2019 NFL Training Camps: Kyler Murray and six more fascinating rookies to watch
Kyler Murray is the headliner but some defenders, pass catchers, and another quarterback should generate major intrigue
Thankfully, one NFL training camp has already started, and the rest get underway next week, which means we'll get our first real looks at high-profile rookies on the field with their respective teams.
Which first-year pros should generate the most intrigue in their debut camp?
Kyler Murray, QB, Cardinals
This nomination is based on much more than Murray being the No. 1 pick in the draft. At just over 5-foot-10 and 207 pounds with electric scrambling ability and one season as a hyper-efficient passer, he's not your average top pick.
While the likes of Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, and Baker Mayfield have come before him, Murray is a key piece of the Air Raid movement in the NFL. If he hits in Arizona, the movement will surge. If he doesn't, it'll open the door once again for widespread criticism of small quarterbacks and those from Air Raid systems in college.
And he's operating the offense of Air Raid advocate Kliff Kingsbury, a soon-to-be 40-year-old first-time NFL head coach.
There's so many new pieces in Arizona, and Murray is steering the ship under Kingsbury's direction. Of course Murray's a fascinating rookie to watch at training camp this year.
A year before the draft, Oliver was the guy in many way-too-early mock drafts as the first overall pick. As a junior he improved as a pass rusher, but for some reason, when the pre-draft process began, he was widely considered someone who'd be picked well outside the top 5 and maybe outside the top 15.
Days before the draft, Oliver received a lot of buzz, and rumors swirled about many teams inside the top 7 being very interested in him. When it was all said and done, Oliver went No. 9 overall and was the second defensive tackle off the board. Crazy ride.
And he landed in an ideal situation with the Bills but has the difficult task of replacing Kyle Williams, a disruptive figure on the inside in Buffalo for over a decade.
While not as polished, Oliver's combine and pro day figures were in line with Aaron Donald's, and the Houston product will be given the freedom to attack up the field at the play-making three technique position. Oliver is in the mold of the modern-day pass-rushing defensive tackle and will be an instant starter on a strong Buffalo defense as a rookie.
Devin Bush, LB, Steelers
Bush was expensive on the draft-capital front for Pittsburgh. The Steelers moved their 2019 first, second, and a third rounder in 2020 to catapult from No. 20 to No. 10 to grab him. That alone makes him worth monitoring from the jump at training camp.
Beyond that, Bush has incendiary speed and tremendous movement ability, so physically, he looks like the type of linebacker who'll flourish in today's NFL.
And since Ryan Shazier's injury, the Steelers have been in dire need of athleticism at the linebacker spot, quite the famous position in Pittsburgh. Bush will provide that, but his coverage skills will be tested early. If he's comfortable sinking in zone and running with backs and tight ends in man, the Steelers defense will greatly improve in 2019.
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Redskins
I personally thinkbecause of his slow feet inside the pocket, minimal anticipation throws on film at Ohio State, and questionable downfield accuracy.
But after the carousel of quarterbacks Washington's cycled through during the Jay Gruden era, you better believe fans and most sports radio personalities are going to be pinning for the first-round quarterback who exploded onto the scene in the Big 10 last year with the Buckeyes over journeymen passers like Case Keenum or Colt McCoy.
My guess is this will be a legitimate quarterback battle from the get go, even if Gruden provide coachspeak answers initially and Haskins starts with the third team. In fact, I'd say there should be as much intrigue surrounding Haskins as there is around Murray in August.
Denver moved from No. 10 to No. 20 in the trade with Pittsburgh and were still able to land Fant, an impressive receiving talent at the tight end spot. So he'll always be remember as the player Denver picked after moving back in a draft-day trade with an AFC contender. Fant will run routes for newly acquired quarterback Joe Flacco, a signal-caller who's loved targeting tight ends in his pro career.
Fant's also intriguing because he was the second Iowa tight end to be picked in the 2019 Draft, after his teammate T.J. Hockenson went No. 8 overall to the Lions. The careers of the two Hawkeye products will always be compared. He scored 18 touchdowns over the past two seasons and was clearly the most athletic prospect at his position in his class at the combine.
With Demaryius Thomas gone, Fant will have ample opportunity to be one of the main targets with the Broncos as a rookie.
N'Keal Harry, WR, Patriots
Drafting receivers early is one of the very few things Bill Belichick has done poorly in his coaching career in New England, and Harry is the latest.
He's kinda/sorta a strange fit with the Patriots' yards-after-the-catch predicated passing game, but he very well could've been selected to replicate at least some of the size and jump ball ability lost by the retirement of Rob Gronkowski. And Harry can really go up and get it. He plays bigger than his nearly 6-3 frame and tracks it awesomely, meaning his catch radius is large.
Julian Edelman and James White are still primed to be the go-to targets for Tom Brady in 2019, yet training camp will provide an early glimpse into how well Harry carves out his niche in the complex offense in New England.
D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seahawks
An argument can be made that Metcalf ended as the most widely discussed prospect in the 2019 class, after a picture of his huge, sculpted frame went viral and a combine effort that was amazing in some ways and brutal in others.
Following months of major first-round buzz, Metcalf fell all the way to the last pick in the second round but landed in a perfect scenario with vertical-passing extraordinaire Russell Wilson on a Seahawks team suddenly in need of receiving reinforcement after Doug Baldwin's retirement.
In a straight line, Metcalf is downright terrifying but many -- including myself -- are concerned about his ability to separate when running routes in which he needs to change directions. His progress as a route runner will be what to watch the most in August with Metcalf.
Then again, in Seattle, he may not be asked to do much more than flip on the jets early and get downfield to catch Wilson's high-arcing deep passes.
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