In the NFL, sometimes all it takes for a player to become a star is an opportunity. Throughout the years, fans have witnessed backups like Kurt Warner and Tom Brady rise to the pinnacle of NFL stardom. While there might not be any players who experience that sort of meteoric rise in 2020, some backup players are going to shoot up depth charts quickly.
We'll examine seven players with the potential to go from backup to starter before or during the 2020 season.
While injuries often open the door for rookies and backups, other players force their own way up depth charts—whether due to their own potential, a lack of proven/reliable talent ahead of them or a combination of both.
If these players do break into starting roles? Well, there's no telling how high up the proverbial NFL mountain they might climb.
Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams
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The Los Angeles Rams parted with star running back Todd Gurley this offseason, leaving a big hole on offense. Los Angeles has veteran players in place who could fill it, most notably longtime backup Malcolm Brown and 2019 third-round pick Darrell Henderson. However, rookie Cam Akers might shoot past them and claim the starting job before Week 1.
The second-round pick from Florida State has a higher ceiling than either Brown or Henderson, and he has a skill set that should help him find early success against pro competition.
"Comparing college numbers to the NFL is always tricky, but we've seen that missed tackle numbers and stats like yards after contact translate well to the NFL," Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus wrote. "Last season, Akers forced a missed tackle on 32 percent of his touches and averaged nearly four rushing yards after contact per attempt."
Akers produced 1,144 rushing yards, 225 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns for the Seminoles last season. While he might not reach those numbers as a rookie, they're indicative of the sort of starting back Akers can be.
Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
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The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't exactly short on pass-catching talent. Between JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington and tight ends Vance McDonald and Eric Ebron, Ben Roethlisberger should have plenty of targets in 2020.
However, rookie second-round pick Chase Claypool could fly past many of the wideouts on the depth chart to secure a prominent role right out of the gate. The Steelers, you see, already have a role in mind for the Notre Dame product—and they have for some time.
"We've been watching Chase for two seasons because as a junior there was a chance that maybe he'd come out a year early and there was some talk about that," general manager Kevin Colbert said, per ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio. "... He's a 6'4", 230-pound receiver that can get deep, and quite honestly we didn't have that threat last year. We didn't have that tall receiver that can just outrun coverage."
Claypool can be the big-bodied speedster that Pittsburgh has been missing. He had 1,037 yards last season, and that sort of production is realistic as long as Big Ben stays healthy.