Now that NFL cutdown day has come and gone, it’s time to highlight the underrated youngsters ready to contribute to the respective teams they made this summer.
Let’s highlight the rookies, who went either undrafted or were selected on Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft, you’ll want to keep tabs on throughout the season. They’ll make an impact.
McLaughlin could be the next Pierre Thomas. Remember him, an undrafted runner out of Illinois who snuck his way onto Sean Payton’s Saints roster way back in 2007 who ultimately became a reliable checkdown, screen, and swing-pass option for the Super Bowl-winning Saints.
McLaughlin isn’t nearly as sizable as Thomas was — he is more explosive. After a dazzling career at FCS powerhouse Youngstown State with a bulky career yards-per-carry average of 6.4 across more than 530 attempts with 30 scores and countless highlight-reel jukes and hurdles in space, McLaughlin was a nifty, twitched-up stud this preseason for the Broncos with 113 yards on 21 rushes with three ground-game touchdowns and 33 extra yards on seven catches. Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine are built like traditional feature and No. 2 backs. McLaughlin can be the third-down lightning bug when needed, and you better believe Payton — one of the early adopters of the running back-by-committee approach — will creatively use him in 2023.
Pace was the talk of Vikings camp, and his ultra-aggressive style at inside linebacker translated to splash plays in the preseason. On just 46 snaps, the former Miami of Ohio and Cincinnati star made eight tackles and had a pressure of the opposing quarterback. The thing with Pace is, he’s short. Not small. Just short with limited length. There aren’t many off-ball linebackers who stand less than 5-foot-11 in today’s NFL.
On film, Pace plays like he’s 6-foot-3. And at 231 pounds, he has plenty of mass to deal with enormous blockers climbing to the…