When discussing draft busts and NFL disappointments, much of the blame is usually placed on the player. However, plenty of factors go into a player underwhelming. Poor coaching, poor scheme fits and positional logjams can and will prevent a young player from reaching expectations—or even having high expectations to begin with.
Sometimes, for a player to truly break out, they require a change of scenery.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre will always serve as a prime example of this phenomenon. The 1991 second-round pick was stuck behind Pro Bowl starter Chris Miller and famously clashed with Atlanta Falcons coach Jerry Glanville.
“Me and Jerry, we didn’t see eye to eye on things,” Favre said, per I.J. Rosenberg of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Falcons traded Favre to the Green Bay Packers after only one season, and the rest, as they say, is history.
While there might not be a future Hall of Famer buried on a depth chart and waiting to emerge, some players could still be one trade away from stardom. We’ll examine six such players here, examine why a change would benefit them and identify a prime landing spot for each.
Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Clelin Ferrell, Edge, Las Vegas Raiders
Clelin Ferrell, the fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft, has largely been a bust for the Las Vegas Raiders. The old front office gambled on the former Clemson standout, and the Raiders have gotten little in return.
Ferrell had 4.5 sacks as a rookie but has logged only 3.5 since. He had 1.5 sacks last season to go with a mere 10 quarterback pressures.
There’s a new regime in Vegas, though, and new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham should offer Ferrell some hope. The problem is that the Raiders also acquired pass-rusher Chandler Jones in free agency.
The primary pass-rushing tandem of Jones and Maxx Crosby will leave few opportunities for Ferrell on the edge. According to Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Ferrell has been getting reps at defensive tackle this offseason.
While the Raiders may have to change Ferrell’s position to get him on the field, the New England Patriots could use him on the edge.
New England doesn’t have a clear-cut complement to linebacker Matt Judon, who accounted for 12.5 of the team’s 36 sacks in 2021. Ferrell would be a bit of a project, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick has long been keen on picking up other teams’ castoffs—Randy Moss, LeGarrette Blount and Danny Shelton are just a few examples.
With a potential shot at a significant role—and in a defense that ranked fourth overall and second in points allowed last season—Ferrell could finally have a chance to flourish. All it might take is for new head coach Josh McDaniels to place a call to his old team.
Best Fit: New England Patriots
N’Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots
Ferrell isn’t the only 2019 first-round bust who could use a change of scenery. The Patriots took former Arizona State wideout N’Keal Harry with the 32nd overall pick. So far, New England has gotten 598 receiving yards and four touchdowns in three seasons.
The time for Harry to reverse course in New England is likely over. The Patriots added Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor last offseason and acquired DeVante Parker and rookie second-round pick Tyquan Thornton this offseason. Harry will likely have a hard time even getting an opportunity to prove himself in 2022.
“I don’t think there’s a place for Harry moving forward,” Chris Mason of MassLive recently wrote.
If the Patriots don’t have a use for Harry, they should try trading him before releasing him. Trading him out of the conference and to the Green Bay Packers could be a win for both teams.
The Packers dealt No. 1 receiver Davante Adams to the Raiders this offseason and are looking at a patchwork receiving corps of Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins and second-round rookie Christian Watson.
Green Bay’s top tight end, Robert Tonyan, is also coming off a torn ACL.
In Green Bay, the 6’4″, 225-pound Harry could help fill the possession role normally given to a tight end—he’s roughly an inch shorter and 15 pounds lighter than Tonyan. The 24-year-old is a big, physical pass-catcher who could line up as a move tight end or in the slot and provide a mismatch against most linebackers and safeties.
With Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith on the roster, New England really can’t offer such an opportunity for Harry. The Packers could, and by pairing him with reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers, could finally give Harry the chance to finally break through as a respectable NFL role player.
Best Fit: Green Bay Packers