We won’t have a great understanding of which veteran players might lose their starting jobs to rookies until the draft itself is completed.
What we do know is that there are a ton of average football players set to play big roles for their respective teams should nothing change between now and the start of the season.
That’s one of the primary reasons that the draft itself is so important to teams around the league.
This article is going to focus on 10 veterans currently starting for their teams that could lose their jobs by the time the annual draft draws to a conclusion later this month.
1. Case Keenum, quarterback, Los Angeles Rams
After trading up to the No. 1 overall pick, the Rams are obviously targeting one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. Normally it would be a good idea to sit a rookie signal caller, but Los Angeles might not be in a situation to do that after yielding so much to the Tennessee Titans in the trade.
This could force Keenum into a backup role just weeks after the team’s brass showed confidence in him being the guy next season. It could also lead to the departure of a player in Nick Foles who was considered the long-term solution this time last year.
What will be most interesting is who the Rams actually select with the top pick. Some reports have linked the team to former CAL standout Jared Goff. Meanwhile, others believe general manager Les Snead and Co. are targeting North Dakota State product Carson Wentz.
If it is Goff with the first pick, there’s a really good chance he will be the starting quarterback when the 2016 campaign gets going.
If it’s Wentz, the Rams might find themselves in the unenviable PR situation of having to sit a player they exhausted a huge bounty to acquire. Either way, Keenum’s hold on the job is questionable at best.
2. King Dunlap, offensive tackle, San Diego Chargers
Once Los Angeles traded up to the top selection, it put the Chargers in an optimal position to land top offensive line prospect Laremy Tunsil from Mississippi.
This had to be music to the ears of a quarterback in Philip Rivers that has found himself battered in the offensive backfield for the better part of the past decade.
Dunlap has never been a quality starting left tackle in the NFL. He’s best suited playing along the right side, an eventuality that could take hold should the team land Tunsil with the third pick.
The trickle-down effect for San Diego’s injury-plagued offensive line would be real here. Not only would Dunlap likely move to the right side, former first-round pick D.J. Fluker would be guaranteed to stay inside at right guard. This is an ideal scenario for Rivers and Co.
3. Brandon Carr, cornerback, Dallas Cowboys
Let’s face it. Carr could very well lose his starting job even if the Cowboys don’t go corner in the first couple rounds. The team has Orlando Scandrick returning from injury.
It also has a young defensive back in Byron Jones that can move outside should the team go safety early. Jones, a first-round pick last season, is penciled in as the starting free safety right now.
If the Cowboys decide Jalen Ramsey is the pick at No. 4 overall, they would be much better off going with him opposite Scandrick while continuing to play Jones at free safety and either Barry Church or J.J. Wilcox at strong safety. That would be the most-talented four some the team could come up with.
4. Ryan Mathews, running back, Philadelphia Eagles
Heck, there’s a good chance Mathews won’t even be on the Eagles by the time the draft concluded. They have been rumored to be looking to deal him with the San Francisco 49ers emerging as a real possibility.
Even if Philadelphia does decide to hang on to Mathews, he’s in no way guaranteed to be a three-down back.
“New” general manager Howie Roseman is said to be smitten with former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. By virtue of Philadelphia’s move up from the 13th pick into the top 10, Elliott could very well be available.
No team is going to exhaust a top-10 pick on a running back without the intent to use him on a three-down basis, which means that Mathews status with the Eagles would be up in the air. This is dependent on him actually remaining with the team.
5. Mark Sanchez, quarterback, Denver Broncos
It sure sounds like Sanchez is all about winning the starting job in Denver after being acquired from Philadelphia back in March. In theory, that sounds great for all sides involved. After all, it would enable Denver to avoid either drafting a quarterback in Round 1 or trading for Colin Kaepernick.
Simply because the theory itself sounds great, it doesn’t mean the plan will work. In fact, this is a hypothesis the defending champs simply can’t afford to test. Sanchez is not a starter-caliber quarterback in this league. Add in the fact that he would be under center for the defending champions, and that’s magnified even further.
Whether it’s the long rumored trade for Kaepernick or selecting a quarterback with the 31st pick of the first round, Denver simply must find someone with more upside and juice than Sanchez.
The ideal scenario here would be someone like Paxton Lynch falling to the Broncos at the end of the first round. The more realistic scenario is the team having to reach for former Michigan State signal caller Connor Cook.
6. Josh McCown, quarterback, Cleveland Browns
There’s been a lot of buzz about the Browns potentially looking to trade down from No. 2 after the Los Angeles Rams bypassed them in the pecking order for a quarterback.
That’s fine and dandy, but there is no reason to believe Hue Jackson would be willing to go into his rookie campaign with McCown and Robert Griffin III competing for the starting job. Like most first-year head coaches, he’s going to want to bring in his guy.
Playing it as close to the vest as possible, there’s no indication one way or another who the Browns prefer between Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. In fact, they could still land the quarterback they covet, even after the Rams shocking trade up.
If that scenario were to play out, McCown wouldn’t necessarily be considered a potential competitor for the starting job.
It’s something we’d see play out as the three-day draft moves along. Should Cleveland add a quarterback with its first pick, the team could then look to trade McCown for an asset later in the draft.
7. All New York Giants linebackers
Whether it’s Devon Kennard, Keenan Robinson, J.T. Thomas, Mark Herzlich or Jasper Brinkley, the Giants have no starting-caliber linebacker on the roster.
This means they could look for upgrades on the inside or at both outside linebacker positions in the first round.
What’s bad news for the team when it comes to production from this position next year could be considered good news for its ability to add a couple starter-caliber players in the draft.
The likes of Reggie Ragland and Darron Lee will most likely be available with the 10th pick. Ragland is the best true inside linebacker in the draft, so adding him would be a smooth upgrade over Robinson in the middle. Though, Lee offers more versatility with the ability to play all three linebacker positions.
Either way, the Giants are going to have to address the second level of their defense early in the draft if they hope to improve what has been a disastrous unit over the past several seasons.
8. Justin Forsett, running back, Baltimore Ravens
Regardless of how the Ravens view Forsett moving forward, they simply can’t rely on him to be a three-down running back anymore. At 30 years old and with just one season of 700-plus rushing yards, the problems are real here.
Now add in the fact that Joe Flacco has proven time and time again that he needs a solid running game to play at a high level, and this needs to be an area Baltimore addresses early in the draft.
The team could very well add Ezekiel Elliott with the sixth pick. Though, with needs at another position, value could be had elsewhere. In this, Alabama’s Derrick Henry could make sense at the top of Round 2.
9. D.J. Hayden, cornerback, Oakland Raiders
More than anything, we are talking roster spot here. Free agent signing Sean Smith is a logical starting option on one side. Meanwhile, an impressive youngster in Travis Carrie would currently be penciled in on the other side.
Should Oakland add a corner in the first round, that would put Hayden’s roster spot in jeopardy. Not only has this former first-round pick been injury plagued (13 missed games in three seasons), he hasn’t performed anywhere near the level of a starting corner when on the field.
Adding a Vernon Hargreaves or Mackensie Alexander with the 14th pick would push Hayden down to fourth on the depth chart. With the presence of both Keith McGill and Neiko Thorpe on the roster, that would leave Hayden battling for a roster spot.
10. Blaine Gabbert, quarterback, San Francisco 49ers
We could also include Kaepernick in this blurb, but he can’t even be considered the starter in San Francisco right now. After all, the embattled former second-round pick has had more contact with the Denver Broncos than his own front office over the past several weeks.
That will change in short order should San Francisco either find a quarterback drop to the seventh pick or the tram decides to trade up in hopes of acquiring either Goff or Wentz.
The latter scenario is something 49ers general manager Trent Baalke has bandied about himself recently.
Chip Kelly might very well think he can fix Gabbert. That’s perfectly fine. And based on Kelly’s success rate with the likes of Sam Bradford and Nick Foles, it could work.
Though, there’s a working theory around the NFL that Kelly wants his own guy under center. If that’s true, it could very easily unseat Gabbert as the team’s starter.