NFL teams rely on mid- and late-round contributors, with those low salaries helping balance out payrolls across the league. While there will be several gems to come out of the 2020 draft’s third day — and the subsequent undrafted free agency period — here are the players who may make moves into starting lineups as rookies.
Tyler Bass, Buffalo Bills
From 2015-19, eight kickers were drafted. All eight played as rookies. While not all of them ended up kicking for the teams that drafted them, the Bills drafted Bass to challenge three-year incumbent Stephen Hauschka. The soon-to-be 35-year-old specialist failed to surpass the 80 percent field goal connect rate over the past two seasons. Bass, interestingly, made just 20 of 28 field goals during his senior year at Georgia Southern. As a junior, however, Bass made 19 of 21 tries. With Hauschka set for a contract year, he has definite competition.
Tyler Biadasz, Dallas Cowboys
Part of an offensive line that paved the way for Jonathan Taylor to amass more than 6,000 rushing yards in three seasons at Wisconsin, Biadasz won the Rimington Trophy (Division I-FBS top center) as a senior. The dominant run blocker will be groomed as Travis Frederick’s successor. While veteran Joe Looney projects as the Cowboys starter, Biadasz looms. He underwent offseason hip surgery in 2019 and an arthroscopic shoulder procedure this year. That caused a drop into the fourth round. The Cowboys traded up to get Biadasz, and he should be on the radar to replace Looney perhaps in 2020.
Rodrigo Blankenship, Indianapolis Colts
The 2019 Lou Groza Award winner — given to the Division I-FBS best kicker — Blankenship agreed to an undrafted free agent deal with the Colts. He will push Chase McLaughlin, a 2019 rookie who kicked for three teams last season. McLaughlin replaced an injured Adam Vinatieri late in the season, but the Illinois alum will face a more accomplished college kicker for the right to succeed the NFL’s all-time scoring leader. Blankenship made more than 80 percent of his field goal tries in three straight years at Georgia and booted 65 touchbacks on 85 kickoffs last season.
Ben Bredeson, Baltimore Ravens
Marshal Yanda may well become a Hall of Famer later this decade, and the Ravens have a massive replacement task on their hands. While Bradley Bozeman is the favorite to start at left guard, determining Yanda’s replacement on the right side is a work in progress. The Ravens signed D.J. Fluker last week, but the former first-rounder is now on his fourth team. Baltimore took Bredeson in the fourth round. At Michigan, Bredeson started 46 games at left guard. It is not hard to envision him in the Ravens lineup at some point this season.
Saahdiq Charles, Washington Redskins
With the Trent Williams drama over, the Redskins need a new left tackle. They have not re-signed Donald Penn, who held the job during Williams’ season-long holdout. Washington drafted Charles in the fourth round. While he is viewed as a raw talent, — he left LSU after his junior season — he did make 28 starts for a program that tied an NFL record with 14 players drafted. And the Redskins are light on options, giving Charles a path to a starting job.
Kevin Dotson, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ramon Foster started 145 games — fifth-most by a Steelers offensive lineman over the past 60 years — but retired after last season. The Steelers signed Stefen Wisniewski and drafted Dotson in the fourth round. While Wisniewski started for the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, he has been a part-time starter over the past four seasons. Although Louisiana teammate Robert Hunt went in the second round, Dotson was the school’s only first-team All-American since its move to Division I-FBS. He started 52 college games. Some Steelers staffers b elieve he can compete for a spot on the line as a rookie.
Troy Dye, Minnesota Vikings
Dye is the rare power-conference player to lead his team in tackles for four straight years, doing so at Oregon. He lands with a Vikings team that could have an opening alongside linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. Ben Gedeon suffered a season-ending concussion last season, and 2019 replacement Eric Wilson is a former undrafted player. Dye made 391 tackles with the Ducks (44 for loss) and registered 13 sacks. A clear path exists for the fourth-rounder to join Barr and Kendricks as the Vikings’ third base-set linebacker in 2020 and perhaps replace one of the expensive linebackers down the line.
Antonio Gandy-Golden, Washington Redskins
Terry McLaurin came within 7 yards of Gary Clark’s 34-year-old Redskins rookie receiving record, amassing 919 as a rookie. Beyond McLaurin, Washington received little from its aerial crew. No other Redskins target surpassed 400 yards. Gandy-Golden could challenge 2019 sixth-rounder Kelvin Harmon for the job opposite McLaurin. Scouts Inc. graded the 6-foot-4, 223-pound Liberty alum as a mid-third-rounder; Washington picked him in the mid-fourth. Gandy-Golden dominated at the low-level FBS school, catching 20 TD passes since 2018 and totaling nearly 2,500 yards in that span.
Bryce Hall, New York Jets
The Jets signed ex-Colts starter Pierre Desir but could feature competition at their other spot. They have lacked consistent cornerback play for years. Hall led Division I-FBS with 22 pass breakups as a junior and would have been drafted much higher than Round 5 had he not dislocated his ankle last season. That injury occurred last October, and the 6-foot-1 Virginia product said he will be ready if the NFL starts its season on time. The likes of Arthur Maulet and Blessuan Austin — neither of whom having been brought in by the current regime — stand in Hall’s way.
Mike Horton, Carolina Panthers
The Panthers made a strange trade this offseason, exchanging 26-year-old guard Trai Turner for 32-year-old tackle Russell Okung. The former has five Pro Bowls to the latter’s two. One of the Panthers’ many exoduses under Matt Rhule, Turner opens the door for an unusual guard competition. Carolina did not draft a guard but signed three UDFAs. Horton, a 32-game starter at Auburn, might be the best bet of the post-draft rookies to start. The Panthers signed journeyman John Miller, who was last seen as part of a horrendous Bengals O-line.
Solomon Kindley, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins drafted a left tackle in the first round (Austin Jackson), a hopeful right tackle in the second (Robert Hunt) and a guard in the fourth. While Hunt or right tackle incumbent Jesse Davis could slide to guard, Kindley will compete for the team’s right guard position. All 32 of Kindley’s Georgia starts came at guard, and he blocked for the likes of Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and 2020 second-rounder D’Andre Swift. Georgia resides as one of college football’s premier running teams. The 2019 Dolphins ranked 32nd by a mile in Football Outsiders’ top run-blocking metric and need as much new blood as possible.
Thaddeus Moss, Washington Redskins
A strange candidate to be a possible rookie-year starter, Moss went undrafted. But gaze at the Redskins’ post-Jordan Reed/Vernon Davis tight end depth chart . Randy Moss’ son should have a good chance to make Washington’s roster and see playing time as a rookie. In one LSU season, Thaddeus Moss caught 47 passes for 570 yards. Scouts Inc. graded the ex-N.C. State tight end as a fifth-round-caliber talent. While Moss does not have his father’s gifts, standing at just 6-foot-1, he did not drop a pass in 2019 and totaled three combined TDs in LSU’s two playoff wins.
Larrell Murchison, Tennessee Titans
Murchison might not be introduced in opening-drive graphics. But the Titans traded Jurrell Casey and may need help in sub-packages — which teams use far more than base groups. A fifth-round pick, Murchison registered seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss at N.C. State last season. At 297 pounds, the former Wolfpack starter could line up outside in Tennessee’s 3-4 scheme and inside when the Titans shift to their pass-rush group. Free agency addition Jack Crawford graded outside Pro Football Focus’ top 100 interior defenders last season; his starting job should not be considered a lock.
Netane Muti, Denver Broncos
This might be a long shot, but Muti possesses freakish strength and would have gone much earlier had he not endured consistent injury trouble at Fresno State. The sixth-round pick benched 225 pounds 44 times at the combine — seven more than any other attendee — and stunningly rated as PFF’s No. 1 interior offensive lineman. Muti staying healthy would allow him to impress Denver’s staff. The Broncos could move guard addition Graham Glasgow back to center — in the event Muti can stay healthy. If nothing else, this is an intriguing lottery ticket for an improved O-line.
Lamical Perine, New York Jets
If the Jets can convince a team to make a decent offer for Le’Veon Bell’s guaranteed salary, they would likely part ways with a back their current regime did not want. Bell will be in trade rumors for the foreseeable future. If he is dealt, New York has Perine in the pipeline. Scouts Inc. placed Perine as an early-third-round back; the Jets acquired the Florida product at pick No. 120. Perine did not accumulate a 1,000-yard season, but the 216-pound back was consistent on a per-touch basis as a senior. Perine does not have star upside, but the Jets are thin at running back behind Bell.
James Proche, Baltimore Ravens
Part of a pass-happy SMU offense, Proche caught 203 passes for nearly 2,500 yards between his junior and senior seasons. Despite going in the sixth round, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound wideout can create space consistently and has proved to be a reliable end-zone threat; he caught 39 career TD passes. Aside from Marquise Brown, the Ravens do not have any lineup locks at receiver. Proche could challenge contract-year slot cog Willie Snead for work as the season progresses.
Joe Reed, Los Angeles Chargers
Two years ago, the Chargers employed Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin. They are down to Allen and Mike Williams and need a No. 3 wide receiver. Reed will have to battle Ohio State alum K.J. Hill, a sixth-rounder, but the Virginia-developed fifth-round pick has an intriguing size-speed package. At 224 pounds, Reed ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash. He was a lethal kick returner for the Cavaliers and could be groomed to be the Bolts’ filler skill-position player in an offense that also includes Austin Ekeler and Hunter Henry.
Amik Robertson, Las Vegas Raiders
Despite playing only three seasons at Louisiana Tech, Robertson intercepted 14 passes. He took three of those back for TDs and was a menace in coverage for the mid-major program. PFF graded Robertson as its best cornerback on contested passes. He likely fell to the fourth round because of a 5-foot-8 frame. The Raiders could accommodate a potential early Robertson rise by moving slot corner Lamarcus Joyner back to safety, where he played with the Rams. Robertson could be a difference maker for a Raider team that has lacked one at corner for many years.
James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars did not like the offers they received for Leonard Fournette, but with the rebuilding team having traded several Pro Bowlers since October, a Fournette trade could well occur before the season. That would open the door for Robinson, a UDFA out of Illinois State. The 220-pound back dominated the Missouri Valley Conference, totaling 4,444 rushing yards and 44 career TDs, and tore up the East-West Shrine Game in January. Although the Jags signed ex-Redskins back Chris Thompson, he is a passing-down specialist. Robinson may be a name to monitor late in fantasy drafts.
Mykal Walker, Atlanta Falcons
Financial commitments to cornerstone players in 2019 prevented the Falcons from keeping role players Austin Hooper or De’Vondre Campbell. The latter’s defection to the Cardinals opens up a place alongside Deion Jones at linebacker. Despite Walker being a fourth-round rookie, the Falcons do not possess much in the way of resistance to him joining Jones as a Week 1 starter. Walker went 2-for-2 in first-team All-Mountain West Conference acclaim at Fresno State, accumulating 22.5 tackles for loss in that span.