Top 15 Unexpected NFL Rookies That Might be Starting This Year

Every year, the NFL Draft rolls around, bringing with it multiple storylines that fill the otherwise dull days of the NFL offseason schedule. Scouting is a yearlong process that takes many hours and evaluates a huge number of prospects from all sorts of programs. While this is all well underway by the time the NFL Regular season kicks off, it isn’t until a new Super Bowl champ is crowned that media experts start weighing in on who the big names in the draft are. All this coverage allows even the most lethargic fan to become acquainted with whatever they need to know leading up to draft day. While most fans are focused on the draft's first round, the most intriguing part of the whole process is watching out for those diamond in the ruff players in the later rounds.

It is well known that first round selections are drafted with the idea that they be starters at one point in their careers, sooner rather than later in today’s NFL. While the first round is where a team finds their day one starters, the later rounds is where they build depth. Later round selections tend to be rawer than other prospects. They typically contribute on special teams or in the film room for the majority of their careers. But that’s not to say that a fifth round pick can’t become a super star in the league.

With every preseason, there are new names that pop up out of nowhere. Players no one’s ever heard of or paid attention to until that one big run or 300 yard game. It’s one of the most exciting things about pro football. Seeing an unlikely underdog burst onto center stage isn’t exactly a rare occurrence, yet it still remains one of the sport’s greatest charms. With so many men jostling for a roster spot, the tenacity and determination showed by these players is truly inspiring.

These are some later round selections that have a good shot at cracking the starting line-up before the season kickoff.

15 Gerald Christian – Arizona Cardinals – 7th Round

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14 Jalston Fowler – Tennessee Titans - 4th Round


13 D’Joun Smith – Indianapolis Colts – 3rd Round

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

12 Mykkele Thompson – New York Giants – 5th Round


11 Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns – 3rd Round


10 Gabe Wright – Detroit Lions – 4th Round


9 David Cobb – Tennessee Titans – 5th Round

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

8 Eli Harold – San Francisco 49ers – 3rd Round


7 David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – 3rd Round


6 Owa Odighizuwa – New York Giants – 3rd Round


5 Jay Ajayi – Miami Dolphins – 5th Round


4 Bryce Petty – New York Jets – 4th Round

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

3 Clive Walford – Oakland Raiders – 3rd Round


2 Tre’ Jackson – New England Patriots – 4th Round

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

1 TJ Clemmings – Minnesota Vikings – 4th Round


The Vikings needed help on the o-line and got lucky when TJ Clemmings fell down a lot of teams’ draft boards. Thought to be one of the best tackles in the draft, word of a lingering leg issues scared teams off. Clemmings dropped all the way to the fourth round and Minnesota got themselves a new guard. Clemmings has impressed coaches enough so far to be worked in with the first-team offense. Though recent news out of Minnesota suggests he might’ve injured his leg yet again, the injury is probably a minor one and serves as a slight speedbump early on in Clemmings’ rookie campaign. With Adrian Peterson back in the mix, the Vikings will be counting on Clemmings to anchor their offensive line.

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Top 15 Unexpected NFL Rookies That Might be Starting This Year