Eight NFL teams have rookies reporting to training camp this week, and there are some really intriguing players we’ll be keeping an eye on.
Leading up to the official start of the NFL summer, we’re taking a look at one rookie per team that has a chance to stand out this first week.
Kendall Sheffield, cornerback, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are obviously intrigued by this former Ohio State star, having selected Kendall Sheffield in the fourth round. A bit of a project from a technique perspective and a guy who isn’t particularly big on the corner (5-foot-11, 193 pounds), Sheffield has sprinter’s speed and is an aggressive tackler. Atlanta features a rock-solid secondary, but with a solid summer of work Sheffield could work himself into the nickel defense as the third cornerback. He’ll have his chance to shine this week and needs to make the most of the opportunity.
Quinnen Williams, defensive tackle, New York Jets
The third overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, Quinnen Williams has a lot to live up to as a rookie coming out of Alabama. He injured his calf during OTAs but is expected to be a full go this summer during training camp. When healthy, he’s as dominant inside as any defensive star to enter the league in a while. The Jets have to be excited about Williams playing next to Leonard Williams inside. He should make minced meat out of his competition this week before veterans report. At this point, the biggest thing he needs to do is just stay healthy and learn the playbook.
Marquise Brown, wide receiver, Baltimore Ravens
One of the most intriguing players to enter the league this year, this former Oklahoma Sooners star hasn’t been healthy since before the draft. He suffered a Lisfranc injury that required surgery, and the hope is that he will finally be healthy enough to participate in training camp. Marquise Brown, who was selected 25th overall, possesses blazing speed but is also very diminutive at 5-foot-9 and 166 pounds. He hasn’t been able to get any chemistry going with Lamar Jackson to this point, either. If his foot continues to be a problem this summer, his rookie season could end up being a big-time bust.
Will Harris, safety, Detroit Lions
Glover Quin isn’t coming back to the Lions, having retired recently. Detroit currently has veterans Miles Killebrew and Quandre Diggs penciled in as the potential starters, but that’s not an exciting duo by any means. Third-round pick Will Harris out of Boston College was seen as an overdraft by some. However, clearly Detroit saw something in him, trading up to make the pick. Now, Harris has a prime opportunity to work himself into a starting role this summer, and his big chance starts this week.
Drew Lock, quarterback, Denver Broncos
Unless something crazy happens this summer, Joe Flacco will open the season as the starter for the Broncos. That doesn’t mean that Drew Lock isn’t an extremely important player for Denver this summer. If for some reason Flacco were to go down with an injury, it’s going to be up to Lock to take over. He’s very raw but possesses arm talent galore. The Broncos will be in much better shape if Lock gobbles up the playbook and gets command of the offense early. Needless to say, there will be plenty of eyeballs on this rookie in Denver this summer.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, safety, New Orleans Saints
It’s hard to find many people who cover the draft that were not seriously impressed with former Florida star Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s overall game. A player who was expected to potentially go as early as the second round, Gardner-Johnson ended up being a steal in Round 4 for the Saints. He is a defensive back who will likely be utilized in multiple positions this year in New Orleans. Nobody should be surprised if Gardner-Johnson ends up logging significant snaps as a rookie in what’s become a dynamic defensive secondary for the Saints.
D.K. Metcalf, wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks may have landed one of the biggest steals in the draft selecting D.K. Metcalf at the end of the second round. Of course, that will only happen if he ends up living up to the otherworldly hype that surrounded him doing the pre-draft process. A huge man, at 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds, Metcalf was the star of the NFL Scouting Combine. However, his startling lack of agility and injury concerns caused him to take a precipitous tumble on draft day. Now it’s up to him to prove (almost) everyone wrong, and make the Seahawks very happy at the same time.
Kyler Murray, quarterback, Arizona Cardinals
No rookie will have more eyeballs on him from a national perspective than Kyler Murray will this summer. The Cardinals not only selected him No. 1 overall, but they also tossed Josh Rosen out the door just one year after trading up to take him No. 10 overall. The pressure Murray faces will be palpable from Day 1 of training camp, and it won’t let up one iota until he establishes himself as a bankable star in the NFL. The early reports coming out of Arizona’s offseason were all positive. But once things heat up in camp we’ll really see if the rookie has the magic it takes to transform a franchise.