NFL rookie projections: Will Jameis Winston top offensive class?


Coaches and scouts rarely discuss the expectations of prominent rookies with the outside world, but every front office looks for timely playmaking and significant production from notable first-year players, particularly Day 1 and Day 2 selections. With offseason activities in full swing, it's a great time to take a closer look at several high-profile rookies and examine how Year 1 could play out. We've dissected 10 big-name offensive greenhorns below.

Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No. 1 overall pick, Round 1, Florida State

Best-case scenario: Winston hits the ground running as the on-field director of a Dirk Koetter offense that features an explosive vertical passing game complemented by a steady ground attack. With receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson wreaking havoc on the perimeter and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins controlling the middle of the field, Winston could lead the Buccaneers back toward .500 as a rookie starter.

Worst-case scenario: Despite assembling a star-studded lineup on the perimeter, the Buccaneers could see their franchise quarterback get battered and bruised playing behind a leaky offensive line that's breaking in new starters at key positions. If Winston is knocked around early in the season, the former Heisman Trophy winner could struggle with turnovers and poor decision-making, as constant pressure rattles the young passer during his first season.

My projection: 3,100 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans

No. 2 overall pick, Round 1, Oregon

Best-case scenario: Mariota quickly adjusts to the pro game and ignites the Titans' offense with his electric skills as a dual-threat playmaker. Ken Whisenhunt accelerates the development of his young quarterback by implementing several of the concepts that helped Mariota shine as a collegian, but the reigning Heisman Trophy winner also surprises the football world with his poise, polish and efficiency as a pocket passer.

Worst-case scenario: The Titans would hate to see their young franchise quarterback struggle with the adjustment to the pro game, but a suspect rushing attack and an unproven WR corps could prevent Mariota from putting up big numbers as a rookie. With the Titans' offensive line also in flux, the rookie signal-caller could struggle to deliver explosive plays inside or outside the pocket.

My projection: 2,700 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions; 450 rushing yards and five scores.

Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders

No. 4 overall pick, Round 1, Alabama

Best-case scenario: Cooper gives the Raiders the iconic WR1 they've desperately needed since Tim Brown's departure over a decade ago. The ex-Alabama standout is a polished route runner with exceptional hands and running skills, which makes him Derek Carr's favorite receiver early in the 2015 season.

Worst-case scenario: Carr's offseason hand injury has prevented Cooper from developing a rapport with the Raiders' franchise quarterback during OTAs. Although Oakland can attempt to build the chemistry through extensive work in training camp, the Carr-to-Cooper connection could fail to materialize if injuries prevent the young quarterback from taking his game up a notch heading into his sophomore season. (UPDATE: Carr has been cleared to participate in minicamp, but he might not throw at full strength.)

My projection: 90 receptions, 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Kevin White, WR, Chicago Bears

No. 7 overall pick, Round 1, West Virginia

Best-case scenario: Despite trading five-time Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall this offseason, the Bears' passing attack is just fine with White sliding into the starting lineup. The rookie plays the perfect WR2 opposite Alshon Jeffery. White quickly establishes himself as a big-play threat, and Jay Cutler increasingly relies on the rookie to deliver in the red zone as the season progresses.

Worst-case scenario: White struggles adjusting to new offensive coordinator Adam Gase's intricate passing game and route tree after playing extensively at RWR (right wide receiver) in West Virginia's spread offense. Given his limited exposure to advanced football concepts as a collegian, White could experience a bumpy rookie season while he gets used to running routes with discipline, detail and precision.

My projection: 55 receptions, 800 yards and six touchdowns.

Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams

No. 10 overall pick, Round 1, Georgia

Best-case scenario: Jeff Fisher takes a patient approach before pairing Gurley (who's recovering from a torn ACL) with Tre Mason to give the Rams a potent 1-2 punch in the backfield. Gurley doesn't post huge numbers as a rookie, but flashes enough to suggest he is a potential superstar as a feature runner in a power-based ground game.

Worst-case scenario: If Gurley rushes back onto the field to play before he is ready for extensive action, he could lose his confidence and fail to display a rugged running style to set the tone for the Rams' physical offense. There is no question Gurley has the talent to be a dominant player at this level, but his health and durability will be monitored from Day 1.

My projection: 150 carries, 700 yards, eight touchdowns; 25 receptions, 200 yards and two scores.

DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins

No. 14 overall pick, Round 1, Louisville

Best-case scenario: Parker immediately steps into the starting lineup and thrives as the Dolphins' WR1 in Bill Lazor's fast-paced offense. Parker not only gives Ryan Tannehill a big-bodied receiver to lean on in the red zone, but he teams with Jordan Cameron, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills to give Miami a passing game that's far more potent than last season's middling attack.

Worst-case scenario: Parker misses valuable practice time and game reps during the preseason, due to a lengthy rehab from offseason foot surgery. Although Parker is expected to return to form prior to the season opener, the lack of preparation could limit his impact early in the season and slow down the Dolphins' offense as a whole.

My projection: 60 receptions, 900 yards and eight touchdowns.

Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers

No. 15 overall pick, Round 1, Wisconsin

Best-case scenario: The insertion of Gordon into the lineup allows the Chargers to run a balanced offense that alleviates some of the pressure on Philip Rivers in the pocket. Gordon gives the offense a boost with his electric skills as an inside/outside runner while also providing Mike McCoy with a sneaky playmaker to incorporate into the screen game.

Worst-case scenario: After enjoying tremendous success as a collegian behind a massive offensive line that pummels Big Ten opponents at the point of attack, Gordon becomes the latest Wisconsin running back to struggle in the NFL. Despite showing outstanding vision and wiggle within the Badgers' zone system, Gordon could lack the creativity needed to pick up yardage behind a shaky offensive line in San Diego.

My projection: 225 carries, 1,110 yards and nine scores; 25 receptions, 250 yards and two scores.

Nelson Agholor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

No. 20 overall pick, Round 1, USC

Best-case scenario: Agholor emerges as a sneaky WR1 for the Eagles with Chip Kelly using the ex-USC star as a chess piece to move all over the board. The 6-foot, 198-pounder not only shines in Kelly's catch-and-run offense designed to create big-play opportunities in space, but he teams with second-year man Jordan Matthews to give Philadelphia a young, intriguing 1-2 punch in the aerial attack.

Worst-case scenario: The Eagles' shaky QB situation fails to stabilize -- Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez underperform, leading to fewer chances for Agholor on the perimeter. Although Kelly can script touches through a variety of bubble screens and quick routes, inept quarterback play could limit the rookie's impact as a WR1.

My projection: 65 receptions, 900 yards and nine touchdowns.

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

No. 36 overall pick, Round 2, Alabama

Best-case scenario: Yeldon follows in the footsteps of Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor to lead the Jaguars out of the doldrums in the AFC South. The 6-1, 226-pound runner was an underrated prospect through much of the pre-draft process, but he ended up going early in Round 2 and could flash enough potential as an inside/outside threat to garner serious consideration as Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Worst-case scenario: The Jaguars' suspect offensive line and questionable passing game prevent Yeldon from finding many creases. If Blake Bortles is unable to win with precise passing from the pocket, Yeldon won't get enough carries to allow the Jags to successfully ride a ball-control approach.

My projection: 235 carries, 1,050 yards and five touchdowns; 35 receptions, 300 yards and three scores.

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Tennessee Titans

No. 40 overall pick, Round 2, Missouri/Oklahoma

Best-case scenario: Green-Beckham quickly shakes off the rust after missing the entire 2014 college campaign (due to transfer rules) and gives the Titans timely contributions as a designated playmaker on the perimeter. Despite his lack of polish as a route runner, DGB's raw tools and superior physical dimensions could make him a dominant force as a rookie.

Worst-case scenario: The ex-Missouri standout needs a redshirt year to adjust to the pro game after missing his final college season. Green-Beckham has immense potential, but the 6-5, 237-pounder needs to refine his skills to get open consistently against professional corners.

My projection: 35 receptions, 600 yards and seven touchdowns.


Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.



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