It's that time of the season for NFL fans. Early August brings out the worst in fans because it is the peak of missing the game of football. Even though preseason is around the corner there is still another month before things really start heating up and the actual games start. As a result, people are starving for any small piece that they can get and that comes in the way of training camp.
For most they get some of that non-football anxiety out of the way during the combine. That is because all of the players can easily be seen running, jumping, lifting and it gives fans higher hopes about what these prospects can do for their teams in the upcoming season. Of course, it’s tough to tell all of that without them putting on pads but is the best you’re going to see from these rookies.
However, with everything about the NFL continuously gaining popularity, training camp has taken over to some degree. More people are getting their phones out and recording entire parts of camp and showing what some players can do in drills. People of this accessibility fans are getting to see more of the rookies than ever before. Add that into the fact that blogs are still going around and posting those classic “so and so running back looks like Jim Brown at Camp” posts and excitement has risen another level. On the flip side, writers are also being more honest about players who haven’t performed well early in camp which is just as important. Without further ado here is a list of 12 players who have looked good in camp and 12 who have struggled.
24 Struggling: Marcus Davenport
The Saints have had a load of trouble trying to pick defensive players in recent drafts. All of that changed when they clearly hit picking Marcus Lattimore at corner in the first-round last season. Lattimore was one of the best corners in the league the second he played a down. The Saints went back to the well again this year taking Marcus Davenport with the 14th pick in the draft. However, Davenport has already been up and down. In June he had a thumb injury which required surgery. He’s recovered from that but has missed time in camp with another injury. Hopefully for Davenport, these nicks and bruises won’t keep him out of games in the regular season.
23 Thriving: Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson has been a surprise at camp so far this season. With the 32nd overall pick in the draft the Ravens selected Jackson from Louisville. Jackson did play in a pro system, but it was adjusted to gear towards his ability to run and scramble outside of the pocket as well.
This pick was supposed to be a flyer on a great athlete and Jackson was expected to struggle this training camp.
As a quarterback he’s looked solid but what has wowed people the most about Jackson is his speed. Ravens defenders talk like someone who just saw Inception for the first time and don’t really know what to think. That’s all we need to know about Jackson right now.
22 Struggling: Sam Darnold
This is a very interesting case study happening in the NFL right now involving quarterback Sam Darnold. The ex USC quarterback was said to be easily the best prospect in the draft heading into last year and the Jets believed they stole him with the 3rd pick in the draft. But Darnold held out for the first three days of camp until he got the deal he was looking for. This has left him slightly behind the 8 ball early in the learning curve but also becomes interesting to view how his teammates respond to the rookie missing camp already.
21 Thriving: Anthony Miller
Anthony Miller was selected with the 51st overall pick in the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. Miller was one of those wide outs that people thought might have an impact on the field but after what he’s been doing this training camp there is a different question being asked from the Bears. Is Anthony Miller going to be the number one receiver for the team when the season starts? They still have Kevin White but Miller have been able to run very precise routes on a dime and looked very good so far in training camp. Only time will tell though.
20 Struggling: Cedrick Wilson
Cedrick Wilson was drafted in the 6th round by the Dallas Cowboys. They were hoping that the Boise State receiver would help them to slowly build up their core without Dez Bryant. Already Wilson has dealt with a major blow to his career, suffering from shoulder injury early in camp. The Cowboys were hoping for the best, but the injury is a torn labrum which means that Wilson will be out for the season. This is heartbreaking for all of the parties involved. The Cowboys are missing a possible deep play threat, but Wilson’s NFL life may be on the line because of this gruesome injury. This is the unfortunate side of training camp.
19 Thriving: Quenton Nelson
Quenton Nelson was picked 6th overall in the draft by the Indianapolis Colts. The offensive guard was the perfect player for the Colts who have finally realized how important Andrew Luck’s health is now that they missed him for an entire season. The best compliments you can give an offensive lineman have been thrown Nelson’s way including “tough, physical and nasty.” He will be the perfect fit for a team finally trying to get a running game which would help Luck out as well in the long run. While picking a guard so high isn't the flashiest pick, it was probably the right call for Indy.
18 Struggling: Vita Vea
Thankfully the former University of Washington defensive lineman shortened his name to this pronunciation to make it easier for everyone. Vita Vea was a destructive force for the Huskies and really the only defensive player, other than Sidney Jones, who could make an impact game to game. Vea has been a first-round prospect for a year and in the draft the Buccaneers took him with the 12th pick, with many surprised that they passed on Derwin James.
Vea had a hamstring injury which stopped him from performing in the combine and the injury bug has struck again during camp. Vea strained his calf and will miss the rest of camp. Not a good sign for a big man to already have problems with his lower body.
17 Thriving: Tre’Quan Smith
Whenever any skill position player gets drafted by the Saints everyone else in the league tries to see what they missed. This was the case when the Saints took Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara in the most recent seasons. During training camp it appears to be happening again with 3rd round pick Tre’Quan Smith.
The wide receiver out of UCF has stolen the show at Saints training camp.
If it’s possible, Smith will be making the Saints offense even more destructive than it was last season. Most teams in the NFC are hoping that this is being exaggerated and Smith doesn’t pan out.
16 Struggling: Obo Okoronkwo
As the draft went on the Rams were looking for a player to add as a pass rusher for the team. In the 5th round they took the very interesting prospect in Obo Okoronkwo from Oklahoma. Okoronkwo was a very good pass rushing specialist with 9 sacks as a Junior and 8 as a senior for the Sooners. However, he hasn’t gotten the chance to show any of that ability off in training camp. Okoronkwo has been put on the PUP list for all of camp which is a blow to his chances on making an impact early. The Rams are hoping Okoronkwo gets healthy soon so they can find out how talented the pass rusher is.
15 Thriving: Michael Gallup
It is tough to judge what to make of the training camp noise surrounding Michael Gallup. When the Cowboys took Gallup with their third round pick the hope was that he would replace Dez Bryant. Of course, those are lofty goals to set for someone before they even get in training camp. Well maybe not the Dez Bryant of the last two seasons but still, transitioning as a rookie wide receiver might be the toughest position to do. But scouts are eating Gallup’s performances and saying that he’s in the number one receiver conversation, so keep an eye on this rookie.
14 Struggling: Jalyn Holmes
Jalyn Holmes was selected in the 4th round by the Minnesota Vikings in 2018. The defensive tackle was very good in the Ohio State system with his ability to control the line of scrimmage and stop the run. He didn’t get the most sacks but considering the talent they had at every other position he knew his role and did it well.
The Vikings saw Holmes and considered that they could use a player with similar ability with the rest of the front seven. But Holmes broke his hand before camp and it has held him back at times. Hopefully Holmes can fully recover before the season to make an impact for the Vikings.
13 Thriving: Frank Ragnow
Frank Ragnow was selected with the 20th overall pick in the draft. One of the harder positions to miss in the most recent years has been the offensive line.
Teams have gotten better at finding top talent there so it is no surprise that the Lions are liking their early returns from the pick.
It is an interesting change for the Lions organization but one that was necessary. For years they tried to build from the outside in but now the Lions are building with the offensive line to keep Matthew Stafford up right and Ragnow at center is the key to leading the charge.
12 Struggling: Daron Payne
Daron Payne was one of the players that everyone could tell made a difference for Alabama. The defensive tackle disrupted plays in the championship game last year and had six tackles against Georgia. He caused continuous problems from the middle of the defensive line for years. He even got an interception in the game against Clemson and then scored a touchdown later. Payne was taken 13th overall by the Redskins to be their new option at defensive tackle. But an ankle injury meant that he is going to miss 2-3 weeks and the rest of training camp.
11 Thriving: D.J. Moore
Many felt the Carolina Panthers reached when they selected D.J. Moore in the first round. They were also surprised that Moore was the first wide receiver selected, as most felt Calvin Ridley was the most pro ready wideout. Well, so far in camp, Moore has shown why the Panthers liked his upside so much. D.J. Moore has wowed coaches at camp and has been progressing quicker than many expected. Cam Newton hasn't had a bonafide no.1 target since Steve Smith, but the Panthers may have found Newton's new favorite weapon.
10 Struggling: Josh Allen
Scouts were torn on Josh Allen coming into the draft. While some felt his size and arm strength gave him the biggest upside of any QB, his detractors pointed out his accuracy issues, his TD to INT ratio in college and his raw, undeveloped skillset.
The Bills didn't have many expectations for Allen in camp this year, but it's pretty clear A.J. McCarron will be the Bills' starter in Week 1.
In fact, Allen looks like he'll be the third stringer, barring a late camp turnaround. Even for a project QB, the Bills had to have been hoping he'd at least outplay Nathan Peterman in camp.
9 Thriving: Arden Key
Arden Key was taken by the Raiders with their 3rd round pick in the draft. In college Key went to LSU and wore one of those numbers in the 40s as a pass rusher which means you know he was talented. Key struggled in 2017 dealing with injuries throughout the season, this was the main reason he ended up slipping so fair in the draft.
The Raiders were hoping that he would work next to Khalil Mack on as an edge rusher and if camp is any indication, he will be perfect on the other side.
Key set up an offensive lineman with a spin that was just deadly at camp and the reaction was an 'oooh' from the crowd. Not normal for a pass rusher but he wasn’t even touched on the move. Yes it was that awesome.
8 Struggling: Dorian O’Daniel
Dorian O’Daniel is another player who got thrust on the national stage by playing a major university. The linebacker started for Clemson when they won the National Championship two years ago and played a big role on last year’s team. O’Daniel was taken in the 3rd round by the Kansas City Chiefs in the draft. They were counting on him to replace what they have lost in recent years around the middle of their linebacking core. O’Daniel did show up early to camp which was a positive but he hasn’t learned the ins and outs of playing the linebacker/safety hybrid role yet. There is plenty of time, and it’s a difficult position to get down so hopefully he gets through the learning curve.
7 Thriving: Dante Pettis
Dante Pettis is another player that fans will recognize from college. As a wide receiver and punt returner from the University of Washington, Pettis was a game breaker on many different levels for the Huskies.
One issue that NFL teams worried about was how slim he was entering the draft. This concern came into play as Pettis couldn’t run the 40 yard dash due to an ankle injury.
Pettis is also dealing with the fact that John Ross went to Washington as well and has been a flat-out failure so far.
Still the 2nd round pick has got the 49ers brass happy with his early performances in camp. He looks like a weapon for Jimmy Garoppolo to use in the upcoming year.
6 Struggling: Antonio Callaway
The Cleveland Browns gave Antonio Callaway a vote of confidence when they traded up in the fourth round to select the receiver out of Florida. Considering the Browns already had Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman, it was expected Callaway could provide a spark. However, Callaway has already landed himself in hot water due to off-field issues. Given that Josh Gordon has taken a leave of absence from the team, and Corey Coleman was just traded, seeing Callaway get into trouble has to be disappointing for Cleveland. Hopefully, Callaway can use the experience to turn it around, before he finds himself to be another Browns disappointment.
5 Thriving: Anthony Averett
One of the toughest things to do in the NFL is figuring out how Alabama is operating. This has become a nearly impossible task in recent years because the Crimson Tide have talent all over the roster judging who will be a success at the next level is difficult. It is even harder because Nick Saban plans to the talent he has on the roster and hides the weaknesses.
Anthony Averett played cornerback for Saban until being picked in the 4th round by the Ravens.
But the Ravens have liked the results so far and believe they won the Alabama lottery.
4 Struggling: Roquan Smith
Roquan Smith had been a strong contributor at Georgia since 2015. That year he started every game for Georgia as a freshman and was an impact player ever since. In 2017 Smith took over the SEC and led Georgia to having one of the best defenses in the country. Smith ended up as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and won the Butkus Award in 2017. Smith was taken with the 8th overall pick by the Bears in the draft. Smith hasn’t been in camp the entire time because of a holdout so the Bears hope he lives up to those high expectations.
3 Thriving: Bradley Chubb
Bradley Chubb was one player who was considered a can’t miss prospect heading into the draft. Most people thought he would get taken by the Browns at the 4th spot in the draft but when they passed him up the Broncos jumped on the opportunity with the fifth pick in the draft. Even though the Broncos needed a quarterback of the future having Chubb ready to pair up with Von Miller could be the most destructive one/two combination in the NFL. Chubb has looked every bit the part early on in camp and the Broncos will have four legit pass rushers to throw at teams heading into 2018.
2 Struggling: Derwin James
Derwin James has not had an easy off-season. The former Florida State star safety was picked with the 17th pick by the Los Angeles Chargers in the draft. Playing in LA seems like it would be a dream but it has not been easy for this James.
Even though he was a super star in college, the transition to training camp couldn’t have been more difficult.
He missed practice until August 2nd due to injuries but has returned. James only recently began working with the first stringers, but it's no guarantee he's a starter Week 1, like the Chargers had hoped.
1 Thriving: Baker Mayfield
This is actually a surprise from the rookie front in Baker Mayfield. The 1st overall pick in the 2018 draft was said to have struggled at minicamps but now the reports are that he’s looking good in training camp. He has “floored” the Browns organization at camp and continues to make strides each day. Even though Hue Jackson keeps saying that he wants Tyrod Taylor to be the starting quarterback, it won’t matter if Mayfield looks good in the preseason, or if the Browns struggle out of the gate.
Even better, Mayfield gave the ultimate quote “To be detailed is to be great in this league,”. He’s saying all the cheesy starting quarterback stuff coaches love. Start the man.