Respected National Football League veterans and other starters around the league find themselves looking in figurative rear view mirrors as rookies are drafted and other players are added to rosters via free agency. In time, every starter, even one who knows he will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame not long after he calls time on his career, realizes that he has to either step aside or see his spot on the depth chart handed to somebody younger and better. Yes, it will happen to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady eventually regardless of how he feels about the matter. Not even the G.O.A.T. can defeat Father Time forever.
A handful of well-known players who began training camp sessions and the preseason as starters are in danger of losing their jobs during the 2018 season. Some seem destined to fall out of favor with coaches midway through the campaign, if not sooner. These changes in roster personnel could lead to some interesting decisions made by coaching staffs and general managers, as other franchises around the league may want to take fliers on starters who lose their gigs to younger products. One team’s trash is another side’s treasure, to steal the familiar phrase, and those who have their starting jobs given to others will hope that is the case for the betterment of their careers.
21 WR: Demaryius Thomas
Fans of the Denver Broncos may not have to worry about saying farewell to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas quite yet, but it does appear his place on the depth chart is in jeopardy. Rookie Courtland Sutton has been as good, if not better, than advertised throughout the summer, and the 22-year-old should see only additional targets and, in time, become a favorite WR of quarterback Case Keenum. Near the end of August, rumors emerged that the Broncos could look to trade Thomas with his job becoming Sutton’s to lose. Thomas will be 31 years old on Christmas Day, and now could be the last time the Broncos can fetch something worthwhile in return for his services even if the team is trying to pour cold water on those stories at the moment.
20 RB: Carlos Hyde
Don’t look now, but the Cleveland Browns have some tasty options on the offensive side of the football. Running back Carlos Hyde, signed via free agency earlier this year, has been somewhat of a revelation during the summer, to the point that he may be a sleeper for your fantasy football squads as it pertains to the opening half of the campaign. The Browns also drafted running back Nick Chubb, who has made positive strides throughout the summer and could emerge as a Rookie of the Year candidate if he takes Hyde’s starting job and becomes the first-choice man out of the backfield. Perhaps he can help the Browns compete for a playoff spot.
19 QB: Joe Flacco
Despite what some wanted to believe at the start of preseason, Lamar Jackson did not do enough in August to grab the role of starting quarterback from the hands of Joe Flacco leading up to Week 1. With that said, anybody who cannot see the writing on the wall at this stage of the game is either willingly blind to reality or simply doesn’t understand where the team is headed. The Ravens are waiting for Flacco and/or the team’s record to be just bad enough to justify giving Jackson playing time, likely en route to moving on from the Super Bowl champion signal-caller next year. Thanks for everything, Mr. Flacco, and Baltimore wishes you well in your future endeavors.
18 WR: Kevin White
When the Chicago Bears used a first-round pick on wide receiver Kevin White, fans believed the club landed a future franchise cornerstone who could, potentially, serve as the team’s version of Odell Beckham Jr.. White may not even be on the roster by the time this piece goes public. Injuries derailed White’s pro career before he ever picked-up any momentum, and Javon Wims, a seventh-round pick, will take snaps and, ultimately, the job away from White if the veteran is awarded with an opportunity to remain on the roster through the opening week of the campaign. It’s understandable some want to root for White, but the Bears will have to move on, in time.
17 RB: Rex Burkhead
Some may say it is unfair and maybe even inaccurate to include any New England Patriots running backs in a list of players who will lose their jobs because Bill Belichick traditionally uses a revolving-door method of featuring individuals at the position. As true as that is, the Patriots utilized a first-round pick to land Georgia product Sony Michel. Belichick is going to want to feed the 23-year-old who can benefit the offense out of the backfield and in the passing attack more and more as the season progresses. You may not want to draft Michel for September fantasy football showdowns, but keep an eye on his status once fall officially arrives.
16 QB: Tyrod Taylor
In a perfect situation, the Cleveland Browns, specifically head coach Hue Jackson, could allow veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor to remain under center and win games for the franchise while rookie Baker Mayfield sits and learns from the sidelines. Those who have seen the first overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft have watched him perform admirably and improve, and Mayfield absolutely looked ready to play when the Browns host the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1. There will come a time when sitting Mayfield in favor of Taylor is doing more harm than good for this year’s version of the Browns and also for the future of the team. Taylor will lose his job to the first-year pro later this fall.
15 WR: Mohamed Sanu
It likely isn’t a secret even to 29-year-old Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu that he is going to lose his starting job to a younger player, perhaps as quickly as the first weeks of the campaign. Calvin Ridley has not been a perfect rookie since joining the Falcons, but the first-round pick out of Alabama has the talent and the size needed to evolve into a No. 1 WR. Once he is fully up to speed and gets the “dropsies” some rookie WRs deal with out of his system, the starting job should be his. Atlanta did not use such a high selection on him to sit him below Sanu on the depth chart.
14 RB: Marshawn Lynch
We wish we didn't have to put him here, but Beast Mode does not inspire confidence in us. The Khalil Mack trade really deflated any hype the Raiders had going into the season with Jon Gruden at the helm. Any shortcomings the offense might have had could have been covered up by a defense led by Mack, but now they will have to be near-perfect to even compete this season.
While he will be solid for Oakland, Marshawn will start to slow down and the Raiders might have some other players start throughout the year, including the newly acquired Doug Martin, not to mention Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington.
13 QB: Blake Bortles
You would not have to look long on social media platforms to see that some who have followed the Jacksonville Jaguars during the preseason believe Cody Kessler, not Blake Bortles, is the best quarterback on the roster as of September. Bortles’ up-and-down career has been well-documented throughout his four seasons in the league. Kessler does not have the strongest arm among QBs in the NFL, but he showed while with the Cleveland Browns that he is an accurate thrower of the ball when he has more than two seconds to make decisions. Kessler could take the starting job from Bortles if the Jaguars struggle to win games in September.
12 WR: DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson is no longer the deep threat he once was, as the years have taken a toll on him. The veteran will try and keep his starting job alongside Mike Evans this season, but look for Chris Godwin to produce big numbers in his second year and pass Jackson on the depth chart.
Tampa Bay needs someone more reliable and consistent on the field, and DeSean is no longer that receiver. Sure, he's still more than capable of popping a big play here and there, but ultimately, his time as a starting WR in the NFL is coming to an end.
11 RB: LeGarrette Blount
There were plenty of suggestions in August that veteran running back LeGarrette Blount will be more than just a bruiser who sees action in short-yard situations while with the Detroit Lionts. Blount is no longer the player he was in his prime, and he’ll turn 32 years old in December. Detroit may want to milk the last ounces of talent he has left in the tank, but it is important that the club has him healthy and available for the final four games of the year. Rookie Kerryon Johnson should take carries from Blount and anybody else on the depth chart as his confidence and comfort grows. Johnson is a sleeper Rookie of the Year candidate.
10 QB: Mitch Trubisky
This may be one of those situations when a starter loses his job only to then have it returned to him either later this year or in 2019. There are some real concerns Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky is not improving quickly enough from his rookie season, and veteran Chase Daniel, who has experience playing in Chicago’s current offensive system, has looked ready for action during the summer. Daniel probably is not going to become the next Case Keenum or Nick Foles if given the stating job, or if Trubisky goes down to an injury. He may, however, be the best option for the Bears to win games later in the year.
9 WR: Ted Ginn Jr.
33-year-old New Orleans Saints wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. is not getting any younger, and the explosiveness that he had in his younger days is not quite what is was then. Earlier this year, the Saints took a flier on Cameron Meredith, and all indications are that the team is high on Meredith and wants to see if the 25-year-old can return to form coming off a torn ACL. Meredith had a rough preseason until he took advantage of blown coverage and went for 56 yards in the team’s final exhibition contest. He also scored a touchdown that evening. Ginn should make the final roster, but his touches will be limited because of others ahead of him on the depth chart.
8 RB: Chris Carson
Chris Carson is going to begin the 2018 NFL regular season atop the depth chart at the running back position for the Seattle Seahawks largely because of a lack of other options on the roster. C.J. Prosise has dealt with multiple injury setbacks since entering the league a couple of seasons ago, and it is clear that head coach Pete Carroll does not trust Prosise can remain healthy for any lengthy amount of time. Rookie running back Rashaad Penny is probably the most talented back on the depth chart, and Carroll would do well to give him chances to take the starting job once he is fully recovered from the broken finger he suffered during a summer practice.
7 QB: Jameis Winston
Those who fancy conspiracy theories may enjoy this one. Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback Jameis Winston is serving a three-game suspension following (another) reported off-the-field incident, and multiple local beat reporters and national commentators have publicly stated that the Bucs need to do whatever necessary to get him off the roster and way from the franchise. There are whispers from Florida that the team is hoping veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, starting in place of the banned Winston, will do enough to keep the 24-year-old signal-caller sidelined for longer than a trio of games. After his performance in week one, this could be a realistic option for Tampa. This story could become fascinating in a hurry.
6 WR: Terrance Williams
When the Dallas Cowboys parted ways with outspoken wide receiver Dez Bryant and lost tight end Jason Witten to retirement, the belief was that WR Terrance Williams would become more of an impact player in the passing attack. That isn’t the case as September begins. Rookie Michael Gallup has emerged as the favorite to feature as the team’s No. 1 WR, and both Allen Hurns and Cole Beasley are expected to take targets away from Williams. At this point, the Cowboys may be better off trading Williams, if anybody wants him, rather than have him compete with veteran Deonte Thompson. Dallas’ passing attack is lacking big names, but that doesn’t mean it is without talent.
5 RB: Frank Gore
35-year-old running back Frank Gore, who should be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his stats and longevity, is apparently not keen on being merely a member of the Miami Dolphins during the twilight of his career. Gore is not without competition on the roster. Kenyan Drake, selected by the Dolphins in the 2016 NFL Draft, seems to have a fan in head coach Adam Gase, who wants to feature the 24-year-old as a ball-carrier and also in the passing game. Drake should see chances to emerge as the starter ahead of Gore as long as he does not flop while splitting carries with the veteran during the first month or so of the year.
4 QB: Sam Bradford
One could have his pick of reasons for why Arizona Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford will lose his starting job during the season. Bradford could either take a hit that sidelines him for a set amount of time, or the wear and tear of the prior physical setbacks he has suffered could lead to him needing to sit for at least a few works. The Cardinals could eventually feel that Josh Rosen gives the team the best chance to win, or things could go so poorly for Arizona over the opening ten games that continuing to sit Rosen would go against the franchise’s long-term improvement. Whatever happens, we expect to see Rosen on the field before December.
3 WR: Josh Gordon
The Cleveland Browns are in a difficult position as of the end of August. On one hand, those running the franchise want to be sympathetic toward wide receiver Josh Gordon and the personal issues he is dealing with as he attempts to resurrect whatever is left of his career. At the same time, the NFL is a business, and there are more than a few whispers that those in charge of the Browns may feel that making a clean break could be what is best for everybody once Gordon is cleared to play. Besides, it’s been five years since Gordon displayed Pro Bowl talent on the field. That’s a lifetime in the NFL.
2 RB: Adrian Peterson
Multiple former players who serve as analysts and also fantasy football experts are telling anybody who will listen that fans should not buy the hype over veteran running back Adrian Peterson joining the Washington Redskins ahead of the 2018 season. Somebody may want to tell the Redskins about that. Unless something goes wrong, Peterson is likely to take the role of starter over the trio of Chris Thompson, Robert Kelley and Samaje Perine, which what we saw in week one. Whether or not the 33-year-old will be able to keep that job will be seen, but it appears the Redskins are willing to learn what Peterson has left in the tank as September/October move on.
1 QB: Nathan Peterman
Nathan Peterman had a decent preseason, but let's face it: he'll always be remembered as the guy who threw 5 interceptions in his first game. This Buffalo team does not look good, and they'll be out of the playoff hunt by mid-season. This will allow the Bills to try out the guy they drafted as their franchise quarterback, Josh Allen.
With A.J. McCarron gone, the path is even more clear for Allen to take over. We're not saying Peterman is going to be outright bad, but with little help around him, Allen will take the reigns sooner rather than later.