NFL training camps are set to get going around the league later this month. It’s been a long time coming for players after the entire off-season program was scrapped due to the ongoing pandemic.
Players will want to show out for their teams. That includes rookies in both Detroit and Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, youngsters with the Cardinals and Broncos are primed for big showings this summer.
Here’s a look at five NFL players set to surprise during training camp.
D’Andre Swift, running back, Detroit Lions
The Lions do have a young back in Kerryon Johnson who performed extremely well as a rookie back in 2018, averaging a robust 5.4 yards per rush. However, the Auburn product struggled to the tune of 3.6 yards per rush and missed eight games as a sophomore last season.
Enter into the equation record-setting former Georgia ball carrier D’Andre Swift. He was selected 35th overall by Detroit back in April. The 5-foot-8, 212-pound back recorded nearly 2,700 total yards with 21 touchdowns in his final two seasons with the Bulldogs. He’ll have an opportunity to show out once camp opens. Expect him to be a major story in Detroit.
Christian Kirk, wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals
More than any Cardinals player outside of Kyler Murray, this young receiver is going to benefit from Arizona’s acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins. Kirk, 23, is coming off a sophomore season that saw him record 68 receptions for 709 yards while catching 63% of his targets.
Now that Kirk is entrenched in as the Cardinals’ top slot receiver with Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald outside, the sky seems to be the limit for this Texas A&M product. I am highly intrigued to see Kirk work his magic with Murray during training camp. It could be special.
Noah Fant, tight end, Denver Broncos
A first-round pick of the Broncos last year, Fant was pretty good as a rookie. The Iowa product recorded 40 catches for 562 yards while hauling in nearly 61% of his targets. Given that it is a pretty big learning curve for tight ends from college to the pros and taking into account the Broncos’ quarterback situation last season, that was a pretty darn good performance.
Expect Fant to break out as a sophomore. Denver added stud rookie receiver Jerry Jeudy in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. It has young Pro Bowler Courtland Sutton returning and signed running back Melvin Gordon back in the spring. With Drew Lock set to start this coming season, everything is set up for Fant to have a huge campaign. It will start during training camp.
Tyler Johnson, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It was an absolute shock to see Johnson fall to the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft back in April. The 6-foot-1 receiver had been among the most-productive pass catchers in college football during his time with Minnesota. Johnson caught 164 passes for nearly 2,500 yards with 25 touchdowns in his final two seasons with the Golden Gophers.
He’s now in a prime position to succeed as a rookie for Tampa Bay. Not only does the team boast the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL in that of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, it added six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady. We’ve seen in the past how well Brady has worked with lesser-known receivers. A strong camp from Johnson could give him a shot at earning the No. 3 wide receiver spot. He’s someone to watch.
Jarrett Stidham, quarterback, New England Patriots
The signing of former NFL MVP Cam Newton has made waves over the past week-plus. For good reason. New England finding a way to replace Brady with an accomplished signal caller in that of Newton is no small thing. Even then, his contract does not necessarily call on Newton to start this coming season.
Rather, Stidham has been the rage in New England after the team selected him in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Bill Belichick and Co. are said to be extremely high on the Auburn product. He seems to have the intangibles to make it in this league. I am highly intrigued to see how much Stidham shows out during training camp.