Whether due to injury or being drafted into a backup role, these rookies did not get their chance to shine this year. Here are five players to keep a hold of or snag if you still can heading into 2018.
Marlon Mack: Mack’s college career shows he is capable of being a workhorse. He averaged 217 touches for 1,369 yards and 11 TDs over 3 years at South Florida. The only obstacle in his way was the soon to be 35 year old Frank Gore. Gore, who will be a Free Agent this offseason, shouldn’t be around next season to hold Mack back any longer. With Andrew Luck returning, hopefully, the Colts can even out the offense and utilize Mack in the passing game.
D’Onta Foreman: Foreman won the 2016 Doak Walker Award, naming him the nation’s top running back in college. Foreman is in a situation similar to Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry in Tennessee where the younger back is not given a full workload due to having a more established back on the team He possesses the skills and size should anything happen to Lamar Miller to be the new sheriff in Houston. His only downside is his lack of volume in the receiving game.
Dede Westbrook: Kenaan Cole may have finished the season as the Jags WR1, but Dede has been very important in the second half of the season averaging over 4 receptions in the past 6 games. With Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee both free agents at the end of the season, Westbrook’s involvement in the offense could skyrocket.
Patrick Mahomes: PM2 will make his debut this week as KC decided to rest most starters. It’s almost certain the Chiefs will move on from Alex Smith this offseason and make Mahomes the new starter. They released Jeremy Maclin at the beginning of the season due to cap space, but that is not enough to put them in the positive for 2018. Cutting Smith would save the team $17 million in cap space, and Mahomes has been called the next Brett Favre for a reason. Watch tape.
Jonnu Smith: Mariota should bounce-back next year after being well over a full year removed from his fractured fibula last December, and Smith could be a big part of the offense. Despite finishing a TE1 the past 5 years in a row, Walker turns 34 next season and carries a $7 million cap hit if he’s on the roster, which is 10x the cost of Smith. Over the course of 43 games in college, Smith averaged 4 catches for 46 yards and put up 18 TDs. At 6’3” and after a full year to get acclimated to the NFL there is no reason why Smith can’t take over lead TE in Tennessee. Hopefully, we can avoid the Gates/Henry type situation here.
Joe Williams, SF: A staff favorite in the preseason, should Hyde leave Williams will compete with Breida.
James Conner, PIT: Should Bell leave, which is very possible, James Conner is next up.
Gerald Everett, LAR: Second-year TE prospect will overtake Tyler Higbee.
Amara Darboh, SEA: With Paul Richardson heading to free agency, Darboh could surpass Lockett as well.