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Top 10 rookie matchups of 2015 NFL season

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The top two picks in the 2015 NFL Draft are set to square off in the first week of the season, but the Jameis Winston-Marcus Mariota matchup is far from the only intriguing rookie clash this fall.


» Charles Davis: Projecting the 2015 NFL All-Rookie Team


Here are the top 10 rookie matchups ahead on the 2015 NFL schedule:

1. Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota

Game: Tennessee Titans at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Date: Sept. 13
Why it moves the needle: Why wait to compare quarterbacks who were the top two picks of the draft? You can start in Week 1, when they'll presumably clash as starters. The marquee rookie matchup of the season will command national attention, and the pre-game narrative is already written: Winston's supposed readiness, having played in a pro-style offense at FSU, versus Mariota's lack of readiness, having played in a hurry-up, spread attack. If Mariota scores a road win over Winston in his first NFL start, that narrative could lose some steam quickly.

2. Amari Cooper vs. Trae Waynes

Game: Minnesota Vikings at Oakland Raiders
Date: Nov. 15
Why it moves the needle: The first wide receiver chosen in the draft and the first cornerback chosen in the draft will meet after they've each had a couple of months to get their feet wet in the NFL. That also means Cooper and Derek Carr will likely have built up some chemistry, and Waynes will have already seen Calvin Johnson twice as well as Demaryius Thomas and another top rookie in Kevin White. There is no telling how many snaps the two might see in head-to-head action, but it will be enough to make for an intriguing subplot.

3. Randy Gregory vs. Ereck Flowers

Game: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Date: Sept. 13
Why it moves the needle: While the Winston-Mariota matchup will draw all the attention in Week 1, this tangle isn't to be overlooked. In his first game as a pro, Gregory will get a chance to prove NFL clubs were crazy for letting him slide to the No. 60 overall pick. He should get some head-to-head time against the No. 9 overall pick, Flowers, in doing so. Concerns about Gregory's maturity and marijuana use precipitated Gregory's slide from top-10 status, so you can bet he will have a chip on his shoulder in taking on a top-10 pick.

4. Vic Beasley vs. Andrus Peat

Game: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
Date: Oct. 15
Why it moves the needle: This will be the first of two matchups this season between Beasley and Peat -- the Falcons' and Saints' top overall picks -- and presumably the first of many over their careers as division rivals. The speedy, undersized Beasley has an explosive first step, and Peat is regarded as perhaps the best pass-protecting tackle in the draft. But Peat will have to make his way onto the field first -- the Saints entered the draft in solid shape at tackle, and the selection of Peat appeared to based more on value than need.

5. Shane Ray vs. Steelers

Game: Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers
Date: Dec. 20
Why it moves the needle: Ray said after the draft that he would have teams that passed on him circled for payback -- that list surely includes Pittsburgh. The Steelers had a big need for a pass rusher and took Bud Dupree at No. 22, one pick before Ray went to Denver. He might not be facing another rookie head to head, but expect Ray to play with a little extra juice in this game.

6. Marcus Mariota vs. Leonard Williams

Game: Tennessee Titans at New York Jets
Date: Dec. 13
Why it moves the needle: Heavy speculation in the months leading up to the draft suggested the Titans would take Williams No. 2 overall, and that the Jets would end up with Mariota. As it happened, they ended up in the opposite camps. Don't think the respective fan bases won't remember what might have been if things don't work out with the player they have. Jets fans would like nothing better than to see Williams harass Mariota for four quarters, but it won't be much consolation if Geno Smith can't get the win on the same day.

7. Brandon Scherff vs. Malcom Brown

Game: Washington Redskins at New England Patriots
Date: Nov. 8
Why it moves the needle: Assuming Scherff is playing guard for the Redskins, he should have plenty of encounters with Brown, the Patriots' first-round pick from Texas. While Scherff relies on power and brute strength as a classic drive blocker with the attitude to finish his blocks, Brown is disruptive and relies more on quickness from the defensive tackle position. Few draft pundits expected Brown to be available at the end of the first round, where the defending Super Bowl champions gladly snapped him up. For those who like a good battle in the trenches, this will be one to watch.

8. Melvin Gordon vs. Eric Kendricks

Game: San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings
Date: Sept. 27
Why it moves the needle: The Chargers won't play the top two inside linebackers chosen -- Stephone Anthony and Benardrick McKinney -- and got one of their own in Denzel Perryman. That leaves Kendricks, an ultra-instinctive second-round pick who won the Butkus Award in 2014. Gordon excels at patiently setting up his blocks, and Kendricks can find the football as well as any incoming rookie in the league.

9. D.J. Humphries vs. Bud Dupree

Game: Arizona Cardinals at Pittsburgh Steelers
Date: Oct. 18
Why it moves the needle: One could argue that the most athletic left tackle in the draft will get his chance at the draft's most athletic pass rusher in this midseason matchup. Dupree ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine at nearly 270 pounds. Humphries has outstanding footwork and, like Dupree, climbed the draft ladder with impressive workouts in the months leading up to the draft.

10. Kevin White vs. Damarious Randall

Game: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Date: Sept. 13
Why it moves the needle: The Packers are planning to work Randall at cornerback, which could match him against White in Week 1. That this is a division rivalry only heightens the stakes, not to mention the intrigue. Between White and Bears veteran Alshon Jeffery, Randall's ability to handle things on the corner will get a stiff test right from the season opener. The two will get another shot at each other Nov. 26.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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