Every incoming batch of NFL rookies brings optimism and expectations to fan bases and front offices around the league. As younger and, in some cases, more athletic bodies are brought in to compete for starting jobs, some elder statesmen find themselves fighting for their jobs.
As the 2016 NFL Draft class looks to make its impact on the league, here are some veterans that may find themselves on the outside looking in with regard to playing time.
Case Keenum, Los Angeles Rams
After being selected first overall in the draft, Jared Goff enters the season with sky-high expectations, expectations that begin with him winning the starting QB job at some point this year. If that were to come to fruition, it would leave 28-year-old veteran Case Keenum in a backup role. Keenum has appeared in 16 games over the course of his three years in the NFL, throwing for 3,023 yards and 15 touchdown, while also throwing nine interceptions and fumbling eight times. This will be his second year with the Rams, though he only played in six games last season. Goff and Keenum will likely spend much of the preseason locked in a battle to win the starting role.
Frostee Rucker, Arizona Cardinals
Rucker has spent his last three seasons in Arizona, and he has been solid in his role. The 32-year-old defensive end is coming off a 2015 campaign that saw him collect 28 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble in 13 starts. Despite still being productive after 10 NFL seasons, the first-round draft choice of defensive end Robert Nkemdiche may point toward the team beginning to gear up for the post-Rucker era. Nkemdiche was selected 29th overall after posting a 26-tackle, three-sack season in 10 games at Ole Miss. Though the team may ultimately decide to play Rucker over Nkemdiche, the rookie should give the veteran a run for his money.
Darren McFadden, Dallas Cowboys
The battle for the Cowboys’ starting running-back spot may have been decided already, as Darren McFadden may miss the season opener with a broken elbow. McFadden was set to battle first-round pick Ezekiel Elliott for the starting role, but now it appears that Elliott may have a clear path to the job. Elliott, the fourth pick in last year’s draft, has had a turbulent offseason after he was accused of domestic violence, though he has denied the allegation.
Glenn Dorsey, San Francisco 49ers
In 2013, Dorsey’s first year with the 49ers, the defensive end put together an impressive season, making 41 tackles and two sacks in 13 starts, but he then missed the entire 2014 season. Dorsey returned in 2015 to play in 10 games and make 18 tackles. The 31-year-old will now face competition in camp after the 49ers selected defensive end DeForest Buckner with the seventh pick in the draft. Buckner put up monster numbers in his final year at Oregon, making 45 tackles and collecting 10.5 sacks in 13 games. Buckner’s college numbers, as well as his position in the draft, point to the talent and potential that the rookie possesses. If the 49ers choose to explore that potential immediately, it could leave Dorsey on the bench.
DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans
Murray isn’t the only new running back to arrive in Tennessee this offseason, as the Titans also snagged Derrick Henry in the second round of the draft. The two are slated to compete for playing time with the Titans, with Murray considered the early favorite based on track record. Murray gained 702 yards on 193 carries as a Philadelphia Eagle in 2015, and he will enter 2016 just two years removed from a 1,845-yard, 13-touchdown season with the Cowboys. In Henry’s senior season at Alabama, he put up some incredible numbers in his own right, rushing for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns on 395 carries. While they may split time in the backfield for the Titans, it may be a season-long battle between Murray and Henry for the starting role.
Dallas Thomas, Miami Dolphins
Dolphins fans may want to give their team’s guard play a closer look this preseason. The Dolphins drafted Laremy Tunsil with the 13th pick in the Draft with the expectation that he’ll help bolster the offensive line in front of Ryan Tannehill. To do so, Tunsil would have to garner significant playing time, and Dallas Thomas may be the man from whom he takes that playing time. The Dolphins have said that Tunsil will have to earn the starting job, meaning that Thomas has the opportunity to remain the No. 1 if he impresses in training camp. On the flip side, the Dolphins invested their first pick in Tunsil and may be anxious to see what he can do at the professional level.