During the first round of the 2017 NFL draft on April 27, TV cameras will show guys putting on a new cap, hugging Roger Goodell and posing with their new team jersey.
What the cameras won’t show are the players who are already in the league watching at home and looking at these rookies as a threat to take their job.
Day 1 of the draft is must-see TV for the following players, unless they’d rather spend the time working out and increasing their chances of keeping draft picks on the bench.
Kyle Fuller, CB, Bears
Once upon a time, the words “Kyle Fuller” and “rookie of the year” appeared in the same sentence.
In September of 2014, Fuller made three interceptions in the first three games of his career after the Bears drafted him 14th overall. He’s had only three interceptions since then.
Fuller had knee surgery last August and went on injured reserve with a return designation. He wasn’t activated, and Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio intimated that Fuller just didn’t feel like getting back on the field.
The Bears aren’t high on Fuller right now and Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore could hear his name called by the Bears on draft night.
Jason McCourty, CB, Titans
If the addition of Logan Ryan doesn’t end Jason McCourty’s eight years in Tennessee, an early-round rookie could.
McCourty had two interceptions and 12 passes defended last season, but he missed two games late in the year with a shoulder injury and he missed 12 games with a groin injury in 2015. He turns 30 next season and he’s due to make $7 million. If Marshon Lattimore falls to No. 5, the Titans could scoop him up and ask McCourty to take a pay cut.
There’s no guarantee that Ryan will get to play opposite the other McCourty twin in 2017.
Matt Forte, RB, Jets
Matt Forte’s numbers are a typical case study of what happens to running backs on the wrong side of 30.
He turned in his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season with the Bears in 2014, then dipped to 898 in 2015 and 813 in his first season with the Jets. He ran for just 3.7 yards per carry and his 30 receptions were a career low.
The Jets could have their eye on Leonard Fournette if he gets past the Jaguars at No. 4. Even if he doesn’t, the Jets could reach for Dalvin Cook with the No. 6 pick.
Calvin Pryor, S, Jets
If Jamal Adams or Malik Hooker are still on the board at No. 6, the Jets could draft a replacement for safety Calvin Pryor.
The Jets drafted Pryor 18th overall in 2014. He has just two interceptions and 14 passes defended in three seasons. Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan hasn’t decided if he’ll pick up Pryor’s fifth-year option.
According Pro Football Focus via Rotoworld, Pryor ranked 87th out of 91 eligible safeties in 2016.
Michael Oher, RT, Panthers
Michael Oher suffered a concussion in September and remains in the concussion protocol. Even if he returns, the Panthers could take a right tackle at No. 8 to bookend newly acquired Matt Kalil.
The No. 23 overall pick in 2009, Oher has become a journeyman. The Panthers are his third team. The last time he played a full season in 2015, he was ranked as the worst run-blocking offensive tackle in the league by Pro Football Focus.
Ryan Ramczyk, Garett Bolles and Cam Robinson are regarded as the top three tackles in the draft and at least one of them figures to be there for the Panthers at No. 8.
Michael Johnson, DE, Bengals
The Bengals just love those lean, basketball-height edge rushers.
They chose the 6’7″ Michael Johnson in the third round of the 2009 draft. He has one season with double-digit sacks. That came in 2012 when he had 11.5. Since then, Johnson hasn’t had more than five sacks in a season. He had 3.5 in 2016 as the Bengals dropped from 42 sacks in 2015 to 33 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
The last time the Bengals did make the playoffs, Johnson missed a tackle on a short reception by Antonio Brown that turned into a 60-yard gain and led to the Steelers’ only touchdown. Johnson’s gaffe later was dwarfed by those of Jeremy Hill, Vontaze Burfict and Pacman Jones in the Steelers’ 18-16 win.
Johnson spent 2014 in Tampa Bay, but has otherwise played his entire career with the Bengals. At age 30, he could face some competition from Jonathan Allen or Derek Barnett if the Bengals take either of them at No. 9.
Rob Kelley, RB, Redskins
Redskins coach Jay Gruden has spoken glowingly about Rob Kelley, but also won’t rule out drafting a running back in the first round.
Kelley led the Redskins in rushing yards (704) and rushing touchdowns (six) in nine starts last season. He doesn’t exactly scream “workhorse back,” however, and he caught just 12 passes.
Chris Thompson handled most of the pass-catching duties out of the backfield. If Dalvin Cook is available when the Redskins draft at No. 17, Kelley and Thompson will have to fight to keep their roles.
If that shiny, new backfield toy isn’t on the shelf when the Redskins draft, expect Gruden to keep talking up Kelley.
Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers
Doug Martin is among the several running backs whose job security could depend on where the chips fall on Day 1 of the draft.
Martin’s on thin ice to begin with because he’s suspended for the first three games of the 2017 season for performance-enhancing drugs. He’s coming off a 421-yard season in which he averaged 2.9 yards per carry. Both were career lows. He was bothered by hamstring problems and limited to eight games.
In 2015, Martin ran for 1,402 yards, but he hasn’t been able to put two good seasons together in his career. The only other year in which he ran for more than 500 yards was his rookie season, when he gained 1,454 yards in 2012.
If Dalvin Cook is gone by the time the Bucs pick at No. 19, Christian McCaffrey might be available. Tampa Bay also could shake up the draft board and grab Alvin Kamara.
Unless the Buccaneers think Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims can hold down the fort for three games, they’ll have to do something to address the running back position.
Eric Ebron, TE, Lions
Since the Lions drafted Eric Ebron 10th overall in 2014, his receptions have increased each season. He’s gone from 25 to 47 to 61.
The problem is that his drops also have increased each year. According to Sporting Charts, Ebron dropped four passes as a rookie, five in 2015 and seven last year. Only Michael Crabtree and Brandon Marshall dropped more passes in 2016.
Ebron dropped two more passes in the Lions’ 26-6 wild-card loss at Seattle, and he has five receptions for 44 yards (less than nine yards per catch) in two playoff games.
Ebron also has to live with the fact that he’s not Odell Beckham Jr., who was taken two picks later than him.
It’s unlikely that O.J. Howard will fall to No. 21. David Njoku and Evan Engram likely would be the Lions’ options if they want to give Ebron a run for his money.
Tom Savage, QB, Texans
Tony Romo has been called a heartthrob, among other things, and the Texans’ hearts are throbbing with the former Cowboys quarterback choosing TV over the NFL.
The Texans are left with Tom Savage as their starting quarterback, and they can’t be serious about going into the season with him under center. The Texans drafted him in the fourth round in 2014. He has two career starts with no touchdown passes and an interception.
If the Texans don’t want to go the Jay Cutler-Colin Kaepernick route, it’s hard to imagine any of the so-so rookies in this draft class being much worse than Savage.
Or listening to Savage Garden.
About Mike Batista
Mike is a longtime NFL analyst and Steelers fan. He currently writes for Steelers Addicts, and has also written for Bleacher Report.