There’s a reason the NFL Draft is seven rounds. There are simply a lot of good players in college football, most of whom could potentially be starters at some point in their careers. Obviously, many of the first-round picks will be in the starting lineup this season, but there are also a bunch of mid- to late-round picks who could get significant playing time in 2017.These 15 players could surprise a lot of people and be starters relatively early in the season.
DAMONTAE KAZEE, DB, FALCONS
The Falcons took Kazee in the fifth round after he primarily played cornerback at San Diego State. In Atlanta, he’ll try to make the transition to free safety, while also competing for time in the slot as a cornerback. His position flexibility gives him a decent shot to crack the starting lineup at some point this season. Kazee’s best shot is at free safety where the Falcons have been looking for competition with Ricardo Allen.
Kazee has great instincts and ball skills, pulling down seven interceptions last season as a cornerback. If he can bring that playmaking ability to free safety, he could wind up having a big impact in Year 1.
TIM WILLIAMS, OLB, RAVENS
The Ravens underwent a youth movement on the defensive front in the draft, landing Chris Wormley, Tyus Bowser and Williams. All three could potentially be starters, but Williams has the best chance. If not for off-field concerns, he probably would’ve been a late first-round pick or early-second-rounder.
He has the potential to push both Albert McClellan and Terrell Suggs for snaps, possibly earning a starting job. He’ll obviously need to stay out of trouble off the field, but if he can do that his pass-rushing ability will shine this summer.
EDDIE JACKSON, S, BEARS
The Bears are somewhat weak at safety despite having Adrian Amos and Quintin Demps as their projected starters. Jackson is a rangy, aggressive safety who sometimes takes too many chances, but the Bears’ coaching staff can reel him in and get him under control.
If not for a broken leg last year at Alabama, Jackson could’ve gone much earlier than the fourth round. He also can return punts, which shows just how much athleticism he has.