Speed always has a place in the NFL and several new faces surfaced in preseason boasting it. Which ones could have big impacts in 2014?
De’Anthony Thomas – Kansas City Chiefs
It was a great first preseason week for Oregon players and it started with De’Anthony Thomas. The Kansas City Chiefs rookie instantly validated his value to the team by taking back a punt 80 yards for a touchdown. Head coach Andy Reid has a history of making use out of smaller, faster players. DeSean Jackson and Dexter McCluster are just two examples. Thomas is a return man first though and will need to transition to wide receiver with Jamaal Charles handling things at running back.
Dri Archer – Pittsburgh Steelers
One screen pass was all it took for Dri Archer to show why he was the fastest man in the 2014 NFL draft and why the Pittsburgh Steelers felt comfortable investing a 3rd round pick in him. Ben Roethlisberger is no stranger to having speed at wide receiver, so he will know exactly how to use Archer, which makes the rookie all the more dangerous. It still remains to be seen if he has any special teams value.
Josh Huff – Philadelphia Eagles
Few coaches covet speed in his players quite like Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles. It was how he recruited as a head coach at Oregon, so it’s no surprise he has tended to favor Oregon players when drafting. Josh Huff is a perfect example. He only caught one pass for four yards in the preseason opener against Chicago, but it was his kickoff return touchdown that showed he has a future in that system.
Chris Williams – Chicago Bears
Up until now, the trademark of the new Chicago Bears offense was size, headlined by Pro Bowl receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. The only missing element was a speed threat. Initially, Chris Williams was brought in as a free agent from the Canadian League for his prowess as a return man. However, it took one 73-yard bomb for a touchdown against Philadelphia to show that he can become that threat they’ve lacked. Try to imagine him, Marshall and Jeffery on the field at the same time and defensive coordinators will lose sleep.
Brandin Cooks – New Orleans Saints
What makes rookie Brandin Cooks so enticing is not just his ability to run fast. It’s his quickly and soft hands as well. If not for his size he may have been the best receiver in the NFL draft just like he was the best receiver in college last year. The New Orleans Saints have the offense and the quarterback perfectly suited to take advantage of his talents. Barring injuries or letdowns, he is in store for a bright season.