Daily Focus: Four sleepers emerging during training camps
Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
Four sleepers emerging during training camps: It’s still very early on in training camp, but it’s never too early for a guy to be “catching everything.” By the nature of the media’s access and practice formats, it’s difficult for almost anyone besides receivers or quarterbacks to stand out in a camp setting. That being said, let’s take a look at a few guys who are making a name for themselves already:
Tyler Higbee, TE, Los Angeles Rams: He was our second overall tight end prospect with a second-round grade before legal troubles dropped him down our final big board. That wasn’t Higbee’s only red flag, though. Even playing for Western Kentucky, Higbee couldn’t even get the starting job until his senior season and managed just 813 snaps over his last two years. His physical tools were above anyone else’s in the draft, however, and it’s scary that he’s putting it together so soon.
Tyrell Williams, WR, San Diego Chargers: Williams’ emergence couldn’t come at a better time, as it’s now being reported that Stevie Johnson is out for the year with an injury. Williams was an undrafted free agent a season ago out of Western Oregon and only managed to see action in three games (31 total snaps). On his six targets he had a drop and two catches, but one of those catches was an 80-yard touchdown. Seeing athletic freaks like Williams finally translate that into production is always a good sign.
Trey Burton, TE, Philadelphia Eagles: Eagles fans probably wish it was a wide receiver standing out, as Burton could play lights-out football all camp and would still be unlikely to unseat Brent Celek or Zach Ertz. Burton has seen only 71 offensive snaps in two seasons after he went undrafted in 2014.
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions: Jones certainly isn’t an emerging player, but him establishing himself as Matthew Stafford’s go-to guy this early on in camp is certainly newsworthy. Perhaps best known for his wild four-touchdown performance against the Jets back in 2013, Jones has easily been one of the most productive No. 2 receivers in the league over the last three years on a snap-for-snap basis.
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The Bills’ front seven keeps taking hits: First it was first-round DE Shaq Lawson aggravating his shoulder shortly after he was drafted, and now it’s second-round LB Reggie Ragland who will miss the entire season with an ACL tear. For a defensive front that took a major step backwards a season ago, and made a concerted effort to address it during the draft, this is concerning. Ragland was the 26th overall player on our final draft board and filled a glaring need for the Bills at inside linebacker after the departure of Nigel Bradham. The signing of Brandon Spikes mitigates this loss at least a little bit. Spikes was one of the best run stuffing linebackers in the NFL before off-field concerns left him without a team in 2015. He has graded positively against the run every season of his career.