Each offseason, teams look to get younger and cheaper through the NFL draft. Rookies have been able to come in and perform better and better over recent years, and it has been proven that they can make an immediate impact. As a result, many veteran incumbents could lose their starting jobs to newly drafted rookies. We have highlighted 10 of these veterans below:
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers signed Trubisky this offseason intending for him to be the starter, replacing the retired Ben Roethlisberger. However, in the first round of the NFL draft they had their choice of any QB prospect and selected Kenny Pickett. Pickett has a similar skillset to Trubisky and also has the experience to come in and start right away, which could leave Trubisky out of a starting job. This will be a fascinating quarterback battle in training camp.
Bryce Hall, CB, New York Jets
Bryce Hall had a very solid season last year, especially as a former fifth-round pick. In a thin Jets’ secondary, he finished sixth in the league in pass deflections. That said, the position was clearly one that New York wanted to upgrade. They added CB DJ Reed to be a starter on the outside through FA and made one of the top CB prospects, Sauce Gardner, the fourth overall pick. While Hall is talented, it is unlikely he will be able to crack the starting lineup with the talented additions on the outside.
Charles Harris/Romeo Okwara, EDGE, Detroit Lions
With the conclusion of the draft, the Lions have held onto their strategy of building up the trenches, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. Since taking over after the 2020 season, the new regime has traded for Michael Brockers, extended Charles Harris and Romeo Okwara, spent day-two picks on Alim McNeil, Levi Onwuzurike, and Josh Paschal, and spent the second overall pick on Aidan Hutchinson. While Okwara and Harris have been very productive over the last two seasons, Paschal and especially Hutchinson may be too talented to not be in the starting lineup.
Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB, Houston Texans
The Texans have been in and out of a lot of negative media over the last two offseasons, but it seems like GM Nick Caserio has their roster headed in the right direction. Additionally, Houston has used their picks to select a number of players that could be difference-makers right away. Current starter, Kam Kruger-Hill was a fine starter last season but with a third-round pick spent on the athletic and high potential Christian Harris, he is at risk of losing his job.
Michael Pierce, NT, Baltimore Ravens
This may come as a surprise as Pierce was an on/off starter at NT for the Ravens for four seasons before being with the Vikings for the last two. However, he resigned with the Ravens this year and is certainly still capable of being the starter. That said, in the third round, the Ravens selected Travis Jones, who was the clear best player available at the time. Jones is strong, athletic, and can come in right away and be competitive at the NT position, which could spell trouble for the veteran Pierce.
TJ Edwards, LB, Philadelphia Eagles
Edwards has started most of the games at LB for the Eagles over the last two seasons, but thanks to the signing of Kyzir White and especially the selection of Nakobe Dean, Edwards’ spot may be in jeopardy. Due to injury concerns, Dean somehow fell all the way to the third round, but he is a very athletic, smart, and talented LB who can come in right away and perform well.
Dee Ford, EDGE, San Francisco 49ers
Since signing a large extension with the 49ers before the 2019 season, Ford has played just 18 games. He is certainly talented, but the aging edge rusher has had a hard time staying on the field. With their first selection, San Francisco selected EDGE Drake Jackson, who has the best bend of any edge rusher in the class. He can come in right away and offer much of what Ford can. It would be no surprise if Jackson cracks the starting lineup sooner than later, especially if some of Nick Bosa’s hand fighting skills can rub off on him.
Mike Hilton, DB, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals made several key additions before the 2021 NFL season specifically on the defense and the DB room. This helped them greatly as the play of the defense was at the forefront of their Super Bowl run. That said, after the Super Bowl, Cincinnati still felt like they had to improve in their DB room even more. With the selection of the athletic and versatile Daxton Hill in the first round, current starting nickel Mike Hilton could lose his starting job to get the younger player on the field.
Zach Allen, DE, Arizona Cardinals
Zach Allen is a young player who has been productive and should continue to improve but with the addition of DE Cameron Thomas in the third round of the draft, Allen’s starting spot could be in jeopardy. Allen can still be on the field and make a difference, but Thomas’ impressive versatility, athleticism, and hand-fighting skills make it too hard to keep him out of the starting lineup. Thomas can rush off the edge but also has the power to play with his hand down, possessing the quickness to be an instant mismatch on IOL.
Mo Alie-Cox, TE, Indianapolis Colts
Alie-Cox has not been an every game starter over the last two seasons but has found a way to make an impact in and out of the lineup. After the departure of Jack Doyle this offseason, it seemed like it would be Allie-Cox’s time to take over the starting reigns. However, the Colts selected the high potential, highly-athletic Jelani Woods in the third round. Woods’ receiving talent and ability to occupy the seams will be beneficial for new QB Matt Ryan.