NFL rookies, and veterans, routinely change positions. However, most of those — including Jimmie Ward moving from safety to cornerback and back to safety — are not dramatic. They're usually new positions within the secondary or on the offensive or defensive line.
That's not the case for a few rookies this season. Three notable players, one of whom was undrafted and is switching sides of the ball, began major position changes during rookie minicamp.
Here's a small list of the position-changing players that could grow during the offseason and training camp.
Josh Jones — Packers
College Position: Safety
NFL Position: Inside Linebacker
Packers' general manager Ted Thompson has used a "best available player" draft strategy, and he appeared to stick to that when he selected North Carolina State safety Josh Jones with the 61st-overall pick. Despite the loss of roving defensive back Micah Hyde, safety was not a major need with Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on the roster.
Instead of selecting a guard to replace T.J. Lang (e.g. Dion Dawkins of Temple or Taylor Moton of Western Michigan), Thompson opted for Jones, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound strong safety lauded for his combination of size, speed and instincts. Though Thompson may have gone best player available, he drafted Jones to fill a need: inside linebacker.
Jones spent much of rookie minicamp working at inside linebacker, where Blake Martinez struggled as a rookie and Jake Ryan has been inconsistent in two seasons.
Carl Lawson — Bengals
College Position: Defensive End
NFL Position: Outside Linebacker
Moving a rookie from defensive end to outside linebacker — or vice versa — is hardly dramatic, the Bengals' decision to move fourth-round pick Carl Lawson is very surprising.
“There’s a lot of stuff I still need to learn in due time," said Lawson, a pass-rushing specialist at Auburn after three days of playing strong-side linebacker in minicamp. "Especially because we’ve got pre-season games and camp (for) a month-and-a-half, two months,” Lawson said. “I think that’s plenty of time because in three days I think I made a lot progress.”
If he can pick up the defense quickly, Lawson appears to have a legitimate shot at rising to the top of the depth chart by Week 1.
Tommy Armstrong, Jr. — Vikings
College Position: Quarterback
NFL Position: Safety
Former Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr., arrived at Minnesota Vikings' minicamp without being selected in the draft, without a rookie contract and without a position. He left with a contract and a new position.
Expected to try running back or possibly wide receiver, Armstrong was signed and invited to OTAs … as a safety.
“I was kind of rusty at first,’’ Armstrong said after the one day of practice he spent at safety. “But I think that I can bring something to the team on the defensive side of the ball and to special teams. I’m looking forward to next week. I’ll do whatever it takes to play in the NFL.’’