Bold NFL training camp predictions for all 32 teams

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Tuesday, July 30, 2019

NFL training camps are in full swing and that means optimism is brimming for just about everyone other than the New York Giants' receiving corps.

We asked our NFL Nation reporters to make a bold prediction about the team they cover coming out of camp and why we could see it happening.


AFC East: BUF | MIA | NE | NYJ

AFC North: BAL | CIN | CLE | PIT

AFC South: HOU | IND | JAX | TEN

AFC West: DEN | KC | LAC | OAK


NFC North: CHI | DET| GB | MIN

NFC South: ATL | CAR| NO | TB



Buffalo Bills

WR John Brown will emerge as Josh Allen's No. 1 target.

The former Cardinal and Raven was widely expected to take over as the Bills' top receiver when he signed during the offseason, and the early returns from his first few training camp practices have been better than expected. His speed gives second-year quarterback Allen a vertical threat, as well as a shifty option underneath. If his camp chemistry with Allen is no fluke, Brown is a sneaky bet to surpass the 1,003-yard mark he reached in 2015. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Miami Dolphins

At least five undrafted/AAF players will make Dolphins' final roster.

This is a rebuilding Dolphins team that lacks depth in a few areas and if it's close on certain positions we'll see them bet on long-term upside. Coach Brian Flores is a big believer in true competition, and we can see more surprises than normal on cut-down day with veterans being let go in favor of youngsters. WR Preston Williams and DB Montre Hartage (undrafted free agents) and Joey Mbu (Alliance of American Football) are among the candidates who have impressed this offseason and could push to make the team with a strong August. -- Cameron Wolfe

New England Patriots

Danny Etling's transition from QB to WR will help the Patriots win a game this season.

This has been one of the unique stories of training camp, as the former LSU quarterback is experimenting with a receiver-type role in addition to special teams duties. He hasn't looked out of place, and his work ethic (often staying after practice for extra repetitions) is one obvious example of the type of team-first, hard-grinding culture Bill Belichick has created (and why keeping Etling around makes sense). Etling faces long odds to earn a place on the initial 53-man roster (I'd estimate 10%), but a spot on the practice squad is a much greater possibility. Anything can happen from there over the course of the season. All it takes is one play to make a difference, and it wouldn't be shocking it Etling makes it -- at some point -- in his new role. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

New GM Joe Douglas will make his first trade -- for a cornerback.

The Jets are perilously thin at the position, which is vital in Gregg Williams' man-to-man defense. They have only one proven starter, CB1 Trumaine Johnson. It's hard to find top-level corners, but Douglas can deal for a mid-level player to address the glaring need. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

Pernell McPhee will generate buzz in preseason.

McPhee is back with Baltimore after recording no sacks with the Redskins last season. But the Ravens, who lost their top two pass-rushers last season, have been impressed with McPhee. He has been moving better than expected, and has even caught the eye of the Ravens owner. McPhee looks like he will take advantage of every opportunity to make this team.-- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Safety Jessie Bates will emerge as the top player in Cincinnati's secondary.

The second-round pick out of Wake Forest had many notable feats during his first year in the league. He led the team in tackles, tallied a pick-six and became the first Bengals rookie to start all 16 games since Takeo Spikes in 1998. Bates' athleticism and physicality could make him one of the league's best young safeties. -- Ben Baby

Cleveland Browns

GM John Dorsey will add another impact player before camp ends.

Dorsey, who has already swung multiple trades since arriving in Cleveland, is clearly still looking to upgrade his roster. He nearly landed free-agent DTs Gerald McCoy and Mike Daniels this summer. And he has a history of prying away disaffected stars (Redskins tackle Trent Williams would erase Cleveland's only remaining question spot offensively). -- Jake Trotter

Pittsburgh Steelers

Donte Moncrief will emerge as the No. 2 wide receiver.

The Steelers are pleased with Moncrief's progress and playmaking in the offense and believe Ben Roethlisberger can elevate his game. Young receivers Diontae Johnson and James Washington will remain in the mix on the outside, but Moncrief's veteran savvy and athleticism should fend them off for the short term. -- Jeremy Fowler


Houston Texans

First-round pick Tytus Howard will open the season as the Texans' starting left guard.

Coach Bill O'Brien continues to move the offensive linemen around to find the right starting five, but even when veteran tackle Matt Kalil had a day off last week, Howard stayed inside. O'Brien said the rookie has been able to pick up the offense and has done a good job at communicating at his position. Although Howard was drafted as a tackle, he played guard in college as well. -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

Rookie receiver Parris Campbell will lose out on the punt return job to veteran Chester Rogers.

But count on him to beat out Rogers to be the No. 3 receiver behind T.Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess. Campbell was viewed as a gadget slot receiver coming out of Ohio State, but his route running has been impressive in training camp. The combination of Campbell's and Hilton's speed to go with the size of Funchess (6-foot-4) and tight end Eric Ebron (6-4) will make the Colts tough to defend. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

Rookie Quincy Williams will win the weakside LB job.

The Jaguars, who need to fill the void left by Telvin Smith taking the year off for personal reasons, raised eyebrows when they selected Williams out of Murray State in the third round. Some teams didn't even have him on their board, but their gamble seems to be paying off. Williams has been ahead of where the Jaguars expected in terms of understanding the defense, and he has been sharing first-team reps with veteran Ramik Wilson. Williams' closing speed is impressive and his highlight video shows he's a big hitter, too. The loss of Smith hurts (nobody has more solo tackles since he entered the league in 2014) but Williams' development can lessen the pain. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

WR Corey Davis will emerge as Marcus Mariota's favorite target.

Davis is entering his third season and has taken a leadership role in the receiver room. Davis attacks the football aggressively when it's coming his way. Coming up with contested catches will help develop trust from Mariota and warrant extra targets down the field. Davis has improved as a route runner and wins early in his routes thanks to extensive work with receivers coach Rob Moore. -- Turron Davenport


Denver Broncos

LT Garett Bolles will have to play better than ever to hang on to his starting job.

The 2017 first-round pick has struggled with penalties for much of the past two seasons. He was flagged 14 times last season, 11 of those for holding, while being flagged 15 times in his rookie year in '17, with 10 of those for holding. He led the team in penalties in both of those seasons. The coaching staff has struggled at times to reach Bolles, who has often made the same mistakes in games. The new coaching staff certainly likes Bolles' athleticism and sees plenty of potential, but Elijah Wilkinson has certainly caught the staff's eye early on in training camp and is making a push for the starting left tackle job. Bolles' draft position for a team that had seen its 2017 draft class dissolve -- four of the picks have already been released and Bolles is the only starter to have emerged from the group -- could weigh into the equation. But if the decision is made solely on merit, Wilkinson will get a long look, and Bolles will have to play better than he has to keep the job. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Rookie safety Juan Thornhill will win a starting spot by Week 1.

The Chiefs are intrigued by Thornhill's versatility, which makes him a nice partner at the back end of the defense for Tyrann Mathieu. He will show enough at training camp and in the preseason to take a starter's job from veteran Daniel Sorensen. -- Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers

QB Easton Stick will turn heads with his play.

Selected in the fifth round by the Chargers out of North Dakota State, Stick has been impressive during training camp. Stick should use his athleticism, mobility and ability to throw on the run to his advantage in the preseason, making plays with his feet and his arm. -- Eric D. Williams

Oakland Raiders

Josh Jacobs will emerge from camp as the Raiders' feature RB.

Shocker? Not really, not with Oakland brass hoping it plays out this way. But the first-rounder, who was taken No. 24 overall despite carrying the ball only 251 times total in his college career, will have to prove he can withstand the pounding. That would make veteran Doug Martin expendable. "You have to see how much the man can eat," coach Jon Gruden said of Jacobs. "How long can he stay at the table? ... He's got to prove he can get up, time and time again. These are car crashes, some of these hits these guys take. You've got to be a tough guy. You've got to be able to do it down after down, when you are tired and sore and beat up. You've got to pick up a blitz. You've got to beat a linebacker on a route. Then you've got to make a third-and-1 to win a game." -- Paul Gutierrez


Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys will sign QB Dak Prescott to the richest deal in team history.

Prescott said the talks have been continuous, and Stephen Jones said there are face-to-face conversations being scheduled while in Oxnard, California. The Cowboys have a history of doing deals in camp, with Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and La'el Collins the most recent examples. It seems more a question of when a deal will get done rather than if, and getting one done before the season starts is good for all parties involved. There's no reason to let this issue with the most important position linger and serve as a potential distraction when the real games start. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

The Giants will trade for a wide receiver.

If Dave Gettleman has proved anything since he took over as general manager, it's that he's not shy about making trades. The Giants need to find a way to improve their wide receiving corps with Sterling Shepard's fractured thumb a question and Golden Tate facing a potential suspension. Look for the aggressive Gettleman to find a match with a team that has a surplus at the wide receiver position to add a proven player, even if it might not be a starter. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles will trade for a defensive end.

One of the few questions about this roster is whether there is enough defensive end depth after Chris Long and Michael Bennett departed this season. Will GM Howie Roseman just cross his fingers at one of the most critical positions in football, or make a move before the start of the season? Knowing his aggressive mentality, the latter seems more likely. -- Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

LT Trent Williams will not report during training camp -- and will stay away for most of August.

And that assumes something will be done to lure the Pro Bowler back to the team. The Redskins are aware of Williams' issues with the team -- especially on the medical side -- and it's uncertain merely giving him more money would appease him. It's also uncertain if they would extend his deal beyond the two years he has left. If so, they'd almost surely have to do the same for linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who has two years left as well. The Redskins could decide to offer more guaranteed money in 2020, but that might not get it done either. It could be a while before there's a resolution. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears

The Bears will end up cutting a good wide receiver.

For a team that had virtually no talent at wide receiver just two years ago, the Bears have a surplus at the position, where talented players such as Marvin Hall and Javon Wims are battling it out for a 53-man roster spot. The Bears could easily keep six receivers if they desire. An early training camp injury to fourth-round pick Riley Ridley (hamstring) makes wide receiver even more intriguing. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

CB Teez Tabor makes the roster.

The former second-round pick has been pretty well maligned throughout his first two years in Detroit. He has struggled on the field and been unable to claim a role despite having every opportunity. Now he's in a fight for a job as the Lions try to find outside corners opposite Darius Slay. He still has his deficiencies -- it's hard to fix slow speed -- but the instincts that his college coaches raved about seem to be popping up more and more throughout the spring and first couple of days of training camp. It will be close, but Tabor finds a way to sneak on to the roster as the primary backup to Slay and Rashaan Melvin. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur will jell quickly.

Yes, Rodgers might have earned the difficult-to-coach reputation, but he knows his legacy is on the line in these final years of his career, which is why he will make this new quarterback-coach relationship work. He has already said that "him and I are friends. I think that's the first part of the relationship." The on-field part will soon follow. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

TE Irv Smith Jr. will prove he's one of the best targets for Kirk Cousins.

Minnesota is planning to employ more two tight-end sets this season, and even with Kyle Rudolph on the field at the same time, Smith will show the Vikings how critical he can be early in his career. Smith's ability to run deep corner routes will bode well for Cousins when Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs inevitably receive extra attention from defenders this season. Finding out which situations the Vikings can best utilize Smith will force mismatches and spark the explosive plays Minnesota lacked a year ago. Oftentimes, the No. 3 "receiver" in Gary Kubiak's offenses are typically a tight end. By the end of training camp, Smith will show Vikings coaches that he's on his way to being ready for that role. -- Courtney Cronin


Atlanta Falcons

James Carpenter will outlast Jamon Brown in the battle at left guard.

Carpenter appeared to have the edge during OTAs and minicamp, but then training camp started with the two splitting reps equally. The unofficial first depth chart listed Brown as the starter initially, but then it was changed to Carpenter the very next day. Carpenter is more accomplished, but that doesn't mean he can let his guard down (no pun intended). -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

Donte Jackson will emerge as one of the best corners in the NFL.

"Action" Jackson will also replace outside linebacker Thomas Davis (Chargers) and cornerback Josh Norman (Redskins) as the defensive players who have kept quarterback Cam Newton honest in practice with trash-talking. The second-year player out of LSU already has done his share of jawing with Newton in training camp and likely will become more vocal as camp goes along. He also has gone from, as coach Ron Rivera said, a confident player to one who is more sure of himself. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

A wild card will make the team at wide receiver.

This might be the hardest position to project in New Orleans, with veteran Rishard Matthews trying to resurrect his career and young long shots such as Emmanuel Butler, Simmie Cobbs Jr.,Lil'Jordan Humphreyand former LSU track star Cyril Grayson Jr. trying to break through. Butler, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound undrafted rookie from Northern Arizona, has especially drawn praise from coaches early with at least one or two highlight catches per day.-- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

WR Chris Godwin will emerge as the breakout star of camp.

Bucs coach Bruce Arians has already said Godwin is "never coming off the field," especially now that he's lining up not only outside but inside too. He had a really nice leaping catch-and-run over the middle for a touchdown on the second day of camp and a touchdown in the red zone. The next day, Blaine Gabbert hit him for another leaping grab for a touchdown.-- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals

Rookie KeeSean Johnson will emerge as the Cardinals' No. 3 receiver.

The Fresno State product has continued to impress during training camp, making tough catches look routine. He has consistently put his fundamentals on display with his route running and his pass-catching ability. Johnson is already getting some first-team reps, which will continue as long as he practices at a high level. If he can be consistent, he'll leave camp behind Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk on the depth chart. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

RB Malcolm Brown will emerge from Todd Gurley's shadow.

That's not to say that Brown will take over Gurley's position -- that would be a little too bold. But Brown will prove in camp that he can carry a much larger load than he has over the past four seasons (he averaged 17.7 yards per game in 2018). Brown's increased workload and responsibility will help the Rams manage Gurley's workload, which could help their All-Pro back stay healthy and fresh into the playoffs. -- Lindsey Thiry

San Francisco 49ers

Dante Pettis will emerge as the 49ers' best outside receiving threat.

Tight end George Kittle will remain the primary target in the passing game, but the Niners need a complement for him, and Pettis is the player best positioned to step into that role. Pettis' dynamic four-week run near the end of the 2018 season (17 catches for 338 yards and four touchdowns in Weeks 12-15) offered evidence of a player who had settled in. Pettis should get plenty of chances to have a breakout second season if he can stave off the nagging injuries that plagued him as a rookie. And having quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo back healthy doesn't hurt, either. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

WR DK Metcalf will play his way into the starting lineup.

This qualifies as bold because with the exception of Doug Baldwin in 2011 and Tyler Lockett in 2015, rookie receivers on Pete Carroll's Seahawks teams have had to bide their time before making an impact. But Metcalf is in a good position to do so right away with Baldwin gone and no receiver other than Lockett entrenched in the rotation. He also was the clear standout among Seahawks rookies during the offseason program, making a strong impression on Russell Wilson on the field and behind the scenes. Look for Metcalf to be at least the third, if not the second, receiver behind Lockett in an offense under Brian Schottenheimer that heavily favors three-receiver sets. -- Brady Henderson

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