The NFL is all about “what have you done for me lately?” The best players receive the most snaps, regardless of their name or past performances. Whether you’re a first-round pick or an undrafted rookie, you’re going to get an opportunity to play if you perform at a high level.
For these 10 veterans, that’s not a good sign. They could be very much in danger of losing their jobs to incoming rookies from the 2017 draft class. It’ll take strong play in training camp for them to remain atop the depth chart.
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Tom Savage, QB, Texans
Savage was never a lock to be the Texans’ starting quarterback this season, even before they drafted Deshaun Watson. He’s simply not talented enough to be a surefire starter, and the Texans knew it.
Now, his job is very much in danger. Despite the fact that the Texans are saying Savage is still their No. 1 quarterback, it’s Watson’s job to lose. They’re simply a better team with a guy like Watson, who can make plays with his feet and his arm, giving coach Bill O’Brien a dynamic quarterback to work with.
It would be somewhat surprising to see anyone but Watson starting for the Texans in Week 1.
Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars
T.J. Yeldon is also in danger of losing his job this season, but it’s Ivory who will see his snaps limited in a big way. The 29-year-old back still has four years left on his contract, and the Jaguars can’t get out of it without eating $7 million in dead money, but don’t be surprised to see him riding the bench.
No. 4 overall pick Leonard Fournette is going to be Jacksonville's starting running back this season, most likely in Week 1. He’ll be used similar to the way the Cowboys used Ezekiel Elliott last season, potentially surpassing 320 carries on the year. Ivory struggled mightily in 2016 (439 yards and three touchdowns) after signing a $32 million deal, but that contract won’t stop the Jaguars from pushing him down the depth chart.
Orlando Scandrick, CB, Cowboys
The Cowboys went heavy on defense in the draft, as expected, taking three starting-caliber players in the secondary. Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis can both play the slot, which is Scandrick’s primary position. Not to mention, there was a since-denied report that the Cowboys were shopping Scandrick after taking Awuzie in the second round.
The veteran cornerback still has the talent to be a starter in the NFL, but there are durability concerns and signs of declining play. The Cowboys are now surprisingly deep at cornerback with Anthony Brown and Nolan Carroll also in the mix, so Scandrick could be pushed down the depth chart this summer.
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Calvin Pryor, S, Jets
Pryor was one of the biggest losers of draft weekend as the Jets not only took Jamal Adams in the first round but Marcus Maye in the second as well. Both players are more versatile than Pryor, who’s purely a strong safety after struggling at free safety.
The Jets may not outright cut Pryor, but his job is very much in danger. He’ll need to have a very strong showing in training camp to hold off Maye, with Adams a lock to start at one of the safety spots. With Adams being more of a strong safety, Pryor will need to prove he can hold up in coverage and eliminate big plays over the top – something he didn’t do as a rookie at free safety back in 2014.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers
Christian McCaffrey is one of the most versatile players in this year’s rookie class, boasting the ability to play running back and receiver. He’ll do most of his damage in the backfield, though, bumping Stewart from the top spot on the depth chart. Despite many knocking him for being undersized to hold up as a three-down back, McCaffrey will prove otherwise.
He’ll get his 20 touches a game, playing the majority of the team’s snaps at running back. The Panthers are shifting toward a much faster style of offense with him and rookie wideout Curtis Samuel, which doesn’t bode well for a 30-year-old bruising back like Stewart.
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David Amerson, CB, Raiders
First-round pick Gareon Conley’s legal situation is still being sorted out, but if he’s cleared like the Raiders expect him to be, he’ll compete for a starting job right away. As a result, Amerson will see his playing time greatly reduced. He’ll be relegated to being the nickel corner for the most part, which is still a prominent role but not technically a starting spot.
Both Amerson and Sean Smith struggled last season, which is why the Raiders opted to take a chance on Conley. Amerson is the more likely candidate to lose his starting job because of his up-and-down play, whereas Smith has proved he can be a consistent player on the outside.
Sammie Coates, WR, Steelers
Martavis Bryant said it first: JuJu Smith-Schuster is coming for Coates’ job. The Steelers surprisingly took the former USC receiver in the second round, despite being deeper than just about every other team at that position. He’s a reliable possession receiver, which is a good complement to Antonio Brown and Bryant.
Smith-Schuster is going to compete for snaps right away and could wind up being the starting receiver next to Brown at some point. The Steelers run a lot of three-wide sets, so having him, Brown and Bryant all on the field at once is a scary premise for opposing teams. Look for Coates to see his snaps greatly reduced this season thanks to Smith-Schuster’s emergence.
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Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals
The Bengals’ backfield has been a bit crowded for the past few years with Hill and Giovani Bernard sharing snaps. Now, the running back room has gained another talented body. Second-round pick Joe Mixon is going to compete for snaps right away, likely winning the starting job in training camp.
If not for his off-field issues, Mixon would have been a first-round pick – that’s how talented he is. He’s a combination of Hill’s power and Bernard’s versatility and speed, which is what makes him the team’s best running back. It won’t take him long to eat into Hill’s snap count.
Mike Glennon, QB, Bears
The Bears are paying Glennon $15 million per year, but there’s absolutely no guarantee he’ll be their starting quarterback this season. Chicago traded up to No. 2 overall to land Mitchell Trubisky, who’s expected to be the long-term answer under center. Whether his reign begins in Week 1, Week 15 or in 2018, Trubisky is going to get every opportunity to prove he’s the guy.
Glennon isn’t a star by any means, and seeing him lose the starting gig to Trubisky wouldn’t be the least bit surprising. He’s a glorified backup who reaped the benefits of a desperate team like the Bears giving him $45 million for three years. Trubisky could easily be the starter in Week 1.
Strief turns 34 years old in September, and his best days are certainly behind him. He can still hold his own at right tackle, but with Ryan Ramczyk coming in as a first-round pick, there could be a changing of the guard. Ramczyk still has work to do to develop into a consistent right tackle, but that’ll happen in training camp.
Ramczyk will get looks at right tackle and inside at guard, but his best fit is on the edge. Not to mention, Terron Armstead isn’t exactly durable. Grooming the rookie to be a tackle would be the Saints’ best decision, even if it means Strief is relegated to a backup role.