As the 2020 National Football League season nears, there are 19 former Razorbacks hitting the turf and hoping to make a mark on their respective teams. With training camp taking place and the season nearing, it is time to take a look at which Arkansas alumni will make an impact this year.
Out of the 19 players, 12 different teams are covered, five are rookies and the other 14 are veterans. Realistically, not every player will have a significant role on his current roster, but the two rookies and three veterans show the potential to be difference-makers.
1. Hunter Henry - Tight End, Los Angeles Chargers
Entering the 2016 NFL Draft, Hunter Henry was tabbed as the top tight end prospect after being dominant in his three years at Arkansas. He was selected as the fourth pick in the second round (35th overall) to the then San Diego, now Los Angeles Chargers. This offseason he signed a franchise-tag with the team to make him the highest paid tight end in the NFL.
Henry has been plagued by injuries in his four seasons as a Charger. He has yet to play a full season and sat out the entire 2018 season due to an ACL tear. He saw his most in-game action as a rookie in 2016 when he appeared in 15 games, starting 10 of those. Though he only played in 12 games in 2019, Henry saw his most targets in a season so far with 76. The Little Rock native recorded 652 yards and five touchdowns in his fourth season as a pro.
Going into his 2020 campaign, Henry looks to be the healthiest he has been since his rookie season. The departure of 15-year veteran quarterback Phillip Rivers should not hurt Henry too much, as he is the clear starter at tight end. Between veteran Tyrod Taylor and rookie Justin Herbert, the fifth-year former Hog should see plenty of targets as long as he manages to stay healthy.
“I’ve been banged up a lot in my career,” Henry said recently on Pardon My Take. “I’ve got to go out and prove it. I kind of have a chip on my shoulder, so I’m excited to attack this year under the franchise-tag.”
2. Dre Greenlaw - Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers
The Razorback faithful became frustrated as they watched stand-out linebacker Dre Greenlaw fall in the 2019 NFL Draft. The six-foot, 227-pounder dropped to the fifth round, where he was selected with the 148th pick by the San Francisco 49ers, who eventually found themselves as Super Bowl runner-up this past season.
In his rookie campaign, Greenlaw saw action in all 19 games for San Francisco, racking up 92 tackles along with a sack and an interception. He also recorded 14 tackles and a forced fumble in the 2019 NFL playoffs.
It is fair to say that Greenlaw is a tackling machine who is poised to have a successful professional career. In his four years as a Razorback he recorded 320 tackles, good enough for 10th all-time among Arkansas players. The former Southeastern Conference Defensive Freshman of the Year should slide into a full-time starting spot on a loaded 49er defensive squad.
“Greenlaw was the Sam linebacker and came off the field in sub packages,” said Kyle Madson of NinersWire in a recent article. “There’s a chance Greenlaw supplants [Kwon Alexander] as the Will linebacker and garners more consistent playing time in his second season.”
3. Trey Flowers - Defensive End, Detroit Lions
Flowers is the second-highest paid player on the Lions squad (right behind quarterback Matthew Stafford) and the sixth-highest paid defensive lineman in the NFL. The 2015 fourth-round pick of the New England Patriots tied for the Detroit team lead with 7.0 sacks in 2019.
Since 2016, Flowers has averaged 7.0 sacks and nearly two forced fumbles a season. The product of Huntsville, Alabama, recorded 51 tackles and was a pest for opposing passers with 21 quarterback hits. With another offseason under head coach Matt Patricia, former defensive coordinator under Bill Belicheck, Flowers should stand out on a less-than-impressive Lions defensive roster.
“Flowers is the Lions best pass rusher,” said Lions senior writer Tim Twentyman in a recent article. “He's expected to get the majority of the reps on the edge as a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end.”
1. De’Jon “Scoota” Harris - Linebacker, New England Patriots
De’Jon “Scoota” Harris led the SEC in tackles in both his junior and senior seasons at Arkansas. After leading arguably the most competitive defensive conference in college football, Harris went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft. After the draft, he was quickly picked up by the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent.
After losing three linebackers to free agency, the Patriots linebacking corps took another big hit when their number one linebacker, Dont’a Hightower, chose to opt out of the 2020 NFL season. Though Harris still has to earn his keep, the rookie has a shot to get significant playing time with a scarce New England linebacking group.
As of right now, Harris is projected to play a decent role on special teams due to his lack of versatility in the passing game. Harris is bound to get a shot on defense at some point, mainly thanks to the chance of players missing games increasing due to COVID-19.
“The Patriots will likely employ him on the second defensive level in their hybrid scheme, and use him primarily on early downs and in the kicking game,” said Bern Buchmasser of the Pats Pulpit website in a recent article.
2. McTelvin “Sosa” Agim - Defensive Tackle, Denver Broncos
Agim, who is a former four-star recruit, was selected by the Denver Broncos in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He never really reached the star potential he had at Arkansas, thanks in large part to subpar development and coaching, but Agim has the tools to make an impact on a loaded Broncos defensive line.
In his career as a Razorback, Agim recorded 15 sacks, five coming in his senior campaign, and 145 total tackles. The three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member has been praised for his knowledge of the game and playing with two of the best pass rushers in the NFL, Bradley Chubb and Von Miller, can do nothing but help.
Entering his rookie season, Agim is slated to run second-team reps at nose tackle for the Broncos. He should see good playing time on a team that will face fast-paced AFC West offenses. Though he may not make flashy plays or have a huge impact early, he could quietly have a successful rookie season on a young Denver roster.
“Agim is raw, but he’s a rare athlete on the interior who has the ability to blow up a play before it even has a chance of starting, and defensive line coach Bill Kollar will bring the best out of him,” said Zach Segars of Mile High sports in a recent article.
Of course more former Razorbacks have chances to make an impact for their respective teams this season. This list highlights the five players who are in position to make the most impact in their current situation.