Odd Man Out: NFC Edition
The recent NFL Draft and free agency have drastically changed the complexions of most of the NFL’s 32 teams. These are some of the once relevant players in the NFC who could be left standing in the cold come game time.
Jonathan Stewart RB, Panthers: So, J Stew isn’t out in Carolina, but his days as a bellcow back are over. Christian McCaffrey is the new weapon in the running/receiving game, and the Panthers plan on using him right away. Fellow rookie Curtis Samuel may be used in the backfield as well as an even speedier change of pace than McCaffrey. Stew is now 30 and hasn’t played a full season since 2011.
Rob Kelley/Matt Jones RB, Redskins: Rookie Samaje Perine is already projected by many to take the starting job in the fall, and as the all-time leading rusher at Oklahoma, he is primed to take the ball and run. Jones already has one foot out of the door, whether he wants to or not, and Kelley was a nice rags to riches story last year, but he’s not on Perine’s level. They may work Perine in slowly, but the writing is on the wall… in permanent ink.
Cameron Brate TE, Buccaneers: Well it was nice while it lasted, but the Bucs did not draft Howard to play second fiddle to Brate in any way, shape or form. Howard’s world-class blocking skills will get him on the field early, and his superior athleticism and knack for holding onto to what’s thrown his way will keep him there. If Howard isn’t enough of a target suck, DeSean Jackson is going to chip away at Brate’s looks as well.
Sterling Shepard WR, Giants: Shepard had a wealth of opportunities last season and it paid off for him. Largely TD dependent, he only had one 100 yard game in 2016, Shepard won’t get nearly as many red-zone looks with new teammates Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram, who is really just a big WR, sharing the field. Shepard could find himself a distant option no.4 behind those two and Beckham Jr., of course.
Dorial Green-Beckham WR, Eagles: This guy may not even make it to the regular season as an Eagle, but if he does, DGB has Alshon Jeffrey, Torrey Allen, and two rookies to contend with – along with incumbents Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews. Not much less of a project player than he was when he entered the league, DGB hasn’t improved enough as a receiver to stay relevant in Philly.
Latavius Murray RB, Vikings: Murray thought he was getting away with being the “best” back on a team with little talent for the second time, until the Vikes up and drafted electrifying rookie Dalvin Cook to take the reins in Minnesota. Cook will have plenty of time to make himself comfortable while Murray heals up from ankle surgery for much of the offseason.
Jermaine Kearse WR, Seahawks: Already coming off of his worst season in 3 years, including the league lead in offensive pass interference, Kearse was already starting to lag behind Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson as the 2016 season winded down. Enter Amara Darboh, who is bigger and faster than Kearse, and Jermaine could fall entirely off the map this year.
Tavon Austin WR, Rams: The Rams have been trying to get Austin the ball for 4 years with little success, and as much as he is touted as a pivotal part of the Rams offense, the additions of sure bets Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds in the draft are going to make it even harder to get Austin involved in any significant way this year.