5 NFL rookies who are sleepers to become instant starsBy Matt Verderame
This years’ slate of NFL rookies has a few players ready to explode. We discuss the five draftees with the best chance to make an impact.
5. Jacob Eason, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Eason makes this list for a few reasons. For starters, Indianapolis is the rare team with little invested in their starting and backup quarterbacks. Both are only signed for one season, and so if head coach Frank Reich doesn’t like what he sees from Philip Rivers in the early going, he could go bold and give Eason a chance.
Now, let’s be clear. Eason would need to have a terrific camp to have a shot of seeing the field without injuries to Rivers and Jacoby Brissett. It’s unlikely given the lack of reps with the pandemic ravaging the country. Still, Eason is a deep sleeper to at least consider.
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4. Devin Duvernay, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Duvernay didn’t get the attention of fellow Baltimore draft picks Patrick Queen (LB, LSU) and J.K. Dobbins (RB, Ohio State), but he could make a big impact in 2020. The Ravens have Marquise Brown and Willie Snead V as their starting receivers. With due respect, there’s a real chance Duvernay sees plenty of snaps as a rookie and if so, ample targets from league MVP Lamar Jackson.
It’s a great recipe for a youngster who notched 1,389 receiving yards and nine touchdowns as a senior at Texas last year.
3. Kristian Fulton, CB, Tennessee Titans
Fulton is the only defensive player of the list, but we needed to show the national champion some love. While many thought Fulton would go in the first round after putting up years of quality tape in the fantastic SEC, he fell to the bottom of the second.
There, the Titans scooped him up, essentially to replace veteran Logan Ryan. Tennessee is hoping Fulton can immediately pick up the defensive scheme and see significant playing time. If he does, he may prove one of the biggest steals in this class.
2. Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Akers comes to the Rams with a terrific resume at Florida State. The former Seminoles star rushed for over 1,000 yards in both 2017 and ’19, earning All-ACC Third Team, and Second Team honors respectively in those campaigns. Last year, the numbers were eye-popping with 1,144 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on 5.0 yards per carry.
With the Rams having moved on from the Todd Gurley era, Akers is in line to see the ball early and often in head coach Sean McVay’s offense.
1. Denzel Mims, WR, New York Jets
In full disclosure, I wrote a draft diary series about Mims over the winter as he approached the NFL. Still, he isn’t ranked here for any other reason than talent meeting opportunity. I watched him dominate at the Senior Bowl (this, the draft diary) and with the Jets, he should be the top option for quarterback Sam Darnold on the outside.
Mims caught 66 passes for 1,020 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Baylor Bears last year, capping off two 1,000-yard campaigns in Waco as a three-year starter.