    "Quez has done a really good job of making plays," head coach Nick Sirianni told reporters. "There's no doubt about it. He's done a great job. ... He's done a great job not just playing with his speed but also playing physical, playing mean, playing tough and going up and getting the ball on contested catches."

    Watkins may be the second-best wide receiver on the roster behind Smith.

Pittsburgh Steelers: TE Pat Freiermuth

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers spent their top two picks this year on skill position prospects. Running back Najee Harris is already a focal point, and second-round tight end Pat Freiermuth should become Ben Roethlisberger's best friend as the season progresses.

    Freiermuth is already a terrific third-down and red-zone target. His targets increased in each of his games. Still, back-to-back weeks with a combined seven receptions for 58 yards isn't enough.

    Clearly, Roethlisberger isn't the same quarterback he once was. The tight end position should be extremely important in the offense for blocking and providing big targets over the middle of the field.

    Eric Ebron isn't consistent enough to warrant a significant role. Freiermuth, on the other hand, has been arguably the NFL's best rookie tight end. Expanded usage seems like a logical step to help a floundering offense.

San Francisco 49ers: RB Elijah Mitchell

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    The Shanahans' offensive scheme can seemingly feature any running back, and he'll produce.

    Think back to Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns and Tatum Bell under Mike Shanahan. Kyle Shanahan brought his father's philosophy into the modern NFL, and the San Francisco 49ers are churning through running backs without ever making a significant investment in the position.

    After Raheem Mostert suffered another injury, the door opened for someone to stake their claim. Sixth-round rookie Elijah Mitchell did. He leads the team with 146 rushing yards in two appearances but missed Week 3 with a shoulder injury.

    "That's kind of what we expected him to do," Kyle Shanahan said after Week 1. "... He went in there and didn't hesitate and ran the ball well."

Seattle Seahawks: Edge Alton Robinson

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    Finally, the Seattle Seahawks used defensive end Alton Robinson more in Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings. He rewarded the team with one of the defense's best performances. He was highly effective getting after the passer despite limited reps.

    "It's hard, but I would almost say it's a little bit reversed—it makes it more exciting," Robinson said when asked about his uncertain playing time last week, per Jordan Duncan of the team's website. "Waiting there to play the whole time, then you get out there, it's easier to give your full effort and everything because you don't know when the opportunity will come back. So it's not as hard as it may seem."

    A balance must be struck within the rotation. The Seahawks can still play Rasheem Green, Carlos Dunlap II, Benson Mayowa and Darrell Taylor. But Robinson shouldn't receive the fewest reps.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Tyler Johnson

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    It's difficult to find a hidden gem for the reigning Super Bowl champions because the team returned all 22 starters and maintained the majority of last year's roster.

    Even so, wide receiver Tyler Johnson has seemingly been on the verge of breaking out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since he joined the team. But the offense features one of the league's best wide receiver corps.

    The flashes continue to be there, and quarterback Tom Brady is looking for Johnson. He's second on the team with 17 yards per reception. The next step is becoming a regular contributor. An opportunity may be available.

    Scotty Miller is on injured reserve with turf toe, and he's expected to miss "a significant amount of time," according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Antonio Brown returned from the reserve/COVID-19 list this week, but Johnson can take Miller's reps and targets.

Tennessee Titans: S Dane Cruikshank

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    Dane Cruikshank's role in the Tennessee Titans defense continues to increase with each passing week.

    The fourth-year defensive back played 10 snaps in Week 1, per Pro Football Reference, and was a dime backer in Week 2.

    "It was good for him to find a role and excel in it," defensive coordinator Shane Bowen said last week, via ESPN's Turron Davenport. "I thought he did a good job."

    Bowen added: "He's big. I think he can cover. I think he's got the ability to blitz. I think he's got good zone understanding and awareness."

    In Week 3, Cruikshank started at strong safety for Amani Hooker, who is on injured reserve with a foot issue, and played every snap. Cruikshank will continue to start and may not relinquish the job when Hooker is healthy.

Washington Football Team: RT Sam Cosmi

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    The Washington Football Team has underachieved coming out of the gate with the league's 22nd-ranked offense and 31st-ranked defense. The latter is especially surprising because of how much talent it has on that side of the ball.

    So, one must look to the offense to find this year's hidden gem.

    Sam Cosmi has been a pleasant surprise at right tackle. This year's 51st pick made the transition from the blind side to strong side this offseason and doesn't appear to be overwhelmed. Yes, he struggled against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1, but that's bound to happen against a talented front.

    Otherwise, Cosmi is the game's highest-graded rookie blocker, per Pro Football Focus (h/t former Texas Longhorns offensive line coach Herb Hand). Washington made the right decision when it chose to move on from stalwart right tackle Morgan Moses.

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